The 5 best decisions of my adult life

I read this post yesterday and was touched and inspired. The author of that blog, which I just discovered, seems pretty awesome, given how much humor she displays despite all the tough things that life threw her way. But I liked the idea of her post, which she herself got from one of her friends. So here is my list of 5 best decisions of my adult life…

1. Following my (2nd) dream and becoming a translator: I always wanted to be a writer. Unfortunately, I also like eating 3 meals a day and I’m too attached to security (and insecure about my talent) to try. I didn’t know what else to do with my life until the day I dreamed (for real, at night, while sleeping) I was a translator. Which reminded me that I had once thought of choosing this career path. So I made it happen and never regretted it. I found a career that I’m good at. It pays my bills, sure, but it also makes me smile. Most days, I’m happy to go to work, which I find is a lot more than many people can say about their job. I feel competent doing it, and it’s just challenging enough while still remaining relatively easy for me. And it doesn’t keep me up worrying all night.

2. Taking a year off: After finishing my degree, I wanted a break. I had gone straight from high school to Cegep and then university. At 22, I had never done anything than go to school and work, never lived away from my parents, never traveled on my own. I wanted to breath and think about my future. From there, so many decisions shaped my future that I can’t list them all. I picked BC as my first choice for the government program I enrolled in. I decided to travel (by myself) to unknown places instead of remaining holed up at home. I decided to stay that extra day in Seattle on Easter weekend, which allowed me to meet Zak on the way back (if I had decided to go home one day earlier than planned, with the friends I had just met, I never would have met him on the bus ride home). I decided to give love a chance when I met him even though I didn’t want to live outside of Québec and he didn’t want to leave BC. All those decisions made it so I could meet the love of my life. The rest is history.

3. Moving into a Coop: When we moved to Vancouver, Zak and I looked at coops, but we were not ready for the commitment. I had just started working full time and I was always tired, I could not imagine adding committee meetings to the mix. Two years later, we took the plunge. Sure, coops carry their share of issues (politics, gossip, work, inefficiency, etc.), but in return, it gave us way more than the cheap rent and secure housing we were initially hoping for. It gave us friends. We now have a whole community of neighbors who help us raise our children. We help each other, watch each other’s kids, visit each other… a whole bunch of people who can lend me an egg or an ear when I need them. I could not imagine raising my children elsewhere while being away from family. I never would have thought it would bring that much good into my life.

4. Coming off the pill: At the age of 29, I had been on the pill for 10 years. Zak and I watched a documentary that linked the pill to breast cancer and it made me wonder if I should quit. We discussed it as a couple. I knew I wanted children, but Zak wasn’t as sure and I knew one thing: if I came off the pill and became pregnant, I would have that child. That was an important thing to factor in when making the decision, and we both had to be on board. I stopped taking the pill in April. And although we used other means of contraception, I was pregnant in November – within 6 months. The arrival of my son was unplanned, but it changed our lives for the better. It made us a real family. It made my husband a wonderful dad. And I love him even more for it.

5. Canceling our cable subscription: I struggled a bit with which decision to put last. I wanted to find something that represented our commitment to an alternative lifestyle. We don’t have a car, we use our bikes as much as we can, we don’t buy our kids branded toys, we ask people not to buy presents at birthday parties, we try to respect the environment as much as possible, and we have no TV. To me, that’s the key. If I had a TV, I’d watch it – and as savvy a consumer as I am, I bet I would want more stuff. Not watching TV gives me more time to play with my children and do all sorts of other, more important things. And it makes it so my son goes out and plays instead of asking to watch a show. Sure, some day it will most likely change, but for now I’m happy like this.

I’m sure this post would be very different in ten years. I should probably revisit it then. If blogging still exists…

Radio silence

I haven’t written much lately, probably because all is well. Not much is happening. We are creating a new routine, my son is going to preschool, both my son and daughter do gymnastics (because it was the only class not full that would allow them both to do something at the same time), things are good.

I get up in the morning at an ungodly hour, breastfeed my not-really-a-baby-anymore, then the boys wake up, I have a quick shower, we all have breakfast together and I go to work. When I come home, I switch clothes to something I don’t mind getting dirty and play outside with the kids until dinner. Sometimes I even get to chat with other parents. After dinner we put the kids to bed, do dishes, laundry, tidy up the house, and by then it’s usually 9, so we sit down for a few minutes to have a snack and off to bed we go.

It is busy, but happy. My daughter is becoming a real little person and is sweet and funny. My son is challenging, but mostly with us – with others he’s usually a very good boy. I suspect he’s just going through an age-appropriate phase of testing us – a very long phase. I don’t have much time to myself, but I love my work, which is rewarding. We have just reconnected with two couples of friends and are now finding it hard to schedule everyone in, which is very new and not that unpleasant.

