The trouble with ambition

Sometimes my big dreams scare me. Do I even care that much? The amount of work in my head to get there, it’s exhausting just thinking about it.

Sometimes I fantasize about calling it. Accepting that I could serve tables for as long as my body would allow. Sometimes I think I would be happier.

Why do I feel this compelling urge to create and build? If I just ignored it, would it go away? Or would it return in a more grandiose fashion, with even more tentacles of complexity and pressure and allure? Is this ambition? Is it aspiration? Whatever it is, it’s hard to set aside. Why can’t I just be satisfied with all that already is?

Why is it not enough? 

I wish I’d spent more time with my dog. With my dad. I have the chance to spend more time with my mom and know that she needs it and would benefit. And yet. I bury myself in continued work. I guess maybe I am a worker. I enjoy creating and making things. I want self-satisfaction. I want to help others though, too. I cringe far away from emptiness. Would helping others fill me up? What would fill me up beyond the random carbs I’ve been noshing down daily and hourly? What nourishment can I give myself? Is this hormones? Is this midlife malaise? Is this fear?

Is this just a drained personal battery? Where can I plug myself in? 

It’s too late to go back. What I had wasn’t all that bad. I didn’t love it, but I could do it. 

Lack of structure. Lack of help. Lack of discipline. These are my enemies and also the very thing that I seek out. Freedom has no structure. It cannot be contained. Help implies other people when at my heart maybe I’m more a lone wolf. Discipline is the one I can’t quite crack. I have it even on the worst of my days, but sometimes it fails me. Today it’s failing me. I hate and resent my discipline on many days; it doesn’t let me off the hook very often.  

I can hear my father saying, “Just count your blessings.”

I am alive. My family loves me. I have a family to love. I have clothes and a car and a house. “I’ve got a good mother,” just like Jann Arden says. Facing forward, just be myself. 

Gotta keep going.

Could it really be this simple?

Guest submission by Danielle Baker.

Last summer my husband and I went for a hike up a local mountain. It wasn’t anything wild or daring, but it was new to me – and it had been some time since I’d done anything strenuous. Standing next to the car and looking up at where we were about to hike (which I found out later was actually behind me) felt daunting. I had no idea what to expect from my body; if I would have enough energy, strength, or stubbornness to make it to the top. Okay, well actually, I knew I would have enough of one of those things. 

As we headed into the forest, I felt the slight temperature cool against my skin. The canopy of the old-growth reached overhead and all around us plant life flourished in its damp, dark shadow. Thick carpets of moss stretched out over boulders the size of cars that were scattered on either side of the trail as we made our way along the meandering – and misleading – flat approach. 

Only a few minutes in, the trail rose abruptly in front of us and climbed up through the natural steps in eroded tree wells and large grippy rocks that just happened to be in the right place at the right time. This trail was not carefully manicured with special attention given to those short-of-leg, as I am. My husband’s long stride took him confidently and effortlessly up through these steep and muddy sections. To his credit, he always turned back to offer me a hand, but usually, I had already wedged a toe into some precarious nook, thrown an arm around the trunk of some young tree, and was inelegantly but effectively heaving myself up to the next level. 

Grace has never been my strong suit.

I was ten when I was unceremoniously signed up for my first dance class. I had already gotten my period and I towered over the other students. I was gangly and awkward and everyone around me – I was pretty sure – had started dancing in the womb. Just old enough to understand and with an instructor just mean enough to tell me, it was clear that I didn’t belong, that my body didn’t move properly, that I was never going to be the Sugar Plum Fairy. I might have gone to only six classes and, yet, thirty years later and topped out at 5’4, I am still that uncomfortable in my body much of the time. The only thing that alleviates that feeling is being outdoors where being capable is valued over being poised – and I am capable as fuck. 

There is very little for me that is as confidence-inspiring as problem-solving around the limitations of my body in the outdoors. Once, while hiking alone I came to an icy rock ledge that was too tall for me to get a leg up and too slippery for me to get any grip on. I was stuck but I wasn’t going back. I took off my huge pack, hoisted it onto the rock, and then flung myself penguin style onto the ice and skidded across it to where the trail continued. I was so elated – and then immediately disappointed that no one had witnessed this incredibly competent, yet extremely inelegant, act.

