Busy Hands

My life is spinning past me. I am not morose or depressed or even anxiety ridden (at the moment) but I can still see it spiralling past, not slowing, as moments come and go like birds overhead in a clear blue sky.

I am supposed to be writing a Hot Wire Recipe Bible right now. That was the reason I left the sanctuary of my garden this morning, poured myself another strong coffee and turned the computer on. I am supposed to be documenting all of our recipes onto paper then laminating them into a permanent state. I am supposed to be doing all of this because soon we will have more than one employee and they will need a reference sheet to bake from.

This idea should give me joy. I should be elated from the mere thought that it will not be just Jamie and me “doing it all”. And I am. I can nearly feel my body relaxing, my muscles releasing the pent up tension of the past two years.

I shouldn’t get ahead of myself though. The time has not come yet to hire. First we must open this second location, put the time in to get it running smoothly. First we must, once again, run ourselves ragged for the sake of the business.

It sounds horrible when I put it like that. I sound ungrateful and bitter. I sound angry. I know this, but I do not mean it that way. Maybe there are moments of bitterness. Moments where I am hunched over a bathroom sink eyes bloodshot, red-rimmed and exhausted wondering why we got ourselves into this. Maybe there are moments when it is too straining on mine and Jamie’s marriage or moments when I worry we are not enough for our kids. And really, there is no maybe—these moments are all for certain. But these moments are not very different from the bad times before the shop either. I think difficulties arise everywhere, anywhere. And when we boil it down to the basics, the good, the rewards of the now outweigh the difficulties. I don’t need to be a math genius to see that.

The real thing that weighs on me as our life begins to morph into something unrecognisable is how it will never be the same again. Jamie and I will never work together again. Not on the floor at least. For two and a half years we’ve worked side by side, and we are a good team. We are a strong team. We can read each other’s minds when the shop is packed with people and tensions are running high. We ground each other. We possess the same work ethic and drive. Our ambition for the future matches one another. We know how to nudge the other forward when energies are running low.

So now, as our world changes and events begin to slide by us, these ever-moving logs on a rapid current, I wonder how our dynamic will keep up. I wonder how we will keep up.

He will be at the main location, training staff and working lunch hours while I will be at the new cafe, growing it into something we can call our own.

We are bold in our objectives and as we grow our business these goals become bigger, better and more attainable. It is our desire to learn more and be more but I have to wonder, at what cost does this ambition come?

Could it have been enough to leave our little sandwich shop as is and just get by with what we have? I don’t know if you realise but sandwiches aren’t the most lucrative business. Could it have been enough to live paycheck to paycheck, throwing away our desire for more knowledge, bigger dreams—to remain on the “easy” path of which we understand and know?

Jamie often says that from the beginning of his career all of his best chefs would persistently remind him that success comes to those who possess “busy hands”.  If your hands are busy, you have the intention to do. You have the drive to earn your money well. You have integrity in the work you do. You are not looking for a free ride. And maybe it is this thought process which has brought us to where we are. We do have busy hands, and it is our busy hands that have helped create our success. It is our busy hands that have brought growth and change into our lives. And it is our busy hands that will continue to move us towards our goals. And every day we work with these busy hands, we teach our children why a strong work ethic is so important.

Most of the time I am proud of this. I am proud of the role models we are for Lars and Sophie. I am proud of how we came to be where we are. I am proud of the elbow grease and the countless late nights and early mornings logged into our business.

But sometimes I must remind myself that it is okay to stop. It is acceptable to put the recipe book/paperwork/goal charts aside if only for a moment and write a blog post about my fears and hopes and my “right now” life.

Sometimes it is necessary, or even essential, to live in this exact moment and take the time to appreciate how far you’ve come.

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Summing Up Someday

 

The sour tang of a Vitamin C pill clashes horrifically with dark roast coffee. My coffee is especially dark roast, if that’s even a thing, because I use exactly twice as much coffee grounds as the recommended serving on the can. This is so I can taste the bitter black liquid as it slithers down into the depths of my soul each morning.

Okay, that was a bit much.

It’s been so long since I wrote on here, I don’t even know what I’m doing anymore. It was the stillness of the tree outside my living room window that did it.  The sunlight slipping through its leaves, playing peekaboo with me. Distracting my brain from its usual Sunday morning thoughts.  That’s what drew me in. I was noncommittally toying with the idea of going for a walk when the thought occurred to me. I haven’t wrote, haven’t even looked at the blog, in months.

I am chewing down Vitamin C because Sophie has a killer flu bug. Not actually killer, to clarify. There is no apocalyptic flu bug going around or anything. Not that I know of at least. Nevertheless, I can see it as it envelops our home despite my ravenous cleaning and disinfecting. I am at the point now of attempting to ward it off by pure mental willpower. The way I used to try to move pencils in math class with nothing other than the raw power of my brain. It never worked then but I suspect my brain is more powerful now, as an adult, so now I should be able to accomplish something in this department. Even if it is just that of me catching a slightly less awful strain of the bug.

The truth of it is, I cannot get sick. Not now. Before, like three weeks ago, it would have been passable to come down with a bug. We have our employee Cam who could have covered my shift at the panini factory. We would have been able to deal. In fact we have dealt with this exact scenario because I have a shit immune system and catch basically everything that goes around.

I can’t get sick anymore however. The ‘ol immune system is going to have to shape up or…Well, I guess I don’t want it to ship out, there’s no way that having no immune system would be better than have a shitty immune system. So it’s just going to have to shape up. End of story. I will start eating more vegetables and drinking more water. My mom tells me this is the answer to basically all of life’s problems. And she is typically quite knowledgeable on these types of things.

The reason I cannot get sick is because we are opening a second store location. We are aren’t doing this in the typical, hire more staff and be completely prepared for the extra work load, type of way. Oh no. We are opening a second location, continuing to run with three people and hoping to make a boat load of cash in the process. A “boat load” is an overstatement.  A gross overstatement. What we are really hoping to do is secure our business so that eventually we can hire enough staff to run the floor and Jamie and I can actually do owner stuff. Well, that’s an exaggeration too. Honestly guys, who knows what we want out of this thing. I’m pretty sure all of the glutinous flour I work with on a daily basis has begun to clog my braintubes (braintubes is most definitely a thing, despite what spellcheck, and perhaps science, tells me). All I really know is that we need to grow our business so it becomes something of value. Yeah, yeah, it is sentimentally valuable right now, but sentimentality ‘aint shit when thinking about the future. But I guess it sort of is in the grand scheme of things….But not in this scenario. Just stay with me here guys.

Still there? Awesome.

When Jamie and I dream of someday we are sitting in a mansion that we have built with our franchised panini money, sipping cocktails while I write my memoirs and he creates miniature models of specific points in history which he will display in his football field sized miniatures museum he constructed after selling the restaurant. We laugh and laugh at how difficult life used to be with memories that are hazy because if we were to really reminisce about the trials of yesteryear we would be in a constant state of manic depression.

Sometimes we dream that we build a blimp hotel and travel around the world at a brisk 60 mph while whisking our patrons off to their various destinations in aviation heaven.

Most times, however, we simply dream about simplicity. About having the ability to go on vacation with our kids without having to worry about a store to look after. We dream about taking the day off work to volunteer on a school field trip. We dream about lying in bed all day, worrying of nothing. Nothing at all.

Alas, we tried this life once, and dreamt of the life we are currently living. Which is exactly how we arrived here. So clearly we are physically unable to be happy with anything (unless it involves owning a blimp hotel). We are obsessed with the idea that there is something else out there for us to achieve. Something amazing to explore around the next bend. Perhaps, we will never learn.

I have come to the conclusion that the real key to living happy is to somehow merge these two fantasises. And this, my friends, is the meaning of life. Boom. You’re welcome. And we are trying to achieve it. The kids have begun to help us at the shop. We show them the ropes and so far, they swing from them joyously. Lars is great with customers and talks their ear off while Sophie is happy to help in the baking department when given the chance. I took them to see the new café yesterday and they both immediately began to make plans of how they would be involved in this new place.

So maybe our life is not the typical one of a growing family. Maybe we are a bit more complicated. Maybe a bit unconventional. At times I worry about the kids and I wonder if they would be happier if given a different life. I wonder if they are okay. Then I look at them. Like, really study them. They then look at me like I’m a crazy person but quickly sluff it off because I am forever doing strange things like this.

I see Sophie and her artwork. The artwork that she has honed in and made her own over hours of drawing weird and wonderful pictures from the two seater table of a sandwich shop. And I see Lars and his genuine and lovely and kind personality. His empathy and outgoing nature towards any other human being continues to astound me.

