The other day Joe said something to the kid and it pinged something in me.
She asked if she could have a doughnut when we stopped for hot chocolate after the Christmas parade (this was not just a Santa Claus parade, there was a girl dressed as Mary riding a donkey in the first group) and he said something about how she had done her gymnastics class that day – we’re on three hours in the gym per week now.
It stopped me in my tracks a little bit when he said it, even though he really didn’t mean anything by it, I’m sure. The kid doesn’t get a lot of treats. We don’t always feed ourselves very well, but she usually gets balanced meals. She’s also unbelievably active. On top of gymnastics she has swimming lessons, and even when she’s not specifically exercising she’s usually moving around. The kid loves being active in a way I wish I did as a child. I have no concerns about her fitness levels at all.
We also have no reason to be concerned about her weight. I thought for a bit she might actually be under weight – which was a very strange experience for me – but the doctor says she’s obviously healthy and active and not to worry.
But the thing is that this kid is growing up in this world and I know what she’s going to face. We’ve put time and effort into making sure she understands how strong she is, how great it is that she loves being active. I have tried very hard not to call her skinny, thin or slim. I use fat as a simple adjective. I am fat, that is not the problem, the problem is that I am unfit at the moment and I want to be more active, even if I stay fat.
Someday in the not too distant future this kid is going to grow hips and breasts and her entire self will change. In my family we are what has been designated as curvy – both the socially acceptable kind and the ‘nice way of saying fat’ kind. She is going to have a defined waist and big hips. She is going to be tall. She will still be able to use her body and her strength, but she won’t ever be an Olympic gymnast. She’s going to be too tall for that gig in within three years, I’d bet money on it.
Tallest female artistic gymnast to ever medal at the Olympics? Svetlana Khorkina, 5’5″.
I, of course, dream that she’ll take up dancing and star on Broadway, but right now she wants to be a chemistry teacher, a baker, a mom, and a ninja warrior.
That’s all great.
What I don’t want her to grow up to be is paranoid about food. I specifically don’t want her to be a grown up who thinks of how much exercise it will take to burn off the calories she’s eating. Food is fuel, yes, but it also tastes good and is one of the great pleasures of life. Dessert is not a reward for an extra 10 minutes on the treadmill, and exercise is not punishment for eating that box of Smarties.
I know that women are often pushed towards this line of thinking, but right now my kid understands that exercise is fun, food is fuel, and treats are okay sometimes but you need to brush your teeth after.
I did not complete NaBloPoMo. I am not going to make 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo. November, with the exception of my trip to New York, and perhaps because of the let down when I got back, has been a month of suck.
I’m not the only one who feels that way. I’ve had multiple people tell me the same. I can’t quite seem to get a handle on things. I can’t remember what day of the week it is. I certainly haven’t been able to keep the house clean.
No matter what time I wake the kid up in the morning we seem to have to rush at the end to make it to the bus, and that stresses us both out. I’ve been struggling with time. I find myself awake at 2 am and wonder how on earth it got to be so late.
I currently have a lot of desire for things to be done but no get-up-and-go. I am in a funk that I thought Nano could help me get out of, but instead I’m just frustrated that I didn’t spend the time beforehand research and prepping so I could just write.
Actually I’m frustrated with how I spend a lot of my time. So tired and so much waste.
Do you ever just feel like you fucking suck at everything?
I know so many ways that I could be better and feel better, but here I sit. Wasting time. Not being better and feeling worse. Feeling like I don’t deserve change. Knowing it’s going to be hard. Wondering what will make me feel successful or worthy. Wondering if my brain will let me get to that place.
So I say goodbye to November. I will start December in a better way. I will make an effort tomorrow.
I went to New York by myself, and I spent a lot of time walking around, surrounded by people but alone, listening and experiencing. I cried when it was over. Now I’m in bed, sick with a bad cold, and thinking. I’m thinking ahead. I’m thinking about my baby girl growing, and what comes next and more things I want to experience.
