Life Lesson #7: Don’t hide your light under a barrel. Be your own person, carve your own path, do your own thing. You’re going to be fine, I promise.

The first title for this blog was going to be: “If you’ve never been in the newspaper, just make up your own articles. And headlines. And newspaper.” But as I wrote it, I realized: it’s about more than just newspapers.  It’s about…well…read on and find out!

As we all know, I have a long history of newspaper-related experiences. In case you need a refresher, here goes:

  1. I wrote a newspaper with my brother and cousin when I was a kid. It was called JAKE News (Jessica And Kenneth Emma, in case you were wondering what JAKE was all about). It was written in my grandparents’ basement and it was fabulous. You can read more here.
  2. I was the agony aunt (the former star of screen and stage, Esmerelda Desmond) in high school. I wrote a lot of my own advice letters (that is, I pretended to be people who needed advice, then wrote them back). But whatever! I actually have my final Auntie E column (that appeared in the yearbook the year after I graduated). Wanna read it? Wanna momentarily step into the mind of eighteen-year-old Jess? (Karl read the article and said this: “Wow, there’s really no surprise you wrote that. It’s so you.” So I guess maybe it’s like stepping into eighteen-year-old Jess and current-day-Jess’ mind all at once. Although current-day-Jess’ mind is far more exhausted and maybe a bit more experienced/bitter. But basically the same general idea.)


Help me, Auntie Esmerelda!. High school is over! It’s OVER! Noooo!

Dear Auntie Esmerelda,

You’ve got to help me! I’m graduating from West Hill this year and I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life. I’m completely clueless! Please tell me something – anything- that might help me face ‘the real world.’

Thank You,

Cher-Lee U. Jeste (Eighteen-year-old Jess created farfetched and interesting names.)

 

Dear Cher-Lee,

Well, you sound very distraught, my dear, but frankly I don’t know why. Compared to high school, the real world is a walk in the park. However, if you fail to take comfort in that, take comfort in this: eat chocolate. The long term benefits of chocolate have been proven by science, whereas my advice has no other basis than that of my own brilliant existence. (Note: I kind of based this article on this song. It was pretty popular at the time, and I dug the concept of giving one final article of advice, based on my own thoughts about life).

I will dole out this advice now.

Act. Acting gives you a chance to be someone you can’t be and to try on different parts of your personality for size. (I was a terrible actor and probably should never have acted. Well, beyond the very first play I was in. I kind of modeled the character on Lilith from Frasier, so it worked out OK. But beyond that? Someone should’ve taken my acting licence away. And burned it.)


This is the role I was meant to play!

Sing. Whether you can or can’t, you’ll be making a joyful noise and that is all that matters.  (I can’t. Really. And it’s tragic, because I have an incredible memory for lyrics, but I can’t carry a tune in a bucket.)

If you’re going to go down, go down dancing. (This sounds way dirtier than I had meant it to.)

Don’t let people hurt you. If they do, don’t vow revenge. Life is funny. It all works out in the end.

Buy a monkey. You can teach him to speak English, and he can teach you to speak Monkey.  (I can’t take credit for this one. I had a very dear friend in high school who always claimed he’d teach a monkey to speak English, and vice versa. He never has, to my knowledge, but it always seemed like a fun idea.)

Always think of others; not what they think of you, but how they are feeling. Empathy will take you far.

Bake cookies. (Damn right.)

Laugh loud. At yourself first, then at the situation. There will be times in your life when all you will have to sustain you are memories. Create as many of those as you can because you never know when the sand will run out, the alarm will go off, and you will wake up from this dream. (Getting deep up in this joint, Lil’ Jess.)

Hug people. More than anything else, people need to know they are loved and wanted. Let people know you love them.

Don’t leave anything unsaid. (Yes. Preach, former self!)

Never regret the things you’ve done. If you must regret something, regret the chances you never took or the opportunities you didn’t pursue.

Dream big. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t be or do or change something. No matter who you are, or what your circumstances, you can do wonderful things. (True dat. Unless you’re planning on becoming a math major with a 13% average in calculus. In which case, you can’t.)

Keep your promises. If you say you will do it, do it. Your word defines how much trust people place in you. (This is pretty much my mantra.)

Don’t lose touch with those from your past, and don’t be too proud to forgive, forget and patch things up.

Worry. Even though people say don’t, you will anyway. But make it about something important. Not whether or not you passed a test. Test are designed only to measure knowledge, not worth. (Especially tests of athletic skill. Those ones are really unimportant.)


I feel like I should be exempt from gym forever on the grounds that it’s safer for all of us.

Keep going. Even when life seems to have reached its nadir, look up and find the light that will lead you back to happiness. (This is as close to religious as young Jess gets.)

Have hope. Without it, there is no reason to live. Hope is what carries us through the times we know the answer is probably no, but keep believing it could be yes.

You are a good person if you try to be a good person. (I would amend this: you are a good person if you try to be a good person – like REALLY try. Not just half-assed try.)

Always try your best. If you fail, try again. If you fail again, try something new. You will find your niche in life. You’ll discover your calling and you’ll end up in a place that you probably never could’ve imagined.

And if you ever grow tired or weary or frustrated, and it see ms like life is at a dead end, remember: eat chocolate. Trust me.

Good luck to everyone.

Love,

Auntie Esmerelda

Boom.

A dear friend of mine once said this article would be among his possessions when he was old and senile. He’s a good one, that dear friend.*

  1. Being Plumpy the Advice Hippo at Webkinz World. I loved being Plumpy. She was so…blue. And adorable.

I also, however, often wrote diary entries as newspaper articles. Why? I don’t know. Maybe to break up the monotony. Maybe to appear more interesting than I was (am?).  Whatever the reason, here are a few of the top headlines!

10 Year Old Boy Irritates Caregiver
At Highland Creek Library this morning, a ten-year-old boy opened the car door with a great deal of force, hitting the van parked in the next spot. Unfortunately, the van was occupied. Tremendous side-eye was given. No injuries reported.

25 Year Old Woman Nearly Run Over By Maniac
(Honking horn bothered woman’s autistic charge)

Woman Does Not Tutor Little Girl
The same woman who was very nearly run over by aforementioned maniac driver was feeling rather under the weather, and decided it was in everyone’s best interest to head home and take copious amounts of Gravol.

Webkinz Comment Box Receives Over 600 Emails
“It’s a two-day record,” says Creative Lead Karl. Creative writer Jessica is far less enthusiastic.

No. No. NOOOOOO!

Exhausted Writer Answers Emails
“I still have about 500 more emails to answer,” says the creative writer from her home north of Toronto. I was also planning on writing a musical. My mental deadline was yesterday.”

And hey, remember how I’ve never been in a  REAL newspaper before? Maybe THAT’S why I was making up headlines – so I’d feel better about my complete and total absence from anything resembling newsprint. And that was true, back then.

But it’s not true anymore! Guys,  guess what? I was totes in the newspaper! OK, so it was the LOCAL paper (and my story ran a week after the story that was titled something like, “Viola the Tiny Dog Escapes from her Yard.” But that’s cool! Whatevs! No big thing! Wanna see me in print? Wanna? Wanna?!

OK, here.

See! It’s me! And since we’re talking about stuff that’s awesome, here’s another thing: my Kickstarter campaign succeeded! Bear Hockey, my picture book, will be printed and sent out and a REAL, HONEST-TO-GOODNESS thing! Whoa!

And that’s what’s happening in March.

* This dear friend just got engaged to a wonderful lady and I could not be happier for him. Since it’s my blog, I get to take a little detour and tell you all about Alok.

I have known the fabulous Mr. Ghai since grade 10 drama (we were always in each other’s group and put on some pretty damn good, if melodramatic, skits, if I do say so myself).  We went to the same university and Alok listened to my myriad complaints about residence, spent hours hanging at Bethune and ate most of my meal card (sorry about the crappy  food…really sorry about the Kraft Dinner).

Aside from all that good stuff, he is one of the smartest, most genuine people I have ever met.  He’s part of the family. He’s the guy you want on your pub night trivia team. He’s the guy you fear playing against.  Alok knows a TON of stuff about a TON of stuff. In fact, we used to play this game, when the internet was only beginning to be a thing. We’d send each other lyrics on ICQ (I know, I know!) and we’d challenge each other to name the band/singer/song title as fast as possible. 9 times out of 10, Alok would  figure my lyrics out in less than five minutes and I’d look at his and be all, “I dunno. Oasis? Radiohead? Coldplay?” And he’d be all, “Oh, Jess. Try harder!” And then he’d take pity and tell me the answer and encourage me to listen to more than just my standard diet of 80’s and 90’s top 40. And sometimes I did. In fact, he has always encouraged me to learn, to keep up with him mentally (good luck on that one) and to watch hockey, dammit (good luck on that one too).

To say I’m happy about Alok finding an amazing  lady to spend his life with is an understatement. He deserves nothing but happiness and joy, and I know that his future with Stephanie will be that and so much more.  Steph, you are incredible and so, so perfect for Alok (and the fact that you’re a Habs fan is delightful). Oh, you crazy kids. A million congratulations. I can’t wait for the wedding.

 

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Life Lesson 49: You will get better at something if you do it a lot. Theoretically, anyway.

So, as you probably know if you’ve read more than one entry on the ol’ bloggy here, I’ve always been a writer.

Always.

I’m talking “from the time I could actually write, I have been a writer.” Case in point: when I was in junior kindergarten, my teacher (the sainted Mrs. Sawision), asked us to write our own version of Goldilocks and the three bears. Easy-peasy, right?

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“My first writing assignment?! You can count on me, Mrs. Sawision!”

Right.

So she gave us this notebook. My very first little stapled notebook. And I LOVED IT.

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“SQUEEEE!”

Also, we made a little popsicle stick puppet that ‘walked’ through the story. Which amped my love of Goldilocks up to a bazillion.

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And for some reason, I figured that I had to fill up the entire notebook with my own Goldilocks story. Which was sort of not exactly true (all the other kids used, like, three pages). But you know me. If Imma do something, Imma overdo something.  Also, I wanted a new little notebook to fill.

So this is pretty much what lil’ Jess created:

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And then, after filling up all twenty pages, I handed it to my teacher. And she said, “Wow.”

Which I immediately took as a glowing review (my very first) and caught the writing bug right then and there and vowed to write stories forever and ever.

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“She loves my work! I must do this forever!”

And I did. But they weren’t all gold. Let’s have a few examples of ideas that should never see the light of day, shall we?

First, let’s go waaay back to 1992. I was twelve. I thought it was a good idea to create this *awesome* story that was kind of a nod to The Magician’s Nephew (I was kind of obsessed with the green and yellow rings in the story) combined with…uh…these neat rock spheres I collected (they were just marbles made from actual gemstones. NBD now, but HUGE BD when I was a kid).

