Writer’s Block

Hi. It’s been a few weeks since my last post. I’ll spare you the boring details, but things are changing a wee bit here and there, and basically I’ve been using these changes as an excuse to avoid this blog. Well, no more. At least, not today.

However, I will be upfront about why I haven’t written:

I don’t wanna.

Really, I love writing, finding amazing turns of phrases that evoke emotion, wit, puns, dumb jokes, and anything in between. It’s something that makes me feel complete, at least while I’m doing it, and though I edit and re-edit, fluctuating between feelings of self-loathing and genius, when I write I feel like I’m doing what I should be doing.

However…

While it’s what I should be doing, I fluctuate between feelings of genius and self-loathing, I edit and re-edit, and often while I’m doing it I feel completely dumb and I have no jokes, puns, or wit, all of it evoking emotions in me that are anything but amazing. I love writing? Really?

(Like my little idea palindrome? I do.)

The one good thing about trying to write when I don’t feel like it is that I’ve become a pro at coming up with lists, both practical and irrelevant. I know exactly what we need from the grocery store at any given moment, I can name the Beatles’ albums in chronological order, and of course I’ve detailed everything I’d do if I won the lottery. Along that line, here’s my latest list I’ve compiled in order to avoid writing.

Things I’d rather be doing other than writing at this very moment:

  • Eating
  • Sleeping
  • Sleep-eating
  • Crocheting
  • Watching Netflix
  • Learning how to build cabinets
  • Cleaning the toilets
  • Making a household budget
  • Working
  • Getting my kids to practice piano
  • Going to the dentist
  • Exercising (yes, even exercising!)

Thing I’d rather not be doing other than writing:

  • Cooking

(Too bad I can’t just publish a book of random lists. I’ve got material for days.)

This blog has reinforced in me the idea that, even if I never actually publish a novel or even a pamphlet, I need to write more. The practice is almost more important than the result. Also, I also need to remember why I started writing in the first place. As difficult as it is, writing is probably one the few things in my life from which I get a profound sense of satisfaction. The quality of what I write varies greatly, as all eight of you readers already know, but ultimately I gotta keep chugging away to keep these cerebral muscles from losing their tone. Use it or lose it, right?

At the very least, it’ll give me the chance to come up with some new lists.

Thanks for reading!

Here’s Mommy!

It’s a new year and a welcome opportunity to slough off the dead skin that was 2017. The holiday season was hectic for us, full of food, family, snowstorms, emotions, friends, chaos, a reasonable amount of fun, and a whooooole lot of togetherness.

We’re used to the cold in Canada, but it was so prohibitively chilly over the holidays that no snowmen were erected, nor was any sledding or snowshoeing attempted. We did manage to make a hot chocolate run at one point, but the warmth of the beverage was quickly cancelled out by the icy burning of my face and fingers in the frigid air.

The snow fort building and snowball fights we had planned for the kids got replaced by sofa fort building and a fistfight (Thing 1 gave Thing 2 a bloody nose), and aside from visiting other people’s houses, our activities were restricted to our open-concept home where it’s very hard to be alone. At the end of it all, I emerged with five extra pounds, a deeper appreciation for silence, and a serious case of cabin fever.

I love my kids. I do. I think, however, I love them even more when they aren’t underfoot. Recently Thing 2 decided that he’s afraid of being alone (even when he’s in our aforementioned open-concept living room and he can see me in the kitchen), and as much as I want to make him feel secure and unafraid, I also want to run away before I lose my mind and start chasing him with an axe. Without the routine of school over the holidays, I found myself with a constantly orbiting satellite that refused to brush his teeth by himself. I nearly lost it a few times, and I confess that Jack in The Shining suddenly made a lot more sense to me.

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Fortunately the kids went back to school yesterday, and it was glorious. But the whole experience made me want to be better prepared for the next time we’re trapped indoors with no end in sight. I guess a good place to start planning would be to figure out what we as parents are supposed to do after we’ve endured 1,000 rounds of Jenga, allowed six consecutive hours of Xbox, binge-watched three series of Teen Titans Go!, turned the living room into a Lego minefield, and bickered over Monopoly, and it’s only day one of a two-week winter break.

