Mah Friend

Our eyebrows were not “on fleek.” They were off fleek, in fact.

I am fortunate to have the friendship of one of the sweetest, funniest people on this planet, and I do not sing her praises enough. So this is about Jessica, my friend. 

I met Jessica in grade seven at a Catholic Elementary school in Bowmanville. At the time, I was surly and salty about the fact that my parents wouldn’t allow me to transfer to a different school. My social group was getting increasingly toxic, the school was a new build and had no funding, and the hypocrisy of Catholicism was, at the time, weighing heavily on my existential consciousness. In hindsight, my not-transferring was an actual Godsend, for more reasons than one.

Jessica sat behind me. She was bubbly and blonde, with an Ariana Grande ponytail twenty years before it was in vogue, and she kicked my chair a lot. I barked at her one day, and somehow or another she rectified this by telling me a dirty calculator joke. We’ve been inseparable ever since.

I’ve known Jess longer than I’ve known my youngest brother, which is sometimes a contentious issue, as they both share today (October 6th) as their birthday. Jess is a Libra, which means she is simultaneously every one thing with the tension of every other thing in the balance: she’s imaginative but also grounded; she is exceedingly easy-going but also has non-negotiables. I could out-race Jess on foot, but she could out-dance me easily. Jess is the proud Mother of three wonderful kids, but you’ll only really hear about them if you ask her, as she typically has other things she likes to chat about.

I obviously can’t mention everything I want, but I can offer vignettes.

As I changed cities and schools mid-way through grade eight, we both spent the first year of high school apart. It was terrifying, but we chatted with one another on the phone after school for the entirety of grade nine, eating our post-school snackies, and I was reminded of the importance of this during the pandemic lockdown when we were all inside, on pause.

Laughing on rollercoasters at Canada’s Wonderland. Laughing, and bouncing, and hurting from sunburns afterwords.

Sharing homeroom together when Jess’ family moved to Oshawa in grade ten; it was one of the only classes we had together throughout high school, homeroom and parenting class. We did a project together about the dangers of drug use while pregnant that included a questionably appropriate skit with the parenting dummy-doll Jess was assigned that weekend, crying on the floor while Sarah McLaughlin’s “Angel” played in the backgound. There was a substitute teacher the day of our presentation… I have no idea how she was able to mark us.

Watching my friend take her marriage vows, and not being able to stop smiling and happy crying the entire night through.

Skating in a recreation centre with our shoes, because we had shoes.

Road tripping to Montreal for Osheaga together three times, and having engine trouble that first time, napping at the dealership after working a closing bar shift the night prior.

Our sons were born in the same year, which means we had the experience of being pregnant together at the same time. I have a photo of a newly-birthed lap baby touching my burgeoning belly that I know we’ll play on some sort of platform when the boys turn sixteen. When I was learning to breastfeed, Jess drove in the evening to our apartment from Courtice to North York, hugged me, gave me a few pointers, and did my dishes. In the pandemic lockdown times, FaceTime was the only way our boys could get together, and so Jess and my calls were and continue to be often interrupted by the giddy excitement of post-toddler boys, each retreating to their room to show each other their toys and ask of one another, “so, how was your sleep?” 

Jessica peer-pressures me, and I appreciate it. She peer-pressures me, but it’s usually to do with writing more and getting outside of my well-build introvert shell. “Will you just write a book, already,” and “Don’t be lame” are recurring topics. Jessica also has an energy unparalleled to anyone else’s. When she says she’ll do something, she’ll do it with interest, from impromptu mid-afternoon pickling to steadily becoming an incredibly successful real estate executive. She cares, and she cares if she’s known you for five seconds or for twenty years. 

I’m incredibly proud of the woman my friend has become and today, I’m wishing her the happiest of birthdays. She’s an amazingly warm, intuitive, hilarious human, and I’m better for having her in my life. Happy Birthday, Mah Friend. xo.

Sponsored Post Learn from the experts: Create a successful blog with our brand new courseThe WordPress.com Blog

WordPress.com is excited to announce our newest offering: a course just for beginning bloggers where you’ll learn everything you need to know about blogging from the most trusted experts in the industry. We have helped millions of blogs get up and running, we know what works, and we want you to to know everything we know. This course provides all the fundamental skills and inspiration you need to get your blog started, an interactive community forum, and content updated annually.

