The comment I was writing on Rebecca’s post about learning to drive blew up and turned into its own blog post, so I posted it here instead.
1994-1996: Getting my G1
Growing up rural (I lived in a small town, then moved out into the country in 1996), I got my G1 as soon as I could. I was a nervous driver (even on country roads) and my mother was a nervous teacher so we didn’t drive together till I had some more practice – and lessons – under my belt. If I was going to be able to go anywhere on my own, I needed to be able to drive. I wanted that freedom – and a social life – so I learned to drive.
1997-2000: Not fully licensed, and not caring
When I moved to Oshawa to go to school, I had my G2, but didn’t have a car. My now-husband did and sometimes I rode with him. I always had a bus pass so I could get where I needed to go without relying on him since we were on different schedules.
2000-2003: Had my license, but rarely drove
Once I started commuting into Toronto to work after college, I was willing to let my license lapse – transit got me where I needed to go. The larger city roads and more aggressive drivers (never mind the 401!) scared the crap out of me. My mother insisted I get my license and I signed up for two batches of refresher lessons (one in Oshawa, one in Belleville) when I was 20-ish. I got my full G license before my G2 expired, which was a relief – I didn’t have to worry about it anymore. I took my final G test in Belleville and not Oshawa because I was more familiar with those streets, having driven them on my own as a teenager. Those roads didn’t intimidate me. When the tester told me I passed, my first reaction was “ohmygawd, REALLY?’ – I had really messed up the parallel parking (something I’ve never even attempted since).
When we first moved into Toronto proper back in 2000, I didn’t drive. City streets still scared me and everyone was so aggressive! Sean had an ancient vehicle (a 1982 Chevrolet Caprice) that I was intimidated to drive as I had been spoiled by power steering and newer cars. I relied on the TTC and made Sean drive us places when we needed to go somewhere that was transit-unfriendly.
2004-2008: Getting braver
The Caprice was retired and Sean had purchased a 1994 minivan at the end of 2003 – nearly five years before we had our first child (we were lugging a lot of stuff around then I think). We were engaged to be married and had recently purchased our first house in Scarborough. I still relied on transit, but after a few successful trips to the grocery store in the van, I started to drive around my neighbourhood more. Errands got done with less nagging and everyone was happy.
2008-2012: Early Parenthood
When Flora was born in 2008, I stayed home with her for the first nine months. New babies are intimidating to take on public transit when you’re still dragging so much stuff with you (I wrote about my experience with that). We had a newer car by then (the minivan gave up the ghost in 2007) and Sean usually drove to work and I took transit. Once I was off work, I insisted that I get the car at least once a week so I could leave the house with Flora without it being a complete production. My driving radius got a lot bigger during this time. Necessity and boredom create bravery and Flora and I drove to the mall a lot. I drove the 401 more, but mostly heading out of the GTA.
2012-Present: Commuting again
We left Toronto in 2012 and were back to being commuters again. We bought a second car. Even though I commute to work by GO train, I do a lot more driving than I ever have. Short distances mostly, but lots of them. I drive to and from the train station, do my errands and get Flora where she needs to go. I’m not nearly as nervous anymore, but Sean is still the alpha driver at our house. When we can drive together, we do, but it happens rarely outside of visits to our parents. I drive the 401 when I have to, but I don’t enjoy it.
I guess I should thank my mother this Mother’s Day for
forcing strongly encouraging me to get my driver’s license. Without it, I wouldn’t have the independence I do now, even though I live in an urban area. Thanks Mom.
When we were packing to move into our new house back in 2012, I kept finding dimes. They were everywhere: in boxes, on the floor, in the couch cushions. I assumed that Sean wasn’t keeping track of his loose change but my mum had a different theory. She told me about the superstition of finding dimes in random places. According to the superstition, these dimes were signs from someone who had passed on. A little glimmer to catch your eye and remind you that they were there.
