Peace Invaders

The room is elegant with burnished wood furnishing and clean-lined art.  The air smells like eggs benedict and ketchupped hash browns and as Jude suddenly places his finger in my eyeball socket, I spot family friends through the other bleary eye.

They’re sitting at a table for 4, civilized.  The boy, Nolan’s age, is wearing bright skinny jeans and a striped shirt, and cutting into his food in a neat fashion.  In the moment or two before they all see us: I take them in.  Mom’s sporting a jaunty toque and a cute sweater, Dad is refined and has definitely combed his hair this morning.  They are talking about something, you can hear them murmuring under the din of the clinking silverware of the restaurant, but they are most certainly not talking about who it was that farted, like we would have been.  They’re having serious, provocative conversation, likely about their impending trip to South Africa. 

I take a deep breath because I know that we are about to disrupt their civility, their quiet Sunday morning brunch.  Jude squirms out of my grasp to carry out his developing nefarious scheme to overthrow the waitress, and Nolan waves loudly at his friend.

“Hi Felix!”

My elder son’s shirt is on inside out and backwards, and to add insult to injury, there’s a day-old reddish stain down the fuzzy front.  Jude steals a crayon from the hostess stand and scrawls on my leg.

“Hi!” I wave at our friends weakly,”Hi.  We’ll be momentarily ruining your peace.”

***

There’s so many things I’d forgotten about Nolan’s early years.  I’d forgotten the crazy constant chatter, the fearful lurch you always carry around in your heart as you’re forced to save your drunk toddler from committing involuntary suicide dozens of times a day.   I’d forgotten about the wake ups in the night and the chaotic explosion of the all, about the total absence of quiet.  Jude will be two in February, and Nolan will go into Grade 4 next year. Sometimes I think about the fact that Jude will be commencing kindergarten when Nolan starts high school and I desperately want a plastic bag, or a vodka.

I can’t imagine my life any other way, of course, but I look at other Moms in their late thirties and they are so calm because their children are now reasonable people.  They’ve forgotten what it’s like to wrangle a miniature belligerent drunk all day, and they feel pretty damned good about that. There’s no cheerio shrapnel stuck to their earrings and they don’t carry diapers in their expensive purses and their car is not full of shameful rotting items.  I see them chatting in the school yard sometimes and I wonder if they appreciate the quiet that laps at their life, if they even notice the wet toilet paper stuck inexplicably to the wheels of our car.

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OK, it’s worth it. It’s mangled and messy and it often stinks to high heaven but dammit, it’s worth it.

Legal Marriage Age

 

Melissa and Mark got married at an indoor garden in Calgary.  It was minus twenty six outside and the windows outside the artificially-warmed foliage glistened with razor sharp ice.  Melissa wore a dress with a puffy skirt and a green sash and Mark’s eyes were red-rimmed with emotion and a few rounds of Grasshopper.

The atrium was in a mall equipped with ashtrays, HMV was the anchor retailer, the Internet existed only sporadically — chat rooms, sordid bulletin boards.  The diamond ring was small, garnered with waitering tips.  We watched in ill-fitting ties and weather-inappropriate slinky dresses: we were an army of skinny-armed waitresses and slick-haired bartenders, mostly hungover.

I went to at least a dozen weddings like this in my early twenties, during a different Universe.  Melissa and Mark are divorced now, with brand new families.  There’s no more record stores, the Internet pervades in our pockets, stupid shiny twenty-something hope has been replaced with something wistful.  My friends from that long-ago time are all separated or getting divorced.  They have teenaged kids and motor homes and I wonder if they wake up in alarm some morning too, thinking, God, slow down, I need to plan out my life and this is all going down too fast.

***

I married Corey on a fog-lit Tofino beach a few months before my 35th birthday.  I’d experienced: 7 previous long-term boyfriends, one loft, two houses, a rescue dog, and a mangle-beaked cockatiel named Jorge.  I knew heartbreak, and single Motherhood.  I knew that I had a predisposition to lose lids, that I tended to flee when things got choppy, that I avoided confrontation to a fault.  I knew exactly, precisely what I wanted and I couldn’t believe I found him on a sketchy dating website.