I will write little blurbs on this blog when the muse takes me and Jamie will continue to craft miniature models from the paint speckled table in our living room while we binge watch bad Netflix originals. We will take mini vacations to the mountains when the stars have aligned and we find ourselves with two consecutive days off work. We will enjoy backyard bbq’s and watch as the kids swim in the pool and scream out in unabashed joy when the water is too cold to bear. We will find joy in the time spent together, even when together is at the shop showing our children how to talk to customers and make bundt cakes.

I see the pride the kids have in our little sandwich shop when they tell perfect strangers about The Hot Wire Panini and they call it “their shop”, “their restaurant” and I realise that maybe our life isn’t cookie cutter perfect but it is our perfect. Our right now perfect. And just like all things, it will evolve and grow with us, and that will be perfect too.

 

 

The Voices

There are strange voices in my house. My brain registers this immediately. Men’s voices, of low register but not my husband’s. My heart does not so much thud against the rib cage but wedge itself there. It is pumping wildly while my brain tries to work out why I am hearing these non-husband voices in my home at 4 o’clock in the morning. They do not say words. At least I do not decipher words coming out of them. It is a string of sound carried by imperceptible winches and cranes throughout the hallway and into my eardrums. The meanings are murky. Dangerous simply because I do not understand them.

I am immobilised for what seems like minutes but surely is mere milliseconds before I hear the thing that makes me move without thought. Lars’ voice rings out amidst them. A falsetto, nimble and piercing, summoning me like magnetised current.

I am desperately pulling myself out of that place where waking meets sleep. I am dragging my soggy conscience up from an ocean of dreams and wringing it out upon reality. I am willing myself to be present because I do not know what will greet me once I get to the voices.

“What is going on? What?” I mutter as I round the corner out of my bedroom and into the fringe.

“Ma’am.” Says the police officer. “Don’t be alarmed.” There are three of them plus my 9 year old son huddled in the small landing area of my home’s front doorway. “Your son called 911 tonight.” Lars is microscopic compared to their large uniform clad bodies. He is a tadpole among giants.

“Oh my God what happened?” It sounds so stupid as it passes over my lips and into the moment. Is that all you can say Lindsay? Is that all you can come up with? I am directing the question at Lars. I move towards him, touch his face, his hair, hold him in front of me like a shield to ward off the angst which has set up residence in my chest and abdomen.

“Sophie heard a voice downstairs. We called for you and Dad but when you didn’t come we got scared so I called the cops.” My son is saying. His voice is strong in this moment, he is sure and confident in a way that I’ve never seen in him before.  He sees that I am upset. “Mom, we were yelling for you. You didn’t answer. I didn’t know what else to do.” He does not cry. This is strange for Lars. Tears tend to be his first resort in high pressure situations such as finding oneself in tight quarters with three police officers and having to explain the beckoning of their assistance in the wee hours of the morning.

I look at the officer closest to me without acknowledging what Lars has said. “I’m so sorry to have wasted your time.” Embarrassment tears through me. I know the kind of offence it is to make a false 911 call.  “I have no idea why I didn’t hear them calling for me. Oh my gosh I’m just so sorry this happened.” I feel as though I should be reprimanded for this situation although I cannot quite put my finger on why.

“Don’t apologise. At least you know your son knows what to do in an emergency.” Says the officer. He smiles and the anxiety, the bombshell of having a sound sleep interjected upon so curtly, begins to sputter away like ice thrown on a bed of coals.

The officers and I go through the usual information that you must go through when having police called to your home under false pretences. Then they tell us to get some sleep and are on their way. They are kind and understanding. They have made us feel at ease in this uneasy situation.

I tuck in Lars and Sophie (who had no qualms retelling the events leading up to the infamous call to our police officer guests, but now is woefully exhausted as I kiss her on the forehead.) I ease through the 911 phone call talk. The same talk I imagine many parent folk have had with their littles. I try not to sound menacing. I tightrope walk between explaining that this number is for emergency only but to always call it if it is indeed an emergency. I don’t know if they fully get it and all I can do is hope they understand the severity of the situation.

They fall asleep quickly as children do. The excitement does not seem to disturb them as it does me and the even rise and fall of their breathing soon twirls up into the air above their beds. I take a good look around the basement where they sleep because I cannot shake free from my mind the “voices” Sophie heard that initiated this debacle. However, my search comes up clear, thank friggen God.

Strong black coffee now drips at flat intervals into the craft and I mull over what has just happened. Sleep will not come to me this early morning. Right now it feels as though sleep will never come to me again. Why didn’t I wake up to their calls for me? Why was I so ashamed over this situation I had no control over? Was it a dream which had awakened Sophie so abruptly? And was it truly so terrifying to warrant a call to the police?

Shadows reach out to me from lamplight crescents across the wall. The moonlight ambience, the stillness of others sleep makes the state of affairs all the more strange and unnerving. I want to pick through the events, dissect them to discover their hidden layers. I want to uproot what has just happened. Lay it out for future clarification.

But now, as I tap the keys of this familiar keyboard I come up blank on all accounts. An obscure film has covered over all logical reasoning and it becomes a “just is” event. Perhaps in the surety of sunrise, light might be shed on the unusual happenings of this early morning wake up call. Until then, it remains as strange as the voices which woke me from my sleep.

 

Chocolates in a bag

The woman’s face is wizened. Ripened from years of talking and laughing. It must be from laughing, or smiling at least because of the wrinkles which huddle around the corners of her mouth; all tiny sideways smiles themselves.

We make eye contact through the glass of my passenger side window. The Chinook winds cause her to squint and pull a hood up over her head. Oh for shit sakes, I mumble trying not to move my lips in case she is a lip reader, what the what is this now?

I busy myself by touching imaginary buttons on my phone. Busy people are unapproachable because they are too engrossed in whatever they are doing to speak to other humans. Or maybe it is because they have such a vital and important air about them. Or maybe they give off the undetectable stench of standoffishness. Or maybe it’s just that the brain is intuitive enough to detect that this person simply does not want to talk to you. In any case, this woman’s detector sensors are broken.

However she does not approach my car but the one parked behind me. I stealthily slip out of the driver’s seat to slink into the store without having to engage. Human contact, ugh. I hear a, “Oh thank you!” coming from the woman who sits in the vehicle to my rear. Her voice peaks at the end of the sentence as if she is partly asking a question. Something rectangular dangles from her fingers, she seems hesitant to touch it. As if it is slathered in goo.

The old woman gives a courteous nod of her head and moves on from the exchange. I realize I am staring, thus, I am caught. For being so seemingly delicate the woman moves with great agility towards me. A similar rectangle bag-box hangs resolutely from her fingers. She is upon me within seconds.

“Oh hello.” I say as I note that she has noted me noting her approach.

“Merry Christmas Dear.” Says the woman. Her voice is as you would expect the voice to be of the elderly. The bag-box dangles in the air. It begs me to take it. “Oh, what is this?” I say with too much question upon the question. She nods her head, inaudibly saying, don’t worry it’s not poison. And is that what I think? Am I so jaded from this damaged world that I would actually envision a lovely grandmother figure giving me a bag of fatal toxins in the Walmart parking lot?

I take the bag because it would be rude not to…No, correction, that is not why I take the bag. I take I bag because this little old lady’s eyes bore into me like a drill bit into origami paper. She smiles and says, “God bless dear.”

Ah I see, it is the pious on duty—spreading the word of Christmas to any unsuspecting soul who will unquestioningly take presents that are tossed in their general direction. Candy from a stranger. The bag is filled with stories about faith and the Lord Almighty and chocolates and a hymn printed out on a piece of yellowed paper.

I plop one of the chocolates in my mouth with one last lingering thought about poisoned apples and whatnot but push it away. I hope that one day I too can believe in something so unwaveringly, so devoutly. I smile and pop another chocolate in my mouth. Maybe one day.

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Facebook is weird, but so is everything.

 

The harsh glow of this screen is straining my eyes as I try to think of the exact words that will explain how I feel this morning.  In the next minute I drop everything to google a few hilarious birthday memes and put them on my brother’s wall. It’s his birthday and memes are life. What the hell did I use to do before the internet? Be forced to call someone on the phone on their birthday? Human interaction? Ew gross.

Ugh what kind of social media monster have I become? Time after time I have seen this magnificent thing called Facebook work wonders for my professional life. It has helped me advertise our current business virtually for free. It has given me the ability to write and be read by hundreds of people who would have never seen my work otherwise.

However for a time, it also alienated me. It tucked me into a place where social interaction was solely taken through screen time and conversation was rather typed than spoken. It made face to face interactions odd and unkemptly, as though somewhere in the back of my brain I was thinking this socializing thing might just be easier if I wasn’t here at all. The protection of a screen had become everything.

