"Change, when it comes, cracks everything open."
Dorothy Allen

Friday, February 28, 2014

Missing You

This week, I say good bye to another friend.  We were just starting to connect, after years of being work acquaintances.  Just as I start counting her as a friend, she gets a super opportunity and BOOM.  Another friend moves out of my life.

Don't get me wrong.  I am crazy happy for her.  And maybe a teeny tiny bit jealous.   She is getting a new opportunity, a fresh start.  A new home, a new city, a new job.  Sweet ride.  And she deserves it.  She's a hard worker, and smart.  Sarcastic, and funny, in a biting, endearing way. 

She and I met about 4 years ago.  We were both involved with the charity committee, and had similar interests in the types of charities- autism, animals, stuff like that.  I helped her out with some donations that she needed for a personal friend, when I was cleaning out some  of Sawyer's nursery stuff.  She got me tickets to a couple shows that I wanted to see.  We would chat about our mutual love of Deadliest Catch and we both mourned when Captain Phil passed away. 

So, we were friendly, but not really friends.  We chatted, but didn't really talk.  You know what that's like.  You probably have 5 or 10 or more people in your life like that right now.  We all do.  And they are great. 

But sometimes, there is something about a person that makes you want more.  It makes you try a little harder and go a little further and move you from the acquaintance to the friend idea.

With me, it happened at a wedding.  It was a mutual friend getting married, there were lots of us there.  After dinner, we all moved around and sat at each other's tables.  She came over  we started chatting.  Of course we had had a couple of drinks, which just lubricated he conversation.  We started shooting the shit, and soon, the conversation turned to heavier topics- family, kids, health, happiness.

She  told me that she read my blog.  She started talking to me about my writing.  What it meant to her, what she liked.  What she wanted to read.  Over and over through the years, every once in a while, we have this conversation.  She once told me that if she ever wins the lottery, one of the first things she wants to do is buy me a little farm, and set me up to write.  She has flat out told me that she thinks that my writing should be shared with the world.  She has done more to encourage me that she will ever know. 

This year, we have started working together.  We joined the same dart league.  We started hanging out together outside of work.  And the talking was really talking.  I decided that we were friends.  And just like that- we were. 

So, now she's leaving.  Another friend, moving on.  Sigh.  Is it me?  Do I smell?  Or do I just inspire others to greatness?  I prefer to think the latter, although the truth is that this has absolutely nothing to do with me.  

Today was her last day of work with us.  And today, magically, I got something in the mail.  She made me a gift.  She gave me one last message, one designed to keep me writing.

It's a glass mug. 
One side says "Write like a motherfucker" in the shape of a heart.
The other side says "Cracks in the Armour" and it has my tag line :
"Change, when it comes, cracks everything open".
I cried when I opened it.  As soon as I saw it, one side then the other, I cried.  The thought, the effort, the care that went into this- it overwhelmed me.  It broke my heart.  I am crying now as I type this.  The mug, of course, is right beside me, full of Earl Grey. 

I chatted with her through the day.  We played out first ever game of "Battle of the Jams".  It started with me posting a screenshot of my iPhone playing Sweet Child of Mine to Instagram.  She matched it with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, "Fishing in he Dark" (a personal favourite of mine). 

I texted her, and raised her "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald".  She landed a vicious blow with "The Gambler".  I countered with "Total Eclipse of the Heart".  On and on the battle went, each song flying back and forth with screen shots from our personal playlists.  Finally, after I had thrown out "Devil Went Down to Georgia", "Bat out of Hell" and "New Girl Now" all in one round, I did concede defeat to her outstanding "Magic Carpet Ride" and "Low Rider".  I can't beat the 'Wolf.  :)

She even gloated with a victory shot on Instagram. 

I highly recommend this.  It's a great way to fill in those lonely spots in an afternoon. 

It was a great way to say goodbye.

So, I wanted to write this little note, to say thank you. 