The New Normal

IMG_2959
View from The Carlyle in New York on a trip in 2013

“Have you heard the new Strokes album?” is the question I’ve been asking everyone for nearly a month straight. I need to talk about The New Abnormal (which has become my new normal), as habitual as putting on the kettle or reaching for the pepper grinder once the table’s set. I’m a big purveyor of generational dysphoria and, having been born in the late 80’s, I’m all-too-aware that I missed out on some considerably fine musical movements at the time of their debut. 80’s nostalgia and concept albums are my jams, so I was highly comforted by the release of this, The New Abnormal, mid-quarantine with live music postponed until 2021 (Nada Surf, till next April, my friends, there are 80’s windows we can see).

The Strokes’ The New Abnormal is a blithe retrospective, encompassing nostalgia with growth, musically and otherwise. One might argue it “reads” like a bildungsroman novel, where the protagonist (hearken back to grade ten English with me if you will), is telling you the story of how he came to be who/where he is. This album has a character arc, the self-same similar story of a developmentally-arrested male youth we’ve been bedtime reading under a due date for years. Yet somehow, it’s refreshing, which is paradigmatically interesting, because it’s so nostalgic, like remembering the smell of the carpet in the basement from when you were a kid.

We’re greeted with the album art: a Basquiat-like cover launching us backwards into the New York of at least 30 years ago. Throughout the album, we’re given the impression of looking through a door crack, peering in, and being offered vignettes of period-pieces, bolstered by the band’s start-up banter in-between songs (as though you’re sitting in on a jam session of the band because your friend-of-a-friend knows the drummer, or something).

The album starts with The Adults Are Talking, which is my three-year-olds and my first “anytime it’s on let’s dance” new routine, every morning, and which I find wonderfully subversive. The song is catchy, punk-punchy and a begrudging “they-tell-me-this-but-I-call-hypocrisy,” critique on the parental-parented dichotomy. It has a sick baseline and elevates into rather pretty vocals. After all, he “get(s) it right sometimes,” only sometimes, because he’s still figuring it all out.

“Here we go, friends,” we’re told upon launching into Selfless, a tender and all-too-innocent tale of unrequited love in the infancy of one’s romantic history. Tell me your heartbreak. The speaker uses the love object as a crutch in this unbalanced, naive relationship, and there’s no scope for reference.

Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus is a personal favourite, feeling like someone got released upon the city, and they’re scrambling establish a connection. There’s dissatisfaction with the era they’re in and the network they have. Though the 80’s are mentioned, the keyboard in it is more like influence from The Doors, and this inconsistency shows a scattering of thoughts or a lingering naiveté that is at least self-aware (“The deeper I get, the less that I know”), and rather Socratic, besides.

Speaking of self-awareness, Bad Decisions is an anthem for folly and exploration, not unlike its not-too-terribly-distant relative, Dancing with Myself. There is commitment to the mistakes, however, as there is something to be learned from making them (“I don’t take advice from fools”).

Eternal Summer, initially a whimsical summertime jam if ever I’ve heard one, is balanced by increasing paranoia and disassociation. Vocally, the sweet-soft higher notes are framed by the accusatory, post-punk verses “they got the remedy // but they won’t let it happen,” and the whole song reads like a bad trip by the end. There are also some heavy The Psychedelic Furs vibes, which I certainly appreciate.

If Eternal Summer is a bad trip, At The Door is the hangover, the throbbing synth mimicking a full-body ache. This song also acts as a foil to Selfless at the beginning of the album. “Use me like an oar // And get yourself to shore,” the speaker pleads through the door amongst some imminent threat, physical or otherwise, but likely an assemblage. The speaker is still selfless, and afflicted by self-image, but it’s more daunting now, more mature, scarier. I would argue At The Door is the climax of the album, strange for a ballad, but something is lost here that’s gone forever.

Why are Sundays So Depressing is Lou Reed’s Make Up without the girl, yet her shadow remains (“My baby’s gone // but I don’t miss her”). Sunday is depressing because Sunday is for brunch and lovemaking, but we’re still experiencing the repercussions that happened At the Door. However, our rover’s “Not getting angry, staying, staying hungry,” so he’ll be alright.

