When I first found out that I was pregnant, after the hysteria passed, I got excited about all the things I would teach my child. I would teach them everything I had learned. I could show them what I knew of the world. I planned on teaching them the same lessons I was grateful to have learned, and would avoid the lessons I wished I hadn’t learned. But mostly I wanted to teach them the lessons I had learned too late; the ones that stung a bit too much to learn the hard way.
Let me tell you, I was a way better parent before I had kids. I was so wrong.
When I met Halia, she let me know quite quickly that we weren’t going to be following my plan, because she had one of her own. Halia has been my mirror since the day she was born, showing me how the world sees me, and always demanding to know the next step. She’s kept me accountable for my actions, and forced me to be the best version of me I could be.
And then I met Leona, who had a much different lessons for me.
With Leona I’ve learned to stop and look around. I’ve learned it’s okay to wander away from the crowd and dance when there’s a good beat, even if I’m the only one who can hear it. I’ve learned the joy of being silly, and that it’s okay to wear plaid, florals and stripes in the same outfit as long as you have the attitude to go with it. I’ve learned that everyone has a story, there’s an adventure to be found anywhere, and that there’s no limit to the number of times she can make me question my own sanity.
So, having learned all these valuable lessons, I did what any parent would do: figure out a way to profit from their children.
I’d like to thank everyone for coming and for those who helped make yesterday possible. It’s been a fun ride and I’m humbled by the love and support I’ve been given.
A big thank you to Christina at Starving Artist Gallery Cafe for hosting the event and for her help throughout the planning process. Everyone raved about the food, the art, the venue. Everything was perfect. And I even came home with some new art.
I can’t even express the gratitude I have for Becky, English Dave, and Del Davis. Without their encouragement I might not have even tried. I don’t know how I got so lucky to have such amazing friends as these three, but I am so grateful I do.
Thanks goes out to John, who still loved and supported me even when I was going (still am) a bit crazy with stress and being stretched too thing. And of course for the flowers.
A big shout out to Chris Brown, an amazing and talented musician who played the entire event. I received so many compliments on the music. I’ve always been a supporter of musicians, but this guy… I’d fund every project he wanted to work on if I could.
I was asked quite a few times yesterday if I am working on more books. I am working on the second book in the Halia and Leona series with the working title “Mom, who’s Mackulay Culkin?”
My little brother, when we were young, liked to come up behind me when I was busy with other things, kick me, push me, or just plain bug me, and then skip away giggling. It was annoying at the time, but hind sight has that thing it does…
The last two weeks were tough for me. I was completely overwhelmed with everything. The list of things piling up, piled higher. Work was more stressful that it should have been. My personal life was more stressful than it should have been. My personal demons were clawing at my back. I felt like I was drowning. I felt like nothing was going right. At one point, I stopped in the middle of doing three different things, and for the life me, I just couldn’t remember why I was trying as hard as I was. What was I trying to accomplish again? Why was it so important? What’s the harm in just giving up?
That feeling stayed with me for a few days. People told me I looked tired, and I was tired. Tired right down into the very soul of my existence. My uphill trek had gained me no ground. I felt like a fraud, spouting off bullshit phrases about working hard, being positive, and progress being progress.
I almost didn’t make it, but I dragged myself to the first yearly meeting of my writing group, and had my battery recharged a bit when I received applause for the upcoming book launch and by being with those wonderful, creative people. And then had it charged a bit more when I learned I had come in third for the poetry writing contest.
The next day I went to my publishers office, and held the proof copy of my book in hand. I saw the pictures, the text, and my name on the cover. It was one of those ‘Holy shit, I did it!’ kind of moments.
Progress is kind of like my little brother. It arrives quietly without ceremony or a parade. It sneaks up on you when your busy doing other things, kicks your ass, and skips away giggling because of the trick it played on you. Hindsight being what it is, I still think he’s a jerk.
Over the last two years, I’ve re-written my life. I’ve bought rental property and renovated it. I’ve started two businesses. I’ve gotten a book published, and am working on more. I’ve done so many new things, learned so many things, and grown in so many ways. Sometimes we all need a kick in the ass to remind us to look behind us for a moment.
Work hard and don’t be an asshole.
Stay positive. And if you can’t be positive, smile till you are.
Progress is progress, no matter how small.
My daughter punched a dolphin.
“Nope,” she said, pulled back, and slugged him.
And that’s when I learned my lesson, she is not like my other daughter. She is not like me. I needed to travel 4, 500 kilometres away from home to figure that out.