Multi-day hikes, where I haven’t showered, my hair is greasy and glued to my head like a bad combover, I’m slightly bloated because the dehydrated food never really gets to the right texture before I inhale it, and my clothing is chosen purely for function over fashion, are unequivocally the most beautiful and happiest I feel in my skin.

This backyard day hike with my husband was eliciting these feelings.

I was surprised to feel the strength in my legs as they pushed me further uphill, the capacity in my lungs, and the willingness of my mind. About halfway up we encountered the base of the sheer granite wall we would eventually come out atop and I marvelled at how it felt to weave my body through the overlapping and ill-placed boulders at its base. I placed one foot after the other at unusual angles and reached across to grasp a rough spine with just enough grip to pull me forward. I thought, ‘look at me go!’ And I mentally high-fived myself. 

When we finally stepped out of the forest and onto the lookout, I was elated. The breeze swept over my damp skin and, although I was only standing at 800 meters, I truly felt on top of the world. I took in the view,  then asked my husband to take a photo of me to commemorate my achievement. I stood there, proudly grinning for ear to ear thinking, ‘look at me in my fucking glory!’

Click. That click changed everything. 

My husband flipped the screen around to show me the image. My legs weakened under me, my stomach turned in on itself. There I was, short and squat, gangly arms, rounded shoulders, thin hair slicked to my skull. There was my thick shape-less waist. There were my wide hips and tree-trunk legs that ran into my shoes without the benefit of a tapered ankle. The wind hadn’t just left my sails, my boat had sunk. I sat down and cried. Surrounded by nature, and an incredible vista as a reward for my accomplishment,  all I could do was press my hands to my face and sob. My husband sat next to me and put an arm around me. He didn’t say anything, he just waited. 

I’ve had these moments before in my life. Plenty of times in fact. School photos, engagement photos, family photos. Sometimes it’s been my weight, sometimes my posture, other times it’s my snaggle tooth that no one else ever seems to be able to see. But this time was unique in the abruptness. I had felt beautiful and then I had felt ugly, all in the second it took to click the shutter. The thoughts rushed in. 

‘Look how fat you are.’

‘No one would find you attractive.’

‘Why do you eat so much. You don’t deserve to eat like that.’

‘You’re not as pretty as other women and definitely not as worthy of love.’

As my tears slowed down, so did the automatic thoughts that were cruelly filtering that image through decades of judgment that wasn’t mine. In the tiniest bit of silence that appeared between them, I heard a question. It wasn’t profound, it was simple. 

‘Is this how you want to experience this moment?’


‘Then stop.’ 

I wiped my face (probably on my husband’s shirt) and made a decision: I wasn’t going to waste my beautiful moment – my accomplishment – feeling that way. Completely to my surprise, it worked. 

The abrupt shift from how I felt to what I thought had forced me to ask if I accepted those negative beliefs as truth. Those judgements had been so incongruent with the rest of my experience that it allowed me to starkly see them as something outside of myself, layers of judgement that I had internalized over thirty years since that first dance teacher told me I couldn’t move my body the way I was supposed to. The power of that specific shutter click was that it allowed me to set aside those voices and listen to my own – and my own said, ‘fuck yeah, look at what you’ve accomplished.’

Danielle Baker is a freelance writer specializing in creative nonfiction, copywriting, and content creation. Growing up in a small West Coast fishing village, Danielle has an innate love for the outdoors and a strong sense of community. Her grandmother was a natural storyteller who inspired her not only to write, but also to follow adventure down the lesser known paths in life. Her father, a hobby photographer and darkroom enthusiast, first ignited the interest that would lead to her Diploma of Professional Photo Imaging from Langara College. 

Danielle calls Squamish, British Columbia home, and whether out mountain biking on local trails, exploring the rain-forest on foot, photographing bike races in Mongolia, or writing about the inspiring and unique people she encounters in this world – everything is lived with that original small town authenticity that flows through every aspect of her life.

Hopping over the dog vomit.

Salutations! (Thought I’d try out a new greeting.) 

How’s your 2021 going so far? I’m gonna get really personal here, so bow out if you must. But first, I acknowledge everyone is wondering if Mercury might be stuck in retrograde. So this is by no means a “just me” thing.  

I consider myself one of those glass-is-half-full chicks. Sure, it gets me in trouble from time to time, but mostly it’s remained one of the steadiest coping mechanisms in my Adulting Toolkit. I genuinely believe if you can’t find the hope in your day/week/year/life, your best bet is to stay under the covers until you come up with something. Anything. Is it above zero today? Winning. Has that zit on your back disappeared? Awesome. Did you get all the green lights this afternoon? The universe adores you!  

