The first time I met her was at a bus stop in front of Lakeport high school at night. I was headed to my first high school dance. It was grade nine, and my christian high school didn’t have dances, for whatever biblical reasons, and I was nervous.
Jen was already too cool for school dances. She was leaving the dance–she had better and more interesting things to do and cooler people to hang out with. She was dressed in all black, the jeans tight on her skinny legs, her long red hair had a slight feather to it and the wings of her eyeliner were extended further than I had ever seen on anyone since the 80s.
Her tough exterior and aloof coolness were intimidating to this square and dorky church girl. The friend I was with introduced us, and I felt lame. I was definitely not as cool as this girl and there’s no way she’d want to be friends with lame preppy little me. She was rock and roll. She was Jen Hatcher.
The following year, I transferred schools, and started attending Lakeport myself. But badass Jen had already been kicked out of Lakeport or some shit, so our paths never really crossed again, until much much later. That brief meeting must have made some impression on the both of us, though, because years later we met up again, and there was no question that we knew each other.
I was in university at the time, and had landed my then dream job, working at Scizzions as the receptionist. Jen was working as a stylist at the same salon, and was a bit standoffish at first. I’m certain she had kept her distance because of my lame quotient, but running into me at a Sick Boys rock show upped my cool factor by about a million. So then we were friends.
We worked together almost every day for 5 years, along side our other co-workers, and I often describe that time as “working with my best friends everyday”. The pranks we pulled were outrageous and often ended in uncontrollable giggle fests while clients were left waiting for their hair cuts and colours. We took liberties with each other’s personal property that no coworkers should ever take but our senses of humour made it work. The laughs and our friendship extended far beyond the walls of the salon as we often spent our free time together too…smoking cigarettes, sharing secrets and spilling drinks for hours before passing out on each other’s couches.
I learned a lot about Jen in that time, and we became very very close friends–Another unique friendship with a special soul that I have been so fortunate to collect in my lifetime. So please, let me tell you all about her. My friend, Jen.
My friend Jen was born in the 70’s and grew up in the 80’s. She’s always loved (hair) metal, which is totally weird for someone our age. I liked metal for a spell in the 80’s, when I wanted to be like my babysitter. I listened to Motley Crue’s Theatre of Pain, maybe more than most 8 year olds, but Jen loved it all. Motley Crue, Quiet Riot, even Ratt. She’s been to more Cinderella concerts than is even conceivable for someone in their 30’s and if there was a world record for use of the kyuss in everyday life, she’d own it. Jen is a skid. A rockin’ 80’s skid.
But beyond her skiddy tastes in music, is a beautiful and loving sweet soul. She is the kindest, most gentle human you’ll ever get the chance to meet. She is friendly and cheerful, and has hoards of friends. She is bright and sunny and motivated and ambitious. She’s even sensitive, though she’s not likely to admit it. She is empathetic and loving and wonderful. She is the truest of the true, the bluest of the blue and the best god damned friend you could ever ask for.
Jen Hatcher has been there for me in some of the most difficult and trying times in my life. Always offering a shoulder to cry on, a hand to lend, or pages of words encouraging me to do something with my life. Urging me to follow my dreams. Pushing me to turn my life around when there was no one else that could do that for me. She was there cheering me on and chairing my fan club when I felt alone and scared and was ready to give up.
She’s tougher than tough, stronger than strong and has endured some extremely challenging times in her life–things that could literally crush anyone’s soul. And she has lived through it all with remarkable grace and poise and patience. The world would be a better place if we would all strive to be just a little more like her.
I could go on for days, and it still wouldn’t do her justice. I am so lucky to have such a incredible and amazing friendship with Rock and Roll Jen. I never saw it coming that cool autumn some 20 years ago as Meatloaf blared from the high school gym. But beyond the eyeliner and tight jeans was an extraordinary spirit so unique and special who has come to mean so much to me. Ultimately, I’m writing because I’m inspired by her and I’m grateful every single day to have her in my corner.
My friend Jen. Keep on rockin’, you skid.
Recently, I returned to work from a year’s maternity leave. This time I took the whole year to spend time with my little children, to enjoy them while they’re young. When I left my job last February, there were about 9 people working in the office. Upon my return, our office staff in Toronto had grown to about 30 people or so. The positions and offices are mostly filled with people handpicked by my boss, which made the notion of returning to work intimidating. The folks he selected are star players! These people are the stand outs in the crowds with which he has shared his working life. And here I was, some lady he’d been stuck with, re-emerging on the scene. And this lady questioned her relevance and her capacity to live up to the tasks and mandate set before her.
That first week, we’d been to the doctor and/or hospital multiple times, where Alice was eventually diagnosed with a particularly disgusting and nasty bout of impetigo on both hands, after having some weird mouth virus and four days of fever. Impetigo is gross and it looks really really painful. It’s super contagious to other children and basically you have to keep it covered so it doesn’t spread. Have you ever tried to bandage a baby’s hands? I learned from this ordeal that babies think band-aids are some tasty shit. Our solution? Socks on the hands. And we got some antibiotics, which are an adventure all themselves when trying to administer them orally to a 11 month old.
At around the same time, I became painfully aware of how sharp Alice’s little teeth had become via an awfully wounded nipple, that still hasn’t quite healed after nearly two months. I’m convinced it will never ever heal, but there is a little glimmer of hope inside me that thinks that maybe one day in the near future, I might be able to nurse her on the left side without recoiling in pain. Maybe.