I can’t imagine where I’d be today if I’d listened to my 22-year-old heart.  In a dusty Prairie town, I imagine.  Possibly still balancing trays and blowing smoke, circling Internet chat rooms.  I don’t know that everything happens for a reason, but I’m so glad I finally truly followed my heart when I was finally in a position to know which direction was the right way to go.***

Unrelatedly: Man, fall is awesome, no?

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Filter in, Fade Out

She was gardening in her yard with her kids the first time I saw her, leaning over a rake, the dull sun casting a sheen on long brown hair.  She had freckles and and a bright smile, and I remember thinking, maybe I will make friends here.

She had a daughter Nolan’s age and a son a bit younger and another, third child, a wide eyed tiny girl. We sat on a bench by the ocean park and watched our children spin.  We talked about writing and careers: both of us had words that pounded against our skulls, bursting to get out, sometimes with dubious consequences.  We both had young children and demanding careers and a feeling like we couldn’t quite grasp it all, at once, but hopefully we were grasping the important bits.

A kindred spirit, I thought, and she likes drizzly rainforest walks too, and crab-hunting and she doesn’t ask questions.  At that time, questions were discouraged.

Her family came to my son’s birthday party, I supplied an emergency babysitter one night.  We walked past their house on ambling loops, exchanged sunny waves (us) and gap-toothed grins (them)

Life carried on, as it does, in a whirl of rain pellets and mismatched socks and cheerio crumbs in the corner of the kitchen.  I flew to New York City for work and relied to much on my Mom, met Corey and started shaving my legs again.  Months went by, and I thought, I haven’t seen my neighbour friend, not in a long time.

I thought about emailing but I started with Twitter, typing her name into the search box to see what prolific thoughts she’d been broadcasting lately.  The first thing I noticed was that she wasn’t following me, which is generally not a big deal, except I knew she had been and she must have unfollowed me and you know that feeling.  I wondered if I’d dropped shameful unthinking f-bombs, or said God’s name in vain, or spewed something offhand that was interpreted horribly.  Or, worse perhaps, she’d just decided I was uninteresting.

Months later, she left a comment on my blog, equipped with a slightly mystifying undercurrent.  Or maybe, I thought, I’m dreaming that undercurrent because text doesn’t have tone.   I wrote her an email just in case, Canadian-sorry, hoping she wasn’t offended by something I’d said or done.  She was friendly, writing back about a week hour, apologizing for being tardy.  She’d been swamped at work. And yes yes, let’s get together, soonish.  I’ll email you.

I walk by her house now with my eyes straight, not sure if I should turn, certain that there’s something that’s been left unsaid.  A delivery arrived for her at our house.

“We have it here at our house for pickup,” I write.

“Oh dear, thank you.”

And that’s it.

We forest walk separately, are strangers in a tiny neighbourhood.  I don’t know why.

***

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Pretty, right?

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I know.  So pretty.

 

 

Paleo Apple Crisp

There’s nothing much better in the entire planet than my Mom’s apple crisp, and for years I’ve been thinking about trying to concoct a paleo version, but there were two problems:

1) What Paleo ingredients can you you possibly substitute for brown sugar, butter and oats? Better not to even try, right?

2) Peeling apples. It’s daunting.  Knives and I don’t get along, in any capacity, and skin-on apple crisp would lose some of its marvel, no?

But last night I made a super wicked Shepherd’s Pie with cauliflower mash and this time I didn’t blend the knife and splatter open the whole food processor and so I was feeling domestic and slightly victorious and thought, dammit, imma make a Paleo apple crisp.  I googled some and ignored lots and used odds and sods from my cupboard and I was shocked to discover that this apple crisp was one of the best desserts I’d ever eaten, Paleo or otherwise.

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Ingredients:

6 small red apples (I used McIntosh, but I think any kind might be good.  Maybe not Red Delicious.  I imagine they’d be mealy.