So the story outline went like this (taken from my old ‘good ideas’ book. So inaccurately named, that book is):

“A girl has to collect rings and balls. The balls and rings are made of different stones (amethyst, rose quartz, turquoise, etc.). They are placed all over the world in different locations, and she has to find them and bring them together to restore the type of magic they carry. They have to be returned to the pyramid of secrets (probably in Egypt?). There are BAD rings and balls too, though. So she has to avoid those. This would be the balls and rings and the powers they control:
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The bad powers would be:
Hate, distrust, meanness, wretchedness, ugliness, wickedness”

Um. Wow. There are so many problems here. Here are some notes, little Jess. Let’s take this slowly so you really absorb the issues you’re facing:

  1. There’s no actual plot, per say. It’s just a series of events, really. There’s nothing to overcome, no issue, no challenge. Nothing. The way the outline is written, I assume the girl (name?!) will just wander the globe happily, searching for balls and rings and will eventually bring them all safely back to the pyramid. Which is in Egypt. Can we throw, like, a monster or something in there? Maybe a dragon? Maybe an alien? Maybe an ANYTHING AT ALL?
  2. Also, the ‘bad powers’ don’t seem to be associated with balls or rings or…anything? Do they have a gemstone equivalent? Like…I dunno…garnet=distrust? And also, wretchedness?
  3. Ugh, let’s just move on. Throw this one back in the bad ideas drawer, girl. Just…throw it back.

But there is a glimmer of hope…check out an excerpt of this masterwork. It was part of a short story assignment. Apparently we had to write four of them? I dunno. Maybe I just got carried away. This happened a lot (once, my grade 8 teacher threatened to not read past the first page of my five-page poem. He said he’d just grade me on that and he hoped it was a complete plot/concept. It wasn’t and he did read the whole thing and dammit, I earned that A).

And now, “Lindsay Murray Eats a Bakery”
“Mrs. Boyd’s Just Desserts. That’s where I, Jessica Boyd, am right now. This is a major first for me because I’m watching my mom’s bakery while she goes grocery shopping. Just me. Alone. A twelve-year-old girl. With Swiss pastries.”

OK, good set up. Let’s see where this goes:

“Everything was just going along wonderfully . I was popping cakes in and out of the oven and working on my homework. That was Thursday. Little did I know things wouldn’t always be that easy!”

Ooh…cliff-hanger Let’s see what happens next:

“My mom thought I did a wonderful job, so when Sunday rolled around and she was headed to a party she catered, I was bakery-sitting again. This was a very different experience, though. At 10:00 my best friend, Lindsay Murray (or as I call her, “The Bottomless Pit” as she loves food), walked in.

“Jessica! My best buddy! You have food!”
Lindsay rushed over to the cakes.
“Lindsay,” I said, warningly.
“Oh, Jess. Just one piece. PLEASE.”
“Not unless you’re going to pay for it.”
“Jess, what’s a piece of cake between friends. Friends for NINE years, don’t forget.”

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“DING!”
“Lindsay, my danishes are done. Wait here and whatever you do, DON’T EAT ANYTHING.”
I quickly got the danishes and ran back to the front of the bakery, only to find…
“LINDSAY!” I yelled.
There she was, sitting in a corner with chocolate cake smeared all over her face. It was then that I realized the cake wasn’t eh only thing she ate. No. She ate EVERYTHING. Every crumb. There wasn’t a speck of food in the bakery (other than my danishes).
“Linds,” I said. “Boy, are you in trouble.”
“Groan,” Lindsay moaned from her corner. “I’m really sorry, Jess. I just couldn’t help myself.”

And it goes on. And on. And eventually, we decide the only solution is to re-bake everything. But there’s a catch: Lindsay has a curse when she tries to bake from scratch. So I mostly do the baking and she helps here and there and then…

“We baked all afternoon. We displayed everything so it looked exactly like it did before Lindsay ate it all. At exactly 8:00 sharp, my mom walked back into her bakery to see…PERFECTION!”

Ah, don’t worry. It’s not so easy…

“Wow,” Mom said. “Am I ever hungry.” And she took a bite of one of our chocolate chip cookies. Just then, a horrified expression crossed her face…” THE END!

Yup. End on a high note.

In other news, I was actually a really good baker when I was in seventh grade, so I’m not sure why I was so down on my cookie baking skillz. I had them. Even then.

Want another? OK! More stories! More! More! (Seriously, I have a never-ending supply of these suckers. Thus, the blog!)

Back in grade three, poor overworked and underpaid Mrs. Matheson gave us the writing prompt: “I once got hurt when…” which, having taught school a bit myself, strikes me as an odd thing to give kids to write about.  But whatever, Mrs. M was retiring so she was prolly all, “WTF have they NOT written about yet? I dunno. “What’s your favorite alcoholic drink, kids? Mine’s a martini. Jesus, I could go for one of those right now…”

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Ahem. Anyway, this is what I wrote:

“I once got hurt when I was in my poppa’s car. Opened the door and scraped my knee on the rust. I was crying because my knee was extremely bloody. My grandmother put alcohol on it and bandaged it and I had to go to bed. Where were my mom and dad when this all happened? In the Bahamas.”

Not a bad story, actually. Kind of gross, but not the worst story ever. I give you a B, little Jess. Maybe a B+.

One more story? OK. Since you asked so nicely. This one is only from six years ago. I had this brilliant idea to create a notebook of random writings. They are 1000000% not all gold. Most aren’t even bronze. Or, like, cubic zirconia. But this one was actually kind of cute and fun. It’s called “Bobo the Robot”.

Enjoy.

In a city of robots, everyone had an important job to do.

Weldrick welded metal sticks and stuck them together.

Pounder pounded posts to make walls.

Zippy zoomed up buildings, fitting pieces into place.

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Chopchop cut things. Logi watched for bad weather. Mender mended things. Heft lifted heavy stuff. And Gig dug big holes.

And…what about this little guy?

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It’s BOBO!

Bobo…he…uh…let’s see. He…um. What did Bobo do?

Oh, right.

Watch this. Wait for it…

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Right. Bobo blew bubbles.

Which really didn’t help out anyone a great deal.

The robots all worked very hard. They loved to build, especially HUGE buildings. Bobo mostly just watched.

One day, the robots were almost done making the biggest building EVER when Logi made a terrible announcement. “There’s  a meteor in the sky! Heading RIGHT for Robot City! Headed right for our gigantic building!”

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Everyone panicked. All their hard work would be ruined! While all the robots ran around in circles, Bobo calmly sat and watched.

While all the robots hid their eyes, Bobo stared at the sky.

Then, at just the right moment, he stuck his blower into the bubble juice and blew.

And blew.

And blew.

The BIGGEST bubble anyone had ever seen. It was so big that it covered the entire town.  When the meteor hit the bubble, it went…

BONK, BONK, BONK.

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And bounced down the hill, right out of town.

“HOORAY!” yelled the robots.

“POP!” went the bubble.

“BOBO!” shouted Bobo, the robot who saved the town.

So being a writer is kind of my schtick. After doing it for so long, I feel like I’ve definitely improved (although I still enjoy filling up notebooks and starting new ones). I loved working as a legit PFW for 8 years. I loved being an advice hippo (shout out  and big ups to Plumpy).  And now? Now I’ve started a publishing company (Buttertart Books) and I’ve got an awesome book (Bear Hockey) coming out in February. Hopefully the first of many, many fantastic books. Amazing books that will have zero rings or balls.

That sounds so wrong.

Ahem.

Writing! It’s what’s for dinner.

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Life Lesson #13: Always find the silver lining. Even when the lining actually looks a lot more gray than silver.

October has been a month. A horrible month of sickness, disappointment, failure and a couple of bright spots that included learning and/or growing.  Also, pumpkins in as many forms as I can eat/drink them. Basically any form. All forms. Beware, pumpkins. I am coming to ingest all of you.

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“Pumpkin spice EVERYTHING!”

Anyway, October. It was supposed to be a grand month of epic awesomeness. I launched my first Kickstarter campaign and it did really well for a few days. And then…nothing. It was a normal slump, I told myself. Things will pick up again, I said to me. But they didn’t. And I had to deal with the hard truth that maybe I needed to do a lot more marketing than I had the first time. So I took it down and I’m retooling the campaign and starting it up again in February.

So that was a bit of a bummer.

And Vivi…oh, Vivi. She doesn’t exactly LOVE school. She kind of likes the last two hours of school, because she knows I’m coming to get her at lunch (she’s at school for nearly FOUR hours in the morning – we’re doing ‘half days’ which are a lot more like ‘3/4 days’) and she can mentally do two hours, but not all four.

Which, you know. Makes the 8:00 AM school start time HELL ON EARTH. She is so miserable in the morning. But we persist.

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We try to stay positive. She’s doing exceptionally well, academically (she’s actually been integrated into the SK program, despite being 3 and a JK). She knows most of the children’s names. She likes her teacher. She just hates the early morning and the long day.

Understandable.

And also? I broke my freakin’ toe. I mean, I didn’t see a doctor or anything (heaven forefend), but it turned purple and I couldn’t move it and…it was probably pretty broken.

And, once again, I did it in the most clumsy, awkward way possible: I dropped a dinner plate onto it, vertically. It’s like those experiments when you flip a coin 50 times, and everyone is all, “Oh, I got heads 26 times and tails 24 times.” But I’d be all, “Oh, I got heads 5 times, tails 6 times and side coin 39 times. Also, the side coin severed my baby finger.”

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Wait, so you guys DON’T have severed fingers? Just me? Aw, man. Not again.

Finally? We’ve been sick about 3/4 of the month. By ‘we,’ I mean ‘Vivi and Lily and me.’ It’s been a disgusting, mucus-filled, coughing-hackstravaganza. I am so effing sick of being sick.

So life isn’t always easy, obvs. These problems are extremely (totally, 100%) small potatoes, compared to what others are dealing with. Heck, even compared to what little Jess dealt with in the past. Speaking of which, let’s speak of those things! Let’s do it now!

“Dear Diary,
Today was one of the worst days of my life. My budgie, Pretty Boy, died. No one killed him* or anything, he just died. Also, I fell through the hole in the tree house. It hurt a lot. If there is one good thing, it is that I will meet my baby cousin Devon today. I will keep you posted about how that goes.”

Update: It was OK.**

Oh, Jess. That was a shit-tastic day, for sure. First of all, Pretty Boy was the second of three eventual budgies who would succumb to a very, very early death. First, it was Tweety. She grew a gigantic tumour and things went downhill from there. Then, Pretty Boy. I think he had some kind of undiagnosed bird heart condition because (according to my grandfather, who was bird-sitting at the time), he just ‘keeled over.’  Finally, Polly (the third budgie to go to the great bird cage in the sky before her time) laid an egg. And we didn’t know that it was a problem and that you have to give the bird all kinds of supplements and whatnot to help them out, but apparently you do.

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RIP, my feathered friends. May your cuttlebones always be fresh in the big bird cage in the sky.

 

Bawhoops.

And then…and THEN…falling through the tree house. Now, to be fair, this was not 100% my fault. It was about 85% my poppa’s fault. If you recall, my grandfather was a delightful man. An excellent story teller, a kind individual, purveyor of all things candy-related. But he was, how shall I put it…not world’s greatest builder. In fact, not even in the top ten (million).