So my first week back was a literal hell, between the boobie wound, impetigo, and some shaky days with my husband’s job security (though luckily our concerns were quickly elayed). The stress of a new childcare arrangement, the TTC commute, and all the on the job learning required to get back up to speed were so much that I was literally collapsing in tears at the end of every day. I’m stressed just writing about it!
If you’d really like to keep track, you could add in a dash of serious sleep deprivation for the last 6 months and a healthy dose of mummy guilt. You know, the kind of guilt the eats away at you for not “being there’ for your family who needs you so desperately. I’d failed at meal planning, and doing the grocery shopping to stock our fridge and pantry with the things we’d need to keep us going. I was behind on laundry, and every room in our apartment had seen much better days. With all the things I had failed to do, I had no time to make up for it. No time to run the errands, do the preparations necessary to make this transition slightly smoother for all everyone in our little family.
But then the second week came, and then the third, and the fourth week. And now I feel as though I am rocking along at a fairly respectable and steady pace. And the pieces? They’re all falling into place. I’m learning a lot, I’m quickly getting back up to speed, and I remembered finally that I LOVE WORKING! I love my job and the people I work with are all really really awesome. More awesome than I ever could’ve anticipated. I’m starting to hit my stride and I just love everyone and everything that I’m doing. Then the end of the day rolls around, and though I have to fight my way on to a streetcar, I’m excited. I’m excited to come home to the perfect little faces that shine so bright with smiles when they hear mummy come up the stairs. I’m excited to kiss my handsome husband, who has already started dinner, folded laundry and worked a full day, and is waiting to greet me with a smile just as bright.
This new year, I set my motto as I always do. I knew it was going to be a challenging year with lots of ups and downs and that I would need to stretch to make it all work. That I’d need to put it all out there on the line to be successful in 2015. And so I remind myself regularly that this year, I’m going “All In”. How could I not, my friends……I’ve been dealt the royal flush.
When I was a little kid, I was often curious about the white stone signage you’d see on the side of the Gardiner Expressway. I wondered who made those things? How did they do it? How did they access the side of the highway like that? And what was on the other side of that hill? Who were the people that lived there?
Flash forward, 30 some odd years, almost every morning, I walk down to King Street, and look over to the Gardiner, and see those white stone marquees peaking up at me from under the snow as I wait for the streetcar. It brings me so much joy, knowing those little white stones are there. I look down at the frustrated folks stuck in their cars commuting into downtown and feel gross satisfaction that I am where I am, overlooking that highway just above those pretty little rocks.
A few months ago I thought that it might be time to end my love affair with Toronto. Living in the city with two kids definitely has its challenges. And sometimes, those challenges are enough to make you throw up your hands and consider high tailing it out of here. There’s no space! There’s no time! It’s dirty, and it’s noisy and traffic is always a nightmare. I have no lawn, and my front yard is a receptacle for the neighbourhood garbage. My yard also acts as a toilet for some hard pressed folks.
People poop in my driveway, my friends. Poop.
Even at it’s grimiest, Toronto is expensive and everything is always busy. The transit overcrowding is unbearable. Furthermore, owning property is an unattainable pipe dream, with the most recent studies saying that the average (AVERAGE!) price of a detached home in Toronto is ONE MILLION DOLLARS.
It’s easy to wonder: “WHY WOULD ANYONE LIVE HERE????? I certainly started to wonder, and then I started to consider the alternative. I visited other places, I did some research, I talked to friends who live that alternative and I thought maybe we could make it work somewhere else. I had started to feel like living in Toronto wasn’t working anymore and that me, and my family, just didn’t fit in.
After all that I had my feelings resolved and the logistics worked out. I had started to plan our departure. Then I stepped outside and I heard a dinging streetcar. A pigeon shat on my hand as I pushed the double stroller down Queen street. I smiled at my fortune and a lady asked me for money. The same lady asks me a second time when I pass her again later. And now I see the people, the traffic, the aging retro storefront signs. I see a new Kizmet piece, or a KPS tag or manage to spot a new Lovebot. I smile and wave at my neighbours, I talk to the independent shop-keeps and I slink by the abandoned mattresses that abound on the streets of Parkdale. And though I’m a teensy bit sad about the sacrifices Marigold and Alice will have to make by growing up in the city, I’m excited for the life and electricity and culture they will experience by growing up here. And in it all I realize I can’t leave. Not now, and maybe not ever.
Nine years, this March , I’ve been here in this city and I still have no idea who looks after those little rock signs. I still get excited to see those white stone marquees lining the Gardiner Expressway, just as I did when I was a kid, Only now, when I look up, I know my home is there, just beyond the stones….Where I still belong.
Happy Anniversary, Toronto.
Every once in a while, all things align to make for a great day. A really special day. The best day even.
A day where plans are loose, some freedom is in sight, and your best pal is in town.
People on the streets are happy and the air is light. No where to be, no one’s schedule to follow and the day just unfolds itself for you with almost no effort.
And at the end of the day you just can’t seem to fire your way into the number one spot for all time galactic hero, but it doesn’t matter because there’s still the walk home. It’s quiet and oddly bright and it feels like you have the night all to yourself. Just you and your Parkdale.
You’ll have to excuse me. I haven’t quite been myself for the last little while.
I’ve done things, said things, not done things, not said things–all amounting to a compilation of actions or non actions that are not part of my true character, things that do not reflect who I truly am. So, I’m sorry for the emails I never sent, the texts I didn’t respond to, the thank you notes I never wrote, the phone calls I never answered, the plans I blew off, the mean things I said, the hurtful way that I acted, and even the secret angry feelings that I had that no one knew about.
