Monday, January 23, 2017

Three

A while back, I asked Sullivan what he was going to turn on his next birthday and he said, "Left. I'm going to turn left."

I tried to explain the whole birthday thing to him, like, "No, you're going to turn three. Now, you are two, but on January 21, you will have been hanging out with us for three years, so you will be three."

A few weeks later, we were at my friend Sheila's place and she asked him what he was turning on his next birthday. He looked at me for a minute with deep concentration and then said to her, "Uh...like, North, I sink?"

So I suck at explaining stuff. But! Weird! This weekend, he turned three, whether he knew it or not.

It was a full weekend, with the funeral and the music festival (I'll tell you about that later), but my parents came into town and stayed with us and we had a little family birthday party for him. I even baked a birthday cake! It was one of those things I'd never done before but probably wouldn't whip out in a game of Never Have I Ever. It was a guitar cake, too. Pat me on the back and tell me I'm special. (Full disclosure: my mom helped.)


Now the house is quiet--Sullivan's napping and the company's gone home and I'm sitting in my office eating leftover cake and having my own little birthday celebration. I do this every year: I sit and think about my son, about the day he came to join us, and marvel at the wonder that is bones getting bigger and skin stretching over them and an entire language being learned by someone who, I swear, just yesterday couldn't even hold his own head up. A personality being revealed. Preferences and ideas forming--and relationships, too. All of it happening so silently and miraculously and casually. 

I read his birth story, the one I wrote a couple of weeks after the fact. I feel thankful that I wrote it down, and also thankful that I left the gory parts out and focused on the feelings and what song was playing on the radio, because, frankly, there are parts of that day I don't want to remember. And sure enough, those bits of useless information are fading to the back, blurry, while the parts that I love remain in focus: Wild Country by Wake Owl, Barclay holding my head in the stairwell of the hospital, the moment I met Sullivan, and the way his face appeared on the backs of my eyelids every time I shut my eyes. What a perfect, perfect day.


(It's funny how you can shape your own past by the way you tell about it, hey?) 

Every year that goes by, the birth story becomes more special to me because now I know the baby we were meeting that day. Back then he was a dream, unfamiliar and a little bit scary. Now he's the hilarious kid who fills my house with loud music, who explores cities with me and eats strawberries on the kitchen floor with me, who repeats the things I say and mimics my actions, who helps me get excited about things that had become stale, who brings out a side of Barclay that I absolutely love and wouldn't have gotten to see otherwise, who makes me have to slow down sometimes and speed up sometimes, who can make me laugh louder than anyone and who can absolutely melt my heart just by looking at me. 


The privilege and blessing of being his mom isn't lost on me.

(The photo of me and Sully by the lake was taken by Vivien Francombe and you can see more of her pictures by clicking on it.)

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Best Roommate I Ever Had

"Roommates" is a great conversation starter. Everyone's got a roommate story or two--good or bad or weird or whatever. If you don't, though, don't feel bad; I've got enough for the both of us.

From the time I moved out of my parents' house at 18 to the time Barclay became my final housemate of choice (well, and we decided to let Sullivan live with us too), I lived with 20 different people - some of them twice. I guess there was a time where I moved around a fair amount (because I could), but I've also done the sardine thing more than once (like the time we packed five girls into a tiny two bedroom apartment for the summer in Saskatoon or the time there were six or seven of us in a trailer in the mountains).

You wanna talk roommates? Love to, always.

The other day, I was driving with a friend and the topic came up. We exchanged some great Can You Believe It stories and a couple Can't Even ones and then we laughed at ourselves a little (because there's always that cringeworthy moment, right, where you look back at your past self and realize that you were the awful roommate) and then I said the thing I always say when Roommates is the subject matter:

"Barclay's grandma Guzz was the best roommate I ever had."

I lived with her for a summer back in 2009. It was kind of a blur of events leading up to me moving into her basement, and then I was only going to stay a couple of days...but that summer was weird and things with our house renovations took longer than expected and it moved from strange in-between-limbo-situation to I-think-I'm-living-here-is-that-okay type thing.

Do you know what I mean when I say that for some people in my life, I can think of a single story that sums them up? Most of the time it's a trivial little incident or even a moment, but it captures something about that person or about my relationship with that person so well that it always pops into my mind when I think about them. Instead of their face, there's a picture of something else, like the memory is a literal book and the picture is the cover of it.

I have one of those for Guzz; when I think about her, I picture a green pepper, chopped up and sitting on a plate. The story goes like this:

The first morning I woke up at her house, I came up the stairs to find her waiting for me with a box of Raisin Bran and the Yahtzee dice. She seemed nervous, almost frantic. She said, "I don't know what you like to eat for breakfast! This is all I've got in the cupboard!"