Poppa had created a quasi-sketchy ‘tree house’ and then sort of forgotten to put a board over the corner bit. Thus, there was a gaping hole just the right size for an eight-year-old of average girth to fall through. And fall through I did! My natural clumsiness drew me to the hole like a magnet. Fortunately, I had the wherewithal to flail my elbows out at the last minute and catch myself. Picture it! I was dangling about 7 feet in the air, holding on for dear life. I remember telling my brother to run and get a grown up. With my writerly upper-body strength, there was no way in hell I was going to be able to pull myself up. And falling would’ve hurt a lot. A heck of a lot. So Kenneth got my dad who came out and kind of boosted me back through. I limped down the ladder and into the house.  I had scrapes all over and my arms hurt quite a lot.

And that’s when they told me my budgie died.

Womp, womp, wooooomp.

Next up, a generally crappy day in second grade:

“Today Mrs. Lee was away and we had a supply. She was OK, but not as nice as Mrs. Lee. Also, I tried flying my Food City kite, but it’s not very good. I wish we had a real kite.”

Yeah, you guys remember the Food City kites of long ago? The ones mentioned here? Well, they definitely were the worst.  I tried to explain about them to my three-year-old and she was REALLY confused. She said, “Why would you tie a plastic bag to a string? Why wouldn’t you just buy a kite?” So then I tried to explain, “We so poor in the ‘hood,” but I’m about 100% sure she didn’t understand what I was talking about. So I told her it was just something kids did in the eighties, and that seemed to make her happy enough.

There are a few funny and terrible days back in 1988, so let’s have a look at some more of them!

“Today Mom took care of the horrible H kids all day. I do NOT like them.”

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Below, I drew a picture of myself saying, “Boys are NOT better than girls!” BTW, I totally remember the last name of the horrible kids, but I’m omitting it because they were just awful humans back then. What I remember most about the H kids is this: they were big and loud and rough and awful. I’m sure they’ve grown up to be kind, gentle, intelligent men. I hope so, anyway. Because if not, somewhere out there, there are a pair of 30-somethings that enjoy bunk bed wrestling and making fun of awkward girls waaay too much.

“Today is Friday the 13th. That means bad luck. I got just a bit of bad luck when my mom broke a bottle. Ouch.”

I’m not sure if the ouch is related to me being like, “Oh, ouch, Mom. Way to be clumsy!” or if it’s more like, “Oh, ouch. I then stepped on the bottle and totally got glass in my foot.” My bet is on the latter.

Let’s finish off with an awesome angsty 7-year-old entry. It’s so pre-teen. Oh, Jess. You were always so mature for your age.

“I was thinking about how hard it is to be the oldest kid in the family. It’s not easy! When you are the oldest in the family you have to play with your younger brother or sister and you also have to get them stuff, like drinks or freezies. I guess the oldest person in our whole family is Great-Aunt Jean. She’s 95. Now that’s old!”***

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What we learn from this quasi-accurate ‘family tree’ is that Great-Aunt-Jean was actually my poppa’s aunt, making her my mother’s great-aunt and my great-great-aunt. Hence, why she was eighty-billion years old.

I guess the take home message from that diary entry is that even if you start out all angsty, you can end on a positive note. Which is kind of what I’m looking to do with my October experiences. Find the positive! Let’s see what we can do, shall we?

Negative: ended the Kickstarter campaign early. Positive lesson: revamped the campaign for February. Guaranteed success!

Negative: Vivi hates school. Positive lesson: teaching her perseverance is going to help her in life!

Negative: Broke my toe. Positive lesson: be more careful, Jess! Also, my bones knit quickly!

Negative: We’ve been sick all freakin’ month! Positive lesson: I’ve learned to not be so grossed out by sick people!

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Nope, actually still REALLY grossed out by sick people.

So that’s where we’re at, people. October, this year you suck. I used to love you. I hope to love you again next year. But for now? We are not friends. All I can do is hope that November is totally awesome and amazing. And healthy. For the love of all that’s good and holy, let us get healthy again.

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C’mon November! Don’t suck!

*Budgie murder wasn’t even a thing in the ‘hood, but I figured I’d better clarify that the death was completely accidental, just in case the police came around asking questions.

** No offense to my cousin. I remember her being quite adorable. But when you’re up against a terrible day like that? It’s tough to come out on top.

*** Fun Great-Aunt Jean fact time! When I was seven, we had dinner with my aunt. She chain-smoked and drank Crown Royal (I’m not 100% sure she actually ATE anything, actually). She also said the following things:

  1. I was nowhere near as good-looking as she was when she was my age.
  2. My hair wasn’t as luxurious as hers was, nor was it as long or as nice a colour (when she was my age).
  3. Rolos would give me horrible acne. I was eating (and enjoying) a pack of Rolos (my first ever, actually) when she said this.

She called my house later and apologized to my mother for telling me point number three. Rolos probably wouldn’t GIVE me acne, she explained. Just exacerbate whatever acne I would obviously have, due to my skin (which wasn’t as nice as hers at the same age). After that dinner, she moved down on my ‘favourite aunts’ list to ‘below an actual ant.’

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Life Lesson #6: School is cool! Do hugs, not drugs!

When I first found out I was pregnant with Vivi, I figured I would just home school her for kindergarten and send her to school in first grade. And this was the plan, until she turned three.

It was then that she informed me that Lily and I were great and all, but that she’d really like some friends her own age that would play games with her non-stop and not say stuff like, “Oh, God. Do we have to act out the story with the stuffed bears AGAIN?” or “Blaggle plaggle?” (You can determine which was said by me, vs. which was said by Lily.)

Anyway, the long and short of it is this: Vivi is going to school in two weeks. Cue the clutching of pearls and packing of snacks.

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“Who likes Goldfish crackers? I hope you do, because that’s what you’re getting!”

I personally LOVED elementary and high school. I hated university, aside from the actual classes themselves, but there you go. (I loved the working world, so I don’t know what the hell university’s problem was. Maybe the specific university I went to? Looking at you, York U.)

There are a few things I want to share with Vivi – lessons I learned when I was in school that I hope will help her go far, be a star, do hugs, not drugs and remember that gang membership is not desired nor required.

Keeping in mind, of course, that I went to school in the ‘hood in the eighties and nineties.

But I’m sure the lessons are still relevant.

Somewhat.

Somewhat relevant.

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Ahem. Onward!

Lesson 1: Sleep is important. Get lots of it!

“I should go to bed earlier. I am SO TIRED. Lindsay said once that we should have beds in class instead of desks. I think I’m inclined to agree.” – Jess, age 12

Beds in class? That would be kind of rad. Although I 100% would’ve slept through every single math lesson ever. It was hard enough to stay awake in an uncomfortable desk. If I had a pillow of any kind, I would likely still not be able to do basic long division.*

Instead of beds, my grade 7 teacher said it would be better if he could electrify each desk and had a control panel at the front of the room. He would be able to hit a button if someone was daydreaming and shock them back into paying attention. I thought it was an extreme idea when I was a student in his class, but when I had a grade five class of my own to corral, I kind of saw his point. Good thinking, Mr. Whillans. Good thinking. Patent that idea before I steal it.

Lesson #2: Wash your damn hands. All damn day. And Purel non-stop.

“I think I’m sick again. My ears are plugged up, my throat is sore. Goddamn it, why are kids so germ-filled?! ” – Jess, age 22

That particular year was insane. That’s really the only way to explain it. I tutored two awesome kids, I volunteered at my old school, working with grade four students and kids in a diagnostic kindergarten class. I also volunteered in a preschool classroom one morning a week (as a ‘community involvement’ part of one of my courses) and I practice taught on Thursdays. Also, I had to do the classes for my psych degree, and the rest of my B. Ed courses when I wasn’t doing all those other things. And I also had friends and family and other people who expected me to, you know, be awake when we hung out.

The long and short of it: I was sick. A LOT. Mostly because I wasn’t getting enough sleep and I was exposed to EVERY SINGLE GERM IN CREATION. Kids are germy. Very, very germy. And, by my quick calculations, I was seeing (counts on fingers),  somewhere in the area of 60 kids a week. And you can guarantee that at least one or ten had some sort of hacking-coughing-eye-runny-snot thing going on.  So my advice to Vivi is this: TOUCH NOTHING AND NO ONE! WASH YOUR HANDS ALL DAY LONG! DON’T BRING HOME LICE OR STOMACH FLU. SERIOUSLY. I WILL LOSE MY ISH.

Ahem.

I mean, “Keep your hands off your face and out of your mouth, hon. Just try your best to keep them clean. And I was serious about the stomach flu and lice. DO NOT. I JUST CAN’T.”

Speaking of head lice, that was my mother’s one school rule. Not “Do your homework every night.” Not “Don’t forget to study, kids.” Nope. Just…”Don’t get head lice. Seriously. I will kill you.”

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“Head lice equals death! Head lice equals DEATH! Do NOT try me!”

And so, even when the entire school had head lice (I kid you not, it was probably, like, 3/5 of the student population), Kenneth and I remained lice-free. Because it was that or death.

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“Dude, I think she’s serious about killing us over head lice. We should stay away from everyone forever.”

Life Lesson #3: If you really don’t want to do something, don’t do it. Especially if it’s an extracurricular and you think that you SHOULD do it just to fit in or something ridiculous like that. Also, don’t be a prefect.

“Thank GOD my ski day was canceled. I did NOT actually want to go. I just hope it’s not rescheduled.” – 13 year old Jess

Spoiler alert, non-sporty Jess! It was rescheduled and you were a terrible skier (see: here). I don’t know what possessed me to sign up for ski day. It was optional, and I should’ve opted out. Maybe I was stoked to miss a math test, maybe I hoped to uncover a hidden sports skill, maybe I just figured I’d spend the day in the lodge, drinking hot chocolate and doing crossword puzzles (probably that one). I have no idea.  Mostly, I didn’t go for stuff like this. I just joined clubs that I loved. I was a hard core band geek, I was a pretty awful actor in a few plays, and I was the agony aunt and editor of the newspaper for a few years. Non-sporty things. Sitting down things. Things I liked doing. There were, however, two instances where I joined clubs that I strongly hated.

Instance the first:  I was in ninth grade and figured I should belong to something other than band. (Note: band was the bomb shnizzle and I quickly realized that it was full of wonderful people and it was, by far, the best club I’ve ever belonged to. Band geeks unite!) The club I joined was…wait for it…Environment For All. It was meant to be some kind of ‘let’s save the earth by recycling and not littering’ deal. Except it was run by two girls who couldn’t agree on ANYTHING EVER. They spent the vast majority of each meeting arguing.  (The meetings, by the way, consisted of them, myself, another girl in my grade and, like, the kid who was trying to finish a lab report in the classroom where we held the meeting.) So absolutely nothing was accomplished, and I ended up with indigestion every Tuesday and Thursday at lunch because after all the in-fighting, I had about 5 minutes to snarf my sandwich and book it to French. Laaaaame.

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“I hate AIR pollution the most!” “Well I hate LITTER more, and you’re a MONSTER!”

