Thursday, February 5, 2015

Time to Leap...

...and hope I have a smooth landing.

When I quit my job as an Executive Assistant at a Management Consulting firm ten years ago to stay home and look after my daughter (and then son, who came along a year and a half later), I had no idea it would be for this long or that it would be so hard, psychologically, to take the step of re-entering the workforce.  But once our second child came along it made a lot of sense to save on childcare and try to struggle by on one income.  It was important to both my husband and me to be the primary caregivers to our children.  Now they are almost 8 and 11, extremely responsible and fairly self sufficient.

Our little family leads a humble yet comfortable existence.  We own a small town-home in a good neighborhood.  We have food to eat, a car to drive, and enough credit that we can purchase what we need, when we need it.  With that credit, of course, comes increasing debt.  A family of four in 2015 cannot really afford to live on one salary (I'll just say it's less than $100,000 and leave it at that, since it's not considered polite to talk about money).  In our modern world there are necessary expenses that my parents didn't have to worry about - high-speed internet, cable, cell phones, computers.  Sure, they are not technically "necessities", but they are "technical necessities".  In order to keep up with the modern world, you have to have them.  As my kids get older, it may be necessary to get them their own laptops and cell phones (although we will avoid this for as long as we can, lol).  They also participate in activities throughout the year that are an added expense (on top of clothing, food and not a whole lot of entertainment).  My son takes karate at the local community centre and my daughter usually takes a hip-hop class once a week.  We also enroll them each in daycamps for one week each summer - to give them a break from each other and from me and for the experience itself.

All this adds up.

When my daughter was four years old and my son eighteen months, I had my second MS relapse.  At the beginning of the ordeal I didn't know that's what it was.  I didn't know WHAT it was, which was very scary.  I was diagnosed with MS after the doctor took one look at an MRI image of my brain and watched me try to tie my shoes with fingers that would not obey the signals my brain was trying to send.  For three weeks my parents had to come over and make lunches for the kids because I was unable to cut their food up for them.  Luckily my hands recovered, and I went on to write several erotic short stories and a trilogy of erotic novels, all published.  I had hoped that income from the books would supplement us enough to avoid looking for other work.  Unfortunately, the little bit of money I do earn pretty much goes back into promotion and inventory.

It is nerve wracking to re-enter the workforce after an absence of ten years.  It is doubly so when you have a chronic, unpredictable disease to deal with.

My MS has been fairly stable over the past six 1/2 years.  I've only suffered one relapse in that time.  However, when I did, it was invaluable to be able to essentially put my feet up and do nothing for a few weeks while my body regained it's sensory stability and strength.  I just don't know what I'll do if/when I suffer a relapse while trying to hold down a job.

However, I realize that most people with Multiple Sclerosis have some kind of work life.  Because of better treatment options, many people with MS lead much more normal lives.  I sat down to have a talk with a woman who works at the Ottawa Chapter of the Canadian MS Society and I confessed to her that I was scared that I'd have a serious relapse if I went back to work.  She said that I could have a serious relapse even if I don't go back to work.  And she's right.  I can't live life worrying about what might happen.

It will probably make me a happier person to have a job at this point.  Especially this time of year I do feel cooped up and bored at home, even when I've got a writing project on the go.  I've decided to start with something part-time, either retail or reception, to ease my transition and give me an idea of my current energy levels since one of the MS symptoms I deal with is both body and brain fatigue.  If that works out okay and I have enough leftover energy to continue writing and socialize occasionally, then great.  I doubt I will ever return to full time work, but it is a possibility.

So, if anyone knows of any retail openings or reception positions in the Ottawa area, shoot me an email.  I'm personable, reliable, functionally bilingual and sex positive.  I'm also funny as hell and can write a mean sex scene ;)

And blogging.  I'm okay at blogging.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

My New Painting!

For years I have been dying to have an original work of modern art with my favourite colours in it to place over the fireplace in the living room.  But, of course, I can't really justify spending a few hundred dollars on a piece of art.  So I asked my artistic daughter, Gillian, to paint me something.  I showed her some paintings that I liked and she set to work this morning.

This is the finished piece:

Three Fat Twigs

 Her signature:

I was able to place it above the fireplace where it looks fabulous and really ties the room together!

Three Fat Twigs by Gillian Lister:

Friday, January 30, 2015

House Hunters

My favourite TV show these days is Househunters, a series that follows people as they search for a new home somewhere in the USA.  I also like Househunters International, which follows people who are searching for a new home somewhere outside of the US.

My husband thinks I watch this show because I'm dissatisfied with our own home and I want to move into a bigger/nicer one.  This is not true.  I actually love our little home, probably more than he does.  I couldn't care less about not having a garage, for instance.

I just love houses, period.  I love to see all kinds of different homes, new and old, for various budgets and needs, in different geographical areas.  I like to see what people do to a home once they move into it.  How it gets decorated or renovated.  I don't like watching the renovations, I just like to see the outcome.

Sometimes my kids watch the show with me.  This is great, because what Househunters does quite unwittingly, is demonstrate the great variety of couples and families in our world today.  My kids have seen gay couples of both genders, mixed race couples, blended families, older couples, even best friends, and occasionally single men and women, all searching for a place to call home.  Sometimes the budget is $150,000.  Sometimes it's $1 million.  Sometimes the people are looking to rent since they will be living in a different country temporarily.  In all cases, the participants tour through three possible homes/apartments, talking about what they like or don't like - what matches up with their expectations and what doesn't.  At the end they decide which home to buy/rent based on budget and practicality.  Then the producers return after a few months to show what the home looks like and how the participants are adjusting to the new place.

