Tag Archives: family.

a beginning, a middle and an end.

25 Nov

i have been putting off this post for weeks.

instead, i’ve been rightly filling my time chasing the mouse-maybe-rat (thanks for nothing, 120 year old house), consuming oaked white wines and nourishing my deeply committed relationship with cheese.

and while i’d like to think of myself as almost a seasoned professional in my procrastination abilities, the time has come to face the inevitable. to walk the metaphorical plank, so to speak, to put my head on the guillotine whilst violently screaming: “vive la france!”

no? too far? anyway, point is – i need to wrap this shit up. and well, kittens, it’s been a real ride, hasn’t it?

like most things i do, you may recall that i was wildly unprepared to write this blog linked to my rando move to india.  in the beginning, i knew that i didn’t want to write about, like, all the creepy-ass goats i was seeing on the street and so on, highlighting 24/7 how completely different life was in calcutta. i mean – it’s a scooch implied that life is different in india – it’s f*&king india.

so i quickly realized that the best way to your wonderfully weird little hearts was by telling you some of my best secrets, trash talking the laundry list of jerks i’ve known in my 28 years and enlightening you on exactly how two bone fide crazy newlyweds make it through their first year of marriage -while 12,952 km apart.

and so it was: one long, swear-word encrusted (bedazzled, really) teenage telephone conversation – that sometimes referred to india.

but by the middle of it all, finally finding my voice simply wasn’t enough – it had turned out that randomly moving to india wasn’t so easy afterall. work became difficult, the thrill of living in the country of dust-turned-mud-turned-dust-again and spice had quickly worn off. basically, it blew. hardcore.

and frankly it was you, kind readers, who came to the rescue in so many ways. your mostly-insane comments, your revelations of devotion to this humble teenaged telephone conversation of a blog, your personal messages and – in some cases – your packages filled with booty (pirate, not ass – here and here too!) helped me get over my self-imposed exile.

(and let’s be honest here, the americans filled in the rest of the blanks with their exceptional taste in imported wine, unwavering devotion to western tv shows and propensity for hosting mexcian-themed murder mysteries. ole indeed, bitches.)

then just as quickly as i began this craziness, got over the fact that india – yes, all 1.2 billion of it – was a jerk, things were over. because for the many oh-so-complicated reasons, i left my work early for the homeland where the nachos are free range and the sewers are closed.

but doing as i have done leaves you different. even now – and probs for a while to come –  i am struggling to figure out what it all meant. working to convince myself that it’s ok to let this experience change me – even if it’s maybe not for the best.

this has been our journey together. and this is where it ends – for now.

listen, you don’t realize it, but you owe me. i’ve rarely preached to you about crap like “politics” and the “economic crisis” etc and so on. i’ve kept it to the interesting stuff  – like how i ditched my now husband while dressed like a pirate-hooker . the truly important discussions, ya know?

so now, you must listen to me as i take my moment to preach atop the metaphorical soapbox.

whoever, wherever and whatever you are – i am telling you that we are all able to do almost anything we want in this life. the path that is defined for us – whatever that path looks like in your world – isn’t always the way we have to play it.

it’s totes ok to take b.f.r’s (big f&*king risks) because not only do they give you mad street cred (“well when i was living in calcutta…” = kind of bad ass) but they are often the ones that are the most worthwhile. remember i told you once that nothing worth fighting for is ever easy? well it’s true.

i leave you with this: sometimes when it’s a bajillion degrees celcius during a 2 hour black out and you’ve just frantically stepped in a sewer that reaches your almost-knee-cap, whilst skinning your arm trying to protect your face from the garbage which you will surely fall into because of the whole leg-in-sewer thang, you enjoy a good old fashioned motivational quote.

this is the one that i repeated to myself that night, covered in shit, while being laughed at by probably 50 + indians:  “at any given moment you have the power to say ‘this is not how the story is going to end’.” and that’s a fact.

fact.

thank you, everyone. for everything.

xo al

the big return.

6 Nov

well, it’s been a while. (or is it “awhile”? who knows.)

the first thing i want to tell you is that i have kicked jet lag’s ass. no seriously, i have taken jet lag out into the metaphorical back alley, roughed it up a bit, and left it there to be found by some sassy tv cop who will surely spend days pondering over what exactly happened to poor old jet lag.

no joke.

so yes, i am in fact home. i travelled 30 hours through 3 airports to come back to beautiful fall weather, clean streets and this:

top hats and everything!

well, this is what greeted me at the airport as i walked through those big scary doors to yet another new beginning. while there wasn’t much twirling on my part (30 hours on a plane will apparently curb that desire), i was highly entertained.

top hats indeed. indeed.

and as i drove back to the humble little abode to tear open my large suitcase of indian goodies (who needs clothes anyway, sarees and scarves it is!) i was greeted by yet another ah-mazing occurrence:

a big warm welcome from the fav family

the fav family, of course, welcoming me home in their own special way. these lovelies don’t mess around – they wrapped the entire humble abode in a friendly yellow ribbon. it was almost as good as the canoodle i got from the baby who calls me auntie al – but more on that later.

and so, i must stop here for now – although there are many things left to say, kind readers. just know that i have safely returned and i have already enjoyed a few lovely oaked bottles of chilled chardy in celebration. naturally.

the crazy dance.

18 Oct

a strange kind of thing hit me today as i was sipping too-sweet tea (india – god) from a too-small cup (double god) and listening to my tunage. as i often do to drown out the 40 bajillion decibels of bengali yelling that surround me each day. (as a further digression, how this country is not filled with deaf people, is literally beyond me.)

there is this line in a city and color song that goes: “i’ve seen a palace in london, i’ve seen a castle in wales – but i’d rather wake up beside you – and breathe that old familiar smell.”

it made me realize that, for probably the first time in my entire ridiculous life, i want complete and utter normalcy.

i know exactly what you’re going to say: “al, listen, you’ve been gone for a while and we all know you’re going kind of crazy. you’re totes homesick, so stop being so drama. lord.”

you’re perhaps right. and yet – while i am admittedly eager to get home for a number of reasons – i’m not sure you can sum up how i’m feeling to just missing the familiar.

i think i’m just really tired of being a complete wack-a-doo.

specifically, i’m tired of running around making exciting, exuberating, extreme choices that cause ripples – then big-ass waves – through my personal and professional life.

