Work-Life Balance

Sweaty palms, shortness of breath, inability to concentrate or focus. Honestly, by 9:00AM I was wondering if I should take a sick day. And by mid-morning I was reconsidering. I really thought these symptoms warranted a trip to Emerg. Clearly, something serious was wrong with me.

And what was this serious ailment with which I’d been afflicted?

I had a serious case of Nophonophobia.

I didn’t coin that term. It is however a fairly modern condition:  the fear of being without one’s cell phone. I had left for work and forgot my cell phone on the kitchen counter.

I went to work.

All day.

Without my phone.

Surely my reaction to not having access to my phone was overly severe but that didn’t stop me from thinking about turning around and heading right back home to retrieve it. And it’s not I’d been severed from all communications; I was actually at arms’ length from an office landline phone and not even eighteen inches away from an office computer with full internet access.

But I wanted my phone. MY PHONE. At my fingertips.

This from a woman whose sole sources of communication in high school – and even university – were teeny pieces of paper furtively passed to friends, stuffed into lockers or tacked to a public bulletin board. When worse came to worse (usually ten minutes after getting off the bus), I resorted to a single push-button corded phone located in the kitchen. Clearly, my dependencies have come a long way.

Now mobile communications had entered my life and I had a hard time living without for even eight hours. Once or twice during the day I got a social invite via email  which I could not respond to because my schedule is on my iCal and I could not check it (my work schedule is synced to my iPhone calendar, but my iPhone calendar does not upload to my Outlook calendar at work). Dear God, what other imperative social invites I would miss because I didn’t get the text that day?!

On several occasions during the day, I invoked the emergency tree communications plan: I emailed my husband and asked him to text my daughter to remind her to text another mother if she did not in fact need a ride home from school that day. My sons are away at university and I actually DM’d them on Twitter to let them know I didn’t have my cell phone. If they need me, they’d have to send me a message via Twitter or FB Messenger, or call me on my office land line, like that was ever going to happen. It just made me feel good doing so.

As afternoon rolled around I was found I was actually grateful for the lack of disruption from the frequent ping and bird calls that emanated so frequently from my cell phone; I was actually fairly productive in fact. As I was leaving the office, I called home from my office phone (brushing off a couple of layers of dust) to let my daughter know I was on my way home. So old school! No wait –  vintage!

In the end I survived; of course I survived. So much so, that I might leave my cell phone at home more often.

Sheesh, who are these people who can’t live without their phones?

(photo credit to Apple.com)

(photo credit to Apple.com)

 

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)
Photo credit to cbc.ca

(Photo credit to cbc.ca)

I love to read. I don’t get near enough free time to just … read. Sometimes, if I hear rain upon waking, I silently make a pact with myself that I’m just going to spend the day in the warmth and comfort of my bed and read all day. Then I realize it’s a weekday and I have to get to work. Or it’s the weekend, and I have about a million and a half chores and errands to tend to.

Still.

My favourite genre is historical fiction which takes me away from my current world and bends my mental senses every which way. I also love humour which bends my mouth and abs in every which way. The one genre of writing I stay away from is non-fiction. It’s way too much like the real world. Oh, I see. It is the real world. Maybe that’s why I don’t like it. I need to escape. Fiction and humour do that for me

So it came as a shock to me when I looked back on my list of summer reads and realized that the majority of books I read were non-fiction. I hope this doesn’t mean I’m growing up or something.

I read “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed mostly because I really liked the picture of the shoe on the front cover. Also because since reading Jane Christmas’s “What the Psychic Told the Pilgrim” I’ve wanted to walk the Camino de Santiago. But that’s in Spain and really far away. After reading “Wild”, I really wanted to walk the Pacific Crest Trail. And you know what happens next, right? I’m going to read “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson and want to walk the Appalachian Trail. Can someone please just write a book about that short cut trail to the liquor store in Manotick? Did I mention I’m not a hiker? Anyway, I couldn’t put the book down. Maybe it was like fiction to me because I’m never actually going to do anything like that.

Then I read “A House in the Sky” by Amanda Lindhout about a Canadian sort-of journalist who spent over a year as a hostage in Somalia. In part, this book ticked me off because listen, Amanda, I’ve been trying to teach my kids that there’s no short cuts to international fame and here you go and try take a short cut because no journalist would step foot in Somalia unless Oprah invited them. The seemingly endless nightmare she put her parents through as a result of her stupidity still stuns me. Yet she and her co-author Sara Corbett retell an experience that is terrifying and spellbinding. Amanda’s resilience and will to survive are nothing short of extraordinary. And as a mom, I just couldn’t put it down until I knew she was ok. I think her mom should write a book too. Wait. No.