I think/hope it’s behind me now. The postpartum depression, that is. More than five months have passed since I gave birth, and I should be on the other side of it by now. At least it feels like I am.
At the times when I felt my most low, I wanted to write about it. I wanted to work through it with words and I wanted to share it but I never knew if it was really real. Mostly, I really and truly desperately wanted to look at the bright side, find the silver lining, but there were some days where I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t allow myself to feel the sunshine in my life. And some days I was much more successful than others–feeling good, looking good and setting all the bad feelings aside so that I could enjoy this extraordinary life of mine.
I didn’t talk to my doctor about it, no one confirmed it for me. I’m pretty sure, though, it was the good ole baby blues. The part after giving birth that no one tells you about because they simply can’t explain it to you in a way that will help you understand what you’re about to go through, should it happen to you. I wouldn’t typically recommend the “wait and see” approach when it comes to mental health matters. If you’re feeling sad, anxious and might be suffering from any sort of depression, talk to your doctor. She can help. But in this case I felt strongly that if I waited long enough, I could see it through.
It probably wasn’t that bad, looking at the bigger picture, and comparative to other women who suffer much much worse than I ever did, but it was very real, and I felt very, very inexplicably sad.
Martin would lovingly ask questions that I couldn’t really answer, and make suggestions that I really didn’t want to hear. I was just sad, and I was so sad that I just didn’t want to do anything about it other than move far away from everyone and everything. And the guilt–guilt for being sad when in my head I knew how fortunate I was to have such an amazing, loving and supportive husband, two of the most beautiful and hilarious children ever to grace the earth, an awesome job, and great friends, and food to eat, and a charming apartment in a city that I love. How could I possibly be sad when I have all those things and there are so many people that have so much less? But I WAS sad. Those feelings were real.
I turned to Google for advice, naturally. I then felt strongly that the people who had written these articles for the internet about what to do when you have postpartum never actually had postpartum depression, because I certainly did NOT want to
- Talk to someone
- Get exercise
- Eat healthy
I wanted to
- lay on the couch
- eat copious amounts of potato chips and chocolate bars, and drink gallons of Jones Cream Soda
- never see or talk to anyone I knew ever again, aside from the people that lived in my house
I felt so alone, and I was the least amount of physically alone that I’ve ever been for my entire life. And I wanted to shine, I wanted to be me, I wanted things to be normal but I just couldn’t bring myself to turn it all around. I did, however, keep telling myself that it won’t last, it’s only temporary, and that it isn’t me. And then it went away. Mostly.
The loneliness is still here. But motherhood, in general, has been rather lonely for me. It feels so strange to admit that. I feel like an outsider in the realm of motherhood, which is a feeling that is so foreign to me. Usually, I’m right in the middle of things–I’m the one making the plans, organizing, keeping shit together and getting the party going. This is a whole different playing field. I’m shy, and self conscious and feel like the other mums are judging me. Judging me because somehow they know that I let my kid eat food that’s fallen of the floor sometimes, that the amount of hair on my bathroom floor is disgusting, and that I put brown sugar on my daughter’s Shreddies and sometimes I let her pee in the park . I feel as though my attempts at forging friendships haven’t really been that well received. Maybe I’m simply not as congenial on the playground as I typically am in a bar after a few tequila sodas, But I’m working on it.
A lot of the loneliness probably stems from missing my friends, my crew. My life changed…our lives have changed. The scene changed, we’re doing different things. And I’m ok with that, but I miss it. And I think it’s ok to miss it. isn’t it? But missing it does makes me lonely.
I remember on a particularly sad day walking along Queen, by the park, listening to LCD Soundsystem’s All my Friends. I was walking along and people were smiling at me and my beautiful baby. I was wearing sunglasses and tears were streaming down my face. I don’t think anyone noticed I was crying. But James Murphy was blasting in my ear, singing “You spent the first five years trying to get with the plan and the next five years trying to get with your friends”. I couldn’t NOT cry. And later he sings, repeatedly, “If I could see all my friends tonight”. And honestly I thought, if I could see all my friends tonight! It would make me feel better. Because I miss them. And I’m thinking it again now! But now I’m excited, because I’m feeling better and I’m looking forward to seeing them all again. Yo dudes, what’s up? I miss you guys. Let’s hang. August 6th? Yeah!
So there it is. It’s out there. The last 5 months haven’t been the absolutely most best and amazing and shiny times in my life. I don’t write this because I want your sympathy, or your pity or because I’m feeling sorry for myself. I’m writing because this is what I do. I write to remember it all. I want to remember that I felt bad for a little while after my little baby was born, it’s part of me and it will serve as a reminder to be additionally grateful on brighter days in the future. And now, I’ll pick up and return from this little detour and re-focus on living an extraordinary life. It’s time to polish it up–don’t just live, Peatts–SHINE!
I’m overly emotional today. Not sure why, but these days come every now and again, and I’m thinking it’s likely related to my hormones not having leveled out yet. Anyways, I’ve been writing this post in my head for nearly a week, but the words usually come to me as I nurse Lady Alice to sleep a night, just moments before I collapse into bed and go to sleep for a solid six hours. I’m typically clinging to the words as I drift off, desperately hoping to remember them in the morning when I have time to write. But mostly I forget, and mostly there is laundry and dishes and toys that need my attention. And if I’m lucky I’ll sneak in a bath or some needle work, or meal prep for later in the day. I might even brush my teeth. Or sometimes I just get sucked into three episodes of Gossip Girl on Netflix and just can’t stop myself from watching the train wreck of a teen-aged soap opera.
