First Time Home Buyer

It’s been so long since I owned my own home that I now qualify for the First Time Home Buyer Program here in Canada. I’m a full-time student working part-time for a church, so this information isn’t of any real use to me. Not yet.

I’ve owned as opposed to rent for the majority of my adult life. I was married when we bought our first home, for $96,000, in 1998. You probably couldn’t buy that house for less than $225,000 now! After the divorce, I wound up cohabitating with a boyfriend and selling my house. I used the proceeds to buy into his house. When that didn’t work out, and once he had his credit score fixed, he paid me out from that house and I used those proceeds to buy my very own little bungalow which I nicknamed the Hobbit House. I loved living in that house.

Another failed relationship later and I bought a 2600 sq ft, four bedroom home near the kids’ high school. I rented out the bungalow. This new home had two decks and each deck had a lilac tree growing beside it.

I sold my sweet bungalow to pay off all my debts once the kids had both moved out.

I sold the larger home to put money down on a condo with yet another boyfriend. When that ended, he wasn’t able to free up money to give me back my down payment and couldn’t qualify for the mortgage on his own. So I started renting, for the first time since I was 26. I moved to a co-op, which was a drastic change from the exclusive condo lifestyle. I spent a year in the co-op, and then three years in a lovely one bedroom apartment with a splendid view.

Now for two years I’m living in my friends’ house while they’re out of the country. This keeps the rent very low and allows me to go to school, while keeping their house safe and well-tended. I am so glad to be back in a house. I am also glad to have had a break from taking care of a house, but it’s good to be back. When these two years are over, I’ll want to buy a house again. With the home buyer plan, I can use RRSP for my down payment without tax consequence, and save on some transfer tax. I’m gonna need an income though! So all that said, I better get doing my school work so I qualify for a mortgage when I graduate.

This post brought to you by second term looming procrastination.

Happy 2020!

Gotta be quick here, gotta make with words then make my way out the door. There’s dancing and champagne and I’m entering the new year – heck, the new decade – wearing a mu-mu and llama socks, like no fucks given. I went back through my journal, through my Google calendar, through my Instagram, trying to find evidence of my last fuck given. 404, fucks not found. 2019 rocked.

I wrote out the notable and amazing things in 2019 and it took two pages in my journal. Tomorrow I start three new journals – one for object writing, one for planning and scheming even more wickedly awesome moments and achievements, and one for “Dear diary, wow, I can’t even, like wow” type stuff that no one will ever read.
2019 I went to many workshops each of songwriting, singing, improv, and psychotherapy. I took in more live music than some people do in a lifetime. I went to theatre more than once every month.

I applied for, was accepted to, and started grad school. I took massively bold steps forward into the future I want for myself. I started a job that makes me think and grow and that I believe in. I earned money acting.

I loved friends and lovers, and I swam around in the pleasant greys of no fucks given and love being love.

I did say good bye to a dog. We did have a formal goodbye for my mother. I was really stressed out at times. I was confused and sometimes my heart hurt a lot – that seems to happen when we love, doesn’t it? I failed at quitting drinking three times. I came to terms with my relationship with alcohol.

I danced so much. I joined crazy arts and culture events. I attended three conferences, all without a career to advance. I enjoyed untold pleasant conversations.

I loved 2019. I’ve been wanting a year like 2019 for a long, long time. I dropped all my fucks in January and was in the moment as much as I possibly could. So maybe this is why I’m trying to manufacture giddiness for the New Year. I have no need to escape the dying year. I’m confident the new one holds delight and living and crying and laughing and thinking and novelty enough to satisfy even me.

Happy New Year my friends. Happy New Decade. Happy New Day. Happy Right Now, and most likely Happy Tomorrow.

Tiny Herod

Grand River Unitarian Universalist Congregation Sanctuary, Christmas Eve

    This is where I work but tonight I was not working. I got to sing carols, light candles, and listen to stories. Look how whimsical and warm this space was. I needed some of that.
    The thought we left with was how each character in the story of the birth of Jesus lives in the world today, and a small version of each lives within us. Tiny, jealous Herods writhing within us, desperate to control everything to retain power. Angels, singing joy and praising the good. Magi, our inner wisdom skating the line between science and magic to discover truth. How does your Tax Collector show up? What is your Innkeeper like? Can you sense the simple gifts your inner Shepherd offers?
    The sermon didn’t get psychodynamic but that doesn’t mean I can’t. Maybe Christmas is as good a time as any to remember the Child within you and somehow feel again the miracle of their birth. Know that inside you is a Mother and a Father that is yours to be in relationship with. You can tell the story of that relationship the way you want, in your own words, and by whatever new rules you choose. 
    I think I better stop there before I start looking for my inner Donkey and Cow.
Merry Christmas to everyone who believes that, rejoice the return of the light if you’re on the hemisphere experiencing that, and Happy New Year to all who mark time in this way.         Conjure your blessings as you best fathom, and welcome to them. 

