Archive for the ‘moving’ category

The bigger web of humanity (or something that has nothing to do with anything)

August 30, 2012

I took the summer off blogging for a couple reasons: first, hey it’s summer, and second, I’ve been feeling resentful of this whole social media society that says you must have a certain web presence, and if, for example, you don’t have a facebook page, then you have something to hide. Do we really live in a world that is so superficial, we call having a social media account “real”? I suppose. It is the age of “reality tv” after all. But then, our world has  always contained both superficiality, and truth. Remember Anne Shirley, LM Montgomery’s most beloved creation? Remember when Anne poured her heart out in a story which her well-meaning friend Diana submitted to the Rollings Reliable Baking Powder Company behind Anne’s back? I still remember Anne’s reaction, all drama and tears, over the humiliation of having her story commercialized. I loved Anne’s characteristic stubbornness that stuck up for the authentic artist inside of her. We can choose, at any given point, to take part in what’s superficial (and we sometimes have to, I admit; for work, for survival) but we can also choose to spend more of our time in the realm of real, heartfelt living.

For me, as it was for Anne, what’s real is often in my fiction. Meet Dan. He’s one of the characters I’ve been writing about. I call him my video store dad because he works at a video store and he was a teenager when he became a father.

In my story I completely humiliate this character, at the same time as I make him a victim of love for his daughter. The story opens with Dan standing in the middle of the mall, patiently waiting for his ex to show up with their daughter. He’s wearing a homemade superhero outfit.

The story, in it’s first drafts, ended sadly. Dan gets more and more humiliated, from the giggles of teenaged girls who point at him and wonder if he’s being paid to wear that hideous costume, to his four-year-old daughter forgetting all about him when she has the chance to visit the same accessories store as the teenaged girls.

I was struggling with this ending, because I really like Dan. He’s not smart, or ambitious,  but he’s courageous enough to give himself over to this love he never in a million years could have imagined for himself. My original ending for this story painted him as nothing but a looser. But I know it could be different.

After getting some feedback on this story, I was looking up the word vulnerability. That’s what Dan is, he’s vulnerable enough to feel this love that makes him do something as silly as put on a unitard and stand in the middle of the mall, to humiliate himself in hopes of impressing the object of his devotion. I came across a TED talk about this very thing, vulnerability (see Brené Brown on TED).

Listening to the TED talk reinforced, in a coincidental sort of a way, the hunch I had about my character. I think that Dan truly is a superhero, and that I need to re-write my ending, if not some of the story. I feel confident that it will work, because in attempting to impress a child, you have to step down to a child’s level of understanding. Dan is trying to appeal to something in his daughter she just might get. In the adult world, adult to adult, this would only be humiliating, and Dan would remain as he was in my first drafts — a loser.

I’ve been thinking about my own loser versus heroic moments throughout our relocations. This summer was yet another challenge, to go back to the place I call “home” (which is, ironically, not a place I ever have, or ever will, live full time, it just happens to be where our families live), and return to a place I was less than excited about coming back to. But it’s made me draw on my heroic self, while acknowledging my loser self.

There was this song we used to sing at summer camp (Oh Beausoleil, to the tune of Oh Danny Boy), and it always made my bawl my eyes out. When I think back to my summer camp experiences, I remember crying a lot. I’d cry because I was homesick, then I’d cry when it was time to leave camp and go back to my family. I wish, now, that I’d had the advice, then, that someone gave me before my wedding: to not start crying, because once you start, you’ll be a wreck the whole day. My camp memories are full of tears; my wedding day, only joy. I’ve been thinking about this, about how it applies to life and to great writing, which is so much more than just blurted emotions on the page. There’s a lot of restraint involved in great writing, and in living well. A lot of managing, but first acknowledging, the loser inside, to get to the hero.

One of the highlights of my time back in Ontario this summer was taking my five-year-old son into Toronto for a day, just the two of us. We rode the subway and the GO Train. I took him to Port Credit, and stood outside the apartment building my husband and I lived in when we had our daughter. I was hit with a huge wave of nostalgia for a time of life that seems eternities away from where I am now. I must admit, I started to give in to my loser self, feeling the sting of tears (man, I’m a sop!), but then I got an idea. And suddenly I was making notes about a story, the first draft of which I completed this summer, called Periphery, which in part is about childhood nostalgia.