and this goes beyond the insane india factor, trust me. this is about the last 5 years chasing a  career path that, while super exotic, is consistently challenging from every possible angle. relentless, actually.  (blah blah blah – i know not the first person ever to feel this way, but hey, it’s about me al, remember?)

so yah, i can honestly say that for the first time in my entire life of always wanting things to be radically  non-standardized –  all i want right now is  unadulterated, inexplicable dullness.

frankly,  it’s making me kind of vomit in my mouth to admit all of this,  but what’s the point in holding back from you now? we’ve come so far together, kind readers.

within 2 weeks i’m going to be prancing around my kitchen at 11 am in a mink hat screaming at the top of my lungs to marvin gaye, drinking champagne (chardy after 12, where do you think i was raised – a barn?) while the diabolical dog perform his newest – and perhaps most highly anticipated – tap dance routine.

yup, normal.

eyes on the prize

you’d better bring a poster.

14 Oct

well, i will be back in just a few short weeks. yup, you can still giggle with excitement over this – i am, bitches.

it’s an exciting time! the babies who call me auntie al, plates upon plates of nachos, crisp fall weather, good wine, the diabolical tap-dancing dog and my car named veronica all await me. anxiously.

i’ve been trying to envision what it will be like to walk back onto canadian soil after almost 7 months living in this insane country of dust and spice, but i really can’t figure it out.

i play different scenarios in my head. i put varying forms of theme music to said scenarios –  as i do for all the important moments in my life, let’s be honest here. (often ending up on ac/dc’s ‘thunderstruck’ – obviously) but this is tough nut to crack – i can’t figure out what it’s going to be like.

brenna said something to me a few days ago that go me thinking. she said that  i would probably be feeling slightly nostalgic about india in the coming weeks. i kind of scoffed at this at first, but then the more i thought about it realized that my darling brenna was right.

i was riding in an auto the other night and i caught myself feeling sad that i would no longer have to risk my life to get from point a to point b. and then i started thinking about the heat, and how, while it sort of tries to suffocate you every time you step outside, it feels kinda like a big hug from mother earth.

yah, i know, it’s totally f*&ked up.

but i guess this is the way it works. while we have something, we aren’t fully satisfied with it. and when it’s gone, we realize that maybe it wasn’t so bad.

or maybe it was really that bad, but it was still mostly worth it. yes…that sounds better.

so i have no idea what it’s going to feel like to be back in canada.  but i do have a sense of what it’s going to be like to say goodbye to india. probably 37% sad and 63% happy. i feel like that’s a fair assessment given that i spent half of my time here being angry at 1 billion people. so it goes.

actually lovelies, i lied – i do know one thing about my return to canada. when i get to the airport and see you all standing there (because you will be, right?) you’d better be holding glitter-encrusted posters and putting forth your best twirling efforts.

all together now: “weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee”

yahoo bitches!

the reasons we wake up.

16 Sep

i have been keeping a secret from you, oh loyal band of merry followers. well, many secrets actually, but now is not the time for all – just for one. a very special one, nonetheless. one that you can be a part of if you really wanted to.

my dirty secret is that i have lost a little of my gumption, my purpose, my what-for, if you will. yup, it’s the truth – this place has literally beat the shira out of me and i have started to wonder “why the f*&k am i here again?”

anyway, these days, in addition to going on a bear-hunt to rediscover my internal kick-ass-tastic warrior, i am working hard to find my inspiration in places other than my work. and one of these places is my sweet caroline.

now normally i try to avoid real-life names on this ‘ol teenage telephone conversation of a blog, um mostly because i like making up fake names and all, but this one is real. her name is caroline, and she is in fact very very sweet.

if you’ve been around for a while then you have heard me talk of the fav family – and sweet caroline would be one of them. they are well-known around these parts for many things: they brought the baby who calls me auntie al into the world, they got married in the most wonderful of ways and they sent an infamous box of love to india.

and well, they also got diagnosed with cancer.

sure, they didn’t collectively get the big ‘c’, but upon finding out that the fav daughter – aka caroline – was diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer earlier this year at just 23, they may as well have all been diagnosed. that’s just the way they roll, and i love them for it.

a few weeks ago when i was thinking about my stories, you know, the ones that keep me up at night writing posts in my head -miss caroline came to mind. simply put: her story, and her, have helped inspire me to keep on keeping on despite feeling like i’ve lost my reasons for being.

when i asked her if she’d be interested in making an appearance on the blog, the much obliging caroline enthusiastically agreed to let me share her tale. and oh lordy, i had all these super grand plans to mould her story into a work of literary genius, using techniques like pathetic fallacy and foreshadowing. pulitzer quality stuff you guys, freeking pulitzer.

but in the end after a few tears and some failed attempts, i realized that caroline’s own words moved me more than anything i could ever write. so, here she is:

it all started in late october or early november 2010 when i found a lump in my left breast. i instantly panicked and asked my mom to check it out – she said that while it’s common for young girls to have cystic breasts, i should still get it looked at. so i went off to the doctor that evening.

my doctor assured me that since the lump was ‘shallow’ (i.e. close to the skin), was painful (breast cancer is most often not painful) and that it was close to the centre of my breast (breast cancer is usually under the armpit and deep to the ribcage), that it was not cancer.

regardless, he did a needle biopsy right then and there. he sent the sample away for testing and a week later it came back as a fibroadenoma – which is just like a cyst but fluid filled. to try and reduce the swelling – which was causing all the pain – he put me on a water pill and off i went. 

well, a few months later nothing had changed. i was not sleeping and could no longer wear a bra with underwire because the cyst was still so painful. so i went back to my doctor and begged, yes begged, him to remove the cyst. he was really reluctant because of the scarring potential, but on march 23rd of this year i finally had it removed.

on april 4th i was at sickkids hospital doing my work placement with the brain tumor research lab when i got a call from my mom saying i needed to get in touch with the doctor’s office right away. the office receptionist told me that i should come home immediately as the doctor wanted to check my incision. i found this weird because he had already checked it since the surgery – so naturally i ran to catch the next train home…stopping only to grab a mcflurry!

