Spitelien memory wipe device

What was that thought?

I was working out and listening to Neil Pasricha’s podcast, 3 Books, and I had this great idea about something I wanted to write. Then I walked though a doorway to come back upstairs after I finished working out and the idea was wiped from my mind…completely.

I’m more fully convinced now than I ever was that doorways contain a secret device installed by some alien species in almost every home on the planet that extracts thoughts and memories from the human mind as we walk through them.

The strongest memory wiping device in my house is the bathroom doorway. There is nothing I can think in that room that makes it out alive in my head. It’s wiped from memory the minute I step out of the bathroom. Just gone. No trace or hint of any thought I might have had while in that room.

I’ve tried keeping a notepad on the bathroom counter. I’ve tried saying my thoughts out loud so that they have a better chance of sticking. Doesn’t matter. The thought never survives the Spitelien (spy-tee-lee-en) memory wiping device installed in the bathroom door frame.

I think the Spitelien’s are interested in studying human culture, and what better way than by extracting and analyzing our thoughts and memories. Unfortunately, they haven’t devised a way to accurately return our thoughts and memories to us. Although I suspect that they have tried and, due to poor cataloguing skills, they never really know which mind the memories and thoughts came from, so they are returned in a somewhat haphazard manner. This could explain why some people claim to have memories that they don’t remember experiencing, almost as if they were re-incarnated and still contain the memories of a previous life. I have to admit that having my memories wiped and analyzed by an alien race is preferable to being abducted and probed.

Since it’s unlikely that I will recover that memory, I guess it’s on to other things.

My brain finally gave up trying to solve all my problems and passed out

With five minutes to write, how far can I get? Is there even a point to starting?

Yes. Yes, there is always a point to starting. And there should be a way to finish, a time to complete the work, do the edit, review the content. But there is never enough time.

Been stressing lately about all that is wrong with the world.

My reminders of things to do on my phone, in my notebook, on sticky notes are there and I read them, but they aren’t sticking.

I saw Bend It Like Beckham recently. Great to get out like that last minute. Didn’t buy the ticket in advance; kinda came upon it when a friend of a friend couldn’t make it to the show and the ticket became available. It was a good night out. A night downtown. I always like those. I’m grateful I got to do that. It was good to be in the city, especially at night. I feel like I burn bright at night and that light shows. Especially on cold, wet, windy nights. The streets sparkled from the lights reflecting off the decorated trees and the buildings. People were hustling and bustling even at that late time of night. The city is so alive, so electric.

Sitting in the theatre, I felt anxious about life. Scared about not having work, scared about not creating, scared about the decisions I’ve made that I can’t change, scared about having all the parenting guilt from my own kids and for me as a kid and all the ways I didn’t do right by my parents. Scared about having to figure out everyone’s emotions and intentions every time I talk to them, having to always think about where they might be coming from and how what I’m saying is being received.

I read a book on the train on the way home, not a great book so far. I find the writing confusing. Maybe I’m just tired and not concentrating well.

I couldn’t sleep when I got home. I almost didn’t come home. I almost stayed downtown, wandering around and getting lost in the lights and the shine.

My brain finally gave up trying to solve all my problems and passed out. I swear it’s like my brain treats problems like a drunk with a bottle. Taking in as much as it can and then marinating in it until it passes out. But just like looking for solutions at the bottom of a bottle has never moved anyone forward, neither will drinking in as many problems as I can and then trying to come up with a solution, trying to see the pattern in the problems. That won’t move me forward.

But writing does. I just proved it again. And I noticed something else this time. Typing works better than writing; better than pen on paper. Pen on paper is slow and deliberate and should be more helpful to process the quagmire going around in my head, but that’s precisely why it doesn’t work. It’s not fast enough. My brain moves at the speed of anxiety: fast, panting, shrieking, jittery, like a kid hopped up on Coke and candy. I need speed to plow through to a solution.

That night out was a good thing. Going out is something to be grateful for. Live in the present. Solutions will come.