Firstly I want to get back to New York. This means that I have to be smarter. I have to work smarter and save smarter. I want to focus more on experiences and less on things. I want to clean house.
Secondly, I want to walk like that. I want to develop myself into an athlete. I want my body to stop hurting. I want to feel fit and strong. I want to be able to really experience life. I don’t want to age in pain. I can’t do that to my family. I want to serve as a good example, not a warning. I want to fight my disease instead of letting it get the better of me.
Thirdly, I want to read all the books that have been sitting on my shelf waiting for me. I chose them for a reason, but there they are.
I want to actually do all the things I say I want to do. Spend my time creating. You can’t be a writer unless you writer. You won’t get any better at sketching unless you sketch. I love to cook and bake once I get down and do it, and it’s good for my family. Take the fucking singing lessons I’ve wanted to take my entire life, if only to learn how to breathe properly. It should not take this much convincing to do the things that I know full well make me feel better.
I want to take classes, I want to see friends. I want to sleep like a proper human being. I need to start treating myself better instead of just treating myself.
I don’t, however, need to be harder on myself because she’s pretty mean already.
I want to work harder and develop my interests and make myself indispensable. Build my knowledge and my skills. Learn as much as I can, always.
Take time for my daughter. Take time for my marriage. Take time to give time to the issues that I care about deeply. Make the most of my days. Even if sometimes that means Netflix and mindless surfing. Or hanging out with my dog.
This morning I took a good look at my kid this morning. She’s doing that growing up thing. Her friends are too.
It’s astounding to me that this tiny baby became this full human person in such a short period of time. She was brand new to our lives but then it was as though she’d always been there. Now she’s doing so many things by herself, and I can see her growing up more and more.
The kid is smart and strong and sassy. She leaves me in disbelief. She makes me angry and fills my heart. I don’t understand it all.
She’s a smartass and she’s stubborn, and she gets it all from me. And her daddy, but a lot of it from me.
She’s so much like me that I worry about her. She will have her struggles, and it’s my job to make sure she understand that we will always love her and all the things she feels are wrong will make her a better adult.
I am so looking forward to seeing what kind of grown up she becomes but I want to keep her little forever. I want to be allowed to cuddle her, kiss her goodnight, read her a story, sit with her and craft or colour. I want her to want me around. I want her to want to tell me everything. (Though she talks so much I don’t anticipate a day when she doesn’t tell me everything).
I want her to laugh with me. I want her to stay weird.
I want her to keep believing that she can do anything. I want her to be anything and everything she wants to be. I want to track her dreams and cry when she achieves them. I want to spend the next fifty years being totally blown away by her and fascinated by her, the same way I have been for the past seven, not quite eight.
I want to spend the next fifty years showing her how her just being has changed me. I want to demonstrate that it’s never too late to achieve change or to dream big.
“Don’t waste any time trying to be like anybody but yourself. The things that make you strange are the things that make you powerful,” Ben Platt.
Last week I went to see two fantastic musicals – Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen. Both won the Tony for best musical, and Hamilton won its creator Lin Manuel Miranda the Pulitzer Prize.
At the same time, travelling back and forth to New York City, I was reading two books, both non-fiction, Tanya Talaga’s Seven Fallen Feathers and a book by Colum McCann called Letters to a Young Writer. Colum McCann wrote one of my all-time favourite novels, Let the Great World Spin. He has this way of introducing stories one by one and then bringing them all together in a way you never imagined.
The trip, the fact that I did something I’ve been wanting to do for so long, and the shows I saw, and the stories compiled in Seven Fallen Feathers have led to a lot of tears over the past week. Deep empathy and sadness.
And that combined with my exhaustion from my trip has led to some deep thinking about myself and creation.
All my life I have wanted to be a writer. It’s not just that I’ve wanted it, it’s a need. Through much of my life I have been desperate to write. When my Grade 10 English teacher told me that I had talent I could not have been more thrilled. I was a kid who wrote for the high school newspaper, submitted to the literary magazine.