And because a terrifying hostage story wasn’t summer-y and fluffy enough, I read “A Storm Too Soon” by James Tougias about a daring Coast Guard rescue off the coast of North Carolina after a freak storm caused a sailing vessel to capsize throwing its crew of three into a little itty bitty life raft amongst the 80 foot waves. Another page turner that I couldn’t put down until I was satisfied that everyone was safe. A special treat for me, though, was that I got to meet one of the survivors Rudy Snell who is from Ottawa and happens to be a neighbour of one of my book club friends. Oh yeah – and I’m never going sailing again.

Finally … finally … I finally read a book that wasn’t all about disaster and the wild outdoors. I read “Let’s Discuss Diabetes” by David Sedaris. Yes it’s non-fiction but it was funny. Oh he is a humour master, that David. It was so funny in fact that I was reading sections of it out loud to my family on the dock at the cottage this summer. (I got to spend a bit more time on the dock by myself pretty soon. It’s a good tactic if you want some alone time I’ve come to realize!)

I don’t think I’ve read four non-fiction books in my life and here I’ve cram them all into one summer. That’s ok. I’ve amassed a little army of historical fiction and humour books that will get me through this dreary winter.

But before that, go on! I urge you to go read these books before I change my mind about nonfiction!

What was on your reading list this summer (and spare me the non-fiction)?

Work-life balance. It’s not easy to put food on the table and hockey skates on kids’ feet without spilling my wine, but I’ve think I’ve got it down now – not the days the wine store is closed mind you, but most days. There are so many evenings in this hockey mom’s life when I have to serve dinner at the speed of light which is generally not a problem for my full time cook. Except I don’t have a full time cook so am always on the look out for dinner recipes that are fast, easy and edible and do not involve an easily memorized phone number.

My slow-cooker is one of my BFFs, but she does occasionally let me down. I quickly realized that the idea of crock-pot cooking is far more tantalizing than the food it renders. But I am about to share a hockey family slow-cooker favourite. I’m not sure who to credit for this one except that I know I got it from my mom about ten years ago – about two years into my hockey momdom. I love this recipe for two reasons: 1. It does not require the meat to be browned first which apparently is a big slow-cooker no-no; and 2. It’s one of the few slow-cooker experiments I’ve undertaken that my family likes (and therefore will actually consume it). I have a standard rule in my house that if a new recipe gets a thumbs-up from 3/5 of my family (dogs, fish and hamster are not eligible voters), it’s worth repeating. If it gets a 5/5, it’s a keeper. This one’s a keeper!

Slow-Cooker Orange Chicken

8-10 boneless, skinless, chicken thighs, cut into chunks.

3 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder

1/3 cup orange marmalade

1/3 cup barbeque sauce (try not to use a smoky kind)

2 tablespoons low-sodium soya sauce

1/2 teaspoon Asian chili paste

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon minced gingerroot

1 clove garlic, minced

Green onions, chopped for garnish

Sesame seeds, toasted (optional) for garnish

IMG_2003

Mix the chicken with the flour and 5-spice right in your slow cooker. Combine the marmalade, barbeque sauce, soya sauce, chili paste, sesame oil, ginger and garlic and pour over the chicken. Stir it up, little darlin’, stir it up until all the chicken is covered. Cook on high for 3-4 hours. But here is my secret slow-cooker showstopper timesaver: I put the flour-and-spice-covered chicken in the removable cooking pot and prep the sauce in a measuring cup the night before. I mix it up in the morning and pop it back in the frig. Then I ask one of my kids to put it in the slow cooker when they get home from school. This may involve a reminder note on the front door, a text at 3:00pm, a phone call home at 3:00PM or all three, depending on the teenager. Luckily my oldest ones are home from high school around 3:00PM and areIMG_2006 accepting of this massive responsibility thereby making dinner servable anytime between 6:00-7:00PM. If your kids are unreliable and you consider cooking this on low for 6-8 hours like some slow-cooker recipes suggest (or 10 hours because you leave at 730AM and are not home before 5:00PM), this recipe will be overcooked and dry and not fit for human consumption (but the dogs will still love it).

IMG_2007Serve the chicken over rice with a side of steamed broccoli or green beans (I have a microwave steamer so I can prep this in advance too). This meal is on my table at least twice a month during hockey season. My son even takes the leftovers to school for lunch. Yes, he does. And he’s a teenager.