In the meantime, I’m grateful for the time I spent with my family, but even more for the start of the school semester. Here’s hoping the weather’s more accommodating over spring break.

Christmas or Whatever

Christmas is nearly upon us! I have many friends who thrive during this season, immersing themselves in the decorations, gift preparations, card sending, and all the other behaviour we tend not to engage in during the rest of the year. Their houses are decked out, they’ve been playing holiday music since (American) Thanksgiving, and their Facebook feeds are filled with photos of strange little elves doing stuff that really no one, elf-kind or otherwise, should be doing.

Until relatively recently, I found Christmas and everything that went with it unbearable. When I was younger, the expectation-to-reality ratio was always extremely imbalanced, and in my teens I quickly came to see Christmas as the time of year for fights, terrible music, nasty fruitcake, and being forced to stay at home with no means of escape while the rest of the family slept all afternoon, leaving me by myself. To top it all off, it was expensive, and my after-school, minimum-wage job cleaning up dog turds at the veterinary clinic never quite covered all the gifts that I wanted to buy.

After I got married, I quickly found out that Hubby loooooooved Christmas. Being the stubborn person I am, I dug my heels in and made it clear that there would be no tree, no decorations, and definitely no holiday music in our place. The Grinch was my spirit animal, and he was alive and well in me. I was allergic to Christmas, I said, and Hubby needed to respect that. Yeah, in retrospect I see how selfish that was, but at the time I was absolutely not cool with yule.

Unsurprisingly, this took a lot of the fun out of Christmas for him. At first I didn’t mind because I got my way. But after having kids, I noticed that his enthusiasm for the holiday didn’t pick up the way I thought it would, and suddenly I was the one choosing the tree and the decorations and forcing myself to learn the lesser-known verses of “Jingle Bells” while mulling wine and baking rum cakes no one would actually eat.

This year we have no tree. Time just got away from us, and neither of us had the presence of mind or energy to bring one home. Things 1 and 2 don’t seem to mind, as Thing 1, ever the pragmatist, is fully aware of who Santa really is (himself, since he insisted on going shopping with me so he could choose what he wanted), and Thing 2’s teacher is giving him and his classmates the Elf-on-the-shelf treatment at school. Otherwise, the Christmas shopping is done, the dessert making has begun, and my one string of TARDIS tree lights hangs humbly in the living room.

While this would normally suit Grinch me just fine, I do feel like I’m missing something this year. It’s like when people really enjoy Scotch or licorice or polenta, and I just cannot get behind it, but I wish I could because they’re clearly finding it delicious, and that’s just one more joy in the world I can’t tap into. My friends who turn into grinning idiots every December are experiencing warm fuzzies that I cannot possibly understand, and for once, instead of thinly veiled disdain, I think I feel envy. It’s weird.

This does not mean that I’m going to turn into an overnight advocate for Christmas cheer. I still find 99% of holiday music annoying, I have never even seen A Christmas Story (nor do I have any plans to), and you’ll never catch me wearing an ugly Christmas sweater. I will, however, admit to liking one or two very cheesy Christmas songs (no, I won’t tell you which ones), and I’ll also concede that maybe this holiday isn’t as terrible as I used to feel it was. Perhaps Christmas, for me, is like Scotch, and it’s time I started acquiring a taste for it.

(Or I could just drink actual Scotch.)

Happy holidays.

REM

The past few weeks have been relatively stressful for me. Work has become highly unpredictable, and there are a few things coming up on the horizon in my personal life that I’m just not looking forward to. To top it all off, it’ll be the holidays very soon, and if you know me even a little bit, you’ll know that Christmas is my least favourite time of the year. I know loads of people revel in the decorations and the cards and gifts, so maybe I’m alone in my grinchiness, but regardless, for me, it adds an extra shadow to an already dark season.