However. This hope-seeking strategy is annoying for the realists in my life — “can’t you just come down to Earth for one quick sec” — and damaging for the people who are actually suffering and need my support — “I’ve been burned too many times before.” Accordingly, it seems my usual attempt to find the sunshine is rubbing up against the reality that sometimes, life just sucks.  

I know you know this to be true, and here we all are, pushing ourselves forward another day. (Isn’t it amazing the world keeps turning?) 

So this afternoon, I leave my cave to run to the kitchen and nuke a cup of coffee. Enroute, I pass the usual evidence of sloth that would ordinarily trigger me. Items piled on the stairs waiting to be ferried upwards. Laundry in a state of semi-folding, taking up most of the family room perimeter. Dishes from God knows when, begging to be transformed to their natural state of cleanliness. But the icing on the cake is the dog vomit. Impossible to ignore, and spectacular in its presentation. 

I hop over it. Twice. 

Then, with my heated-up coffee in hand, I head back to my computer and stare at the screen before me. I decide to count the number of tabs I have open. Thirty-eight — possibly a new record? I fetch a pen off the floor and write down the word motivation on my moleskin notepad. Circling it ten times makes it seem more in reach. Where did it go? I wonder. I glance up at my calendar and observe that it’s only Wednesday. And then, I cry. 

In between finding out there may not actually be the chance to provide a life-saving chunk of my liver to someone I love dearly, and my husband spending the afternoon at emerge for his ticking-time-bomb heart, I seem to have lost my way. What I mean is, I can’t find the sunshine. And it scares me. Because I’m running low on effective coping mechanisms. 

Almost three weeks ago, I made a decision to stop drinking alcohol in an effort to cleanse my liver and clear my head. I confess that wine has been the ‘other’ trusted resource I’d reach for when needing to shield myself from life’s suckage. Now that I don’t have access to it, I’m confronted with myself on the daily. There’s nowhere to run and hide. Everywhere I go, there I am. Same old me. Same old feelings. Same old reality. The highs, the lows, the in-betweens all wrapped up in some kind of Hope-Despair-Hope-Rollercoaster

The thing is, that ride I’m strapped into tightly? It’s wreaking havoc with my   motivation. And yes, I know, I know. January can be tough, as far as months go. But as a Capricorn, I don’t just value productivity, I demand it. In fact, I really love getting shit done in a day! Right now, I should be editing that Podcast I promised to have out to you all. Instead, I’m burying my head in ridiculous distractions. Yesterday, I chose to watch three shows on airplane disasters. What in the Sam hell is wrong with me? It’s like I’m seeking out curated misery to keep me company in my complete and utter lack of control. 

Here’s the deal. I — we — must be kinder to the person in the mirror. We’re coming through a weird-ass time in history, I think it’s okay for us to behave a little weird-ass. (Read: do what you need to do to get through the day.)  

So, rather than chasing that missing motivation, maybe we ought to recognize the victory that is getting up from under the covers. Instead of panicking because we don’t see any immediate signs of sunshine, maybe we can still chill under grey skies. 

Maybe, we can even hop over that dog vomit and let it sit for a while. 


Sam ❤
p.s. It’s the night before my 47th birthday. I’m counting both the blessings and challenges in my life. I just want you to know that I’m right there with you. We’re all in this mess and it feels long, hard, repetitive, head-banging, daunting, confusing, uncertain and problematic. But we can do this. We are doing this.  

When you lose your sh**.

Excuse me, I seem to have lost my sh**. Have you seen it anywhere?

I’m guessing the three wooden engine boxes my husband stuffed in the boot of my car could be classified as casualties? Yesterday, I hurled them clean across the driveway, praying they’d shatter. They did not. And this disastrous outcome kicked my grown-ass tantrum into a whole new orbit. Indignant, I slammed the car door, cranked the tunes and gunned it to Safeway. Because, doesn’t everybody decide to go grocery shopping in the midst of losing their sh**?

By the time I pulled into the parking lot, I had done little to calm myself down. I decided to just go with it and let the voice in my head have top billing at this pitiful sideshow.

