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.
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.
As you may or may not have noticed, I haven’t been writing at all. I am a bit disappointed in myself because one of my goals for 2013 was to write more to ensure that I remember it all. I started the year off pretty good, but as life began to change, writing became less of a priority, more of a chore, and frankly, I felt like the things I have to say on the inside are not what I want other people to read. I hope that I was still focusing my energy on my output and creative pursuits rather than consumption of things. But a small part of me thinks that I’ve spent far too much time in front of the television in the last few months–television is a soul-sucking-life-eating time waster, and if I stop to think about it, I shudder at how it seems to drain the motivation right out of me. I’ll have to work on that this year.
I haven’t quite put together my intentions, goals or plans for 2014 just yet. That is disappointing in itself, but I’ve been having a rough go of it since the holidays started. I’ll spare you the details but I’m just not feeling myself. It is a real let down because I love the New Year. I love the chance to start fresh–to create a purpose for myself and my life and re-focus my energy on all the things I want to accomplish in the coming months. The truth is that I’m in this funny place–my life is about to be consumed by another human, I’ve got 5 weeks left on the job and there are no real and desirable goals that are jumping out at me aside from all the things that need to get done RIGHT NOW! I don’t even have a fucking motto or theme song for this year yet.
But I can’t let that get me down. It will come. It just didn’t come before January 1st. And I’m trying on a few candidate songs for 2014, so that’s something…
Though I’m not quite ramped up for 2014, I can still take the time to reflect on the things that have happened in the last year. It seems, based on my facebook feed, that people were happy to leave 2013 behind them. When I first started thinking about it, I realized I had a lot of great things to remember. So here they are, in no particular order, 8 things that happened in 2013 that make me happy.
Pee and a Plus Sign–We knew that we wanted to have more children, so what better time was there after we got married? I was late 4 whole days before Martin would let me take a pregnancy test. He didn’t think it was likely after only a few weeks, but I knew deep down there was a baby in my tummy. Sure enough, we put Marigold to bed, I peed on a stick, and a plus sign appeared. It’s been a bumpy ride, this pregnancy. I’ve had some minor scares, I’ve found myself much more emotional and much more exhausted. Only 7 weeks left to go until this child is scheduled to arrive. We’ll see if I can last that long.
The Begonia EP–While I didn’t do anything personally to accomplish this, it gives me a great deal of pleasure that Gord finally released some of his own music. It was a long time coming and I’m proud of the time and effort he put into it. It really is a great album.
I’ve got a New Boss Now –I really liked my last boss. He was awesome and hilarious and I literally cried for days when I found out he was leaving. I was certain that there was no way that the new boss would be awesome or good or that really anything positive could come of the change. Well, I was wrong, new boss is great. Awesome and amazing even. I’m actually quite sad to be going on maternity leave!
Hoops and Skeins and Fabric, oh my!–I’m not too sure where I got the idea for needlepoint from, but I had been thinking about it for a long while (I guess as an extension of my sewing dreams). Finally one day, I went to the Workroom and dropped less than twenty bones on the supplies I needed to get started. Turns out embroidery is a really simple and inexpensive hobby. It’s similar to tracing, except you’re using thread and the results are really impressive!
Paying it All Off–I have had this deep dark secret for so very long that I have ignored and shoved aside as much as I possibly could, but it was still always bringing me down. When I put my list together of things I wanted to for 2013, I included details on the things I wanted to accomplish. I didn’t want to acknowledge my financial issues–so I just put a line in my list that said “get financially on track”.
I had terrible credit and huge amounts of debt for a really long time and thinking about it made me feel ill to the bone, so instead of dealing with it head on, I just pretended like it didn’t exist. Turns out that doesn’t make it go away, and it doesn’t make you feel good, because no matter how hard you try, you can’t actually forget about it.
Anyways–through a variety of methods–tax returns, savings and what not, I was able to pay off my student loan, and the majority of my debt in 2013. I am no where near as good as I want to be with handling my cash, but I’m definitely a lot better than I was in 2012. I’m paying my bills and saving–I think that’s a good place to start! And for the first time in a really long time–I’m not afraid to answer my phone when it says “unknown caller” because it’s definitely not someone that I owe money to. The tremendous relief I feel is inexplicable.
Everything I’ve Longed For–I have loved Hayden and his music since the 90’s. I would have to say that “Everything I Long For” is probably the most played album I have ever owned. Actually–come to think of it, I don’t even think I own it–I borrowed it from my pal in 1997 and just never bothered to return it because I loved it so much.
I have cried more tears over the lyrics and songs on that album than I could ever dream of counting. They were a solace I could always count on for any break up. My good friend, Ryan T., also loves Hayden as much as I do. It is a special bond that we have shared for over a decade. At the end of November, I finally got to see Hayden in concert–with Ryan T. sitting a few rows behind me. It was pretty rad–the show was great, Hayden was hilarious and awesome–it was everything I ever could’ve wanted in seeing him live for the first time.