An interesting side effect of all this stress, however, is that it’s brought to the forefront my hefty catalogue of recurring dreams and nightmares. While I don’t enjoy the restless nights and cold sweats they induce, I do find it kind of funny that my brain chooses these uncomfortable scenarios as go-tos to help me work through my issues. Some of them seem to be shared by most people I speak to, while others have made folks back away from me slowly. Today I present a few of the less disturbing ones to you in no particular order. Maybe you’ll recognize one or two from your own dreams.

1- Shouldn’t I be wearing pants?

I’m walking down a busy street, feeling pretty good about myself. Then suddenly something seems a bit… wrong. Not a lot, but just a bit. No one really notices that I’m dressed in a shirt and nothing else. At first, it doesn’t really bother me, but gradually my sense of embarrassment grows to the point where I’m grabbing dirty hamburger wrappers out of trash cans and fashioning them into greasy fig leaves, hiding behind park benches and large dogs as I try to get home.

2- I could have sworn I graduated already.

It’s final exam time, and I’ve aced all the classes I’ve attended. Unfortunately, I’ve somehow forgotten to go to Chemistry the entire year, and the test is in five minutes. If I don’t pass, I won’t graduate high school. Never mind that I have my diploma already and two Bachelor’s degrees- somehow they’ve all been nullified through dream bureaucracy. To add insult to injury, neither Thing 1 nor Thing 2 will let me copy any answers.

3- My face is a critter magnet.

The gigantic spider/snake/rabid raccoon hanging above the doorway ignores everyone else in the room, so no one else realizes the danger it poses. People laugh it off, say I’m over-reacting, and they walk out the door without a care in the world. I try to follow them, only to have the creature jump and attack me in the face. I manage to pull it off and throw it across the room, only to have it miraculously jump right back onto my face. I usually scream myself awake at this point, much to my relief and Hubby’s dismay.

4- 99 toilets, but I can’t use 1

I’m in a bathroom the size of a gymnasium. There are stalls everywhere, which is good because I’ve really gotta go. The problem is that the bathroom is doubling as the library, so most of the toilet bowls have books or papers in them. There are a few empty ones, but the doors on these stalls only give privacy from the waist up. Other toilets are overflowing, the seats are either missing or covered in filth, or they’re not really toilets at all, but normal plastic chairs. There’s always a fancy golden toilet somewhere in the middle of the room, but it’s already in use, and if I do finally end up on a throne of some sort, my body won’t let me do its thing (which is probably for the best, because I’ve been told that if you go in your dreams, you’re going in real life).

There are a few more that I’ve been revisiting these past few nights, mostly having to do with running frustratingly slowly, walking through labyrinthine subway tunnels, or being incapable of dialling the right telephone number. All of them are annoying and confusing, and I guess they’re indicative of what’s going on in my head at the moment. Hopefully life will work itself out soon and I can get a good night’s sleep without getting subconsciously attacked by a killer cat, driving off a bridge, or burping into Keanu Reeves’ face just as he’s about to kiss me. Actually, I think that’s the worst one of all.

Sweet dreams, everyone. 🙂

Wish

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For the past couple of years I’ve been rather spoiled professionally, working from home on interesting projects, with no commute, annoying coworkers, or even the need to put on pants. Recently, however, things have changed with my main client, and it’s causing me a fair amount of stress to the point where I’m seriously considering other options for viable employment. The idea of going back to the daily grind in an office seems grim and daunting, but unless things change for the better very soon, I may not have a choice.

So I’ve done some job hunting, a tiny bit of networking, resumé tweaking, and most importantly (and least productively), a whole lot of wishy thinking. At first I thought about my ideal work situation, salary, location, etc., but as that process started to depress me, I let my mind wander and I settled on a much more appealing mental exercise- if I could magically make three impossible wishes that I couldn’t use for world peace, helping others, or anything besides my own personal gratification, what would they be? Besides more money and more wishes, I narrowed it down to these:

1) to be able to eat whatever I wanted, however much I wanted, without negative consequence,
2) to have Doctor Who be real, and
3) to get paid well for doing any and all of my hobbies without the pressure of deadlines.

