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work

Motherhood, Travel

Survival

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You know what? I am kind of doing okay without her, that chubby baby of mine.

It’s a little like realizing you have a third arm, one you haven’t been using. It’s not that I’ve been missing it, because I didn’t even remember it was there, but now that I have it back things are easier. They get done faster. And this third-arm state isn’t something I really want to continue forever- or even for a few more days- because as much as it’s helpful it also feels strange and cumbersome and I’m used to having my hands full. The arm just sort of sits there, uncomfortable and ill-at-ease with the silence. 

I found myself turning on the TV every time I was in my hotel room, which is uncharacteristic for me because typically I hate the background-noise nature of the thing. They’re always on, in hospital waiting rooms and restaurants- even in the kids play areas on the ferry. It drives me nuts how people pause mid-sentence and stare open-mouthed. We become absorbed and entranced in the screen like moths to a flame- helpless! I do it too – how can you not be seduced by the flickering lights and catchy content?

So usually I avoid it but this week I think I needed the noise, it felt so strange to be sitting here swamped in my own thoughts and the sound of faint conversation passing in the hallway. 

 

Just in case you are feeling some sort of violent rage-envy at all of this talk about helpful superfluous limbs and sweet silence, I would like to inform you that I have a hotel room with not one, but two giant comfortable beds that even (inexplicably) have remote controls to adjust their firmness up or down, and yet I slept a grand total of ELEVEN hours in the last two nights. 

I lay there and could not fall asleep. It was the rudest thing ever and the more I thought about it the more anxious I got, “Madeleine! You’re WASTING it! Look at this bed! Feel these sheets! There’s no one else here! SLEEP, DAMMIT, YOU FOOL!”

But sleep wouldn’t come. So I tried tricking myself and decided to stay up to read – hoping I’d fall asleep mid-sentence as so often is the case these days. Of course tonight is the night I managed to finish about six chapters before I threw the book on the ground in a fit of rage and then lay there, seething, willing myself to sleep out of sheer spite. 

My days have been packed and my brain is at capacity. I am so glad I was able to come, but oh, guys, I am so ready to go home.

Motherhood, Olive

I’m baaaaaack

Last week, on Wednesday, I did something strange.

I woke up and brushed my teeth. I fed Olive, got dressed and then, then friends I went to work.

That’s right, I’m back.

After thirteen months of living by the baby instead of by the clock, wearing clothes that could stretch and be spat up on, shirts that would feel soft against Olive’s cheek; after thirteen months of pushing all of my giant dangly earrings to the back of my jewelry box and listening to my heart, my instincts and my intuition instead of my head, I’m back.

It feels good.

Strangely, thirteen months ago me returning to work was a sort of worst case scenario. I was crossing my fingers that it wouldn’t happen, I was looking forward to spending my days with my baby and dreading the inevitable- I was even half-heartedly investigating  all of those strange, sheisty little “make money at home!” gigs/shams/scams (one of them had to be legit, right?) and wracking my brain for any life that wouldn’t involve me leaving Olive.

What changed? Five things. Here we go.

  1. I missed thinking. I missed that high-powered rush of brain activity that signals firing synpapses and new forays into cognitive development. I missed feeling that stretch and release, the pushing growth as you absorb and adapt new knowledge. I missed that deeply in a way that I almost couldn’t articulate because I felt as though my language skills, vocabulary, and ability to identify and describe my own life experiences had decreased to a one year old’s comprehension level.

    By saying this I don’t mean to demean or underestimate the work-intellectual, physical, emotional and otherwise- involved in parenting, but I have found that it’s different work.

    So much of becoming a mother involves turning off that old analytical self and turning your ear instead towards heartbeats and rosy cheeks, to learning your baby instead of a book. And I have loved that. It has been a departure for me, to immerse myself so fully, for so long. It has been the sweetest experience of my life.

    But lord did I miss the thinking.

  2. Adam needs to be a dad. I mean, he is a dad. A fantastic one. But he’s a dad with a mom hanging over his shoulder suggesting and helping and encouraging and um, critiquing, occasionally (a lot) (almost always).

    I said I wasn’t going to be that mom, the one who barges in and takes over instead of letting him figure it out, muddle through and make mistakes as I did. But I am. Oh, guys, I am. So, despite my best intentions sometimes the best way to help Adam parent is so get the hell out of the way so he CAN parent. On his own.