Then we opened a business where speaking to people became our way of earning money. Everyday different humans walk into our shop and I am forced to converse with them. It is actually the best thing that could have ever happened to me. While we all know that socialization is important, I think we sometimes forget how detrimental physical human interaction actually is to our mental health.

It can get very lonely sitting behind a screen simply feeding ones ego with “likes” and “shares”.  It can become a hard habit to break. How easy it has become to feel as though we are living grandly in the imaginary frontier of the information superstation. How simple it is to believe that all of those friends and followers truly care about what and where and why and how we are living.

These sites that were crafted to connect us to each other have achieved to such an extent that they have disconnected us from everyday physical and emotional experiences. And although they create optimal and vast opportunities for professional growth they seem to be stifling our personal and emotional wellbeing. Simply put, those who cannot sort out the good and helpful aspects from the social media garbage are being left behind to wander aimlessly. They are searching for a false gratification that can never truly be achieved in that kind of a place, only hoped for under grossly false pretenses of grandeur and greatness.

I’ve come to enjoy talking and interacting with people again. I have learnt to appreciate different people’s foibles and intricacies. It is what makes us human and the main thing we try to hide when living behind a screen. In real life I seek these flaws out and remind myself to appreciate them in all of the people I meet because it means we are living, it means we are still trying to connect.

At times I still have to remind myself that there is nothing opulent about my social media sites. They are not there to make me rich nor famous but to simply allow me to stay in touch with those I do not see every day. These sites are not a substitution for connection but instead an extension for when there is no other option.

With that said, I’ll be signing off for now. I think it’s about time I call my brother and wish him a happy birthday.

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Co-Workery

 

One of the most common questions we have gotten since starting up The Hot Wire is firstly, “Do you guys own this place?” Secondly, “Wow that’s awesome, you’re married then?” And finally, “Holy man don’t you guys drive each other nuts working together?” This last question is usually followed up by a, “I’d never be able to work with my wife/husband I’d kill them!”

We laugh, nod understandingly and play along telling them that, “Oh boy it’s come close to that before!” And then we all chuckle in good humour and continue on with our trade.

The truth is, of course it’s not easy working with your spouse. It’s also not easy working with a complete stranger or your best friend or a sibling either. The real damn truth of the matter is that it’s not easy working with anyone because all human beings have their own distinct ways of doing things. Isn’t that the purpose of kindergarten? To learn how to play well with others?

Jamie and I met while working together. It was in a little chicken factory…you may have heard of it  – KFC? We worked together for a few years but then went on to pursue separate things in life. Maybe that’s what primed us for our later years of co-workery (cool new word ‘eh?).

When we first began setting up the shop I worried about so many things when it came to working with Jamie. Mostly though, would there be a power struggle? Well, not really because he knew everything about the industry and I knew literally nothing. That basically determined our roles in the company pretty darn quick. Although most of the time I will still pretend to be the boss and he just plays along because he is a gawd-damn saint I tell you. A knight in shining armour! He often calls me “Boss” and I roll my eyes but quietly tuck away a smile because I know he does it just to make me feel good about myself and my place at The Hot Wire.

Don’t get me wrong it’s not all cutesy name calling and flirty ass-grabbing when it comes to spouses working together. There are days when we’ve had enough of each other. When one of us has said or done something to royally piss off the other one and we avoid each other like the plague.

There we’ll be, Jamie sitting on one side of the restaurant, me on the other, drinking our coffee and not acknowledging the others presence. And that’s okay too. I’ll be the first to admit it. We fight. Sometimes we are in the midst of a big ‘ol snap fest when a customer approaches the door and we turn it off like a magic button has been switched in the aggressive part of our brains and say in our most cheery voice, “Hi there! How’s it going today?” and the person walking in knows none the wiser because that’s just what the customer service industry is all about.

The business doesn’t wait for your spat to be through. The business doesn’t care about your hurt feelings or disagreements. The business only knows good service. Relationships and personal tribulations become secondary to that during regular business hours. This is the entrepreneur’s motto.

There has been too many times to count that I will be angry at Jamie and sulking when I realise I need to talk to him about something business related. Maybe it’s our next sandwich special or something to do with The Hot Wire’s bank account.

99.9% of me wants to ignore the issue and continue giving him the silent treatment but I know that is not an option when it comes to the business. So I deflate my ego a tad and continue on with professional matters. Pretty soon the topic of business will somehow shift our stuffiness towards each other and we will begin to work out all of the things that need working out. Eventually we find ourselves back to him calling me, “Boss” and me laughing at his corny jokes and wondering why we were so angry in the first place.

Perhaps both of us subconsciously know that things just go smoother when we aren’t in a huff with each other. Over the last year it seems to me that, although we certainly do not argue less, we do seem to resolve our disagreements on a much more congenial and timely basis.

Jamie and I were friends before we dated and have been lucky enough to only become better friends since then. We disagree on almost everything, we argue over small details, we drive each other crazy most of the time with our vastly differing opinions but we have the utmost respect for those opinions regardless of everything.

You could say we are friends with benefits. However our “benefits” far exceed the sexual favours that in which the popular saying suggests (although that’s nothing to shake a stick at either). My husband and I are lucky enough to have the benefit of choosing our own path. We make our decisions regarding money, business, family, children and life together. We hold each other up in times of stress and we celebrate as one in times of victory.

Working together does have its trials, but the trails seem minuscule when compared to the triumphs we get to revel in together. These are the days we are building up babes and a business simultaneously and some days if feels as though it is too much, sometimes we worry we have taken on more than we can chew. But we move through those rough patches together and just keep on growing.

I look to my side to find my husband and think about how proud I am of us to have built such an amazing team together. And I know that there has never been a better co-worker for me in all of history.

They Are The Reason

As my word processing program boots up and blinks back into existence it scowls at me. It’s been a while old friend, I quietly say, as I am hesitant to let people know that I talk to inanimate objects.

It’s been over a month to be precise. But when I say things have been busy, I mean it literally.

The shop is getting busier and busier as the days go by. I’m not complaining because just between you and me I like money. I like it a lot. What I am complaining about is the achy feet, the stiff joints (because apparently I’m 279 years old these days) and the reeling to-do list which accosts the tiny bits of relief that momentarily surface in my brain. Oh the joys of being alive!

This last week however Jamie and I have got a bit of reprieve from the daily grind.  We shipped the small humans up to my parents house to stay with them for the week and by the looks of the photos I’ve been getting they are in their glory. And James and I have gotten a small taste of what it’s like to run a business without having tiny people in tow.

So, I’m just going to throw this out there guys…All of you humans that have no kids, um, what are you doing? Why aren’t you ruling the world right now? How are we, the exhausted parents, not your underlings yet? You are clearly the dominant species and should be prevailing over all civilisation. You surely have the energy for it!

Maybe that’s going a little far but after experiencing this last week, I have a newfound appreciation for ‘the working parent’ that’s for damn sure!

After dropping the babes off and heading back to Lethbridge we were solemn and sad, wondering how we could possibly stand this week without our darling littles.

After day one back to The Hot Wire there we were counting our float with huge grins on our faces, signing;

 

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For the next week we got up early to prep and stayed open late when the customers just kept on rolling in. We seemed to have endless energy! The work we got accomplished was unprecedented. We felt like we had the world by the small and curlies and there wasn’t anything or anyone holding us back.

Now as I am writing all of this there is a tiny screaming voice in the back of my thoughts saying, “there is a special place in hell for people like you Lindsay!” Because really, who actually talks about how much easier and more productive life is without children? It’s fucking blasphemy. It’s despicable. Its ludicrous!

But it is also the truth.

This morning I was in the shower, enjoying the uninterrupted cleansing time thinking about all of this. I thought about how productive life has been these last six days and how thankful I felt that our business was doing well.

And then just like that, discreet images of my two favourite people started nonchalantly dancing around in my memories.  Sophie mopping the floor at the shop while giving me her famous “Sophie look”. Lars, sitting at the table across from the till playing Uno like a pro. The hilarious things they say and the weirdo stuff they do flooded my brain and  it occurred to me that these two small humans ARE the shop.

They are the reason we started this thing up. They are the reason we work so hard to make it successful. Their smiles brighten the place on Saturdays and their presence gives us the drive to keep on going even when things seem impossible.

Yes a week here or there is nice to catch up on the little stuff. We all (including the kids) need a break from the routine now and then. But as I sit here typing my gaze continues to drift towards the clock and I find myself anxious to go pick them up.

Because as fancy-free as life was without them, the real adventure is experiencing the growth and evolution of our beautiful family together. They are the reason for everything we do and I don’t think I will ever be able to thank them enough for that.