Not the Same Anymore is a thoroughly reflective tune where the speaker comes to terms with the effects of change after “a child prisoner grows up.” While the whole album is reflective, there is a sense of regret to the changes this time (“Late again, I can’t grow up”). There’s more door imagery, as well as the continued familial discord touched on throughout the album, (mostly avoided for the sake of not assigning interpretation).

Ode to the Mets anchors the story in New York as a bookend, and while the baseball reference is lost on me, the whole album is indeed an ode to different times in life where you needed the music to get you through the mire. There’s a childlike innocence to leaving the audience on a note of baseball and boredom, (“I was just bored playin’ the guitar”), suggesting that everything comes full-circle and that real growth relies on acceptance, not simply time and experience. If Frank Sinatra’s rendition of My Way doesn’t come to mind, might I suggest re-listening.

Of course, the album also reminds me of my own fleeting youth, living in my own personal New York (Toronto) in my early 20’s, and what I was doing when The Strokes’ Angles came out back in 2011. The band was with me before that, though, as two songs were plucked from their debut album and granted eternal placement on my third burnt c.d. ever, which I titled, “My Brain Weighs Eight Pounds.”

Amanda Petruisch of The New Yorker recently wrote The Strokes’ Eerily Prescient “The New Abnormal” story. In it, she refers to receiving The Strokes as “nihilistic gospel” in her youth, and that “(Casablancas) seems to understand that the effects of poor judgement can be both banal and devastating, and that our worst behaviour is often deliberate and premeditated.”

I don’t know if this is more true for people who live in cities when they come of age, but it has me thinking on it, now. I don’t live in a large city anymore, and I often find myself being grateful for that in these strange times of isolation and reflection. I suppose I find myself missing missing the city, because it was such a theme in my life for such a long time (and I have an entire chapbook of ill-received poetry to prove it). But in the interim, I have the nostalgia offered to me by The New Abnormal, which, as I’ve mentioned, I cannot stop listening to.

So, all of this begs the question: have you heard the new Strokes album?

I Write, Therefore I Suffer (And You Can, Too!)

     Writing, for me, has never been an option; rather, it is a compulsion housed in the finest fibres of my being, and is entrenched in who I fundamentally am as a person.

     My oldest memories are books in a bed with a white comforter I kept for twenty years.

     I remember taking the bus to school, curly head against cool window, listening, and using my right index finger to spell out segments of conversation around me, recording the kinderchatter in aerial ink.

     I used to actually copy out the dictionary in my parents’ old workbooks; I loved to hear the sound of a pen-marked page turning; loved taking in new wordage; loved to feel my hand slowly cramping.

     Perhaps one of the reasons it took me ten years to complete my undergraduate degree, is due (partially) to the fact that I never wanted to leave that note-taking lecture hall, or that small circle of eager poets debating the necessity of an ellipses.  I never wanted to forego all those Septembers of fresh notebooks and slightly funky-smelling, dog-eared used novels, to say nothing of the excuse to purchase some new fall fashion… invest in some big boots for snow.
 
     When I say writing is a compulsion, I mean that: I do not write because I like to do it; I write because without writing, I would be lost.  I need words organized the way I organize them, because it gives me the illusion of control in a world otherwise colonized by chaos.  I need to write, because I need to express my take on reality.  I need to write, because the life I breathe into a story satisfies my primal, maternal need to create and nurture.  I need to write because the book in my head looks good on a shelf.

     I feel I’m not alone when I say that I dread the question “what do you write about,” because I have dozens of answers and simultaneously, no answers at all. 
What do I want to write about?
“The World.”
“Truth, Love and Justice.”
“A strong female character who doesn’t take any nonsense.”
“Everything/Nothing.”

      I want to write about family and friends, sex and death; I want to take my thirty years of living experience and transform that into an astute reflection that heightens someone’s mid-afternoon read.  I want someone to read a paragraph or a stanza I’ve written and hold it between their mouth and belly, like a succulent morsel they’re reluctant to let go.  I want anyone to stroll idly through a bookstore, take my words folded between paper home with them, and then add me to their bedside table. I want to drown in my shelves of notebooks filled with stories and poems and personalized essays, having filled them before the trees are all gone; before a pen-in-hand becomes a moot point.