My husband and I had our heroic-versus-loser selves challenged when we returned to St. John’s from Ontario. Our two eldest children stayed in our home province for two more weeks to spend time with both sets of grandparents, and we travelled back with the baby, now 21 months old. We arrived in St. John’s at 1:30 AM after a horrible flight where we were “those people” with the child who screamed the entire time.

Amidst the baby’s cries, my husband and I casually discussed the fact that neither of us could remember where we might have packed our house key. In the whole kerfuffle to get the five of us off to the airport that Saturday in July, I could not remember having put the key anywhere in our belongings.

Here’s how not together I can be: I’d made a couple copies of our house key the week before we left. Two were sitting on a shelf in the kitchen. One, I gave to our very generous neighbour, who had agreed to drive us to the airport in our van. The same neighbour who was going to be away when we were (ie, not home when we got back to St. John’s). So I gave him the extra key I’d gone to the effort to have made, and when he said goodbye to us at the airport, I handed him my van keys (house key still safely attached), and asked him to leave the van keys in our house when he locked the door behind him with the extra key, so that even if he wasn’t home when we returned, we’d be able to drive the vehicle when we got back into town.

At 2 AM after gathering our luggage and catching a cab back to our house, the baby was surprisingly calm. I wrapped him in my jacket and sat him in a deck chair while my husband and I circled the house trying to think of the best plan of attack to get inside. The basement door has never locked properly, and my husband had wedged a board behind it. Knowing it was held closed by the board, but that the lock was broken anyways, we decided that bashing it in was our best option.

An hour went by as we pushed and kicked at the door, and we each commented on how composed we felt. This time last year, I said, I would have been breaking down, sobbing, freaking out. Now look at me! Look at us! We can laugh about this, right?

From his perch on the back deck, the baby exercised his new vocabulary: Door. Lock. Key? Crash!

Finally, with both of us chanting in whispers, One, Two, Three, and kicking the door in unison, we were in. Broken door frame and all.

At least we know it was secure.

The really embarrassing part of this story is that there’s a part two. A couple days ago we took our children out for a walk to a park, dutifully locking all the doors behind us. When we returned from our walk with the kids, the front screen door, which is of course placed outside the door we have a key for, was locked.

This time, our five-year-old son got to be a hero. We lifted him up to climb through an open window, then he ran through the house, unlocking the doors for us.

If there’s a moral here, I’m not sure what it is. But yesterday, as we headed out for a walk, I checked to see that at least one door was unlocked. Loser or heroic moment? I don’t know. But I’m attempting to celebrate all my moments, as both.


Emergency Contact Numbers

February 28, 2012

I’ve made several attempts at writing this blog post over the last week and I’ve failed over and over again to finish it. It’s a really tough one for me because I’m not so much celebrating an anniversary, as holding my breath and waiting for it to pass.

We arrived in St. John’s a year ago. I hardly remember the lovely rental home we lived in for the first four and a half months. I realize now that there were things I could have done differently that might have made it seem like a less traumatic experience. I’m going to share some of these things here only in the hope that someone else going through a relocation might read about my experience, and learn something to make their own even a little bit easier. You see, this is the reason I started this blog in the first place. When we set out to move to Thompson, I found so little on the internet about relocation. Sure, there’s companies advertising how they can help make your move easier — Let us do your packing! Believe me, the packing is not the issue. The emotional baggage you’ll wear for the rest of your life is.

I got a cell phone when we moved rather than a land line, because I knew we’d be moving again once our house in Thompson sold, and I thought one phone with a number I wouldn’t have to change would make more sense. Besides, I wanted to be reachable should my daughter’s school ever need to get in contact with me. I am not a paranoid parent. But I remember feeling paranoid that my daughter wouldn’t be able to reach me in the event of an emergency.

