The WORST

The WORST - SweetMadeleine.ca

It’s no secret that I am a feminist .

And every time I say that, every time, I feel like I need to give the whole “not-a-bra-burning-man-hating-feminist, but the radical, believes-woman-are-different-from-but-equal-to-men-and-should-be-afforded-the-same-rights-responsibilities-and-freedoms kind.” I mean, I love men. How can you not? Men are fantastic and capable and sexy and different. We women are not the same as them, but we are equal to them -and our society’s legislation, pay, and view of our bodily autonomy ought to reflect that.

I mean, that’s the goal, right?

Sometimes this perspective makes me feel that I am somehow personally responsible for upholding some sort of women’s  code. I feel that we should look out for each other. I have incredibly close relationships with the women in my life. And there are aspects of my life that only other women could truly understand.

So when you see a tipsy woman being led out of a bar by a stranger, you get her in a cab and make sure she gets home safely. If you see someone being harassed on the street or in the subway, you speak up. When there is only one other woman in a predominately male workplace you empathize with her. You meet the eye of the woman whose newborn is having a hysterical screaming fit in the grocery store line up and you smile broadly and make conversation. You lighten the load, however you can, whenever you can.

It is as though I feel like my behavior is somehow reflective of all women, so I do my best to be strong, kind, compassionate and respectful. For the greater good!

But then…then there are those times when we let each other down. This my friends, this is one such story. And beware, I will be using language.

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It began because I needed an oil change.  We know my history with oil changes, yes? I was planning a trip to Calgary – which didn’t end up happening for a variety of reasons – but I wanted to have the oil change done just in case. I am not fucking around with oil changes anymore, y’all.

So Olive and I were out and about one day, and happened to pass a place called Jiffy Lube.

“Why, this looks like an upstanding, reputable establishment!” I said to myself, “I shall avail myself of a (probably) much needed oil change!”

I pulled up in front, a mechanic-looking dude stuck his head out and I told him I wanted an oil change. Because it was true – I really did! So he motioned for me to drive forward and said “Okay ma’am, just go ahead and pull into Bay #2.”

I admit it, he ‘”ma’am”-ed me. Now I know a lot of people have trouble with being called ma’am, but I am all over that shit. Yes ma’am, no ma’am. Love it. I have zero problem being a ma’am.

But then Bay #2 opened. And, uh, have you guys ever had an oil change? (If not..um…do it or your car will explode at some point.) They make you drive into this building which basically has no floor, it’s just an open pit with two skinny little tracks that you are somehow supposed to maneuver your car tires onto without accidentally driving off and pitching you and your daughter into the dimly lit abyss below.

I started to sweat.

Dude motioned to me again. I could almost hear him through my windshield, “Ma’am? Ma’am just go ahead and drive into Bay #2″

Oh, oh is that all? Great. Grrrreat. No problem. Ha! Here I come!

Look, I am a competent driver. My last car accident was when I was 18, I drive standard, I am aware and alert and I am pretty confident about my abilities, grandma-speed not withstanding.

I stalled.

I STALLED. Do you want to know how long it’s been since I stalled my car? I can remember it exactly, it was like five years ago when we lived in Squamish and one of Adam’s hot baseball buddies who I had a crush on asked me to drive him home, and when we got into the car he was sitting so close to me that I could smell his cologne and good lord I got so flustered that stalled not once, but TWICE. It was fantastic.

So. Definitely just went ahead and stalled the car for the first time in five years, at which point two more mechanic-dudes popped their heads out. Lovely! An audience. Now all three were ma’am-ing me and motioning for me to drive into Bay #2. I KNOW, guys! I know. Bay #2. Lay off!

I was trying to laugh it off and wave like, “Ha ha! Oh gosh, how terribly funny and not at all embarrassing! What was that? Ha! Look out! Here I come into Bay #2! Just like you said!”

So I got into good ole Bay #2 with no further trouble, and was even feeling a little proud of myself for not pitching Olive and I into the abyss, though no one else seemed that impressed.

Cynics.

All three of the dudes are sort of looking at me quizzically now, I have piqued their interest you see, and the first guy tells me that the oil change will take fifteen minutes which absolutely astounds me because in Squamish this would be a four-hour affair leaving me wandering aimlessly around the industrial park while it was completed. Fifteen minutes? Glory be.

So I am sitting there in my car, they are doing whatever they do under the hood and below the car in the abyss, and Olive is sitting in the backseat playing with fifteen blown-up surgical gloves with faces drawn on them (long story) when the first guy comes over to my window.

“We’re going to do the 82-point inspection now, okay Ma’am?”

I nod and smile, Great! 82 point inspection! That sounds like a lot of things, right?

So he checks a few things and does something to the tires and then comes over and asks me to show him my high beams. And there was a few moments of bewildered silence on my end while I processed this request because this was suddenly sounding like the beginning of a low-budget porn, and then I realized he meant my brights – does anyone else call them brights or is high-beams a thing? I mean who is wrong here, the mechanic-dude or me –  ma’am?