I blog so that I have a place to write, because writing is the best thing I can do.
And then I encounter works of greatness and I think to myself – what’s the point if I could never write something as pure and beautiful as that?
Years later I can remember how Let the Great World Spin made me feel. Days later just thinking about the songs and characterization in Dear Evan Hansen has me in tears. Hamilton is nothing less than a work of genius. Tanya Talaga has found a way to weave a story so tragic in a way that draws you completely in.
I plug away at my NaNoWriMo project – an idea I’m actually excited about, and also confused about – and wonder how I could possibly ever make anyone feel like that.
All I want is to make one person feel one bit of what these writers have made me feel. To give someone a feeling that lasts, that reminds them of something they’ve experienced. Maybe, just maybe leave someone in awe.
But how can I get there if I’m not practicing writing? I can’t just sit back and expect it to come without working at it. I know this. I’ve known all along. I have to make time for it. I have to or that part of me might flicker out. And I can’t have that.
Basically I saw the show on Tuesday night and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. And my complete certainty that I will never see anything like it again.
Now that I’m home I’m almost in disbelief that I even got to see the show. I have wanted to since the first time I heard Waving Through A Window on the radio. I wanted to see Ben Platt’s Tony-award winning performance, and I did, and I understand why he had to win.
I thought I knew what to expect, but I didn’t.
I was not quite Evan as a teenager, but I did wonder if anyone would even notice if I disappeared, and I am that mother, terrified of not catching the signs. It rang so true to me. All of it.
I felt, physically and emotionally, what Evan was going through. I cried for him, I laughed. It hurt.
I cried through the whole show, I have cried since, I cried the next time I listened to the soundtrack. I still feel the need to just spend some time weeping for all the memories and hurt. The absolute reminder of what it is to be in that place.
I vividly remember one day, standing by a row of lockers during a break between classes in high school, and one of the most popular guys in school just backing into me as if I wasn’t even there. An event that totally confirmed that I was invisible and I didn’t matter. I was so sure that my friends weren’t really friends like other people had, that they would easily move on. That my family’s life would be so much easier without the hassle that was me.
Never did I expect to be where I am now, able to see how many people feel that way at that age. It’s damn near universal. You brought me back to that place, and made me realize I made it out.
Here I am, sitting in Laguardia, with my flight now delayed by an hour and ten minutes. This is the first semi annoying or bad thing that has happened during the course of my trip, and I don’t even really care. It just reduces the amount of time I’ll have to wait in Toronto.
I landed in New York City on Monday morning and I have made use of just about every moment I have been here. I took a bus tour, I went to shows, I walked across the city. I enjoyed it all.
My knees hate me, but I enjoyed it all.
Even the shuttle from the airport to my hotel was interesting, because it gave me an opportunity to take it all in.
I’m not sure how much of my current calm mood is because of my trip, my experiences, or the fact that I haven’t really seen the news in almost four days, but here it is anyway.
And I’m sticking to it – I even upgraded my seat on the airplane so I’ll have actual leg room. Money well spent. (The plane on the way in was teeny tiny and I had to ask for a seatbelt extender, which was a new and not great experience, though I wasn’t embarrassed about it).
It feels good to know that I can travel alone. That I can take care of myself. That I can explore New York City without once getting lost.
I have a lot of good things to say about a grid system with numbered streets.
On this trip I got to see landmarks that I’ve only even seen in the movies. I got to see not only my first musical on Broadway, but a Tony-award winning one with it’s full original cast. I got to see Bette Midler play Dolly Gallagher Levi – a character I have adored since I was a young child and my mother showed me who Barbra Streisand was.
For four days I have made every decision about my schedule, based on my interests and how I was feeling. Including cabbing to Queens just to see the Jim Henson exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Picture.
Pretty much every bit of this trip was what I wanted it to be or more. (Dear Evan Hansen was so much more).
I know I will be coming back, I know I will have to bring my husband and my daughter, and I know they will love it too.