Damn those kids.
Damn the constant, bloody mess in the house.
Damn the folded laundry, still sitting at the bottom of the stairs.
Damn the clusterf*** dishwasher that’s never emptied.
Who are the assholes that fill it up with pots? 
F*** the chronic lollygagging of the pandemic.
F*** my period that no longer shows up in a timely fashion.
F*** the four jars of empty peanut butter in the pantry. 
F*** the dog who refuses a walk unless it’s me!
F*** me for procrastinating on the school supplies.
AND … F*** me for not having the foresight to realize I don’t have the patience to be at home 24/7!

It was then that I started to sob. I had crossed into frightening territory some ten minutes earlier, screeching at the top of my lungs to the ungrateful hoodlums — I mean precious children — that take up residence in our humble abode.  I was still shaking from the volume I’d been able to drum up. Here is a friendlier version of my meltdown: 

“I am done catering to you people! Get off your duffs! Get off your devices, NOW! I want a list of all the ways you’ll be contributing to this household, and you’re gonna present it to me in the next ten minutes!  MOVE!! MOVE!!! MOVE!!!!”

Sh** lost. Shrapnel all over the place. But I couldn’t tell if that volcanic eruption ought to be deemed a relief? Like, I just needed to release some pent-up steam? Or was it actually more a warning sign… and peeps best be taking cover for the REALLY BIG BLOW UP. Be ready, be very ready.  

Look, I know I’m not the first to lose her sh**. 

But what I hate the most, is (a) admitting that I reverted to my six-year old self (b) knowing my eldest took me on a fishing expedition and I instantly fell for her bait and (c) realizing my kids have seen me lose complete control. I’m sure they wondered what in the Sam H-E-L-L was happening while their mother yanked these unfamiliar crates from the car and launched them into our hedge. Note: if you’re wondering why said engine boxes were in my car, that’s another triggering story involving my husband, some ideas he has, his obsession with picking up random things, storing them in our garage and “one day” upcycling them.

Here’s the deal. My social working friends have informed me that kids don’t feel safe when parents become dysregulated. (Excellent. Mine will be in therapy for years!) So what am I going to do about this sh** that I seem to have lost? 

I’ve decided my only course of action is to forgive myself.

That’s right, I’m conjuring up some good ol’ fashioned mercy on this middle-aged Mama. She doesn’t deserve to beat herself up any more than she already does. Because it takes time to transition from one world to the next. And this one has had a decent amount of weirdness to stickhandle. 

My old world was regulated, controlled, and stuffed to the brim with structure. I’d leave the house at 8:30 and get home circa 6:30 or later. I’d walk through the door feeling depleted from the grind, but grateful to be back in my safe haven of comfort. HOME. There’d be a wiggling bum waiting to greet me (please know this is the sheepdog, and not my hubby). The kids would seem reasonably pleased at my arrival and may even get off their devices long enough to come give me a hug. But if I’m being honest, even back then I belly-ached about the same overriding theme.

And that would be, never enough hours in the day to complete all the competing priorities, or at best to execute them above the bar of half-ass. To combat this, I used to employ the strategy of squeezing seven minutes out of every five whenever I could. (That got me nowhere but a reputation for always being late, so don’t get any good ideas here!) 

But this new world is a definite contrast, over which the pandemic has layered a cutesy little twist. Read: horrifying, annoying, get these dang kids back to some sort of routine. STAT! There’s been zero structure. Only chaos, and confusion. As much as I try to plan my day, there’s no getting around the blurred lines of home and work life when your office is in a bedroom. The constant niggling of all the things left undone in the house scratch at my desire to be that GOOD MOM. That GOOD WIFE. 

It’s not that I’m trying to emulate perfection. More, that I aim to please. And I see this renaissance of motherhood as a wonderful opportunity for me to serve. To really be there for my kids. Granted, they’re not wee ones anymore. At 12 and 17, they’re completely self-sufficient-ish. But I’m aware the clock is ticking. One day these sweet girls will have flown the nest. That day is coming soon, and part of my goal in starting over was to try and strike a balance so I could participate more fully in their young lives. While I can. 

It seems, though, that I haven’t been functioning optimally under these current conditions. I’ve been feeling inadequate as a mom when I need to focus on my new business. And sucky as an entrepreneur, when I settle into the worry that my 12-year old is entering hermit-like status. (She’s barely ventured out of her room this summer.)