Instance the second: I was a prefect. An effing prefect. Initially, I thought it was an honour to be asked to join. You know, ‘only the best’ kind of thing. But in reality, it was a clique.  And also? ‘prefect’ is code for ‘sucker who does the crap jobs that no one else wants.’ It was also a scheduling nightmare. Especially for those of us in the band. We performed at most occasions, which were also times that prefects were required to sell drinks and snacks and take coats and…I don’t know. Get locked in stairwells? That happened a lot. Anyway,  I always ended up doing prefect work wearing a band skirt on the bottom** and a gigantic prefect sweater ***over top.  I hated it. I wanted out. But it seemed that once one was a prefect, one could not escape the cult. So, instead of escaping, my friends and I ended up doing stuff like this in order to make ourselves feel better.  Interestingly, being a prefect almost got me killed one night! But I’ll tell that horrible story another time! Next lesson, STAT!

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“Please kill me. Also, would you like a Coke for $1.00? Maybe a floornut?”

Life Lesson #4: When it comes to friends, look for people who make you laugh, keep your spirits buoyed, challenge you to think, and are as drama-free as possible.

“Thank goodness for good people. I’ve been lucky to have some of the best in my life. My friends are absolutely amazing.” – Jess, right now

Oh, Vivi. You wear your heart on your sleeve, and you want to be a friend to all. This is a tough combination. Trust me, I know from personal experience. Go into every situation with an open mind and a positive spirit, my love. But guard that heart of yours. Don’t just give it away to anyone and everyone. Those who are worthy of it will become obvious. I have been exceptionally lucky. My friends are family, and I love my peeps fiercely. I can only hope you are as fortunate. Many of my friends have been in my life since high school. Heck, Auntie Stephy has been along on this ride since we were seven. Aside from avoiding drama, here’s my friendship advice: Don’t ever take your friends for granted, don’t turn your back on them when the going gets tough, and do your very best not to let them down.

And if you end up with a fake friend, end it. You’ll find the good peeps. Don’t stick with someone who treats you badly. Ever. Because Mama is from the ‘hood. So. You know. Hold my earrings (pulls hair back into ponytail, cracks knuckles).  Mama will handle things.

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“Mama gonna run tings!”

Life Lesson #5: Grades are important, yes, but mostly use your school career to figure out what you love, what you want to do when you get older, and what you definitely do NOT want to do.

“The music room was a lot of fun. And English. But I could’ve done without math. Dear God, I hate math. So much. And gym. If only I could replace all of those horrible subjects with more music and English. And maybe something crafty.” – Jess, age 14

Here’s the thing, Vivi: I know you’re a smart kid. I’m not just saying that as your super-biased mom (although I am that, too). I know you’re brilliant. So you can’t come home with crappy grades or half-done projects. That just won’t fly. But I also know that you’ll probably have some subjects you don’t love. Just do your best, dear. And as for gym? Yeah, I kind of figure you’ll have issues there. You’re, how shall I put  it? Fairly clumsy and uncoordinated. And we’re working on it. We really are. You love your dance class and you enjoy all the running around and climbing we do in the backyard and at the park. But I see in you the same kind of issues I had with spatial skills. As in, you don’t have many. So maybe it’ll take you 39 throws to hit a baseball in gym, and perhaps that will sour you on the experience.  Or maybe not! Every time we talk about gym, I really fake enthusiasm as much as I can. Through gritted teeth. Because I HATED GYM.

Ahem.

What I’m trying to say is this: enjoy yourself. School is a very brief part of your life, overall. It’s a time to learn as much as you possibly can and figure out what it is that you’re passionate about. What makes you happy and what makes you curious. What you’ll want to pursue after you’re done elementary and high school. If I had to guess right now, today, about what you’ll end up being (career-wise, that is), I’d say:

  1. Dentist. You always say you want to be a dentist, so I figure you will be.
  2. Writer. You are full of stories and you absolutely LOVE hearing other people’s tales of…just about everything. I’ve never met another child who constantly begins a sentence with “Tell me a story about…” All day long.
  3. Artist of some kind. You draw exceptionally well for someone your age.

Sadly, I don’t think ‘engineer’ is on this list. Maybe Lily will do that and make your baba’s dream come true.

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Or maybe not.

The point is, you’re going to do great stuff, kiddo. I know kindergarten seems like a HUGE first step. It is. But you’re going to love it and they’re going to love you, after the initial confusion wears off. And no matter what, I’ll always be waiting for you at the end of the day with a snack, a listening ear, and a lifetime of advice that you’re not going to listen to anyway.

I love you, baby girl. Happy kindergartening.

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-Mama

PS: I act like this is all cool and NBD, but inside I’m freaking the eff out. How did my baby end up at an age where she could legit go to school? It’s insane. I’m going to totally sob the whole way home from dropping her off and console myself with a large coffee and extra-large cookie. Seriously. Kindergarten. How did that happen so fast?

*Which I can totally do as long as it’s one number into a multiple digit number, and not one of those crazy multiple digit numbers into even larger numbers questions. Those are still iffy. I think I was away for that unit. Probably because I was sick.

**The band skirts were called ‘curtains’ because they were long and resembled curtains. And also because they were made of old curtains.

***All prefect sweaters seemed to come in ‘large’ ‘extra large’ ‘unflatteringly large’ and ‘muumuu.’ No one’s sweater fit them properly. No one’s.

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Life Lesson #99: When you’re 99 years old, eat two courses of dessert. Heck, eat dessert for every meal and snack if you so choose. Why not? You’re 99!

Author’s Note: I started this entry right after coming back from Ottawa, where I saw my  Nana turn 99. 99 years old! Can you believe it? Seriously. She’s seen so much. She was around before the internet. Before TV…heck, before pretty much every convenience we take for granted. Nana is a tough lady. She loves animals. She is a terrible cook. She loves junk food. And she has taught me the following:

  1. If you’re strong, you can defeat the things that try to bring you down. If you’re really strong, you can outlive them all.
  2. Eat dessert first. And then last. And then for all the meals in between, because let’s face it: chocolate cake is way more delicious than boiled cabbage. Don’t mess around with boiled cabbage.

And now, the blog entry.

Ah, it’s June. As you may recall, it’s my busiest month next to December. Mid-year-Christmas, I call it. * Between Father’s Day (for Dad and now for Karl), my BFF Jay’s birthday, my oldest friend Stephy’s birthday and my dear husband’s birthday (and the multiple day celebration we call “Karl-mas”), it’s a craaaazy month.

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But it wasn’t always so.

No, in fact when I was young, I HATED June. Why? Because it meant school was over for another year. And I was a gigantic nerd who loved school, so facing two long months of unscheduled, unregulated summer vacation was downright jarring.

Commence finger-pointing and chanting of “Four eyes, four eyes!”

Don’t get me wrong, summer wasn’t all bad. In fact, let’s take a little stroll back to 1989. Ah, 1989. You were a good year, I guess. You were the year I finished grade three and started grade four. You were the year before 1990, which was one of the worst in my life. You were a tumultuous time of neon colours, totally rad music** and delicious candy that you just can’t get anymore.

Like this:

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Seriously, why aren’t Bonkers a thing anymore? I loved those damn candies. Except the chocolate ones. Those were kinda gross.

Picture it: June, 1989. Young Jess is bedecked in a fetching outfit consisting of shorts-and-t-shirt-with-words-on-it. Her glasses gleam  in the bright ghetto sunshine.  Mrs. Matheson is frantically packing her boxes, delighted with the prospect of never teaching children again as long as she lives. The cry of seagulls fills the air and the taste of knock-off Bargain Harold’s Kool Aid is on everyone’s orange stained lips.

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OK, so as I’ve mentioned a bazillion times before, I was a teensy bit obsessed with writing in ‘proper’ English. Hence, this:

Dearest Diary,

Today, the first thing I did was enjoy a breakfast of rice pudding topped with milk. Then the family went to the recycle centre. After that, we went to the zoo. What a tiring day.

First of all, recycle centre THEN the zoo? Busy day, Boyd family! Secondly, rice pudding is delicious and now I want a large bowl of it. Thirdly, this manages to sound pretentious and boring all at the same time. Way to go, eight-year-old Jess! Fourthly, just for trivia’s sake, did you know that the zoo is actually located REALLY close to the ‘vern? Like, almost walk-ably close. People visit the zoo and have no idea how near they are to the ‘hood. And a berry farm. But mostly the ‘hood. And now you know.

Next up: something that’s actually way more fun to read about or watch in a movie than actually participate in, a sleepover.

Dear Diary,

Last night, I went to Lindsay’s house for a sleepover. Lindsay, Suzanne, Julie and I watched 3 Men and a Baby. It was OK. Then we tried to sleep. Choco stepped on my face. I didn’t get a lot of sleep.

Lifelong fear of German Shepherds in three…two…one…

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Now.

I am still deathly afraid of German Shepherds. No kidding. Maybe it’s because Choco stepped on my face that one time, but it’s more likely that it’s due to the near-daily hand-nips I received for almost ten years. Like, c’mon dog. Don’t you remember who I am TODAY?!  Why you so stupid, though?

I had low, attainable hopes for the dumb dog. And still.

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With the beginning of summer came the final thing we had to learn in grade three: swimming. My dad always talks about how his dad insisted that kids should learn three things from school (on top of all the other stuff they were already learning, one would assume). They were:

  1. How to swim
  2. How to drive a car
  3. How to handle a gun

Welp, in my ‘hood, they covered point one in the public system, you could learn point two at the local mall (thank you Morningside Mall Young Drivers of Canada. You made driving seem terrifying and terrifyingly boring all at the same time), and you could learn point three pretty much anywhere in the ‘vern. Also keep in mind that my dad’s dad was from another era, so point three is something the boards of education might frown on, just slightly.

Dear Diary,

Today was the first day of swimming. I’m in Ted’s group. He sings a lot. Mrs. Matheson was away because she got a sty taken off of her eye. She might have to wear an eye patch when she returns. She’ll be just like a pirate.

Update: Mrs. Matheson came back today and did not have a pirate eye patch. I was hoping she would.

So terribly disappointing. I was expecting the last week of school to be some kind of treasure-hunting, parrot-wearing, doubloon-counting extravaganza. Instead, we cleaned out our desks and reviewed our times tables.

Dear Diary,

Today, I went to Lindsay’s house. Chris was there, though. He and his crew bugged us so much. Older brothers are annoying.

I just added this in because of two things:

  1. Older brothers ARE annoying. I was always extra-thankful for my younger brother every time I got back from Lindsay’s house. Say what you will about younger brothers being pesky, but if you’re an older sibling, you’re generally stronger than your younger sib and can keep them in line with vague threats of violence until at they’re teenagers and finally get taller than you. Not so if you’re the younger of the pair.
  2. I like the use of “He and his crew.” For the record, Chris did not have a crew so much as another gangly dude that sort of looked like him and always hung around him. I THINK his name was also Chris. I’m about 99% positive this is true, because I remember having to differentiate them by using their last names.

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Dear Diary,
We are camping in Martin River. We went swimming in the actual beach water. Then we went to a hotel and swam in the pool. We’ve seen a frog, a rabbit and a humming bird. Today we’re going to a mining museum in Cobalt. I’ll wait and see how that goes.