I also remember crying every time I had to fill out a form — for the kids’ schools, or for the couple activities I signed them up for — where there’s a space to put an emergency contact number. I didn’t have an emergency contact. Well, I did, I was grateful I could put my husband’s boss’s wife as a contact. But that was like a surrogate. I didn’t have any personal contacts here. No family. No friends.

I let the cell phone be an excuse to not reach out to my own friends in other provinces. I should have been calling my girlfriends, I should have been expressing my loneliness, my joys and successes and adventures. Instead, I allowed myself to sink into a foreign kind of isolation. I shunned some of the mom’s groups I could have joined because I was tired, and wanted any extra energy I had leftover from caring for my children, for my writing.

I remember feeling like I had to be a hero, I had to be settled and fine with everything, able to handle all aspects of life for me and the kids, so that my husband could hit the ground running with his new job. I remember watching grandparents taking their children’s children to school, and wanting to ask them to adopt me and my kids. Please, take us in. Please, be our family. I need an extended family.

I have a family. My own parents have been so amazing, they came out to help me here several times. My in-laws were here to help us unpack at our new house in July. One of my best friends came out with her son to spend Thanksgiving with us, and I got to see two other friends who were in St. John’s in the fall. I remember thinking, during each visit, I should be so grateful for this. I remember how alone I felt whenever I said goodbye.

Goodbyes have been a theme for me lately, and I hate them. They get harder and harder all the time. I want to set fire to goodbyes. I want hellos that last and last.

I was talking to one of my husband’s colleagues recently who told me that, following a series of relocations for work, he once had to make the choice between his job and his marriage. He made the wise decision to give up his job, and keep his marriage. Finding another job was not difficult. Nothing is more important than family, he told me.

I’ve met several other women who have followed their husband’s careers, from places farther than other provinces in Canada — England, Korea, India. One told me recently that, although it’s hard to be away from home and extended family, and to have her husband travelling a lot for work, that at least there’s a culture of that here. Back in England where she was living, she said it was awkward for her kids whose friends’ fathers would pick them up from school, while their own dad was away. Here, the family blends in more, and they still make it work to live sometimes apart, and to just enjoy the time they have together. It’s not that simple, I’m sure, but those are the parameters you have to work with sometimes.

Most of this last year, for me, has been all about newness. Exciting as that is, I’ve craved normality, unsure of what that means, but at the same time, knowing I will find it, given time. Time I haven’t had, given two moves in one year, and three provinces in the last two years. My husband and I recently found a wedge between us that grew out of this relocation. We’re whittling it down. And I think one thing I’m learning about marriage — never before having faced anything that required real effort between us, but this last year, understandably, especially with a new baby who kept us up through the night those first several numbing months of this move — is that when you try to take anything just for yourself, that’s when you are hurtful. I disappeared into my writing, he into his job. We’ve both been able to focus on the kids, but not on each other.

I don’t have any sort of magic formula for relocation. And each move is different, just like each person, as I tell my kids all the time, each of us is unique, like snowflakes. Couples are all unique, too. But I do know that keeping your partner in focus has got to be one of the only ways to survive it all together. We’re taking a trip together, just the two of us, next month, and although I’m a bit nervous to leave the kids for a week (but again, extremely grateful my parents are going to be able to be here with them), I know this trip is like a key to our survival.

There are a couple other things we’re working on now, like finding childcare for the kids so I can look for a job. I’m also trying to get into a writing course at the university. We’re also making dinner dates with other families, and more plans for things to do together as a family, more hiking, short road trips, fun meals together. My husband has been turning off his phone, even for a few hours on the weekends. He’s discovered that when something is really truly important, a person will call. The constant emails are…..very difficult to manage. I respect so much the fact that he has realized that if he doesn’t manage them, they will manage not only him, but his family.

I have to take responsibility for my own happiness, and not wallow in loneliness. I have to reach out in my new community and grab hold of the things that will make life feel more like living, and less like something to just get through. As my one friend said to me recently, no one else is going to do that for me. It’s been a heartbreaking year. But there have been some wonderful things that have happened, too. And if it is all about focus, I will carry all the positivity and everything gained from this experience, into my future. I will hope that anything I’ve thought I’d lost along the way, can be retrieved, built on.