Some days I’m sad. Not sad like I used to be, but still sad. If I let those feelings take over it could very easily become that former sadness that left me feeling powerless for so long. So I work at finding the bright spots.
There was a day last week when I felt especially blue and I unadmittly needed to focus some energy on finding some light to shine through it all. I had planned to stick around the house for yet another day because the weather was supposed to be as shitty as it had been the rest of the week. There was, however, a small window of sunshine, and I did need a few supplies from The Workroom, so I put Alice on and took a walk down Queen. I picked up the few things I needed at the fabric store, and on my way back I stopped into the River Trading Company, which is primarily a used bookstore, but has some other junk too. I had barely been into the store previously–setting foot only in the foyer to ask a question about stock. I don’t have time much for reading these days, as I’m sure you can imagine. I noticed a sign in the window that they were planning to close their doors, so there was a sale. I won’t vault into a diatribe about local businesses closing their doors, leaving vacancies for franchises to pop up, I’ll save that for another time–just know the sentiment is there.
Anyways, I went in and took some time to look around. Like a true magpie, I found several “shiny” things to take home with me to stash away in my nest:
- The World According to Garp, John Irving (My favourite author and one of my favourite books)
- A Son of the Circus, John Irving (I’ve never read it, but I’m sure it will have bears in it and it will be awesome)
- Beautiful Losers, Leonard Cohen (Again, never read it, but it probably deserves a read)
- A stack of vintage hankerchiefs (Which I will embroider and give as gifts)
- A book of illustrations that I was going to hack up and use for some craft projects
All at 30% off! The score had successfully cheered me up a bit and my steps home were a bit lighter. I love those days when I come across really awesome finds that seem just right for me and my apartment. I stopped at Kitten & The Bear for a cup of tea and to grab another jar of the tomato and tawny port jam. The tea was the icing on the cake. I was feeling pretty good about my excursion and was excited to tell Martin all about it when I got home.
He’s become quite comfortable with the ritual of me unpacking my treasures for him. He’s always saying the right things and showing interest in the junk I typically drag through the door into our already crowded apartment.
Once unpacked, I started to flip through the book of illustrations. The book, titled “Kate Greenaway” was simply a collection of pictures and rhymes taken from Kate Greenaway’s works. I’d never heard of her before, but it turns out Greenaway was a children’s book illustrator and writer from the late 19th century. And as it happens, one of her books was called “Marigold Garden”! I was absolutely thrilled with the sweet surprise bearing my precious little one’s name. The illustrations were beautiful and the words were lovely and this fantastic little score did wonders for my sad soul!
Once you start to open yourself up to seeing the bright spots, you’ll realize all the ways the universe is smiling at you. A man gives you the last sausage at the polish deli, or you see some local dude taking his python for a walk around your neighborhood. Or there’s a randomly strewn pair of pants laying all weird on the sidewalk that makes you laugh because WHAT THE HELL?!?!
And sometimes, something happens that is just pure magic…something that changes your day, or even your life! You just have to watch for it and the universe will smile at you. It always does.
There are few things in life (aside from my children and husband) that make me happier than making mixed cds, wandering the streets of Toronto or cooking brunch for friends. I seem to easily forget that this holy trinity is the simplest way to get me out of any sort of funk, and remind me that there is so much in life to love–no matter how much this child screams in my face.
I was reminded of these things a few weekends ago when I managed to pull off said trifecta. I went for long stroll, heading west along Queen, from Bathurst to Beaconsfield, while wearing, and sometimes nursing my baby. Martin and MG were at the soccer game so I had the afternoon alone with Alice. It had been quite a long week, with a lot of face screaming and pacing and gripe water. Baby Alice is quite different from Marigold, who slept constantly and barely cried. However, Alice sleeps at night, and is usually only fussy in the evenings so I will try my best not to complain. Anyways, a long walk was much needed therapy for my tired soul.
The next day, my old pal AQP came over for a delicious brunch (sadly, no pictures!) and I was reminded of the magic that is a home cooked Sunday brunch. I used to pull off amazing brunch feats back in the day, almost every weekend, when I wasn’t too hungover or craving a traditional from Sneak’s. Still high from the brunch success, later that night I busted out the old laptop that hosts all of my music. I haven’t yet transferred my iTunes library to my new machine, so I sadly spend most of my time listening to internet radio these days. Every time I get out that old machine, open up iTunes and hit play, it’s like I’ve taken drugs. Really awesome drugs.
I was reminded while out on my Saturday stroll, that a friend’s birthday was just around the corner. This chum really appreciates my handmade efforts–I usually go above and beyond to ensure her gifts, for whatever occasion, are out of this world. I also know that she really appreciates a good mixed cd and making a mix makes me insanely happy! It’s the only opportunity I have to play DJ in this life-piling the songs into the playlist, to curate and organize once I’ve made my way through the entire library. Sometimes the cd’s have a theme or constraint, making it tricky to deliver, but this time, all I needed were songs I liked.
For this project, it was tough to narrow it down to 80 minutes of music, but I managed to cram some ska, reggae, soul, grunge and 50’s/60’s oldies into the mix. I think there’s even some 90’s alternative on there. I typically arrange the cd like sets and I listen to the beginnings and endings of songs over and over to make sure it all jives. And then, once I’m satisfied, I give it a full listen from beginning to end, to make sure it’s perfect.
The songs on that cd entitled “Songs I like, Cuz I Like You” include some of my all time favourites that still hold up today. The recipient, I’m sure, won’t love it all, but I know for certain that she will love hearing the opening beats of the Wanderer, by Dion. Everyone loves hearing it. If you know someone who doesn’t love it, I would like to hear about it–because I find that hard to believe.