Nothing Better–Seeing Hayden live was a lot more likely than ever getting the chance to see the Postal Service. They did one album 10 years ago, and I think they only ever did one tour. I had often dreamed about getting the chance to see them live so when they announced a 10th anniversary tour, I would’ve paid just about anything to see them.
I went alone to the show at the ACC–it was a night just for me. I ate dinner at my favourite Mexican restaurant, did some shots of tequila and went to the show. As an added bonus, Mates of State were opening–they are always good live and also another one of my favourite bands.
Seeing the Postal Service was surreal. The music was fantastic, the lights were amazing and they loved every minute of being on stage. My heart was practically beating out of my chest and I felt like I had been tele-ported to 2004. The show was outstanding.
From this Day On–I always wanted a husband, pretty much for as long as I can remember. It was getting a bit dicey 5 or 6 years ago–I was beginning to think it was never going to happen. I was happy with my life, and was ok with the idea that maybe I wouldn’t get to have a husband one day. I always thought that I would make a pretty good wife. Turns out I make a great wife–just ask Martin. And really, being a wife and having a husband isn’t really what makes me happy–it’s the person that my husband is. His personality, his beliefs and convictions, his compassion and interests, his strength and honour–all of those things make him an amazing person. I’m thankful on a daily basis that he chose me to become his Mrs. McWaters. I laugh to myself from time to time about how unsure I was in the beginning when we started dating. And now, I couldn’t imagine my life without him. I really do love him more and more each day and really look for forward to spending the rest of my life with him.
2013 was great in a lot of ways. Of course there were some bad times–but what good is it to focus on that? It’s the bright spots that will keep you going…pining over the dark days will only bring you down! 2014 is going to be a busy one for us, and it’s a little scary to think about what we’re up against, but after writing this, I’m finally getting excited about setting some goals and planning for what I want to accomplish in 14.
I think I always knew about Sleater-Kinney, but I never really listened to them before I heard this song. Like really heard it.
If I had to guess, I would say that the song is probably supposed to be sarcastic in undertones, judging solely on what I’ve learned about Carrie Brownstein’s sense of humour on Portlandia. And since they’re sortof punk rock, it might just be a commentary on how people rely on material possessions to bring them happiness. Here’s what comes to mind when I put it on repeat.
Listening to Modern Girl reminds me of the way I felt about Hole’s “Violet” back in the 90s. It makes me want to wake up really early, drink coffee and smoke lots of cigarettes while I drive a really long distance shouting the lyrics at the top of my lungs. This song picks me up, it perks me up and makes me feel like I can face the world. The entire world. It doesn’t matter to me what social commentary Sleater Kinney meant to disseminate with Modern Girl. I blast this as my anthem–not because I’m a punk rock socialist. It is my anthem because my life, my whole life, IS a picture of the sunny day.
I have a beautiful baby who loves me. I have an amazing husband who loves me. I can get a really fucking awesome donut if I want, and buy a television if I really wanted to. And even if I didn’t have any of those things, my life would still be full of sunshine. Because that’s how I want to see it.
There are so many things that can stand in the way of happiness. Things that seem so important to the value of our lives, but instead of propelling us forward, they push us down or hold us back. Negative thoughts and actions have no purpose, but rather, they simply sap your drive to live and your will to see all that is good and lovely.
I don’t live in some weird euphoric utopian paradise zombie state, though reading back on what I’ve written, it may sound that way. I hurt and I cry and sometimes I think I simply can’t go on. Dwelling on those horrific feelings, while it seems to temporarily offer comfort and relief, doesn’t really offer any value, to me or anyone else. It simply draws energy away from the things I want to accomplish in this life.
I grew up in a pretty negative environment, surrounded by some pretty significant negative influences. I was so negative I can remember an era in my life where I would actually say to people that I didn’t want to live past 30. My first thought now is to laugh at such immature rationale, but when I really reflect on the implications of those things I was saying, I get scared. If things hadn’t changed and I hadn’t made a conscious effort to shed the negativity, I might not have made it to 30. And I never would’ve been able to enjoy this extraordinary life that I get to live today.
Happiness is a choice, and several years ago I made that choice to be happy. Surely I have days now and again where again I find myself smack in the middle of misery and despair. But I try to remind myself about the choice I made as quickly as I can. Rather than slowly wasting away in the dismal and gray, I can choose to live on and thrive in the shining sun.
Thank you, Sleater-Kinney, for writing and recording Modern Girl. It helps me remember to make that choice. Over and over again. And that’s what makes me a modern girl.