on the way to the doctor’s office my mom and i stayed calm, not speaking about what we thought the real reason for the visit might be. i cant quite remember what happened from the moment we got into the doctor’s office, only that i recall him saying: “well, it’s worse than we thought,” and “a very rare form of breast cancer”.

i cried very hard for what felt like an hour but was only really a few minutes. my mom hugged me and tried to stay calm, i really don’t remember much else about that appointment except for him telling me that i had a bone scan, mammogram, and ultrasound all booked within 2 days and that i should inform my university that i wouldn’t finish the semester.

honestly, the very first thing i thought after receiving the news was if my pregnant sister, who was 8 months along at this point, would be ok when she found out. i was so scared for her and the baby.

after finding out the news, we immediately called the whole family together and told them. everyone cried, asked questions and googled (obviously!) the disease and treatment processes.  from this point on, the whirlwind truly began. 

within a week i had MRIs, 9 biopsies, meetings with one of the most world famous breast cancer oncologists (due to the rarity of my case and my age), meetings with my new surgeon, and multiple family doctor visits to make sure mentally and emotionally stable.

originally it was thought that the doctors could just go in and do another lumpectomy to get the rest of the cancer – end scene! but as it often goes with cancer, nothing is ever quite as it seems. they decided to do a full mastectomy when the tests showed that the cancer, all 9 cm of it, was multi-focal (i.e many lumps all over the breast).

the big surgery was quickly set for april 27th. a week before the mastectomy my friends threw me an amazing “bye bye boobie party” and i made a mold of my breast with my sister and best friend. 

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the surgery went well, all things considered, and my whole family was at my side until i came home from the hospital on the afternoon of the 28th. i had home-care nurses for about 5 days to monitor healing, change dressings, and eventually take out the drains that were needed to get rid of all the fluid.

luckily my body healed ahead of schedule and i was up and moving just a few days later. i did many puzzles, took a whole lotta drugs and watched quite a few movies. i finally got a tv in my room because of this, hello bonus!

during the mastectomy they took out a number of lymph nodes from under my arm to test to see if the cancer was spreading through my body. we all waited anxiously for the results, which would help to decide next steps with the treatment. 

when the results came back clear a few days later, my mom, sister and i cried our eyes out and danced around to “sweet caroline” in the kitchen. ah-mazing!

so with this important information, i had appointments with my radiation oncologist and my regular oncologist to decide whether or not further treatment was necessary. it was determined that i would need preventative treatment, so nearing the end of the summer had a 28 day cycle (6 weeks) of daily radiation.

my mom drove me each and everyday to the hospital where i had my radiation treatment. to my surprise, the treatment didn’t hurt at all or anything. however, after heading home i was usually exhausted, so i would often sleep for the rest of the morning into early afternoon. when my treatment was over, my parents took me on a celebratory trip to the bahamas – a much-needed vacation!

and that brings us to today – cancer free.

while this whole thing has been difficult and painful, it has also been an empowering adventure. yes, i have been sad, but i did my best to not feel sorry for myself as it would not have accomplished anything. i didn’t cry very often and i didn’t whine very often – i just tried to get up every morning and smile and know that i’m going to be okay and that something good has to come from this.

my new saying is “ikigai” – it means “the reason you wake up in the morning”.  i just have to believe after all of this that my reason is to make a difference. i don’t know how, or when, or why right now – but one day i will know and i will take action.

although a life-event of this magnitude can often change people for the better, i can confidently tell you that caroline has just simply always been this pure of heart. and while i have long sat in admiration of her, sweet caroline’s story has reminded me that i must rise each day – the frustrations of kolkata or not – with a bone fide sense of purpose.

i am grateful to her for being so bad-ass and showing me the importance of being positive and proud – despite whatever real or metaphorical pile of shit you have stepped in that day.

so, with her story and general awesomeness in mind, those around caroline have rallied together to express their gratitude and support in the form of the ‘care bears’ – a brilliantly named team participating in the october 2 canadian breast cancer foundation ‘run for the cure’.

well, you may or may not have noticed, but i live in india. thus, i am not able to truly join in with the ‘care bears’.

instead, i am asking you, wonderful followers, to help turn my dirty-little-secret around by supporting one of caroline’s siblings – the fav family – in their fundraising pursuits as the ‘care bears’.  if not because you were moved by caroline’s story, but because you have a similar tale of strength you wish to celebrate. and celebrate it, you must.

donate now to a member of the fav family running on caroline’s ‘care bears’ team and support breast cancer research. to donate, choose a campaign page: fav brother, fav sister-in-law, fav sister or fav brother-in-law.

(huge high fives and thanks to those who can offer their support!)

well, i will soon start back at work after 2 weeks off. i can guarantee you that – while i may still be searching for my broader purpose – i will be applying “ikigai” in honor of caroline to rediscover my reasons for living here each day.

reunited.

3 Sep

and it feels so good.

he's in india. finally.

i’m so happy for you.

29 Aug

so the last week or so has seen me taking a break from india.  not an official break mind you, although i’ve been close a few times.  this small moment away is really for your sake because you’re about to get a shit-storm of indian updates when the husband gets here in just five days. five days bitches!

for now, we move on to other things.

i grew up – let’s be honest here – in a bit of a showy suburban community. and because i’m a product of my environment, i am always  keen to learn tidbits of gossip about the individuals who speckled my youth.

i recently heard, by somewhat shady means, that this uppity chick i grew up with got engaged. so, as you do,  i laughed to myself and thought “wow, wonder what her fo’ shiz tacky 2 bajillion dollar engagement ring looks like.  what is she, a kardashian? pfffft.”

my awesome insult aside,  i quickly forgot about her and moved on to more important things. things like chardonnay.

but a few days later the i noticed that she popped back into my head – despite me screaming “get out, out, out” in lady macbeth styles.  clearly, the fact that she – of all people – had found someone to actually marry her was causing subconscious distress.

setting the scene for a scooch, this girl was the holier-than-thou kind: she was loaded, pretty and smart. if she’d been a genuinely nice person, accepting her winning-the-lottery-of-life wouldn’t have been so bad. but she wasn’t – she was a total bitch.

yet, everyone, including me, still held her up as their own personal benchmark of coolness. as it often goes with the ones we love to hate.

i knew her for almost 15 years. so this got me thinking, could she really have changed so much that i actually believed that she could be humble and selfless enough to be someone’s wife?