Sean and I both lost our fathers as teenagers. I lost my grandmother soon after that. If the superstition was ever been based in truth, we had people in the Great Unknown that could plausibly be thinking about us as we embarked on a new phase of our lives.
I didn’t give it much thought until we started to unpack at the new house and dimes started showing up again. Logically, it was because they had been packed with all the other things that make up our home, but they kept showing up in weird places. If the superstition was true, someone wanted our attention.
We settled into our home and the flurry of dimes also settled. I find the odd dime next to a pair of discarded pants or at the bottom of my purse. Sensible places that can be explained away. Sometimes I wonder, but mostly I don’t. Those dimes make sense.
I’ve recently started seeing dimes in odd places again. I see them most often on my walks from my car to the GO train platform and back again. I cross the street from one parking lot to another to get to the platform. I don’t see them in the same place every time. I’m usually deep in thought, but I catch the silver glimmer in the corner of my eye and I pause to see of it’s a dime or just a random shiny thing. I confirm what it is and continue on my way.
I’ve always followed the “find a penny, pick it up and all the day, you’ll have good luck” rule. I know it’s another superstition but I’ve always figured it can’t hurt to try to get some luck. Especially when the next line is “find a penny, leave it lay and bad luck you will have all day”.
I never pick up the dimes.
Maybe more dimes are showing up now that Canada has retired pennies and everyone hates nickels*. Maybe another harried commuter has holes in his pants pockets from all the loose change he’s carrying around. Maybe someone I care about is trying to make their presence known from the Great Unknown.
If that’s the case, what do they want?
* Does everyone hate nickels, or is just me? Ever since I was a kid, I’ll see a nickel overlapping a dime and think it’s a quarter. Then I look closer and see the smooth outline and I realize I don’t have enough change for the desired trinket of the moment. Quarters go in gumball machines and grocery carts. Nickels add to your worth in tiny increments. Nickels are obviously not useless but that beaver mocks me when I’m looking for a caribou.
Did you know that yesterday was The United Nations International Day of Happiness? I didn’t either until I got to work yesterday. My office building was celebrating with smiley face balloons and cupcakes in the lobby.
I really love smiley faces. I was the girl who dotted the Is in her name with smiley faces from ages 10 to 12-ish. I still sign cards with my name and a little smiley underneath. When I add Flora’s name, I do a little flower for her. (I still haven’t figured out a symbol for Sean, which feels like unintentional exclusion.)
In honour of yesterday’s International Day of Happiness, here is a list of things that make me happy right now.
- Picking up Flora from school.
When I get to Flora’s school, I can look in a large window and see the kids in the after school supervision room. I love finding Flora in the window and watching her go about her business. It’s gratifying to see who she is when I am not hovering over her. I also love the huge tackle-hugs I usually get when I get to the classroom door. They make me feel loved. (I’ve written about this before. The card I mentioned in that post? Still on my cubicle wall.)
- The snow is melting.
I just wish it would stop snowing so that there was no more snow that needed to melt. This winter has been hard and like most of my North American pals, I’m more than ready for it to be over.
- The jeans I’m wearing right now.
Sounds ridiculous but it’s true. I like the colour, the fit, and the feel of them.
- Seeing older couples being affectionate together.
When I see older couples holding hands, or one half holding the other’s arm for balance, or generally being affectionate, I think “I want that”. I want to part of that couple who sits in their matching rocking chairs cracking jokes with each other. I want to have my hand held when I’m 90. I’ve let Sean know this, and I hope we pull it off.
- Seeing the lake on my way home from work.
My GO train station is near the lake and we pass through parkland and nature right before we stop. When I sit on the south side of the train, I can look out the window and gaze into Lake Ontario. It makes me feel centered and calm. Now that the days are getting longer, I get a better view of the water. It’s a nice way to end off my train ride and move into my evening.
I am grateful for these and so many other little – and big! – things that make me happy. What making you happy these days?
I spent a lot of time Not Writing this year and I am disappointed in myself.