So basically, we’re surfing a good wave these days. Broke, exhausted, but mostly happy. And when I’m too tempted to whine, I count my blessings and try to shut up.

Rest in Peace

On Monday, my mother lost a brother.

I didn’t know my uncle very well. I was (very) slightly closer to his ex-partner, who shared his life for a very long time and who is an extremely warm person who always had a good word for me when we crossed path. And in the last few years I became closer to his two older daughters, mostly via blogs and email. So even though it is not really a loss for me, I am sad for them and for the entire family, and I hope they will find peace without their loved one.

My uncle was the second of nine siblings. His older brother was killed by cancer a few years ago. Now my mother is losing the second oldest of her siblings, and her youngest brother is ill with cancer with a rather grim prognostic. I can only imagine how hard it must be to see this happen to your family. In the case of my recently deceased uncle, he suffered from a long illness and there is some relief in the fact that he is finally pain-free. But he is about the same age as my father, so it’s hard not to imagine myself in the shoes of my cousins. It kept me up for a while last night. It reminded me that we are all growing older, that we are all going to die, and that waiting until “later” to do things we want to do may not be such a great idea.

What hit home even more is that one of my cousins lives overseas and will not be able to come to Montreal for her father’s funeral. It certainly makes me acutely aware of how far away from my family I am. Although I have been able to go home every year, I still cannot be as much part of their life as I would like to. And my children don’t know their maternal grandparents as well as I wish they did. As my son gets older, it’s easier for him to keep communication going with his grandmother in between visits, but still, it will never be the same than if he saw her week or even every month… and although I don’t really see a solution for now, it gives me food for thoughts.

My heart goes to my uncle’s family.

The Empathy Trap

I am lucky to  live in a Coop where kids play together in a setting much more like what was the norm 30 or 40 years ago than what we see today. It’s like a small village, with older and younger children reproducing the dynamics we used to see in large families. Even if part of it means fighting with each other, I think it’s healthy. They usually play  with kids their own age anyway, but sometimes older kids will let my son join in a game of hockey or soccer and he’s in heaven. I can see what he learns, too, from their behaviour – some is bad, like swear words, but most of it is good, like discussion and negotiation skills.

Yesterday was a rare occasion when my 4-year-old was playing with kids aged 5, 6, 7, 8 and 12. The game seemed to consist mainly in the younger kids trying to catch the older kids – according to my son, they were bad guys and had to be put in jail. Meanwhile, I was playing in a corner of the courtyard with my one-year-old. She was hiding in a play tent that someone left there. And for almost an hour, she was never alone for very long, because each of the other kids stopped by.

Sometimes they were hiding from the others. Sometimes they needed a break because things were not going their way and they were getting frustrated. They would come hide in the tent, and I noticed how contagious my daughter’s enthusiasm seemed to be. They played peek-a-boo with her. They were careful not to make her fall or hurt her. They told their friends to be careful, too, when the tent became crowded. It seemed to help them focus on something other than their own issues. For one or ten minutes they focused on her and her needs. Then they went back to their game, refreshed.

When I told Zak how things had played out, he said: “She’s an empathy trap”. And that’s exactly what it was. An empathy stop along the way. She’s so cute and engaging, everyone seems to like taking care of her and making her smile and laugh. And it helps them get over their frustration.

Who said the teacher is always an older kid?

Good Karma

We participated in the Terry  Fox run yesterday morning. It was my son’s fifth participation – he just turned four, but his first participation was when he was only 6 weeks old. Granted, he didn’t walk in that one. But he walked a little bit when he was a year old, he biked most of the way on his run bike the year he was two, he ran most of the way last summer at three, and this year he ran and walked with one of his friend. Our daughter participated for the first time (I would have taken her last year, but she was two weeks old and it was pouring rain so I was not too sure how I would breastfeed her every 30 minutes in the rain) and we made her walk to the finish line.

I love doing the Terry Fox Run because it is collecting money for Cancer research. Not women’s cancer, not breast cancer, but all cancers. Because they all suck, they all kill people who should have lived much, much longer, and I hate them all. This year, of course, we had a very special thought for our friend’s child who is dying of a brain tumor. Our team gathered about $700; not that much, but I am fairly certain that most of this money would not have gone to cancer research had we not asked our friends to participate in our team. So I feel good about our contribution. And although it is too late to help our friends, it might make a difference for someone else’s child some day. I have to hope it does.

As it turns out, our good deed was rewarded since we ended up winning a prize in the draft. Our package includes two meals in French restaurants (go figure!), something like $150 at Le Crocodile and $100 at Provencale Marinaside. I am happy to give them some free publicity since they were nice enough to donate those prizes to the Terry Fox Run. And if we enjoy our meals there, I will certainly mention it again.