At this point, one year after arriving in St. John’s, I have several emergency contact numbers. And counting. Perhaps I do have something to celebrate, after all.

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Lights

November 25, 2011

The other day I made one of those careless parenting decisions that backfired in an explosive way. When my four-year-old son insisted on “helping” to fill the van with gas, I succumbed.

His father started this with him (during those first few months following our latest move, when the boy was terrified of being left alone in the vehicle). I’ve allowed this before too, back when the baby was little enough to sleep in his car seat. I would hover over my little man, making sure he had the nozzle properly inserted into the mouth of the gas tank. This time, the baby, now twelve months old and much too impatient to wait quietly while his big brother did something fascinating, began to scream. I stuck my head inside the van to distract him. My normally very coordinated four-year-old decided for some reason to slide the nozzle out while still squeezing the lever, causing the gas to explode all over himself in a river of the strong-smelling liquid.

This was all taking place on a day in mid-November, which is a freak-out time of year if ever there was one. You know how it goes, Christmas is approaching, the anxiety of all the extra work to do leading up to the holidays is closing in. The first colds and flus of the season are sweeping through families whose time is already taut with activities, appointments, Christmas card lists and wish lists, fundraising and all those seasonal events we are obliged to attend.

That night, with the gasoline smell permeating the entire house even after putting the clothes through the wash four times, I was on my way to Brownies with my daughter where I’ve volunteered as a leader. As usual, I couldn’t find our inside shoes, or the binder I’m supposed to have with me at all times for these meetings, or the cookie money I’d collected. I succumbed for a second instance in one day, this time to my frustration. “I will NOT do Christmas cards this year, I will NOT go to your stupid party, and no one better expect me to do any decorating or baking this year!” I yelled all this at my husband, but it bounced off his back as he turned away from me, no doubt rolling his eyes as he did so.

I got home later that evening to find my husband putting up a string of lights in our kitchen. He told me quickly that if they look silly, he could take them down. My nose twitching, I went into the laundry room. I got those gassy clothes out of the wash and took them outside to hang them on the line. When I came back in, the lights twinkled at me.

I stayed up late that night, writing madly. The Christmas lights sparkled. Outside, it began to snow.

Over the next few days, I finished a story I’ve been working on for years. I sent it to another new friend I’ve met here in St. John’s, a very talented poet with whom I’ve been sharing work back and forth. He encouraged me to submit my story to a contest. I also completed a non-fiction piece, and submitted that one to CBC Radio’s Winter Tale competition.

My kids were playing outside in the snow the day I finally retrieved my son’s clothes off the line. They smelled fresh as fresh could be, not a trace of the gasoline odour left. My son asked, “Mommy, what’s on your Christmas list?” At the same time, my daughter announced she wanted to go in and do some baking with me. We all went in and plugged in the lights. As my children and I worked together, the mess in the kitchen grew. I embraced the magic of the lights, even began to mentally prepare my Christmas card list. I discovered my answer to my son’s question.

One House, Two House; Old House, New House

October 4, 2011

One of the fiction stories I remember writing in elementary school was a tale about a haunted house. The gist of it was something like this: through a series of spooky events someone discovers their home is haunted, and the entire family ends up trapped within its walls for generations. I’m sure my young brain conjured some fascinating images for that story. I do know that I pictured the house as a dark, three-storey structure, standing alone in the centre of a wide, grassy field. I think I titled it something very original like, The Haunted House.

I no longer believe in haunted houses. But I do believe in being haunted by decisions I’ve made years ago that spring back to me in the present like a sling-shot in time. As well, by more recent decisions that I see as having a domino affect on my life, long into the future. And I do believe I will forever be haunted by the choices I make on behalf of my children. It’s terrifying enough holding your own fate in the palm of your hand, never mind the fate of three other lives.

So my husband and I have moved into the fourth house we’ve owned together. It is our first-born’s sixth residence; our second-born’s fourth; and the baby’s third (the kids’ homes include a couple of rentals along the way).

