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Posts Tagged ‘Ottawa’

Tag, I’m it!

My friend at Bees on Skis has included me in this fun little game and I’m more than happy to play along.  And not just because my bestie told me that for a change, I need to write something that doesn’t make her cry!

My relationship with Bees is kind of a funny one.  I know her in “real life” which is to say we knew each other in the actual world before we met again in the blogging world.  I’ve never been to her house and she’s been to mine only a couple of times, we live thousands of miles away from each other and see each other next to never, and yet I would not hesitate in the least to say we’re friends.  We met through our hubbies because they grew up together and what a bonus it was to meet her and find out that I really liked her.  With or without the hubby connection I know we would be friends anyway and I’m just counting the days until we can spend an afternoon together in London, drinking tea, talking about books and laughing, laughing, laughing.  We’ll get there…one day!

In the meantime, I’m excited to take part in her tagging adventure.  The rules are simple, she came up with a few questions that I have to answer and then I have to tag a few other bloggers and come up with some questions for them.

And here we go!

1.  If you could take one song/album to a desert island with you, what would it be?

Living Under June by Jann Arden.  If you’ve read this blog for a little while you know of my absolute love and devotion to Jann Arden and her music.  This particular album came out when I was in high school (holy moly that’s a long time ago) and I remember listening to it everyday on the way home on my yellow Sony walkman.  Wow, now I’m making myself sound even older.  As soon as CDs came out I upgraded my cassette copy and it’s one of the few albums I can say I still listen to on a regular basis.  This album has essentially been the soundtrack of my life and I can’t imagine leaving it behind.

2.  What one piece of advice would you give your child as he/she goes into high school?

Find your flock.  Find a group of people who care about what you think and allow you to share with them who you really are.  High school can be a scary, scary place and it makes things infinitely easier to not have to go it alone.  It’s not about popularity; it’s not about having the most friends or the coolest friends or the prettiest friends, it’s about finding a group who think you’re pretty great, just the way you are.  It will make everything else so much easier.  

3.  What is the one piece of advice that you remember most from your own parents?

My dad always encouraged me to go away to attend university.  He had done the same when he was growing up and he said it was the best experience he could have had.  Of course I’m not sure they planned on me going so far away but to this day it’s one of the decisions I look back on and know, without a single doubt, was the right one and I’m so grateful that they could see past their fears and doubts to let me go through with it.  It allowed me the opportunity to find out who I was once I was free from all that I used to be.  It was a fresh start, a chance to carry with me all of the things I liked, and a chance to dump all of the baggage I had brought on my journey up to that point.  It’s not often that advice becomes life-changing, but in this case it really did.  

4.  What is your dream job?

I don’t know quite how to put it in words, but it would somehow involve helping women through the emotional preparations and transition to motherhood.  I think we’re doing a better job supporting mothers physically and giving them the supports they need but I think we still lack in the emotional support.  I think so many of us went into this thing with such skewed expectations and ended up feeling lonely and guilty and unhappy.  And because this wasn’t the way it was “supposed” to be, we just feel more lonely and more guilty and more unhappy.  I would love to do something to help those women who go through what I have gone through, and to help them realize their feelings, no matter what they are, are exactly what they are “supposed” to be. By no means do I have all of the answers, but sometimes it’s a comfort just knowing others have asked the same questions.

5.  Would you change anything about what you studied in college or university?

It’s funny for me now to think about how far I am from what I actually studied, technically, and yet it still shapes me on an almost daily basis.  I studied Journalism because I thought I was going to be a writer.  All these years later I don’t do any writing on a formal basis and yet the principles and structure of it are with me all the time.  It taught me all of the rules and processes that I needed to know, and it taught me that I much prefer writing outside of all of that.  I want to write what I want to write, when I want to write it.  Going to school to “learn” about it taught me that at least.

6.  Who would you call if you had only one phone call left to make?

My hubby.  No matter the ups and downs, it all still begins and ends with him.

7.  Where is your favourite place in all the world?

In Ottawa, along the canal, right next to the university I attended there are locks where you can cross over to the other side of the canal.  One particular lock, once you get to the other side, takes you to a path that eventually leads you to a small foot bride.  Over the foot bridge there is a large tree and when you sit under it, you have a perfect view of a little stream that trickles its way through the park.  I found this particular spot in my first days in Ottawa, when I felt alone and unsure and it gave me some peace.  Whenever the weather was warm I would take a book down there and sit, sometimes reading, sometimes just watching the world pass by.  My last day in Ottawa, before we moved away, I went down there again, to say goodbye and whenever I’m back in the city I think of it and try to pass by as a reminder of who I was then, and where I am now.

