Thursday, March 24, 2016

An errand.

I forgot that 4:30 pm is a terrible time to run errands. Let this blog post be a warning that it's never a good time to go grocery shopping  when everyone in Toronto is running around.

The kids opted to stay home like they usually do. They're old enough to hang out at home by themselves for a few hours, thank God. I don't miss the days of having to find a babysitter. I like to shop by myself anyway. I promised I'd get them Doritos (don't judge) and left them happy to be home alone.

Then I went to mail a package. There was the typical confusion that comes with mailing things to America and the sticker shock (I expect it now) of shipping costs ($31 this time) but I sent it out anyway.

Then, as I was pulling out of the parking lot, a truck that pulled up behind me. I noticed it just in time and stopped, but then pulled forward and crunched my corner bumper into a railroad tie/planter that was to the right of my parking spot. In my rear view mirror I saw a teenage boy stare wide-eyed from the sidewalk at his friend in the truck who was picking him up, and then he burst out laughing. I backed up a bit, and did it AGAIN. Crunch! The boy got in his friend's truck and they both were staring at me, laughing, and then they drove away. An older man drove past and then stopped to look back at the damage and me, the crazy lady who just crunched her minivan bumper TWICE. I got out and looked at my bumper to see a large scrape and small crack in the corner. Of course. The package I was mailing was a gift for a friend. This is how my karma works.

I pulled out again, slowly and carefully, and made it to the parking lot exit. I wanted to turn left but the traffic was backed up so I turned right instead. I figured I would turn down a side street soon and turn back in the direction I first intended to get to the grocery store. I found a side street that seemed like it was a straight shot to a main street that would lead to the grocery store. It wasn't. It winded around a neighborhood to the point that I soon had no idea which direction I was heading.

Suddenly, from a side street on the left, a car pulled out in front of me and stopped. I had to quickly swerve around it to pass and as I did I noticed the reason it stopped was because a pedestrian was in the crosswalk. A cross walk randomly in the middle of the the street with no stop sign or lights to announce it. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a person walking toward my moving car from the left hand side. I locked eyes with her and we were both surprised. She was about 10 feet away from me but still too close. I could have hit her. I didn't though. And I saw in my rear view mirror that she made it safely across the street. I stopped at the next light and said a little thank you to God.

And then the car who had caused me to swerve pulled up and honked. I looked over. She mouthed "YOU ALMOST HIT SOMEONE! YOU NEED TO SLOW DOWN!" and other intelligible angry scolding things.  I wanted to say I know! I feel like shit. But you pulled in front of me and obscured my view of the person walking and I'm still rattled from the damage I just did to my car two minutes ago and I don't even fucking belong here in this godforsaken city!  Instead, I just mouthed "I KNOW!" and turned and faced forward. We sat there side by side, me feeling like a terrible asshole and her burning a hole through my soul with her angry glare, probably seeing my Washington license plate and Bernie sticker and judging all Americans as inconsiderate jerks.

Hours later (it seemed, though it was really minutes) the light turned and I s-l-o-w-l-y, c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y pulled in to the Dollarama parking lot. I went in a wandered up and down the aisles dazed, looking at all the ridiculous made-in-China junk I didn't want or need. I didn't even mean to go here in the first place, I meant to go to the grocery store next door. Standing in the party aisle my eyes welled up with tears and I rushed out. They probably thought I was stealing something. I was racking up judgemental glares everywhere I went.


... and then I pulled myself together. I went in the grocery store and got toilet paper and laundry detergent and drove home and no one died. I forgot to get Doritos though.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

New Years Resolution Update

We're only 3 months in to 2016 and I just looked back on my New Year's resolutions and realized I'm already accomplishing some of the goals I set:

1. Go three consecutive days without crying, spontaneously, at the slightest reminder of how much I miss my old life... Check.

2. Recognize happiness when it happens. Seek experiences to make us like this place more.  Try to find humor in this hell...
I have done this.

3. Realize this is not hell. No one died...
I know this. Last month one of my favorite kokoleo customer's husband died suddenly of a heart attack. She has 2 daughters younger than my daughter. Since I've given up facebook I completely missed it but on Sunday (my cheat day) when I logged on it was the first thing that came up in my newsfeed and I was instantly in tears. My heart goes out to her, I can't even imagine dealing with a tragedy of that proportion. Another friend is in the midst of cancer treatment. Another friend is struggling with the effects of a stroke he suffered this past fall. These are life-altering struggles. Being unhappy about a move pales in comparison. I need to remember to be thankful for what we have.