New Year's Day Walk

Life takes over. It always does. Starting a new decade makes me look back at how life has taken over already and gives me pause to consider how much more intentional I must be so that life can’t just take over.

Wanting to start this decade right, I searched my brain for something simple. That’s my plan this year: simple.

A hike came to mind. Time outside, and, as much as possible, surrounded by nature.

That hike turned into a walk with my family from my house to my parents house. That’s a 2.5 hour walk. Some of it along bike paths through forested areas along a river. Some of it along busy streets with the sun streaming through high rises. All of it with my kids and my husband, talking about what the new year and new decade will bring, what we’re leaving behind in the last year and the last decade, how far we’ve come, how we’ve grown and the work still to be done.

We reached my parents house tired, wind burned and hungry, but mostly full of joy.

The walk did us all good. There was a goal far enough away to push us to keep going, but not so far as to be impossible even if it was harder toward the end of our walk.

As we set goals for the new year and reflect on the year that has passed, I will look at our New Year’s Day walk as an inspiration.

We started our walk happy and excited by the challenge of covering such a long distance. I am full of the same positivity for the coming year and the things I have planned.

During our walk, we were at times tired but persevered and found games and songs to play and sing to take our minds off our tired legs and aching feet. I know I’ll face exhaustion with my goals this year, but I will remember our New Year’s Day walk and how we distracted ourselves from the pain of the work with fun and joyful activities. I will look for the fun and joy in the hard work and take time to enjoy them as they come when I feel tired of pushing through.

Toward the end of the walk, we were quiet and hungry and cold and had lost sight of the fun, instead checking our watches and counting down the last kilometres and minutes to our destination. But one of us always rallied. One of us picked up the pace or started singing or said something encouraging to keep the rest of us moving. Facing my goals in 2020 and beyond, I know there will be times when I want to quit, times when I feel like I can’t push ahead. During those times, I will reach out to others to hear encouraging words and I will keep moving forward to the destination, enjoying the sun and wind and trees along the way.

Battle of the Books Anxiety

I run a book club at the local middle school. It’s called Battle of the Books. The idea is not mine. My daughter first joined this type of book club at a school she went to a few years ago.

When she changed schools and we discovered that they didn’t have a book club, I saw an opening and went for it.

I do this all the time.

And then I freeze.

My anxiety kicks in. The mean voice in my head starts telling me stories about how this will never work and how I’m not knowledgeable enough about [insert topic here] to run [name of club, event, campaign, etc.], or that because I’m not a professional whatever, no one will listen to me and every meeting/event will be a chaotic disaster.

But, I can’t keep my mouth shut. Sometimes I think I speak up and offer to be of service where I see a need just to try to drown out the mean voice in my head; just to prove it wrong—I’m not sure how well it’s working.

So, I’ve been running Battle of the Books for two years now. We’ve had some chaotic meetings with everyone talking at once and no one listening to me trying to get them to take turns. And we’ve had some great meetings where we’ve gotten deep into the stories we’re reading, with great conversations. It’s so fantastically obvious that the books we’re reading have resonated with these kids.

But I still get anxious.

It’s a week before Christmas, so we had our holiday party. I brought treats to snack on while we talked about the books and battled it out for bragging rights over who knew the most details from the stories.

Probably because there was a table laden with treats and drinks where we meet in the library and probably because we were all eating and laughing and having a jolly time, we attracted two new students who wanted to join the book club. Of course I said yes, because the more the merrier. I so love talking to middle school kids about books. They have such a different perspective. They’re gritty and free at this age, opinionated and anti-authority. They are looking for ways to differentiate themselves from their families and they are figuring out who their tribes are and who they are. And all of this brings these neat conversations out when they see themselves reflected in the books we read.

So I let the new kids join, but my own middle school anxiety reared its head and froze me. I couldn’t ask them for their names. I couldn’t tell them to grab a book from the list of titles and sign it out and I was barely able to squeak out the rules of the Battle round and the Lightning round to them so that they could follow along even though they hadn’t read any books yet. And I’m the adult. They looked nervous when they asked if they could join.