I said, "No, this is so great--I love Raisin Bran!" I didn't love Raisin Bran, really. Is it bad that I lied? I just wanted to make a good first (as a roommate) impression, and I didn't know her that well back then, and she was my fiancé's grandmother, and it was so nice of her to even offer me breakfast, and it's not like I hated Raisin Bran, exactly, so...

So I sat down and gratefully polished the bowl off and we played Yahtzee. At some point in the game, she said something about green peppers--I cannot for the life of me remember what it was now--and I, being the felicitous conversationalist that I am, said something about liking them.

I went to work that day, and when I came home there was a raw green pepper on a plate on the table, cut into neat slivers, and the cupboard was stocked to the gills with Raisin Bran.

And good Grandma Guzz did not miss a day with either the peppers or the Raisin Bran. I would come home from work and eat my pepper while we played Yahtzee, and she would sit and watch me with a trace of fascinated disgust on her face. She'd say, "I don't like peppers that much. I don't know how you eat it like that, like an apple!" I didn't tell her that I'd never eaten a pepper like that before either.

But something else I didn't tell her, that I really should've (I really wish I would've), is that there was something amazing about walking into the house after work and seeing that I was anticipated and thought of and cared for, every single day. Do you know what that does to a person? It's incredible. Raw pepper was not my favourite thing, but eating a raw pepper in front of Guzz became my favourite thing.

And at her funeral yesterday, I realized that the green pepper story is a universal one for anyone who knew Guzz. I mean, I was the only one who got a chopped up green pepper, that was my Thing, but that was kind of her love language, trying to figure out the Thing that a person liked so she could give it to them, over and over and over.

Bonus points if she got to watch them enjoy it.

I may not have been a blood grandchild, but I'm really thankful I got to marry in and become an honorary one, even if it was only for a short time. Someone with as big a personality as Guzz had didn't need that much time to make a big impression, anyway.  

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Secret to a Clean House is Not Minimalism, It's Netflix

People are weird when it comes to trendy technology things (think social media sites like Facebook, new iPhones, etc).

The first people to try [whatever it is] are always really proud of themselves, like they invented the thing.

And then a whole bunch of people also get [whatever it is], and it's just normal to have it.

And then there are the stragglers, the handful of people who didn't buy in right away who feel left behind and are a little ashamed to admit they haven't jumped on the bandwagon yet. So they quietly jump on the bandwagon.

And THEN, last but not least, there are the one or two people who never did buy in and are super proud of themselves. Like they're morally superior for holding out or something. Like they're better than you because they still have one of those big black bag phones in their car instead of an iPhone 7 in their pocket.

But even they often realize that they were kind of silly for holding out and join everyone else in the end.

Take me, for example. I got Netflix this week--as in, my parents gave me one of their extra accounts over the Christmas break and I signed in and used it for the first time yesterday.

Verdict: Shoulda done it ages ago.

Honestly, I think I was afraid it was going to be a massive time-suck. Like I'd sign in and turn something on and then just never sign out again. If I get Netflix, I surmised, my brain might as well be a potato. But here's something neat: I have some semblance of self-control! And! Zero attention span!

So, last night, instead of sitting on the couch and watching three hours of Netflix, I put a show on in the background and cleaned my entire house.

MY ENTIRE HOUSE.

I swept under the bed. I threw out a bunch of junk. I cleared out the filing cabinet in the office. I put the loose change in a jar. It was like my brain just needed to be distracted enough to not realize my body was working.

So this is why my house has been a disaster and everyone else's hasn't.

Netflix. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sickness and Attic Floorboards, Basically

Sickness has struck our household.

We made it this far though, so that's something. We skipped the communal sickness in October, missed the round in November, sailed through December (despite the fact that Sully licked everything in Vegas, barf), and made it halfway through January.

AND THEN.

On Saturday, I said the unmagic words: "We've made it through this whole season without getting sick!"

Mom Jinx. It is lurking. It will not have mercy. Even as I was saying the words, I knew. And sure enough.

Yesterday, Sullivan coughed so hard he puked. And then he walked through the puke to get to me and puked again. And then he walked through that puke to get to me and puked again--literally the saddest thing I've ever seen.

The last two nights he's been in bed with us, and I've been having dreams about being repeatedly shot in the face (only to wake up and realize that it's a hacking cough, not gunshots).

So, of course we've been inside. Outside, it's a balmy, tropical, beach-worthy +1. Last week, when we were healthy, it was -54. What are you, mom jinx? And why do you loathe me so?

Enough complaining. A thing to be thankful for is that we're sick now and will hopefully be over it by the second half of the week. It's going to be a full one and I want to be all there for it.

In the meantime, I wanted to post a couple of pictures of the old farm house. We dropped by there this Christmas when we went home.