The year started off strong and I even signed up for a month-long online writing course. (Alice Bradley’s The Practice of Writing, which appears to be offline for updating so I’ve linked to her blog’s homepage.) I really enjoyed the course, but struggled to find the time to do the daily exercises. When I got really behind I would go through rapid-fire catchup sessions while Sean would get Flora ready for bed. Then, when my colleague went on a two-week vacation, I was doing a lot more at work and was just too burned out to write at night. Truthfully, there were probably only a few tough days at work, but once you start on a Not Writing cycle, it’s hard to get back to Writing. I acknowledged that I didn’t give the class the attention that it deserved – or that I wanted to give it. I have the PDF of all the class notes in my email, and I haven’t had the guts to even look at it yet. The course ended more than six months ago. I felt so ashamed that I couldn’t just keep up and keep going.
I still feel ashamed, and I’ve wondered many times over the last few months if I should just give up writing and blogging altogether. I’m still here so I haven’t given up yet. but I haven’t figured out how to shut the negative voices up and just write anyway.
I’ve written a few blog posts and percolated ideas since then. I know logically that writing leads to more writing, which leads to better writing. I know I need to kick my own ass to actually make the time. I’m hoping the dark and bleakness of winter will encourage me to write. If not that, football season and Sean’s new Xbox will keep me away from the TV so that’s one distraction gone.
So many people/magazine articles/advice givers/general know-it-alls say ‘get up an hour earlier’. I already leave my house by 6:30am on weekday mornings. In a perfect world, I’d be leaving at 6:15 and getting out of bed at 5:45am at the latest. I just can’t get up any earlier. I stay up after Flora goes to bed so that I can have time to myself. Sometimes I even spend it with my husband. (Blasphemous, I know.) I’m usually in bed by 10pm, and I need that sleep. I need that time with my husband. I need that time with myself. I want to use more of that time to write, but lately, I’m just so burnt that I can’t do more than read or play The Simpsons: Tapped Out. Those hobbies are valuable to me too. (I started playing Tapped Out because Sean was playing it and I wanted to see what the fuss was about. Now it’s one of the few video games we’ve ever played together, which is a nice bonding experience.)
I’m writing now, so I’m hoping that will open the floodgates a bit. Maybe that will lead to some actual Writing. Or just plain old ordinary writing. I’m willing to start small.
< Insert long, drawn-out, trite paragraph about how I haven’t been writing because I’m too busy Enjoying My Summer With My Family here. >
That’s not quite how not writing here for two months happened, but at least that’s out of the way now.
This time of year feels filled with promise but I still end up with a case of the sads. I love summer and the end of Labour Day always feels like such a buzzkill. I’m the one reminding everyone that summer isn’t actually over yet, but everyone else is too excited about their new school supplies and sweaters to really listen.
My end-of-summer melancholy comes with a side of guilt too. My birthday was on Saturday and Flora’s is on Wednesday. Hello thirty-five and five. I shouldn’t be sad around my birthday! And I really shouldn’t be sad around Flora’s birthday either. I like birthdays and getting older doesn’t trouble me much (yet – let’s be honest here). Because this year’s birthdays are significant (in that they’re easily divisible by five), I keep looking at the two of us and wondering “When did it all happen? Am I a good enough mum? Do I do enough for my family?” Then I wish for the proverbial Room of My Own so I can just sit down and create something without everyone hanging off of me and listening to the soundtrack of my choosing. I need to toughen up on that stuff. If I wait for the time to be right, I will never make the time to write.
/end tangent here.
It’s been a good summer. My tomato plants grew taller than Flora and are now drooping over their cages. I’ve harvested the yummiest cherry tomatoes ever for a couple of weeks. I will probably have tomatoes of various types well into September if not longer (weather-dependent of course). We spent lots of time outside. We barbecued. We were just another Ontario family enjoying their summer. And I’m not ready for that summer to be over yet.