What gives? I’m about 30 years older than all of the students in the club. So, authority by age and maturity? Check. They are almost all avid readers like me, so we’ve read the same books. Check. I’m not an outsider running a club I know nothing about. Check. The new students asked me if they could join. I was not recruiting them. Check. So what was I afraid of?

Well, the kids looked cool. That is, they had all the outward appearance of being in the “in” crowd. They had name brand clothes, the latest hair styles and tech, and they weren’t friends with the other kids who more than enthusiastically signed up on the first day the club was announced (which makes me think the original group is like me and maybe a little bit book nerdy).

My pre-teen self immediately took over and told me I had to play it cool, which always makes me do and say dumb things that are definitely not cool.

But of course, it all went fine. The librarian stepped in and got the kids’ names and set them up with books from our reading list. The new kids joined the conversation even though they hadn’t read the books yet. And I showed my anxiety once again that it really has no place in these situations. I don’t have anything real to be afraid of. I’m doing what I love with a great group of kids who also love that I do this for them.

#ReadingRocks

Global Climate Strike instead of Black Friday

My daughter has been counting the number of Black Friday commercials on the radio every time we get in the car. I don’t know what she’s up to, because I lost track after the first few days of her counting.

She recognized that EVERYTHING was about buying more, getting the best deals, not missing out (media loves to put the FOMO in you). Even when the radio personalities were chatting between songs on their morning shows, they were talking about shopping and buying and what they had bought and the deals they got and what they were going to buy next.

I get it, from a money-making point of view, ads run the show. The radio station has to make money. But I’m sick of it. I’ve stopped listening to the radio unless my daughter is in the car and wants to count Black Friday commercials.

Last week, I started listening to a podcast called 3 Books with Neil Pasricha. There are no ads and Neil talks about books. I’m working my way through the chapters and it’s great. It’s a balm to my crazy days. I think I’ve found my people.

Today is Black Friday. I’m taking my daughter out of school and we’re going to fight for our planet again at the Global Climate Strike in Toronto. A friend of hers is joining us. Because she’ll have her friend to chat with on the way there, I’ll put my earbuds in and listen to another chapter of 3 Books. This will be the tiny, sane part of my day that will keep me grounded out in the world. It will remind me that there are people out there who believe in books and doing things because they love to do them, not because they will make money. And this message, this idea, fills me with hope that people can change, that Black Friday doesn’t have to be a thing, that people might start to see how rampant consumerism is killing our planet.

This morning, I started with writing and meditating. This afternoon, I will listen to a podcast about books and I will raise my voice and my sign at a rally for our planet. This evening, I will hug my family and tell each of them how grateful I am that they are a part of my world, a world that feels like it has gone made, but a world that is worth saving.

Vege-vegan-flexi-reducetarian

My family and I are cutting back on our consumption of animal products. We’re doing this even though we have never been big meat eaters.

We talk about our food choices a lot. When the kids were little, we spent a lot of time talking about healthy food choices versus treats like candy and sweets. We spent dinner time modeling good food choices and encouraging our kids to eat their veggies and try the new food that we’d introduced.

Over the years, to save money and to be health conscious, we ate meat only a few days a week and we used beans, legumes and lentils in our meals the rest of the time.

Several years ago, after my daughter saw a full lamb hanging in the freezer at Costco, she wouldn’t eat meat because she made the connection between an animal’s life and our food choices. We had talked about these issues with our kids, but sometimes it takes a visual to drive the point home. So, she and I converted to a vegetarian diet. She lasted several months until the welcome back barbecue at school where they were serving hot dogs (her weakness). I carried on for another year with the vegetarian diet. It was tough because now I was the only vegetarian in our family. Eventually, I reached meal planning and prep exhaustion, trying to accommodate the two different diets, and I gave in to the majority in my household. I kept my meat consumption low, though, never having been a big meat eater.

Over the years, I’ve gotten better at just putting vegetarian dishes on the table a few times a week and leaving space in our weekly meal plan for my husband to cook whatever meat he wants when it’s his turn to prepare dinner.

