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Black and White and Grey All Over

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.

casio pt100

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.

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Casio MT520

Christmas Day–Me, My Dad and my 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.

my piano

Black and White and Grey All Over

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.

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90’s half shirt and Impy, and my piano

Upright Piano

Me and My piano, Prom 1996

baby playing piano

My niece Chrissy being coy

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My Kindred, Marty, and Amber, maker of the bench in the middle

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.

NYE 1999

Partying with my piano, NYE 1999

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January Celebrations

January is an especially special time around our house, and it really is nice to have something to celebrate in the cold, dark month of January.  Martin was born in January.  January 20th, to be exact.

I love his birthday, not just because we get to celebrate his existence, also because it’s when things started for us.  It’s the beginning of us.  I had met him long before his 30th birthday party, but it was that party that ignited the cliched spark that now burns brightly on a daily basis.  Barf, right?

Long before I came along....

Long before I came along….

I sometimes find myself thinking about what would’ve happened if I’d declined the invite to his birthday party way back in 2009, and I can barely fathom what I’d be doing right now.  Certainly not sitting on the couch watching him play video games, with a giant belly bursting with baby.

He’s changed a lot in the last five years.  Or maybe I just know him so much better.  I’m not sure which–but it doesn’t matter, because I only love him more for it.  And I am certain it will be that way until the day we die–I count on it.  We are fully committed to each other and we will work hard to make it last forever.

Together

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subway

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I was watching Marigold kiss and play with her little wind up frog and found myself saying to her:  “You might have to kiss a lot of frogs….”.  I had to kiss a lot of frogs, and suffer a lot, and I mean A LOT of serious heartbreaks before I fell in love with Martin.  I wouldn’t say that it was worth it, but what I would say is that it helped me realize and value what I have in my husband today.  I had an amazing life before he came along, but he really has made my life so very nice.  And for that, I am extremely grateful.

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mcwatersbeard

In light of all that, the lady McWaters’ of  Parkdale celebrated by baking a cake while their Mister/Daddy slept late.  We ate a lot of cake batter before it finally made it’s way in the oven.  Our dinner was delicious Indian and we took it real easy.  It’s a far cry from that first birthday we spent drunkenly belting karaoke at the Duke five years ago, but the celebration in my heart is just as strong.

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**sorry for the blurry photos!!

Remembering Stacks

I know I post the fuck out of this song.  But I don’t care.  I heard it again tonight when I had 5 minutes alone and I cried.

…he even fakes a toss

I had been thinking for a while now, about how I want to remember everything, the whole reason I write this blog.  And how, so very often a song comes on and it immediately transports me to another time and place.  A time and place that I truly lived.  I can honestly say that music, in whatever form, has been a driving force in my life.  I know most people could probably say that, but if you know me…like really really know me, you know this is true.  Truer for me than for most, you’d probably say.

It’s not often, however, that I can remember the first time I heard a song.

But this song, Re: Stacks by Bon Iver, and the moment I first heard it will stay with me until the day that I die.

I was probably just slightly overdue with Marigold at the time, and was living the ultimate wait and see routine–a classic life theme I’ve adopted from my favourite book, The Cider House Rules by John Irving.  I was just finishing up some housework and the upstairs of our then apartment was at it’s brightest point of the day.  You know how sometimes rooms have a time of the day where the outside light is just perfect and it makes you love your space in no way that furniture or design could ever do?  I have been fortunate to have this in almost all of my apartments in the city and I sincerely promise to never take that for granted.

the light at 195

It was that time of the day for 195 Grace Street.  It was that day where I thought I was truly ready for this life changing event that was about to occur.  I had been walking tons, drinking red raspberry leaf tea, and having what seemed like copious amounts of sex for a huge pregnant person (looking back it was probably just once or twice, it just seemed like a lot because I was massive AND exhausted) hoping to induce labour.  I was ready.  And then I heard this song.