    Whatever that looks like. Even when it looks like mismatched socks and feeding her coldcuts from Subway and just generally doings things in a way that is completely and utterly wrong different from how I do them. I can’t let him parent unless I get out of the way, and I can’t get out of the way unless I am forced to. Work accomplishes this goal quite nicely.

  3. I like to wear nice-ish clothes sometimesReal clothes. Clothes chosen for form over function, clothes that make me look good and feel good, and clothes I wouldn’t be embarassed to run into an ex-boyfriend wearing. Clothes that don’t scream, “I spent twenty minutes this morning singing nursery rhymes to a crazy-haired toddler as she sat on the potty”.

    I mean, I’ll still be doing that. And in fact, I adore our early morning potty singalongs, but I also enjoy looking like a real person sometimes and now I get to do both.

    A real, live, PERSON y’all! 

  4. It’s only twenty-one hours a week. Somehow I managed to luck into finding a position for just twenty-one hours a week.

    Even better, those hours are fairly flexible and can change from week to week – some may be more, some less. And sometimes in part-time positions you end up sacrificing challenge for convenience, you miss out on work that is rewarding and stimulating in order to find work that fits your life, but this position doesn’t ask for that sacrifice. The learning curve is steep, the opportunities are wide open and my mind hasn’t stopped working since I hit the ground running last week. It’s been an adjustment, but I’m surprised how thoroughly immersed I am already, and how much I’m enjoying myself.

  5. It terrifies me. And that’s a good thing.
    There’s a pithy quote, one that’s been repeated so often now that it seems trite: “Do one thing every day that scares you.”
    I’ve been thinking of that one a lot. Oh, and also, “You must do the things you think you cannot do.” (Oh, Eleanor. Thank you for your words, they are so apt and so perceptive, and I’m sorry I called them trite and pithy just now.)

    Leaving Olive terrifies me, and every day I feel I can not do it. It breaks my heart.

    I don’t want to miss a thing, I don’t want to be absent. I hate to think of her crying without being able to soothe her, or laughing her exuberant giggle without knowing why. More than that, I question myself and I question my abilities, my intelligence and ambition. I am scared and every day I feel I cannot do it so I know that I must

    I was at my old, pre-pregnancy job for over five years. I found working with at-risk teens challenging, exasperating and immensely entertaining. No two days were quite the same but all the same, after five years I think I was burnt out, and as is often the case I didn’t realize just how burnt out I was until I had a year’s distance for reflection.

    I’m not working directly with teens anymore but I’d like to return in that direction someday. In the meantime I am stretching my skills and growing my confidence and watching my fear ebb and flow with each passing day.

 

Internets, I’m back.

 

Uncategorized

Nesting Rage – It’s a Real Thing

      

This is the extent of my motivation today, freshly washed and folded baby blankets.  A painting project almost finished (almost, almost!) and an itch to visit my favorite wool shop to stock up on soft yarns to knit a few toques for this baby to be.

I wish I could better articulate how it feels to have my interests narrow like this, a sort of all-consuming prenatal tunnel vision where all the world outside our home has fallen away and I don’t want to leave these four walls (ever), I just want to flit around inside preparing myself in dozens of small ways for the changes about to come.

(Is it some sort of psychological mind-game, this nesting? Do we really think that by having drawers perfectly organized, diapers neatly stacked, that we will be prepared in any way shape or form for the whirlwind that’s about to be unleashed?)

Of course I do have to leave these four walls for many reasons, not least of which is to go to work. This is becoming more and more of an exercise in foot-dragging with each day however, as I struggle to find the passion and ambition that propelled me into this field in the first place.

I work with teens in a drop-in centre. I love my job, I find it challenging and exhausting and exasperating and inspiring. Sometimes all within the same shift, sometimes the same hour. I feel incredibly fortunate to have forged strong relationships with many of the teens I have worked with over the past five years and there’s so much I’m going to miss about them and about the job itself – logically I know this.

Emotionally, however? Emotionally and irrationally (and perhaps hormonally, if I can play that card) I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to just walk out that door tomorrow and be done. It’s a weird sort of trick your mind plays when you have an end-date, a finish line. Getting there seems so much harder and that day, that “Last Day” seems to loom and stretch towards the horizon, never getting any closer although the calendar keeps flipping its pages.