Would I ever live in New York?
No, no I would not. Because it’s expensive and I would never feel comfortable driving there and also it is in the USA and I feel much more comfortable in Canada. But will I save up to spend a longer vacation here at a more central hotel with many more theatre tickets? Oh yes.
I was driving in to work once day last year with the Broadway channel on my satellite radio and on came a brand new song from a brand new show that hadn’t even opened on Broadway yet. The song was Waving Through a Window and it immediately meant something to me.
I learned a bit more about the story, I bought the soundtrack when it came out, I bought tickets when Joe and I were planning to go to New York last November. And then sold them when plans had to change.
And then this year I decided I had to do it. With Joe’s support I planned a trip to New York City and I bought myself a ticket for Dear Evan Hansen. I desperately wanted to see the show before Ben Platt leaves. He’s been playing Evan for the run of the show and won the Tony last year for the role.
His last show is this Sunday.
I knew from the soundtrack (and his role in Pitch Perfect) that his voice is incredible. I cannot begin to explain how amazing and brutal his performance was.
The story of this show is very close to my heart. Evan is a teenager who struggles like I struggled as a teenager. His mother is a single mother.
Ben Platt expressed in his performance all the pain and confusion I remember so vividly. I had a theatre experience I will likely never forget, and I can’t even really explain why.
I cried throughout the show, and I was not alone. The man beside me explained, as he wiped his eyes at intermission, that he hadn’t expected this.
I expected it, but I still really didn’t know what I was in for.
I would watch it again right now, and tomorrow, and the day after.
Since I was a kid I have wanted to visit New York City. I have wanted to see this place that I have visited so many times on screen in person. I have wanted to pack a bunch of Broadway shows into a few days, stroll through Central Park, see how tall the Statue of Liberty actually is.
I leave tomorrow.
I have tickets to one play and three musicals, I have passes for Madame Tussauds and a hop on hop off bus tour. I plan to walk through Central Park and visit the memorial to John Lennon. I’m going to visit The Strand book store because famous book stores are great.
I’m going to trek to the Museum of the Movie Picture and spend some time with Jim Henson. I might cry there.
I have been planning this for weeks now, but the disbelief has just started tonight. I fly out tomorrow morning, early. And then I’m going to be in New York. I’ll just be there, surrounded by New York things.
I will have seen two Tony Award winning musicals and Bette Midler on stage.
By the time I come home, I will have felt love, passion, sadness. There will be heart swelling and tears.
And while I am seeing Hello Dolly, I will be coming home without having fallen in love.
After we cleaned out my father’s house I became the de facto keeper of papers. Mainly because I have them, and room to store them. I also volunteered to scan all the pictures that we found around the house – hundreds of family pictures, slides. We found, in a bag, the things my father had kept after cleaning out his mother’s house. In that bag was a scrapbook that my Granny (born in 1899) made as a teenager. This scrapbook has photos she took and captions she wrote between 1914 and 1918.
As she grows older and the years change more and more boys in uniform show up in her album, and on one caption she writes the names of the four boys and “all are soldiers now.”
I can’t imagine how many friends she must have lost.
I have more of an idea of how many comrades my grandfather lost – he and his younger brother were the only ones in their regiment to survive World War I. I took my daughter to the War Museum and we saw a wall of lights, with each representing a man lost on Vimy Ridge. My grandfather and his brother both survived that fight, and the war. Against the odds.
My Gramps, one of the grandparents I actually got to grow up knowing, spent World War II on ships.
I went out whale watching in the Atlantic, off Newfoundland once. There was a point at which we could no longer see land, it was just ocean all around us. I cannot imagine spending five years that way. I cannot imagine spending five years that way knowing that your two younger brothers are out there in the fight too.
I took my daughter to the War Museum because I want her to begin to understand. I want her to know what her ancestors did, what Canadian soldiers are still fighting for, as hard as it can be to understand. It’s not easy to explain, it shouldn’t be.