Our tough spot, though, has always been animal products in general. Giving up milk, butter, eggs, cheese and yogurt is our struggle.

I recently read We are the Weather by Jonathan Safran Foer. It has raised the question around our dinner table again of how our choices affect the world around us. And how can we do better?

I like the idea from the book about cutting out animal products at breakfast and lunch but still eating animal products at dinner. Dinner can be a difficult time, I think, to assert your beliefs about food choices. It’s so often a social meal. It seems like a simpler approach for my kids than asking them if they could go all in on a vegan diet. And it keeps the conversation going.

And my kids amazed me. They were so intent on learning about what I had read in the book, and they had so many suggestions on how we could make those ideas work for our family. It was a great discussion, one that we’ve kept up and keep coming back to.

So, we decided to cut back on animal products wherever we could. I bake a lot, so cutting eggs, butter and milk out of those recipes was the first step. Then my son realized that because he eats a lot of cereal and yogurt, he was consuming a lot of milk and milk products. Those were his go-to snacks. So, he decided to cut down on cereal and to choose apples and other fruits instead (a healthier choice overall). He also asked that I make our hot cereals at breakfast with coconut milk instead of cow’s milk. That was an easy switch.

My daughter, who cooks dinner one night a week, is looking at her list of go-to dinner recipes for ways she can veganize them. This has sparked many conversations.

We are deeply grateful for the earth we have and for everything that lives on our planet. We’re learning to work from that place of gratitude to get better at making the right choices for ourselves, for our planet and for animals, and to fix, bit by bit, the things that we have control over, like choosing to consume fewer animal products.

Living in a new land must be hard

I’ve always had a deep respect for anyone who picks up and moves to a new land, whether because they have to or because they want to.

My mother left her home province when she was just a teenager and moved to a much busier place than she was used to. She followed her brothers and a sister, so she did not arrive alone. But she did arrive cut off, for the most part, from what she left behind: family, friends, the only way of life she had known.

My husband did the same about 30 years later. He also followed his siblings to another, busier province in search of his future. He did not arrive alone and he was not as cut off as the generations who came before him. But he still faced a new way of life, albeit not as different as what he’d come from compared to my mother 30 years before.

Having grown up in a province that offers me everything I could want, it has never occurred to me to leave. I’m not really an adventurous person. I’m mostly content with staying close to home. And if I’m completely honest, the unknown is scarier than I mostly want to admit. And so I have a deep respect for my mother and husband who both made a conscious choice to uproot themselves. I grew up here and continue to stay here because of their long-ago choices.

I was recently chatting with the mother of one of my daughter’s friends, She and her family moved to Canada a short time ago and, as we were chatting about mundane things, it really hit me how very different and potentially difficult her life might be. I don’t know what prompted her to move her family to Canada or why they chose Canada, but while chatting about my daughter’s birthday party, a school book club and other very common things to me, it occurred to me how very different life here is for her.

She has had to learn a new government system, understand a new education system for her children, become accustom to a new language, new shopping habits, new products, new weather patterns, new foods, new customs and traditions, and her children are learning things at school about this country and not the country they came from or their roots or their traditions, and all while keeping their own language, customs and traditions alive for their family. That’s a lot to manage.

In our chat, it struck me that she has had to adapt to a whole new life all while managing the same parenting, work, family and social issues that I deal with. What must that be like?

There are days when I can barely cope with the things that I have to do to move my family and myself forward, and I’m doing those things in an environment that I am used to and around people who are essentially the same as me, with no language or culture barrier. Layer those very basic and simple daily activities on top of having to do it all in a foreign country where everything is different than what you grew up with and where your natural support system is reduced or non-existent. That woman has my respect.

I chatted easily with her, enjoying her company, all the while in absolute wonder at how gracious she was as she apologized that her daughter could not make it to my daughter’s birthday party. I don’t know what her life is like. I don’t know what it’s like raising a child in a country where I didn’t grow up and facing different expectations from my child because her friends get to live differently. I can’t imagine it’s easy. But I have the deepest respect for her efforts and a new intention to get to know her better.