Monthly Archives: November 2013

Ninety-Nine — Failer

It’s exhausting to be bad at something.

Like, really bad. So bad someone corrects you every fifteen minutes. So bad you second guess every move because you want to avoid being corrected but your second guessing turns to third guessing and then you never make the right call and end up being corrected anyway.

Friday I asked the woman at work who is training me if I had done something correctly, bracing myself for the “No you forgot X Y AND Z, AGAIN,” but instead she nodded and said, “yup,” and it was such a relief. I have been realizing that in general I am quite accustomed to being right, correct, and good at things. And this job where I am not right, correct, or good at things is taking its toll on me.

I am tough and have a lifetime of being right, correct, and good at things standing behind me to back me up. I can give myself bathroom and driving-to-work pep-talks, but the glow from them only lasts fifteen minutes at best because, well, I am bad at my job.

Can I remember the last time I failed? Let’s see. We don’t count stories rejected, because that’s part of the writer’s life. We don’t count parenthood because we can’t really know until, well ever. There are blog posts — many of them — without comments. That counts for failure in my world.

I can forgive myself all minor failures because in the greater world I feel like a success. And this is a gift; from my heritage to me. From me as a middle-class white girl whose parents stayed together and didn’t do drugs, to me.

Coincidentally — serendipitously? — at work I move around the files of people who have not had these gifts given to them. They were set up for failure from conception. Then, when they failed, they were berated. Their lives stacked failure upon failure like Lego bricks. Over time they have come to believe they are incompetent, incapable of anything but robbing a gas station, beating a girlfriend. Offered a chance to do something hard, to make something of themselves, with the backdrop of failure behind them, they take it, fail, do it again. Whereas I, coming from a place of reward and love, luxury and privilege, balk and tire at the first signs of difficulty. My eyes are tired. I complain. I’m so tired of being bad at this job.

I could quit. All the stress would vanish. We could go back to our old budget, our old lives. I could choose that path. I could have five luxurious days off a week again.

But I won’t.

I am lucky to be here, lucky to be me. I have a job, when many do not. I have a brain, as rusty as it is. I have supportive family, understanding kids, a car that runs.

Having been built up my whole life, I can afford to fail.

It is as important to be resilient as it is to be competent. It is good for me to fuck up, day after day, to have someone following me around checking up on me, telling me where I went wrong. It shows me how my kids must feel, sometimes. It will help me be a better parent, a better person, more forgiving and patient.

Oh it sucks. It sucks so hard to be 39 and 3/4s and be incompetent at something. Truly, panic-inducingly incompetent.

But after weekend one (the one with the kids) and weekend two (the two days where I am blessedly alone), I will start to feel like I might be ready to give it another try. I will be ready to walk into work again, strong and tall, with my many competencies to help keep me upright as I am slammed by waves of “you did this wrong” and “you put this thing here instead of there” and “don’t you remember? the ponies go in the UPPER mail slot.”

(Really. Ponies. Who knew.)

Someday I’ll look back at this and laugh. Maybe even next week? Probably not. But someday.

Ninety-Eight — Free Association

Let’s do this, post number ninety-eight!

If I was ninety-eight years old right now, it would be the year 2072 and exactly three months until my ninety-ninth birthday! I might have grandchildren, or great grandchildren.

A girl I used to be friends with in grade two started having her children while she was just out of high school and is now going to be a grandmother. She is forty-one. I’m not sure if this makes me feel old or young. Mostly just grateful to be me.

There is a woman in our neighbourhood — she is somewhere between forty-one and one hundred years old — who stands at the pedestrian-controlled crossing by the Safeway, pressing the button. She sometimes crosses when the light changes, but then she stands on the other side and presses the button to change the light again. She also chats with people while they wait for the light to change. I’ve never seen her anywhere but standing next to the pole with the button, anxiously watching traffic. She’s really concerned about traffic.

In the past few months the cycle on the lights has grown longer. It used to be one of those corners where as soon as you pressed the button, the light would change, but now it can take five minutes. If you’re driving, sometimes longer. You have to back up and go forward, trying to trigger the sensor that changes the light. Or maybe there’s no sensor and it’s just the entertainment for the people who live in the new apartment building across the street.

The new apartment building promised us street-level shops but so far all I see is a paper sign declaring DENTAL OFFICE OPENING SOON and a People’s Drug Mart. The Drug Mart used to be in the location where the apartments now are (it used to be a strip mall) and when the apartments were being built, the Drug Mart moved a couple of blocks away, to a terrible location on the other side of a very busy road. Now they are moving back. The last iteration of the Drug Mart didn’t have much except drugs. I am hoping the new iteration will have something good like lip gloss.

For the other street-level shops I am hoping for a coffee shop that is not Starbucks (there are already two of those just a block away) and a book store. If you’re going to hope, hope; that’s what I say.