 

Puppies!


A friend’s dog had puppies. Oh! I said. Puppies! I want a puppy!
OK, he said. You can have a puppy.
Now for weeks every day I debate getting a puppy.

I tried thinking logically about it but getting a puppy or owning another creature isn’t really a logical choice in my mind. Likewise, I think having children is not a logical choice, unless your income is derived in such a way that creating your own work force makes sense. Most of the reasons to not get a dog are very logical: you need to change your schedule to accommodate a dog, they cost money in vet bills and food, you need to pick up their excrement, you can no longer go away or stay away unexpectedly, they’re an incredible amount of work as puppies and still actually a fair bit of work as dogs.

On the plus side, puppies. Dogs.

I can’t assign a weight to “puppies, dogs” so I can’t choose logically.
I do live alone and the company would be amazing. And having an alert dog would make me feel much safer. Of course, I’d have to work out some kind of puppy-sitting arrangement with family and friends for when I’m in class or on placement. I don’t know where I’m going to be living in 18 months. I don’t know where I’ll be working or how much I’ll be making.

OTOH life is so damned short and I miss having a dog.

And, wait, logically here now, I could train this dog to be a therapy dog, and when I have my practice, I would have a dog at the office that is trained as a therapy dog. And we would visit hospitals and care homes and universities! Yes, yes, this makes sense. By the time I’m done being trained as a therapist, the dog would be trained in therapy too!

Does that actually make sense? Am I inventing an impossible dream to rationalize doing something I’m almost certainly going to do even though it’s not sensible?

Yesterday at work at the Unitarian congregation, a congregant arrived with a fluffy, white puppy that was wearing a service-dog-in-training harness. After receiving permission, I commenced petting said puppy. It’s like joy in a harness! I exclaimed. The Puppy Owner agreed. I’d love to have a dog as a therapy dog for when I’m done school and open a practice, I said. She nodded.

Yeah, she says. That’s what this little guy is being trained for. I’m part of a private practice and we’re setting up a mindfulness group for trauma victims. This guy is going to be part of the group. He’ll be working in the practice once his training is complete, kind of an office dog.

I just need to decide on a name now, really.

When I Said

Ashes to ashes

I intended to go from Summer Solstice 2019 to Autumn Equinox 2020 without consuming alcohol. I believed I could do this on will alone. Perhaps will is sufficient for quitting a habit – but will is not inexhaustible. I wake up and enter the morning and each day is different when it comes to how much available will I seem to have. Each day holds its surprises for how you will be taxed. I cunningly plan out my will allotment across the day’s known challenges and then the day sneaks in unexpected curveballs and suddenly it’s 4PM, I’ve already borrowed into tomorrow’s will supply and a friend is saying “Are you sure you wouldn’t like a drink?” and I am no longer sure at all.

My reasons for trying to not drink keep changing. I always know it causes cancer. That is reason enough on the days when I want to live long and prosper and keep this body as healthy as I can for as long as I can. True too though are the days when I might prefer to not live too overly long, and think years of living later for days of pleasure now is a fine trade. I’m keenly aware of my mortality and limited number of days, moments, experiences remaining to me and I don’t want to miss out on anything because I was drunk or hungover. Neither though do I want to be alive but essentially bored for however many moments I have left.

I’m wary of the times I say -to myself or right outloud – “Oh god I need a drink.” Those are the moments when we need to remember our breathing and our lessons from mindfulness and welcome the feeling and acknowledge it and sit with it, and then move past it. Those are the times when we process the feeling, and the underlying feelings and beliefs and perceptions and yearnings and come to a place where we are OK in ourselves just as we are. That is how those moments are best handled. This is not always how the script plays out.

Occasionally a social vignette presents itself where it’s not even a case where “a drink would augment this moment” but more “not having a drink would take away from this moment.” I suspect this is not actually true as I know people who are loving life and enjoying those moments but not drinking, even though they used to drink. I kind of have to surmise that I’m just not there yet.

There is such a dichotomy in drinking socially! It can bring people together when done in moderation, and drive them apart when taken to excess. When people partake in marijuana or harder drugs, there is usually a point in time where they cross an unseen threshold into a world that the not-stoned cannot access. It can make me sad; it’s like they’ve left the room without saying goodbye. But in these weeks of relative sobriety, I’ve learned that the same is true for alcohol. I didn’t notice before because I slid into the tipsy reality with the others, instead of watching them go and being left behind.

In the six weeks there have been 14 social occasions that prominently featured alcohol, as well as a music festival. I’d say that summer is the wrong time to have tried this but each season brings its own temptations. Of the 15 events, I elected to have a drink at 4 despite wanting to drink at all 15. I’d say that’s gotta count for something, but what would that even mean? None of it really matters, either way, in the longest of long runs.