I am sure that I first heard Dion when sleeping over at my friends house as a kid. We’ve been friends since the day I was born and we’re still friends today! She lived with her mom and older sister, and her step dad. I remember the sisters rolling their eyes to me when I would sleep over about how their step dad would probably come home later that night, a few sheets to the wind, and start playing his records really loud. He had been known to do that, and while I’m sure it annoyed the fuck out of them, whenever I slept over I secretly hoped he would come home, wasted, and blast his records. It was the mid 80’s but he was listening to that classic pop music from the 50’s and early 60’s and I thought it was awesome. My parents were really into 8 tracks and country, and I was more into records and rock and roll. I’m pretty sure we were awakened by him playing Dion on many occasions, though typically he was more fond of “I Wonder Why” and “Runaround Sue”.
Several years ago, I was going through a 50’s/60’s music phase right along side my burgeoning interest in Jackie Kennedy. I listened to a lot of 1050 CHUM in those days, and my iTunes library started to fill up with the Chiffons, Ricky Nelson and Sam Cooke. And of course Dion. And the song the Wanderer became one of many theme songs in my life.
The song itself is about a transient guy with lots of lady friends and he travels all around never looking to settle down. While my life at the time wasn’t quite that exciting–there was a lot of dudes around, I liked to party a lot and I did roam the streets ALL THE TIME. I would wake up (late) on the weekends, pack my bag with some smokes, some cash, maybe my flask, do a little paper work and head out the door for the day, sometimes not returning until late in the evening. I wouldn’t have a destination planned, or a rendezvous arranged, I would just wander for hours. And sometimes I would meet up with my sweet chum in the park to watch the dogs, who was also spending her Saturday, just walking around.
I had my own lyrics–replacing the girls names in the song with the dudes that we all knew. I’d sing it in the streets, I’d dance to it at bars, and sweet djs would dedicate the song to me because they knew of my love for the song. And it is the only way I can tolerate the saxophone. I hate the saxophone, but the sax solo at about 1:45 gives me goosebumps every time.
These days, my solo walks along Queen are few and far between, and I’ve traded my cigarettes and flask for a baby sling, but I’m still wandering. And I still listen to the Wanderer by Dion. Over and over again.
I’ve been trying to remember how old I was when I got my first keyboard for Christmas. Between 7-9 I guess. It was the 21 key Casio PT100. And it was awesome. I also got 4 how-to books that taught you how to play. The music in the books had the notes on the staff and there were stickers so you could mark the keys on your keyboard. And that, my friends, is how I learned to play the piano. I commited to memory the notes of the treble clef, and eventually the stickers all rubbed off the keys and it all stuck in my brain. I also had this pretty great ability to figure out how to play a song just by listening, so when I had worn my way through those four beginner books, I just sortof figured out the songs I wanted to play. I was only about 9 after all, so my selections weren’t really that complicated, but I could really nail Somewhere Over the Rainbow, and mash out all the favourite hymns I knew from church.
Before the PT100, there was the old decrepit organ in the basement. You had to hit the switch a few times to get it to turn on, sometimes augmenting the switch flip with a hard shake of the whole instrument. It took a few minutes for it warm up, and it always had a loud and distinct hum that you would have to ignore if you wanted to be in the same room for any length of time. I mostly managed to tune it out while playing. I loved to goof around on it, with it’s push button chords and two dusty keyboards. I think my sisters may have had to practise on it for their piano lessons, and needless to say, they gave up, as would most respectable humans because the sound was actually atrocious.
When I was around 11, the church I attended got new hymn books, and were “selling” the old ones for a $4 donation, and unfortunately the Sunday this was all going down, I was sick with the chickenpox, so I missed out on the hymn book sale. Devastated, I was, since I wanted to at least see if I was playing the right notes to the hymns, and learn others that I just couldn’t figure out on my own. A lady at my church, Joanne, knew that I really wanted one, so that Sunday, she dropped it by. I get all misty-eyed just thinking about it. To her, it was likely a very small gesture, but it was significantly influential to me.
I played the shit out of “Great Hymns of Faith”, making up the chords based on the way things sounded in church. I didn’t know how to read the bass clef–my instructional books failed to cover that. I also refused to play anything with more than 2 flats or 3 sharps, so instead I would transpose the music in my head. How I learned about key signatures is beyond me–I just kinda knew.
I would alternate playing through that hymn book on the organ and on my little PT100, pretending to be Mrs. Speer (piano) or Mrs. Toews (organ)–the ladies who accompanied the congregation in their singing. My dream was to one day become the church pianist. But clearly I couldn’t do it without piano lessons or a real piano.
I’m not sure why my parents never indulged my desire for lessons–most parents force that shit on their kids, but I guess they just didn’t take it seriously. Or maybe they just thought I didn’t need them. So instead, later that year for Christmas, I got upgraded to the Casio MT 520.
This model had more keys, though they were much smaller and it had a pretty sweet drum pad. You could really rock out, I guess, but I just wanted to play church hymns like a weirdo. And hymns I played until I started busting the keys. I first lost the F sharp just below middle C, and next to go was the B flat in the same direction. The keys were broken, but you could still hit them so they would press the little button underneath to make the sound. Until that button came off and the notes stopped working entirely. I think at the end I had about 7 or 8 broken keys on that thing, but I just wouldn’t give up.
