Sink or Swim

Though the limitations of our immigration process was no longer looming overhead, we struggled to wrap our brains around the idea of freedom. Now that a new year is upon us, it felt necessary to take an hour to treat our personal lives like a business and write out a five-year plan.

*What are your projections for this year?

*What do you wish to achieve in the next five years?

*What do you wish to achieve in January…what will you have hoped to achieve by June…by this time next year? 

*What are your goals and what responsibilities in making such achievements?


It’s a really interesting task in one’s marriage to touch base like that.  How are we doing? Could we be better? How can we improve? How are we spending our money? Where are we going? How are we getting there? Are we going there together? Personally, I love a list for even the most mundane of things.  I need a list if I’m going to get it all done.  Writing it down is like a commitment, a contract of sorts. And there’s nothing better than crossing something off your list.


When I was engaged, and the wedding was on the brink of cancellation, I used my love of lists to try to find an equal ground.  I said “Let’s write separate five-year plans and see how they match up”.

don and melanie

Ideas flowed from my pen; my future flowing like black ink, making my mark all over the page.  First, I’d graduate university, and then I’d get married, and then I’d go to grad school, which would ultimately satisfy the need to move to a different cityTravel to Europe, New Zealand, Australia, Asia, East Coast Canada.  I added a baby last…just as an after thought really…just because I thought it said something about me if I didn’t.  When we compared notes, my paper was brimming and his paper was non-existent because he didn’t participate in the exercise. You could cut the symbolism with a knife. All unraveled shortly thereafter, and we went our separate ways.

runaway38I used that list as a guideline, what I loved before I loved you. What was the most important thing to me? Travel.  Seeing the world was all I ever wanted.  Come to think of it, I actually wrote that list five years ago now.  I crossed quite a few things off that list. I moved to New Zealand, where I met my husband.  We moved to Australia, and saw Sydney, and the entire west coast of the continent.  We went to Indonesia for our wedding anniversary (which satisfies my Asia requirement if necessary).  When we came to Canada we started in Ontario with my best friend Evelyn and her husband and we drove to Prince Edward Island, stopping in every province along the way.  Really all that remains is grad school, Europe and a baby.

vintage_1930_s_mother_holding_baby_mother_s_day_poster-r5c686f6175594805a1e72d988d4638f9_wvw_8byvr_512 Naturally, when one has been married over three years, is over the age of thirty and looking at a five-year life plan, it’s not unreasonable to question where procreation comes into the equation.

My husband asks me outright, jutting his chin towards my papers and handwritten notes. “Where do babies fit in to this plan?”

o-VINTAGE-COUPLE-FIGHTING-FURNITURE-facebookI respond by shuffling the papers and muttering under my breath.  Where do babies land on this list…in five years I’ll be (gulp) 37.  And from what I’ve gathered, the fallopian factory gets a bit more semen selective after the age of 35.

“Don’t you want to have a baby?”

Goodness yes…later on.  I welcome it.

ah baby

Benjamin, very gentle, presses on step further.  “I mean…you’re 32 now, and if 35 is the cut-off…um…”


Welcome to my window, and it is closing.

Vintage Photos of Soldiers Kissing Their Loved Ones (1)

Alec Baldwin can become a father again at 55, but for the ladies out there, there’s only so much time before you have to look into renting uterus’ or become a science experiment in golden years gestation.  There’s a fine time line to walk in these few years of fertility.


After the mumbling and paper shuffling, Benjamin smiles.  “You didn’t really answer my question”.  I look down at my writing.  My husband tries a new angle “What would you need to do before you want a baby?”.  There’s about twenty different countries that come to mind.  I look out the window now, watching the cars pass along on the highway.

“So we need to go to Europe this year then”, he says, because I haven’t.

My lips quiver into a smile.

That would be nice.