now that was a thinker.

so last night as i listened to a little marvin gaye and got to pondering this whole idea of character changes – one of my exes popped into my mind.

this guy was quite possibly the living, breathing anti-christ. a liar and a cheater in the most flamboyantly creative of ways, i am convinced he is probably the worst person i have ever met to date.

but dudes, about six months ago, someone actually married this guy!

i mean, we were together a while, so i saw first hand what a terrible human being he was. (and yes, i realize this opens up a series of questions about me, but not now – jeez!)  how much could the anti-christ ex really have changed in the five or six years since we split up that he went from being a potential maniac to someone’s life partner?

come on now.

i frequently and  fully own the fact that i’ve been a real cough, see-you-next-tuesday, cough to certain individuals. these select people, when they learned that i got married through the suburban network of secrets and lies, probably wondered “who the hell would marry her? no seriously, who?”

and the truth is, i can’t blame them.

the moment i met the husband something clicked: i just wanted to be more than i was. i saw how good he was to his friends to his family to everyone he ever met and i knew i needed to unlock that part of my heart that was better – more than it was bitchy.

and thus began my real self. the real improved one, anyway.

so as much as i’d like to accept that the pretentious super skank and the psycho ex are still the same awful people they used to be, i have to give them the benefit of the doubt.

maybe now they’re tricked out versions of their former selves, more empathetic, grounded and sane, because of the love of a good man or woman. maybe because of this, they will make wonderful spouses.

and if that is so, then i am really-and-truly happy for them. well…89.54% happy, 10.46% insult-hurling.

so here’s to love. all consuming, life-changing, personality changing love. i hope these jokers have found it.

 

your secret identities.

11 Aug

you know, blogging is kinda weird.

basically being a blogger means you push your heart and soul out into a public forum, only to be found, analyzed and probably severely mocked by your worst enemies. ok, and maybe a few others too.

(um, so more importantly, in my version of these events my enemies are smoking menthol cigarettes out of those cruella de ville cigarette holder thingys, drinking amaretto sours and wearing fur hats. what? i’m pretty sure this is the truth.)

i am perpetually curious, so i’m always wondering who is actually reading this crazy never-ending teenage telephone conversation. but because i can never truly know, i often just tell myself that other than maximus and the diabolical dog (he can totally read), not a lot of other people really care about these goings-on.

but it seems i was a scooch wrong. i mean, lord knows i’m no oprah, but it’s been nice to learn as of late that i do have a pack of friends along for this ride. having you reveal yourselves, kind readers, has been a treat.

but more than just your identities, it’s a pleasure to know that despite my ridiculous stories, endless swear words and habit of accusing 1.2 billion people of asshole-dom, you keep coming back for more.

(by the way – totally ask yourself what this says about you. god, you’re so weird.)

i’m officially 120 days in now, and while it may not seem like it, this post is all just to say thanks. thanks to those of you who i now know are with me, and thanks to those of you who have yet to show yourselves.

in closing, because they inspired this post by revealing their kind readership, and because i did spend their june wedding day mostly moping for lack of not-being-there-ness, i should say congrats to the fav family brother and sister-in-law. you are loved.

happy to be able to share this with you - what a beautiful couple!

 

the arrival of an infamous box.

10 Aug

the favorite family is so-called for many reasons: some of them do things like make the babe who calls me auntie al and create perfectly perfect wedding dresses.  others teach me the value of appropriately timed ‘friends’ quotes for almost any social situation – a skill i take seriously.

but more than anything, the favorite family is favorite because when they’re around i know that, no matter what happens, i will never be alone. it’s kinda like a never-ending hug.

so you can understand my excitement when i learned that they were sending a box – a box of love, if you will – all the way to india! (lord knows i love to stock-pile me some love – and chardonnay – for the crappiest of days here.)

but after successfully leaving canada the box-o-love went POOF and disappeared.

panic ensued.  hair was frantically pulled out. a few tears were shed. dramatic scenes took place with postal workers named wendy. (man, poor wendy)

but then something strange happened. just as curiously as the box vanished, today it showed at my apartment! sure, it was mostly bottomless and looked as if a ferret had rifled through the contents seeking out tiny top hats for an all-ferret production of ‘chicago’, but it was here – and that was all that mattered.

wowsers! the fav fam certainly delivered on their promise of love in a box.

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so tonight i spent the whole evening casually rearranging my new tokens and singing along to adele. it was beyond stellar.

i can almost 100% guarantee that thanks to the love box, this weekend i will be dancing around my apartment  wearing a canada t-shirt and an eye-sleep-cover thing whilst drinking chilled chardy and licking what was a bag of chocolate chips and is now just one giant chip. thank you heat.

so with that mental picture in mind, consider your mission accomplished fav fam. xo

the things that change us.

8 Aug

when i first interviewed for the fellowship in india everyone was all up in a huff-a-duff because i was about to get married. oddly, they seemed to accept that i was qualified for the job (which was mostly untrue), but could not understand that i was 2 seconds away from being someone’s wife.

the guy interviewing me said the following:

“there are two times in my life that i have significantly changed. the first was my freshman year of college and the second was my initial year in india. how will you deal with this as a couple?”

what-ever.

so apparently 2 past fellows who were married ended up divorced after spending the year apart from their respective spouses. fine, that’s sad stuff – but is that any reason to be all wackadoo and newlywedist? (kinda like racist…but for newlyweds. no? not good?)

sigh. despite how crazy i think it is that this fellowship could break up anyone’s marriage – the interview-guy’s words do subconsiously stick with me.

i often find myself wondering – how am i changing with each day that passes? am i changing so much that the husband won’t even recognize me? or worse, that the dog won’t recognize me? ohmysweetlord.

but i guess if i objectively float outside my body like a really attractive ghost, i can see that i am changing. just a smidge.

i am learning to just go with the flow. (“oh – is that a giant disgusting puddle that i must walk through – oh – did my sandal just break and now i have to go through it shoe-less? so it goes i guess. onward!”) it’s either go with the flow or cry 23 out of 24 hours. and that seems like a lot of work.

i am getting better at relinquishing control – although it is an ongoing challenge. (may i casually remind you of my month-long fight with india. ahem.)  despite my struggles, i have given up trying to have a mind-blowing impact on my company.  instead, i am just trying to make a few modest – yet still important -improvements that might help in future.

