Wednesday, January 28, 2015

High School and the Fine Art of Giving No Fucks

It's amazing, you know?

It blows my mind sometimes, the way minor, yet arguably shitty, incidents and experiences can take you to a place you thought you'd left behind. Habits formed from self-preservation remain in play long after the threat has dissipated.

A 34-year-old mother of two, with a job and a mortgage and responsibilities can be reduced to an anxious, self-conscious adolescent in a matter of seconds, just from the sound of a giggling teenaged girl.

The high-schoolers have infiltrated the YMCA.  My mornings spent getting ready for work after my morning swim used to mean running into a few elderly women and occasionally one of my co-workers.  That was pretty much it.

But now there are high-schoolers. 

I hear their voices and laughter bouncing off the ceramic tile, muffled by the sound of the not-quite-hot-enough showers and my shoulders hunch up and my eyes, like magnets, are drawn to the ground.  I adjust my towel, just a little more tightly, as this body of mine, the one that not 20 minutes earlier had been gliding gracefully through the water now feels preposterous - all sagging, scarred, bumpy-fat flesh.  Taking up space.  Too much space.

"For the love of Gord.  You're 34 years old.  Woman the hell up already," I tell myself and sigh.  So many years gone by and I'm still affected.

I like to say that high school was a breeze, a lot of fun. 

(aside from grade nine.  aside from gym class.  aside from the girls who threatened me with violence because they thought I was "looking" at them.  in the change room.  I stopped looking up, ever.)

I tell people that high school was the time I ran out of fucks to give.  I learned to relax.  A little.  It was the time I tell people (and I tell myself)  that I learned to not care what people thought of me.

(I cared.  I just didn't let on.  It was safer if people thought they couldn't get to you.)

I practiced not giving a shit.  More accurately, I became practiced in the fine art of appearing to be all out of fucks to give. 

I learned to sneer at people, especially girls, I felt thought they were better than me.  Prettier, richer, more desirable.  The ones who had their shit together.  Brick by brick, I built walls of 'giving no fucks' to encase myself in and I told myself that they were nothing, of no consequence.

The most relatable character in this film, from my perspective. - SOURCE
My mother told me, "Hold your head high."

I held my head high.

But even now, hearing these voices echoing off tile, voices that exude the confidence of knowing the world is at your feet, sets my face to utter stoicism.  Instinctively, I still brace myself for mockery, setting my expression to one of utter neutrality, as I gauge the risk of making eye contact, or drawing attention to myself.

(go ahead.  Laugh at this fat, spotty, scarred body.  see if I care)

But of course, no one says anything.  Because this isn't high school, dammit.  I'm a 34 year old woman in the YMCA changeroom and I am about as incidental to these kids as any stranger on the street.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Aunt Laura Wasn't Crazy, After All.

Nanny and Aunt Kay. They don't really pertain to this story, but I couldn't find the picture of them with Aunt Laura.
I used to labour under the impression that my maternal grandmother was one of three girls, mainly because I never really heard her speak of any of her siblings besides her sister Kay and her sister Laura.  It wasn't until I was well into adulthood that I found out that Nanny had been one of upwards of around 8 children.

My great-grandparents had so many kids, it turns out, that the youngest had to be given up to foster care.

But, no, for years I thought it was just the three of them. To this day, the only other one of her siblings I remember meeting was Uncle Jack.  One day after class I decided to pay Nanny a visit and a quiet, somewhat unfriendly man opened the door, grunted, and let me in.  I had no idea who he was.

That was uncle Jack.

Aunt Kay and Aunt Laura are the ones I remember.  They're both gone now unfortunately.

I used to think Aunt Laura was insane.

She was married to a man named Gord Arnold.  He died when I was quite young, possibly before I was born.  I have no memory of him, but I knew who he was, and I knew he was dead.  But for years, during family visits, Aunt Laura would make comments about how she had "been talking to Gord the other day" and how "Gord had fixed the kitchen sink last week, it's about time," and so on and so forth.