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Think Big. Act Accordingly. Stay Humble.

Jamie and I are officially on our Christmas break. We get an entire two days off and I don’t think I’ve felt this much Christmas glee in ages! It is the morning of December 24th and I am enjoying a warm cup of coffee at my computer. I’m not stressed out about getting to work on time to make bread or having to get the kids ready for school. I’m not thinking about upcoming Hot Wire orders or money or anything for that matter. I am just here in this moment and that feels great.

This last week has been a trial. We sort of snowballed when it came to making holiday trays. I put an add on Facebook that seemed to attract a lot of attention and long story short,  over the last three days Jamie and I have made around 500 eggnog flavoured cream puffs. This wouldn’t have been so bad if we, say, had two ovens to work with and, oh I don’t know, an employee or two. But really, what would a business be if it didn’t have some trials and tribulations to tell tales about in the years to come?! And you know what? We did it! It was probably a Hot Wire Christmas miracle but we did it none the less.

This time of year always gets me thinking about life and I am in awe at what we’ve accomplished since moving to this city. The friends and connections we’ve made have been irreplaceable and this experience; simply unbelievable.  Some days I come home and my back is killing me and feet feel as though they have lead pipes fastened to them. A better spouse would likely quiet this fact and ask how her partner was doing. Not me.

“Ugh, FUCK I’m so tired!” I will say in a bitter rage to my husband.

“It feels like I slept for an entire minute last night!” Jamie will rebut because if we are anything, it is on the same page about how close to zombies we’ve become since opening The Hot Wire up.

We persevere though because the shop means life and life is the shop. This is mantra as of late. ZOMBIES I TELL YOU — ZOMBIES!

A few days ago we had a couple of fellows stumble, and I literally mean stumble, through our doors. They approached our patrons asking each one if they would buy them lunch. Of course, once I caught on to their shenanigans I quietly asked them to leave.

“Well who the heck do you think you are little girl?” The one man slurred as the other fell to a nearby seat.

“Look guys, I’m not trying to be rude here but if you aren’t going to buy anything you’ll have to leave.” I repeated.

“Well what can I buy for two bucks?” He asked throwing a pile of change on the counter. I knew what he wanted but I find it difficult to give to those who barge into my life with unpleasant confrontations.

“Any of the baked goods.” I replied.

“What only these things?” he said smudging the display case`s glass with his oiled fingers.

“Yes sir…those things.” At this point he must have picked up on the condescension which was creeping into my tone of voice.

“Hey, so what, you work here or something?” He said as he swayed to imaginary music.

“Yeah, I own this place.” Screw Christmas kindness, I’m done being cordial to this jackass.

“Oooh whoopidity doo!” He replied rolling his eyes. “All of your food is too expensive anyways. You`re a joke.”

“Okay well you can leave then.” I reiterated for the tenth time.

I will spare you the gritty details, because in all honesty this conversation (if you can call it that) went on for another five minutes in loop-de-loops which resulted in nothing other than the man calling me a chubby cow and asking if I was smart enough to count change. All the while I kept a pretty decent cool if I do say so myself. Jamie managed to finally get them out of there by threatening to call the cops.

I could dwell on this. I could worry that I said the wrong things. I could waste so much of my precious time rolling it over in my mind thinking about what I could have done differently and how I can prevent this unpleasantness from happening again. But that would be pointless. The sad truth of it is, these things just happen. Rather than being angry about these two men coming into our shop, harassing us and frightening our customers, I am going to feel sorry for their lack of social interaction skills. I do however wish that if these guys were actually hungry and cold, that they would have approached us differently. We are happy to give what we can and provide a warm place from the cold to anyone in need. And I am so grateful that we have the ability to do so.

I`ve come to realise that Jamie really is my best friend. Together, it seems, that we can accomplish anything. We`ve grown a family, moved to a new city, built a business from nothing and created a life together. We are the epitome of the definition of partners; in business but more so in life. At the end of every month when our numbers get tallied we can see our hard work paying off slowly but surely. Our children are growing up healthy and happy and cared for. Yes we are tired. Yes we`ve had to make huge sacrifices. Yes some days it is difficult to find the wherewithal to go forward. But we will go forward. We will keep moving on with our plans and dreams and hopes and aspirations because that is what those who live in happiness will forever do.

Merry Christmas Friends and Family! I hope this post finds you all in positive spirits and looking forward to a new and exciting year ahead.

We

You and I,

Sipping slop from red solo cups

Signing songs of love and lust

Under a blanket of twinkling gas orbs.

Ablaze with thoughts of what might be tomorrow.

Our bodies curl into each other.

My desires for future days dribble outwards

Into the frigid air of an optimistic summer night.

You speak of daring dreams.

The skin on my arm becomes goose-flesh as you touch me

And the both of us silently wonder

If that was from the chill air,

Or something more profound.

Your heartbeat tangles around mine.

And as though it was of no consequence at all,

The two of us, become “we”.

 

 

Here we are,

What seems to be

Ten minutes later.

Laden down with worries that stop us from breathing easily.

The baby is shrieking for no reason but to hear itself shriek.

A pile of unpaid bills is tucked away in cupboards,

Away from busy minds.

The two year old just shit his pants

Taking no regard to the hours of toilet training we pandered to last week.

We are tired but still

An hour commute is screaming at you

To get a move on.

However, you can see the smog of panic that just set in

Somewhere above my right temple.

It leaves me teetering on the precipice

Of a breakdown.

You don’t want to come home to find me

In the bathtub bawling with a bin of Ben and Jerry’s,

Again.

We wonder if it ever gets easier.

If we will ever find our niche.

We wonder if “we” are strong enough for this.

Can we make it through?

Can we defeat the doubt that begins to creep in from the corners

When the arguments over family, money, work

Builds this wall between us?

Will it wear us down?

Will it ruin us?

 

 

Here we are,

Sullen and sad.

Looking out over sacred green fields

Holding each other close

Anxiously clinging to memories made

With loved ones now gone but not forgotten.

The rigid crackle of leaves upon stone

Reminds us that life is precious.

Life is fast.

A magpie flies overhead and I look up to you.

Your jaw is ridgid, strong.

Your eyes, like always, are soft.

Without looking at me you reach for my hand.

Hours later, after sermons have been said

And our deepest regards given,

We hold our children close.

Despite them being at the age where that sort of thing is frowned upon,

They hold us back. For that, we are always grateful.

 

 

Here we are,

Bones brittle from years spent existing well.

Our hairs have turned like autumn leaves.

Our lives caught up in photographs

Efficiently arranged in a desktop folder

Named, “The Good ‘Ol Days.”

We sip tea spiked with whisky

From bone china once meant only to be looked upon.

We laugh and cry for days sped past.

We wait for the phone to ring,

But not too eagerly

Because we still have each other’s company.

A dreadful thing that nags at our innermost thoughts,

At the inconvenient times.

As I am reading my favourite Atwood story,

While you are looking up some current event

That spiked your interest.

We try not to think about that future.

It is a lonely idea.

Instead we pluck away through memories of

Bringing up babes, career days, accomplishments

The glory days.

I walk over to you and without thought,

You reach for my hand.

I get goose-flesh up my arm

Just like the first time,

The two of us became “we”.

“stop trying to do everything by yourself.”

I woke up last Friday to find that my seven year old’s cheek was the size of a golf ball. It was red, swollen and looking very very painful. I asked him if it hurt and he said, “No but it feels a little weird.” I swear to God if I’d never seen him react to a stubbed toe I would think his tolerance for pain was extraordinary.

Turns out the poor guy had an infected tooth. We got the medicine and I am happy to report that he is well on his way to healing.

The whole experience threw me for a loop. Hello, worst Mother of the year over here, what with allowing my kid’s cavity to get so bad it became infected. We have the appointment booked to get it fixed but not until early November.  Until then, I guess I just have to let this enveloping feeling of guilt peppered with a bit of failure consume me.

Uhh yes the dramatics, hop on board, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the ride.

But seriously, the anxiety as of late, is coming at me from every direction and I don’t know what else I can do to fend this bitch off.

I worry about Lars and his tooth, I worry about Sophie and this newfound teenage attitude she’s dowsing herself in. I worry about school and if I am doing enough to help them along in what is the most important endeavour of their young lives. I worry about the shop and how to bring more customers in. I worry about money. I worry about time, because there’s never enough of it. And each time I conquer a hurdle I am oh so fucking worried about another worry pops up from the shadows. It’s as though it was just waiting there, ready to pounce as soon as I let out the tiniest sigh of relief.

Yesterday I started crying, like, what else is new? I was crying because of this overwhelming quilt of stress that started asphyxiating me. I didn’t exactly know how to remedy it. So I figured after a good ole blubber sesh I’d be able to pull myself together and pretend to be a functioning adult.