If you have any hockey family friendly recipes, I’d love to try them out 🙂

Documentary?

Reality show?

Comedy?

Horror movie?

If you’re like me, chances are it’s All of the Above.

In keeping with my recent experiences with diminishing cognitive functionality (wait… did I have a recent experience with diminishing cognitive functionality?), I recently failed to follow-up on something at work and it really upset me. It was not an earth-shattering My Bad and no humans were harmed in the course of my forgetfulness, but considering all the ridicule to which my ever-vanishing short-term memory has been subjected to by my husband and kids, it bothered me. I am a champion multi-tasker and pride myself in my attention to detail, yet lately the detail is brain fog-inducing.

I recall a conversation I had a year ago with my doctor. I told her I thought I was losing my mind because I kept forgetting things. She didn’t bat an eye, responding, “If I had a quarter for every 40-something female patient I saw who said that, I could have retired long ago.”  So very reassuring, but not entirely helpful. She suggested adding Sudoku to engage my brain.  “Really, Doctor?  Since you’re adding one more thing to my To-Do list, do you think you could also prescribe some Ritilin?  Because honestly, Doc, there aren’t enough hours in a day.”  I briefly debated with her the merits of a midline catheter for intravenous caffeine injections, but soon let it go… at least so far she thought I was normal.

But if you pause to think what the average 40-something is expected to remember, it’s no small wonder we feel like we’re going crazy.  I’m sure you can you relate to the following questions I ask myself between 6:00 and 7:15am, before I even leave the house:

Did I run the dishwasher last night?

Did I close the garage door last night?

Is there any milk in the house?

Was I supposed to bring something to my 9:00am meeting?

What did I book this 9:00am meeting for again?

Do I need to take anything out of the freezer for dinner?

Are there any tampons in my purse?

“Who’s doing what and where today (aka, does my office attire have to be suitable for climbing bleachers)?”

“Were the dogs fed?

Was that my multi-vitamin I just took or the dog’s heartworm medication?

Did I miss my nephew’s birthday? Again?

“Why does everyone look at me when we run out of Nutella?”

Why is there a fork in my purse?

Will anyone really notice if I put plastic flowers in my garden this year?

How long have those clothes been sitting in the washing machine?

“Where the hell is my other shoe?”

Is there any gas in the car?

“What do you mean there’s no ink in the printer and your assignment is due today?”

Did I leave the dogs out back? Again?

Jeez, did anyone on that school bus just see me trip over the garden hose as I made my way to my car?

Did I remember to charge my cell phone?

Throwing my hand to the air and asking my family to remind me when I get home is no use whatsoever.  They all just look at me later and still say, “We talked about this yesterday” though I have my suspicions that we ever did.

Martha Stewart recommends this handy checklist of The 6 Things You Should Do Everyday suggesting that “With just a few minutes’ work, you’ll easily be able to keep chaos at bay.”  Her magic list includes making the bed, managing clutter, sorting the mail, cleaning as you cook, wiping up spills while they’re fresh and sweeping the kitchen floor.

Really, she’s a Saviour, isn’t she?  I simply cannot imagine a household that would permit a reckless procrastination of mail-sorting.  Think of the peace and harmony that would be vanquished.  Chaos, indeed.  Martha’s list does hold a powerful message for me however.  If I had only 6 things on my list of Things to Remember, no one would ever question my cognitive functions.

… And I would NEVER have to go to work in mismatched shoes again.

Do you have a Martha’s list that maintains your sanity?  Please share it with me!

Here is The Rule* I have with my daughter:  she’s not allowed to talk to me after 9:30pm.  The Rule exists for two reasons:

  1. It’s past her bedtime; and,
  1. I’ve learned the hard way that nothing good comes of a conversation between us after 9:30pm.

Naturally, she is permitted to say “Goodnight, Mom” from her bedroom, or “I love you – you’re the best mom in the whole world” or “By the way, the fire has now spread to the living room”, but I’m a little low on patience and empathy after 9:00pm and we both know it’s just better if we just disperse and converse in the mornings or after school/work, when our respective dispositions have not yet deteriorated.  Many a post-9:30pm discussion between the two of us has ended up with her being grounded until she’s 18 and me locking myself in the bathroom drinking wine on the toilet.

Besides, the late evening is my time to decompress, read and snore.