This feeling of having one foot out the door is made all the worse on those off-days when work isn’t particularly inspiring or rewarding or fun. When I don’t feel like I’m actually helping anyone so much as banging my head repeatedly against a brick wall of teenage snark.

Yesterday was one of those days, it left me feeling drained and frustrated and idly researching how many vacation days I have accrued to see if I can start maternity leave early.

I ended up closing the centre a half hour early because I was so burnt out. Over the course of the night there were of course the regular issues of policing the kids and breaking up fights and mediating meal times, but there were other things too.

Someone pissed all over the youth bathroom, making the entire hallway reek like urine. At this age something like that isn’t an accident, it’s an angry middle finger thrust in your face. Someone else (I’m pretty sure the same someone) left a note in the anonymous question box, crumpled up. As I opened it I read the words “There’s jizz on this note.”

Aaaand that was that. I was done. I felt like bathing myself in disinfectant and/or screaming and/or crying. Stuff like this makes folding baby blankets that much more appealing, you know? Stuff like that makes it hard to wax nostalgic about missing the job, the kids, the work.

These sorts of incidents are few and far between – I can count them on one hand – and they in no way represent the majority of the teens, nor the bulk of the interactions I have with them. On the whole, the youth I work with are pleasant, hilarious, polite. They are kids I would love my son or daughter to turn out like. 

But occasionally, sometimes, there are difficult cases, difficult kids. It’s all par for the course and I’m used to it by now, nothing much shocks me anymore. But nonetheless, incidents like this are lately serving to propel me ever quicker back to these four walls, these small preparations. 

Today and tomorrow are my days off. Days I’m going to take to putter and futz and try and convince Adam to relinquish a corner of his man cave for a baby change area. With any luck I will (through divine intervention) be successful in this endeavor and have cute pictures to show for my efforts come Monday.

If not, I will be up again tonight, restless and itchy and contemplating moving (moving! at 7.5 months pregnant! When we’re planning to leave this town in a few months anyway! Hormones!) and googling “Nesting Rage”.

Happy Weekend!

Uncategorized

The End

      

It has happened. This thing, this giant gargantuan THING that has been hanging over our heads and weighing down our shoulders, this larger than life albatross around our necks…it’s gone.

Just *gone*.

I’ve written about it before, here, and here (and here and here) but never with much detail, always in a frustratingly obscure manner. This post is probably the most I will ever say about it.

Seven years ago Adam bought a business. Despite how I often characterize him as a goofy,bumbling, man-child, Adam has another side to him. He is an incredibly ambitious man who truly loves working, and what’s more, he’s good at it. Really good.

He’s driven, smart, and truly has a head for business. So a few years after university he bought a store. Within two years of buying this store he had doubled sales, expanded its services and improved its overall look and layout. Not bad for a 24 year old.

But no matter how good you are, no matter how ambitious and driven and dedicated, there are still circumstances beyond your control.

The Olympics came and went. The economy tanked. Our town started to wilt and falter. Businesses started closing. Adam laid off some staff and began working 6 days a week to fill the gaps. I imagine he thought this would be temporary, but he ended up working 6 days a week for the past four years. I can’t even begin to imagine what that feels like.

The downturn continued and Adam kept working, because that was the only option. To just keep working and pouring more and more into the business to keep it going until things got better. He rolled with the punches as best he could – re-vamping the store to get more available floor space without having to pay more rent, streamlining some of the processes and cross-training staff to be more efficient.

It was amazing, depressing and humbling to see him work so hard. I admire him so much for this.

The store has been a source of great joy, great conflict and great stress for both of us over the past few years. And through it all, I struggled to write about it. I couldn’t write about it, I felt – and still feel- that this was Adam’s story to tell. It felt wrong somehow to chart the progress of something I had so little involvement in, comparatively speaking. And Adam wouldn’t ever write about it, just like he rarely complained about it. It’s just not in his nature to wallow or stagnate or bemoan his fate (I do that for both of us it seems ;).

Of course he had moments of frustration, handfuls of breaking points over the years- we both did. But whereas I got to bury my head in the sand and avoid the situation, go to my own job, forget what was happening, he had to be there. Every day. Dealing with all of the problems and carrying all of the stress and not getting much out of it anymore, because after paying rent and employees and bills, there simply wasn’t much left over to get.

When we found out I was pregnant, everything changed. We hadn’t planned the baby’s impending arrival being a catalyst for such change, but that’s exactly what it became. As the days and weeks passed and we began to contemplate in greater detail just how our lives were about to change, we realized that we couldn’t just continue waiting it out, hoping things would get better.