Whenever I was in a place that had a piano, I would play it. People’s houses, the school music room, church, AWANA, wherever. And if I couldn’t play it for whatever reason, my stomach would almost hurt because I wanted to so bad. I wished all the time that my parents would just buy me a frigging piano. It couldn’t be that hard, right? So many birthdays I would secretly hope for the best birthday surprise of all, where I would come home and find a piano delivery truck in our driveway. Unfortunately, no such surprise ever materialized.
About halfway through grade 9, at 14 years old, I finally got the chance to take lessons. They were offered at my school, and I could duck out of geography once a week for a 30 minute, $9 lesson with Mrs. Giesbrecht. I told her of my dreams to become a church pianist, and she wanted to help me with that, but she knew I needed to learn some proper technique first–which I absolutely hated. She pointed out to me that I didn’t play with my thumbs. She thought it was the strangest thing she’d seen, until I explained that I couldn’t really use my thumbs to play properly on the MT-520. The keys were just too small for my hand span. Understanding my technique was hampered by the tiny keys, she mostly overlooked my awkward fingering and encouraged me to continue. She was a really nice lady.
The summer after grade 9, my dad died. And when Mrs. Giesbrecht called to see if I would be continuing lessons in the fall and to inform us of a price increase, I told her I wasn’t sure that we would still be able to afford it, with my dad no longer around. She offered to keep the lessons at the original price and I was able to continue to take lessons for the next 2 years or so.
When someone dies there’s a ton of shit that happens, unexpected costs arise and life gets a bit crazy. Not only does it suck that you’ve just lost your loved one, but you basically get screwed in a lot of different ways when you’re trying to wade your way through the grief. Months after my dad died, his friends held a memorial golf tournament in his honour. The proceeds from that tournament were donated to our family. I’m not sure why my mom agreed to use a portion to buy me a piano, but she did, and I was super jazzed. Pretty much the only bright spot after months of shitty despair.
We scoured the newspapers, and piano stores as there wasn’t the internet in those days. We came across an old painted upright that was for sale for $400. It didn’t have a bench and it was painted, but the price was right, so we went to check it out. It was a nice piano, the keys were quite yellow, but the paint job wasn’t bad and the sound was really nice. It was the one. The thing I had wanted for my entire life. My very own piano.
The day the piano was delivered was probably one of the most exciting days of my life. I played it from when I got home until well past my bedtime. I remember sitting in the dark living room playing because the sun had set and I didn’t want to get up to turn the lights on. It looked nice in our living room, and the yellow keys never bothered me. My very thoughtful and talented friend, Amber, managed to make me a matching bench in her grade 11 shop class. I don’t think I ever really thanked her for that–it really is a beautiful piece, and especially so, since she was only like 16.
Not long after I got the piano, I did my Grade 8 Piano exam, and passed with flying colours. I went on to be a church pianist and eventually a worship director. I played at almost every service (sometimes 3 a week–it was a fundamental baptist church after all!) for probably 4 years or more. It was a dream come true–the lessons, playing in church, and the piano.
When my mom sold the house several years later, I moved into a one bedroom apartment with no room for a piano, and such has been the case since then. There’s never room for the piano. My Auntie housed my piano at her place for years hoping that one day I might be able to find room for it, until she moved, and could look after it no longer.
My super friend, Rock N Roll Jen offered to take it for me and it stayed with her up until now. I could visit it when I wanted, and it being at Jen’s made for some loud and drunken piano sessions. The time has come that Jen can no longer keep it for me, and I can’t move it here. I’ve come to realize that I will never, while living here in Toronto, be able to host a piano of it’s size. We might be able to fit it into our home now, but we’d never be able to get it up the two flights of stairs. We couldn’t even fit a regular couch in, so I doubt a hundred year old upright would fit.
So it’s time to let it go. I’ll try to give it away–we haven’t had luck so far, but maybe soon someone will take it. And if not, I’ve got a back up plan–my friend Mike and his company Just Junk will know what to do with it–sad as that outcome may be.
The last tune I tickled on it’s ivories was a shaky rendition of Lovesong by the Cure. Pretty fitting, I’d say.
I’m no longer a church pianist nor am I a worship director. I don’t even really play at all anymore. I guess it’s all behind me now but I wanted to tell you about my piano. It’s just an instrument, I know, but it was so much more than that to me and I thought you should know.
The last few weeks haven’t included much more than two hour stints of sleep, eating and sitting topless on the couch. Oh, and clogging my friends news feeds with pictures of my children. I’m kinda tied to Alice and the couch for the most part, so for entertainment I take pictures of my kids, post them on Instagram and share them on Facebook. At least until the weather is a bit nicer.
Oh GOD I never wanted to be a mommy blogger–I just wanted to write about my life, but I guess my life right now is mostly about being a mummy. Gone are the days of passing out on a toilet in the basement bathroom of a bar on Queen from too much to drink and waking to write about it the next morning.
And here I am, again, to tell you more about my child-centered life. Among the night feedings and diaper changes, I had been preparing feverishly whenever I found a few minutes, for Marigold’s third birthday. I really wanted it to be very special for her, so I asked her what she wanted. Decorations of orange and green, she said. A small vanilla cake, she said. Katie’s mummy, she said. All of these things were a surprise to me–she doesn’t have favourite colours as far as I know, and I didn’t think she knew the difference between chocolate and vanilla. And we haven’t seen Susie (Katie’s mummy) since last summer I think. But these were the things she wanted. And I wanted to make it happen.
We had a small party with her nearest and dearest. She helped me bake her cake and I worked my butt off whenever my boobs were free. And here are the results: a very special party for my special little girl.