The other night she was in a particularly chatty mood about some epic middle school wrongdoing and I had to politely remind her of The Rule.  She sighed sadly, but off she went and that was the end of that.

As consolation, I woke her 10 minutes earlier than usual the next morning and whispered, “Wanna chat while I get ready for work?” and she jumped out of bed with an enthusiastic, “Oh yes, Mom!”  You know, surprisingly, the three males who live in this house have answered that very same question completely differently.  Odd.

We worked through righting the wrong that was the concern the night before (without any alcohol or any removal of privileges, I might add).  I then heard all about the unit on Mythology she is now studying at school and how she is part of a class skit.  She quickly adds, “Don’t worry, Mom, it’s a class skit, no parents allowed.” reminding me of my other maternal failing:  my developing irritation for school plays.  So I ask her what part she has in this skit.  “Oh, I’m playing Zeus” she says “Father of all the Gods.”  I’m about to commend her teacher for dismantling some gender stereotyping, when she quickly adds, “… and I need to make a white beard.”  This makes sense – Zeus had a pretty boss beard, and so should my daughter (for the skit).  “Sure thing, Cookie, when is your skit?”  I ask.

“Tomorrow”.

Why do I even ask …

I’m on my way to work; I have an afternoon appointment immediately after work and am then taking my son to his baseball game.  I won’t be home until 9:00pm which is dangerously close to the time of The Rule.  But really, how hard can this be? Cotton balls, Bristol board, glue, scissors, elastics.  Piece of cake.

“I’ll see what I can do, Muffin”.

I really do miss the days of Three Martini Lunch.  Not that I’ve ever had a Three Martini Lunch in my life except while on vacation.  Still.  Would be nice.  Working moms are single-handedly responsible for decline of the Three Martini Lunch because we’re out buying Bristol board, cotton balls, glue – and most likely toilet paper and ketchup.  Just once as a working mom, I’d like to have a Three Martini Lunch.  Come to think of it, just once as a working mom, I’d like to have a lunch where I actually eat lunch.

Nevertheless, the purchases are made and the Gods of Olympus gaze favourably upon me today, for the baseball game ends early and I am able to get home in time to deliver materials for the beard of Zeus before the hour of The Rule.

Though her creation is looking a little more Suessish than Zeusish, I still think she’s going to make one mighty Zeus.  As it sits on the kitchen counter to dry, she inquires, “Mom, do you know how to make a toga?”

I pause to think…

Yes, to make a really effective toga you must wrap yourself in a relatively clean, white bed sheet, walk across campus in aforementioned attire, attend a party hosted by fraternity boys of dubious character with questionable intentions, drink lethal amounts of really bad keg and wake up in a different bed sheet altogether with only a vague recollection of the last twelve hours.

“Mom?  Do you?”

“Hmmmm, I’m not sure that I do.  Go ask your Dad.”

The Rule is subject to change without notice

That’s right, I said ceasefire!  Now that the kids’ hockey seasons are over, I can briefly back off firing on all cylinders.  Do you know how I know that the kids’ hockey season is over?  Well, in the last week alone –

I didn’t have to navigate my groceries into a car filled with hockey bags and water bottles. 

I ate dinner … sitting down. 

I actually cooked dinner, consulting Martha Stewart instead of Mr. Mozzarella.

I made a dinner reservation for 2 people instead of 40 people. 

I took my bottle of wine out of the refrigerator instead of a cooler.

There is a clean hockey blanket sitting on top of my dryer.

I did not launder a single piece of UnderArmor.

I watched a movie that does not star Don Cherry. 

I answered the door and the local gas station attendant was asking if I could come out to play.

I did not name a single one of the dust bunnies that have multiplied under my kitchen table. 

Not once did I make a pit-stop to the skate sharpener.  

I shaved my legs.

With three kids in hockey, August to April is indescribably busy. My non-hockey friends have all but left me for dead and the truth is I’ve had to check my own pulse once in a while just to be sure.  Some days I felt certain both the car and I were on autopilot.  During the hockey season, dinner party invitations are almost always declined unless I am confident the hostess wouldn’t mind either my husband or me showing up just as the food is being cleared from the table.  Our attendance at family gatherings is prioritized according to the scale of declining inheritance. 

Spring sports haven’t quite geared up which means I am between gigs. I feel like I’ve surfaced for air and am actually accomplishing more than just treading water. I feel like I’m surfing.  My husband asked the other night, “You’re going out again?!” and I answered, “Yes, again!”