     Writing is a non-negotiable — a necessity — and I’m at the point now where this previously deeply personal pleasure is not nearly as enjoyable unless shared, as a bottle of wine or a pot of tea is best enjoyed, amongst the sensation of camaraderie and discourse.  Sharing one’s own work — like the process of writing itself — is yet another quiet agony to be endured in the ultimate process of completing a work.  If a story dies at the end of an author’s invention, and is never given the opportunity to convince another living being that it’s a breathable work, did it ever truly exist at all?

     Storytelling is an integral part of the human experience.  The only thing a writer ever need do is write; whether on a scrap piece of paper standing in line at the grocery store, or on your phone waiting for the bus killing time waiting for the bus, or in the quiet hours propped up on a pillow before succumbing to the sweetness of sleep yourself after putting the kids to bed.  You will be surprised by what you can achieve in fifteen mere minutes of daily devotion with your morning cup of coffee, opening up your mind to your own stories, begging to be born.  Write well, write often, and have the courage to pull your words from the ether of your head onto a page for someone else to savour.

Oh, Billie (Eilish)

Until recently, the only Billies in my musical acquaintance had been those of the Holiday and Piper variety, which is to say ladies of lonesome world wartime odes and peppy “Girl Power” 90’s anthems. At the Budweiser Stage in June, I was introduced to the Eilish Experience… alongside thousands upon thousands of screaming sixteen-year-old girls (and their rampantly running Snapchat stories.) Personally, I attended my first large-venue concert at eighteen years old, and I wasn’t seeing divas and divos like Pink and Justin Timberlake (who had both released albums that year); I was thus unprepared for the shrieking of “omg guys, she’s so keuuuute, isn’t she guys? So keuuuuute,” to my right and the guttural sounds of self- abandonment coming over my shoulder… it was intense, you guys.

I initially dismissed Eilish’s Toronto radio breakthrough hit single “bury a friend” as a processed, regurgitated sampling of The Doors’ “People Are Strange” — I dug it and I dug the aesthetic (as a former self-titled sophisticated goth myself, back in the day) — but I figured the popularity was due solely to the reminder of a familiar tune, and in this regard I figured poorly. Eilish’s breakthrough single “bellyache” from her 2017 album don’t smile at me features the lyrics: Sittin’ all alone // Mouth full of gum // in the driveway // My friends aren’t far // In the back of my car // Lay their bodies.

Billie is here to disturb and soothe, as diary-confessional ballads meet shoulder-popping bass beats, while lyrics twist from docile angst to darker anxieties, all accompanied by images perpetuating uncanny, adolescent disturbia, black tears and spiders. She is here to perpetuate unease about the abstraction of loss: loss of control; loss of friendship; loss of sanity…scary stuff indeed, and fears many of us can relate to, though perhaps especially young women. In the song “ilomilo,” a catchy yet haunted little ditty, Billie confides: The world’s a little blurry // Or maybe it’s my eyes // The friends I’ve had to bury // They keep me up at night.

What teenagers wants to conceive of losing their friends, friends being the almighty sanctuary against confusion and helplessness, existentialism and ennui?

Eilish’s branding lies rooted in the extended vulnerabilities of disenchanted adolescent youth. It would have been just as easy to launch a dynamic duo, as Eilish’s leading guitarist, Finneas O’Connell, is also her brother, and apparently a crucial element to her song-writing process. At one point during the show, they sat on a bed together that floated off the stage and up to a rigged moon…which was kind of weird. Everyone in attendance seemed bummed that there were only two albums to conjure a setlist from — including Billie herself, as she stood on stage and shrugged into her refreshingly conservative hot topic dress, two high buns adorning her shaking head as she counted down how many more songs there weren’t. I’m looking forward to see what comes out next.

I’m in the Garden

When french satirist and philosopher, Voltaire, insisted “we must cultivate our own garden,” at the end of Candide —a dizzying, succinct story— I wonder if he anticipated the series of errands that have occupied my spare time as late, as a Toronto refugee finally gifted the great boon of green space in suburban Oshawa.  In the past month, relishing the opportunity to expand my skillset as a useful human being, I’ve learned how (courtesy of exceedingly patient and selfless family members) to cut a garden, de-thatch and mow a lawn, split and re-plant hostas, plant annuals, sustain and maintain potted flowers, have patience while a belated bush came back from winter’s sleep, assemble a gazebo, assemble a barbecue, grill on said barbecue, drive a U-Haul to pick up thoroughly loved wicker patio furniture from a plucky woman named Deb from Seagrave, Ontario, all in the name of creating an outdoor space that reflects and carries the needs of my household and the lives within it, eager for sunny days at long last.