There should be more book stores open near drug stores. After all, where are you going to go while you wait for your prescription to be filled? What else would be nice? A taco place. A tattoo parlour. A consignment clothing store that has the perfect jacket.

I may, this Fall/Winter, cave and buy a puffy down jacket with a fur collar. Why fight against the current?

Yesterday we drove very far to Harrison Mills, or near it, to see spawning salmon and feasting eagles. We saw a lot of both. There is an annual Eagle Festival based around the time when all the salmon come to spawn and die and the eagles arrive to eat their faces off. The festival is next week but we’re busy next week and this past weekend was a long weekend because of Remembrance Day. We were all in various stages of various sicknesses, it being mid-November, so a long car ride to a giant outdoor observatory with very few other people was exactly what the doctor ordered.

I’m not sure what the kids thought of the concept of swimming for miles and miles and miles and miles to lay your eggs and then die and then be eaten by eagles. Arlo did say, “It’s too bad they have to die,” and I said, “well, if they didn’t, the eagles wouldn’t have as much to eat,” and then we sang the circle of life together and drove home.

Actually if the salmon never showed up, the eagles would still have plenty to eat in the way of little dogs that live in the fancy gated housing development that’s built right on the river front / observatory. Why you would spend a bunch of money to build your dream country-woods house and then have a purse dog / eagle bait that you have to walk every day is way beyond me but maybe it will make sense when I’m retired.

I hope not.

In terms of my own life cycle, I am glad that after spawning I have a few years to carry on living before I am consumed by death. Hooray for being human, not fish. It’s the way to go.

Ninety-Seven — Work Day

“You’re so quiet,” say the people at work.
“Am I?” I ask. “Should I be hollering?”
“Yes!” they say. “You should!”

There is a woman who works in the office and she is so loud I can hear her coming from the parking lot. Last week she was in a room that shares a wall with my desk. She was photocopying, or trying to. She doesn’t usually photocopy things.

“GODDAMN IT!” I heard. I moved my papers around on my desk and smiled a little.
“MOTHER FUUUUCKER! COME ON! COME ON!” She banged something. The copier rattled churlishly.

If I could type in something louder than all caps, I would. She’s that loud.

I love that it’s acceptable to shout swear words in the office where I work. I’ll probably hold my tongue for another month or so, if only because the paper I have to move around requires all my concentration at the moment, but knowing that letting a curse word slip free will endear me to rather than estrange me from the people I work with goes a long way to making me feel comfortable and like I have found a place I could stay a while.

Ninety-Six — She’s Prone to Metaphor

Five year olds playing soccer is the most adorable and maddening thing. They get distracted by birds and trees, enjoy taking huge, dramatic tumbles, and often break into dance routines mid-game.

I remember when Arlo played two years ago, he would mostly run around huffing and puffing and feeling like he was really working hard, which he was, but he never touched the ball. And before you tell me it’s five year old soccer, they just need to be running and they’re learning important skills about teamwork, yes. I know this. But there are other five year olds who touch the ball, a lot, with their feet, and even move it from point a to point b. Sometimes? They get it in a NET, which is a GOAL and all the parents go wooooooooooh. There are a couple of boys like that on Eli’s team this year and we have played against many teams full of players who just seem to GET IT more than certain others.

At the time I chalked Arlo’s not-getting-it of soccer up to, well, Arlo. He’s a generally thoughtful kid who likes to take in his surroundings before committing to them. He enjoyed the heck out of soccer because he had friends and they were a team and he likes running. That’s like 70% of soccer right there.

At the same time, three-year-old Eli was running around kicking balls like a real ball kicker and I thought welp, he’ll really nail soccer someday I reckon.

Turns out not so far. Eli also loves that he has friends and they are a team and he LOVES running. Loves it. Would run all the time if he could. However. There is another 30% to soccer and that is moving the ball.

Watching Eli at practice yesterday I realized he moves WITH the ball. He moves AROUND the ball. He chases the ball to and fro and he knows where the ball IS at any given moment. But he doesn’t actually go up to the ball, claim it, and move it, either by kicking or dribbling. And Arlo did the same thing. They both kind of hover at the edge of the action.

I watched him and started to see some commonalities between his (and Arlo’s) approach to soccer and my approach to life, new experiences, things I am not totally confident about. I have this tendency, to start and stop things, just a bit too afraid to get right up to the ball and own it, dominate it, take it and run WITH it, not next to it or just behind it.

(It sometimes can be seen in my overuse of commas. Just break the sentence! Break it! Move on.)

I’m going to work on amplifying my inner soccer parent voice — oh yes, there is one, it tries to come out every time I watch a soccer game played by five year olds — and when I see myself hanging about the edges of the action, waiting meekly for a good moment to step in, I will tell myself to get the fucking ball already.

Ninety-Five — Conversations

This morning I walked the kids to school and then dropped by the office to fill out a volunteer form so I could accompany Eli’s kindergarten class to the grocery store for a field trip. The office secretary was giving out late slips and it was lovely to hear her greet each late child by name. There is a sadness inherent in chronic tardiness, isn’t there? Then I get over that sadness. It’s elementary school, not a Canadian dysfunctional novel. All is probably well.