When I finally figured out what he meant after a few seconds of awkward silence, I was feeling pretty flustered because of the stalling, and then the thinking I was in a secret porn and then the jargon, and when I went to switch on my brights high beams guys,  I turned on my fucking wipers. And of course the windshield was dry, and for a few terrible moments the only sound was their dull, dry screeching – “Whoooom wheeeem. Whoooom wheeemmmm. Whooom Wheee-” – echoing off the walls of the empty Jiffy Lube while I scrambled frantically to shut them off.

And then there was silence. I quietly turned on my high beams. The real ones this time.

Then there was a pause, and he was like “Oooookay….! Now could you just shift into neutral and take your foot off the brake for a second?”

So I did. And sat there for a few moments, and he stood there for a few moments. I was starting to wonder what was up so I looked at him and he was standing there with this pained, deliberately blank expression on his face, and he says, very slowly, “Ma’am…isn’t that your foot…still on the brake?”

And fuck. FUCK. It was. It TOTALLY was.

And at this point I am sure he was thinking, “Holy shit – how did this lady get here?” and I am just sitting there stewing in my mortification and feeling like I am just letting down every single woman in the world and chalking up another strike in the “idiot-women-can’t-drive-or-know-anything-good-about-car-stuff” column. And he looks at the brake lights, silently nods, and walks away. I am pretty sure he skipped like fifty points of the inspection, but I think at that point we had reached some sort of tacit agreement to just wrap this thing up. Enough for one day, you know?

I was texting furiously with my brother while all of this was going on. Partially to have something to do with my hands (you know when you feel super awkward and then suddenly your hands seem to just sort of flail uselessly like you’ve never used them before? Texting solves that) and I am giving him a play by play of this TERRIBLE situation and he is writing incredibly helpful things like,

“This is a beautiful thing happening right now.”

and

“There there, little miss. Don’t fret. Why don’t we just call your husband to come get you?”

and

“Just lean on the horn and then get the hell outta there”

Eventually the saga ended. I decided to go for broke and keep the oil-change-of-shame going by rolling over and being up-sold some sort of weird fancy oil? That’s better than the normal oil? It lasts longer or something? I honestly don’t know he kept asking me things and showing me things and ma’am-ing me and I was just avoiding eye contact and muttering,”Mm hmm. Yep! Great! Ok. Yep! Sounds good! Synthetic! Oh good. I see! Ah. Mmmmm!”

And finally I paid some amount for the pleasure of being regarded as an idiot housewife for fifteen of the WORST minutes of my life and the finally the doors of Bay #2 (fucking Bay #2! My nemesis!) opened and suddenly the path to freedom lay in front of me. Right there! Once I got over the abyss, of course!

I put on my lights the FIRST try and shifted into gear and did NOT stall in the slightest, and then I just drove the eff out of there as fast (yet safely) as I could.

And it was DOOOOONE. Guys, it was over! And I was feeling pretty great honestly because like I know that I am a competent driver, I am also pretty confident in my intellectual abilities, and besides – the oil change was done! One thing off the list! That’s the important part here, right?

Until , that is, I turned the corner and there was a giant semi blocking my exit out of the parking lot. And there wasn’t enough room to turn around between the two rows of parked cars on either side of me, not even if I broke out the most Austin Powers-y of sixty-point-turns. So I did the only thing I could, and to all my fellow women, please know that I am truly sorry for what happened next.

The three mechanic-looking dudes were standing outside having a smoke break, and I swear I could feel their eyes following me as I drove, smiling and waving, past them in fucking reverse,  all of the way out of the parking lot, up the block, and slowly, slooowly, around the corner.

Like I said. Different, but equal.

Equal.

Right?

Tables and bathrooms and knobs – oh MY!

I have taken a break from house projects for a while, but here are some I was wrapping up before the Christmas holidays.

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First was our table. I sold the one that was graciously left by the old owners, George and Betty, and scoured Kijiji for a secondhand oak pedestal table. I quickly found one that at $50 was just what I was looking for. Not much to look at, but it had a leaf so it would be able to stretch to accommodate most of my crazy family, and it came without chairs, which was just what I wanted because I had plans for the chairs. Big plans, y’all.

Here it is in all its basic oak glory.

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I used a homemade chalk paint recipe to paint the pedestal base, and sanded the top and stained it with Minwax Special Walnut. A few coats of poly helped protect it from the destruction of my darling toddler.

Behold!

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Once the table was tackled,  I spent a great deal of time lurking around the Habitat for Humanity ReStore searching for single wooden chairs.

I wanted to find six of all different shapes and sizes, and paint them all the same colour. Mismatched but unified. Same-same but different, you know?

