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Monday, June 30, 2014

RIP

My Grandad passed away just over a week ago.

He was 90 years old and when I first heard a few weeks ago of his unwell state, I was certain there would be a medical breakthrough and immortality would be discovered through him. There was no man more stubborn. But Death won, as He usually does, and my Grandad passed away.

His illness and passing has revisited a number of complex emotions in me and thus, it has been a difficult week. Due to good 'ol family drama, I have gone through blinding anger, terrible remorse and unhealthy doses of anxiety since last Saturday. Mix that with the hectic last week of school for my kids, and you get the emotional, sleepless lump that sits at this keyboard. But more on that later.

Francis (Frank) Ambrose Christian was one of thirteen kids to my Great-Grandparents. Like many other men his age, he lied to enlist to fight for his country during WWII.
(If you find interest in War stories, there's a wonderful online project my Grandad was included in here.)
Grandad worked for the post office, and in the RCMP. He married my Nanny, Pauline, in 1948 and their only child is my Dad. They were married 55 years when she died of cancer a decade ago.

My Grandad kept an extremely active social life right up until the end: volunteering at the veteran hospital, playing cards, and travelling the world with his second wife. He was also a member of several organizations, like the Knights of Columbus. Apparently they gave him a proper send-off at the funeral.
Due to family drama, I could not attend the funeral, but chose a beautiful arrangement to be sent. Had the flower company not royally screwed up my order, my bouquet might be sitting on his grave now, but instead, they did and it is not. My cousin went to the service however, and informs me it was lovely. (I <3 you Scotty).
My relationship with my Grandad was strained as I became an adult, and we always found each other awkward, I think. I certainly admired his no-bullshit attitude toward life, even if I was never quite good enough for him.
Grandad and I, 2010.

Favorite memories of Grandad:
- Images of him lounging in his mushy lazyboy that always looked as though it was swallowing him.
- That he always took us around the corner for donairs at Toulany's when we visited, or brought it to us if he came out west. He reminded us every time that it was he who signed Bash's papers for him to stay in Canada, even though we'd heard it many times before.
- He and Nan would always buy some Little Debbie desert for my brother and I when we visited. And because they wouldn't eat it after we left, they always made us eat like, 7 of them.
- Every visit, right up until the last, included a tour of first: the tiny living room, which held a barrage of framed photos of all his various encounters with famous politicians or some such person, and then the rest of the house, even though I could walk it in my sleep to this day.
- His smell. Even though we had our differences, thinking of his smell brings tears to my eyes.
- The fact that his birthday often coincided with Thanksgiving, and if we were over in Halifax for it, we would have a turkey dinner and decorate his cake with "Happy Franksgiving."
- The fact that children were so completely alien to him, he once gave my kids random slices of processed cheese as a snack one visit. Oh my God, that was hilarious. I think I have a picture of that, it was so ridiculous. Hang on. There it is:)
Hahahahaha!!! Oh, the confused look on their faces is priceless. I think it was the first time they'd had processed cheese.

Yeah, my Grandad was a hard man, but he was very proud of his accomplishments and the many influential people he met throughout his long life. I love you, Grandad, RIP.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Under Pressure

I am learning it is a lot of pressure being a "working in an office" mom. I spend time on my appearance in the morning when I really didn't before. My last job required jeans and a t-shirt, and they were lucky if I brushed my hair. Now that I need to actually look presentable and professional, I spend time doing my hair, putting on makeup, selecting my clothes, etc.
And my daughter is watching me. Every stroke of the hair straightener or the mascara. Every tug at my waistline or turn in the mirror.
And the thought occurs to me: I am her female role model.
And I am terrified.
I have fleeting memories from my childhood of watching my mom putting in her contacts and applying her lipstick. I remember my aunt staying with us briefly and being fascinated by the act of her styling her hair and doing her makeup. Even a friend's older sister getting ready for a date was amazing to me. All these instances had an impact on my womanhood, and all became things to strive for. I was never comfortable doing my hair or makeup-it was never something I was very good at. I feel like it was never something I was shown how to do properly. Even now, my skills are adequate at best.
With Ella now scrutinizing my every move when it comes to my physical appearance, I can't help but wonder if I am doing things right. When we exercise together, or do yoga together, I'm perfectly relaxed. There is no wrong way of encouraging healthy living, but a girl's idea of how she wants to look versus how she does look versus how the world perceives her appearance versus confidence versus...you see what I mean? It's a shit-ton of pressure to realize that my unorganized morning routine might become a memory she refers to regularly when it comes to taking care of her appearance.

By scrutinizing my own appearance, am I teaching her to criticize her own? I want her to grow to take pride in herself, but how do I teach her the difference between dressing and disguising?
I have no problem teaching her about (not necessarily) feminism, but female empowerment and gender equality and confidence, but now that she is getting older and is becoming conscious of how she looks, I am suddenly mortified. Teach her to box? No problem. That girls rule and boys drool? Done. But teach her the difference between makeup brands? No clue. The gaps in my "female" education are more blatant every day. How important is it that she know how to match up an outfit to its accessories?
How can I prevent my insecurities and deficiencies from becoming her own?

So far, I am taking it one day at a time, explaining why I wear whatever makeup or clothes I do, hoping she'll get a positive message from it:
"Mama, why do you put the black stuff on your eyes?"
"I just like how long and dark it makes my eyelashes - it makes me feel good."
"And how come you pull those little hairs out of your eyebrows? That doesn't look like it feels good..."
"No, that is so Mummy doesn't get mistaken for a Tauntaun."

*sigh* I know I'm doing some stuff right. If I wear heels, she wants to wear heels, skirt and skirt, and so on. So I suppose even if right now she is just learning to love being dressy with her Mum, that's okay, right? We can tackle the serious stuff another day.