i’m also learning that i have a temper. literally kittens, i had to give myself a time out today because i was totally going to punch several faces after a shit-ton of idiocy ensued.  it was a real-live ‘supernanny’ time out too – one minute for each year of my age. that’s 27.5 minutes on the balcony watching cows eat grass. praise be to ‘supernanny’.

finally, i feel like i am truly internalizing – perhaps for the first time – the most important things in life: family, good friends and of course the diabolical dog. at the end of the day, these characters are really all that matters. (nachos excluded, of course.)

so yeah, there is likely some validity to the interview-guy’s cryptic speech on life change – india or no india.  but guess in the end it’s all about how we choose to change.

will you do it by fighting to bring those you love along for the ride, or will you just slowly become a person who kinda resembles this other dude who everyone used to know.

i’m opting for the former, mainly cause i like a good ‘ol fashioned challenge.

here for no other reason than i wish i lived inside it a little bit.

nothing that you are.

3 Aug

when i was about 13 i wrote a letter to my 30-year-old self that went something like this:

dear 30 year old al,

hey, how’s the future? well all’s good here i’m just kicking it in 1996 at my best friend trish’s* house and we’re totes planning what our lives are going to be like. she wants to be a dinosaur expert and marry ray* and live in australia.

as for me, i want to be an advertising executive, marry greg mcdaniels* and live in a 4 bedroom house with a terrier named irish.

so self, i hope that no matter where you are that you will find this letter one day and it will help you stay true to what you once really wanted.

love, al

*names have been changed to protect the guilty. and also because it’s fun to make up fake names for real a-hole people and talk about them  publicly. hey, just saying.

although i don’t have the letter in front of me, i give you a money-back guarantee that this is almost exactly what it contained – save a few details about being best friends for life with trish and wearing our broken heart be/fri  and st/ends necklaces to the grave. classic stuff.

bff 4 life. not.

so fast forward just 5 short years later my lost 18 year-old-self wrote yet another letter to future al.

this time it was an attempt to capture myself at 18 – because apparently i going through some kind of crisis like the plot of the 1991 movie “hook” where figured i’d grow up, become a yuppie jerk and forget how important it is to follow your dreams. or something.

i found this second letter shortly before leaving for india as i was rifling around looking for my travel neck pillow. i opened the letter, laughed hysterically, cried a little (both ironically and seriously) at how ridiculous i was and then 3-pointered it back into the box.

(i then watched the diabolical dog do a jaunty tap dance routine to “i got rhythm” for about 12 minutes. but that’s a whole other post.)

anyway, what made me think of these letters is our only-human propensity to sometimes be  so “in it” we can’t see “past it”.

ok sure, in my examples i was just a stupid angsty kid, but the phenomenon itself can be applied to about a bajillion (real number) things in this life: break ups, jobs, friendships, family, and yes, even moves around the world to countries comprised mostly of mud and spice.

something sneaky happens when we are blindly passionate, scared or committed – our rational thinking takes an indefinite caribbean vacay and we’re left romping around lost in the cold with no snowsuit having to pee.

basically, we lose our ability to see what really matters through all the other crap.

and really, the only way to find our way home, so to speak, is to surround ourselves with honest and hilarious people.  sometimes we all just need to be told to buck up, get our shit together and focus on the big goal. all in a way that doesn’t make us want to put our heads in the oven.

as evidenced by the above anecdotes, i could have probably used a few of those good people in my life over the years. but now, as i quietly and carefully “approach 30” (it’s not real if it’s in air quotes), i have several wonderful people helping me stay focused on what really matters.

and more than this, i’ve learned how to be one of these voices-of-sanity for others. most days, that is.

i didn’t become an advertising executive (do they even exist) and i didn’t marry greg mcdaniels, (he was always kind of a douche anyway) and i will never punish a dog with the name “irish”. so i guess, in the end, i am nothing like the person my younger self had so desperately hoped i would be.

but then again, what did she know?

he’s a good egg.

2 Aug

i have no idea what the phase ‘a good egg’ really means or where it originates from, but in my almost-asleep-dom i think it refers to someone or something being kind of awesome.

so tonight as i fall into my advil cold and flu slumber, (because apparently food poisoning has morphed into a cold? yeah, i said what the f*&k too.) i am using it to describe my husband.

because man, he’s a good egg.

i really won’t regale you with all the exact reasons, because there are lots and that could get boring really fast for everyone involved, but basically today he said all the right things at all the right moments – and i just really appreciated that.

(appreciated it in general, yes, but also appreciated it more specifically because my day consisted of breaking down in uncontrollable tears-o-rage in a hospital parking lot during a rainstorm. a story for another time, perhaps? then again, maybe not.)

whether it’s listening as i gab about my coworkers, the people who are disappointing, the people who are uplifting, the ever-plotting diabolical dog or our high maintenance house – he just mixes a mean cocktail of 1 part support, 1 part humor and 1 part love.

so as i literally drift off i am, more than anything, just really grateful for him today. as my friend and my more-than-a-friend.

(cause forget all the marriage crap, what’s obviously most important is that he’s totally dreamy.)

‘night bitches!

who do you think you are.

22 Jul

i am a self-proclaimed nut in so many ways: i talk too much about things that happened a long time ago, i do things like get married and then move away and i’m in a very committed – and delicious – relationship with nachos.

all that aside, perhaps one of my nuttiest traits is that i just love all things old.

so while other kids were watching ‘90210′, i was locked in my room reading about the holocaust until 3 am. and when my (idiot) teenage compatriots were getting drunk and making out until their mouths exploded, i was learning about the russian revolution. yeah ok, it’s all very morbid and ridiculous, but it’s the truth: i love history.

but even more than just world history, i am fascinated by family history.

so when former ‘friends’ star lisa kudrow – or phoebe bouffay as i’d prefer we call her thankyouverymuch – produced a show this past winter called ‘who do you think you are?’ – i was immediately hooked.

i don’t know if you saw it, but basically it was all these fancy pants celebrities hunting down some aspect of their family’s history with the help of genealogists.  while i initially scoffed and quietly muttered: “oh phoebe, what are you up to now for god sakes…” – it was actually pretty cool!  most of the celebs learned about connections to major historical events and got a sense of who their ancestors actually were as people.