4. Spend less time sifting through cyber stimuli and staring at other people's lives...
Check. I gave up facebook for Lent. It hasn't been easy. I've checked back in on Sundays since those are considered "feast" (cheat) days during Lent but other than that I've stayed true to my promise. It's starting to seem like a dumb promise though because I miss my friends and family. Now I just spend my time arguing politics on Twitter. This is not a good tradeoff. It's like when I gave up beer for Lent one year but still drank wine and liquor. I think I'm doing this Lent thing all wrong.

5. Keep doing kokoleo... lighten my inventory...
I've done this! Two weeks ago I took a suitcase full of my handmade kids clothes to a shop called Merrily Merrily on Danforth. I thought they would choose a few items but to my surprise they wanted everything. Not only that, but they're posting it online too. They even sent me a spreadsheet of all 186 of my items that shows my base price and their modest markup (seriously the best percentage I've ever gotten from a shop).  All those times I randomly made stuff for shops and craft shows when we were living in Los Angeles and Seattle and all those years I carted these things around is finally paying off in Toronto. It's a good thing too because I'm not making anything anymore. My inspiration has up and left me. Maybe this will be the encouragement I need to start making things again.

6. Find another city to live in...
Okay, I haven't done this yet. We might even be contemplating staying here another year. I might want to change the goal from "find a new city" to "find a new house."

7. Be somewhere better this time next year...
I still have months to accomplish this.

8. Carve out a niche. Create the community I want to see...
I've failed miserably at this one.

9. Find joy in the struggle...
I'm trying.

10. Write about it along the way...
Does cutting an pasting and adding a few sentences count?

Friday, March 11, 2016

Among the Leaves

I need to change the name of this blog. Stranded in Canada  has such a negative connotation. I don't want to appear helpless. I'm not helpless, just lost. Maybe not even lost anymore but wondering what I should do next. Nevertheless, I need to write about it. Here is my running list of blog title contenders:

Lost in Toronto.

Oh Toronto.

I loathe Toronto.

Just Say No to Toronto.

Come rescue me. 

The Toronto Chronicles.

The reluctant Torontonian.

Escape from Toronto.

The Chronicles of Ontario

An American in Canada.

Landed in Canada.

Speaking of Canada...

There's something you should know about Canada.

A Chronicle of Canada.

... but they all seemed too trite and sarcastic. And then I came up with this one...

Among the Leaves.

So that's what I've chosen to call it.

It's still a novelty to me to see Canadian flags instead of American ones. I'm not among the stars and stripes anymore. I left, and now I'm

Among the Leaves.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

From the perspective of an American in Canada

Canada's prime minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie are in Washington today meeting with President Obama and Michelle at the White House for the first official state dinner with a Canadian leader in 19 years. I'm a news junkie, and seeing my two favorite leaders from my two favorite countries shaking hands and standing together makes me proud to be an American living in Canada. And damn, they are some fine looking gentlemen.

Honestly, I am as shocked and baffled by the U.S. presidential election as everyone else. I'm obsessed actually, and fascinated and embarrassed for my country. I love talking politics. I get excited for the debates, even the Republican ones... especially the Republican ones because they're so ridiculous. I enjoy yelling at the television and cheering for my favorite team. My Seahawks and BlueJays have flown the coop so American politics is the only game I'm watching now. If there were jerseys I'd wear the blue one and it would say BERNIE on the back.

In Canada, the Liberals are represented by the color red and conservatives use blue. This was hard for me to get used to when there were signs all over for the the federal election this past fall. Also, Canada has more than 2 major parties - there's the lefter-leaning NDP (orange) and even-lefter-leaning Green (green) parties. Not knowing much about Canadian politics I figured I would be a Liberal since that's what I am in America but I took a few tests online and watched the candidates during their short and adorably civil election and to my surprise I learned that I actually lean more NDP and Green. Still, I was happy to see the election of "anybody but Harper," a man who seemed to be a slightly less economically destructive and war-mongery Canadian version of George W. Bush. It was exciting to see Canada usher in a new era of leadership with the election of Justin Trudeau. It reminded me of when Obama became president, minus the racist vitriol that growls from the conservative sidelines in American politics. Canadians (even conservative ones) tend to be more civil and respectful when discussing big ideas.