She’s growing up, and while part of me wishes she would stay 3 forever (because she’s just so goddamned cute), I’m excited to see what kind of person she grows into.
The weeks and months leading up to my maternity leave were slightly stressful. Stressful only because the pressure I put on myself of course. I love working. I love working hard–I love accomplishing things and being good at what I do. I also enjoy being a part of a growing company and building a team and providing products and services I believe in. While it sounds like a cushy deal, taking a year off for maternity leave, for me, is a lot harder than it sounds.
Don’t be mistaken, I love my family, and I love being a mummy to Marigold and a wife to Martin, but it really doesn’t define me as a person. It’s not the be all, end all of me. Neither is my job. I am the sum of these things and many others–all of which make me who I am.
While my current job isn’t exactly my dream job, it’s still awesome and I like the company and love my boss and the people I work with. The hardest part is the timing, of course. Putting my career on hold when things are positioned for growth in a major way isn’t the ideal scenario I had imagined when I first found myself with child. I hadn’t expected that I would be getting a new boss, and that I would need to make a new and lasting impression on someone when I was tired, bloated and irritable. I didn’t think that I was about to miss out on something really rad for the next year. I hate to miss out on things–I love to be right in the action!
I’m sure tons of other women and men go through the same thing when they take their respective parental leaves. I truly am grateful for the opportunity to take the full 50 weeks to spend time focusing on my new baby and growing family.
The last time I went on mat leave, I was literally counting the minutes before I could walk out the door and not return for several months, even though I was still there late on my last day. This time I was really sad to go. I was having sleepless nights thinking about the many projects I had on the go just before clocking out for the next year, and as my last day crept closer, I had expected my stress level to spike, but it slowly dissipated. I was ready to go, and I know that I’m not in any real danger of being left behind at work. I’m confident that I’ll be able to return and pick up where I left off and just spend this year focusing on real life–and my family. What a treasure.
Almost three years ago now, I revived my blog because of this overwhelming need to write it all down. I needed to tell everyone how I had never loved as much as I loved right then. With hormones running rampant, I’m sure, I was plagued with so many feelings and emotions, but it was the love that overflowed.
When I first discovered I was pregnant with my second child, of course I was thrilled, but there were hesitations that I hadn’t expected. I was worried about how I could possibly have TWO children (people survive with many more, I know I’m ridiculous) and look after them successfully. I was worried about our finances, and the size of our apartment. I was worried how Marigold will adapt. But most of all I was worried that I couldn’t possibly have any more love to give to another child. I just loved my little Marigold so much that I didn’t think it possible to have the capacity to love a new addition to our little family.
Martin gently reminded me that love multiplies as a family grows–and we have a never ending supply! We have found love in places that we never even knew existed.
The hardest part has definitely been dealing with my feelings for Marigold. It’s weird, but I miss her. I still spend time with her everyday, but she’s no longer my one and only, and I feel bad that my attention is divided. This has been the greatest source of postpartum tears. She is the most amazing big sister in all of the land, and I’m so proud with how she is handling it all. She is a huge help with Baby Alice, and I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve heard her say “Don’t worry, Baby Alice. Big sister’s right here” in the last 10 days. And it melts my heart every time.
One night I went to lay in Marigold’s bed with her before she went to sleep because I just missed her so. I couldn’t stop the tears from coming, as they so often do these days. I talked it over with Marigold, and for a not yet three year old, I’m impressed with her understanding. I apologized for not spending as much time with her as I used to. I got up to let her fall asleep, she said to me as I was leaving “Baby Alice needs you, Mummy.” She totally gets it, and it just made me cry harder. I’m so proud of her and I’m amazed at how awesome she is every single day.
Baby Alice is just perfect from head to toe and I loved her just as much as I did Marigold when she was placed in my arms. It’s like there’s a love explosion in your heart when you give birth–I would do it over and over again because the feeling is incredible. And the results–well, they’re incomparable.
So our love has grown. Martin was right–I didn’t have anything to worry about. We’re a family of four now. I’m truly grateful for all the things that I have in this life, and I honestly don’t take it for granted. I came from nothing, and now– I have everything. And it’s definitely not lost on me, this extraordinary life of love.
I don’t really believe in astrology, but historically I’ve found myself to be more friendly with capricorns, aquarius’ and tauruses. Never really found myself close to an Aries, and as such I think of her as quite the an unlikely friend. Not only is she an Aries, but she’s also 9 years my junior and I met her only because I hired her way back in 2010. Unlikely a friendship as it may seem, she’s pretty much been by my side since then.
I remember what she wore for her interview–it was quite formal, a white blouse and a high waisted black skirt. I don’t think she was wearing heels though–she wasn’t able to really pull off heels until about 2012. I was looking for someone at the time to be part of the department I was building in my previous company, and between her, and one other girl, I knew I had found the right people to take on the job.
Both girls were cheery, with great personalities and teachable spirits. Their experience was limited, but I knew I had found a couple of gems, so I snatched them up, not a moment too soon. When I changed jobs in 2012, I had stumbled on a company primed for growth, and I felt like a mountain of work was just around the corner and I could never face it alone. So I called on Smash.
She had kept the ship a-sail for me while I was maternity leave the first time–she is smart, dependable, reliable, creative with a lot of really great, though sometimes zany, ideas. We’ve had a lot of ups and downs, since she came to work with me again, more ups than downs though. We’ve had a lot of laughs and good times, but the work pace was much slower than what we were used to, and sometimes our frustrations with work and our desires to move more quickly drove distance between us.