If I’ve learned anything after four house-hunts, it’s this: if you go into it expecting perfection, you’ll never, ever be satisfied. So here’s my personal rules for success (keeping in mind that rules are easily broken, and “success” is a moving target):

1. Area is most important. When my husband and I moved to Sudbury, Ontario, a location four hours north of the sprawling city of Toronto, he wanted a quiet place on the lake, and I, the one who would be “stuck” at home with kids until I could find another job,  wanted a neighbourhood where I could meet other young families and walk to a library. I guess you could say I, with both those desires satisfied, won. We made friends spitting distance from our backyard with whom we could party, avoiding hefty babysitter costs. I was able to walk the kids to library storytime, and eventually, once I found work, to their respective daycares. A place on the lake would have been nice, but…..we had many great camping spots nearby instead.

2. Room for the kids to play outdoors is imperative. I cannot stress enough the fact that kids need outdoor play as surely as they require proper nutrition (so do adults, we’re just better at self-medicating to try to ignore this fact….something that will be the demise of us all one of these centuries, I’m afraid). If my family managed to get outside daily in Northern Manitoba, I’ll be damned if I’ll let the winds of the Atlantic force us to stay indoors most of the time here in St. John’s. This time around we found a house in the city, with a flat backyard (a rarity in this hilly part of the world), and we bought a terrific play structure on kijiji that we set up even before the moving truck arrived.  I am proud to say that the kids – ours, and many others in the neighbourhood – log many hours on that playset.

3. Once your family gets to a certain size, space is an important luxury. After living in a three-bedroom rental with the baby tucked into a corner of our room (which did not work out at all, as he was waking three or four times each night, a terrible habit that stopped once we moved the other two into a shared room, and the baby into his own space), we decided four bedrooms was mandatory (but very difficult to find).

The house we chose is like a mansion after the apartment we lived in downtown. But we have no garage. I can hardly begin to describe how painful this is. And, as flat as the backyard is, the front makes up for it by consisting of a steep drop off a short treed platform to the sidewalk and then the road, and a series of haphazard steps from the front door to the driveway. I have come close to chucking the stroller down that drop-ff in frustration many a time.

So no, it’s not perfect. Sacrifices have been made in order to satisfy the above points. But we do enjoy the area. Even better, we have great neighbours (we’ve always been lucky with neighbours!), and kids for our kids to play with. I guess you could say, we choose lifestyle over…..structure.

The other night I was lapping up some culture at a presentation by Jane Urquhart, who was speaking at Memorial University as part of their Pratt Lectures. Urquhart’s topic was, Inner Lives: Fiction and the Visual Imagination, and she emphasized that the inclusion of architecture is essential to bringing fiction to life. I can’t help but think how appropriate that topic is for my reality, the adult portion which could be titled: The Many Houses of Carrie’s Life. I could split it into chapters according to preference, first being the Thompson, Manitoba house. I could meander into a tale about how unlikely it was that in a place I never ever wanted to move to, we found our perfect abode.

However, for us, the outside is often drastically more important than the inner walls of our home. The Thompson one was a modest-sized house, but had the biggest backyard. It even backed onto green space in a place where we didn’t worry about crime or property damage (the worst that happened there was, you’d find squatters from the nearby reserves in the forest, who would sometimes leave behind thrift store finds like jackets and chairs, ooohhhh, terrifying!).

I think I’ve been somewhat sobered by this move. We’re faced with the highest energy costs we’ve ever known. We have one more little life to hold in the palm of our hands (and what a delightful little life it is!). Already, we look back on last winter and breath a sigh of relief that we survived it. We’ve finally closed off our moving claims, been compensated for the things that got broken or lost. My husband has a veritable gang of guys he goes mountain biking with and, although he only got his bike out of storage two months ago, I think he’s used it more this year than the last several years combined. I am giddy as a school girl over the amount of literary events and supportive network of writers here in this city.

Best of all, we are making connections that are, at last, feeling permanent and meaningful.

Women need a wife

July 9, 2011

It’s finally set. Our moving date, that is. After nearly five months of being displaced, we will be moving into our new house next week.

I have much to say about the house hunt, the house choice, and the efforts thus far to work towards settling into the house (including bashing down walls, tearing out flowered wallpaper, and repairing a door after being broken into). But first, bear with me, because I’m gonna go all chicken soup for the soul for a moment.