This entry actually answers a question that was raised when I read through a ‘book’ I had written for my Nana back in the day. In the book, it is 1990. It is an overly complicated  yet completely simplistic story about a fictitious family visiting their fictitious family in Ottawa. The fake family stops on their way back from Ottawa and camps for a few days. My mother said, “Jesus, did we really do that? I think we may have done that.” But now I know there’s no way we could’ve. If we camped in 1989, then there is no goddamn way we camped again a year later. My mother hates camping with every fibre of her being. Her idea of camping is going to a three-star hotel. Her idea of communing with nature is walking through the forest for an hour and then rewarding herself with Baskin-Robbins. Her idea of ‘roughing it’ involves an all-you-can eat buffet that doesn’t have its own fancy waffle maker.

Girl doesn’t like camping, is what I’m saying.

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I have no idea what prompted my parents to take Kenneth and I camping when we were kids.  Literally NONE of the four of us enjoyed it. I remember going camping twice: once when I was about seven, and once a couple of years later. It rained both times. Kenneth and I were eaten alive by mosquitoes both times and required hefty doses of Benedryl and calamine lotion to quell the swelling and itching. There was one particularly traumatic incident that involved going into  a cabin on the campground to view a ‘nature video’ featuring local wildlife. Except that it was a hunting video that showed the KILLING of local wildlife. In graphic detail.

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Holy shit. Did they just skin that beaver?

Mom?

And so, clearly I made up the concept of ‘stopping to go camping on the way home.’ Because no one in their right mind would do that.

Happy summer, everyone. Enjoy yours and be sure to enjoy dessert as much as humanly possible.

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*Note: I have never called it this.

** The only example that comes to mind is Kokomo by the Beach Boys. It was hella popular with folk dance club in the third grade. Don’t laugh at me. You know you can do all the moves to “Hands Up” and “Pata Pata.” You know you’re about to YouTube one or both of those songs and totally chair dance to them silently in your office with your earbuds in.
We’re all doing that right now, aren’t we? Guys? Guys?

Guys?

 

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Life Lesson #51: Love is all you need, but a good sense of humour helps a lot too.

This life lesson entry is something I’ve spent the last five (almost six) years learning about. Yes, that’s right: home ownership.*

I mean, marriage. Marriage, marriage, marriage.

I’m no expert, don’t get me wrong. I’m not a marriage guru (is that even a thing?)or wedding expert or whatever a specialist in this field is called. But I am a wifey. And I have a great husband. And I figured that with my little bro less than a month away from marrying his beautiful fiancée Christine, now was the perfect time to talk about what makes a marriage work.

And so, without further ado, let’s consult a REAL expert: nine-year-old Jess.

“I hope several things happen this year. One, I want more adventure. Two, to be listened to. Three, to be proposed to. And also, I want a pet pig.”

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I have some notes.

Young Jess: you live in Malvern. Your life is an adventure! Every day, you walk to school not really knowing what’s going to happen. Sure, not a LOT happens during the day (except the shootings as you get older…but don’t worry about that presently)…but nighttimes are crazily unpredictable! This is why you sleep with a cup of hot water by your bed every night.** Don’t wish for more adventure. Cope with what you’ve got already.

Also, no one listens to you because you’re kind of weird and also only nine. Nine-year-olds aren’t exactly subject experts on anything except, like, scented markers and stickers or whatever kids are into these days (iPads?).

And the pig? You don’t know how much damn work a pig would be. Theoretically, they’re adorable. But they get bigger!  The daily food bills alone would cost more than you make in allowance in a year. I mean, unless you get one of those little teacup pigs, in which case…OK, I see your point. They are darling.

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This is the sum total of everything I know about pigs.

Now about the proposal thing.

Weird as it is, I can explain why nine-year-old me had wedding bells ringing in her ears. It’s all about the Anne. Of Green Gables, that is. I was desperate to find my Gilbert Blythe. I KNEW he was waiting for me somewhere in The Big Park near Empringham.*** So I figured that if I put my desire for a proposal out there in the universe, maybe it would happen (note: this was many years before The Secret became a big deal, so I was probably totally ahead of my time).

It did not.

I did, however, succeed in making my friend Chris feel TOTALLY UNCOMFORTABLE at his birthday party by basically telling him he should marry me ASAP. I was eight at the time. He fell off his chair. I can’t say as I blame him. Would YOU want to marry this face?

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Yeah. No. (Except Karl. He would. I mean, he did. And the face was moderately improved, so…I guess he’s got OK taste after all.)

Anyway, marriage has always been something I figured I’d do. I actually assumed I’d have a husband, but I never did any of the ‘act out the wedding ceremony with my stuffies’ thing. In fact, wishes of pig ownership and early matrimony aside, nine-year-old Jess was extremely practical with her approach to life. For instance:

“If I won a million dollars, I’d pay off the mortgage and car. And then use the rest for wants and needs.”

I shit you not. I wrote that.

Of course, later in that diary the writing prompt was “What was your worst punishment?” and I said, “I hate it when they stuff my head in the blender and then turn it on!”

So, you know. Grain of salt.

But back to marriage! It’s great. It’s fun. I’m incredibly lucky. Karl is a keeper in every single way. Examples? I have them!

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He’s handsome! (And smart! And funny!)

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He’s a great dad to our girls. Even when the girls are COMPLETELY NUTS. Which happens a lot, actually.

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He’s honest. So honest. In this picture, he’s being honest about the hideousness of my hat.

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He’s great for bouncing creative ideas off of. OH! And for educating me about nerd culture. In this frame, I’m guessing that one of his action figures is called “Captain Snowsuit” and he’s telling me it’s actually some dude from Star Wars or whatever.

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He’s oblivious. Karl puts up with my crap and treats me like a damn queen because, mostly, he’s oblivious to my negative/annoying traits. Let’s hope that never changes.

So even though I was 99% sure Karl was the best person for me, I wanted to know if there was any one thing I should know in order to make my marriage happy. Right before I got married, I asked around to find out what people figured the key to a long and happy marriage was. I heard many opinions, but the one that stuck with me was from my wise old dad: keep your sense of humour. Above all else, do not be afraid to laugh at yourself  and try to find the absurdity in the situation. Most things aren’t as dire as we perceive.

Some are, but most aren’t.

So, after almost 6 years, I can attest to this wisdom. And add to it! Here’s what I want to say to my little brother and my future sister-in-law:

Brother! How are you old enough to be getting married? Aren’t you fifteen in the basement scaring the shit out of me with Myst? (Question: why was it always dark and the sound effects were so good? WHAT WAS WITH THE FOOTSTEPS?) Anyway, you’re older than I think you are. I know, intellectually, that you’re thirty-something and a doctor of philosophy and a professor and whatnot…but in my head, you’re still my little brother.

First, I just want you to know that I’m super proud of the person you are. You’re smart, you’re funny and you’re always the one I want to turn to for a classic eyeroll/squinty side- eye when Mom says something questionable (which is, like, every other sentence…amiright?). Second, way to go with Christine! She’s a kind, sweet, smart person. And she loves you! And you her! And you got a super-cute kitty cat in the deal. So now you’re getting married and that’s terrific.

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Allow your (slightly) older sister to impart the knowledge she’s gained in her five (almost six!) years of marriage:

  1. Humour is important. I see you and Christine busting each other and it warms my heart. It’s so key to a good marriage. A drama-free marriage is the best. The stuff that will throw you for a loop is plentiful and unexpected, so there’s no need to have anything but a loving, slightly goofy relationship to fall back on. Be each other’s rocks.
  2. Without trust, you have nothing. This is the truest thing ever. If you fully trust your partner, you’re good to go. Don’t lose that trust. It’s invaluable.
  3. It doesn’t matter if you don’t agree on all the little stuff (read: what movies are best, what music to listen to on road trips…Karl), as long as you’re painting the same big picture.
  4. Don’t stop appreciating the little things. It’s so easy to fall into a routine, but try your best not to take your partner for granted. Even if it’s a simple kindness, like an acrostic poem featuring their best traits, or a papier mache bust, they’ll appreciate it.
  5. Surprise each other. Spoil each other sometimes. It makes the everyday more exciting. But remember the stuff your partner doesn’t like being surprised with. Because those kinds of surprises are the opposite of what you’re going for.
  6. Do something kind for someone else together. It’ll make you both happy. And a third person, too!
  7. I know I don’t have to say this one, but I will anyway: don’t judge your marriage on anyone’s but your own/don’t let anyone’s opinion of your marriage colour your own thoughts. You are a grand couple and your marriage will work for you. You guys know each other best and you’re the best for each other. Other people are great, but their experiences are different from yours.
  8. Sometimes make the food AND do the dishes AND clean the kitchen. In other words, give your partner a break. This also applies to sleeping in.

So, in conclusion, I think you crazy kids are a dynamic duo. You’re adorable together and you have the most Hello Kitty products of anyone I know. You could always open a Hello Kitty museum, if you wanted to! I wish you nothing but the very best. Years of love, happiness, travel, good times, dreams being made into reality and lots and lots of cuddles with Tanooki. Enjoy each other, love each other and don’t forget to trek up to the ‘bridge now and then to see your parents and sister and her little fam. We love you and we couldn’t be happier for you. Welcome to the family, Christine! Ken, keep being the awesome human you are.

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Marriage! It’s better than pig ownership. By a long shot.

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I feel like I’m going to use this graphic a lot more than I initially figured I would.

*Home ownership= having your water pipe explode and flood your basement and then send you into early labour the day after. Then having your water heater explode and ruin the very basement that was JUST FIXED BECAUSE OF THE EFFING PIPE. Also, painting. A lot of painting.

** My theory was this: if some burglar breaks in and tries to…I don’t know, steal my music stand and trumpet or something, I would douse him with hot water. Which would…slow him momentarily? Enrage him further? And yes, I do realize that if he had broken into my house even ten minutes after I went to bed, he would only be slightly dampened with lukewarm-to-room-temperature water. And that would DEFINITELY further enrage him, probably causing him to smash my soap collection before he stormed back out the window, trumpet and stand in hand. And yes, I collected soaps of different shapes and scents. Judge away, Judgey McJudgerson.

***Note: he was not.

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Life Lesson #46: Anything can seem exciting if you use enough exclamation points!

In my on-going and seemingly never-ending effort to make my office less of a complete junk heap and more of a functional room,* I found one of my grade one journals.

Certifiable2“Maybe I should just learn to work in squalor.”

I say ‘one of’ because it has a number six on the front. Which probably means it was six of…uh…well, it’s from April 1 to April 23 (yes, it covers an entire 23 days), so…six of ten? Six of ten thousand? Knowing little Jess, I have no doubt that there are many, many more journals like this somewhere.**

Anyway, it was quite the read. It seems that even back when I was six, I knew that in order to tell an interesting story, you needed to have at least one of three things:

  1. An interesting life (very useful)
  2. A good imagination (even more useful)
  3. An abundance of exclamation marks (some might call this weak writing. I was six though, so…that kind of person is extremely judgmental and really has no place on this blog.)

And so, without further ado, I present to you: “A Selection of Days in the Life of Jess, April 1987”

Day 1: I’m going to tell you a joke! Promise you won’t cry? OK! Knock, knock! Who’s there?! BOO! Boo WHO! Hey, why are you crying?! Ho, ho.

I have some notes, little Jess.

  1. That’s the oldest joke in the book, aside from the chicken one. That said, maybe that makes it a classic? Good choice on the joke.
  2. I can’t read “Ho, ho” without hearing Daddy Pig from Peppa saying it aloud. You couldn’t have known this back when you were six, but…yeah. That’s where I’m at right now.