I need to be better. To try and level up. The corporate world and I have had a divorce and this IS my new reality. I’m open to all suggestions! So many of us are facing these same blurred lines, where working from home can SOUND like a dream, at first. And then I wonder why I can’t be more like those *other people*, who seem to be THRIVING at home. With commuting shelved, they’ve got the freed up time to sit in peace. To just chill with a ham sandwich on their back deck in between all that Zooming.  

To end this tale of sh** losing, there’s one other thing I lost yesterday. I realized it only after heading into the grocery store, and mid reaching for the laundry detergent. It occurred to me that I didn’t have my wallet.

I may have stomped my feet in the center of Aisle 4. REALLY? 

Today is a new day. 

So I’m starting with a clean slate. It’s the girls’ first day back to school. It was with mixed emotions I sent them off. Where have the years gone? My eldest finishes high school and my baby has entered middle school. And while I can’t change yesterday’s shenanigans, I can try to be a little kinder to myself. The rogue engine boxes have been neatly stored in the garage for “some day” and looking around, it seems I’ve got most of my sh** together. I’ve a roof over my head. People that love me. My good health.

And… six hours without interruptions!

Lowered expectations.

Remember that effort I made to look on the bright side? The list of 100 Good Things in the Time of Covid?

In the spirit of always keeping it real, I thought I’d paint a picture of how things are unfolding in our household. Do any of you remember those SNL skits, Lowered Expectations? Can you hear the annoying jingle in your head now? You’re welcome. Well, it’s been almost three full weeks of self isolation and our family has had a chance to stabilize into some degree of pattern. Calling it a routine would be a DEFINITE stretch, because mostly, we’re all over the map.

Typical Day in the Plavins Household

Alvi is usually up early, getting ready for his JOB. Somehow car sales are still considered ‘essential services’?? I remain grateful for his income but I do worry. [EDIT: at the time of reviewing this post, he has since been deemed ‘non-essential’ and thus will be out of work for God knows how long. I’m both grateful and worried. This too shall pass.] The smell of coffee lures me out of bed. Confession, Alvi’s been sleeping on the couch on account of some tectonic snoring — but make no mistake, I’ve been awake for quite awhile.

Let’s call it 7:45 am. What have I been doing? 

Scrolling on my phone, of course, previously set to airplane mode circa 1:00 am the night before, on account of binge-watching Ozark Season 3 into the wee hours of the morning. I begin with reading my WhatsAPP messages: a mixed bag of light-hearted toilet-paper memes, high-quality bonding with my friends from overseas or ongoing updates about the whereabouts and safe return status of my family (as of Tuesday, everyone is now back in Canada!). I then toggle over to any text messages, messengers from Facebook and eventually wander to the tracker I now have bookmarked in my safari app. How many cases are we at this morning, Dear Earth? Oh, excellent! Over 1M. I then do a quick google ‘coronavirus Thunder Bay’ to see about cases in my specific neck of the woods. Sweet, only 3. D’oh! Now there’s 9. Finally, I check out Instagram to load me up with accurate ammo, read: when did the kids ACTUALLY go to bed. (Piper’s last post was 2:00 am; so 2:00 am?) I ignore the hypocrisy in what will soon be inevitable lecturing on the importance of getting quality, early sleep. 

And then my phone tells me that screen time is up 30% this week. No shit, Sherlock. 

It’s now 8:20 am. Before flopping on my housecoat, I assess my appearance in the mirror: full-on hag status. My roots are nearing three inches and the hair on my legs resembles a patch of sprouted seedlings ready for some sort of harvest. Not too shabby, could be worse, I think. I vow to put on a pair of jeans today (but never end up doing this), and throw on my husband’s ripped long underwear to hide any evidence of lazy self-care underneath the tattered robe.  

Down I go to my perch on the couch. At this point, I’m hoping your as appalled as I am!

The bird is calling for Leica, our dog, and offering him a cookie. I swear to God he does this, and while it’s cute at first, it’s still too early for this level of circus. I tell him to shut up. He ignores me and starts whistling Don’t Worry Be Happy, which I have come to resent, given these uncertain times.

The TV is already on, usually tuned into CTV’s Your Morning where I prepare to catch up on Covid-related news stories that I had previously ingested on the CBC’s Evening National News the night prior. It’s important to be certain I didn’t miss anything. Nope — things are still gonna get ugly. Prepare for the worst. Wash your hands. Physically distance yourself. Yup — got it. 