Well, the plan would have worked if not for my meddling husband. He was all, “What’s wrong Hunny?” and, “How can I help you right now Lindsay?”  Which was totally sweet, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes a gal just needs to wallow for a little while to get her wits about her.

So with a wrinkled cry-face and on the verge of hyperventilating I told my husband what was wrong.

“I’m just so stressed out Jamie.” I said because I thought it may not be very clear at that point. “I feel like an awful mother. I’m always such a basket case of anxiety, I don’t think I’ve been spending enough time with the kids, I should be helping out more at the school and I just feel like I’m totally failing my family.” My words were barely comprehensible, but Jamie being the star he is, knew just what to say.

“Stop being so stupid.” Awe so sweet. “Stop trying to do everything by yourself. There are two of us you know.” He said grabbing my shoulders and looking into my soul as he does from time to time.

“But what about tomorrow?” I said, “Tomorrow I need to make a fruit platter for Sophie’s class, talk to the office about Lars’ medication, make Halloween treats for the shop, get the kids ready for the Halloween parade at school, AND OPEN THE STORE!” I’m not going to lie, I was hysterical by this time and unravelling more and more by the second.

He pulled me in close and hugged me hard, almost as though he knew that I may explode at any moment and he was merely trying to hold me together. It worked. Once again my brilliant husband held me together. Man, I love that guy.

“Lindsay, you do the things you need to do at the school tomorrow. I will open the store.” He said calmly – not to spook the monster that was retreating back into her hiding spot. “We are a team, we can do this.” He smiled at me, “I fucking love you.”

“I fucking love you too.” I said.

And with the help of my best friend I moved on to the next hurdle that needed slaying.

 

 

The Art of Generosity

My parents are coming, my parents are coming!! This is the single most looping thought I’ve had all morning. They are coming to see me (I guess the kids and Jamie too) and I couldn’t be any more excited. Well, I could be but I have to save some energy for work today.

Colleen and Dan Sawyer are pretty much the greatest parents in the entire fucking universe! The proof is in the pudding (did I just actually use that phrase!?) when it comes to how unbelievably supportive they’ve been through our current year’s life changing events.

As you well know these last few months have been trying. There were times when we weren’t sure we would be able to pay the bills and moments where failure was a precipice we tottered on often.  I would call my sister-in-law and tell her my woes.  I would cry to my brother about how scary this thing we were doing was. I would straight up avoid talking to Mom and Dad because I didn’t want them to see how unsure I was about absolutely everything in our life.

However, like families do, when Dust and Ashley would be over at my parents for dinner the topic of Jamie and I and our panini problems would surely come up. Nothing malicious, just general concern about how we might be doing all the way down here in the thick of the Southern Alberta heat. Literally and metaphorically.

Except Dad, he would hold strong in his resolve that we will be just fine. Dad is and always will be the voice of reason when things start getting dramatic (something that can happen quite often with me and Moms active imaginations). He would say, all they need is to get the word out, it is going to happen for them. It’s all about word of mouth.

One thing about my dad is when he is not dreaming up some outlandish plan of action he can be impossibly logical. He’s wonderful like that.

So the day I phoned my parents to tell them we had to close early because we sold out of all of our food at the shop, the words did not come as a surprise to them.

As I told Daddio how busy we’ve been and how the people of this city seem to be falling in love with our sandwiches I could hear a smile on his face. This was quickly interrupted however with ideas and thoughts on how to keep up stock and prep so closing shop early doesn’t have to happen again. Better to be open and making green than closed because we were not prepared adequately. Oh how I adore that guy!

As usual Mom had a plethora of questions to ask about the shop. From how early I go in in the morning to what kind of characters we meet on a daily basis. My mom, like me, is a junkie for people. Who will they be? What quirks make them tick? She wants to know what fascinating history has brought them to where they are today. And she will indeed get this information out of them, in the most subtle of ways all the while making a person feel like they are undoubtedly the most important human on the face of the planet.

Her enthusiasm when it comes to me, Jamie, the kids and astounds me. She has this unbelievable way of making us feel like we are doing god’s work. Even if it is just pressing paninis for a living. We spoke for hours that morning on the phone. After I hung up I realised that I need to call them more. Talking with them brings me this extraordinary feeling of triumph. An overall sentiment that is better than it was before I heard their voices.

Besides the hundreds upon thousands of life lessons my parents have taught me, one that sticks out as I sit here today is the lesson of generosity. This, they have shown me time and time again. Generosity doesn’t have to come from a bank statement or a wallet. The kind of generosity my mom and dad have so aptly doled out to my brother and me over all of these years comes from a kind and steadfast spirit. That extra push saying that you can and in fact will do what you’ve set out to do. Their generosity has been as simple yet profound as building our confidence up (sometimes to, perhaps, obscene levels) when everyone else is rooting for us to flop.

Generosity is an art. If you give and then immediately feel you need something in return I’m sorry to break it to you but you’re doing it wrong. Generosity is about giving what you can without expectation. It is about being rewarded by the knowledge that you’ve done something good. And true generosity is a beautiful thing. It proves that there is still so much good in this world, in the human race.

Now, as I sit here and read over these words my heart is eager to see the two people who have selflessly had a hand in giving us the strength and confidence to make it to where we are today.

Only a few more hours!!!  421008_561102740585388_1187082580_n

Wednesday Rambles

 

The house has a muggy calm about it this morning. Today is supposed to be devastatingly hot and I’m not entirely sure I am ready for it. I’m not entirely sure I am ready for anything anymore. For someone who used to be chronically prepared for just about everything, I’ve sort of dropped the ball lately.

Maybe it’s the heat. Or maybe it’s my brain being overloaded with menial tasks. Perhaps it’s my brain being overloaded with all of the non-menial tasks that’s getting me down. The worries and what-ifs about the future. I find myself daydreaming all of the time about what’s to come.

Like, I wonder when that multi-billionaire is going to stroll through the doors of The Hot Wire and give us an offer right then and there that we can’t refuse. He will say something along the lines of, “Boy Howdy I do declare this is the best éclair I’ve ever eaten!” or “Well, I tell you what, I’ve never seen a more original and downright delightful sandwich shop in my whole dang life.” I am imagining this person to be from the Deep South with an accent reminiscent to Foghorn J. Leghorn.

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However right here and now I am reminded that none of this has actually happened yet. A wall of heat is currently pressing up against my back and I feel as though I may be slowly melting away into oblivion. I do hope it’s not so hot there.

Usually I don’t mind the heat. I like to bask or whatever. But working in a kitchen when it is 30 above, I’ve come to discover, is most likely the closest impression of Hell that any human being will ever know.

I literally just turned around to see if I could physically see what the “heat” looks like. I am assuming that because it is so god-damn hot in here (at 6 am) that surely I would be able to spot its wrath. I’m really considering stripping down to the buff and going to sit in the cool garage for a few before I head off to work.

Okay by now I’m sure you guys are asking yourselves where in the good and glorious name of Jeebus am I going with this blog post?

Well, to put it right out there; I’ve been a bit of an asshole lately. I’ve pretty much been the assholiest asshole in the history of assholes (but not the literal kind…because that would be shitty. Ha!)

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In these last few weeks I’ve pulled away. I’ve withdrawn because let’s face it, things got scary and things got hard. We were struggling to get the business where we needed it and doubt plus many misgivings were running rampant. I stopped calling my friends and family because I just didn’t have anything positive to say. I didn’t text, and when they texted me I shot back with insincere one word answers.

Assholery I tell you, pure assholery.

Now, it is time for an apology! I’m sorry dear loved ones…I love you all. Love, love, love, love and some more love. Yes, this is in fact my idea of an apology. They’ll get it.

The smouldering and fiery facts—that accompany my current state of sweltering alive—are that I was a little depressed for a brief moment there, and it scared the holy molies out of me.

But then one day not too long ago something happened and although it doesn’t solve all of our “starting a business stresses” it gave me that little bit of oomph I was in need of to get up and get on.

A dude sitting in the shop so very nonchalantly muttered to his Panini one random day, “I love you. I never want you to end.” And in that moment our suspicions about failure vanquished. We realized that we have something here, something good. It was about at that time when grandiose delusions of talking roosters paying us millions to franchise our panini palace came into play.

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Maybe that’s a little much, I don’t know.

What I do know is that I cannot allow the down days to affect the relationships in my life. Our humans, the ones who get us through the everyday, are our everything. There are going to be bad days. Days when the bread doesn’t rise and the cakes all fall. There will be days when the equipment brakes. When the kids act up and lash out. There will be days when we want to tell the whole entire world to just fuck right off.