Day 2: Last night, my cousin Nicholas came to my house, but he’s still a baby. He is not there this morning! He went to his grandma’s.

Babies were always big news in the first grade. Lots of my friends had little wee brothers or sisters, but I just had four-year-old Kenneth. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I liked him and all…but he was no baby. When a REAL baby arrived at my house, I figured we might get to keep him. No such luck.

Day 3: Tomorrow, I am going to have Mrs. Campbell over for lunch. We are going to have a good time! We’ll be eating crepes and cheese cake.”

We had every single one of my lady teachers over for lunch up until the fifth grade. Fifth grade starred the extraordinarily odd Mrs. McKercher and she did NOT like me. Case in point: achievement stickers. At the end of each year at school, we would get certificates that would feature stickers boasting of achievements from throughout the year. I always got “Super Speller” “Band Member” and “Helper” and “Writer” and sometimes even “Office Helper” and “Student Leader” and “Recycling Person” and “Showed up Mostly on Time” and “Was Only Away, Like, Once a Term or Something”.

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Something like this. But the “Writer” sticker was less phallic. #thisiswhyIdontdrawstuff

Anyway, Mrs. McKercher began reading out the sticker titles and the names of the kids who earned them. The problem was, she started with sports. Which, obviously, did not apply to me. Unless there was a sticker for Most Awkward Participant. Then I would’ve been awarded that every single year. Heck, makes me wish there was an entire Olympic Games dedicated to that. I would’ve won ALL the medals. All of them. The one for falling up the stairs, falling down the stairs, dancing like no one is watching you have a seizure, dropping glass items and then stepping on the shards…I would have OWNED those games.

But I digress.

So she read off the kids who won the baseball, basketball, long jump, short jump, triple jump, track and field, volley-ball and, I don’t know, ping-pong, and I hadn’t been called once. THEN she proceeded to read the math-based stickers.

WTF, Mrs. McKercher?

At that point, I let out a sigh. Not a loud sigh, not a rude sigh, just a sigh of defeat. Like, “OK, I get it. I’ll just wait until I’m dead and then maybe I’ll get a sticker for that.” (I was ten. I was melodramatic. You get the idea).

And she singled me right out and gave me shit for not being happy enough for other people’s accomplishments. And I felt awful, because deep-down (like, a centimeter under the surface), I’m a people-pleaser and I’m really shy and I truly hate being singled out for pretty much anything.

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So. Much. Melodrama.

It kind of killed my buzz when I finally did get my multitude of non-math and non-sport-related stickers.

Maybe she did this BECAUSE she was never invited for lunch? Hmm. I never thought of that until now.***

Day 4: When I got to school, I asked my mom if I could skip. She said yes. I jumped 100!

Pictures or it didn’t happen. No chance you jumped to one hundred before the bell, little Jess! Unless you did the whole, “One, two, skip a few, ninety-nine, one hundred” thing. Ah, I see what you did there.

Day 5: My brother isn’t getting anything for Easter because he wants a four-legged Popple! I want some candy. Happy Easter!

Spoiler alert: he got his Popple and I got my candy and all was right with the world.

Day 6: Next year, I am going to Disney World. What Laura told me about it sounds so neat! I can’t wait!

This is the worst Disney World brochure I’ve ever read. Jess, don’t go into marketing.

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Day 7: Last night, my Dad came home from his business trip and this morning my brother found a bunch of ants by the front door!

Related? Yes! He brought them in his suitcase! Mom was ready to have him killed. Typing that, it occurs to me how very many times she used that exact phraseology when we were kids. When telling a story that involved my dad messing something up, she’d often say, “Oh, I was ready to have him killed!” It’s a good thing our phone lines weren’t tapped.

Day 8: Today when it was time to go to school, my mother and brother were having a fight so Kenneth banged his banana on the stairway! At school, my mom picked something gooey out of his bag. It was a mooshy banana!

Kenneth, you renegade. You goddamn renegade.

Day 9: One day, I asked my mom when is dad putting the roof on the jungle gym. She said this Saturday, but he can’t do the whole thing in one day!

Spoiler alert: I think he did it in two.

Day 10: Last night, Today’s Special was all about countries! They sang a song about countries and then I had a bath!

Oh, God. I loved Today’s Special. I don’t remember the countries song at all, but I bet it was done in country style and I bet it was AMAZING.

The end, AT LAST! (I actually wrote this on the last page. I loved finishing a notebook because that meant I got a WHOLE NEW ONE and could start over again. Ever the writer, I’m afraid.)

Whew. That was a whirlwind. And now, may I present to you, “A Selection of Days in the Life of Jess, March, 2016”

Day 1: Lily was up about twenty-seven times last night. Is she teething? Still? If so, HOW?! She only has four teeth. She’s only had four teeth for months now. I feel like she may only ever have four teeth. Some parents pay for braces, but we’re going to pay for dentures. If I make it through today, it shall be nothing short of a miracle.

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“Imma need some dentures, STAT!”

Day 2: Visit with Uncle Jay. I really owe him some kind of maid service. We enter his apartment and it’s picture-perfect. We leave and there are crumbs, stickers and a thin layer of glitter everywhere. He’s always such a good sport about everything. I honestly think I may have to just let him come and trash the entire house at some point, just to even things out. Also, I probably owe each of the cats a day at the spa or something.

Day 3: Attempt to clean the house today. Let’s make a list:
1. Clean everything
OK, so that’s only one thing. How long could that possibly take? Seriously. Maybe I could even get the girls involved! All the parenting magazines always suggest that kind of thing. I’ll give each of them a cloth and whisper a hopeful prayer under my breath.

Update: Vivi wiped three things and then used the cloth as some kind of dancing accessory. Lily chewed on the cloth and smeared drool all over the floor. I whispered several unrepeatable words under my breath.

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Day 4: Visit with my parents. The girls really do love seeing their grandparents, and it’s always nice to catch up. And then, when we get back, we just have to take an hour or ten to find a home for their new toys and stickers.

Day 5: OMG, it’s Friday. That means tomorrow is the weekend. And THAT means that Karl is home both days! Or he better be! He better have nothing planned, because mama needs a nap. Lily was up again all night and there’s not enough coffee in the world to get me through today. Oh, Vivi wants to do a messy craft. And Lily just woke up from a ten-minute nap. She sounds cheerful. Or furious. It’s so hard to know these days.

And that’s how things have changed, 29 years on. Still enthusiastic! Still not super-exciting, day-to-day! Still hopeful that one day, my exclamation marks will be legit.

Oh, young Jess. If only you could’ve known what you’d become. I think you’d be pleased, on some level. Heck, I think you’d just be thrilled that grown-up Jess is able to drive to the store and buy as much candy as she wants.****

 

* This plan is not working that well. My office is, was and likely always will be, a giant pile of paper mixed with markers, glitter and chaos. I just cannot work in neatness and order. It stifles my creativity or something. Or maybe it’s laziness. Or a bit of both? Maybe both.

**Likely in a box labeled, “Christmas Misc., etc.” in my parents’ basement.

***Or she was just bitter and didn’t like me. Probably waaay more likely.

****As long as Karl doesn’t find out and get all judgey.

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Life Lesson #58: Sometimes staying in is better than going out. Like WAAAAY better.

Everyone has a favourite holiday. Mine is Christmas, followed closely by Thanksgiving, Easter, Canada Day and, more recently, Mother’s Day. Not everyone has a least favourite holiday, I suppose. But I do. Oh, I do.

New. Year’s. Eve.

I kind of hate it.

Why? Well, there are three reasons.

  1. You have to put on actual clothes that actually fit properly and are kind of matchy and (somewhat, barely) fashionable and then put on your ‘night time makeup’ and get your hair did and your nails did and…ugh.
  2. THEN, after all that rigmarole, you have to go OUT of your HOUSE and see the hoi polloi. The general populous. And be SOCIABLE. WITH THOSE PEOPLE.
  3. The people you see are usually in some state of inebriation. And if you’re anything like me, you’re not in any state except a state of perpetual annoyance. Because drunk people are THE WORST when you’re stone-cold sober/the DD.

Also, as a bonus fourth point:

  1. There are crazy expectations about what’s to happen on New Year’s Eve. You’re supposed to have THE best time and party with THE coolest people and then meet and kiss THE perfect person at midnight. And then get home before your car turns back into a pumpkin. And it all costs a ten million dollars.

Holy shit, it’s just not worth it.

Now, I USED to like New Year’s Eve, as evidenced by my grade three diary:

“Tonight is New Year’s Eve! I am excited and I am going to stay up until MIDNIGHT.”

Actually, I don’t think I actually rang in the new year until I was about twelve, but whatever. When I was really small, it was mostly me saying, “Is it midnight? Is it?” and Mom lying her head off.

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But I was happy.

Then, as I got to be an older kid (ages 6-11), I spent New Year’s Eve doing the following:

NYE2

Or

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Which was also great! What’s not to love about either falling asleep in front of the TV in your warm, cozy house on your soft, comfy couch or getting buzzed off insane amounts of Christmas chocolate topped off with a huge glass of chocolate milk? All good! Welcome, new year!

Then, as a teen too young to drink, my New Year’s Eves were often spent with awesome friends who were as nerdly as myself. It was something like this:

NYE3

“Wanna play cards or watch a terrible movie and drink our weight in Orange Crush?”
“You bet I do!”

And I still enjoyed the festivities, as they were.

But then, brace yourselves, for we enter the horrible years. The 18-25 years. The “Party in Da Club” years. And those years, those horrible New Year’s Eves, were what turned me off the ‘holiday’ forever. FOREVER.

I used to hope fervently that I would come down with some kind of cold/flu/plague right before the 31st of December. I would purposely share cups and snuggle up with anyone with a cough. I was delighted when I had a scratchy throat and thus a legitimate reason to miss out on all the ‘fun’.

But more often than not, I’d find myself bundling up (because even though you’re wearing your hoochie clothes, it’s still freaking COLD waiting in line outside of the stupid club) and trekking downtown for the night.

NYE

“Can we just GO HOME ALREADY?”
“It’s 10:52.”

The two experiences that totally turned me off going out ever again (on New Year’s Eve, that is) are:

  1. Stupid Phoenix. I was there with the bestie and some of his pals and all was well (as well as it could be, when you’re jammed into a club where people are actually falling-down drunk) until the beer bottles started getting thrown. Then, as I got hit in the back, I said, “Eff this noise.” and left. Because know what I don’t want on New Year’s Eve? A concussion. That is not festive.
  2. Stupid Nathan Phillips Square. My dear friend Stephy somehow convinced me to attend Toronto’s biggest party. I don’t know WHAT I was thinking. “Oh, I’m sure those crowds on TV are kind of exaggerated. It can’t be THAT crazy. There can’t be THAT many people.” Yes, yes there are. There are a bajillion people and it’s cold and loud and you’re standing the WHOLE TIME. There are no hot chocolate waitresses, bringing cups of warmth around. There are no donut salesmen, waiting to sell a hot beignet as you stand there freezing your ass off. There are no comfy seats to rest your weary bones. Nothing. Just a long, long, long night of performances and people and drunkenness. The highlight of the night was getting lifted off the ground when the crowd moved one way and Steph and I got swept up in it. For those of you who don’t know, I have a HUGE fear of crowds in general, and moving crowds in particular. It’s like the scene in The Lion King when Mufasa gets caught in the stampede. That’s how crowds look and feel to me.