8.  If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?

The forgotten children.  The fact that there are still kids, right in our own neighbourhoods, that don’t get breakfast to eat or books to read or dreams to dream.  There must be a way, there must be a way to get around all of the judgement and the rhetoric and just help.  Just help them get what they need so they can go on to be the people they are supposed to be.  There are unwanted kids in one house and down the block there are people who want nothing more than to pass their love down to a child.  It shouldn’t be as hard as it is to bring the kids together with the love they so desperately deserve.  It really should be easier and yet it’s not.  

9.  What did you like best about your childhood?

The sheer “regularness” of it.  I grew up in the suburbs of a big city with a mom and a dad and a brother and a cat.  I walked to school and had a best friend and went for ice cream and dreamed all of the dreams that a kid is supposed to dream.  I grew up believing that I could do anything I had the courage to try, and be anything I had to imagination to dream.  Being on the other side of it now, being the one who’s responsible for giving two little people a “childhood” it has become clear to me how amazing that is.  

10.  Why/How did you start your blog?

I was feeling lost, stuck, unhappy with where I was and unwilling or unable to see another way to be.  Writing had always been an outlet for me but the idea of sharing it had always been a huge barrier to doing anything with it.  Until I decided I was tired of being afraid, tired of not writing and sharing because I was afraid of what others might think.  One day I realized that it wasn’t about them, it was about me and if writing the words helped to lighten the load, then that’s what I should do.  And the Polka Dot Palace was born.  A silly little place with a silly little name where I write about all the things that float around in my head and put them down on paper, if only to clear up some space in my mind for more things to think about.  It has proven to be a wonderfully cathartic experience.

11.  What is your favourite day of the year?

That first day of spring when it’s finally warm enough to open the windows and feel the warm breeze on my face.  When I can grab a light jacket and go for a walk, marvelling in the world coming back to life after a long winter.  When the grey gives way to the green and the darkness gives way to the sunlight.  When all I want to do is slide my feet out of my shoes and feel the grass between my toes.  When all that was dead begins to grow again.  That’s my favourite day.

Okay, my turn to continue the fun!  I’d like the tag the following bloggers and ask them to answer the questions below.

Fahrin Kermally

Shoes on the Wrong Feet

PaperKeeper

It’s not often that you are asked to think about “you” and what you like and what you want and what you see.  I know you are all busy with the million things you have to do each day but if you find a spare minute, sit down and give this a try.  For me, it was a really wonderful break in an otherwise regular Sunday afternoon of doing laundry and making lunches!

And I’ll ask my friend Bees to answer them too, not to tag her again but because I’m interested to hear her answers to the questions!

1. Who is your favourite character from a book, movie or TV show?

2. What does writing do for you that nothing else can?

3. If you could spend a month living in a foreign city, which one would it be?

4. Which thoughts run through your head and keep you from sleeping at night?

5. What is your greatest fear?

6. No matter how down you may be feeling, what is the one thing that can always make you laugh?

7. If a stranger came up to you on the street and gave you $100, the only rule being that you had to spend it on yourself, what would you buy?

8. If you had an extra hour every day, what do you wish you would do with it?

9. If you had an extra hour every day, what would you actually do with it?

10. If you had to describe yourself in one word, what would that word be?

Tag…you’re it!

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Prompt 3

We missed the bus.

We thought we had it all planned out but the movie ran longer than we thought.  I think it was a triple feature but which movies they were, I couldn’t tell you, that information lost after so many years.  I seem to remember that the theatre always played triple-features and they were somehow related to each other.  Three movies with Brad Pitt or three movies about high school or three movies with the word “Light” in the title.  It didn’t really matter, as long as they had something in common, they would play the three together.

The theatre is called the Mayfair and I’m pretty sure it’s still there.  Every time we go back to Ottawa to visit we take a drive down Bank Street and see it there, looking just as it did all those years ago, at least from the outside.

The listings for the movies used to be printed on coloured pieces of paper and would be tacked up in the common areas in residence.  It was before you could check movie listings online.  It was before smart phones and all of that.  We barely had email back then.  I know, I’m just realizing exactly how old I actually am.  A quick search online confirms that yes, the Mayfair is still there and now it has a website with all of the listings.  Of course it does.  It actually makes me a little sad to think about now.  Like the kids sitting in residence thinking about going to see a show at the Mayfair are missing out on something by just looking it up online.  It really was much better when you all had to gather around the piece of paper tacked to the board in Rez Commons.  Things are always better back in the day.