- Thank you for being one of the most hilarious and sarcastic people I know. 
- Thank you for hanging out with me and making fun of pretty much everything in oh so many meetings.
- Thanks for the drinks.  All of them.  And there was quite a few.
- Thanks for the laughs.  Even when I wanted to cry, we always seemed to laugh.
- Thank you for the texts.  When Sebastian was sick, when I was sad, when things were good, and when things were bad.  You sent me messages and I knew that someone was thinking about me.
- Thank you for buying about 40 scarves off me.  :)
- Thank you for being you.  For being so wickedly smart, open and welcoming.
- But mostly, thank you for believing in me.  And for telling me.  Again and again and again.  When I didn't believe myself, when I would quit, you always told me to go back.

I wrote to you sometimes.  I knew you would read.  So sometimes, when I wrote, it was for you. 

Good luck Nicole. 

Rosie N. Grey
The N stands for "Nicole, come back and see us, whenever you can".

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Update- My Year of Living Fiercely

As I posted in January, I have decided that my word for this year is fierce.  No more procrastinating, no more timid.  Time to be bold and wonderful and a little bit crazy.  To take chances and leaps of faith.  To believe, beyond reason and common sense that amazing things are coming my way, and then make them happen. 

So, yeah, that's the idea.  It might be a bit milder than that, but still, when I dream, I like to dream big.

It was one of the biggest compliments of my life when a friend of mine related a conversation they had had with their significant other.  She was talking about me, and the idea of having a word to define and direct your intentions for the year.  She told him that my word was fierce.  She started talking about some of the things that I am doing and have done- the polar bear dip, the zombie run a couple of years ago.  Tattoos, and autism, and travel and hair and fun.  And he said to her "She sounds pretty fierce already.  What else can she do?"

I have decided to take that as my motto- what else can I do?

  • I started the year off right with a kick ass New Year's party and a polar bear dip.  Crazy super fun. 
  • I have blogged already, but I have started my Sebastian sleeve.  Two down, a bunch more to go. 
  • We had a spontaneous road trip to go and visit Bill.  He and I were chatting one Saturday afternoon as I was cleaning as it slowly began to sink in that he was lonely.  And I felt like having some beers with a friend.  Geoff got home at 530, we were on the road by 630 and were there by 1130.  We had some laughs and fun, and came home the next day.  As always, we hit a snowstorm, and the drive was hell.  But it was worth it.  It always is.  Spontaneous is fierce.  As fierce as my friendship. 
Visiting Bill
at Bill's after a 5 hour late night drive
  • I got my hair did.  Sherry pulled it out and had it done a beautiful purple and red.  It is starting to wash out now, but the blonde underneath is giving it a really nice texture and pattern.  I am digging on it hard right now.  And anyway, it gets redone next Saturday. 
purple, just after it was done

before and after hair- but you can see it is lightning up

  • I shot a bow and arrow.  My good friend and I went to the Toronto Sportsman Show.  They had an archery range.  I rocked that shit.  It was super fun and I would definitely do it again.  I also rocked out the skins quiz the taxidermy booth had.  Nailed 11 out of the 12 skins.  I think I impressed the lady and even Shannon looked at me and said "Well done". 

sweet ass truck at the sportsman show that I wanted.  It had skeleton fish on it.
  • I have cleaned like a mother fucker.  I purged Sawyer's room, Sebastian's room, the living room, the bathroom and the rec room.  I have made 5 big trips to Value Village, and sold about 4 things on Kijijji.  I am still working on my room.  Coming up next is the linen closet, the kitchen and the storage in the basement.  Still the work of months, but it is incredibly cathartic.  It makes me happy to be in my space.  I haven't been able to say that for a long time. 
Sawyer's before and after