There were times where I felt like she was judging me. There were times where I felt like she hated me. There were times I felt utterly, totally and weirdly responsible for any unhappiness she felt in life. And I can only begin to imagine what she felt about me–Picky, bossy, fussy, know it all Peattie. I am fairly certain she wanted to tear my head off at times, but fortunately we got through it….all body parts in tact. While it sounds crazy, it might do you some good to understand that we literally spend at least 40 hours a week together, face to face, less than three feet apart–and have for close to two straight years.
We were open with each other on almost every subject and we trusted each other in more ways that we had trusted other friends in our lives. And now as I start my maternity leave, I am trusting her again–with my job. Finally, after waiting patiently, things are starting to happen. She’s been promoted into the role she came on board to do–at a critical time in the company’s history. She’s taking on significant projects and has some key objectives she’ll have to deliver on this year. And it’s a lot. It’s a lot for anyone. But I know she can handle it. I am excited to see what this year brings for her because I know it’s going to be amazing. She’s surrounded by some really awesome people at the office, who I know she can count on to make things happen. She’s gonna do great!
On Friday night, after my last day of work, she helped me carry my things to my car and what we thought was going to be an emotional goodbye, didn’t really turn in that direction at all. I had cried earlier saying goodbye to even the most pesky co-workers, and there wasn’t a tear in my eyes saying farewell to my long time side kick, pal and protege. She made a joke about me missing her the least, but the reality is–I will miss her the least. Because I’m not going to miss her. Sure I’ll miss seeing her beautiful face every day, I’ll miss the sound of her laughter, and I will definitely miss the poor nutritional choices we made on a daily basis (guilt free). But I’m not going to miss her. She will continue to be a huge part of my life, filling up a special place in my heart while I’m at home with my babies–our relationship runs much deeper than 9-5, Monday to Friday. We don’t need to be three feet apart to maintain our friendship–it’s going to last for a long, long time…no matter our proximity.
I certainly got a lot more than I had ever bargained for the day I hired that brown-eyed ram, Smash. I thought I was simply getting a recent graduate for a product specialist. Instead, I got a life long friend. A lady who is truly awesome in every way.
I love you, chum.
Years and years ago, I came home to the Valentine’s Day gift that would keep on giving. He kept on giving for the next 14 years. Or taking, or eating, or growing or however you want to look at it.
I’ve never had a pet as long as I’ve had Grip. Most of my cats “ran away” or got hit by cars. I looked after my Nana’s dog for a long time, but whenever she returned from her travels, “Impy” went back with her. None them were around as long as Agrippa. He’s been mine for about 14 years.
14 years is a long time for a kitty, especially a really fat kitty. How he got so fat, I’m not really sure. He just kept growing and growing, and then he grew some more after he was neutered. His origins aren’t entirely clear, but from what I remember, he was found in a field in a box, then brought to a pet store, then home to live with us. There was a time where we thought he might be a mountain lion, he was getting so big so fast. Eventually he stopped growing at around 35 pounds.
The worst of it was not his size, but he was a total bastard as a kitten. He used to tear around our then apartment, climbing up people using his claws, scratching, biting, attacking at every opportunity. I can think of at least 5 people off the top of my head that likely have permanent scars from his misbehaviour. We couldn’t control him. We’d lock him in his kitty carrier to calm him down, but he figured out how to unlock it. He’d get the gate open, and come tearing out faster and more furious than before. Probably the meanest cat around. But he was so very very sweet too–if there ever was a Jekyl/Hyde kitty situation, this was it. He would curl up at night between our pillows and cuddle with us all night long. In the morning we would wake to the sweet smell of his kitty breath. I’ll miss his kitty breath the most.
Grip spent the majority of his life eating diet food and having human sized poops. He was so big, he relied on Simon to keep him clean. He was a total pain in the ass, but I spent many lonely nights cuddled up with him in my bed. When I had no one, I always had Tubby, and I’m certain that there never was another pet that loved their master as much as he loved me.
He was confused when Marigold was born, and he watched me like a hawk when I first brought her home. He eventually took to her and they became very good chums. He tolerated her hugs and tugs and kisses, and often looked for her if she was away visiting her auntie or grandparents for the night. She loved him, and he loved her which made this whole thing incredibly difficult.
Last Tuesday, we said goodbye to Agrippa, the Roman statesman kitty. It was his time. I asked some of his old friends to say a few words about him.
“Oh poor boy. He was scary but still part of the family. He wanted to hurt me but not bad enough to lose his comfy spot”
“Cat Heaven is a little fatter now.”
“Whoa is that a cat?”
“Hard to believe that he was such a fiesty little thing. I will miss that girth. Actually, he was a demon. He would attack us for no reason.”
“When I read that Agrippa had died, the first thing that came to mind was Gord and Andrea’s place on Spencer…We ate, we talked, we napped. We put on music to propel us into the night, then came crashing back home. We talked into the early morning until we fell asleep, then we got up and started all over again. What was it, that magic we created? I don’t know. But Agrippa was there, and is still, presiding over some of my fondest memories.”
“He is the best damned cat that ever lived. A true legend. He was a great friend. Over the years, I’ve thought about him often and I’ve always missed him very much. Today, I’m really sad”
Thus ends the long and obese tail of Agrippa. If there is some sort of kitty after life, I’m sure Grip has found Simon and they have banded together to form the unholy army of the night they always dreamed about. But rather than causing kitty mischief, they’ve found somewhere cozy to snuggle up and groom each other. Lazy bastards.
Little known fact about Agrippa…his favourite band was the Pogues (Simon was more into Neil Young). This song goes out to him.
So long, Tubs.