Alvi leaves for work and I tell myself today is the day I will eat healthy. I then toast not one, but two bagels that I load up with pizza sauce, pepperoni and cheese, priding myself on how efficient I am with purging the fridge of its leftover food. Popping a bunch of Vitamin C’s and D’s, I then open up my email. Mostly I just stare at it, vowing to reply soon, then slamming the laptop shut. I head back to my perch on the couch where the bird’s shrieking has escalated to the point that I’m seriously considering cooking him. Cockatiel might taste really yummy on a bagel, perhaps with a side of guacamole.  

Oh good — Ryan and Kelly are on TV now. That seems normal, let’s check them out. In between sorting my feelings of bitterness over how Kelly keeps her hair looking so good without an at-home team to prep her, I write out my goals for the day. Generally, they are:

  1. Shower. 
  2. Attempt to prepare something nutritious for dinner.
  3. Tidy the house.
  4. Spend 2-4 hours working on new business.
  5. Work-out. Or walk. 
  6. Fold laundry. 
  7. Call parents. 

I tend to base success on crossing things off the list, but can tell you that most days, none of these things happen. NONE. Ok, #7 usually happens if they don’t beat me to it. Because, what am I doing with my time?

I tell you what I’m doing — a whole lot of trying to make sense of this THING that’s happening, to understand how long it will go on for, what the human and economic fallout will be and how it will potentially impact my family and friends’ worlds. I’m seeking answers that just don’t exist — a classic control freak’s M.O.

And in between all of this? I sprinkle in the following…

Around 11:00 am, I decide it’s my civic duty to hear from our Prime Minister, JT. What has he got to say to me today? I get sucked into half hour of “we will get through this, together, as Canadians always do” and then note that Federal Cabinet ministers will be addressing the nation. Rock on! I really like that Dr. Tam lady — she invokes the fear of God in me and I keep coming back for more. Though it speaks to my masochistic tendencies, who doesn’t love a healthy dose of statistics and science? That stuff is legit!

Observing there is other food in the fridge that shouldn’t go to waste, I make myself a mid-morning snack: nuked leftover chicken paired with a dollop of Frank’s Hot Sauce. For good measure, I throw a pickle on the plate, and some more cheese. I tell myself I will pay for this tomorrow. Our Health Minister, Patty Hajdu, informs us the National Stockpile was ill prepared. You don’t say? I glance at the time and note that it’s now 12:15 and the kids have not appeared from their bedrooms. 

From the safety of my perch on the couch, I text them both some expectations for the day. Again, in the theme of lowered expectations — the instruction for my little one is usually do your hygiene, take care of the pets, unload the dishwasher and get off your screen. I leave it at that and trust this will all get done. My near-17-year-old has announced that she’s fasting and demands to know where we keep the ice. Did you wanna maybe try the freezer? There are usually several text discussions on when we’re going to fix the fridge/freezer’s defunct ice machine, followed by ‘when can we redo her too-pink and ruffly bedroom’. I make a mental note of these dire requests and attempt to appease her dysregulated teenage hormones with promises of looking at Pottery Barn online. She seems satisfied.  

Both kids emerge and still, I make no effort to get off the couch. In fact, I’ve taken to a regular onslaught of bellowing out questions and thus the kids have taken to bellowing out their answers, egging the bird onto ear-deafening pitches for attention. 

By mid afternoon, I decide it’s time to do SOMETHING. I usually chip away at the mess in the house and begin a list of projects that require attention. I’ve made several of these lists and ignored them all, because Covid. Truth: it’s sucked me into a funkified vortex of information and uncertainty and honestly? Every damn day has been like one of those perplexing Twilight Zone episodes. My discombobulation is hard for me to admit, but I’m owning it. It’s also outside of any normal perspective when I recognize there are others that are LITERALLY struggling, trying to work from home while kids are underfoot and acting out… trying to not die while scrubbing up to assist surgeries… desperately seeking a place to eat a hot meal after 12 hours of long-haul driving fresh stock for our grocery stores. Uggg. I have no reason to be in this state of weirdness and yet I am.

I grab the dog and decide he’s the most sane being in our home and surely this is deserving of a stroll through the neighbourhood graveyard. 

