Love and marriage

There is so much planning that goes into a guys’ weekend away. The date is chosen months in advance to ensure that it doesn’t conflict with anything important going on with work or with family. If it does, it might become necessary to reschedule, setting off a series of emails to put forth alternative dates to everyone attending. Accommodation is carefully selected to ensure a wide range of tastes and budgets are taken into consideration. One of the men is charged with arranging all the restaurant reservations, being mindful of everyone’s medical conditions and dietary restrictions (though thankfully this task is rotated I believe to make sure not one person is doing it every time). And certainly it’s a big chore to make sure any excursions that are booked suit a wide variety of interests within the group of weekend warriors as well.

The entire week prior to the boys’ weekend away is devoted to doing laundry making sure that not only all his clothes are washed for the weekend in order to have maximum personal choices when packing but that all the clothes of his family are also washed and folded. It can be tricky organizing rides for all his kids to any of their weekend activities for which his wife might have a conflict. The last minute grocery shopping and meal preparation is exhausting but necessary as well so that the wife doesn’t resort to take-out for three meals in a row.

I can only imagine how tricky it must be for dads to constantly have to quarterback the social lives of their kids over the weekend through numerous back and forth texts granting permission to do this but forbidding to do that.

And that ultimate sacrifice of precious “me” time he devotes during his weekend getaway shopping for that special little trinket that made him think of his, ever so grateful for her efforts during his absence? That is priceless.

Luckily we women have it so much easier. We just grab our clothes and go.

suitcase

I’ve been a lot of widows in my life: a golf widow, a hockey widow, work-travel widow; never a real widow. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about it. Like this week for example …

He departed for the International Old-timer’s Hockey Tournament in Munich, Germany, a mere 6,300 kilometres and six time zones away, and will be gone for six days. This boy’s weekend was pitched to me some time ago as a fun, international hockey tournament for his group of friends that are adult recreational hockey players. “Great idea,” I thought. “Go; you’ll have fun.”

Of course no one goes to Germany for a weekend so the “weekend” turned into six days, which I should have predicted because his golf “weekend” in the spring is also a six-day event. Some people will say it’s just a coincidence that this tournament coincides with Oktoberfest. Those some people must think I’m stupid. First of all, he left with no hockey equipment, claiming he was just a sub, a call-up in case he was needed due to injury or some other Oktoberfest-induced incapacitation.

And he casually slips me the itinerary as he slips out the door to the airport …

There are exactly two mentions of this hockey tournament in the two-page itinerary – on Saturday and Sunday. There are at least nine references to “free time in Bad Tolz”, “free night on your own”, “free morning on your own”, “dinner and party”, “Munich dinner and beer tasting”, “party at Oktoberfest tent” and finally, in case he’s still at a loss with what to do with himself in Europe, a “free day on your own”. With this kind of itinerary, the risk of Oktoberfest-induced incapacitation is less of a risk and more of a inevitability. I sincerely hope he’s not the only substitute (I fear he might be a little unreliable in that category … with this kind of itinerary).

There used to be a time that I didn’t like to go away for weekends on my own because it was too much work. If that sounds like a paradox then you must be a man. I then decided it was time to take care of “me” and I would plan weekends away but not before I arranged any necessary carpools for all my kids’ sports and activities, left a refrigerator full of meals and out clean clothes away in their closets. So naturally, I spent the first twenty-four hours of my weekend away … sleeping.

Soon after having kids, my husband and I agreed to two trips away without each other the year, and no carry-overs. That was until I realized that most of his weekends away were six days long. In the early days, it took a lot of energy and planning just to walk out the front door (but always worth it). As the kids grew older I got bolder! I now take at least three or four weekends away and still leave a few days on the table! There’s my annual Soul Sisters Weekend with my sister, my sisters-in-law and my female first cousins. There’s my now-annual reunion with my college friends. There’s my annual writers conference (where with writing part is often kind of like the hockey part in this trip of Peter’s). Rarely do my weekends away involve anything golf or hockey-related. But yes, sleeping is still very much a big part of my weekends away!

There’s room for improvement here so am open to suggestions (… and invitations!).

Where to next …?