Juice of half a lemon

2 cups almond flour (JK Gourmet brand if you can find it — it bakes better than Bob’s Red Mill)

1 tsp cinnamon (I actually added a bit more than a tsp I think…I dig cinnamon)

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup honey or agave (I used agave)

1/3 cup apple sauce (unsweetened)

**A carrot peeler, if you are ungraceful with knives/peeling/things that involve the slightest degrees of hand/eye coordination.

Side note: Corey found me in the kitchen as I was hacking apples with a knife, feeling wretched that my whole night was going to disappear in uncoordinated fruit butchery, possibly involving hand wounds.  He handed me a carrot peeler from the utensil drawer (I didn’t even know we owned one) and just shook his head gently when I put down the knife to start peeling the apple with the upside down end of the carrot peeler.  So tolerant of my feebleness, my husband.  Anyway. Once he placed it right side up, holy crap!  Peeling apples is kind of joyous!

1. Peel the apples and put them in a baking dish — I used the first corning ware plate I could heave out of the bottom of the bake drawer.

2. Squeeze lemon juice on top of apples and set aside.

3. In a medium sized bowl, place and mix all dry ingredients.

4. In a small bowl, mix up agave/honey, apple sauce and vanilla.

5. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients.

6. When kind of globby and all moistened, place over lemon-coated apples. It doesn’t have to look perfect, I kind of put a blob of topping in wherever I saw fit.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about an hour, or until the apples are super soft and glisteny.  Try to wait for it to cool until you devour.

Bonus: this is even better the next morning.

The Dirty Underbelly of Swim Up Bar Margaritas

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There’s no doubt that Cabo San Lucas is beautiful.  The rock formations jut out of the water in perfect, rugged precision.  The waves are tumultuous, angry, exciting.  The sand is hot and white and the landscape is littered with enough orchestrated marble to alleviate the underlying poverty. For someone who might not want to know, like me.

I said I’d never go to an all-inclusive resort again, in part due to a margarita headache that lasted me for weeks after my return from Cancun years ago, and in part to an overall ickiness that overcomes me when I’m in Mexico, one I’ve never been able to explain.  But when our good friends invited us to their wedding in Cabo San Lucas, we really couldn’t say no.  An enormously fun group of friends, all in one place. The opportunity to honour one of our favourite couples in the world.  A warm sun and a week unplugged.  It didn’t sound so awful.

And it wasn’t.  Conversation and laughter flowed and during the ceremony my eyes prickled and I remembered how lucky I am to have found the one man in the Universe who can put up with me.  Jude jumped in pools, giddy with delight at the sun and the water.

In the morning, Corey and I would take turns getting up at the crack of dawn with our sleepless toddler.  The breakfast buffet was stunningly vast, and plates were laden with quesadillas  and homemade salsa, expensive french cheeses and organic juices.  Make-your- own omelette stations were attended by stoic, omni-beaming operators, and coffee pots sat on every table, continually steaming and refreshed quietly.  Every day I ate, enjoyed my overly full stomach and then fleetingly, uncomfortably wondered: how much waste happens here every night?

One of the waiters always had an extra smile for Jude and a twinkle in his eye and one night as he served us a glass of wine I asked him,”Didn’t I see you working here this morning?”

“Ah, yes!” he replied cheerfully,”7 am start.”

“But it’s 8:30 at night,” I said, alarmed.

“12 hour days,” he said,”6 days a week.”

Ick.  Return of the ick.  All the excess and the splendor and the shuttered-off corridors, a vague sense to being really white and really damned privileged.

The next morning I tasted bile when an older woman ignored her waitresses “good morning” to instead scowl and point at her empty drink.  And my stomach fell to my feet when I was confronted with the sour smell of vomit in a stairwell, a solemn Mexican worker scrubbing away the remains of reckless excess.  At the swim up bar I saw a middle-aged woman in a too-small bikini ground her body against a man wearing sunglasses at night and felt embarrassed, for her and for me.

The waves are pretty, but the excesses of the resort don’t mask the sadness underneath and have nothing to do with the real Mexico, which. Despite several trips to the country, I’ve never seen it.