It came on the radio.  I stopped, walked into the beautifully lit living space.  I sat down and I started to cry.    If I close my eyes and listen right now, I am overcome by the same feeling I had that day.  I can hear myself singing a little harmony on the chorus, as I’m want to do even when I’ve never heard the song before.  Somehow, in short six minutes, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver has me questioning everything I’ve ever done in my life, and my ability to do anything in the future.  And suddenly I know that things are never going to be the same.  Suddenly, Peattie herself is never going to be the same.  And it’s like suddenly I’m not ready, not ready for any of this.  And then suddenly it doesn’t matter.  This new addition to my life is going to share something with me that no other two people on earth are going to have, or ever even going to understand.

I’m not really sure what the song is about, and I might be disappointed one day to find out. And it doesn’t really matter because I love the words, the story, the strumming pattern, the melody, the chord progression, I love his voice.  But what I love the absolute most is the last line.  It is a promise, no, it is our promise.

I know there will be plenty of times in my life where I hear this song and it will have other powerful impressions to leave on my heart.  And as time goes on, Stacks will always be about reminding me of where I was, acknowledging where I am now, and dreaming about wherever I’ll be in the future.  But mostly how in all of this, I never want her to forget that her love will always be safe with me.

I always wanted a window seat…

So I made my own.  For every second that I find myself falling in love with my home, I have ten seconds of anxiety–worrying that my landlord is going to sell the house and I am going to have to move again. It’s not incredibly likely, but you never know.

I am becoming increasingly benign to the colour on the walls. We moved the bed and I moved curtains. Still some odds and ends to do…especially in our bedroom. But, tonight, this made me very happy:




 
Before
 
After

 

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Work-a-hol, not nearly as good as Alch-o-hol


I guess the first step is admitting it. I’m a workaholic.

And, I’m exhausted.

Over the last few months, I have been spending my days watching Marigold learn to grab things with her hands, learn to roll over, and learn to stick out her tongue. Not high in stress levels to be sure. Don’t get me wrong, staying at home and looking after a baby is very tough, but not incredibly challenging. At least not for me. I love my little baby so much and think she is the most amazing thing in the world, but spending every day all day with her (at this age at least) probably just wasn’t in the cards for me.

Leaving her to go back to work was heartbreaking, because I knew I’d miss her. I’ve spent 24 hours a day for the last 150 days with her, save for a few hours here and there. She’s my best friend. I’m her best friend, of course it was going to be hard. Fortunately, she’s staying home with her other best friend, her daddy, who loves her just as much as I do. Thank god.

The transition for all of us wasn’t as difficult as I thought, or at least not in the way I anticipated it to be. I thought I would spend the first day crying in my office because I missed her so much, and that she would be wailing and whining all day waiting for me to come home. Not so much.

I was also worried (and I can say this, because I know Martin doesn’t read my blog) that I would come home to a disaster house everyday. That I would be the one to walk in the door, clean the house, make dinner, do the laundry, look after the baby etc etc and then fall into a nervous exhausted mess and end up locked up somewhere. I have been surprised everyday, that this has not been the case in the slightest. And in reality, it would’ve been impossible, because I just don’t have the energy.

Of course I have high expectations for my home, and men often just don’t get it when it comes to having a tidy house. But that’s ok…I knew I couldn’t expect things to be done my way any more than I could expect Margiold to be dressed clothes that match. Let’s be serious.

He’s doing an excellent job. Accomplishing more than I thought any stay-at-home-dude ever could! And she loves being with her daddy, and he’s great with her. The dishes might not always be done, and she might be wearing a yellow striped onesie with pink polkadot pants, but the house is still standing. And frankly, I’m so happy to walk in the door when I get home, that I really don’t care that much that things are not done the way I would do them.

You see, this is a really big step. I am a boss, a manager, a director. Not just in my job, but in my home life too. To let this go is an amazing accomplishment for me.

So that being said, the whole transition was more difficult for me than I thought be in a way that’s different than I thought it would be. Does that even make sense? Let me explain.