Sometimes I feel genuinely anxious about never seeing the world. That Benjamin couldn’t leave the country made me feel terribly claustrophobic. Now that we could hit the international terminal with ease, now it brings up the issue of cost.  As we crunched the numbers over our new year budget, (yes we did the math), we realized that we could afford it, at the expense of…oh I don’t know a down payment of a house?

collage-house-suburbs-rewardyourselfLucky bastards.  Back in the day when men wore suits, women wore hats, houses were cheap and smoking was good for you. “It’s your goal. Write it down” Benjamin says.  But how does one afford that? Get a second job waiting tables three nights a week and save all of the tips for a holiday? Not bad.   Get discovered by some media mogul who pays me to travel and make witty observations? Better.  Wherever you are, generous benefactor, now would be a good time to show your face and dollah bills.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’d love to have a little baby bear with my big Benjamin Bear.

bear sweater

I love the idea of this little buddy lying between us in bed kicking chubby little legs, smiling, slobbering, giggling.  Sitting on Benjamin’s shoulders, resting comfortably on my hip while snoozing into my chest. Hearing their little voices, their opinions and thoughts. The intimacy of making a family, raising a child.  I even have baby names picked out.  Hey, I work with children, I 100% get the appeal.


But when my husband wants to put a finger on the calendar to estimate my readiness, I can’t offer that to him.  Yesterday, I visited with my good friend Trish and her baby Melody, who is heart-meltingly adorable.  Trish asked about our family planning future, and I articulated my best possible answer. She, like all the other mothers out there gives me a general answer.  Babies are amazing, but are all-consuming. After you’ve had a baby, you are never not a parent ever again.  So… A) There’s never a ‘good time’ to start a family B) But take your time if it’s possible.

mia-farrow-rosemarys-baby (1)

I don’t know why I feel like having babies is something that other people do.  Like for myself, it still seems way too early.  But I’m 32 now, I’m not a kid.  I’m happily married, my husband and I are gainfully employed, mentally stable and caring individuals. I’d be a perfectly loving mother, and I have that love to give. Still there’s something generally panic inducing about cranking out a little one.

rosemarys-babyFirstly…as a rather petite woman with a nearly seven-foot tall husband, I do fear the size of the offspring.  My mother has on more than one occasion confessed a similar fear…on my behalf.  Which is unnerving, seeing as she gave birth three times without so much as an aspirin, because “cave-women didn’t have painkillers and they did just fine without them”. Therefore she could paint a rather clear portrait on the realities of childbirth, therefore I’d like to go the opposite route as cave-women didn’t have painkillers…but “smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, is what I always say.


I mean, you can dress it up all you want, but there’s no easy, attractive or painless way to get that baby out.  I wish it were as easy as it was in my Barbie Doll era…this bitch even gets a flat stomach immediately after the baby is removed.


I think my fear of childbirth can be directly linked to Melanie’s experience in “Gone With the Wind”.  We used to watch this movie on a yearly basis in my childhood, and that bit was always perfectly terrifying.


If a baby is stuck…how do you get it out anyhow?  If someone told you they know everything about giving birth, but then at the last-minute said that they didn’t “know nothing”, and the only person that can help you secretly hates you and openly loves your husband, and the civil war is laying waste to all fine young men, keeping every capable doctor occupied.  Wouldn’t you be nervous?


Granted…my situation is not anywhere near “GWTW” territory.  The fear and doubts would subside.  Maybe what I hadn’t achieved beforehand didn’t matter.  It’s not like I’d give birth and immediately fall off a cliff.  I’d still be me, just plus one. I would love this baby.  If we had a baby we’d be perfectly happy.


But I’d like to explore the options, gamble with the numbers.  How late could I push this time back?  33, 34, 35…Gwen Stefani?  She’s 44 and fabulous and doing motherhood her own way.


Halle Berry had a baby at 47, Kate Winslet, 38.  Then again these women are also richer than God, so who knows the amount of money poured into the enterprise.  It’s like Angelina Jolie; only when you are that wealthy can you start collecting children from other countries the way I do scarves and knickknacks in far off marketplaces. And keeping them well-educated and well fed ain’t cheap either.