And then we had to take the TTC vomit comet home and that just capped off the night nicely.

Which brings me to the next phase of New Year’s Eve: The Transition Years (25-30). This is when you kind of feel too old/responsible to go out and get hammered/be the DD for people who might puke in your car, and you decide to go to someone’s house instead.

Theoretically, I can get behind this.

You’re in a house, so there’s not a bajillion people around. You can probably hide in the basement and read a book, if you so choose. You can even make hot chocolate!

Alas, it rarely works out like this.

I found that it often goes one of two ways:

  1. Everyone is drunk and high and talking nonsense for hours. No one else notices because they are in the same state. I am not, so I am texting my probably drunk friends complaining. Everyone just writes back, “Hapley New Ywers Jass!” and I kind of feel like I really need to either loosen up or just fake pneumonia next year.
  2. It’s actually kind of boring/there’s nothing really planned except sitting around for five hours waiting for midnight to come, and then at 12:05, everyone goes home. I call this the, “Let’s watch the dog” party. Because that’s what everyone ends up doing. Watching the dog.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have been to some great parties at houses as well. There have been some really fun years. But they don’t outweigh the bad ones. They never outweigh the bad ones.

Finally, we get into what I call my golden years (31+). This is the “I have kids, so I can’t possibly go out or do anything at all!” age. Sure, it’s a cop-out. Sure, lots of parents are hip and cool and go to people’s homes and da club and have fun or whatever. Also, some of those people invite others over to their homes to celebrate the coming of a new year.

Not me.

This is my time to shine. This is my time to enjoy wallowing in my introversion. This is how my New Year’s Eves have been going down recently:

NYE5

“Wanna watch a movie, drink ice wine, kiss at midnight and then go directly to bed?”
“You bet I do!”

Let’s just recap why this is so awesome:

  1. Doesn’t cost a penny.
  2. Soft couch, warm house.
  3. No drunken fools (except maybe Karl).
  4. Awesome husband to kiss at midnight.
  5. No TTC.
  6. No crowds.
  7. Ice wine in my fridge.
  8. In bed by 12:30.

BOOM. That’s how we do it right there.

So, to you my dear readers, I say this: Happy New Year! I hope your festivities are very festive. I hope you have a rad time doing whatever it is you want to do. Whether you go out, stay in, cuddle with your cat or avoid cats due to crippling cat allergies, I hope your New Year’s Eve is beautiful. Heck, maybe you’ll be lucky like my Mom and Dad or like my brother and his wonderful fiancee and meet your soulmate on New Year’s Eve. Or not. Whatever happens, be safe, have a modicum of fun and get home before your car turns into a pumpkin.

 

 

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Life Lesson # 27: The days are long but the years are scarily short. Well, except that first one.

This blog entry is more of a reflection on the past three years of my life…the three years I’ve spent as a mama. Also, it’s a letter to my little big girl, Vivi. So…if you’re not into kind of schmaltzy memories and adorable kid stuff, then maybe skip this entry.

But if you do skip it, you won’t hear the story about how Vivi saved Christmas. And it’s almost Christmas, so you probably want to read a seasonally appropriate story, right?*

Right.

So read on.

Dear Vivi,

I cannot believe you’re three. I used to think it was ridiculous when parents said that kind of thing, because, c’mon…of COURSE you can believe it. You’ve been there, watching the kid get bigger every single day. But here’s the thing: growing up kind of hits you all at once when you reach a milestone like three. You don’t really see those tiny, incremental daily gains until you look back. Like, one day you couldn’t say “mama” and then the next day, poof! You could. You couldn’t walk, and now you run (and dance and twirl and jump and scare the hell out of me and OH MY GOD, my hair has never been as white as it is now and I’m probably going to die ten years earlier because of the never-ending heart palpitations, but don’t worry about it).

Ahem. What I’m trying to say is: time flies when you’re growing up. You’re so much more capable than ever before. And it’s wonderful (and terrifying).

Three is a really great age. It’s a FUN age. I mean, don’t get me wrong, you have your moments…but the good outweighs the frustrating, and I’m so proud of the girl you are.

So here’s a letter from me to you, a list of what I love most about you and the things I hope never change.

1. Always be true to yourself, just like you are now. You know what you like and you don’t really care who agrees with your choices. For instance, lemurs. They’re not exactly the stuffie of choice for most kids, but you have a troop of them. I think I’ve learned more about lemurs in the past three years than most people do in a lifetime. You are happy to tell people unfamiliar with our ring-tailed cousins that they are, indeed, primates and they’re from Madagascar and they mostly eat fruit, but they’re actually omnivores because they like bugs occasionally. And those are the words you use because you have an insane vocabulary and you’re going to be a huge nerd like your mama (and dad). You also want to be a dentist. Like, for reals. When other kids in your dance class were all, “Imma be a princess!” you were all, “Imma be a dentist!” You wanted a dentist’s kit for Easter. So I made you one. And now we play dentist every day.

Back to your dance class. When the other kids said, “I love pink!” you said, “I love yellow!” And then, when you got home, proceeded to choose which colours you’d say you like in the weeks to come. With reasons to back your choices up. (“I like green because trees are lovely. I like purple because of jewels. I like red because it’s bright.”) When everyone was a princess at Halloween, you went as a frog. I warned you that you’d be the only frog, and that just made you want to be it more. And that night? You went out as (guess what) a lemur. And you were ADORABLE.

vivi2“Yeah, I’m a froggy. What of it?”

2. Don’t worry about being shy. Daddy and I were (and are) huge introverts and it’s never held us back. We’re both happy and have lots of friends and people who love us and who we love. You will too. Being shy isn’t a bad thing, even though some people will make you feel that way. Being shy just means it takes you a bit longer than average to warm up to people you don’t know. This makes you cautious. This may help or save you one day from getting into trouble. I know it’s hard to enter a new situation and just TALK. I get it. But don’t worry, you’ll learn to fake it a little as you get older. Also, because shy people watch and listen so much, we find out a lot about others. That means that underneath all the quiet, we are interesting. When you see other shy people hovering around the punch bowl at a future party, or hiding in the basement with the housecat, approach them and talk. Heck, you’ll probably be patting the cat right along with them (on a side note, I am glad you do not have my cat allergies).

3. Always list yourself in the “Who I Love” category. You do this now and it’s great. You list off everyone you adore and you’re always part of that group. As you get older, you don’t have to say your name aloud…but always, always say it in your head. You’re going to spend more time with yourself than anyone else, so it’s very important to know and love the person you are. And if you ever have a hard time remembering why you’re so great, just play the “Why does Mommy love me” game.*

4. Be a total nerd about what you love. Don’t hide your light under a barrel. Geek out. I bet there aren’t many two-year-olds who are UNFAMILIAR with the Frozen soundtrack, but familiar enough with Broadway superstars to say, “We danced to that Idina Menzel song in ballet today. You know, the one the kids like?” Or who recognize Idina from a clip of pretty much ANY song. Or who get all starry-eyed when I play “Always Starting Over” from If/Then. Yeah. You’re a Broadway geek already. We are going to see Wicked when you’re eight. I know you will absolutely LOVE it.

5. You’re a giver. I kind of suspected it for a while now, but it sort of exploded on Halloween. You’ve always enjoyed making gifts for your grandparents (the much beloved Lala and Baba) and Uncle Jay (I don’t think any other uncle in the world has as fabulous a magic wand), but you’ve always kind of kept the giving in the family. Until Halloween came. And then you realized the joy in giving out candy to others. You chose treats you thought each kid would like. You said, “There you go, little girl!” to a kids three and four times your age. You were SO happy. Ridiculously happy. Happy enough to NOT feel shy or intimidated when confronted with a never-ending stream of costumed kids (except the teenage boys – you left those to me). So what does this mean? Well, it means you’re like mama. I also get a ton of pleasure from giving to people. After a lifetime of this, I want to let you know three key things:

a. Give to people who deserve your kindness. That is, don’t give to people who are going to take advantage of you and use you. Never let yourself be used. Only give what you are comfortable giving.

b. If someone needs more than you can give, sometimes you’ll have to say no, but if the person is really important and special to you, dig deeper. Look in your heart and you’ll know if you can.

c. Don’t depend on other people’s happiness to make you happy. That said, when you make other people happy, it’s OK to feel wonderful.

6. Stick to your guns. You do this now and I figure that if dentistry doesn’t work out, maybe you’ll be a lawyer. If you ever get told ‘no’ (and you do about a thousand times a day), you always try to work an angle or make a bargain. This can be completely maddening now, but it will serve you well in the future. I will try to maintain my sanity until said future arrives.

7. Keep your sense of humour. You not only find things funny, but you are very funny yourself. You are constantly saying ridiculous things just to make us laugh, and you usually succeed. (Unless you’ve said the same thing ten times in a row, in which case…OMG, stop. Please.) A sense of humour will serve you well. Like, for instance, this year we’ve had the basement flood not once but TWICE! And we just had to laugh the second time, because come on! That’s insane. Hahahaha.

Laughing time is over now.

8. Tell people you love that you love them. You’re great at this. You constantly tell those most special to you how wonderful you think they are. I don’t think Baba and Lala ever imagined that they’d be absolutely adored by their granddaughter, but there you are. In your life, you will meet people who you can add to your “Very Special” group. Some of those people will be with you forever, some for a little while and some for no time at all. Everyone enters our lives to teach us something, or for us to teach them something. Even if it’s not obvious at the time, you might understand the purpose of a relationship years down the road. No matter what, you know I’m always there. I’ve got your back, baby girl.

9. Your memory is insane, just like mine. We realized this when you memorized all your books when you were between 1-2 years old. Also, when you would reference something that we hadn’t talked about for six months. You have a CRAZY memory. There are positives and negatives to this, of course. The positive part is that when you remember something good, you can remember each and every detail, almost like you’re still there. And the negative part is exactly the same. Try to remember the good stuff REALLY well, and try to kind of blur the negative stuff a bit. Otherwise, it’s just too much.

10. Love books the way you do now. Books are the best. You know this. Don’t ever forget it. Also, keep your love of oral storytelling. I can only assume you got this from your great-grandfather (my poppa). He was an excellent storyteller and could make up takes that would have us in gales of laughter. As I got older, I found that he mostly stole the plotlines from old Monty Python sketches and Bugs Bunny cartoons, but that’s neither here nor there.

11. Be positive. Always try to find the bright side of life. I love it when you say, “This is the BEST DAY EVER!” when we’re doing something totally mundane and normal, like washing the floors or eating chocolate chips. Keep that chutzpah, babe.

vivi3

And now, for three things you can totally change anytime now:

  1. Sleeping. Please learn to love it more. I mean, you’re doing way better than year one (when you were up each night at LEAST eight times). But you’re getting up at 4:30 AM every day and it’s killing me. Please sleep until 6:00. Please. I’ll give you money. Name your price. Shopkins? Whatever. You can have them all if I can just sleep in until a normal-ish hour.