One girl came in and the secretary said she looked tired.
“Oh yes,” the girl said. “I was up until ONE AM.”
“My,” said the secretary.
“I have so many things on the weekends,” said the girl. “Dance, soccer, Bulgarian school…”

Her eyes were wide. She didn’t look tired to me. I wasn’t buying it. Some kids like having lots of activities. Some kids can’t tell time. Some kids just like people to feel sorry for them.

The walk to the grocery store was illuminating. The little girl walking in front of me told me all about her visiting grandparents, her younger sibling, and that she was sick actually. Right then. Today.

“I am so sick,” she said.
“Oh that’s too bad,” I said. To be polite, I asked, “Do you have a cough, or a stuffy nose?”
“I’m just sick sick sick,” she went on. “But still I have to come to school. And now [sibling A] and [sibling B] will get sick.”
“The more kids you have in your house, the sicker everyone will be,” I agreed.

We left it at that.

The grocery store field trip was a nutrition teaching expedition. Nutritionists took the children in two groups through the store and explained the Canada Food Guide and its rainbow of suggested food servings.

Mostly the kids were fascinated by the demonstration glass of milk. They all tapped it and marvelled that you could turn it over and nothing happened. It didn’t spill. MAGIC.

In the cereal aisle the children sat on the floor and learned how much fibre is needed in a serving of cereal to make it healthy (5g or more) and how much sugar (7g or less). A man who was going to shop down that aisle stopped short and asked me what was going on. He had a baguette tucked under his arm.

“They’re a kindergarten class,” I said, “learning about how to eat good food.”
“In the CEREAL aisle?” he scoffed.
“Um, yeah, they’re talking about breakfast,” I said.
“Sure, I get it,” he said and walked away.

You get it? What? Big Froot Loop rides again? Innocent children being brainwashed into thinking breakfast cereal might be an option as a food item? Way to stick it to The Man, baguette-eater.

Some days uptown New Westminster just has a lot more going on. Today was one of those days. Each corner of 6th & 6th had a strange looking person standing on it, someone grey-faced or slouching, someone with a hand shoved at a strange angle inside a jacket pocket. Someone with slightly outside-the-lines lipstick. A woman with a toddler-aged grandchild in a stroller was cooing, “Some-one is all poooopy..” while she waited for the light to change. A man with an artificial-looking beard asked me for change.

In the Most Depressing Mall in the Universe, where I went to buy lip balm at the drug store, a man followed me down the hall from the bathroom, his feet sounding alarmingly quick behind me. He wanted to ask how tall I was.

“Five foot ten,” I said. “Goodbye.”

Later, the kids had a friend over and they watched a video on youtube. Then another, and another. It was “American Girl,” at some point, a new pop song. I watched them closely as they watched, and I heard the following conversation:

(after a closeup of the three women in the video from behind)

“The camera just totally zoomed in on their BUTTS! Why did it DO that?”
“I don’t know.”
“Hey, that’s a nice car.”
“I like that guy’s tattoo. That’s really cool.”
“I think it’s a Mustang…”
“Hey she’s stealing his car!”
“She’s totally stealing it!”
“I don’t want to watch this anymore.”

I heard this song by J. Roddy Walston and the Business in the car this evening and had to wait until it was done to turn off the engine. This love is subject to revision.


If you say you will write one hundred posts in one hundred days, that’s a Thing. It’s a goal. A Goal.

If you then proceed to drag out the hundred posts over more than a hundred days, it’s just a blog.

So, this is just a blog, like any other. Sorry. It’s not special. There is no gimmick or knack. I am still posting! Until I get to 100! But, well, so what.

It’s not even special to me. Really. Man it’s like the second time you try heroin*. Never as good as the first.

* I have never tried heroin.

I loved my first blog. I didn’t love the name of it necessarily, as years went on and it made less and less sense to anyone, but I loved that it was this great cave in the Internet where I could sit and pull my knees to my chest and just feel warm and safe. I loved that I started it as a bored unemployed person with an itchy chin, no dependants, and a lot of free time, and ended it in a suburb, with two small kids and a lot more grey hair.

There’s something special about something that sees you through so much transition and doesn’t so much as blink. Not that it could blink, being a blog.


No, that’s not quite it.

I don’t know what this space is all about yet. But then, making friends takes a long time. Once you know someone and love them, you look back at all that friend-making and polite dancing about you did and laugh because now you’ve talked about taboo thing and have gone to another level of friendship and can’t even remember when you thought she maybe looked boring or snooty.

This place will go to that place someday. And we’ll forget all this awkwardness ever happened.

Here's me in eighth grade. Awkward proof that all awkwardness is forgettable.

Here’s me in eighth grade. Awkward proof that all awkwardness is forgettable.