So if the issue is not if–but when.   How can I take my goals by the horns and get myself where I need to go?

making plans

How can I get to the point that I am pushing out this twenty-five pound baby and saying–“I did what I wanted while I wanted and I have no regrets!…also I love morphine!”


And then a new adventure could begin with our new little buddy…and we’ll take them everywhere.

Paul with baby

Listen, if I don’t have an answer for my husband or myself…then I really can’t even dream of making something up to finish this blog with a nice conclusive ribbon wrapped around in.  I think as far as all dreams go, it is pretty rare that someone knocks on your door and hands that dream to you.  You need to go out and get what you want.  With the help of carefully drawn plans, we can now set our sights on the future, have some control over our lives.  And this whole baby dilemma will feel a little less like a nightmare.


Images Courtesy of Google

Bold & Beautiful

Boy oh boy, Joan Rivers. Dead at 81. This one really hurts my heart.  Following the suicide of Robin Williams, which was a proper tragedy….but this is a different kind of tragedy.  If life is a party, Williams quietly slipped out the back door. He made a choice to leave early.  Rivers, on the other hand was still holding court in front of the crowd, and hadn’t even finished her drink.  Award season is just getting started.  That seems like a cruel joke from the universe. Her red carpet commentary is the very best.  I no longer have the E channel, but when I lived in New Zealand, that channel was my North American touchstone, and Joan Rivers my acid-tongued fairy Godmother.  Feeling homesick, lonely or blue? For my money, it doesn’t get better than Fashion Police.  

Fashion Police - Season: 2012

I loved her fearless, searing, ruthless cracks. That kind of ‘axe to the chest’ humor, a cutting, bone cracking blow. Like an unexpected medicine ball chucked at your belly, one that you just barely catch in time. And then she’ll hit you again and again until you die from laughter.

Rivers was speaking about her last book, Diary of a Mad Diva, where even this acid-tongued misogynist slashed a little too deeply for many people’s taste, causing a flurry of threatened lawsuits, including one from Kirsten Stewart, who was upset by Rivers’ allegations she had slept her way into her role in Snow White and the Huntsman.  “I can’t wait to get into a courtroom with her,” Rivers cackled. “I’m going to bring a Ken doll and I want her to show me on it just where she touched her director.”

This kills me.  You would have to be seriously uninterested in pleasing everybody to make these kinds of cracks.  I think it’s hilarious, but then again she’s not saying it about me.  Still, I’d like to think that Rivers could roast me and I’d still appreciate the crack.

“Everyone thinks Angelina Jolie was the first celebrity baby hoarder, but she wasn’t. Before Angelina there was Mia Farrow. Mia had an entire farm full of children. I think she got them at Costco.”

“Most babies are not actually attractive … (They’re) kind of like Renee Zellweger pushed up against a glass window.”

“I said Justin Bieber looked like a little lesbian – and I stand by it: he’s the daughter Cher wishes she’d had.”

“She’s such a disaster, they now call train wrecks Lindsay Lohans”.

Often crippled by the opinions of others, I do self-censor my wisecracks, especially in the blog.  I wouldn’t write something about a friend, but a celebrity crack is fair game…nobody, famous, important or influential reads anyway.  Only a select few know the true extent of my salty humor.  My friend Margaret, for example, is one who witnesses my comedic axe-wielding at it’s sharpest. The night of River’s death, Margaret came round for dinner, which led to getting a little tipsy, and watching Sex and the City 2.  Our particular friendship unifier is our love for the ‘good-bad movie’.  The film makers sure had the best of intentions, but the humor is buried deep within that intent.  SATC 2 is a glimmering jewel of this genre. It’s a ludicrous premise, the costumes are ridiculous, it’s sexist and wildly racist.