(photo tophdgallery.com)
(photo tophdgallery.com)

I don’t mind when my husband goes away on a boys’ weekend – really – I don’t. I have noticed, however, some fairly significant differences between a boys’ weekend and a girls’ weekend.

golf

For starters, men don’t know how to count.  A boys’ weekend is never forty-eight hours – it’s more like ninety-six hours.  Women have a different word for that – it’s a freakin’ vacation, is what that is. A girls’ weekend on the other hand, starts on Friday and ends on Sunday. It’s. A. Weekend. We’re gone for maybe forty-eight hours, but usually more like thirty-six hours.  That’s ok though, because by my counting, I can plan two girls’ weekends for every one boys’ weekend.

Planning a boys’ weekend is pretty easy too:  pick a date, pack your golf bags and head out the door.  Planning a girls’ weekend involves, um, more.

I’ve noticed most moms, myself included, are exhausted just getting out the door for a girls’ weekend given the Herculean effort involved in organizing a weekend away.  Yet, despite the effortlessness that seems to accompany planning a boys’ weekend, I have noticed that they don’t seem to come home very well rested at all.

During a girls’ weekend, I may text my husband that I arrived safely, ask if he found the casserole in the freezer, and remind him about our son’s baseball game. I would never text my husband asking him, “Can you check on our line of credit?” or better yet, “I talked to the police officer and it’s cool”. There’s not much to text from a girls weekend.  “I ate and I slept” isn’t all that exciting. I could ratchet it up a bit and say, “I laughed so hard that wine came out my nose” but am not sure if anyone at home would be interested in that one either. Or better yet, “spent four hours at the spaspa today – better than sex.” Yeah, I pressed cancel on that one too.

Returning from a boys’ weekend and walking into the house involves the onerous task of dumping the dirty laundry into the hamper and storing the golf clubs in the basement.  Returning from a girls’ weekend and walking into the house, well, it just brings tears to my eyes.

So despite their differences, what happens at a girls’ weekend, stays at a girls’ weekend and for sure, what happens at a boys’ weekend, stays at a boys’ weekend.  Maybe the texts should too.

Soul Sisters Weekend 2014 seems just a little too long away…

Seems I’ve been pondering effective communication quite a bit these days, more recently about at what frequency I should target my interaction with my children, and now today about my communication with my other half.

The other day I said to my husband, “Look, we need a new yew.”

And what he heard was, “Look, we need a new ‘you’.”

He stopped in his tracks, dropped the wheelbarrow, and responded, “What did I do this time?!”

Apparently I didn’t make it any better by adding, “Nothing. It’s not a big deal; I’ll just go out and get a new one”.

The look on his face was not entirely one of concern for our landscaping, so I then pointed to the dying perennial in our front garden.  “Look at it!  It’s all brown and disgusting!  I don’t want that to be the first thing people see when they walk up our front walk”.

I can only imagine what he would have thought had I made fun of the absence of green thumbs in his genes.

As I set to pulling out the old ‘yew’ from its roots, I got to thinking about how fewer the misunderstandings there are between my husband when I just text him; no verbal communication whatsoever.  Certainly the mix-up over whose ‘yew’ and who’s ‘you’ would never have happened if I’d just texted, “I’ve gone to the garden centre to pick up a new healthy green yew. Brb!”text talkOur textual relationship is pretty strong for a couple now married 22 years. Actually, it’s great in fact, especially when you consider that we only just got the ‘text talk’ maybe four or five years ago. And from whom did we get the ‘text talk’? Why, our kids, of course. IKR?! We rly nEded 2 b schooled 2 B kewl! We’re just amateurs but we text all the time now.

When we argue, there’s no eye rolling, no door slamming, no hanging up the phone, just a lack of signal (or at least that what we both plead). The texting naysayers will say we’ve lost that loving feeling but honestly it’s the most civilized form of communication we’ve ever experienced, except for the occasional premature autocorrect. If he gets bored with our routine, I don’t really care because I know our online personas are so reliable and faithful. There are just so many fewer misunderstandings. It’s not like one of us is from Mars and one of us is from Venus on this type of communication, we are both equally and joyfully inexperienced and experimenting.