Sebastian's before and after
  • I have been trying to reconnect with friends.  Not even necessarily old friends, but friends that I have right now, that I have just started to drift from.  People that I have talked to for months and years, but haven't really talked to.  I have had cups of tea, and vodka and sodas, and snacks and shared hugs and tears, but more laughs and inappropriate jokes.  It's been amazing to share my stories, to be heard and to hear them in return.  To learn about the amazing people in my life.  One of the best choices I have made to date. 
  • I have gone keto.  I am dedicated and immersed.  I have researched and read and experiment and failed and succeed.  My biggest accomplishment was a 100% keto dinner for my family, including Barb and Bill last Wednesday. It was Race Car Day ( a holiday Sawyer created to justify getting presents and having turkey) and it was perfect.  I've lost some weight, and I feel better than I have in a while.  It has given me some focus and some direction.  I have 2 resident experts in Barb and Bill, and I reach out to them often.  Bill and I flip pictures of our meals back and forth on a regular basis.  Even Geoff is liking the keto food, although he still enjoys the carbs on the sly. 

  • I did the 24 hour challenge.  I jumped in a snow covered trampoline in my Wonder Woman underwear and posted it on Facebook.  Yep.  Did that. 
  • Sang karaoke.  Horribly, wonderfully well.  Posted that on Facebook too.  Of course I did.
I decided that I needed to help this girl sing Hotel California.  She didn't ask for help.
 I just decided to do it out of the goodness of my heart.

So, what's next?  What else can I do?

I am looking to rededicate myself with work.  I have been working and being focused, but I need to find my passion again.  I am thinking of ways to do that. 

I want to write more.  That's always there.

I want to clean up my finances.  Take some pressure off, and make sure I am stable for the near future.

I want to keep cleaning.  I want to start changing.  I am gonna paint like a crazy person. 

I want to talk to more friends.  I want more road trips.  I want to start exercising. 

I am getting Sebastian back into clean eating.  It's a bit overwhelming, so this will be a slow process.  Sawyer too.  God help me.

But mainly, I am keeping my eyes open.  Trying to find those opportunities for fierceness that the universe is just going to present to me.  The ones that if I blink, or look the other way, I might miss.  Those are the opportunities for greatness.  I want to pursue bliss.  Happiness.  To smile every day.  To laugh. 

Fierce, motherfuckers.  Fierce.

Rosie N. Grey
The N stands for "not stopping now". 

Sebastian's sleeve

You all know about my year of living fiercely (yes, I will blog an update for you soon).  I am trying to grab life by the balls, and do the shit that I have been putting off, or delaying or plain avoiding.  I have been cleaning my house, working on my diet, making plans for the kids, working on my finances and finally, tattooing.

Well, not tattooing, getting tattooed. 

For years and years, I have wanted a sleeve.  I decided a while ago that I would dedicate each arm to my kids.  Sebastian is my left, Sawyer is my right.  I have their names tattooed down the inside of my arm, wrapped in ivy (Sebastian has dragon flies and Sawyer has lady bugs). I put them there so that my kids would always be inside my hugs.  I have my nicknames for the kids tattooed on my upper arm- Halloween Boy for Bastian and Roller Coaster Girl for Sawyer. 

So, I have known that I was going to do this, and I have thought and thought and thought about it.  I knew I wanted a combination of things that make them happy, that remind me of them, that are inherently representative of them to me.  Sawyer, being only 5, is still developing.  I am slowly figuring out what makes me think of her (chances are, there will be a bottle of ketchup on my arm for her) but we have years for that to develop.  Sebastian however, is going to be 13 this year.  And some of the loves of his life haven't changed yet.  There are images so iconic for me of him, that I cannot look at them without him popping into my head and heart.  So, I knew, I was good to go. 

In December I started talking to my tattoo guy, Justin about a sleeve.  I had always struggled with what this was going to look like.  The images I am picturing literally have no association to each other, other than Sebastian and his love of them.  How do you link a hippo and a remote control?  How are Wonder Woman and an octopus similar?  How do you fit a puzzle piece, an anatomical heart and Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas together?  The mish mosh I was picturing in my head was bordering on horrifying. 