I always thought it odd, that Aunt Laura talked to her dead husband.  I also thought it was very understanding, albeit a little creepy, that everyone in my family was totally okay with humouring her whenever her dead husband was mentioned in the present tense.

I'm going to be honest.  I'm not always quick on the draw.  There was a very important puzzle piece missing, one that pertained to the fact that Laura and Gord had about a million kids.

I found this out one day when Nanny was showing me the framed picture of her many, many nieces and nephews that she had received for her birthday that year.

"That's Annie and Donna, and there's Tim, and that's Gord..."

*light bulb*

As my mistake became all to clear to me, I dissolved into hysterical laughter.


I had never met my mother's cousin Gord.  Or if I did, I had no recollection.

Nanny was alarmed at my outburst, and through the tears streaming down my face, I explained that for years, I had thought that my insane Aunt Laura had been talking to her dead husband and that no one in the family had the heart to set the poor woman straight.

She had been talking about her son the whole time.

Years later, I told Aunt Laura of my ill-conceived notions about her mental health, and to my relief, she was more than a little amused.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Rejection. Frustration.

So it's Thursday night and the opening for the gallery exhibition I had entered my painting in takes place tomorrow night. I have not yet heard if my piece was accepted.

I'm thinking I'm skunked again.


I'm feeling kind of sorry for myself, I will admit.  Just bums me out.  When I dropped it off, I got a look at some of the other submissions and immediately felt overwhelmed and kind of out of my league.

The Well-Travelled one tried to cheer me up by reminding me that a lot of the people who submit to these things have been painting and otherwise making art for years and sometimes decades, many of them having a formal educational background to boot.

This area, being a small, relatively close-knit area I have to wonder if there isn't a certain level of clique-ishess where those who have been active in the community get preferential treatment.  It's the same feeling I get with the theatre folk around here.

However, it's entirely possible that I looking for mini-conspiracies and nepotism in a misguided attempt at making myself feel better and stop berating myself for being a mediocre talent at best.  Jerkbrain is a jerk, and rejection just seems to feed the beast.


As pointed out to me in another well-intentioned attempt by the Well-Travelled one to assuage my self-flaggellation in the face of defeat, at least this has been a bit of a learning experience.  I now know a few things I didn't before, such as turnaround time for custom framing, and where to buy my own damn frames.  I even know how to frame my own canvases now, so I guess that's something?


Still sucks.


Monday, January 12, 2015

Good Night, Good Night, Sweet Baby

As an adolescent, I was moody, intensely emotional, and cynical.

Hell, as an adult, I am moody, intensely emotional and prone to bouts of cynicism.  As an adult I have the benefit of years of experience to back up my cynicism.

There is a family legend, or more accurately, an anecdote that tells of how my father, in his attempt to get baby Andie to sleep, would play me Leonard Cohen and Joan Baez records.

This story is always told with a wink, the punchline being that Dad's choice of baby bedtime music somehow contributed to shaping me into the moody, intensely emotional cynic I am today.

Music and sleep have always been deeply intertwined for me.  Music and life, really, but music has played a part in my dreams since I was a small child and would beg my mom to put a tape in the cassette player while I went to sleep.  My tastes were not exactly typical for a child of the late 80s and early, as my artists of choice ranged from Harry Chapin to Harry Belafonte, with some Stompin' Tom thrown into the mix.

How I ever fell asleep to Harry Belafonte baffles me.

Both my sister and I sang The House at Pooh Corner to our children. It may be the perfect lullaby.

I think that had I had children later, or discovered the Mountain Goats earlier, I would have found myself rocking my babies, singing songs like "International Small Arms Traffic Blues" and "Song for Dennis Brown"; songs with soft, lilting harmonies and lyrics about addiction and love doomed to fail.