Yes, I’m going “out” again, I am making an appearance at my book club, I am out running in the spring air and training for my May half marathon. We are going out to dinner parties, TOGETHER, and participating fully in these rare social events from cocktails through to dessert.

I am also staying “in” again.  I am reading, I am writing and I am sleeping. And I am ridding my home of a few unwanted dust bunnies.

Is this what a normal life feels like?

I know it’s shortlived, however.  I know this armistice is really just a tenuous treaty between me and iCal, who swings from ally to enemy on an almost daily basis.  Soon Spring will hit the fan and I’ll be chasing down stray pieces of soccer and baseball equipment and back to logging on the miles driving to various clubs and lessons.  Not like we do between August and April, though.  No.  Hockey season is a formidable beast… and this beast is now in hibernation.

After writing recently about surrogate mothers of the emotional not biological kind, I was inspired to write about my life in New York City.   I am a Canadian but I lived there for a little while during my university days which is now some 26 years ago.  It actually sucks that I had to use a calculator to figure that out just now.  I can’t explain how some of my memories and images of New York are still so very vivid, when I forget why I’ve grounded my kids just 2 minutes after doing so!

It was 1985.  I was a second year student at an American university and running out of money real fast.  Several of my housemates were taking off their first semester junior year to do internships and I quickly signed up to do the same.  An internship would allow me to earn some desperately needed cash and earn credits at the same time.  My alternatives at this point were pretty dismal:  ask my parents for more money or transfer to a cheaper university.  The former was unthinkable, the latter was looking more likely, so I really wanted to make a go of this internship thing.  The counsellor in the career services office suggested a placement with large privately-owned restaurant company in New York City called The Riese Organization. I had never heard of them, but I wasn’t deterred. The list of chain restaurants and independents that they owned and operated was impressive. They did not have much of a human resources department so I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting myself into but tell me, what college kid does?

I can’t remember now why my parents didn’t accompany me to New York to drop me off for this huge step in my life but I probably fed them some convincing lie about my confidence and capability to do this on my own.  My boyfriend at the time helped me move into my swell new Upper East Side digs at the The 92nd Street Y:  a 12’ x’16’ dorm room for which I would paying almost half my monthly income for the privilege and sharing it with my university friend, Anne, also doing an internship in New York City.  My scholarship and student loan money had been scaled back as a result of taking this internship but would be enough to cover my tuition fees.  In my pocket I had a Canadian cheque from my parents for the first month’s rent and about $50 in US cash.  To say that I was looking forward to my first paycheque would be a considerable understatement.

“Home” to this point had been various small pulp and paper towns in Northern Ontario or along the St Lawrence Seaway.  Now, “home” was to be Manhattan.  A Domtar* brat in Manhattan:  perhaps you are now picturing a Canadian female version of Mick Dundee exploding on to the Manhattan scene with impressive knife moves and an equally impressive accent?  Er, maybe just a red flannel shirt, eh?  I think I’m about to disappoint you.

I know the communal bathroom facilities of the 92nd Street Y shouldn’t have phased me, given my dorm days, but waiting for a shower to be free on my first day of work only added to my nervousness.  Though I had already scouted out my commuter route, I had never done so during a Monday morning rush hour.  Walking down Lexington Av to the 86th street subway stop I looked not quite like a fish out of water but – God help me – more like a pinball machine on acid. Clearly new Yorkers walk with purpose and Canadians just walk like dorks. Thanks to years of apologetic Canadian training, I spent the first 5 minutes on the sidewalk pardoning myself and saying “sorry!” to the shoulder of every YUPpie ** that slammed into me in its determined effort to get to the subway without making eye contact.

I exhaled with great relief upon arriving in one piece to the station, only to inhale next the wonderful aroma that is the New York City subway system … a strange mixture of je ne sais quoi that I describe to non-Manhattanites as fried-onion urine.  Breathe through your mouth. Naturally, I didn’t time my subway token insertion perfectly as most New Yorkers would and I had to endure the awkward forward thrusts of a few disgruntled commuters into my backside as I paused to allow the token to be acknowledged by the turnstile.  

Having mapped out my route I knew to take the green circle 5 express to 59th Street, transfer to the orange circle N or R train to Herald Square and walk a block over to my new “classroom” at West 34th Street and 7th.   Easy, peesy, piece of Lindy’s cheesecake, right?

Wrong.