A typical impossible wish week would go something like this.

Monday: Client needs someone to help them finish a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle and the rest of their leftover Halloween candy. Accidentally lose five pounds due to eating too many peanut M&Ms.
Tuesday: Customer orders crochet elephant family. Spend day making bull elephant in tropical shirt while drinking daiquiris. Develop abs of steel by mistake.
Wednesday: Come up with toilet-humour rhyming puns for bilingual 8-year-olds. End up writing best-selling joke book for the ages. Lose six pounds while eating celebratory cronuts.
Thursday: Yoga. Lose another 10 pounds. Miraculously convert my sweat into diamonds and bitcoin.
Friday: Discover a real TARDIS in my living room while taking Lego photos. Try to convince the Doctor that I’m meant to be his companion. Get paid a million dollars (possibly to leave him alone).

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I think it sounds quite reasonable, actually.

Alas, back to real life. Please wish me luck in finding a solution that, while probably not as fun as my wish week, will be fulfilling nonetheless. If you’re also searching for something new, I hope you find exactly what you’re looking for. (Or if you do happen to know of an opportunity where I can make even one of these impossible wishes come true, please let me know. I’ll be able to pay you in crochet elephants. Or bitcoin sweat.)

Best wishes!

Sam and Ella, or Lessons Unlearned

[Warning: There is no inner-realization, finding of one’s self, or character building in this blog entry. It is just a recounting of some uneventful happenings. No wisdom is passed on. No truths are discovered. You should probably stop reading now.]

I don’t think life lessons usually get learned unless someone has experienced loss or suffering. Obviously, we learn the biggest lessons when we miss great opportunities, when someone close to us dies, or when we make huge mistakes. If we survive, we tend to emerge somewhat damaged but significantly wiser. Our hindsight and regret help shape our future decisions and allow us to grow as individuals.

But what about the little lessons? There are loads of bite-sized morals that we learn every day, and yet we repeat the same mistakes over and over again. For example:

  • Eating too much Halloween candy will make me sick
  • Not rinsing the blender right after use will make it impossible to clean
  • Drinking water right before bed means waking up in the middle of the night to pee
  • Facebook arguments lead nowhere and only make me miserable
  • Etc., ad nauseum, and on and on, et al,  ibid., x1000000000000000.

This weekend I went grocery shopping and somehow managed to forget one bag in the trunk of my car overnight. I didn’t worry too much, though, since the bag contained cereal, gluten-free bread, and canned tuna.

Oh, and one family-sized package of deli roast turkey.

The weather’s been rather cool recently, holding steady in the single digits (Celsius) during the day, and dipping below freezing at night. That’s almost like a refrigerator. Normally, I wouldn’t have given it another thought, except that the next morning the temperature had risen to 11, and by the time I discovered the missing bag, it had gotten up to a balmy 15. Any sane person would have thrown that package of turkey out right away, so of course I opened it up, peeled off a slice, ate it, and waited.


Nothing happened. 24 hours later, I was still fine. I have since eaten a sandwich containing the same turkey slices, and so far, so good. (We’ll see if I have to edit this later.)

I do NOT recommend that you try this the next time you leave perishables out by mistake. I know better than to do what I did. I’d completely freak out if I saw either of my kids try it. I fully deserve to have food poisoning right now, and yet I’ve been spared the agonies of a good bout of gastro thanks to dumb luck and possibly some unpronounceable preservative ingredients.

Everything I know about hygiene, bacteria, health risks, not to mention my own disgust with cooties and germs, ought to have been enough to make me throw it away, and yet my unwillingness to get rid of a brand-new, family-sized (that’s at least twice the normal size, y’all) unopened food product led to me making a risky decision that fortunately turned out okay. Will I be so lucky next time?