We needed a steady income, I needed my husband to be around enough to enjoy becoming a daddy. 

Adam decided it was time to move on and close up in September. I know this was a hard decision for him to make, and I tried to let him make it himself. I didn’t want to push or insist or cajole. I felt strongly that as hard as it was, he needed to say those words, come to that conclusion himself. I’ve had one foot out the door for years, but it’s a hard thing to let go of, a business you’ve poured so much into. So he had to say those words, he had to get to that point where it was okay to call it.

It took a while to sink in, but I think we were both beginning to feel comfortable with an end date in sight, even if it wasn’t the end we had hoped for. We’d still be coming out with less than we came in, but nonetheless for the first time in seven years we started planning for “after”, and it felt good.

Then, while we were on vacation, Adam got word that someone was interested in taking over the store at the end of July, instead of the end of September as previously thought. This was good news. This was great news. I had long felt nervous about these two huge life events – selling the store and having the baby – being tied so closely together. The thought of having a 3 month buffer to finish everything up, to decompress, for Adam to figure out what he wants to do next – this was a lifesaver.

So we came back from vacation, heard this news and were immediately plunged into an insane few weeks of non-stop back and forth, a crazy flurry of action. Due to the speed of the transaction, every day was a roller coaster of if’s and what-if’s, highs and lows.

The deal was going through, and then it wasn’t. Things were settled, and then they weren’t. We were going to be done at the end of July, and then suddenly the process would stall and things looked uncertain again. It was incredibly frustrating, emotionally exhausting.

In the evenings I’d get home from work and we would sit and look at each other. He’d talk and talk and talk, trying to figure everything out. I would listen feeling impotent and wishing I could do more, shoulder more. I rubbed his back and heard him speak and offered my support. 

I didn’t know what else to do.

Back and forth and back and forth. Two weeks filled with phone calls and meetings and deals, inventories and signed and witnessed letters. Adam’s dad came out to help him tie up in ten days all of the loose ends he thought he had three months to deal with.

And then, on Saturday, we handed over the keys. We were done.

I have imagined writing this post a million times. I have waited for this day, hoped for it, prayed for it. Every time I’ve done my tarot cards in the past two years I have searched their meaning for any sign that this day was on the horizon.

It was strangely anticlimactic, this calm after the storm.

I don’t think it’s sunk in yet, that it’s over. Things are starting to shift, to take hold – I hadn’t realized how much time I spent continually worrying about the store, thinking about the store. I didn’t realize how heavily it weighed on us until the last few days as I kept observing thoughts pop unbidden into my head, worries about staffing and scheduling and bills and whether or not I’d completed some task or other. It feels very strange to have these thoughts pop up and not have to take action, find a solution. It feels strange to be able to simply shrug my shoulders, wipe my hands clean. Not my problem anymore.

Adam has developed a great relationship with the new owner and is planning on staying on for a few months to show him the ropes, but in a much reduced capacity.

In many ways he’ll go back to how it was at the beginning, how it would have stayed if things had gone as planned. Working five days a week instead of six. Working 8 hours a day instead of 12. And actually being paid for the work he’s doing.

Miracle of miracles! I think he might just lose his mind from all this free time and money!

I’m a strong believer in taking the positive out of situations – even ones that have felt so depressing at times. By doing this I don’t want to gloss over how tough it’s been because that would undervalue how hard Adam has worked to keep all of it together. There have been many fights had and tears shed over this business, it’s put a great deal of stress on us as a couple, emotionally and financially. But nonetheless, there were incredible moments, fun moments, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, I never thought I would get to this place, but I don’t regret it. 

I think this experience has strengthened us in a way that no other could. Working so closely with Adam has given me a unique view of him that I don’t think very many other people have about their spouses.

I learned that he’s an insanely hard worker, that he’s trustworthy and honest, he treats people right. He’s a genuinely kind person, – too kind sometimes, and he has a hard time saying no to those in need (but really, this isn’t a negative, is it?). 

I’ve seen how his customers have grown to respect him, love him.  It wasn’t unusual for people to phone him for a sale and simply leave their credit card number, trusting him to pick the right item for them and not screw them over. 

Whenever I worked in the store with him, as soon as people found out I was his wife they would tell me that I picked a good one. That I was lucky to have him as my husband.