     Cultivating your garden, however, is about more than deciding when to cut a rose bush all the way back, or choosing between melamine pineapple-patterned dishware for outdoor entertaining (though these matters are obviously of utmost importance, also); cultivating your garden is more probably about sowing metaphorical seeds and reaping the rewards of hard work and patience.  In an era immersed in instant gratification so often perpetuated by our nouveau technological revolution (i.e. SmartTechnology), it becomes perhaps easy to forget that to live is to toil, and that anything worth doing is seldom easy.   

     Pursuing the Edenic state of order and beauty, fruit and flowers, is a noble task; it merely takes some blood, sweat and tears for watering.

 

Trainspotting

     My kid has a thing for trains.

     When I say thing, I mean a waking compulsion to “woo-woo” chronically (sometimes even in his sleep), while requesting to watch The Polar Express (2004) at least twice a day, in-between settling for episodes of “Thomas and Friends” and/or Amazon Prime’s deliciously cheesy “All About Trains.”  He opts to wear his train jimmy jams every night and gets mad when I say no (because they need to be washed…we now have two pairs); he screams uncontrollably when we pass a train while driving on the highway and cries real live tears because he only got to see it for a second; he makes “trains” out of his tub toys over the side of the bathtub; he makes “trains” out of his food truck food stuffs on the floor of his room when he ought to be napping.  When we’re reading a story, he’ll inevitably find a picture of a train or train-like object within, and commandeer the book with rapt interest, whereas before he was simply feigning it to humour me (bless him).

     What gets me is the intensity of his “woo-woo,” as his whole entire being seems to move from his belly into his cheeks as he turns his head from left to right to deliver the train whistle imitation, the tendrils of melancholy casting out from his eyes in an uncanny maturity utterly unbefitting a plucky two-year-old.

     I completely get the fascination, too, by the way.  There is something about trains, something comforting, something humbling.  When I was a kid, I grew up in a small town in the GTA, in a removed, cookie-cutter subdivision surrounded by farmland and train tracks.  The Bowmanville Train, as we called it, (erroneously as, in fact, there was more than one), would low out its dulcet presence throughout the day, comforting me throughout the various stages of waking, playing on the schoolyard during recess, getting off the bus, having a bath before bed, reading The Chronicles of Narnia by bedside lamp for the umpteenth time, et cetera.  Train whistles, now, are a sort of reverse Pavlov’s Bell for me — I get dreamy and comfortable and tired, and this can sometimes be problematic because I’ve fallen asleep on a train more than once, and ended up missing my stop…more than once.  I have often wanted to take a train to nowhere, to take it simply for the sake of the journey, like an Amtrak or Via, and just spend the whole trip looking out the window, drinking warm things and writing.  I miss, intrinsically, the by-gone days of decadent train travel, where there was a smoky dining car and white-gloved champagne service, instead of a tragic trolly jam-packed with dry sandwiches and pre-packaged hummus and pretzels at $10/pop, but I watch White Christmas at least once around the holidays, and the “Snow” scene soothes me, and keeps me sated.

     So I don’t mind listening to Thomas go on about his busted buffers or to Tom Hanks scream about hot chocolate, nor do I mind picking up a 100-piece wooden IKEA train set multiple times a day.  I don’t mind story time being hijacked by the one page that has a train on it, or comforting Beanz during his highway train withdrawal (“there’s another one comin’ up just around the bend, kiddo, just you wait.”)

     I guess we both have a thing for trains…woo-woo. 

Scary Stuff

I used to looooove scary movies—the freakier the better; not so much the relentlessly gratuitous, borderline snuff stuff, as you’ll find with The Human Centipede, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (specifically the remake), and anything after the preliminary Saw movie, but give me a thriller that has you guessing what’s what or a horror flick with supernatural elements to it, and I was all-aboard. I saw The Ring in theatres in 2002 when I was fourteen, and it scared the shit out of me so badly, I actually had to sleep in my parents’ bed that night, and went back to see it two more times just so I could desensitize myself from the fear that that little freaky chick was going to come and get me any time I walked into a room with a television in it.

