"Someday's gonna be a busy day..."

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Just DO IT

D hates sitting still. He's one of those annoying souls who always likes to be "doing something." He doesn't care if it's something fun, or pleasurable; in fact, the more horrid the task, the more he feels as though he's "done something." Once, when I told him to please relax, he freaked out and told me that if there's one thing he hates, it's when people tell him to relax. "I don't need to relax!" he'd yelled. Which, to me, made his need to relax painfully evident, but I don't use that word around him anymore, just to be safe.

D especially hates weekend mornings where the kids watch Treehouse while I sit around with a book, my only goal being to drink an entire cup of coffee before its temperature plunges to that of an iced tea.

"C'mon, c'mon, let's DO something!" he growled at me this past Sunday. I looked up from The Tiger's Wife and blinked.

"I am doing something," I said. "I'm reading."

He did that little dance of rage he does whenever the printed word has replaced him in my hierarchy of needs, which is kind of often. "Kim, reading a book is not DOING anything. We never DO ANYTHING! I hate books!" And he stomped out of the room making as much noise as his croc-clad feet would allow. The front door clunked shut; the screen door slammed.

My sister, who was visiting for the weekend, rolled her eyes. She's really good at rolling her eyes. I shrugged and took a slurp of my coffee. The kids remained blissfully absorbed in the acid-trip antics of Toopy & Binoo. D would find something to do, and hopefully leave us in peace for another hour. We got about three and a half minutes before the front door clunked open again.

The cupboard where we hang all our keys jangled violently; D stomped back in the room and ordered the kids to get their shoes on and turn off the TV. They were going to the park, dammit! Well, he didn't actually say "dammit" but his eyes were blazing and his nostrils were flared and I'm pretty sure he wanted to say "Dammit!" or "By God!" or "By Crackie!" or something equally commanding. Instead, he glared at my sister and I and said, "We're going to the park. You two can sit here all day. But we're DOING SOMETHING."

The kids wailed and complained and eventually got suited up and hauled out the door. I looked at my sister. We did a simultaneous eye roll, which is something siblings who have lived with a demanding and unreasonable parent learn to do very well.

Long story short, my sister and I were supposed to go to the cottage and visit my aunt whilst D entertained the kids by DOING SOMETHING. Instead, we fell asleep, waking only when D's car pulled up in the driveway. I won't print what he said to me, but I ended up promising him that we would DO SOMETHING together as a family later that night.

I thought he'd punish us with an evening of hoeing sweet corn or digging trenches. That the SOMETHING turned out to be biking down the 6th Concession hill and swimming at the public beach was a happy surprise. The water was beautiful, the beach practically deserted. The kids were gung-ho and the sandbar was shallow enough for them to navigate by themselves. I sighed with happiness as I stripped off my shorts and shoes and squished Dylan's arms into his "wife-jacket." Sometimes my husband DID SOMETHING right.

And then D took off his shorts.

I heard my sister's sharp intake of breath; I turned to see him heading for the water with Jade in tow. I wondered for a minute why he was wearing a pair of my black panties. And then I knew: he was punishing us by wearing the dreaded speedo. In public.

"Oh my God," whispered my sister. "I don't know where to look." We stood there, frozen in the sand by the sight of my husband's daring attire.

D has been teasing me about purchasing and wearing a speedo for as long as we've been dating. "Don't you think I would look sexy?" he'd ask. "Really Kim, don't you want to see me in a speedo? I bet you do."

When he actually produced one a few summers ago, I was convinced he was joking, just taking the piss out of his naive wife. He'd dangle it in front of me from time to time, but he never wore it outside the house. I figured a boy from Bruce county would never, ever wear a speedo in public anyway. Would he?

The answer to that question bobbed around the waves of the 6th. D splashed, swam, played with the kids, and hung out (not literally) on the beach, unperturbed that his manly bits were snuggled in a very small piece of material in an area in which he "might know someone."

Since he's usually pretty shy about this type of thing, I was pretty shocked. D's expression wavered somewhere between nonchalant and smug. Even when he glanced down the beach and saw another guy playing with his dogs and said, "Oh man. I know that guy from work," he didn't rush to put his board shorts back on. He was the master of his domain, and he'd definitely DONE SOMETHING that weekend: reduced his wife to speechless wonder, having humbled her with a banana hammock.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

"Don't get lost in the maze, Mummy..."