Great vistas are like true friendships; they inspire me to be a better person.

As mentioned in a previous post, I’ve had quite the friend drought since moving from Manitoba to Newfoundland. But the tides are changing and I’ve started to meet new people. Most importantly, other moms. One in particular who went out on a limb and reached out to me, after discovering my blog. Boy oh boy am I ever glad she did! I can’t promise where the friendship will go (onwards and upwards, I hope!), but for now, having someone here I can call on is truly magical.

I’ve learned a lot about friendship in the last several years. It’s a different beast now compared with what it was in childhood. Back then, backstabbing was as much a part of socializing as was playing (remember those hurtful days of being excluded from a game or a birthday party?). As an adult, as mentioned here by my new friend, courting new friendships is like dating. I know myself better now than I did before, which is the first step in reaching out to others, and it doesn’t take long to realize what (or who) will work, and what (or who) won’t in a friendship.

I don’t like to think of myself as discriminatory, but I’ll admit, there is one thing in particular I look for in a friend these days; motherhood status.

I have a man in my life, and while I have other male acquaintances who are great, I must admit that between my husband and my two sons, I have all the testosterone I need. What I need besides, is a wife.

I bestowed this title on a good friend of mine in Thompson before I left. It was like being torn away from my wife, having to move away from her. She (and it wasn’t only one close friend there, but a network of great girls I wish I could have enjoyed daily life with longer) and I could trade off kids at a moment’s notice, whip up dinners to enjoy together or for each other (okay, it was her making dinner for me, adamant I wasn’t allowed to say thank you or it wasn’t a gift), enjoy coffees, walks, wine, sick and sleepless night stories, and laugh it all off as shared experience.

Another way to put it: something I read, can’t remember where, that stated how there’s no monetary value you can put on stay at home mothers (or fathers, for that matter), but that they (we) are the ones creating communities. Forming playgroups to get our kids socializing. Soliciting governments for parks, sidewalks, community centres, libraries. Volunteering when possible, taxiing children to school, sports and arts events. Filling in the gaps left by the rest of the world immersed in the workforce.

Men need wives for support, companionship, for partnership through life’s journey. I declare that women need wives, too, not in an erotic way, but in a partnership way. Call it stalling feminism if you like, but I find that our roles as men and women are still quite defined. I’m okay with that – my husband wields the hammer, I wield the calendar of family events. My husband needs his boys (best friends) to let loose with once in a while, and I need my girls to do the same. Each in our own way. It all works if we don’t fight it. Admittedly, the lines are often blurry, and I love that about modern families – sometimes not one mom and one dad, or sometimes it’s the man who is chatty, the woman who fixes things around the house. That’s life in all it’s varied, glorious colours and combinations.

True friendship, for me, is more to the point now than it was in childhood. I choose friends, now, not based on what they wear, or whether or not I’ll be invited to their birthday party. I choose people who make me feel good about myself.

And here’s the most important guideline I follow in choosing a friend, mother or not: I choose friends who make me want to be a better person. Friends who inspire me to work harder, learn more, take better care of myself, so that I’ll be there longer for all the people I love and care about.

There’s also something mysterious about girlfriends at this point in my existence. I don’t know if she brushes her teeth right after dinner, or before she goes to bed. If she wears socks under the covers. If she kisses her children in the same order each night. These are secrets no longer sacred in my married life. I know everything and then some about my husband. There’s a great comfort in that (and in the fact that some of those habits do change with time, and we’ll grow and learn to adapt to them together). But the mystery about a new friend, a mom with whom I start several conversations yet finish none, constantly interrupted as we inevitably are by children needing a tissue, or acknowledgment of a somersault completed, or a boo boo kissed; that mystery remains. It hangs in the air between us, waiting for the next playdate. It keeps me smiling into the night, wondering if I’ll ever know the tangible answers to the questions about a person I somehow already and innately trust completely.


May 30, 2011

A view from Cape Spear, most easterly point of North America.