Samantha is a horny wax statue in the baking sun. Charlotte, in her Ground Zero parenting moment, up to her ears in needy, attention seeking, crying, ugly children, foolishly tries to make a phone call to Carrie while icing cupcakes in a cream-colored Vintage Valentino.  What a fucking idiot. Thank God the bra-less nanny, came to restore order.  Then at the end of this nearly two-and-a-half hour masterpiece, the true conflict comes from Samantha’s arrest due to reckless, public sexual displays, the consequence being kicked out of their extravagant hotel. Before they head to the airport, Carrie–a professional woman in her forties– realizes that she lost her passport at a souq.  Here’s a question: WHY ARE YOU TAKING YOUR PASSPORT WITH YOU TO A MIDDLE EASTERN MARKET PLACE? WHY IS IT FLOPPING AROUND LOOSE INSIDE YOUR BAG? (insert obvious joke here). That’s the Superbowl of identification in the travel world.  That’s dumber than wearing vintage couture while baking at home. Is that tiny book and a slim bundle of spices so buxom that you need to remove them completely from your large bag to make room for a measly pair of shoes. And is the Call to Prayer so enchanting that you can’t do a quick glimpse over your shoulder to make sure you haven’t left anything behind? Of course, her blunder is all part of a bigger picture. It all leads to this:


Once Carrie retrieves her passport, from the friendly vendor, more high-jinx ensues. Charlotte has a ‘forbidden experience’– is lured into a room with sweaty, swarthy men and their black market wares.  Samantha’s $10,000 Birkin bag being confused as an excellent knock off, and the bag being inevitably ripped open and as many condoms as dollars spent on the bag rains like confetti on New Year’s Eve.  Samantha screams obscenities, hurls said condoms at fist shaking men,  and grinds the air, replicating all the hot relations we’ve known her to have.  Now they are on the run from some a horde of conservative, Middle-Eastern types that are out for their blood.  Meanwhile, the big issue is that they are trying to catch a cab so they will not get bumped from first class.  That’s an actual line in the movie, said in the same tone as: “The Apocalypse is coming, we’re all going to die”.   Meanwhile, Carrie Bradshaw is a cocktail of shrewish wife and anorexic racehorse, who badgers to husband to be more socially adventurous. She’s been chasing him for a sold decade, and just when everything is comfortable and happy, she goes to shake the snow globe once again.  She runs into her hunky ex-fiance Aidan in Abu-Dhabi, then meets him for dinner in a dress that is like a black wash cloth on a giraffe, wearing more liquid liner than a teenaged goth girl. They ‘accidentally on purpose’ kiss under the stars and she then runs away, flailing about as if on fire. She then runs home to call Mr Big–who is at the office toiling away while she runs around the Middle East in feather boas, nine inch heels, and hats larger than the one Eliza Doolittle wore to the Ascot Opening in My Fair Lady.


Don’t worry, Mr Big took her indiscretion like a champ. When Carrie gets back to New York, she paces the floor for hours, waiting for Big to come home.  He does, and in the most Hollywood of endings, buys her an obscenely large black diamond ring. What if she had slept with Aidan? What would she get then? A helicopter? A Ferrari? A 50-foot yacht called the “SS Horseface?” Women everywhere are cheating on their husbands and saying in divorce court “Your Honor, I just don’t get it–when Carrie did it she got a diamond, when all I did it, all I got was the boot”.   This may sound horrible, but it’s actually time well spent, the film is fun, frothy, silly, and getting drunk and ripping this film to shreds, is just cream on the cake.  Making acidic, occasionally vicious attacks on costumes and characters and cackling wildly, was a wonderful way to honor Joan Rivers, who was not far from my mind that night.  I’ve been a fan of Rivers since she got fired alongside Miss Piggy in the classic film Muppets take Manhattan.