The Express wasn’t working or was delayed – who knows as I had yet to acquire that uniquely New York ability to understand the person that is the voice of the subway loud speaker and who got that job after a very successful stint as the teacher’s voice in every Charlie Brown movie.  It was only after I’d been standing alone, minding my own business and quietly humming Aretha’s Freeway of Love that I finally noticed the mad exodus behind me back upstairs to the 4 and 6 Local trains. 

So I followed the masses without question and arrived to the local platform and a sea of human bodies.  I suddenly had a vague appreciation for what the Halifax piers must have looked like when my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles arrived from post-war Europe.  Trains arrived and bodies heaved themselves into already packed subway cars.   Slowly but surely I inched forward until the subways doors practically pinched my nose as they closed, inviting me to “stand clear of the closing doors” as if I had a choice.  The next train would certainly have room for me.  A rush of wind passed as the train moved on and I realized I was standing well inside the yellow marker indicating the safe waiting distance for the trains.   I was one aerobic shoelace away from the track and I thought I would die right then and there. I looked left and right trying to determine which of these psychos was going to throw me in front of the subway and was suddenly envious of the rats on the track that had more freedom of movement that I did. I closed my eyes instead prayed for mercy – or a quick death.

God answered (the mercy part, not the quick death) as I was quickly pressed into the next subway car wedged between an attractive businessman and someone whom I’m certain was pleasing himself on my hip.  So much for my tutorial on the famous subway New York Times newspaper four-fold. 

Mercifully, the rest of my very first New York City commute occurred without incident otherwise I might just have gone to Grand Central and taken the first
northbound Amtrak home.  I sputtered into the office on the 6th floor with even BIGGER ‘80’s hair than I started with that day if you can possibly imagine, and announced my arrival to the receptionist.   Though my first inclination was to ask my new boss, “When can I go home?” I managed instead to say, “I’m so very glad to be here” and she had no idea how much I really, really meant it!

What was your first impression of New York City?

***

* Domtar – a large pulp and paper company with operations in many small Canadian towns and for whom my father worked for about 20 years; the fine paper division of Weyerhaeuser merged with Domtar in 2007 making it a US company.

** YUPpy – Young Urban Professional (’80’s lingo, you tads)

Occasionally I have to miss my Sunday morning yoga class, and this is not a good thing.  Squeezing my yoga practice before, between, or after work and kids’ hockey, is a challenge but one that has proven to be an essential antidote to a busy hockey mom’s schedule.  It also happens to but one of this hockey mom’s current addictions –  superseded only by chardonnay, of course.  It is entirely possible that if I wasn’t a hockey mom, I might not need the balance that yoga provides.  That all my children are still alive proves that the benefits of its practice spill over into all aspects of my life.  I’ve been a hockey mom now for about as long as I have been practicing yoga (~twelve years, give or take a practice or pose) and am only now ready to own up to my hockey/yoga co-dependency! 

How do I know that I am co-dependent on both hockey and yoga?  Well, you be the judge:

My Yoga Life

My Hockey Life

   
My breath is slow and deliberate, and I am mindful of it. My breath is a gasp for air … and I am worried about it.
With each deep breath, I inhale 1.5 litres of oxygen. With each hockey weekend, I inhale 1.5 litres of chardonnay.
I open my practice with the chanting of “Om” in unison with the class. I open the hockey game with the chanting of “Let’s go!” in unison with the crowd.
I’m dressed in casual, comfortable organic wear. I’m dressed for a post-apocalyptic ice age.
I cast my gaze beyond my finger tips toward my destiny. I cast my gaze to my fingertips in which clumps of my hair can be found.
My face is soft. My face is frozen.
I initiate my practice with sun salutation. I initiate anything hockey with Semillon salutations.
I stretch my glutes. I freeze my glutes.
Hands at heart’s centre … Namaste. Hands at heart’s centre:  … “Clear it … Clear it …. DAMMIT CLEAR THE PUCK!!!”
Herbal tea is offered following class – free of charge. Caustic canteen coffee is available – acid reflux is free of charge.  
I open my ears to the soothing sounds of tranquil yoga music. I cover my daughter’s ears from the sounds of the teenage boys’ chirpin’ and swearin’.
During yoga, I occasionally close my eyes. During hockey, I frequently close my eyes.
I love my yoga! I love my hockey!

Namaste, team!

Author’s note:  I proudly and gratefully acknowledge my 11-year old daughter for her artistic renderings of these hockey yoginis – also the artist of my dust bunny icon.  She is presently negotiating her contract to illustrate my hockey mom-oir…

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.
Buy Astra’s book “Offside by a Mile”!
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