Anyway, all is well now after I fully explained myself and my need for a new yew. I’m not sure if he was relieved or not.  Maybe he was looking for a new yew too.

audible frequencyLately, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how to make myself heard around our house. I’ve also been giving lots of thought to making myself understood around the house, but combining these two expectations seems to be a lofty goal – especially as the school hiatus and listening skills seem unequivocally correlated – so am starting out most humbly. I do know that sound (stuff we hear) is created by a vibration (stuff that happens) and how loud this vibration is depends on its frequency (how often the stuff vibrates) . It’s pretty amazing the fancy physics I can remember from high school solely due to the fact that I had a huge crush on my high school physics teacher. Anyway, frequencies between 20 and 20,000 Hz are audible to most humans. That why, once in a while, you see or hear emergency information on the road or radio.  Information like ‘For traffic information, tune into 980Hz” or “ … for marine emergencies, 2182Hz”.

mosquito deviceYou may have heard about these devices, “mosquito” devices they’ve been called, that emit a high frequency sound that only young people, teenagers and young adults included, can hear (like, above 20,000Hz).  The sound really annoys them so they try to avoid the area, which presumably reduces bad or even criminal behaviour. Their use, however, is being challenged by human rights activities for both their ethics and their legality as a means to deter loitering in public spaces.  Forget human rights, am I the only one who thinks this is pure genius?  Even aside the potential for some impressive Cialis commercials, think about how useful this device would be to get them to move out after high school or university. Did these activists ever wonder if parents had perhaps installed them in their homes and that’s why they’re out loitering at public parks in the first place??

Let’s consider the anthropological applications of the mosquito device on a much larger scale.  Would it not be helpful for parents to be outfitted with a voice transformer that morphs your otherwise normal voice into one that teenagers just can’t ignore? But don’t stop there! If scientists have now figured out what is the frequency at which most teenagers hear, we’re only one scientific breakthrough away from creating a communications decoder that allows parents to de-scramble and interpret teenagers’ verbal communications.  The grunts and growls mean something for sure, but what?  I don’t know about you, but I sure need some sort of communication interpreter.

I’m sure I’m not the only one getting a little frustrated with having to leave easily-ignored Post-It notes on the refrigerator or toilet seats, not to mention constant text reminders about something they have to remember (or remember to remind me). I am never sure if they saw that note or that text so I endlessly pester them. Then after I repeat myself for the 12th time, I am rewarded with a grunt, which only baffles me even more, because I can’t be sure that this grunt means, ‘I hear you and I’ll take care of that’, or ‘I’m not listening, and have no intention of doing what you just asked me to do’.

There needs to be more research on ‘mosquito’ devices and it needs to happen now. I urge you to speak to your local member of parliament to ensure the proper financial resources are allocated to the appropriate academic research foundations. And while we’re at it, we should come up with a new name for the device too. I mean mosquitos come along and stick to you and suck the life right out of you. Teenagers on the other hand – well – never mind. Maybe ‘mosquito’ is a good name after all.

Now, if only there was a device that emitted noise on a frequency that only husbands can hear.  I’m pretty sure TSN and ESPN are all over this …

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

 Today I share with you a tale of a doomed relationship .

Looking back I guess I should have known.  All the signs of a deteriorating relationship had been there for months, maybe even years.  Maybe I saw them, maybe I didn’t.  I do know that I didn’t want to admit it to anyone, most of all myself.  As with many close relationships, I was blissfully unaware while “love” slowly slipped away.

At first, he just rescheduled a few of our dates.  Then, it progressed to his cancelling them outright without explanation.  Finding time to rendezvous was proving more difficult and onerous.  And when we were together, it was like he was really somewhere else.  Like so many other signs, I put this off also to his crazy schedule, and remained happy – grateful even – for the attention he did bestow upon me.  Still … there were some days he would barely look me in the eye, too busy with satisfying his own needs.  I slowly began to realize that all he saw was another woman.  I was just another woman.  Another woman for whom “doing the little things” was too much of a burden.

And so now I am faced with the grim and painful reality:  it’s time for me to find a new hair stylist.

I feel so naive. I’m not even sure how to go about this … what words to say to make it easier on us both. How did I not know that more than half of all relationships with hair stylists sadly end in split ends. This is all still fresh to me and a little hard for me to fully articulate my feelings, but this I know to be true:  I’ll be better off for it!  This is something I’ve put off for far too long.  Plain and simple, he no longer fulfils my needs either.  Instead of making me look like Meg Ryan, I look like Camilla Parker-Bowles.  It’s pathetic really; how much my own self-worth and acceptance relied on his judgment of me all these years.  Even more pathetic is the small fortune I’ve handed over to him, the mountains I’ve moved just to get in to see him, and the babysitters I have paid.  If my husband ever finds out… Well, then again, my husband is still barely speaking to me after I rescheduled our 21st anniversary dinner just so that I could take my stylist’s last minute cancellation (costing as much as our anniversary dinner).

