tripping the life unbalanced

Friday, August 25, 2006

home again home again

Jiggity jog.

So we're back from a mondo trip to New Hampshire to visit relatives and soak in the clean New England air. 13 hour car trips do not a happy child make. But she coped very well and I was proud of her (and of her grandma, who had the insight to bring along a Princess dvd to play on the portable player for the trip there and back. My sanity, however, could use a detox).

New Hampshire, New Hampshire, how beautiful you are! With your rolling hills and very cute little towns. But DAMN you are whitey white. The whole time we were there we saw maybe one person who wasn't Caucasian. Made me crave the multiculturalism that is Toronto.

All in all, it as a great time. Lots of playing for Alice and her close-in-age cousin and lots of laughing for her mama. We were staying with my cousin who is close in age to me and with whom I spent a lot of time in my formative years. They live deep in the heart of rural New Hampshire, so it definitely was a case of city mouse visiting country mouse with Alice. While her cousin was content to wander around their lakefront property totally naked for most of our week there, Miss Alice would meekly ask " I need shoes?" whenever she stepped outside.

Matt stayed home to work so I got to spend a lot of quality time with Miss A. And while it was so very very tiring at times, it actually was even better than I thought. We got some important bonding in, which I think we both needed. She greeted me every day with a smile and a big hug, throwing her arms around my neck and saying things like "I love it when we vacation together." Pure sweetness.

We're off again tomorrow morning for a week away at the cottage, and I'll try to update from there. Adios, summer!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

guest blogging

I'm representin' over at Martinis For Milk today.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

#27. Lunar Park

Once again, I have fallen behind in the 'ole 50 book challenge. Actually, what has happened is that I am cheating on the challenge, and behind the challenge's back am reading a whole bunch of great books that are more up my alley then some of my original choices. So - coming soon to TTLU - a new feature entitled "SIDE BAR: books without guilt". I have already read quite a few books to make notes on, like Lee Martin's The Bright Forever, and Jennifer Egan's Look At Me (both of which I loved). And I somehow have to sound the alarm for the most excellent The Secret History by Donna Tartt (which doesn't really need an alarm sounded, as it was published in 1992 to great acclaim. I'm just a bit late to the party, that's all, and thought I should alert any other latecomers: do not miss this gift of literature).


So yes. Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis. Unlike many of my friends in the early 90s, I did not read and fall deeply in love with Ellis' famous novel American Psycho. I was well aware of its presence, of course, and was nudged and encouraged constantly to give it a shot. I didn't, for no real good reason. It might have helped to read it before reading Lunar Park. Using the "text within a text within a text" trick, this novel sees Ellis as novelist as unreliable narrator as character. In the book, the "character" Bret Easton Ellis has recently married and become step-dad to his new wife's children. He is actually also the bio dad of one of the kids, which leads of course to many inner struggles with fatherhood and father-fear.

I don't really want to go into the plot much here (as it's also kind of a ghost story and I don't want to throw you off course), but will say this: Lunar Park was one of the best books I have ever read about masculinity. You may have gathered from my earlier entries that I am not a fan of the male midlife crisis books. I am sure that many of them have their own validity and fully admit that this is a bias that isn't based on anything substantial. Just that I'm sick of hearing those stories.

So when I find a book like Lunar Park full of all the cliches (older man has affair with younger girl and hides the affair - as well as his coke habit -from his new wife), and I LIKE IT, well then I just want to shout it to the world. I expected to hate the characters and instead felt sympathetic and even found myself nodding along "yes YES I know what you mean." How can this be? Well, for one thing Ellis is master with words and that helps. There's also just something about his self-pitying and self-absorbed character in the book that I identify with.

Go get this book and see for yourself.

see me?

So in thinking a lot more about my post the other day about photos of me and how I hate them and how I don't have many photos of Alice and I together and bloggity blah blah blah, I decided to finally share myself with you. I know some of you have already braved that line and posted pics of yourself and to you, I tip my hat. I was inspired to try and do a workable photo of Alice and I, to show myself that YES I could get a good pic of us together. It could happen.

Well, it could you know.

But, of course it didn't. 'Cause this is the best one of the bunch:

At least you see my hair. And maybe her eyes closed. In case you can't figure it out, I am kissing her forehead.

I guess that's good enough for now.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

on not liking what I see

Last week while at the cottage, over many glasses of wine one night, we pulled out the family photos. Are you familiar with this family ritual, or is it just specific to mine? We started looking at the photo albums that chronicle my parents' marriage and their four children, at various stages and in various homes throughout the 70s, 80s, 90s, and present. There are the requisite first steps and Jolly Jumper shots, the teen years of sourness and smirks, and the more recent years of marriages and grandchildren. We reminisced and giggled at bad hairstyles and boyfriends and girlfriends come and gone. Amidst the laughter and the yelling ('cause it ain't a get together with my family without the yelling), something became really clear to me. Something that has been simmering beneath the surface with me, bugging me like a hard-to-reach itch that has bothered me for years: I hate looking at myself in photos. As in truly truly HATE it.

The main problem is that I am apparently unable to look human in most photos. And if I manage to look human, then I almost always look uncomfortable or pissed. The worst ones are the group-posed ones, where I try to smile. It's like I am just not made for photos. My sister and I were joking about how she always looked as if she stepped out of Gap ad in the family photos and I was the one constantly scowling with a dark cloud over my head. And while it certainly made me laugh at the time, it also makes me feel somehow disappointed in myself. I can't quite explain it properly, but goddamn it doesn't feel good.

A few years ago when I first teamed up with my business partner we had some corporate photos done of us while on a trip to Banff. Picture it: the mountains as backdrop and two grinning women posing in their proud black suits. Should have been picture-perfect, except once again I had a hard time mastering a smile. I warned the photographer ahead of time, saying "I don't know how to take good photos, and I always look uncomfortable." And he was all "oh you'll be fine" until he realised 50 shots in that I really REALLY can't do photos. At one point I was perched awkwardly on a ledge at the beautiful Banff Springs hotel, overlooking the glorious mountains, trying to pull off a natural smile but looking as if I was sitting on hot burning coals. "what is WRONG with you" the exasperated photographer kept asking me, "just RELAX", he of so much encouragement only minutes earlier. If only it were that easy for me.

This dislike of seeing myself in pictures has also intensified since I gained some weight after having my daughter. I have been able to get most of it off now, but it's like I gained an unhappy voice in my head along with it and now I can't get rid of it.

It's not like I don't know how to laugh and giggle and generally have fun in social situations (despite this stupid moniker I gave myself on a whim one night - CrabbyKate - I'm not always that crabby). Perhaps it's the permanence of photos, the fact that forever in time is locked a picture of me looking uncomfortable. I prefer to remember the memories as they play out in my mind, instead of having a permanent record of me looking ill at ease.

The absolute worst part of this is that I don't have that many pictures of Alice and I together. I have a few - a few that I cherish and hold close - but not the hundreds and hundreds that other mommies I know have. I realise this is unhealthy - I hate this and I truly wish I did not care. "But you look great" Matt tells me. "And how beautiful is any picture of a mother and daughter." But I can't bear to see myself looking awkward and unhappy, not in a picture with her. She is everything happy about me, everything good and everything beautiful. And I can't stand to have her so close to something that has become agonizing to me.

I hesitated to write this post, as it is almost too revealing for me. I had to get this out, though, no matter how exposed I will feel. Maybe by writing this I will come to see how ridiculous the whole neurosis is. Something has to give, because I most definitely do not want to pass this on to Alice.