After 17 years, I resigned from my job.

Yeah, that sentence makes it sound profound, like I've decided to strike out on my own and tackle writing, mummyhood and the art of jam making while waving a triumphant middle finger to THE MAN. But it really isn't that romantic. Just a case of office politics, "business decisions" and a month-long shower in corporate crap.

I've had a pretty sweet deal: working from home with a team that was smart and well-regarded, in a job I liked and was good at. Then came the news: our work from home arrangement was being terminated. Crap.

The reasons management decided to cut our work from home programme still haven't been made transparent, but suffice it to say that I was the only one with a 2 hour commute, so the message to me was loud and clear. Ciao baby, and thanks for all the fish.

The powers that be were professional enough to allow me to keep my job until the end of August, which is more than they technically needed to, but the atmosphere had become so unhealthy that I knew I couldn't hang on that long. Hurt feelings and a bruised ego didn't help matters much, either. And when I summoned up my courage and voiced my opinions on the whole scenario to my bosses, it did nothing to improve an already unpleasant situation. It got harder and harder to breathe every time I logged in to work, so I gave my two weeks' notice and got the hell outta Dodge.

I took Jade to work with me on Friday, because I figured she should experience the place to which I've devoted the last 17 years of my professional life. I wanted her to know what my office looked like, meet the people who had been my friends and colleagues for so long, and get a taste of what Mummy did all day.

Jade received her security card necklace, eyed it with interest and announced, "Now I'm pretty just like Daddy!" (D wears a security card every day), making the security guard - one of my favourite faces in the office - grin.

As I guided my daughter down the labrynthine path to my department, she studied the neutral fabric walls, the stained carpets, the photos and posters and whiteboards that adorned the cubicles. She said hi to people I didn't even know, and waved her security card at them in case they doubted her right to be there.

When we finally reached the hotel office where I usually set up camp for my monthly visits, Jade's mouth dropped open. My crazy colleagues, following a time-honoured tradition on our team, had decorated my office both with photos of things I hated (gnarly man-feet, feet with rotting toenails) and things I loved (Second Cup logos, the dancing spiderman gif) plus balloons and streamers. I noticed two tiny potted roses, which I instantly knew were a quiet tribute to my little lost daughter; I lit up when I saw photos of my friends and I at office Christmas parties, my wedding, Hallowe'en contests. Jade was enchanted; my vision started to blur. They were sending me off with a heartfelt bang.

After Jade had visited my colleagues and the cafeteria, and done a few downward facing dogs in the aisle, I took her back through the cubes to the front door, where my sister was waiting. "Don't get lost in the maze, Mumma," my daughter warned me. Probably the best advice I'd get all day.

Back at my desk, I cracked open the boxes of doughnuts I'd brought from the Lucknow bakery and took a big breath. Bring it on, I thought, and sent an email to friends to let them know my corporate wake had begun.

The doughnuts began to disappear, and I said goodbye to people I'd worked with for almost two decades, answered questions (No, I wasn't going to take up farming; yes, I would be back to sell my jam), laughed at kooky memories, gave and received hugs, wiped tears and held back my own. I hate crying; I especially hate crying in the office. Tears just seem so incongruous with cubicles. So I sucked it up and laughed and joked instead.

My team had a final pita lunch together, which was equal bits hilarious and soggy. We talked about all the office episodes our little group had collected over the years: fibre pills, exploding juice cans, Second Cup runs, broken noses and first impressions. Our tradition of getting Pita Pit lunches to celebrate all things big and small seemed fitting, but when my friends brought out gifts and cards the tone of our little party changed. Goodbyes suck.

I wish I could say I got through the rest of the day without a sniffle, that I walked out of there with my head held high. But I didn't. A few careless remarks from my boss and two zero-hour embraces from beloved colleagues broke my resolve; the tears welled up, and I stumbled out of the maze and through the jaws of death one last time with red eyes and a heavy heart.