Then one day, down the road, I'd tell them about how I sang these tunes to them when they were babies.. and if they were moody, intensely emotional cynics, such as myself, we'd chuckle to ourselves as if to say "Well, I guess we know where THAT came from."

Good old kid-friendly tunes. - SOURCE

Sunday, January 11, 2015

This was my weekend.. how was yours?

Things seem to finally be settling down around here, after Christmas, New Year's and the flu that worked its way around the household and made the holidays less than spectacular.

This weekend was a quiet one, mostly due to the weather and the kids being at their dads.  After a somewhat frustrating day at work, I got home with the intention of doing sweet eff-all for the evening, which I did, with GUSTO.

The Well-Travelled One whipped up a quick dinner for us, and I played a few rounds of Hatris (like Tetris, but with hats!) and marathoned several episodes of Friends.  I've been rewatching the series since I got sick around the middle of December and am up to season five now.  It's kind of laughable how dated some episodes seem now, especially the giant cordless phones of the early 90s.

I haven't really seen many really good non-workplace and non-family half hour sitcoms since then.  The most recent ensemble cast I can say I've thoroughly enjoyed is probably New Girl, but sometimes the overlapping dialogue gets grating.

Saturday we were going to go to Barrie but I was thwarted by both a late start and intermittent white-outs, so we opted instead for going for coffee, after which I went to my counselling appointment.  The woman I see is probably in her late 80s and is just absolutely fantastic. However, she works out of her home, which is way out in the sticks, down a very windy road that swings around the lake.  The road gets quite treacherous in the winter. 

After an extended session, I came home, had dinner and finished a reworking of a portrait that I have been working on.  I'm pretty damn excited about how it turned out, and will be posting about it on the art blog this week.

Today, we had an earlier start and made it down to Barrie so I could look for some framing options, as I am planning to enter a piece of mine into a local art show.  They are kind of picky about display options, and any canvas art less than 1.5 inches wide is required to be framed.

Earlier in the week I looked into custom framing at a local place, but being one of the only places in town, they were wildly over-booked, so I figured I'd try Michaels.  It's funny.. local places suffer from competition from chain stores and end up carrying less stock, and in turn, because they carry less stock, people end up looking to big chain stores.

At any rate, Michaels' was not much help, as there was a two-week turnaround for custom work, and I have until.. well.. tomorrow, as that is the submission date.  I had pretty much decided not to bother since I wouldn't have time. 

We stopped at a computer store so he could pick some stuff up, and I decided to check out Curry's, which is just a few doors down.

I'm pretty sure I've found my happy place.  Either that, or I've found my "Holy Crap Get Me Out Of Here Before I Spend Next Month's Rent Place."  Anyway, to my surprise, I found a collection of reasonably-prices floating frames, along with the hardware.  Huzzah! I may have a chance to enter after all.

I picked out a nice, unfinished frame and some hardware, along with a few brushes and a couple more tubes of paint, excited to come home and try my and at framing this piece for the show.  I just hope that I get in.

My final product.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

No Plow Snow Plow I Don't Wanna Go Plow

I live in Canada.

It snows here.  A lot. It gets cold. Really cold.

There's an old joke about Canada having four seasons: Winter, More Winter, Dear God Even More Winter, and Roadwork.

(It should be mentioned, for those who don't live here, that this is not true everywhere.  It's a big friggin' country, with many climate zones.  Not everyone is subject to brutal winters, right Cheryl?)

But here in Central Ontario, it snows.  Like a mofo.  What's more, it gets cold.  Cold enough to freeze your god-dammed Winnebago, in the immortal words of Fozzie Bear.  Or was it Doc? Maybe it was the singing snowman, I don't know.

A friend and co-worker expressed annoyance at people who complain about Canadian winters.  I partly agree.  If you have lived in Canada for any number of years, there is no reason you should be surprised when you get dumped with 20cm of snow every day for a week, or if you wake up to -30C-with-wind-chill temperatures.