I guess it's the ultimate shopping show, because what is more fun than looking for a new house?  I do like to pretend for a half hour that I'm searching with the participants, trying to figure out which house is the best option, and what I might do to improve it.  I also get decorating/renovation ideas for my own home.  But in the end, it's simply about getting to look inside other people's homes which I suppose appeals to my voyeuristic and curious side.  Sometimes I get frustrated with the intelligence or annoyance factor of the participants and I have to turn off the show.  Sometimes I wish I could be friends with the participants because we think alike and have the same sense of humour. 

I'll never forget, one couple was in a foreign city looking for a rental home, and the real estate agent asked if they'd like to pick up their three kids to bring them along on the home search.  They both said, "No!", and the mom laughed and said "Our family is not a democracy."


Thursday, January 29, 2015

It's !@#$%! Cold.

Ah, winter in Ottawa.

I am not a lover of high summer.  In fact, each year during July and August I usually look forward to these winter months when the heat and humidity don't cause my MS symptoms to worsen temporarily and I can be comfortably cool when out and about.  However, I must suffer from situational amnesia because I seem to forget how brutally cold January and February can be.

This year, the cold has been relentless.  From the end of the Christmas Holidays, the kids and I were walking to school each day in -18 to -25 degree Celsius temperatures, and lets not even talk about Windchill.  Frostbite Alerts have been an almost daily occurrence.  The kids have almost forgotten what it's like to have an outdoor recess.  We've had the occasional let-up over the past couple of weeks, but I still had to walk my kids to the main doors this morning to get them in out of the cold as no Duty teacher was brave enough to hang out on the playground.  The forecast for next Monday and Tuesday is -22.

We are a family that is proud to get by using only one car.  My husband needs it to get to work each day and is gone by 7-7:15 so he can be home in time to make supper.  So the kids and I have no option but to walk the 7-10 minutes to school no matter what the weather.  It's good daily exercise for all of us but walking into 20-40km winds on a freezing cold day is downright painful.  The kids wear snowpants, jackets, neckwarmers, hats, mitts, and outer scarves and we walk as fast as we can.  I don't have snowpants so I wear a pair of sweat pants inside my jeans, or my legs are painfully numb by the time I return home.  On really cold mornings I go inside the school to warm up for a few minutes before walking home.

One day in early January I kept the kids home from school because of the cold.  I think it was -20 degrees Celsius with a windchill, and forcasted to be -25 by the time the school day ended.  I also had a dental appointment that I'd confirmed twice.  I simply couldn't bear having to go out walking three times on the coldest !@#$%! day of the year.  So the kids stayed home and I went to the dentist, a 10 minute walk in the other direction, for my appointment.  I felt kind of lame for keeping them home but, honestly, wtf?  The temperature is supposed to get warmer through the day not colder.  Right?

January is almost over, with February looking to be just as cold, at least for the first week.  We have our annual Winter Party planned for February 7th and are hoping for something in the range of -5 to -12 temperatures.  We plan to banish the darkness and cold of the Ottawa season with snowshoe treks and an outdoor firepit, hot food indoors and much merriment with friends and family.

What I do really enjoy this time of year is the coziness and warmth of our small town home; drinking hot beverages (mostly coffee); lighting candles and turning on the electric fireplace when the sky darkens in the late afternoon; the way the bright blue sky contrasts against the white snow, and knowing that next summer when the temperature is +30 with a humidex, I'll be praying for cold weather.

Life is Messy

Hi and welcome to my blog!

Just so you know, I'm not going to provide a happy-go-lucky view of the world every day.  You don't want that and neither do I.  I have a husband, two children and a chronic illness (MS).  Things will get messy.  But what I hope to do is share the way I try to live life in the most positive way possible.  By choosing they way I look at the little defeats and big disappointments I am faced with on a daily basis, I hope to share a humble and grateful way of living which has served me well for the past fifteen years.

This world is not perfect.  In fact, it's far from perfect.  But once we realize that perfection doesn't exist except as a human concept, we stop striving to achieve it and expecting it from other things.

This does not mean that we shouldn't try to achieve great things or expect a certain amount of justice from the world (at least from the human part of it).  It means that we can stop waiting for that wonderful day when everything in our lives is perfect, to be happy.  It means loving the world we live in with all of its horrors and tragedies by focusing on the good things about it.  It means loving our partners, friends and family even though they may annoy us at times by appreciating the wonderful things about them and being grateful for the ways in which they enhance our lives.  It means not waiting until we are the perfect age/weight/level of fitness or have the perfect job/partner/home to start loving ourselves and our lives.

This does not mean that we put up with unfair treatment or stay in toxic relationships.  It means that we have the confidence to say, "This isn't working for me right now and I choose not to continue with it for the sake of my own health and/or survival.  I wish you all the best but I must put my health ahead of your needs and sever this tie."

And that we understand the world is not out to get us and it is our own responsibility to make the best life possible, even though it will never be perfect.

Anyway, enough of the proselytizing.  That's my perspective on life and it has served me well :)  Now back to regular blogging about my messy family life and attempts at a writing career.

Btw, I had to look up how to spell "proselytizing" twice.