All in all, we had a great morning with friends, did some light exercise (biking there and back and a 3 km walk, not much but better than sitting on the couch), did it all for a wonderful cause and were rewarded on top of it. Thanks to everyone who donated, and thanks to the restaurants for the great time we are  sure to have! We will be there next year since this is a family tradition we have created and hold really dear to our hearts.

My rose has thorns

If my son had been a girl, we probably would have named her Zoe. With Rose as a middle name. We love the name Zoe. There was an ad on TV around that time, I think it was for a laundry detergent, and the mom talked about how sensitive her daughter Zoe was. That’s how I always imagined my daughter, should I have one. Kinda like me, shy, quiet, introspective, busy with her imaginary world. Zoe evoked those images to me. And so did Rose, an old-fashioned name that brings to mind flowers and fragility.

Then in the three following years, we saw Zoes everywhere. At Storytime at the library, at Play time at the Community Center, at the playground, on the street, but mostly in stories. It seemed that every book had a character named Zoe (when it wasn’t a dog). So we changed our mind. However, we still picked a name that evoked the same images to me. Because that is still how I imagined my daughter.

How wrong I was! Granted, she is only a year old and her personality might change or manifest itself differently as she gets older. But I get the feeling she won’t be a fragile flower. Let’s look at an example. We went to the playground on Saturday morning. She was standing at the base of a climbing structure and a bigger boy, about 3, wanted to go in front of her. Instead of asking (at which point I would have removed the baby to let him climb), he started pushing his way in. We tried not to burst into laughter when our daughter, protecting her position, grabbed a handful of the big boy’s bum. He looked over at her, obviously destabilized… She grabbed again, probably pulling or pinching. And the boy left. She stood her ground and won – over a 3-year-old. My daughter, who is barely one and about the size of a 6-month-old…

So yeah, here goes the fragile flower. She knows what she wants and requests it loudly. She is extremely determined. And it looks like she won’t let anyone steal her spot. Which could morph into awesome qualities as she gets older. She is also spunky and funny. So I’m not saying I don’t like her personality. I like it a lot. It makes her interesting and full of surprises.

It’s just not quite what I was expecting. My rose has thorns. I bet it will come in really handy to defend herself!

10 years ago…

9/11 was my generation’s first real historical moment. People will always remember where they were and what they were doing when Kennedy was assassinated, when Man walked on the Moon. I will always remember that day in 2001. I lived in Montreal with my now husband, then boyfriend, but I had a class in Quebec City on Monday morning. So I would go down to Quebec Sunday night, sleep at my sister’s, go to class on Monday and work there Monday and Tuesday at a research project at the university. Then on Tuesday afternoon I would go back to Montreal. It was complicated but it worked, I knew it was only for one semester and the job payed well.

That Tuesday morning, I was in that research room working at a computer. A professor burst into the room to tell the professor I was working with (conveniently, my dad) that a plane had hit the World Trade Center in New York. My dad turned on the radio in his office, listened to it for a while and then left to go watch from home. I couldn’t leave because I had to work a pre-determined number of hours and I only had that day to do it. So I was trying to get to news organizations web sites to find out more about what happened, but everything was so busy you couldn’t load their pages. So I kept working until lunch time, as people brought me pieces of news here and there. Then I had lunch at one of those campus cafes that had a TV on. And that’s where I saw, for the first time, the towers collapsing. By then I had heard about it, but I couldn’t really believe it. It had to be a mistake. At lunch, I saw them with my own eyes, repeat after repeat, and I believed.

Zak was home in Montreal, he was not working, and he rarely had the TV on, yet for some unexplained reason, he turned it on that morning. We had not payed for more than basic cable, but they had not disconnected us from the previous tenant’s extended cable, so he watched CNN and saw the second tower get hit live. At that time, the wildest numbers were being thrown around. 10 000 people work there, they must all be dead. We thought nobody would have had time to run out. We were wrong, but of course, the number of victims was still very high. We also had this feeling that we were at war, that planes would hit everywhere, that they were probably coming for us, too. That night I went home, and for the next few days the TV stayed on and I go more and more discouraged. I cried, listening to stories of people losing loved ones, unborn children becoming orphans, and so on. But there were messages of hope, too. And I cried for those who gave their lives to save people that morning, the people who stayed behind with friends who were wheel-chair bound, the firefighters who went in and up as everyone else was leaving. I cried and I cried again.

But at some point life takes back its rights. We get used to those horrific images and without forgetting them, we stop thinking about them constantly. 10 years later, I am about to celebrate my daughter’s first birthday, another proof that life always wins. She will hopefully be here long after I am gone, maybe trying to make the world a better place. The unborn children who became orphans are 10 years old already, that would put them in grade 5. Time flies. And life wins. Always.

My thoughts today go to everyone whose life was personally affected by the events. Even though I’m sure their life will never be the same again, I hope they have found peace and love 10 years later. I hope they can be happy again.