A break-up with your stylist shouldn’t be messy, but it can be tousled.  I mean, it’s one thing to break up with my stylist, but I do now have to worry about the colour-lateral damage. I will no longer be able to show my face in that same salon again, so have to break up with my pedicurist and esthetician as well. These are the unfortunate side effects of a break – up:  it will sadly affect so many innocent nail polish colours.

And so? What now? How does one go about finding a new stylist? Is there a eHaircuty.com? LavaLocks.com? A stylist and his or her client are a match made in heaven, until dark roots do they part. I’m not sure if I can deal with an exasperated new stylist bending over me, prying for personal details like, “Oh my God, who did this to your hair?!”

No.  Maybe I should just stick it out.  Stay together with him for the sake of the highlights.  I’m so conflicted.  Someone please help me before I resort to blind appointments, clandestine one-afternooners, or an airport salon tryst [gasp!]!

I think need an intervention …

I hear there’s a new masseur at my salon …

Middle age is when you choose your cereal for the fiber, not the toy!

Normally when I read Scott Feschuk’s articles in Maclean’s magazine, I laugh so hard I pee my pants.  This is not as bad as it sounds because I usually only get to read Maclean’s in the bathroom, so don’t worry. 

A recent Feschuk column, however still humourous, was a bit more philosophical as he contemplated his own midlife crisis.  What really caught my attention, without the accompanying incontinence, was a comment in reply to his column.  A Dr. Drummond, author of the The Midlife Crisis Handbook  (how perfect is this for that hard-to-buy-for-in-midlife-crisis someone on your list?), pointed out that, “Midlife Crisis is a term first used by Elliott Jacques in a research paper in 1965 where he discussed the angst of middle aged men in big business. They were asking the question, Is this all there is? and really struggling with whether or not their feelings called for a big change in their lives.  A functional Midlife Crisis is a massive shortcut to living your dreams when it is done well and done on purpose.”

If posing the query, “Is this all there is?” designates a midlife crisis, then everyone in my family is having one on a fairly regular basis – particularly around dinner time.

Secondly, a “…massive shortcut to living your dreams?  There’s only one shortcut I know to living my dreams, and it’s called Lotto649.

So in contrast to Dr. Drummond’s definition, clearly the midlife crisis that all your neighbours want to talk about is a dysfunctional Midlife Crisis:  running off with the secretary, buying a motorcycle or a leasing two-seater sportscar – none of which are particularly sensible for a married man in his midlife! 

I took a different approach and recently preempted my husband’s midlife crisis by giving him permission to take on a mistress.  Yep, a marital hall pass.  My one and only condition was that she have her own car and is willing to drive our kids to hockey.  Not surprisingly, he has no takers so far, and my dear husband is suggesting that’s because the 30-somethings in his life aren’t big on hockey.  I say the 30-somethings in his life aren’t big on him.

Funny how the crises of most women involve altering the effects of time, whereas for men it involves fooling the effects of time.  As for me, I figure I’ve had at least a dozen midlife crises along my journey, which Dr. Drummond thankfully points out is perfectly normal.  It’s doubtful I would mourn the choices I’ve made in life and entirely unthinkable for me to take dysfunctional action to undo any of them.  I have no shortage of complaints about what new dysfunction plagues my body and mind these days but the midlife decisions that plague most women hold no controversy for me:  if it involves needles or knives, I just need to get over myself.  Which means of course that most of my midlife crises go entirely unnoticed…that is … until that crisis is interrupted by yet another of Life’s existential mysteries:  did we run out of peanut butter again?

How will you handle your midlife crisis?

A couple of summers ago, I read and posted a blog about Ernest Hemingway’s, “A Moveable Feast” http://thedustbunnychronicles.com/2009/08/20/taties-treat/].  Though I enjoyed the book, and took great inspiration in his obvious devotion to the task writing and the relentless struggle to combine words in proper succession that results in a masterpiece, I was always struck by his lack of attention or devotion to his young wife Hadley.  Though they were newlyweds in the city of love (Paris), her character plays a minor role in the book.  I kept reading between the lines wondering if this poor woman, who bore Hemingway’s first child while in Paris, played an equally inconsequential role in his life.  While he ate and drank with the generation of literary expats in Paris who came to be known as the Lost Generation, I wondered what poor Hadley was doing?  This poor, lonely, similarly tortured soul probably spent her destitute days desperately eking out an existence for herself and her child.