now i know you can’t believe everything the tv tells you (although i sort of do anyway…shhh), but phoebe bouffay’s show got me thinking – who do i think i am?

thanks to my brilliant grandfather i know a lot about my mother’s british family. he has kept – and more importantly shared – pictures, stories and family trees with me over the years which has painted a decent picture of who our family was.

but what has always been a complete mystery to me for 27 7/12 years is my dad’s family. it’s been on my bucket list for ages to talk to him about this stuff, but life happens and people move to india (as you do) and then you kind of forget to do things.

well, something interesting happened this week: i accidentally stumbled across my paternal grandmother’s family tree online – don’t ask how. and no joke with just those few clues, i have spent the last 48 hours falling down a veritable rabbit hole of my father’s family history – giddy as f&^k the whole time.

what i have learned (thanks to nova scotia’s amazing virtual records depository) is that on my father’s side  – both on my grandmother and grandfather – are among the earliest families to have settled in nova scotia in the 18th century.

my grandmother’s family lived in an archipelago off cape breton island called the isle de madame as far back as 1793, a part of the region’s hardcore acadian history. and on the other side, i learned that my grandfather’s family has been in lunenburg and the small hamlet of martin’s river since about 1750.

wowsers, i say.

isle de madame off cape breton island, nova scotia

honestly, i have always had suspicions about our maritime roots. but learning that we have significant history in the region is something different altogether – i never would have guessed our lineage is so rooted in canada’s early beginnings.

maybe, just maybe, the fact that we are from salt-of-the-earth maritime stock explains why i have always felt such an undeniable pull to nova scotia for as long as i can remember. it’s no secret really that this is where my heart lies.

anyway, all this jibber-jabber is just the beginning. now, armed with a few crudely constructed family trees, i want to know who these people were. what were they actually like. were they nice? did they struggle? what were their joys? what were their tragedies? you know, all the good stuff.

so, next summer – with husband and dog and dad in tow – i will make my annual pilgrimage to nova scotia. but this time we’ll head to the isle de madame and martin’s river to further explore our 5 + generations of history in the area.

and all because i’m a bit of a nut, bitches.

lunenburg, a unesco heritage site

conehead.

7 Jul

if this blog really were one long teenaged telephone conversation, like i aspire to make it, today’s post would start something like this:

ohmygosh – i have so much to tell you heather! but i can’t now cause mom just called me for dins – that wench – and if i don’t go right now she’s totally going to take away my croquet set. again. but i’ll call you later – m’kay? loves ya! [blows double kiss to the phone receiver]”

this dramatic monologue, other than attempting to loosely recreate the 80’s cult classic ‘heathers’ with a pinch of ‘mean girls’, is to inform you that i do have so have so much to tell you, but i don’t have time to divulge it now.

i’m on the first day of what has turned out to be 3 days in the field and i just can’t end my fight with india right now to fill you in.

actually, i guess i could have spent 3 hours filling you in tonight but instead i decided to continue my ‘arrested development’ season 2 and 3 marathon. (i realized on tuesday that i had actually been lying for several years when i said i’d seen, and subsequently loved, the entire ‘arrested development’ series.)

but something did happen yesterday evening that i couldn’t keep from you all, my fine loyalists….or some other less political, less 1837, less creepy sounding nickname.

may i present to you our formerly-fancy-turned-slightly-handicapped conehead dog:

now accepting cuddles and other outpourings of sympathy.

well, there was an incident mid-ball throw at the park yesterday and the furry member of our little family cut his right leg (as evidenced above) quite severely on some mysterious object.  blood everywhere. husband highly panicked. white carpet ruined. several stitches. gigantic vet bill we can’t afford. tempers flared. it’s all very lame really.

and while i am obviously gutted by this turn of events, i can’t help but chuckle just a smidge. there is something so wonderfully ironic about a dog wearing a red doggie car seatbelt and a cone at the same time.

so apparently car safety was covered, but we never thought to get him protective leg warmers and moon boots for the park – dammit!

so please send le husband and le conehead good vibes (i suggest working in the use of a carrier pigeon for dramatic effect) – because they’re feeling the pain this week. the no-al pain that is.

how to light a fire under your butt. like a minx.

5 Jul

as we previously discussed, india and i are on a break. so if you’re looking for pictures of cute babies and spices and other indian whatsits – move along for today okthankyouverymuch.

so i think i have finally pinpointed what’s been driving me bat-ass crazy about work for the last month: i’m completely and perfectly unmotivated.

i guess i never realized how much energy i derived from those around me until i came here. i mean, the days i’m in the field are obviously ripe with disney-song-esque inspiration, but as far as my day-to-day work environment goes it’s all very….meh.

at every job i’ve had so far i’ve had the pleasure of working with high-energy and ridiculously bananas people. so to experience less-than-bananas has been a real drain on my desire to do much of anything. (anything except eat sour cream and onion chips – because those little bastards have me hooked.)

my colleagues just don’t really seem to enjoy their work. personally, i don’t think they see how dynamic microfinance is in the big scheme of things. or they do, and they’re hiding it really well. either way, it’s meh.

so after weeks of moping around, depending on solely on the pounding of grape (real phrase) to make me happy – i am actively trying to find my groove. just call me stella, bitches.

and what i’ve decided is that i’ve been really afraid of moving projects forward without any clear support. while my projects are finally interesting, i know it’s going to be a complete disaster trying to make any of them successful based on how decisions are made and implemented here.

but that’s a totally lame reason to not try, right?

what popped into my head on saturday when i thought about this was the following experience:

about 13 years ago i was in muskoka visiting my most favorite family’s cottage. my most favorite auntie, being as sporty as she is, proposed going for a long distance swim in the lake.  now i have never been one to turn down a challenge, but i do not enjoy fish and other such lake-dwelling creatures. gag me with a spoon.

regardless,  i said something along the lines of “f*&k it” to myself and went for the swim anyway.  i was literally scared shitless the entire time – scared of touching logs in the water and of being slapped by fish fins. these are real-life fears, ok? god.

but despite how beyond panicked i was, i finished that swim like a champ.  and all these years later i still remember that it felt completely amazing – i was/am so proud.  there truly is nothing like taking something scary head on and saying: “nobody puts baby in a corner!”