During our walk, I wonder what it would be like if some other creature was yelling at me to ‘hurry up and pee!’ I decide it wouldn’t feel very good and ease up on the poor baby. It’s like he doesn’t have a care in the world. He’s just out there — in his canine glory — soaking up all the smells of the season, now cracked open on account of the spring thaw. I see joy in his wiggling walk. He picks up a stick and prances about with an air of pride. I wish things could be that simple for humans … a stick, some fresh air, alluring smells, is there anything better?

I head home and begin interrogating the kids. It usually goes like this:

What have you done to be productive today? Have you gotten any exercise?Piper, have you done any math? Saffy, did you feed your bird? Are your teeth brushed? Did you guys have lunch? Did you unload the dishwasher? Have you aired out your rooms? No? Well, they stink! Don’t glare at me! I’m productive in my own way. I’m gathering up intel. We’re having a family meeting tonight and everyone is participating!

(insert eye-rolling)

Alvi rolls in around 6:00 and by some miracle, I’ve managed to get meat thawed and prep some of that night’s dinner. I celebrate this level of productivity (lowered expectations). Understand the man’s greatest joy is cooking, and it’s also a huge source of tension between us, so I generally let him lead in this department. I immediately attack him on how much handwashing has been happening at the car dealership, whether or not he was able to make it to the liquor store in time and if he remembered to call his Mom. Guys, I literally POUNCE on him. He’s patient and congenial but doesn’t hide his exasperation. It usually starts with a, “F***, Sam! I just walked in the door!” 

We eat at 8:00 — in true Plavins’ style. These days, I’m proud to report we’re mostly convening around the dinner table, taking stock of our massively productive days (not). This is, in and of itself, a Covid victory. We are all home in the evenings! Last night, I initiated a FEELINGS check in. How IS everyone doing? Piper reports that she’s bored and our province sucks, and that if she doesn’t get to go to NWOASSA (student-led weekend-long retreat in May) she’s going to freak. I’m not sure what ‘freak’ means in this case, but her tone tells me it might not be safe to remain inside the home. Saffy announces she wants to buy online merch from some anime artist. She tells me I owe her fifty bucks. ????? Likely I do, and we move on from there despite my sense of having been hustled. She then makes it clear that she’s been trying to warn us about this virus since DAY ONE… bless, my little soothsaying worrier. Alvi tells us he’s frustrated with the lack of things happening around the house while he’s out doing his essential work for the country. We all pledge to aim higher. 

8:40 pm, dishes are abandoned at the dinner table, everyone scatters like cockroaches drawn to the light of their respective online viewing escapes. Mine is Netflix. Piper is trolling and creating new Tik Toks — one of her uploads has over 400K views, she proudly reports. Saffy’s is her gaming and Alvi is riveted by some show on knife forging. It looks seriously lame but he’s right into it and has cracked open a beer. This actually looks relatively normal, like from the days of pre-Covid. I contemplate what I could do to really make his day, and then commence with additional bellowing:

Girls! Online learning starts up next week! So things are gonna change around here, OK??!! Do you hear me? We’re all gonna level up around here? Capiche?

Radio silence. Rinse, repeat. 

It’s dawned on me that the writing of this blog today symbolizes productivity… perhaps I’m not as big a train wreck as I’d led you to believe. And so what if my expectations have lowered — dramatically? We all have to do what we have to do. Staying sane is a priority!

How have your Covid days been going? I want to hear from you!

Special thanks to our medical heros and workers who are front-line pharmacists, grocery-store clerks, bank tellers, anyone fighting the fight from the front lines. We are grateful, humbled, and recognize we owe our safety and survival to you. God Bless!

An open letter to my hormones.

Dear waning estrogen and progesterone,

I’m not gonna sugar-coat things: you guys suck. Ass. I’d be falsely representing my feelings if I said anything other than, “Just fuck right off, ok?”

Look, here’s the deal. You used to give me a solid two weeks of semi-normalcy. These would be days where you’d find me bouncing through a field of daisies, blowing some playful bubbles or riding my bike in tight, white pants singing in harmony with the neighbourhood sparrows. The children would be lovingly careened to bed while we recanted the highlights of our carefree days. Life was leisurely during those sacred two weeks. 