Unfortunately, single wooden chairs in solid shape are surprisingly hard to find, and I tapped out at three before the holidays swarmed me and I ran out of time. I’ll hunt down at least one more when it is warmer than -45 here.

I got to work on the three chairs I did find (for around $8-10/ea) and primed them , then painted them Youthful Coral by Behr.

(erm, excuse the dead tulips)

 

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The coral colour looks a tad awkward with the sage-y green kitchen walls, and if I had some sort of genie situation happening, the kitchen and hallway would be painted a creamy white like BLAM. But, since I am stepping off the DIY hamster wheel, this is one of those “who cares’ situations.

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Now, onto the bathroom.

Damn, Betty. You really committed to this black and yellow colour scheme. I decided that fighting against it was pretty much impossible. I mean, the toilet is yellow. Kind of hard to hide that. So instead I fully embrace its retro charm. There is a whole website devoted to saving pink bathrooms, and I didn’t want to risk angering some likeminded black/yellow bathroom aficionados.

I painted the woodwork white just to lighten it up a bit, and I find that white is always a really crisp, clean look for a bathroom. A bumblebee print from Etsy (that was actually featured many months ago when I wrote about our experience being engulfed by real life here) added a playful nod to the colour scheme.

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Over many many (many) evenings I slowly tackled painting all of the hallway trim white, and in two smaller updates, I replaced our dull copper kitchen cabinet hardware with colourful mismatched painted ceramic ones, and rearranged the furniture in my writing room to accommodate an easel to keep Olive busy while I write.

(old knobs)

(old knobs)

New knobs!

New knobs!

 

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So there you have it! A few odds and ends, wrapped up.

Get it

My birthday was yesterday, and I turned 31 years old. Olive and I are in Invermere, BC, surrounded with the sweet chaotic crush of four of my five siblings, and their various significant others and spouses.

It was an amazing birthday, and I think 31 is going to be a fantastic, strong year. Especially if yesterday was any indication. I mean, I got to second base on my birthday – that’s got to count for something, right?

We went to Fairmont Hot Springs in the morning. It was so unbelievably blissful to sink into that hot water and feel everything white-knuckled in me just let go. It was exactly what I needed.

Olive was sort of unnerved by the situation at first, clinging to me for dear life like a little monkey. She has been in pools before but maybe the steam or the heat or the mountains looming above us were throwing her off. She was nervous and clutched at me, insisting I not allow her feet to touch the ground. She stayed that way, silent, observant, and grasping, for the first fifteen or twenty minutes, protesting any small shift in position or minute movement of my body.

Part of me wanted to push her out – go! explore!  Don’t you see how cool this is?! I wanted her to enjoy herself and have fun, and not spend her time clinging to me for dear life. I wanted her to have adventures and play with her aunts, and I wanted to hear her infectious belly laugh, but I tried instead to just sit with her. I let her hold onto me, and I reassured her. I talked about what was happening around us. I encouraged her to take small steps on her own, but I held her close when she would refuse, saying “I can’t! No, I can’t!”

I kept her feet from touching the ground for as long as she was scared.

Then the talking began and she started narrating life around us, as one does.

“We in a pool! Outside! This guy wearing his bathing suit! And this lady wearing her bathing suit, too! This is trees, and this is mountains. This kid in his bathing suit and this kid in her bathing suit, and I in my bathing suit, too!”

As her usual non-stop chatter resumed, she gradually started exploring more and more, releasing her iron grip on me and taking her first tentative steps towards her aunts and Grandpa.  She’d return back to me every so often, climbing back into my lap and excitedly telling me about her adventures.

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Lately  I have felt a lot like she did yesterday. I have felt terrified and scared, and unsure of my step. I have been clutching desperately to anything I can. Anything and anyone solid around me. Any comfort I can grasp. I have been doubting myself, doubting my ability to take those first few steps on my own.

I can’t! No! I can’t!

I often wish that I could take care of myself like I take care of her. Gently, with patience and understanding. Speaking kindly and with encouragement. Focusing on the positives, and always making sure she is eating well and sleeping enough.

She was scared, but she sat with it until it passed and she felt braver. We both trusted that she would. I often think that Olive has a lot to learn from me – particularly the virtues of clothing, and the limitations of the word “no” – but this is one of many areas where I am trying to absorb her approach to her feelings, and my reactions to them.

I see it mirrored so strongly in myself lately, that fear, and I am trying to begin to summon the same gentleness and understanding in response to it.

After discovering a shallower pool, playing puppy, and running back and forth between all of us, finally letting go and laughing, enjoying herself just like I had hoped she would, she walked back to me. Her step was steady and sure and she looked so strong, confident and happy. She came to sit in my lap and hugged me tight.

Then her hand strayed to my chest and she started patting me gently on the boob.

“I touching you boob, Mummy” she said in a throaty whisper. “I touching you boob in you bathing suit under the water.”

Boom. Second base. I’ve never felt luckier.

31, kids! Thirty-one.

Bring it.

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