When I first came back to British Columbia and had more time on my hands, I had  developed quite the routine with my friend Trish the Dish: my coming over on Friday, usually after my noon yoga class.  Just us girls, Trish, myself, and her lovely baby Melody.  Trish would often take a shower, or take a minute to herself while I sat on the couch and watch The Bold & The Beautiful with her baby. I don’t know how good babies are at deciphering irony, but Melody got an earful of humorous soap opera commentary.  I hope she wasn’t just laying there in my lap, in her little jammies, taking me seriously, and cataloging the information for later use.  “Don’t worry mom, you don’t have to explain men to me…boozy old Aunt Alicia told me all about them a long time ago”.


One afternoon after class, I came up the stairs and saw a vintage Joan Rivers comedy album on the kitchen table.


I’m exclaiming my enthusiasm for such an awesome relic, when I notice the envelope  with my name on it.  (Well, it actually says “Hippy”, a nickname from our younger days, along the same era where she was christened Trish “the Dish”).  A present? For me? Fabulous!  When she was pregnant, I had given her this book, to help her with the difficult days.


And then I came home and wrote this blog, in honour of Trish the Dish, and to the advice I may someday give to her daughter…for which I was apologizing for in advance.  It was also in honor of the now late Joan Rivers, who at the time was “80 years old, fearless, bitchy as hell and she’s got a mouth on her like you wouldn’t believe”.  On a late Sunday morning her funeral already passed on East-Coast time, I pull out the record–which has  rested along a ledge in my office, since the day I brought it home, next to a Joni Mitchell album, and other strange knickknacks.  I listened to it in the kitchen, drinking coffee and cutting vegetables, periodically buckling over with laughter, and giggling until my eyes watered. The album was produced in 1983, so when she says that Bo Derek is so stupid that “studied for her pap test”, it’s a little dated, but the punch line still stands up.  It’s all in her delivery.  She talks about how she used to be “happy” in her marriage and how now she is just “happy”. The tone of her voice shifts so perfectly, it’s simply incredible–this one word in this particular tone paints a perfect picture of a marriage at a particular point in time.    Like a bitchy machine gun, she targets beauty, marriage, childbirth, money, class, death.  There is such intelligence behind the barbs: “Every joke I make, no matter how tasteless, is there to draw attention to something I really care about.” Don’t let that foul mouth fool you, Joan Rivers was a brilliant businesswoman, a woman who suffered many hardships and setbacks, but whom always fought back with a wisecrack on the tip of her tongue.


“The ideal beauty is a fugitive that is never found”.


“There is not one female comic who was beautiful as a little girl”.


“I have become my own version of an optimist. If I can’t make it through one door, I’ll go through another door — or I’ll make a door. Something terrific will come no matter how dark the present”.


“I was smart enough to go through any door that opened”.

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson

“Don’t tell your kids you had an easy birth or they won’t respect you.  For years I used to wake up my daughter and say, “Melissa you ripped me to shreds.  Now go back to sleep”.


“People say that money is not the key to happiness, but I always figured if you have enough money, you can have a key made.”



“I succeeded by saying what everyone else is thinking.”


“There are many self-help books by Ph.D.s, but I hold a different degree: an I.B.T.I.A.—I’ve Been Through It All. This degree comes not on parchment but gauze, and it entitles me to tell you that there is a way to get through any misfortune.”





“Look, Winston Churchill once said making someone laugh is like giving them a little holiday. What’s wrong with that? And if the jokes I make call attention to things that aren’t right in the world, that’s why I do it.”


I heard that quote for the first time while listening to the CBC. That thought choked me up a little, laughter being a little vacation. That at the heart of her comedic style, to spew venom in every direction, to brandish a hammer, swinging indiscriminately, was to deliver surprisingly soft blows.

Good Night Joan Rivers. Thank you for a million mini holidays.

Joan+Rivers+-+What+Becomes+A+Semi-Legend+Most +Sampler+-+12'+RECORD_MAXI+SINGLE-476379




All Images Courtesy of Google

So that’s how I Was Born!