Justin then had a very simple, but profoundly calming conversation with me.  He told me that was what a good artist was for.  He said with a sleeve, you can do one of 2 things- either pick a theme, with images similar and related, or you can pick a style.  With something like mine, the fact that Justin is drawing and designing the images, means that a similar style would be applied to them.  And it is that style that will unify the image. 

It was so simple.  But it made complete sense.  I signed on immediately and made my first appointment. 
Sally from the Nightmare Before Christmas- done January 30, 2014.  Sebastian has loved Sally since he was about 2 years old  He has a stuffed Sally doll that he takes with him everywhere (or at least he used to).  Sally still has the tag on her from SickKids hospital, when she went into the operating room with him for his open heart surgery.  The sleeve wouldn't be complete without Sally.

The count from the Castle Dracula sign on Clifton Hill in Niagara Falls- done Feb 22, 2014.  The count is one of Sebastian's favourite images.  We literally have dozens of printed pictures of the count around our house.  We typically drive down Clifton Hill at least once a week, so that Sebastian can see the count. 

My tattoo (super fresh, still oozy and wrapped) and the sign that inspired it all.
So, for each month of this new year, I have gone back to visit Justin and we have started building this work of art on my left arm.  Justin knows Sebastian, his step daughter babysits for us, and he has heard Sebastian stories for years.  I don't know why, but that makes a huge difference.  It makes it personal, not just for me, but for him.  When he finishes a piece, he asks me if I think Sebastian will like it.  When we changed Sally a little bit, and left her hair dark instead of red, he thought about and wondered about the impact to Sebastian and if he would be ok with it (fyi, he was.)  I don't know if he knows how important it is to me that he keeps Sebastian in his thoughts when we do this together, but it really is.  I know it's not a requirement, but the fact that it happens....well, that's why I go to Justin.  That's why I pick him, again and again.

So, as I fiercely charge further into 2014, I am bringing a bit more colour and decoration into it with me.  And when Sebastian sits beside me on the couch and quietly traces his fingertip along Sally's face, I remember why I am doing this.  When he saw the Count yesterday, and his eyes got big, and his mouth dropped open when he realized who it was on my skin- I realize that this is a good thing to do. 

It doesn't hurt that I like the look of that much ink in my skin.  It's kinda badass. 

Rosie N. Grey
The N stands for "next up- who knows??"

The Ugly Things that I Love

Part of my drive and directive for this year is to purge and organize my home and my life.  I thought I would be able to do it in one month, but here we are, almost 2 months into the new year and I am still going.  I have slowed down a bit, and it maybe slipped a bit in my priorities, but I am still at it.  There is a constant donation pile in my living room, and as I run across things that need to go, I add to it religiously.

The rooms I have worked are still looking pretty good.  I know it still drives some of my friends crazy, since there is still a lot of stuff, but it is a significant improvement for me.  Gone are the piles of "things" in the corners.  Everything has a place to go, and if it doesn't have a place, than it goes.  Clean up is so much easier, and even the kids are helping (a bit) to maintain it.  I have a bit of peace of mind, and I feel as though I am accomplishing something useful with my time.  I am feeling better and lighter in my burden.  My year of living fiercely is paying off. 

The driving force in my purge, my over-riding mentality, I guess you could call it, is how I classify the objects in my home.  If it isn't beautiful, or useful, out it goes.  Beautiful things, while they may not serve a practical purpose, are inherently important to my well being.  Sometimes, I just want to see something lovely.   Something funny.  Something sweet and full of memories. 

And what I am realizing is that in my world, my beautiful things are sometimes ugly. 

I am running across things that I want to keep.  Things that if someone else viewed them, would be pitched out on the first go-round.  But for me, these are invaluable and will remain with me for as long as I am able.  They are the ugly things that I love.