My day goes like this…times are approximate
630-wake up feed the baby from one side, then pump the other
7-745 shower and get ready
745-8:30 Drive to Richmond Hill
830-12ish go go go go work work work work
12-1230 pump
1230-4 go go go go go work work work work
4-430 pump
430-5 clean up any last bit of work before I leave
5-6 Drive home
6-7 Feed the baby and spend time with her while Martin preps dinner
7-8 have dinner and mind the baby
8-10 try to relax and spend time with Marigold and Martin
10-1030 Nurse the baby to bed
Sometime after 1030–go to bed.

There is not one second in my day that is for me, except for maybe when I go to the bathroom. And before you jump on me and tell me to get used to it, fuck you. I’m sick of people telling me it’s only going to get worse. I know this is the way it is when you have kids, but I’m just telling you how it has been for me, ok?

Furthermore, my maternity leave Employment Insurance deposits were screwed up, so I haven’t received the proper payment in close to a month, and we made an error in budgeting for Martin’s last pay, so we are incredibly broke. Which, if you’ve been broke before, know that it’s one of the most stressful things in life. I don’t know how people do it regularly. We’ll be fine and it will all work out, but it’s just one more thing to add to the list.

On top of that, my job is pretty demanding, so when I’m not working or doing anything, I’m thinking about work. The problems, the solutions and how we’re all going to get through all the bullshit that goes on are always on my mind. My day is filled to the brim with things that need attention immediately, which leaves little time for planning, evaluation and staff development….and in my opinion, these should be the key functions of my position. So, that is how I spend my free time. Thinking about work.

I was anticipating that I was coming back to a changed workplace–that things were different now. This is what I was told. Unfortunately, the differences are small and the issues that I felt needed to be addressed, hadn’t in my departure. In fact, in some ways, things are worse, since neither of the two people that were hired to replace me, worked out.

That being said, I have a team of 5. Three of those teammates were there prior to my departure, and have made me very proud. They have worked so hard in the face of adversity, surrounded by crazies and lazies and have managed to come out on top. The amount of effort, time and dedication that I see in my employees, I think, is unparalleled. This is the most rewarding part of any job that I have ever had, and this is why I am a boss. Seeing people change and grow with my guidance is more pleasing than any other accomplishment in my life and it is so worth the investment of my effort and time. And the fact that they were able to keep the ship afloat in my absence is thoroughly impressive. More than anyone else could ever know.

I find it difficult to leave the office every night. I am almost exasperated because in order for the necessary changes to take place to improve our workplace, I feel as though I need to put in the hours like I used to. I can’t do that anymore. I have a life, in fact, an excellent one. And I need to enjoy it…and staying at work till all hours of the night will not allow me to do that.

I’m not bragging here, but I have a fucking awesome position at a rapidly growing company, I have a nice home, and I have a handsome soul mate who is perfect for me in every way who loves me and our little family more than anything. He is faithful and loyal and committed to me and our family in a way I’ve never seen from a man in my life ever. I have a beautiful, healthy and hilarious daughter with a super rad name. I have my health, and I am pretty and sexy (though, a little flabby), and I’m funny, nice and generous and smart and successful and people like me (I think). I have what so many people want in life. I am so lucky. And I don’t take it for granted.

But I am a workaholic. And fighting that addiction is pretty tough. It’s not like heroin or anything, like I’m not going to die from shooting some bad dope into my veins, and the risks are not nearly as bad. But, hurting my little family is too high of a price to pay to see someone else’s company succeed. I’m not giving up on my job by any means, I’m just working at making work priority #2. Martin and Marigold need to be #1. And that’s the part that I’m struggling with inside. My job defined me. My success and dedication have been who I am for the last 10 years, and especially the last 3. The party Peattie that everyone knew and loved in my personal life is gone now too.

The hardest part of any of this is figuring out who I am now and who I want to be. The non stop party days are over. The work till you drop days are over. I have to find the right life/work/party balance that works for my new life….a balance that Marigold will love, admire and respect when she’s old enough to figure it out.

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