Vivi1“Imma wreck all your stuff! I’m adorable!”

2. Being nice to Lily. You’re going to learn to like her more as she gets older and more interesting, I know. Apparently I was a total nightmare to my brother until he turned two and learned to talk and not be a slobbering pillow. Then we were buddies forever. So I have high hopes for you and Lily. In the mean time, could you please just be a TEENSY bit nicer to her? Like, maybe don’t yank whatever she’s holding out of her hand while screaming, “TA-TA TO SISTER!” in her face. Thanks.

vivi4
“Could everyone just stop screaming already?”

3.Chilling out. Sometimes you get so obsessed with things being ‘just so’ that it makes my little head hurt. Look, I KNOW you have the situation/scene/whatever already worked out in your head and it would just be easier if you could write a script and hand it out and make everyone conform to your ways. I get it. TRUST ME. But in life, you gotta roll with the punches sometimes. And sometimes that means letting mama shower while you play with daddy. And not coming into the bathroom and screaming like a wounded velociraptor.

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This is totally what you always looked like as a baby. Seriously. So angry!

So in conclusion, it’s been a very interesting, busy, short and lovely three years. I think my mommy skills have improved a LOT since we first brought you home (sorry I was so terrible at everything back then). Your first year was absolutely the most difficult thing I’ve ever been through (because of your tummy issues and because I had no freakin’ clue what I was doing. And also the sleep deprivation). You make me laugh, you make me smile, you make me feel so lucky. We never knew if we could even have kids, and here we are with the amazing Vivi Sue. As I was writing this, you came up and threw your arms around my neck and said, “Mommy, you’re the perfectest for me. Some days you can be perfect, you know? Today is your day.”

I feel the same, babe.

Happy third birthday, my love.

Love,

Mama

*So…about Vivi saving Christmas…uh…she…uh…didn’t, exactly. But she DOES believe that she (or anyone, really) can be Santa. And that’s kind of cool. So it wasn’t a lie that I told you so much as a huge exaggeration of the truth. Which is kind of what parents tell their kids about Santa! So it all works out in the end. And scene.

**This is a game we play every night at bedtime (and sometimes in the car). I say, “Tell me all the reasons I love you.” Vivi always starts with the same three: “I am brave. I am handsome. I am smart.” You are all that, baby girl. And a ton more.

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Life Lesson #55: Beauty on the inside is far more important than beauty on the outside. That said, if you have the option to ditch the poncho…ditch the poncho.

Today’s entry is based on a super-fun assignment I happened to find. It was a letter I had to write to my grade 11 drama teacher. She wanted use to answer questions so she could ‘get to know us’. I’m guessing she was expecting a paragraph or two.

Four pages later, I had kind of explained the enigma that was/is Jess.

Actually, I can totally sum who I am in one awesome phrase:

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I want this on my tombstone.

Hilariously, I began the lengthy introduction by explaining that I was ‘no good at introducing myself.’ Um, yes. Actually, you are, past Jess! Very good. Too good, really. Stop before you hurt us all.

I don’t recall writing this, which is why it’s all the more painful to read now. Apparently, I was somewhat fascinated with turning sixteen (something I was about to do – this was due on September 10, one day before my sixteenth birthday). These were my thoughts:

“Tomorrow I’m sixteen, but I guess RIGHT now (as I write this), I’m technically fifteen. My little brother told me that I’d stop being so innocent when I turned sixteen, meaning that people would no longer see a dear, sweet girl, but rather a rebellious young troublemaker. Which brings me to the question: “If society has such a negative view on sixteen year olds – and I’ve found that they most certainly do- why is it that we call that specific birthday ‘sweet’?” Perhaps ‘savage sixteen’ would be more appropriate.* Personally, I was told that I would feel special when I turned thirteen. I really didn’t see any appreciable difference from being twelve, and I don’t think that at 12:01 tonight when I’m truly sixteen, that I’ll run out and get tattooed, smoke pot and dye my hair green. (I have a lot of opinions about this topic).

My somewhat patient drama teacher (who hopefully read this assignment with a very stiff drink in her hand) kindly wrote, “I can see that!” in the margin.

BeautifulI feel like I totally should’ve written a ‘zine. Also, in the picture I’m supposed to be pointing my finger, like “Hmm,” not like I’m about to pick my nose. #thisiswhyimnotanartist

The thing is, I wasn’t really sweet or savage…I was weird. I started out as a weird kid and I became a weird teenager and then I continued to be weird. And by ‘weird,’ I mean…different.

Examples? I shall give you three.

  1. When I was young (grades 1-5), I dressed like a reject from Little House on the Prairie. Then (grades 6-9) like effing Claudia Kishi. Then (grades 10- present day) I kind of dressed in the way you’d imagine an extraterrestrial might dress, when trying to fit into everyday life. “I like to wear jeans and some form of top covering. Also, a poncho! With matching ducky earrings! That’s a thing, right? You kids are into that sort of business? No? Aw, crap.”
  2. I didn’t really understand what it mean to do ‘kid stuff.’ Like, I loved to play and be imaginative and whatnot, but I never understood the ‘OMG, scream and yell and act like a total fool and just don’t even worry about it!’ mindset. I was always super self-conscious and worried that I was going to make a jackass of myself. My mother says I was ‘born 35.’ Since I now AM 35, I’m pretty stoked about finally reaching my ideal age. And maybe next year I’ll regress and finally dye my hair green and rebel!
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  3. I was so obsessed with the concept of becoming a writer that I would literally go home from elementary school, bang out some homework and then spend the rest of the evening focusing on my novel/poetry/whatever. Like, literally. For hours. Just writing. And reading. And writing. And more reading. I was a huge bookworm (ahem. AM, says the lady with 40 library books sitting in bags in the hall…I’m presently reading five at once, which is my limit before I get all my storylines and characters mixed up).

So I was weird. Yes. Was.

I also mentioned a very key point in my intro: my clumsiness. I can’t recall if I’ve ever talked about it on here (you’ll have to forgive me…my brain is 100% sleep-deprived and my usual caffeine intake hasn’t even begun to make a difference. I feel like I have jell-o between my ears. Maybe raspberry? Probably raspberry). But I’m so clumsy. So clumsy, in fact, that my daughter has begun to ask for stories about “When you fell down all the time.” Because the stories are plentiful enough to be their own genre in our house. Yay me!

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“Whoops.”

Vivi’s favorite clumsy stories include:

  1. Jess falls down on her back when roller skating and causes permanent nerve damage.
  2. Jess falls down the stairs and probably should’ve gone to the hospital but didn’t.
  3. Jess falls off the monkey bar on the tree house and everyone thinks she broke her arm (it was actually a whistle around my neck that cracked).
  4. Jess falls THROUGH the tree house (In all fairness, my grandfather had left a large hole in the corner of the tree house and I happened to stumble through it. Holy shit, did that ever hurt).

In other news, I think I should make myself a little padded bubble in which to live. And a helmet.

The next part of my little intro was all about my family, which covered the usual stuff:

Mom – Homemaker, enjoyer of chocolate, helper-outer of many

Dad – Traveling the world, sleeping when home

Brother – Usually awesome, occasionally annoying, goes to another high school so you’ll never have to put up with him here (I’m sure my drama teacher thanked her lucky stars for that one).

I then talked about my thoughts on school. I really liked high school (unlike my dear husband, who would love nothing more than to bulldoze his second high school into the ground, set fire to the debris and salt the earth so nothing ever grows there again). More specifically, I really loved the music room. I’ve mentioned it before, but it deserves mentioning again. The music room was a life saver. It was a place where you could go and be accepted. And play an instrument! We (about ten of us) used to sit on ‘the porch’ (the entrance to the music room looked just like a porch) and eat our lunches amongst the silverfish (there were lots of bugs/rodents at WHCI.** It was just part of the charm. Also, super gross, looking back). It was a bonding, bug-squishing kind of time.

Ah, memories.

Next, I delved into my interests. There were three, at that point:

  1. Learning sign language and working with special needs kids (did both, enjoyed both immensely).
  2. Writing poetry and becoming a published author (I did a total humblebrag: “I just finished my fifth book…” Unpublished, badly written book, Jess. You forgot to add that part.)
  3. And making people happy. (Yes. Still something I am interested in.)

I also mentioned that I was good at doing impersonations of people and silly voices. I’m not sure about that, but I do know that I used to be able to impersonate my grade 8 history teacher perfectly. (#skillz)

Life goals were as follows:

  1. Be a psychologist (uh…)
  2. Be a published writer (working on it, dammit!)
  3. Get married and have kids (boom! Success! One of three! One of three!)

Second to last, I discussed what makes me laugh. And I came up with one thing: being a prefect. I feel like I might’ve been a teensy bit bitter when I wrote this. I mean, being a prefect DID make me laugh because…well…I kind of hated it. It was such an elitist little group and my band geek friends and I did our best to not take it seriously. We never went out of our way to sabotage anything, and we always signed up for drink duty and whatnot (this is how I nearly got myself killed! Stay tuned for a future blog entry about that one!), but there was one time…

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“I hate this sweater.”

Let me tell you about…THE DONUT INCIDENT.

My friends and I (naming no names) were selling donuts for the prefects. We were in the upstairs part of one of the gyms (important to know because this was part of the stands and it was NEVER CLEANED). We were carrying trays of donuts around between classes when all of a sudden…one of the trays hit the floor. Like, all the donuts on it. On the floor.

I would LIKE to say that we did the mature, responsible thing and reported the loss to the teachers in charge and then pitched the donuts.

I would LIKE to say that the donuts were not hastily brushed off and sold to an unsuspecting public.

I would LIKE to say that, but those things aren’t true.

We sold the goddamn floornuts. Every goddamn one of them.

And we were proud.

Finally, I had to explain why I wanted to take drama. I had to come up with a reason other than, “It was pretty effing easy in grade ten, and I kind of wanted something that didn’t require too much brain power, so it was this or typing.”

So I made something up: “I really enjoyed drama and it’s challenging and fun for me to overcome my nervousness about performing in front of others.”

Yup. That sounds about right.

I think the take-home message is that although I’ve never been anywhere close to perfect, stylish or especially good at brevity, I’m amusing. And that’s got to count for something.

*This is a question worthy of a Sex and the City episode. What can I say? With my penchant for writing and questionable fashion sense, I was a young Carrie Bradshaw.

No, I wasn’t.

**My favourite stories about the high school vermin involved rats. One was about a rat eating someone’s lunch (in their locker…in their lunch bag) and the other one was about a rat swimming in the pool. Oh! Then there was the cricket infestation. It was during exam time, if I recall correctly. So much cricket chirping…ah, WHCI. You were always teaching us lessons we didn’t know we needed to learn. (Such as: invest in steel lunch pails! Don’t swim in rat water! Cricket sounds aren’t conducive to passing math!)

***While writing this blog, I’ve also been cleaning out my office. We’re moving it to the smallest room and moving the girls around to their own rooms and it’s complete chaos upstairs at our house. I was looking through a box and I found these delightful drawings that I did somewhere around twelve years ago. I got Jay’s permission to post them. Which he then rescinded, but I think he was just kidding. So here they are!

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