And then, there will be days when we find a grown ass man telling his panini that he loves it. There will be days when we feel invincible. Some days we will find that we have the ability to do just about anything.

These are the days we must hold tightly to. The days that remind us that we are doing something wonderful and fulfilling.

Some may even go as far to say; these, are the days of our lives.

*mic drop.*

Lindsay Out.

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Helping Our Small Humans

Change is great. Change is healthy. Change is good. These are the things I keep telling myself because if I don’t I will spiral into a pool of self-pity and sorrow. Okay perhaps I’m being a bit dramatic, although, our writer-reader relationship has probably evolved to a point where that doesn’t surprise you.

The Brown household has been feeling the pressure of change in these last few weeks and despite my valiant attempts at embracing it all, I find myself withering fast.

Jamie and I are having to work double time at the shop hoping to have it ready for production by early May. However, even that seems to be a long shot now as there continues to be issues popping up left right and center. This in turn leaves the poor children dangling helplessly over the precipice of neglect and abandonment. Again, with the dramatics.

We’ve enrolled them in an afterschool program which I am positive they will love, however it hasn’t started yet. So we’ve been doing what so many Ma and Pop shops have done since the dawn of Ma and Pop shops. We haul our small humans to the Panini factory and they hang out there until we are done our work. Lars definitely has it better as he is in full days of class so it is rare that we need to bring him, but Soph is still in kindergarten which means only half days. Every morning Jamie and I load her and approximately 700 teddy bears into the car to make the journey across town to work.

We then toil away with whatever is on the chopping block that day while Sophie interrupts us every five minutes. She is very good about keeping us in the know when it comes to her hunger or her boredom or when something smells slightly strange in her general vicinity. Occasionally her left toe is bugging her and when it’s not any of that you can be sure that some other peculiar five year old woe has hammered down upon her.
It pains me to say it but we can see the agitation in her everyday life. She is ornery and short tempered. She continues to try haggling with me for mere sport.

“Mom, I will clean my room if you give Sleepy Bear a birthday party tonight. With cake. And presents.”

“Umm first of all that bear has had like ten birthdays already this year and secondly you will clean your room so it doesn’t develop an army of bug creatures from all of the filthy clothes that are peppered around the place.” This is just one example of our bartering conversations.

Oh and the tantrums. How could I forget the tantrums?

There we were in the parking lot of the school while she was screaming louder than I’ve ever heard any human being scream. Her little face was nearing purple while tears streamed down her cheeks.

She was perturbed that her brother had gotten into the car before her.

As the child stomped her feet on the pavement I reimagined the song Hello, by Adele.

 

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As the lyrics swept through my skull I started to think. I knew that these temper tantrums were stemming from somewhere. Sophie wasn’t inherently angry like this—no kid is.

Other Moms were walking past the spectacle side-eyeing my dilemma. In that moment I felt like the worst parent to have ever walked those school grounds. Although I’m sure that most of them just looked at me with a sad pitying kind of stare. Let`s face it, we’ve all been there.

It didn’t take much to realise what the problem was. My daughter was simply missing me. She has never had to share me with a full-time job and that is a big challenge for our little family. So instead of threatening her with no ice cream after dinner. Or pulling out that notorious whisper-demon voice and telling her to get into the car. I wrapped my arms around my little girl and I hugged her hard.

I did say something into her ear as I embraced her, and that was that I loved her. It took a few seconds but she relaxed, melted into my hug and eventually told me she loved me back.

Change is great and change is healthy and it is good too but we must remember that change can only be all of these things if we take the time to help escort the people we love most through the difficult times.

 

The Crazy/Fun Ones Are Always The Best

So there I was, week two of being moved into our new home and feeling so lonely I could puke. A month before I told everyone and their dog that, “I’d be fine” and, “Don’t worry about me, I’ve got the kids and we will make friends lickity split once we get there.”  Turns out kids are crappy conversationalists and leave little time for socializing.

As the days pressed on, these two small factors began to drive me over the proverbial edge.

One evening Jamie was half an hour late making his usual bedtime phone call to the kids. I freaked. I actually may have momentarily lost my mind. I imagined him dead in a ditch somewhere because there was surely no other reasonable explanation as to why my husband had not answered any one of my twelve text messages. Not to mention why he was thirty minutes late in calling us—his loving family who missed him dearly—just no logical reason at all.

After calling his brother and texting about fifty other people to assure my text messages were getting through, I saw his picture pop up on my cell. He was calling. I answered in a fit. “I thought you were dead Jamie!”

He laughed. He laughed at my misery/psychosis and told me the restaurant had got slammed during the dinner rush and he couldn’t get off the line. However by this point it was too late for excuses.  Between snivels I heatedly explained that he shouldn’t laugh in this situation. I told him he wasn’t the one here in this strange place all alone with two children and knowing hardly anyone, so he just wasn’t allowed to laugh.

He apologized and I got over the initial hysteria that was building up in me. However when I hung up the phone I realized that if this was going to work I had to buck up and find some way to be okay with my husband’s temporary absence.

It’s funny how sometimes the most chance people decide to show up in our lives, exactly when we need them most.

The next day my Auntie Deb called me out of the blue to ask how the move went. Auntie Deb and I used to be very close when I was a kid but over the years and as life tends to do we had grown apart. However she is and always will be one of those fellow humans that once you reconnect it feels as though no time has passed at all.

After crying my woes to her and revealing my loneness resulting in temporary psychotic breaks my aunt told me she was planning to come down for a visit. She said that she too had once been a mother alone in a city where she knew no one- she felt my pain.

Auntie Deb has always been, well, Auntie Deb. Growing up she was the person my brother and I would be thrilled to go stay with because she is so carefree and fun-loving. She is outspoken and spontaneous. She is a little crazy (but in the most excellent way possible). Life was always chalk full of surprises when she was around. I couldn’t wait for Lars and Sophie to get to experience the jubilation this woman brings to those around her.

We all slipped easily into a routine while Deb and her funny pup Maggie were staying with us. The kids fell in love with the energetic Shih Tzu while Auntie and I stayed awake late talking about the old days and catching up on all of the moments we had missed in each other’s lives.

We went walking and I fell about a hundred times on the slick ice-covered sidewalks. Have I failed to mention to you how “graceful” I am in this slippery winter weather? And Oh how Auntie laughed at me. You know it’s a special kind of camaraderie when you are flat on your derrière from a fall and all you can hear are snorts of hilarity coming from your walking companion.

After that we decided to explore the city via car as to save me from another catastrophic nose-dive. We got lost and found our way again—and might I add, if you are going to get lead astray by anybody in this life you’d be lucky to by such a blithe human such as my Aunt. So despite having no clue where we were we simply laughed and ventured forward.

Sometimes, life will cut us a break and send a special soul our way to help us find our bearings and let us know that everything is going to be alright. It is for that reason I will forever have faith that there is something out there leading us in the right direction.

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Distance and Hearts and Such

His voice cracks as he says goodbye to me. If he was some other person or if I didn’t know him better than I know myself I could have mistaken it for a bad connection. However that’s not the case. Hushed tears are now dribbling down my face but I try to keep my composure. I have two children in the basement who I can hear sobbing because talking to Dad reminds them that they still have another five days before he comes home. I have to be strong for them. I have to be strong for my husband, who is silently struggling. He is too proud to admit that all he wants to do is drop every last obligation and run as fast as he can towards his family. I have to remain steady for the humans I love.

This move has taught us a lot about ourselves as a family. What we can endure together and what we must suffer by apart. To give ourselves the best shot at this new future Jamie will have to stay working in Sylvan Lake on a rotational schedule until we establish our new business prospects here in the city of Lethbridge.

The first week wasn’t bad. We had some moments of doubt and a few minor meltdowns but nothing that doesn’t happen on the regular anyways. It was once the tough stuff started getting thrown at me, like troubles at school and “fix-it” jobs that I had no idea how to fix; I realized what I had gotten myself in to.

Ever since I became pregnant with a little lad named Lars Jamie and I have always been in it together. We do everything together. We cook together. We make financial decisions together. We raise children together. We will soon be building an entire business together. I colour coordinate our outfits on date night for the love of God! And many might feel the need to criticize our ridiculously codependent existence—perhaps with valid points. But it seems to work for us so I say, “do what makes you feel right.”

But right now, at this very moment, as I sit in our new home typing on this laptop that holds so many stories of our family I feel at a loss. It has been so 15 days since all four of us have been under the same roof. Typing it makes me feel vaguely silly since it doesn’t really sound like that long. It sure as hell didn’t sound like it would be that long a month ago when we were hashing out this master plan.