It's kind of in limbo at this point and the progress is hard to see because it's all so nitpicky; they're waiting on electrical and furnace stuff before they can "giv'r on the insulation" (- dad). It's hard to work in a house in Canadian winter with no heating, but they're pressing on. They've put in all new windows and are currently working in the attic, which is eventually going to be the master bedroom with an ensuite. They've ripped up all the floorboards so they can clean and plane them and put them back down, and at present it looks like this:


After the electrical, plumbing, and furnace stuff happens (which is all completely out of their control), I think we'll begin to see some really big, fun changes. Barclay and I are heading down in February to help out, so I'll have a bunch of updates then. Get excited, Internet.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Social Media Bites and a Crazy Thing

So here's a crazy thing:

You know how my name is actually Elena?

(Did you know that? Do I have to tell the story again? Well, skip these brackets if you already know. So, okay, I was born Elena Christensen ((I accidentally just typed "Elena Christmas")), but very early on my mom started calling me her little Suzy Q. Like the CCR song. My older brother joined her in it, and then my dad and then everyone else. So I've been Suzy as long as I can remember, and no one even told me I was really Elena until I was five, when my kindergarten teacher sent me home in tears because she'd labeled all of my stuff wrong and would not call me Suzy, no matter how much I insisted it was my name. She probably thought I was being a brat. I thought she was torturing me for no good reason. My dentist says the stress marks on my teeth are from a bad bout of pneumonia when I was five, but I think they're actually from that incident on my first day of school. Anyway, that's the long and short of it ((but mostly the long)): I've never not been Suzy. And any time I've moved to a new place and attempted to be Elena, for the sake of less confusion, someone from my past has always been there to say, "But we've always called her Suzy." And that's all it takes.)

Okay, the crazy thing now.

The other night, I was at a thing called Social Media Bites (more on that in a sec), and I met this guy, Aidan, and when I said my name was Suzy, he was like, "Hey, my mom's name is Suzy. Well, actually, it's a nickname. Her real name is Eleanor, but when she was born, the nurse said to my mom, Here's your black-eyed Susan, and she's been called Suzy ever since."

I mean. It's not the craziest thing. But pretty crazy right? My name thing has always been one of the more interesting pieces of me trivia I have to offer and people are always like, "How do you get Suzy from Elena? How did it catch on to that extent? How has it stuck this long?" But look at that: the exact same thing happened to someone else out there.

I feel like I can hear the far-off sound of eyes rolling around in their sockets.

Okay then, can I tell you about this Social Media Bites thing?

I was invited by the Regina Downtown Improvement people (not Tourism Regina, a separate entity) on Tuesday to a local pub. The invitation was a little cryptic; it was like, "Do you want to come eat food at 7 at The Fat Badger? We're buying." And I was like, "Yep." I never even ask questions when people send this kind of message. I just get excited and go. So, if you ever want to kidnap me, totally just send a Twitter message like, "Hey Suzy, meet me in the back alley behind O'Han's. There will be free food." Easy.

So I showed up, and there was a table of people that I mostly knew but had never met before. Isn't that funny, in this day and age? That you can go somewhere and know an entire group of strangers? I quickly realized that the common denominator was social media; we're all all over it, blogging and Tweeting and 'gramming and such. Hence: Social Media Bites. In which a bunch of social media people eat a lot of food and, they were probably hoping, Tweet about it. Which we did. Sellouts! All of us! My blog ain't for sale, but, yeah, you can buy my Twitter feed with good food. I'm only human.


So I sat down and Chef Terry just started bringing the food. He brought whole chicken wings covered in this strange but delightful cream sauce, and then deli-style flatbread pizza, and then spinach dip.

And I was like, "That was a great supper. Thank you." And then he was like, "That was just appetizers." And I was like, "Thaaaaank youuuuuu."


Then he brought us meat that had been braised in chocolate milk. Chocolate beef, I think he called it. Doesn't that sound like it could be either amazing or awful but nowhere in between? It was amazing. It made me want to convert to food blogger. (I won't, though.)


And then he brought us so many more things. It got to the point where every time he brought out a new dish, I just laughed. There were smashed creamer potatoes and Korean BBQ pork steak and shrimp stir fry and fettuccine with smoky slab bacon and jalapeño cheddar waffles with Southern spiced chicken... He brought us every entree on the menu. It was a dream I never knew I had, come true. The chef came and sat with us afterward and told us about all the places he's traveled and eaten and studied. I liked that part as much as the eating part - I've become a really big bonus material person, both in DVDs and real life. I like knowing the backstory.


And! It was Tuesday! Which, it just so happens, is live music night at the Badger. The Alley Dogs were playing really old, good country songs. (If any of them are reading this, I have a musical request for next time: Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain. Thanks, guys.)

The people I knew but had never met were really funny and neat. Three hours flew by and we laughed so much my cheeks hurt by the end. Schmutzie even offered to set me up with a new domain (see above? NICE).

So yeah. Good, good times.

And someone else out there is Suzy for no good reason. Life is cute.