And although it was hard at times, frustrating at times, and although if I’m honest, one of the things I’ve learned is that I never ever want to work that closely with him again for the sake of our sanity and our marriage and our lives please god NEVER AGAIN- goddamn do I agree with his customers.

I did pick a good one. I am lucky.

We are fortunate to have had this experience that has broken so many marriages, and come out stronger for it. I think that says a lot about us as a partnership, but more still about the kind of man Adam is, the kind of man he becomes when the going gets tough.

So no, I don’t regret it, but I am so, SO glad that it’s over. I can’t wait for Adam to have two day weekends, a full week of evenings off, a full paycheque. I can’t wait to see who he becomes without this weight, in the absence of this albatross.

I can’t wait to share these next few months with him unencumbered by responsibility, before a new, infinity more fun and rewarding responsibility emerges onto the scene with a happy wail.

More than anything though,  I am so very,very happy to write the following words in regards to this business, this chapter of our lives:

The End.

(But also, The Beginning!)

Uncategorized

Oh dear. Oh d-d-d-dear dear.

We’ve gone from 0 to 60 in three days and it’s stressful and busy and we’re both working too much and worrying too much and there’s too many phone calls, too many what if’s.

We’re mired in the last stages of a long process with Adam’s business and we’re getting down to the wire and decisions have to be made and actions taken and I’m trying to help but I’m surprisingly useless when it comes to matters like these. 

I’ve always tried to maintain a distance from his job, I wanted a husband not a boss or a business partner. 

I deeply desired that disconnect, that separation of our work and personal lives. 

It worked and it didn’t , I’ve had varying degrees of success maintaining this separation over the past 7 years, sometimes having zero involvement and at one point working with Adam full time (PRO TIP: Don’t do this.)

But now, now that he needs me, now that we’re standing here in the home stretch of an all hands on deck situation I am so clueless, so in over my head that I can’t do much more than panic. And stress. And then stress about being stressed because did you know that babies who have stressed mothers are more likely to develop mood disorders later in life? 

Then I stress about becoming the kind of neurotic mother that reads such bizarre one-off studies and loses all critical-thinking skills simply because she has reproduced.

*deep breath*

I’m done, I’m done.

(except I’m not done. We’re not done – not even close, and that’s the problem) 

The timing seems like the worst possible, especially when all I want to do these days is sit and fold baby clothes into a dresser drawer. 

I want to prepare for the future, this brand new world opening up beneath our feet but instead we’re sitting here stuck, sifting through the rubble of the past few years trying to make sense of it all.

But even if it is the worst possible timing (and sometimes I think it is, I mean really who wouldn’t want to throw their entire lives into chaos and uncertainty a mere three months before the birth of their first child?) it couldn’t have happened any other way. 

It wouldn’t have happened any other way.

When Adam and I used to talk about having kids, the question was never if, but when. When I would discuss it with friends, going through the pros and cons of doing it now -were we ready? would we ever be ready?- the conversation would always pause, and they would inevitably say something to the effect of, “Whenever it happens will be the right time.”

And that was that. I never knew what to make of this statement, this pithy conversation stopper. It went against every instinct I had to plan, to prepare. It felt backwards and strange but Internets, they were right. (Aren’t they always?)

t’s the right time because it becomes the right time. You have to make it the right time and even though it seems impossible at times (like right now, for instance) you do it, you just do.

You use those nine months to create the right time if it wasn’t there before because that’s how it has to be.

So here we are, we’re doing it (we’ve done it, it’s done!) and it’s the worst possible timing but it’s the best, too. 

Sometimes you find yourself sitting on a situation, stagnating, knowing full well in the back of your mind that you should be moving forward but lacking the push. This was true for us over the past few years. And let me tell you, you want a push? Get pregnant. 

Boom. Suddenly our lives were in motion, wheels were turning and weeks were passing and some days it seemed to take forever, this nine month wait, but others sped by with squiggly stress lines around them and then one day you find yourself in your Naturopath’s office, gobsmacked because she’s just told you that you are now in your third trimester. 

What?

What?!

We are in the final stretch, and we are feeling it. My belly is growing and our lives are changing and there’s just not enough space and I’m finding it hard to breathe. 

I don’t quite know how to wrap this post up. It’s open-ended, without a clear resolution, (much like everything else in our lives right now). 

The ending is a question mark.