I finished the book, and as life happens, forgot all about poor Hadley though I continued to try to draw from Hemingway’s encouragement in my writing… with considerably less success than he. 

I forgot about poor Hadley, that is, until recently.  I purchased Mary Chapin Carpenter’s album, The Age of Miracles, primarily for soft background music for yoga or my post run stretching routine.  The, last night after a run, I heard the song, Mrs. Hemingway, for the first time.  So it would seem that Ms Carpenter had also read the book and may have had similar speculation about Hadley as I.  Though the words are Ms. Carpenter’s, I wonder now how closely they reflect the life of Mrs. Hemingway. 

It’s a sad love song for sure, but after listening to it, I smiled.  How small the world is that I could share so unique a perspective with another human being so far removed from my own life about a person equally so far removed from both our lives.  The song echoed my thoughts about a book we’d each read and which had left the same lingering but remote impression on us both.

Mrs. Hemingway

We packed up our books and our dishes
Our dreams and your worsted wool suits
We sailed on the 8th of December.
Farewell old Hudson River
Here comes the sea
And love was as new and as bright and as true
When I loved you and you loved me.

Two steamer trunks in the carriage
Safe arrival we cabled back home
It was just a few days before Christmas
We filled our stockings with wishes
And walked for hours
Arm in arm through the rain, to the glassed-in café
It held us like hothouse flowers

Living in Paris, in attics and garrets
Where the coal merchants climb every stair
The dance hall next door is filled with sailors and whores
And the music floats up through the air
There’s Sancerre and oysters, cathedrals and cloisters
And time with it’s unerring aim
For now we can say we were lucky most days
And throw a rose into the Seine

Love is the greatest deceiver
It hollows you out like a drum
And suddenly nothing is certain
As if all the clouds closed the curtains and blocked the sun
And friends now are strangers in this city of dangers
As cold and as cruel as they come

Sometimes I look at old pictures
And smile at how happy we were
How easy it was to be hungry.
It wasn’t for fame or for money
It was for love
Now my copper hair’s gray as the stones on the quay
In the city where magic was

Living in Paris, in attics and garrets
Where the coal merchants climb every stair
The dance hall next door is filled with sailors and whores
And the music floats up through the air
There’s Sancerre and oysters, and Notre Dame’s cloisters
And time with it’s unerring aim
For now we can say we were lucky most days
And throw a rose into the Seine

Now I can say I was lucky most days
And throw a rose into the Seine.

 

Next time I am in Paris, I shall throw a rose into the Seine …. for  Hadley …

Valentine’s Day 1988 we set out on our first real official romantic date:  skating on the Habourfront skating rink. 

Valentine’s Day 1990:  he proposed marriage to me on that same rink, after which we popped the cork off a bottle of champagne.  The image of that cork bobbing along on Lake Ontario is still etched in my memory. 

Valentine’s Day 2011 (yeah, okay, quite a hiatus in celebrations), we sharpened our skates for a reminiscent skate on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, where we now make our home.  It was raining as we headed out for the evening.  Strong head winds kept both of his hands on the steering wheel as we navigated Colonel By Drive, checking out the skaters on the canal.  Only there were no skaters on the canal.  There was nary a soul on the canal.  Just enormous puddles of water on the melting ice surface.  It looked downright miserable.

As with many marriages approaching their third decade, the effort required in maintaining a balance of family responsibilities and romance has certainly tipped off balance of late, mostly because our lives – and the lives of our 3 children – seem to be throttling forward at a bristling speed.  We actually made an effort this year, though and – damn her – Mother Nature did not cooperate. 

Not to worry.  As we stepped out of the wretched weather into the warmth of the trendy little downtown Ottawa restaurant, delicious aromas swathed our senses.  “A glass of champagne, please”, I requested, as did my husband.  We may not be skating on this Valentine’s Day but we are still drinking champagne.  There is hope for us yet!

About Astra
Ottawa mom of 3 poking fun at myself, motherhood, and minor hockey! I am steering through life dodging stinky hockey gear and empty wine bottles.
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