I got this angel figurine from my Aunt Barb when I was very young.  I was born in April, so of course it says "April" in her little sign and has a fake diamond around her neck.  It was always in my bedroom as a kid and it has stuck with me through all my moves as an adult.  It is prominently displayed in my living room, on top of my china cabinet.  I don't know what it is about it that appeals to me.  It's orange, so it matches my living room.  But I think it is more the rampant familiarity of it.  I know her little face, I have seen it for probably 35 years.  I am unaware of her most of the time, but when it came time to purge the area, there was no question at all that she was staying.  She got cleaned up and dusted and put right back where she belongs.
This happy little ghoul is a favourite of mine.  Back in the early 80's, my mom, and every other mom on the planet, was into pottery and ceramics.  I don't think my mom actually did this one, I think it was a gift from the guy that ran the ceramics studio.  I remember it being out at home, and my brother was terrified of it.  I would torment him relentlessly with it, until I would start to freak myself out with it, and then we would both be scared and have to call our mom downstairs to turn on the light and walk us up, since we were both too afraid to move. 
My mom was doing a purge of her house a couple of years ago, and gave this too me as a potential Halloween decoration.  He is way too special and amazing to come out just once a year, so instead, he lives by my fireplace permanently.   

When my grandma Rosie died, we all got some things of hers that we wanted to keep.  There were a few little knick knacks I wanted, and I got them.  I also got her farm house dining room table, that will never go anywhere, but it is beautiful, so it doesn't belong on this list.   But the one thing I did get, and treasure to this day is her turkey platter.  Yep, giant turkey on it.  Horrible paint job that doesn't stay in the lines (check out the tail feathers). 

It is huge and awkward and doesn't fit on any shelf.  It can't be put in the dishwasher and the nooks and crannies are a bitch to clean.  But EVERY SINGLE TIME I cook a turkey, I serve it on this platter.  And I always, always will. 

Ok, this one perplexes people the most.  Yes, it is a giant walnut with a little squirrel on top.  Yes, it is horrible and ugly.  I heart it soooooo much.  Last year, when we were doing our Scholarship for Sebastian garage sale, my mother unpacked this little gem and put it out for sale.  I was a brave girl, and I let it sit all day.  I gave the rest of the world a solid chance to own it.  When no one bought it (I was shocked to the core!  Who wouldn't want this??)  I quietly and casually scooped it up and brought it into my home.  I have been mocked more about this, than any other piece.  I don't care.  I love it. 
I remember how my dad, at Christmas, would eat walnuts out of this.  There was always a silver metal nutcracker in there, and he would just sit and crack them, one after another.  Sometimes I got some too. 
It's been dropped and cracked and repaired.  The squirrel has come off and been glued back on.  It is still wonderful and beautiful to me.  He's not going anywhere.  

 I am honestly not too sure where these dishes came from.  My mom, I think, but maybe my grandma.  The pattern reminds be of a turtle's shell.  Geoff used to complain about them and how ugly they were, but I think he has just accepted that they aren't going anywhere anytime soon.  When I am dead, he can donate them.  Or bury them with me.  I don't care.  I think they are gorgeous.  I will serve on them for years to come.
I have been in lots of houses that are much more beautiful than mine.  Homes that are full of beautiful things, beautiful in the classic sense.  But some of those homes leave me wanting.  I don't feel the personality of the people in that home pulsing through the items that they have chosen to surround themselves with.  They have picked things arbitrarily, or so it seems, because they were on a page in a magazine, or a pretty display in a store.  And that's fine.  It's just not me. 
I love walking into a house with hidden treasures to find.  If someone has a curio cabinet, or a display rack, I am instantly enamoured.  I will look and find the hidden treasures.  The dried rose tucked in the corner.  The silly mug that doesn't match the rest of the china.  The handmade picture frame surrounded by crystal.  All things that don't belong, and yet, are likely the most important things there.  They matter.   They are the ugly things we all love.
Rosie N. Grey
The N stands for "not ugly to me".