(you’re thinking: “oh snap, she did not just quote patrick swayze!”- well i did. i freeking did.)

the aforementioned feat – no matter how seemingly small –  is actually motivating me today to not be paralyzed by all the failures that are surely about to rain down on me at work. while it’s sometimes ok to fail, it has never been ok in my books to give up trying.

so now what i’m going to do is say “f*&k it”, dive in and then keep swimming. like a minx. or is it mink?

this was a poorly thought out ending.

don't think that finding my groove = giving up pounding the grape. cause it doesn't. cheers friends!

my imperfectly perfect sidekick.

29 Jun

you may or may not have noticed that india and i have been in a small fight for around three weeks now.  india has been hurling metaphorical dinner plates at me and i have been responding with snide and well-timed insults. like a minx.

how is it possible to be in a fight with a whole country, you ask? well if you take a gander at this, this and this – you may be able to read between the lines, and understand.

so i figured that india and i should have a temporary separation while i work on drawing up a peace treaty for the next eight months.

and because i can’t actually escape this crazy country of mud (formerly dust) and spice, i will do the next best thing: ignore it on my incredibly popular and widely read blog for a while.

take that india!

so today i will discuss my sister.  my beautiful, strange and unknowingly strong sister.

my mom tells these stories about how i was enamored with my little sister from the moment she waddled into our lives. while i feel like i was probably a skeptical and somewhat scheming child, one look from my chubby-as-hell baby sister – with her eyes that looked like 1/2 moons and giant smile – and i’m sure i was melted beurre. (that’s french for butter, i’m feeling fancy today, ok?)

what i remember from her as a kid was that she was always happy. you know, one of those kids to whom you could give a box and she’d be pleasantly mesmerized for hours? while she was never the most outgoing, she would almost always go along with whatever activity was the gout du jour with a spring in her step.

(cat fights between barbie and her bitch friend midge – check. swinging around on blankets on our basement floor – check. making a chalk city in our cul-de-sac – check. check checkity check check.)

but more than just happy-go-lucky, my sister was/is also wonderfully quirky. as a kid, she did awesome things like wear underpants on her head and play ‘office’ incessantly for days – days i tell you – on end.

and as an adult the tradition of quirkiness continues. while she has retired the underpants-on-head routine (as far as i know anyway), i have frequently caught her walking around wearing a garden bag engaged in controversial political discussions with my dog. (ok the latter is a lie, but it could happen. everyone knows my dog is very political. and sister does wear garden bags a lot.)

at this point, i’m sure you’re thinking: “al, so she’s a bloody ray of sunshine, we get it.”

alright, fine you caught me – while she is a ray of sunshine – there is a flip side: the girl has a temper. reddening face, semi-violent outbursts, screaming matches  – she’s probably the only person i am actually scared to see angry.  i like to call it her propensity to  ‘rule with an iron fist’  – or (the less politically correct) ‘stalin chic’.

she can be overbearing and outrageously irrational and she’s wildly stubborn and unwavering in many of her decisions. and sometimes, just sometimes,  i think she wears her hair too slicked back.

but hey, no one is perfect. like most things in life, my little sister comes with the good and the somewhat less good.

but what i want you to know about her, more than anything else really,  is that she’s got unquenchable inner strength.  she’s so strong, that she often doesn’t even know it.

and yet, she always finds a way to harness her power within and come out on top.  sure, the path to get there never seems to cut her any slack, but i am always amazed that she navigates it with a sense of humor, integrity and kindness. (she’s a much nicer person than me, let’s be honest.)

so sisters are weird. we love them, but they drive us crazy. they make great sidekicks, and the worst enemies.  and through it all we somehow can’t help but wonder if they’re not the most imperfectly perfect reflection of ourselves.

so i’m thinking about you sister, in the country-that-will-remain-nameless. because man, you’re pretty cool shit.

gangsters

i think she's fun

the question that never got asked.

24 Jun

my parents have openly admitted that they never thought i’d find someone who could “keep me in line”. i’m not sure if those were their exact words, but the implication was the same: i’m a handful.

i’m bossy and stubborn, i get anxious over stupid things and i procrastinate everything. (point in case, i’m writing this at 11 am on a friday to avoid an increasingly ridiculous work situation, but let’s not get started on that.)

no one’s perfect i get that, but i think it was generally agreed that after a series of moderate to severely unsuccessful relationships that i’d be lucky to find a ham sandwich that could put up with me.

enter the most patient man on earth in a vodka and tonic induced haze. and while i know my husband is not flawless – he generally applies the perfect level of patience with my antics.

and i often remind him of the importance of patience – especially when i do things like move to india and demand we buy a 120 year old house with the one goal of  locating secret passageways. (still no luck, but the search continues.)

so when we decided that we’d like to get married, i did what any girl would do: i posted a picture of the  most beautiful ring i could find on the fridge and asked him everyday for six months if he had saved any money.

but to no avail. nothing. nada. zip.

after months of harassment about getting engaged, in typical al-is-a-handful style,  i was almost 100% sure that my husband was either a) going to smother me in my sleep or b) run away with the dog in the night. god, i was even starting to annoy myself.

but then, one rainy day mid-week last april he was picking me up at my sister’s work and i noticed he was fidgeting a lot.  and i mean guys, he’s a giant man – if a giant  man fidgets you take notice.

he wouldn’t take his damn hand out of his pocket, so i immediately thought that maybe something was going on. however, only about a split second passed before i had convinced myself that there was no way he had saved money for a ring. i’m a frigging detective – i’d have figured it out if he had.

sitting in the car about 5 minutes later getting ready to go he turns to me and whips out the ring. he said:”i love you” and proudly showed it to me. i, ever eloquent and graceful, responded with: “oh my god this is not happening” as i smacked the car dashboard with my hand.

i probably stared at the ring for a good 30 seconds in disbelief, saying nothing.

eventually, i managed to say: “can i put it on?”

and this is more or less how we got engaged – in a car on a rainy day with neither of us actually asking the other anything.

what amazes me to this day is that he somehow managed to stay patient throughout what i can only imagine was an annoying six months. and on top of that, he truly surprised me.  it’s moments like this that prove i’ve met my match.

so why am i telling you this amazingly ridiculous story?

well, in celebration – naturally. ye old ball and chain has finally booked his indian sojourn! in 2 months we will once again be together – for three weeks at least – him being his wonderfully patient self and me being the handful that i am.

yee haw bitches!

first comes love, then comes engagement, then comes a pre-legal wedding freak out

the deal is sealed. (legally we got married in a randoms living room for $200 bucks, did i forget to mention that?)

what would dad do?