I don’t remember what the movies were, I don’t remember why we decided to go that particular night, I don’t remember if I had popcorn although, let’s be perfectly honest, I don’t know that I’ve ever been to a movie and not had popcorn.  I vaguely remember who I went with, not because I have a specific memory of it, but more because I spent almost every minute of my first year of university with the same group of people so I will assume we were at the movie together: my roommate and the two girls who lived next door to us.  An unlikely foursome brought together from four different cities in four different provinces.  About as far apart as four people could be, brought as close together as four people could be.  It was one of those amazing phenomenons whereby had we met under any other circumstances we probably wouldn’t have been friends but we were thrown together, all new to a  city, new to the idea of university, new to just about everything and we bonded quickly, tightly and for eight months we did almost everything together.  Like going to the movies that night.

The Mayfair is technically close enough to the university to walk to, and in the warmer weather we usually did walk, but in Ottawa in the winter, you don’t walk anywhere.  We took the bus, the good old #7 bus that took us pretty much anywhere we wanted to go and then brought us home again when we were done.  Except when we forget to double-check the schedule and we missed the last bus.

I don’t remember the circumstances surrounding realizing we missed the bus or making the heart-wrenching decision that we were going to have to hoof it on foot, but I do remember the cold.

I have never been that cold in my life.  Within three minutes of starting out on our way, I couldn’t feel my thighs, so cold was the wind biting into my jeans.  We tried to talk to take our minds off the cold but our teeth were chattering so hard that soon talking became impossible so we just kept making noises, any kind of noises to keep our lips moving so they didn’t freeze in place.  Having spent the first 17 years of my life in a much more moderate climate I had never felt this kind of cold before.  People warned me, tried to prepare me for what I was going to experience, but until that night I had no idea.

We walked as fast as we possibly could, counting the blocks as we passed by them.  We reached the dingy pizza place that marked the halfway point and kept on walking.  My feet were now frozen and it was like dragging two blocks along behind me.  Why had we decide to go to a movie anyway?  Who’s idea was this?  Next time anyone suggests going outside in the winter I’m going to say ‘no way’ and stay inside where it’s warm!

The funny thing is though, when I think back to that night and the bone-jarring cold, the other most distinct memory I have is how much fun it was.  It was an adventure.  I was there with the three people who had, in such a short time, become my whole world and we were having the time of our lives.  That year is still one of the best I have ever had and that night was just one adventure in a year filled with so many new experiences that I can’t even remember all of them.

But I will never forget missing that bus, and walking home in the cold, so cold that I honestly thought we weren’t going to make it, and yet also feeling so lit up inside.  Like suddenly realizing I was exactly where I was supposed to be, becoming the person I was always supposed to become.

Maybe missing the bus wasn’t so bad after all.

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Ottawa

I’ve tried to explain it to people, the connection I feel to this place , but I can never find the right words.

“I love it here,” I say to them, but it doesn’t encompass it, doesn’t even begin to wrap itself around the feeling I get when I’m here.
I fell in love here; I’m sure that’s part of it. I met the man who would become my family here. Around every corner there are memories, places we visited, conversations we had. I found love, understanding, friendship here, but I also found so much more.

I found myself here.

I found out who I was away from everything I knew. I figured out how to be me, apart from all of them.

I made choices based on my own opinions, nothing else. I discovered I was stronger than I thought, but also more fragile. I realized it was okay to lean on others, to ask for help, and to accept it. I learned that being independent is important but so too is knowing that together we are so much stronger.

I went where I wanted to go, when I wanted to go. I discovered that getting lost was half the fun. I learned that with a bus pass and a map, the city opened up in front of me like a treasure chest.

I have lived in places that I loved, before and since, but no other place has ever felt like home in the same way. It become a part of me, a part of my story, writing its words and painting its pictures on the pages of my life.

When I feel sad and alone, it is the place I dream of going. It somehow fills the cracks left by everyday life, makes them smooth again. After every visit, no matter how short, I feel invigorated, as though I have found something I didn’t know was missing.

I am drawn to its streets, long-lost memories flooding my brain. I want to turn to the person next to me and tell them stories, all of the things that happened here, the minutia of time well spent.

I remember who I was here. I remember the girl with the dreams, the hopes, the belief that things were possible. And her imagination rubs off on me, the woman she has become, too often jaded and disheartened by the intervening years.

She makes me start to believe again, she makes me want to live up to all the expectations she had for us.

And so as the car speeds down the highway and I have to once again say goodbye, I am not sad. I know I will come again, and when I do I know it will be here waiting to welcome me back.

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