It really shouldn't come as a shock.

That being said, I fully reserve my right to complain about freezing my ass off, despite of wearing layers of clothing.  I fully reserve my right to complain about the sheer volume of static electricity emanating from my body at any given time, and about my compulsive need to tap or kick every door I go through, lest I somehow forget and manage to electrocute myself with the static build-up.

I reserve my right to complain about assholes on snowmobiles who do 65kmh down my tiny road with the 40kmh speed limit at 11 at night.  I also withhold my sympathy for people who send their machines through the ice when they knew damn well we had open water less than three weeks ago.

My house is drafty, my toes are cold.  I'm gonna complain.

I didn't ask to be born in this bullshit climate.

Were it not for the socialized medicine and certain custodial arrangements, I'd have fled this godforsaken no man's land years ago.  

Is this a traffic sign, or a plea for help?  SOURCE

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The organization ain't really organized

I have been spending the last few days attempting to, in internet parlance, unfuck my habitat.

Okay, to be honest, I just discovered that site when I was Googling "Unfuck Your Habitat" in an effort to properly credit whomever came up with that term.  I think I'm going to need to look into it a bit further.

But at any rate, my general impression of the concept was basically doing the little, and sometimes big, things needed to keep the domicile from being a giant clusterfuck of hopelessness and disorder.

That being said, I've been engaging in the re-arranging of cupboards and drawers, filing of receipts, and purging of stuffs and whatnots.  Frankly, there hasn't been quite as much purging as I had hoped, but I can't win them all. 

I've been visiting Pinterest again in hopes of picking up some DIY home organization tips, but I find a lot of the stuff involves a lot of resources I don't have on hand.  I did try this tip, which I had been curious about for some time, regarding folding T-shirts for easy access.  This is what I ended up with:

I am physically incapable of throwing out T-shirts.
Compared to the tutorial:

It's not a bad system.  The pictures on the original post exaggerate the amount of extra room you end up with.  Folding T-shirts in this manner doesn't reduce their volume at all - they still take up roughly the same amount of space.  The author mentioned cleaning out old ratty shirts, so maybe that accounts for the change in occupied space.

Also, the tutorials I've seen on this don't seem to account for someone whose clothing is not all the same size/volume due to fluctuating weight and other things, so unless all of your t-shirts

I do find it easier to look for something to wear though.  The real test will come on laundry day when I find out how much of a pain it will be to put newly-laundered t-shirts back in the drawers.

Sometime back The Well-Travelled One, being well-travelled and all, introduced me to the concept of rolling all your shit military style. 

This I like.  I may have gone a wee bit overboard.

My dingy as fuck dishtowels. If anyone needs ideas for Christmas/birthday... don't get me these.  I don't want dishtowels for my birthday.

My pajama/bathing suits/various ephemera drawer
Underwear and socks.  ROLL ALL THE THINGS.

Yes, I can now officially say the internet has seen my underwear.

In tackling the kitchen I realized a few things:
  • I have a disturbing number of pairs of scissors
  • My kids went through a cupcake phase that only seemed to last long enough that we managed to accumulate a ridiculous amount of cupcake liners, yet I don't recall actually having cupcakes more than three times in the last two years.
Last night I went through all my bills, receipts, old birthday cards and came to the conclusion that I probably have enough of this crap to insulate my house should I come across an industrial strength paper shredder.

Today I intend to tackle the basement and get the rec-room area, which we don't use since we lack anything recreational to put down there (mainly a TV.. we've got about 10 game consoles to hook up to a TV, but no TV), back into some semblance of shape after the Great Christmas Excavation, known to laypeople as 'Pulling out the tree and decorations'.

Speaking of Christmas... does anyone else find it weird that right after Christmas, all the big box stores have sales on storage and organizational equipment, as if to say "Here, it's time to pack away all the useless shit we've been guilting people into buying you for the last four months?"