It is long though. It is too long for kids who are used to having Dad tuck them in nightly. It feels so very long for a wife who hasn’t slept a full night in fifteen days because every creek and crack of this new house startles her awake. And when she sleepily moves to hold her husband all she finds is a cold pillow. It is devastatingly long for a man who has just been told by his five year old daughter that she doesn’t want to talk to him on the phone anymore because it makes her miss him too much. It is just so damn long.

The children have now settled and Jamie and I have set in to a rather racy thread of text messaging (which I will spare you of). I find myself constantly giddy over the thought of my husband coming home to us. I daydream about the grin he will be wearing and how tight he will hug us as he walks in the door. I think of him asking Lars about his new schoolmates and getting Sophie to show him all of her new drawings that are fastened to the refrigerator. It makes me smile to think of how whole I will feel once he is here with us. And I wonder how other families do this on a regular basis.

Then it dawns on me. Nobody chooses this type of a lifestyle. There is no family unit that wishes to be separated from each other. But we all do what we must to survive in this world. We work away. We distance ourselves from our loved ones. We make sacrifices and go without to achieve what it is we truly desire.

Family is our most important entity and we will forever journey to the ends of the universe for their wellbeing. So once the tough stuff has been conquered and we are reunited with the people who mean the most all of the heartache and strife will have been worth it. And one day when we look back on these moments we will realize that it was the “tough stuff” that made this beautiful life that much sweeter.

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Welcome Home 2016

Another year has passed us by. I can honestly say that 2015 was a pretty big deal for the Brown clan. We learnt, we loved, we lost, and we decided to pick ourselves up and venture out on a limb.

Usually I am not a resolution type of gal; I am typically of the opinion that if I want to do something I will just do it. Why feel the need to resolve to be a better person? Perhaps we should all just actively be better people. However with that said I’ve gotten a taste of something wonderful and I would truly like to live with more of it.

Gumption. That’s right; my “resolution” for the year of two thousand and sixteen is to live with more gumption. Jamie and I have recently taken the biggest risk of our lives by selling our home and moving onwards. We are starting a small business. We are bringing our dreams to fruition.

There is nothing more exhilarating than to live bravely. To not constantly be held back in life by fears of inadequacy and the trepidation of failure. Sure we may fail, but there will always be something else to strive for. It took a long time for us to really believe in ourselves but once we woke up and realized that we are pretty intelligent people it seemed like a no brainer to go out in this world and work hard for what we want. What kind of a lesson would we be teaching our children otherwise?

I want to say yes more and no less. I want to take chances, calculated chances at least, and feel the excitement of doing anything that is new-fangled.

For so long Jamie and I sat on the sidelines waiting for our “opportunity” to be tagged in. Granted we learnt some pretty valuable life lessons, it still seems like wasted time. I don’t want to squander anymore precious time.

Perhaps living with gumption takes more work, for argument sake, let’s say that it does. It means having a certain kind of drive in life that doesn’t give up when times get tough and doesn’t cower when something scary comes along. It means that we must put ourselves out there and wait for the criticism to come rolling in. I have no doubt that it will. When anyone decides to live boldly, someone will have something to say about it. Living with gumption means to make decisions and stick with them. It means to always be moving forward with confidence and common sense.  It means living with conviction about your everyday choices.

That sounds like a life I’d like to live. For so long we have worried about what others were saying about our life choices we somehow forgot that it simply doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.

As far as I know we only have this one life, so I am here to make sure that it is the ride of lifetime. By doing so, by living happily and bravely Jamie and I will teach by example. Hopefully not just to our children but to anyone who wants to break free from the monotony. For anyone who wants to stop being shackled down by insecurities and self doubt. I so wish that by living today with as much gumption as I can muster, I will inadvertently possess even one individual to want to live in the same way.

It doesn’t matter if you are a banker, a writer, a laborer, a stay at home mom, a small business owner, a man or a woman, we are all simply humans. And in any case we all deserve fulfillment. Fulfillment is not something that will be dropped in front of us on a golden platter however; it is something we must work for. Sometimes it involves heartache and struggle. Sometimes it means we must work harder than we’ve ever worked at something before. Sometimes it entails sacrifice. But it will always take gumption.

So instead of calling this a New Year’s resolution, I instead will simply say I am going to press on with my resolve for fulfillment. This world can be a magically complicated place but when it comes to the quest for meaning within oneself that is something that is incredibly uncomplicated.

 

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The Beauty of the Season

There was once a time when I loved Christmas. I loved the smell of cinnamon that would waft through my grandmother’s home while we tore through gifts piled high under the tree. The fun my brother and I used to have stuffing ourselves full of turkey and mashed potatoes until we were ready to explode. The laughter that we’d share with the people who we loved was so unforgettable in those days of carefree Christmases. There was just something about that time of year that brought smiles to faces and a feeling of cheer to the air.

But then adulthood hit and the reality of this god-awful month became painfully clear. Let us remember the fact that you will probably be plunging yourself into thousands of dollars of debt in order to achieve the “perfect” Christmas experience for you and your family. Not to mention the high-stress state of affairs that is the “family get-together”. All of the scheduling around each other’s plans can be enough to drive a person bonkers.

And please don’t get me started on the “one-upping” of the Jones’ at this sacred time of year. Right down the street we have our very own Griswold family who seem to think it is appropriate to drain the electricity grid every evening to show off their superb light show. How the hell am I supposed to compete with that? Here I am with a pitiable Charlie Brownish wreath that hangs lopsided off my front door and I am calling myself Martha-fucking-Stewart!

Well, don’t I sound like the Grinch? Before I know it I am going to be growing green body hair and people aren’t going to want to touch me with a thirty-nine and a half foot pole.

Each year when this month rolls around I tell myself that I shall not succumb to the scroogery. However every year once the pressure of Christmas envelopes me there I am yelling at Christmas carolers to get off my porch and telling the children that the Elf on the Shelf was too tired to get into any shenanigans the night before. Ugh it makes me guilty even writing it. Christmas is a difficult time of year and it only seems to be getting more and more complicated as I get older.

I had been telling the kids for weeks that after Lars’ birthday we would put the tree up. This is yet another Christmas event that has become more of a task than a treat. Each year it always seems to be a fight over who gets to put up what decorations and where on the tree they should go and how the proper way to string a strand of lights are and how much tinsel is too much tinsel—you get the point.

So begrudgingly I pulled out the tree from our storage area and began to set up. Something happened however as I placed the synthetic thing together…Some might say my, ‘small heart grew three sizes that day’. I watched as Sophie sorted eagerly through the antique decorations that my Mom had given to me several years back. Any other year when the kids have eyed the priceless bulbs I’ve stopped them in their tracks and told them that those decorations were for adults only, they’d be left with the paper-chains and popsicle stick picture frames they had made in preschool.

Maybe it was the way she ever so gently handled them or the gleam of wonder in her eyes as she sorted through these very old treasures but I decided to let Sophie and Lars do all of the decorating this year. After setting the tree up and stringing the lights (which seemed surprisingly easy when you forgot about the stress of it all) I found a seat on the couch.

I took that time to appreciate the joy that they were getting out of this tree decorating occasion. I played Christmas carols and made hot chocolate—the real kind of hot chocolate that my mom used to make for us.

After all was said and done the tree looked beautiful! All at once I didn’t care about coordinating the colors of the decorations or if the bulbs were evenly distributed, my heart was too warm to feel anxious about anything.

It was then that I realized that it isn’t childhood that makes Christmas a carefree and joyous time. It is having the ability to let go and simply be grateful for the people you love and the delight of the season itself.

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Siblings? Yeah, they’re pretty great.

Today I walked into the kitchen to find Lars gently brushing Sophie’s hair. They were concocting a plan to meet up at recess later that day.

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“When you come outside go right to the twisty slide Sophie!” Lars was getting a bit frustrated from Sophie’s inability (or blatant refusal) to recognize what slide he was talking about. As they nattered at each other I couldn’t help but think back on a time when my own brother and I used to be an oddly unbreakable force.

Dustin and I were close, there was no denying it. We were stuck together on acreages our entire adolescent lives. That’s bound to make two people learn to enjoy each other’s company. Dad worked the oilfields and was gone frequently while Mom was left with two kids and acres of open land. We only had one vehicle back then which Dad usually took to work. So more often than not when I say we were stuck out there, we actually were.

We made due. We journeyed through the back forty’s wood and made blanket forts out of Mom’s plentiful collection of crocheted blankets. We had secret languages that weren’t languages at all but somehow we knew what the other meant. There was always an inside joke being created or chuckled over. And because of all of our cryptic laugh attacks due to nonsensical sentences, people often thought of us as a little strange.

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I can’t imagine why…

Did I care what people thought? Nope. Well, not until I did I guess.