My almost 7-year-old daughter learned to braid hair recently. A friend at school taught her. My 4-year-old son, who usually sits to pee, proudly announced the other day that a buddy at preschool showed him how to hang his parts over the toilet bowl to urinate (adorable, since he’s only just now tall enough to do so, my short-legged little man). I was dreading the day he’d start doing this, concerned it would only mean more mess for me to deal with. Instead, it’s given him more independence. He no longer calls on me every time he needs to relieve himself. My daughter now does her own hair in the morning. Which leads me to wonder, if I were homeschooling my kids, where on earth would they learn some of the more practical ways of the world?

As for bigger milestones, we finally reached the doozy two weeks ago when our Thompson house sold. Horray! And now, less than two weeks later, we’ve bought one. Only a few more weeks before we can really, truly start settling in here in St. John’s.

My husband was away last week. My parents were here to visit and help me out (thank goodness for the grandparents! Not only did they aid me in finding the house and playing chauffeur to the kids, but they tidied the million piles of papers, clothes and toys that I never seem to get around to organizing). So my husband made the biggest purchase of his life without even seeing the property. How’s that for marital trust?

When hubby got back into town, we still had one night with my parents here. I was dying to experience George Street – most pubs per square foot, I think they say, of any street in North America – sans kids, adult style. So I punched in the bags under my eyes (not sleeping much anyways, baby is ruling the roost at nighttime, and I figure we’ll wait to get into our house before I make any more half-hearted attempts at sleep training) and we headed out.

George Street is a hop skip and a jump (or a stumble) from where we’re staying. We wandered past Kelly’s Pub, where there’s always live music. It looked so quiet in there I thought I might fall asleep. We headed past Dooley’s with it’s dozen or so pool tables, all empty. Then there was O’Reilly’s, which seemed to be just filling up, as were a few of the other bars and pubs.

And then we came to the Martini Bar, where a rowdy group of people were out on the deck singing their hearts out to the music over the speakers, glasses raised in the air. Okay, no live, local music, but this place was happenin’, and I was looking for a bit of entertainment. “This is it,” I said, smiling, and we headed up the stairs, jostling past the rowdies to get to the bar.

Turns out the men were all Welsh rugby players (funny that I at first mistook their dialect for that of the locals). They’d been drinking since noon. No, since 5 am on Friday. They were reprimanded for swinging from the overhead lights, and scolded for wrestling full beers to the floor. But it wasn’t until half of them started taking off shirts, pants, and stripping right down to the buck – undies ‘n all – that they were kicked out. They got dressed and left, not with tails between their legs, but singing merrily to the young bartenders, “You’ve lost that loving feeling….”

My son and I at Cape Spear, the edge of the world.

So George Street is rowdy, even on a Sunday night before the summer is really underway. I love this city!


To Do. Repeat. Everything twice.

May 4, 2011

I’m treading water in the space between what pulls me down (chores, disciplining children, loneliness of having no close friends yet in the city we now call home) and what lifts me up (a threshold to cross where every day is a new adventure).

There’s nice enough people here in St. John’s. I see some other moms, and fewer dads, at the playgroups I frequent with my two sons while my daughter is at school. There’s one on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at the Newfoundland Sports Centre, it’s free, and the gym is MASSIVE. My wild child can run until his cheeks are flaming red, kicking and throwing balls, flipping over mats, crawling through tunnels. Several times a week I pack the baby on my back, push the stroller for the wild one (in case he ever tires), and visit various parks perched on the hills of St. John’s. I talk to people in grocery stores. At the library.

Still, I can’t help but think back to our last three moves and know that by this time, two months into it, I had at least one new best friend. Other than my husband, whose job is more demanding than ever, I find I’m very much on my own in a strange and colourful place with no close bonds yet formed.

I despise the sound of myself complaining. And so I focus my attention towards lighter facts. Like the fact that we have a doorframe next to the kitchen table where we can put the baby in his jolly jumper (one of the things we thought to pack ourselves, hence saving it from storage). The floor there is uneven, so we stuff pillows and a blanket over the knobby threshold and he bounces and squeals with delight, part of our family dinners. My kids may not have the huge backyard with play set we had at our old house in Thompson, but wherever we walk in this city, they climb, roll, balance on fences and retaining walls, and stretch their muscles in ways they never did in the flat lands we moved from.