My youngest daughter and I made our first trip together earlier this year, and chose to start out small and hit up Cuba, mostly because it was something much different than my oldest first trip, but partially because I was concerned that a longer flight might make my always fidgety Squeakers lose her shit.
We had a wonderful time, did lots of fun stuff. Tried lots of new things. But as usual with travelling, the lessons I learned were my best souvenir.
The first thing I learned is that my youngest talks a lot. I mean, a lot. Way more than I could keep up with, or even respond to. Sometimes she was talking to me. Sometimes it was to strangers nearby. And a lot of the times, she was just talking for the sake of talking. A few times I would interrupt her, hearing that she was in the middle of a conversation that I didn’t know she was part of, question if she was indeed talking to me, only to find out that I was not a part of the conversation and I was not even invited.
Which begs the question, why didn’t I ever notice that before? Well, it’s pretty simple. I couldn’t hear her before. Unless she is in some sort of distress, and then she can reach decibels that can shatter glass, my youngest speaks softly. She’s just plain drowned out at home. Besides the music always playing at home, and my oldest who just overpowers her, I just didn’t hear my little one. I don’t talk unless I have to (and even then, I have no issues with letting an awkward silence bloom in favour over having to fill it with surface banter) and yet my youngest doesn’t stop.
The second thing I learned is how much better she is at meeting people than I am. She introduced me to so many people and told me their life stories. There was a family who she formed such a bond with that not only did she become best friends with the youngest daughter, but somehow managed to learn the names of the entire family, learn their history, where they lived, and even organized a party at their house when we all got back to Canada. She had interesting conversations with these people, in both English and French, and I’m struggling and failing to make small talk.
And the last and most important thing I learned was that she is a details person. I am not. Neither is my oldest. Give me the big picture, and I’ll fill in the details as I go along. My oldest is the same way. I tell her the plan, maybe a few pointers if it’s something new, and away we go.
My youngest needs the details. She needs to know what size of bus we’ll be travelling on. She needs to know what we’ll eat while we are there. She needs to know as many details as I can pour into her head. She needs to know that when we are swimming with dolphins, the dolphins will be close enough to touch her.
Our morning started out great. I had told her the night before that we were swimming with dolphins. She was excited the next morning as I re-told her the plan.
Get ready, get on the bus, go swim with dolphins.
She was still excited when she learned that I neglected to inform her that she would be wearing not only a life jacket, but goggles as well.
And she was still excited when she learned that I neglected to inform her that we would need to walk down a long pier, climb down a ladder, and float around in an ocean pen with dolphins.
But when said dolphins started to swim towards her, invading that detail-seeking bubble of hers, well, that was her final straw as far as missing details. My soft spoken little girl lost her shit.
Fearful that I might not know this detail as well, she let me know, in ear piercing shrills, that the dolphins were getting closer.
And when that failed to somehow get my attention, she then proceeded to try and drown me by attempting to climb up and stand on my head.
And when that still failed to get me to move into action, to whisk her away from these dolphins who apparently didn’t know the plan either, she socked that misbehaving marine mammal right in the nose… er… beak.
Don’t worry, there were no animals harmed in the making of this life lesson. The dolphin simply swam on, unfazed, and even returned later to try again. Squeakers and the dolphin made up and hugged it out at the end.
But my lesson was learned. I made sure she knew every detail of our adventure the next day. She was an expert on snorkelling the next day, without ever having donned flippers.
(Except for the star fish. But that’s another story.)
I keep the music just a bit lower now and make sure I listen to for her little voice so she doesn’t become drowned out again.
Last year I started a new adventure, which ended up rewriting my entire life. Sixteen months later and my life barely resembles what it used. The only mainstay are my girls, and my closest friends who stuck with me through the growing pains.
Part of my adventure was to actually do something with my writing. I opened up a new site that will feature my novels once they are written. But in the process, I actually wrote a children’s book as well. It has been sent to the publisher, edited and translated into French. The goal is to have it done this summer.
Lucky for me, the publisher allowed me to use my good friend to do the drawings, which I know will mean it takes longer as he is a busy guy, but it also means that it is a complete labour of love for my two lovely ladies who inspired the story and keep me going. Being that it is a labour of love, I’ve decided to release the children’s books under my own name and not my pen name.
Below are a few rough sketches. I can’t wait to see the finished copies. He is so talented, yet so humble.
Your word is beauty. Find it. Create it. Discover it. Cherish it. Share it.
My new site is live. I will be promoting my creative work there, but still post recipes and personal musings here.
Please take a look and follow there as well.
My Facebook fan page is the same, but will reflect the new site going forward.
Find me on twitter at @H_L_Jaden