But I loooooooved it.

I loved that prickling discomfort scary movies inspire. The meme-gods say if you’re feeling lonely, put on a scary movie and you’ll feel in good company right-quick. The Halloween season inspired me to look through and put aside some scary movies for Bubbs and I to watch in the later nighttime hours, and I found I was putting aside half of our BILLY bookshelf; we had more horror movies than anything else.

Our scare capacity has a cap these days, though.

About a year ago we had to turn off a movie for being too scary, and it’s still on “Our List” though we’ve not had the cojones to revisit it yet. It’s called The Other Side of the Door and it’s about a family who lose their eldest son in a freak accident while on vacation, and the mother’s grief brings her to open this supernatural door in an Aztec ruin, and all these ghosts follow them back to their home, including the ghost of this poor baby boy and he plays ghost piano with his little sister between astral plains and that is some next-level scare right there.

“I can’t watch scary movies anymore,” my Mum says as a mantra. “Anything with little kids and I’m out.” So fear operates on a level of pleasure that has a line, and that line shifts depending on your experience and current circumstances; this may also suggest that fear is hereditary, which is interesting to think on.

Esquire recently came out with “The 23 Scariest Movies To Watch On Netflix Right Now:”

https://www.esquire.com/entertainment/movies/g23399763/horror-movies-on-netflix-to-stream-now/

On this list is Verónica, a Spanish horror film which Netflix claimed was the most “turned off” horror movie on its roster. We were able to get through this one, but I get the temptation, as there’s this freaking adorable little kid in it you’re convinced is going to bite it in every scene, and the movie was supposedly loosely based on a true story, whatever that means. Horror movies are formulaic, though, as we learn through the character Ethan’s apropos dialogues in the 90’s classic, Scream. I suppose the scarier ones, to me, are the ones that abstain from the formula. The scariest elements I found upon watching Scream the other night was wondering how in the hell they were going to get all that blood out of the living room, (as well as a psychological repercussion that I’ll not mention here for the sake of saving anyone from spoilers, because as we all know, guessing who the killer is is all part of the fun).

A Tidy Thirty

Last week marked my thirtieth birthday, and that’s okay.

I’ve always seen aging as a privilege denied to many; you can accept it with grace or you can fight it, but it’s always going to be around the corner, popping up in unexpected places, as through the odd errant, white eyebrow that needs to be plucked or that tediously recurring elbow lock that presents itself sporadically. Why fight it? My cousin (who’s in her 30s) recently took a stand against colouring her hair, and I admire this middle finger to an industry that sucks up whole afternoons and hundreds of dollars in one sitting, all to damage and dry out our locks and otherwise make us feel like sea hags if we’re overdue for a touch-up (her iron-grey tresses look fabulous, by-the-way.)

I’ve been looking forward to my thirties, me. If Carrie Bradshaw taught us that your 20s are for enjoying yourself, I have not only done that in spades, but I also feel that I learned my fair share of lessons, too. We do not, like reptiles and arachnids, get to shed skins and enlarge ourselves physically, but we do grow as we mature, through learning how to be comfortable in new stages of our lives and pushing ourselves to do better, to be better. Better, for me, would entail nurturing and establishing my writing career while attaining that almighty boon of in-unit laundry (a house, too, I guess, but mostly just for the laundry machine), creating another human and establishing a retirement fund (it’s never too early, people!)

It is important to have goals, however humble or grandiose they may be, whether your goal is to stop falling asleep with the television on or to run a marathon in the next year, I feel it’s important to look at yourself constructively time and again and edit yourself, if you will; you are a work worth revision. That is why, this year, I had a Tidy Thirty as opposed to a dirty one, because hangovers are apocalyptic these days and because all I ever really want to do, ideally, is read and write, eat good food, spend time with friends and family and listen to some good tunes. I spent two delicious hours in bed reading and drinking coffee, washed my floors and bedding, had my closest girlfriends over for pumpkin risotto and some beloved family over for roast beef, then saw Cigarettes After Sex and Nick Cave downtown, topped off with a nightcap at my favourite bar with my favourite beer, home and in bed by midnight.