After six weeks, we finally and officially became residents of Newfoundland. We got our driver’s licenses and MCP (medical care plan) cards for this province. Our vehicles registered. Our insurance, bills and mail organized. Sort of.

Let me know if you’ve experienced this before, because I really hope it’s not just us: having to do EVERY SINGLE THING TWICE. Go to City Hall to get a parking permit. Fail to bring one piece of paper with my name and new address on it (because I didn’t have one yet), go home, go back another day with all relevant information. Go to the vehicle registration office, they can’t get in touch with some official or other on their end, have to return another day to finish that process. Pick up forms for MCP, they are the wrong ones. Take the correct forms to the office that the website stated to go to in the Confederation Building, turns out it’s not the right place at all. Start all over again. This time, make a few phone calls (which takes at least an hour on hold) to discover that the office to get the MCP cards is actually located downtown.

The day I did finally get our MCP cards, I also got my driver’s license. It was a Friday. I could hardly believe that I’d finally have my new ID. Of course, both those things had already been attempted previously, but still, to accomplish two things in one day, all three kids in tow, it was amazing.

My husband and I celebrated with a bottle of wine and cheval noire, it’s our new favourite beer out here, Black Horse (not really called by the French name but that’s what we’ve been jokingly calling it, in honour of our daughter whose ability to translate half her English vocabulary into the other official language is growing at a surprisingly fast pace). Then we got a cold.

The weeks have been tinged with drama and drudgery. I am both amused and frustrated by the contents of this furnished rental: six ladles, four colanders, numerous pots with no lids and lids with no pots, and not a single potato peeler (I finally bought one).

And so, eight weeks after moving here, we (well actually, I) evicted us from this grand old home and embarked on a house hunt. Again. After looking at some other rentals, I got nervous.

This week, I changed my mind. I think we’ll stay put, maybe attempt to get a few more things out of storage. I know some gals who call it a “woman’s prerogative” to change her mind over and over again. I call it one of the fairer sex’s many curses. I think I slip into a bit of a depression every time I change my mind, then change it back again. What a drain of energy. I’d rather think of it as exploring all my options. All little too thoroughly.

I am grateful for the chance to live here in Newfoundland, a place I realize we may never have visited just as a vacation destination (it’s certainly not a cheap place to get to. It’s also, we realize now, the most expensive place we’ve ever lived. Everything does have to get here by ship, and apparently NL doesn’t have its own cows, because milk, for one, costs twice what it does anywhere else we’ve lived). I don’t mean to complain, really I don’t. But in keeping with the main theme of my blog, on relocation, I just want to be very very clear: moving is never easy. More to the point: being displaced is a nightmare. But we find things to enjoy along the way.

We explored some of the East Coast Trail over Easter weekend. WOW. Stunning. And we visited the lighthouse at Ferryland on a bluebird day. There’s so much hiking out here, and our family is at a stage where we can enjoy these things together, the kids running all over the craggy, moss and heather-covered rocks, the baby in a backpack.

I’m also discovering some of the most amazing writers. I’m reading Lisa Moore’s February, and I’m absolutely blown away by this haunting, touching story. This is Moore’s fictitious tale based on the very real, horrible tragedy that happened off the coast of NL in 1982 when the Ocean Ranger rig sank into the frigid depths of the Atlantic, killing all 84 people who were stationed on it that Valentine’s evening. Perhaps it is my choice of novel, but I’m starting to think that one thing that characterizes Newfoundlanders is sadness. I don’t know how anyone who is from here, could not have been touched in some way by at least one of the many many tragedies that has occurred here. Tidal waves, severe storms, and countless instances of lives being lost at sea. I can see why so many people here have a true love hate relationship with the ocean that surrounds them.

I joined the Writer’s Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador, WANL, and I’m really looking forward to tapping into that group. It seems to be a very strong, active organization here at the most eastern tip of Canada. And perhaps as I do get to meet and know other people here, I will find the humour, and not just the sadness, that I know lives here too.