19 Jun

if i think about the many things i have learned from my dad (e.g. how to drink wine out of fish-bowl sized glasses, why mushrooms must always be eaten with steak and pounds of garlic, how to love dirty southern rock and motown like your life depended on it), the thing that resonates the most is this: “al, always do the right thing.”

ya, it’s a mantra that is somewhat soap-box-ish, but it seems to have sunk into my sub-conscious and i just can’t get it out.

i’ve made my mistakes, but when it comes to the things that really matter i have always tried to think “what would dad do?” – usually knowing right away what his moral code would say.

and while the right thing is almost always the much more annoying and difficult thing –  in the end it’s usually the best choice. god, i hate it when my parents are right.

so when i thought about how to mark father’s day, you know, to say “thanks dad” for the moral compass and all, i knew that my usual embarrassing pictures en masse approach just wouldn’t work.

my dad, while clearly strong in morals, is weak in picture-taking abilities. and he totally does it on purpose, making a stupid face or talking while we’re all saying “cheese”, so as to sneakily ensure all shots are terrible.

where’s the fun in sharing those pictures, i ask you?

so after several minutes of procrastinating by hunting cockroaches and eating cheese slices, it hit me that what he would like, more than anything, are some shots of my charming neighborhood. monsoon season and all.

these are for you dad – happy father’s day from a land far, far away. xo

just around the corner - almost home!

i can't read bengali, but it's probably something political.

the construction site is looking a little swimming pool-esque.

it's raining. it's flooding. the view from my bedroom balcony.

walking to the main road, hoping the rain holds off.

no choice but to go through it.

the ones we try to forget.

13 Jun

this post has nothing to do with india,  so if india is all you care about well here is your update and feel free to move along:

i worked this weekend (balls) and then went with the americans on saturday night to eat pizza, drink imported chardonnay and watch saved! (god shouldn’t be taken seriously anyway, right?) on sunday i didn’t exit my apartment. and, um, frankly i only left my air-conditioned mecca of a bedroom to feed myself and pee – because i found a baby cockroach in my ensuite.

end scene.

so i feel like i’ve talked a lot about things that have happened over the years that were a little bit funny and a little bit failure.  but there is a column (c), a third party in the trilogy of awkwardness, a tiny footnote if you will, that i have not mentioned thusfar in our relationship.

oh hello, regret.

the idea of regret has been on my mind lately – as often happens when you have too much time and only bastard reptiles to talk to. in recognizing my need to bring it up, i have been carefully thinking about how to handle the topic with ya’ll – because i made an idiotic promise to be honest.

well the honest truth is that i lied.

simply put, as much as i know you’d get a kick out of my most cringe-worthy situations, i can’t unlock the these moments of deep regret for you with unabashed honesty. it’s like…archeology.  the details of my regrets are hidden away one on top of the other, each one changing the last, interwoven with 27 years of secrets and untruths. over time, i’ve even tried to systematically forget them. (and failed, of course.)

i will remain mum on the details, but i will say that my most heinous regret-inducing situations are thematic.  they all come together around one thing: a lack of compassion.

i know this will wildly shock you, but i am a little bit selfish. so while others may regret things like not following their dreams,  i’ve always been perfectly perfect at demanding better for myself.  it’s when it has come to demanding better for others that i have historically taken the back exit and slipped out unnoticed.

in other words: i sucked.

i’ve given friends their marching orders in terrible ways, i’ve disregarded love, i’ve said horrible things to wonderful people, i’ve not stood up when i knew something was wrong, i’ve let jealously lead to cruelty and i’ve been untrustworthy. a lot. and these are just the things i can remember.

and while im not – admittedly – upset with the outcome of most of these situations (for reals, i’ve had some totally shit friends who needed to go), the path to get there was all too often devoid of basic compassion. it’s this that i regret more than anything.

but you know, life is tricky, tricky, tricky and somehow it always finds a way to come back around with the good and the bad. or as some may choose to put it: karma’s a bitch.

about six years ago there was a a fairly life-altering, earth-shattering, mind-blowing (and other hyperbole hyphened words) incident that shook everything i thought to be right and true to the core. sadly, it involved some of the people closest to me, and was so devastating that i’m not sure i will ever be over it.

it changed me. full stop.

listen, i’m not saying i deserved said injustice, but i choose to think that i had a lesson to learn – and karma decided that this was how i would learn it.

i realized is that whether it’s the worst experience of your life or just some minor infraction – it feels completely hideous to be denied basic human compassion. just by way of all being people, we each have the capability to anticipate the feelings of others, but often do not have the kindness to apply it. if you think about it, witholding compassion is really a betrayal of the highest form.

so this is what i learned from my personal implosion: sure, kick the bitches and the losers to the curb, say what you think and don’t back down – but do it in a way that applies the golden rule. be kind, be empathetic, be compassionate.

while i have been taking my own advice for a few years now, i  still f*&k up from time to time when it comes to being compassionate.  so the regrets, sure, they still trickle through.

and i guess i’m ok with this – because i’d be really bad at attempting perfection:  i fall down too much in public.

and that’s a story for another day, kittens.

i googled 'compassion' out of desperation for a picture, and this is the first hit. enjoy.

eight if by sea.

10 Jun

tomorrow is the 2 month anniversary of my self-imposed indian exile. i know – time flies when you’re having fun, right?

i am a terrible packer, so as soon as i hit the ground in april i realized that i had forgotten some key items. things like bug spray, medication, mosquito net and so on. yes, i realize i’m an idiot – thanks.

my parents rushed to the rescue, and today – as a fitting marker of my 2 month milestone – i received the package they sent in april with these key items.

enjoy a peek into what they sent:

it's here! it's here!

oooooh excitement mounting...

the booty!

eye drops! thank jesus!

look at all this good stuff

how cute is my dad sending bug spray with a COMPASS?

i heart packages

hannah beat my parents out of the first package, so the lesson we learn here is the expediency of air mail.  one week by air- eight if by sea.

thanks family!