Tori, my good friend of thirteen years, had a beautiful baby girl yesterday and I had the honor of sitting with her and her teeny new born this morning.  This is her third child, and had her daughter at home in a warm pool of water with a midwife at her side.  Her oldest son, who is four-and-a-half, was present at the birth.  It was not planned that way, but it was natural and comfortable and the whole experience sounded very intimate and beautiful.  As I curled up on the sofa next to my friend and her yet unnamed baby, I was watching her two sons, who were never far from sight.  The oldest refers to the baby as ‘his baby’, the middle, who was sick with the flu the night the baby was born, is not so sure about this whole baby thing.  The midwife arrived for a check up, so I removed myself to give Tori a touch of privacy.  Standing in the hallway with her husband Kris, we discuss how they plan to cope with their sons coping with their new edition.  While the oldest is lavishing in his role, it is their middle that will need lots of extra love and attention.  Also, the fact that he was so terribly sick on the night of her birth, can’t help this little toddler’s mood.

sick kid


This reminds me of my brother Matthew‘s birth.  Firstly, this was 26 years ago and there wasn’t the technology to ascertain the gender in utero.   I hoped for a baby sister, and wanted to name her Angelica.  Lord knows how that name got in my head, but my mother watched “Days of Our Lives” and “Another World” and if I had wanted a brother I would have wanted to name him ‘Flint’ or ‘Patch”.  I was in Kindergarten at the time and all I remember was coming out of class and seeing my Nana smoking a cigarette and waiting for me.  It was then I knew.  My baby sister had arrived.  “Your mom is doing well, you’ve got a little brother”.  Imagine air being let out of a helium balloon.  The image of my glamorous baby sister was blown away.  Deflated, I followed her to the car to be taken to the hospital.  My spirits were almost immediately lifted.  Everybody loves babies, and I was no exception.  But besides my new brother, which I was still on the fence about, someone had brought my mother a box of fruit gelled candies, which I proceeded to devour.  Pineapple! Cherry! Grape! All the sugar coated flavors that I would be barfing up late into the night.  While my mother and new brother slept at the hospital, I was barfing in my bed, I was barfing in my older brother’s bed, and for my grand finale, I barfed in my parent’s bed.  My poor father made a make shift bed of what remained of clean blankets on the living room floor.  Delirious and nauseous, my nose running down my face and tasting like citrus, there was a part of me that blamed this whole baby thing on my illness.  My father turned on the television, a twelve-inch box with a dial in which to explore the ten available channels.  He went back to bed, and left me alone in the glow of the screen light.  All I remember from the film was was political intrigue, helicopters, and someone double crossing someone, and their hands getting chopped off in the bathroom.  A bit of sour to follow all those sweets.

MacDonald, Jeanette

When my mother announced a year later that she would be having another baby, it was then that I realized how babies were made.  Both times my parents sat us down at the kitchen table to ask us how we felt about a new baby.  We agreed that that sounded like a fine idea, and so, some months later a baby arrived.  If it was discussed at the kitchen table you could make a pregnancy happen right then and there.  Of course, it was a few years after when my mother presented me with a book called “So That’s How I was Born!”.

I read it, absorbed the information and after the last page, I closed the book and started to cry.  “There has to be another way!” I wailed.  This was traumatizing, surely by the time I grew up and got married, that science would have figured something out.  Of course this book gives an animated, non-threatening version of the whole pregnancy and birth concept, and now that I know better, I still feel like that scared little kid.


Now in my early thirties, and one of the few childless women in my age group, I have heard the stories, I was even present through a close friend’s labor before she was rushed off for an emergency C-section.  There has to be an easier way, why does it have to be so arduous, so gory? Truth is, it sounds like there is no pretty way to get that little one out, and then once its there, everyone around has to adjust to the change.  But, when you hold that sweet little baby in your arms, with its teeny fingers and toes, its tiny mouth stretching out into a yawn, it must be worth the trial of labor.  Though one day I’ll happily accept motherhood as my new role in life, today I relish in being an auntie, an outside observer of how a family is created.

born 2Images Courtesy of Google