What more could a thirty year old woman ask for?

Tidiness and tranquility, friends; tidiness and tranquility.

Motherhood Meditations

     My son just turned two last week; two years of baby cuddles and diapers; two years of wiping snot and tears with the sleeve of my shirt; two years of observing how a child finds comfort in the world and establishes himself within it; two years of fierce love and learning — and we’re both learning still.

     Every new phase in a child’s upbringing comes with its own unique set of challenges.  Right now, we’re having difficulty getting him to nap in his toddler bed (he exercises his independence by yanking all the books from his bookshelf, while serving toy food truck fare to his plethora of plushies, instead); we’re also finding it challenging to establish physical boundaries with other children during playtime (he is large, rough, and has always been an exceedingly physical child).  Yet these obstacles are not lasting, and I know that as soon as we’ve found a solution for them, a couple more are likely to pop up and challenge us further; parenthood is a trial that never ends —  and it endures beyond the raising of our children, if we’ve done the first part with enough love and understanding.

     I hold no doubt that some of Beanz’ stages are going to be better navigated with Bubbs at the helm (I’m picturing early teenage years that may tax my patience beyond their threshold, but this is mere speculation), though I have my own strengths and intrinsic Mum-perception, and the terrible twos are not so terrible, yet.  I’ve read recently that instead of a “Time-Out” during a toddler tantrum a Mother may be better endarted to consider a “Time-In,” where you pick up your child and instead of banishing them, give them your full attention and snuggle the bejesus outta ‘em.

     I don’t know if this is likely to stop Beanz from trying to tickle wienie seven-year olds at the park, and I don’t think (if our ever-waning before-bed story-time is any indication) that cuddling is the key to getting him to go shleepies in his Big Boy Bed during nap time (he just pokes at my eyebrows and lashes and giggles), but it’s worth a try.

     Parenthood is all about trying new things.

In Defence of Serving

     I have served for quite some time now  — since Autumn 2010, barring my two-year hiatus to give birth and finish my degree.  It was the perfect side-gig for me as a student living downtown, and I’ve accumulated enough stories and character sketches to sustain my writing for the next decade; there are, however, some things to be said about this line of work that often gets unrepresented that I believe are worth consideration.

     Immediate gratification.  The restaurant industry is not divorced from the fruits of labour; a guest comes in, they order, eat, pay and leave.  You provide them with a hot meal and warm hospitality and they, in turn, provide you with a gratuity that you get to take home at the end of your shift.  The effect of your work is immediate, and you have no homework to take with you.  There is also a physicality component that also comes into play here — you’re not sitting on your bum staring into a screen — you’re running around, dehydrated and famished, sweating with shoes worn through, and paid accordingly; plus your calves are gonna be ripped, yo.

     Sociability.  Serving is a highly-social occupation — you’re talking to your guests, you’re talking to your co-workers, you’re talking to management; you must be pleasant, level-headed and tactful to each of these three facets, all of the time, and while this may seem exhausting (and it is), you will learn wonderful things about both people and yourself, and this will give you pause, perspective and beauty in your life.

     Food.  Serving is especially rewarding if you can stand behind the product you’re serving, regardless of what that may be.  Enthusiasm for a certain dish or a certain accompanying wine pairing can be infectious, and it’s satisfying when someone appreciates your contribution to their dining experience.  If a server can marry the culinary with the commensal at the table, and share in that dining experience (without being invasive or showboating, and obviously the tone at each table will be different), then to me that’s a job well done.  I especially love it when a guest sends a compliment back to the kitchen, because the kitchen is where the trenches are, and they need your love and support.

     One of my favourite lines from a movie ever (and I have a lot of them), is one from the Italian Oscar-winning film Life is Beautiful, where a man is teaching his nephew (Roberto Benigni) how to be a waiter, and he says “think of a sunflower, they bow to the sun.  But if you see some that are bowed too far down, it means they’re dead.  You’re here serving, you’re not a servant.  Serving is the supreme art.  God is the first of servants.  God serves men, but he’s not a servant to men.”

     Serving is, I believe, a labour of love, and if you’re a server or an industry human and this ceases to be the case for you (or never was the case to begin with), then you probably need to update your CV and see what else is out there.

So God Made A Waiter