There comes an age in every young person’s life when they begin to take notice of what the other humans around them are saying. We start to recognize when people are talking about us. We begin listening more intently and taking to heart the details in which others perceive. For some reason once this time in our lives comes to pass we begin deeply caring about what our peers think. We will do just about anything to assure that we come off as “normal” to the squad (as the kids nowadays call it).

It was a little after my thirteenth birthday that I stopped hanging out with Dustin so much. I wanted to be with my friends and according to them; it really wasn’t cool to have your kid brother tagging along to the beach with you. So with a heavy heart (that was masked by layers of blue eye shadow and heavy mascara) I told my brother to hit the road.

I wonder about the day when Lars will find himself too cool to hang out with Sophie. Perhaps because their age gap is only a few years apart it will never happen. Maybe they will manage to stay friends throughout those awkward teenage years. For their sake, I hope so. I know looking back I could have used my brother in those uncertain days.

Lars and Sophie are still sitting at the kitchen table, he has finished brushing her hair but she is still mulling over the complexity of her brothers plan. There is something so special about the way they sit and talk, almost as if they know what the other is about to say. Their conversation flows without the complications or worries that are often veiled in so many other aspects of this life.

Once again my thoughts are drawn back to my brother and I realize how special the sibling bond can be. There have been many moments when we have had that same uninhibited conversation. We will talk early into the morning around hazy campfires, recalling childhood memories that only he and I could possibly understand. What a wonderful thing to have someone in this world that can place a value on those early days in the same way you can.

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Lars flings on his backpack as though he’s been doing it for years and his sister follows suit.

As we approach Lars’ school doors Sophie moves towards her brother for a hug. “I love you Lars, have a good day.”

“Love you too Soph, remember, twisty slide at first recess!” He says then runs off towards his classmates.

As we walk towards Sophie’s classroom she looks up to me and says, “Don’t you just love Lars Mom?” I smile and reply in kind.

I am thankful that my children have each other. It is reassuring to know they have a friend in one another—especially for first recess meet and greets at the good ole twisty slide.

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The Arrival Home

The house was dark and still when Jamie and I rolled our suitcases into the front foyer. As we made our way into the house all of its usual smells sprung to memory and I realized that even after a short week I had begun to miss this place. Or perhaps it was just the thought of the small people who lived here that had my heart skipping a beat.

Daniel, Jamie’s brother, was asleep on the couch. The hallway lights were turned off and I’m positive at that moment I had never felt quiet quite like that. The time was somewhere around eleven o’clock at night as I made my way towards the children’s bedrooms.

After all of these years of parenting, all of the frustrations and meltdowns, I really didn’t think a week long break would be that difficult to endure. And believe me I’m not complaining. You know, the sun, the sea, the amazing quality time that my husband and I got to experience in our seven days of childfree time was very much treasured.

It seemed however that so many of the activities we participated in while visiting the Mayan Rivera would remind us of our little darlings back home. As I snorkeled with sea turtles I could only imagine how elated Sophie would be to meet those massive sea creatures too. Or whenever Jamie and I would stumble over one of the hundreds of iguanas that roamed our resort we couldn’t help but think of Lars and how fascinated he would have been with the small reptiles.

Needless to say our flight home was filled with anticipation. We both couldn’t wait to give those first initial hugs and kisses to our babes after what seemed like a lengthy time apart.

As it sometimes happens we got a bit held up in our arrival back to Canada and found ourselves at home much later than we expected. Despite my efforts of “accidentally” waking the kids up by clumsily dragging the suitcases up the stairs and flicking on every light in the place, that evening they slept right through the night. Go figure.

I decided to unpack the suitcases that night, because well, I’m that kind of a type A human being. As I created a mountainous pile of beach wear that needed washing I wondered how the kids’ time away from us went. If you remember a couple of weeks ago  I had poked fun at the fact that they were so excited for us to leave that they couldn’t help but verbalize it in their honest adolescent way.

A major part of me expected that this is exactly what happened. I was sure they had hardly thought about us or our absence at all and they had had the time of their lives while we were away. But I must admit there was a tiny part of me that hoped we were missed.

The saying “distance makes the heart grow fonder” I’ve come to discover is true in so many different circumstances. Here, I realized how our time away from the kids has made me appreciate their beauty and uniqueness in a way that I think we all as parents can sometimes overlook in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. But I have to wonder if children experience that same kind of logic and reasoning when away from the people they love?

“Daniel?” Sophie called from her bedroom faintly. I rolled over to look at the clock, 6:30am. Jamie’s brother Daniel had tucked her in the night before and she must have forgotten that we were coming home.  I moved eagerly towards her room.

“Good morning my love.” I said.

“Mom?” She asked.

“Yes, sweetie, it’s me.”

“Mama, it’s you!” Tears began to immediately stream down my daughters face as she jumped out of bed and ran towards me. “I missed you so much Mom! I love you.”

I knelt down to hug her; I too was now crying because of this unexpected emotional response from her—the kid who usually is least likely to show this kind of sentiment. She grabbed my neck to pull me close to her, “I really love seeing your face right now Mama.” Lars then joined us from his room and we all moved towards mine and Jamie’s bed for a cuddly family reunion.

I guess it goes to show that distance certainly does makes the heart grow fonder and that is true for any age group.

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“Just Keep Swimming”

I had decided to take the children swimming. Jamie was working and I didn’t feel like tracking down any other adults to come with. “No worries,” I said to myself, “I can deal with a couple measly kids at the pool.”  Two kids to one adult; those odds weren’t too bad.

We started out on a pretty positive note and managed to get our swimsuits on without incident, which in itself was surely a small miracle. The kids dutifully walked through the prep showers when asked and we even managed to score a radical floating mat in the shape of a butterfly before hopping in the water.

Once we were in, I noticed that Lars had begun to stare at something. I followed his gaze to find a lady with a considerably voluptuous chest playing volleyball. And, due to an unfortunate serious of events one of her hefty breasts had managed to wrangle its way free from her suit and was hanging out for all to see.

Here was my dilemma. I don’t want my children to be afraid of the body; I don’t want them to recoil in fear when it comes to the sight of nakedness (however awkward the situation may be). So in an attempt at normalcy I acted cool and continued nonchalantly playing the shark game where I chase the kids around making, what I feel to be, some pretty spot-on shark noises.

I continued glancing over at the woman fleetingly though and she had still not noted her boob-out-of-suit situation. The whole damn pool seemed to be letting this poor woman carry on participating in a very “bouncy” game of volleyball with her gargantuan boob flopping footloose and fancy-free. It appeared that everybody was holding their breath waiting for someone to speak up. Or perhaps we were all just waiting for the other one to gyrate loose.

As I waded towards her—because somebody needed to stop the madness—I thought about what I should say, “Um excuse me ma’am your breast is out, (proceed pointing uneasily towards upper torso area) just thought I’d let you know.” Was that seriously the best I could come up with? Thankfully I didn’t have to say anything since she became aware of her slip-o-the-nip seconds before I reached her. I glided right on past and pretended to be retrieving a floating ball for the kids. Smooth, I know.

Now that the momentary mammary was now just a memory we could get down to some serious swimming business.  But like kids tend to do, they were beginning to take things a little too far.

They had turned on me. Sophie was doggy paddling in her lifejacket like a bat out of hell towards the deep end. “I just love to float there Mama!” She was screaming as she tried to make her escape. Lars was terrified to go anywhere near that area of the pool and was vying for me to continue playing the shark game with him.  Meanwhile I had secured the location of Sophie by towing her around by that little handle that is attached to the head rest of the life preserver.

Their ear-piercing screams sounded like banshees as they splashed chlorine infested water into my eyeballs. At one point Sophie jumped directly on my head and nearly drowned me. Lars began crying because he thought his sister had fatally sunk his mother and knowing Lars, was probably fretting about the years of therapy that would ensue because of the incident. I wrestled my way up to the surface and found myself face to face with an old acquaintance. She was as surprised as me, except I was sputtering for air and had a trickle of snot dripping from my nose.

I instantly discovered that the pool is probably the worst place to meet an old friend. You are wearing next to nothing, your hair is almost certainly a hot mess and if you are there with children you are probably running after them; your legs jiggling persistently in the most unappealing of ways. We made a bit of small talk while Sophie tried dunking me again and Lars poured a bucket of suspiciously warm water over my head. She was the one who ended up making a weak excuse to have to leave, and for that I was thankful.

When I decided it was time to leave as well, I bribed the children into the van with enticements of chocolate and candy. Now, they chow down while I sit at my computer and recount the experience. Maybe it wasn’t all that bad, but next time I may try a little harder to get my adult to kid ratio up.