So here I am, on my second day of freedom, contemplating the months ahead and sighing over the years behind me. I'm giving myself permission to grieve, feel pissed off and a bit lonely. I'm also allowing myself to roll on the floor with the kids until 9 p.m., hang laundry in my underwear, drink coffee on the deck with the chipmunk and garden in my bare feet. I plan to laugh, swim, pick sweetcorn, build sandcastles and drink a lot of wine. I'm going to write and get jamming. I'm going to be happy, eventually.

And, if I'm honest with myself, I may just owe the company a great debt. I was too loyal to leave on my own, to nervous to jump off the edge into unemployment. When they asked me to resign, they also handed me an oyster. Whether I find any pearls inside is up to me.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The skinny on dipping

Every year, around this time of summer, I like to try and coerce my husband to take off all his clothes and do something outrageous.

Way back when, on a trip to California, I shamed him into wiggling out of his clothes and jumping into the crashing surf on Venice Beach, clad only in his trusty tighty whities. He still has nightmares about it today: "What if LAPD flew over us in a helicopter and arrested me for public indecency?" "What if those people down the beach from us could, you know, see it?"

When we first moved to Someday, I convinced him to go skinny dipping at Emmerton beach on a muggy July night. I had to use all my powers of persuasion and eye-rolling to get him to strip it all off and dash into the water. We were newlyweds, we didn't have kids, and I could still get him to do things that were a bit edgy. And I always stripped down first.

Several summers ago, we got caught outside in a beautiful warm rain in the back meadow. He was on the tractor and I was gathering flowers. I noticed that the barn downspout had turned into a waterfall; I stripped off my clothes and stood underneath it, laughing. "Come on!!!" I yelled at him. He just shook his head, grinning like a sheepish kid, and stayed on the tractor, despite my coaxing, cajoling and harrassment. I could tell he wanted to; he just lacked a little nerve. That winter, he confided that he would always regret not having jumped down and joined me. Humph.

He made up for his reticence the year I was pregnant with Dylan; we were in the thick of a big summer rainstorm, complete with thunder and lightning. My sister and I were hiding in the house. D had come in just before the storm hit, all sweaty from mowing the lawn.

"I gotta take a shower." he said.
"A shower? Just run outside," I suggested.
"What? In a storm? You're nuts. Plus your sister will see me."
"Oh, don't be such a baby," I said. "Just go and do it. It'll be fun! I dare ya."

After a moment's hesitation, he actually started taking off his clothes. He solemnly handed me his glasses, said, "If I get hit by lightning, it's your fault," and dashed out into the storm, wearing only his orange crocs. It was quite a sight. I felt a surge of pride...and terror, as the thunder crashed and my beloved husband's shapely behind disappeared out of sight of the house.

He eventually made it back in one soggy piece, dripping and exhilarated. I dutifully waited in the shanty with a towel and congratulations. There's just something about being naked outside that makes you feel alive, and I was glad he was finally getting on board.

I'm afraid my children have inherited my penchant for nudity, as their favourite time of day is that fifteen minute interval between tooth brushing and bedtime where they are allowed to shed their clothes and run around shrieking "Naked naked NUDIE!!!" Or maybe it's just the natural tendency of a toddler to want to be unencumbered by the annoying contraints of diapers, underwear, and other assorted bits of bodily confinement. I can't say I blame them.

We shared a moment of naked solidarity the other day when it was so hot I wanted to lock myself in the freezer. I don't do well in the heat, and neither does my son. We both end up red-faced and sweaty with the temper of a rabid pitbull when the thermometer goes anywhere above 75 degrees, so inheriting our cousins' kiddie pool last summer was a godsend. After a gruelling bike ride to the cottage and back, we stripped Jade and Dyl down and let them soak in the nice, cool water. After enduring sensitive comments from my husband ("Gee Kimmmy, are ya hot? Look kids, it's sweaty Kim!"), I proceeded to tear off my clothes and wade into the pool with the kids, much to their squealing delight. I think D was somewhere between horrified and turned on, but I was in the zone: naked, cool, and surrounded by happy kidlets.

It may be a long hot summer, but at least some of us will be naked enough to enjoy it.