Wait, “next time”? I’m doing this again, am I? I think we all know that the answer to that is probably. If this ever happens in the future, I’ll most likely do the same thing until the day I actually get salmonella and find myself on the “Both Ends” diet. Then perhaps I’ll have learned my lesson and rethink my frugal ways. Until then, who knows what other crazy food risks I’ll take? I’ve got some questionable Brie and Coutances in my fridge. If cheese is already a mold, is moldy cheese really that bad?

I’m kidding, I’m kidding. (Sort of.)

Running Away

I’m about to get on a plane. I’ll be gone for two weeks.

Travel has always been a big part of my life, starting as a child when my family and I would take 14-hour flights from Washington D.C. and spend sweltering summers in South Korea, visiting an endless parade of relatives. Unless I’ve miscounted, I have 35 first cousins and a bagazillion more distant ones.

My mother would dutifully shuttle us from house to house, some in the middle of the hectic metropolis, a few by the sea, and one or two in the countryside. These rural visits traumatized me, as the houses we went to were inevitably surrounded by well-fertilized fields, and at least one of them had no flushing toilet. (My older sister’s got a great story about an unfortunate mix-up between a bowl of noodles and a chamber pot.)

As a kid, I never appreciated these trips. It felt tedious and exhausting to see aunt after great-aunt after great-great uncle after great-great-great grandfather (we visited some of their graves in the mountains; to this day the sight of twisted Asian pine trees and magpies fills me with dread). One year, after a particularly long, hot day of endless family and culture clashes, I had had enough of the heat and the comments from aunties about my weight, and I told my mother I was never visiting Korea again.

Of course, I went back a couple of years later, but this time only with my younger sister. We had no clue what we were doing, so our itinerary was greatly simplified. Instead of trying to see every single person in the family, we managed to keep it to maybe four different houses. With no real parental supervision, my sister and I had a relatively decent time, eating icy desserts, drinking banana milk, and laughing at the way they censored racy song titles on album covers. You remember Right Said Fred’s hit, “I’m Too Happy”, don’t you?

Eventually, I finally went alone. It was the first time I fully enjoyed myself there. I went to restaurants, shopped, spent time with my cool cousins, skipped the ones I didn’t know that well, and realized that the country I’d previously found unappealing was actually quite the opposite.

Before that trip, traveling seemed like a burden. All I wanted was to stay home for a whole summer with nothing expected of me. After that trip, I finally understood that I, too, could travel for vacation, not just obligation. I simply needed to travel alone.

Fast-forward to now. Hubby and I have been married for a while, we’ve traveled together, taken solo trips, gone on vacation with his family, had kids and taken them places, and visited my parents both in Korea and DC. If we’re lucky, we’ll keep doing this until they tell us we can’t.

Traveling with Hubby and the kids is great, don’t get me wrong. I know we’re incredibly blessed to be able to take the trips that we do and show Thing 1 and 2 different parts of the world. But I definitely feel an exhilarating sense of freedom when I travel alone. I do what I want. I am responsible for no one. I accommodate no one. No one stresses me out with their last-minute bathroom emergencies right before boarding on a discount airline that never waits.

Until yesterday, I was counting the days to this child-free, husband-free vacation, anxiously waiting until I could sit in this airport wine bar and have a glass of white to inaugurate my holiday.


But then last night, we had an impromptu family dance party before dinner. After dinner, Thing 2 practiced piano without complaining. Thing 1 read to his brother without objection. Hubby and I laughed long and hard about nothing in particular. For an evening, my little family was perfect, and I felt such pangs of regret at the idea of leaving them for so long.

Fortunately, I had the foresight of taking a video of each child at his whiniest, so if I really miss them while I’m gone, I’ll have a great reminder on my phone of why I’m taking this trip in the first place. I’m grateful for this vacation, for my husband who let me leave for so long, for my parents whose generosity at my birthday paid for the ticket, for my friends whom I’ll visit across the pond (oh, yeah, I’m not going to Korea), and for the opportunity to come back home with my batteries recharged.

Bon voyage.