But for some reason or another, you decided to fuck around with this schedule and I’m now living in a quasi hell. Read: one week of acceptable human existence, followed by a week of demonic outbreaks, capped off with a week of passing clots the size of golf balls. Like, I’m sorry. I should not have a google search history that includes “what’s the largest sized tampon available over the counter” and “hysterectomy recovery times.” I should be seeking out all the usual chick shit, like, “topless pics of Adam Levine” or “cheap nail salons near me.” But no. Instead, you have me raging like some possessed woman whose cycle has been reduced to just 22 days. Even the moon can’t keep up with this goddamn blasphemy!  

So today, after devouring a full sleeve of Jalapeño flavoured Pringles at my desk for no apparent reason, I drove to town in a fit of complete hysterics. See, in addition to eating Tim Horton’s carbs for breakfast and lunch, then chasing them down with that salty chip kryptonite, I found myself making a beeline to Little Caesars in search of some Hot-and-Ready Pizzas to serve the kids. Because carbs and I can only be described as life-long BFFs. Said no middle-aged woman EVER. I can feel my pants splitting open in protest. Amazeballs.

Listen here: I want to kill someone! I’m pretty sure that Siri or Alexa or Google should send help because I just shrieked those words verbatim as I typed them. 

Recent examples? 

Husband comes home from his own long day, throws his work pants over my desk chair. TRIGGER! Daughter pokes her head in the bedroom to ask how my day was. TRIGGER!! Exchange student wanders upstairs in a loitering kind of fashion leading me to believe she wants to talk. TRIGGER TRIGGER!!! The dog noses his way in (following his regular walk, I might add) to look at me with his ridiculous one blue eye, as if to say, “Bitch, are you EVER gonna feed me? That dry kibble doesn’t just eat itself!” TRIGGER TRIGGER TRIGGER!!!!

And let’s establish some unwritten rules here. The only people, and it’s worth repeating, ONLY PEOPLE equipped to (1) comment on hormones (2) ask about hormones (3) bargain with you hormones… are those already enslaved to you hormones. All sisters get a lifelong hall pass here. Men, although we are powerless to change your train of thought, we strongly caution you against verbalizing our feelings as “that time of the month” or, “must be your menses” (fucking huge-ass trigger… don’t ever say menses), and even more blasphemous, “Sam, you know you’re not thinking clearly right now.”

No! NO!! And literal BLOODY HELL NO!!!!!! 

Just don’t even GO there. Your one job is to tiptoe around the house in a kind of skulking fashion. You want to go undetected. Completely stealth, under the radar, if you will. But there must be some sort of DNA evidence of your existence, perhaps leave out your razor or keep Sportsnet on at a dull roar in the den. We may need something from you; such as an emergency run to Shoppers for sour keys, and on rare occasions, a dreaded scouting of the right pads and ‘pons! We just don’t want to see you, hear you, smell or feel you. 


And while we’re at it, let’s discuss the actual lingual root of the word, Menopause. For most of us, it literally means, “pause the men.” Say it with me, “Pause the men.” Very good. We do want you in our lives, but only at our convenience. And right now, is just NOT a very convenient time, haven’t you noticed? Further, we’d much prefer a foot rub while watching the Daily Show instead of some creepy hand gesture luring us into a BJ. We’re not falling for it, ‘mkay? Tempting, but no thanks. 

Apologies for all this ranting. But I hold you fully accountable, estrogen. You’ve dysregulated me to the point of firing up some hormonally charged version of Tourettes. Monthly flare-ups are especially common when merging into oncoming traffic, watching the Weather Channel, making kids lunches and during those soul-restoring Facebook hours. The slew of indignities will flow out of my mouth like I’m a seasoned trucker (no offence truckers). In fairness, these outbursts are quite effective while standing in long bank line-ups. Innocent onlookers get a bit freaked out and tend to give up their spot in queue for fear of their heads being bitten right off. 

Thus. I’d like it if we could please move along whatever this middle-aged-cycle process is, so that I could go back to my regularly scheduled one. I’m guessing that’s just not possible and you’ll have to run your dumb-ass course. Which could take years, I’m told. In the meantime, I’d like to acknowledge the following sponsors who have done all they can to get me through these sanity-stealing moments:

  1. Pringles, especially the Salt and Vinegar variety
  2. Red Wine (mostly JLohr)
  3. Netflix binging
  4. Hot baths 
  5. Fuzzy socks
  6. Baroness Von Sketch episodes
  7. Retail therapy on impractical purchases
  8. My posse of amazing gal pals.

Yours sincerely,

Sam, on behalf of every 46-year old woman with raging hormones.

This article was originally published here at

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