I think it’s an experiment. I’m learning about why and how I drink or don’t. To be honest, I don’t like everything about what I’ve learned about myself. But there’s learning there, too. If I’m going to be a therapist (and I am), there’s no cringing away from this stuff.
I wrote a poem in Kingston recently about wanting a drink after opening the box of my Mother’s ashes. The box had been mailed to me by the crematorium 11 months prior and had sat, unopened, in my storage closet.

When I Said

When I said I wouldn’t drink from Solstice to Equinox (so dramatic)
I meant I wouldn’t apart from when I did.
“So Libra,” laughs Polly, taking a sip from her lipsticked glass.
But it takes me a couple of shots of lilac gin before I can
invite Polly to my bed.
And there are times when cracking a beer
is akin to breaking bread.

And also! And also and also –
I just finally opened the box from the crematorium and in the box was another box with a certificate bearing my mother’s name and in that box was a plastic box and in that there was a plastic bag tied with a twist tie and in that there was my mother.
I tucked the end of the bag back into the box
and out puffed a very small cloud and I thought:
ohmygodthatismymother.
And then I drank some scotch.
I am sorry I didn’t ask first Greg. You know, it was delicious.

Summer Solstice to Autumnal Equinox

I had it in my mind that I would stop drinking on my birthday, for one full year. Not that I drink to any great degree, not that it impedes my living. But my mom did just die from her alcoholism. And it does run down every branch of my family tree.

But it’s more than that. You ever meet people who have heard “the word of god” and they thirst for it, they long for it, they yearn? That’s kind of how I feel about sobriety. I actually really like drinking, though. I don’t like being drunk and I loathe being hungover but otherwise I like everything about drinking. I like smokey scotches and hoppy beers and charcoal porters. I love full bodied red wines and the liquid Christmas tree kiss of gin. I’m into the ceremony of champagne and the ritual of patio beers. I like drinking.

But it is inescapably true that alcohol causes cancer and that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption. It’s a Group One carcinogen – so it’s like saying there is no safe level of asbestos consumption. I mean, obviously. And alcohol robs you of your awareness. It’s also fattening and expensive.

I am loving life so much. I’m having honestly So. Much. Fun. I’m excited for school. I love my job. I’m proud of my kids and am looking forward to watching their adventures. I don’t want to miss a thing. I’m acutely aware of my mortality and of time ticktickticking away. I don’t want to lose anymore time to the fog of drink, or the pain of hangover. And I don’t want to consume something that I know has a proven ability to cause cancer.

So tomorrow – no, later today – I’m drinking my last drinks, for a year and a quarter at least. I said I wanted to quit on my birthday, but the weekend after my birthday I’m attending an event that is marked by copious amounts of free alcohol (I don’t know about you but honestly, free alcohol seems to be everywhere). If I’m going to do a thing, I like to set myself up for success. By my birthday, I want all the effects of alcohol to be gone, so it’s a truly clean year. I read this book called Sober Curious and I like the idea of being sober curious. Not “sober sober” as she calls it. I mean, I’ll be sober sober until Fall 2020 but then, whatever, it’s my life. I expect though I won’t return.

I miss being just naturally weird, you know? I miss sliding along a natural high, blissing out on the colours of the sunset or perfect harmonies or cool lake water. I’m lucky in that my brain naturally likes to take those routes. If I just let it, my brain goes places that some other people use substances to find. If I give it enough fresh food and sunshine, it piques those peaks with no side effects.

I think it’s going to be an interesting summer.

 

 

Memory Book

Tonight we are gathering in Midland in memory of my Mother. It occurred to me recently that I would need photos of her, as well as a Memory Book for people to write in.

She didn’t want a service and insisted that if we do anything, it was to be small. She didn’t want people to make a fuss about her. But she also did not like to be overlooked or ignored. It’s a fine line to walk.

So we’re seeing a play in her honour at our community theatre home, Huronia Players. We’ll toast her with red wine – truly her poison, as it killed her in the end.

It’ll be nice to see people and to hear stories but it’s also bittersweet, fraught, too tangled to be parsed in a short blog post.

In any case, two days ago I went through all my photos to find ones she would deem acceptable to put on display. I could hear her denigrating herself “I’m too fat in that one, too old, too stern” and her pride “Yes, that one, it shows off my ankles.” When illness made her ankles swell, she mourned them.

So many photos – up until digital cameras and Facebook. Photos of friends from two decades ago, and some of those friends we will see tonight. Some people in the photos are dead, some have moved out of our lives, some I can’t recall who they are. Photos of my mom with her ex-lovers, and photos of me with mine. I can hear my kids on some unknown future day “Oh, nice shot of mom, too bad he’s in it,” when they look for images to put on display for my memorial.

The older you get, the more every experience loops back to past experiences until every present moment has echoes and somehow the process loops forwards as well and every death forecasts our own.