The most eye-opening thing I've learned since moving to Canada is how little Americans know (or care) about their neighbor to the north. Canadians have a unique perspective of the United States - they like us and our music and movies and t.v. shows but they're confused by the way we choose our leaders and by some of the leaders we choose. Canadian news channels such as the CBC and CTV and Toronto's CP24 focus on provincial and global issues and report on American politics from an objective perspective. As far as I can see there are no liberal-leaning stations like MSNBC or conservative-skewed stations like FOX News. Likewise, I see little disdain in Canada for what Americans refer to as the "mainstream media." FOX and MSNBC are only available on the most expensive tier of cable packages so most people don't get them at all.  Being cut off from this kind of coverage may explain the confusion the rest of the world has about how heated and circus-like our political system has become. The 24-hour American news channels have become the driving force in encouraging specific political points of view. When you don't have those influencers constantly shouting in your ear, it's hard to see what Americans are so emphatically angry about.

The number one question I get when people find out I'm from America is, "What is up with Donald Trump? How can Americans fall for someone like that?" I reassure them that not everyone falls for his shtick and I promise I'm one of the "good guys" on the polar opposite side. The conversation often comes around to Rob Ford and how Toronto once got duped by an embarrasing buffoon too. (I think America's buffoon is more sinister and dangerous though.) We shake our heads and commiserate over the foolishness of some of our fellow citizens.

Some say I'm the foolish one for supporting Bernie Sanders. I hear people mock his plans for universal health care and free public universities as a "pipe dream." Count me among the dreamers. Why can't America have what other countries have? I've found it's rather nice not sending insurance companies hundreds of dollars every month hoping they cover a portion of my medical costs. When I became a resident of Ontario I applied for and got a Health Card. I haven't used it yet but just knowing I have the option of not facing financial ruin in the event of an emergency is such a relief. It's time for Americans to demand this promise from our country too.

I've watched as Bernie's ideas have influenced the debate on both sides and I want to hear more. The fact that he's funded by individuals, not corporations is admirable. Corporations are not people, my friend. I'm a Dem till the end and will vote for Hillary if she's the nominee, but until then, #I'mWithHim.  On Sunday my husband and I voted for Bernie in the Global Primary held by Democrats Abroad at the Globe Bistro on Danforth.

It's the least we can do.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Two things I promise I'll never do.

There are two things I often envision myself doing but I promise I will never, ever do:

#1: Drive my minivan straight down our street and into Lake Ontario.

This admission in writing will probably cost me jobs in the future. She's obviously unstable, potential employers will think, We can't hire her. I promise I will never ever do it. I am no Susan Smith. But every day I envision it.  Never mind that I don't even know if there's an area where you can drive a car up to the edge of the water. I've never bothered to find one. (This is further evidence of my sanity). Besides, we just finished paying off this car and driving it into the lake would mess it all up. I don't want to do that.

But every day the lake calls to me, this blue-grey abyss at the bottom of our street. Every morning when I drive the kids to school I see it on the horizon, no sign of land on the other side, a freshwater ocean full of unseen creatures. I don't want to turn toward home. I want to join them. Not in a tragic way with me grasping for door handles and gasping for air and drowning dramatically, but in a Yellow Submarine way where I travel through the blue-grey abyss and see fantastical animals on my underwater journey back to America. I end up somewhere near Buffalo and smuggle myself back into the States unnoticed.


Which is very rude. I don't even know what I would do if they yelled back at me. It's better not to yell at each other in most situations, I've found. I usually never yell at people which may be why I fantasize about rolling down my window and abruptly loudly questioning random strangers as to why in the world they would want to live here. They were just trying to buy a cup of coffee after all. Who am I to tell them this place sucks? They all seem to like it. Apparently I'm the only one who doesn't want to be here.

I hereby promise to keep my car on the land and not yell at strangers.  I can't help if I often imagine doing otherwise though.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Digging Out

It's no secret that I don't love this house. If you knew what our last backyard looked like you would know why this one makes me sad. It's one-tenth the size and has no swingset, garden, fruit trees, or fish pond. You'd be hard-pressed to find any yard in Toronto with all that. Basically this yard is just a place for our dog to poop. That patio set hasn't been sat on since Seattle.

I'm resigned to the fact that we'll never get back what we had. For now, we have to make do. We've resolved to find a new house once this lease it up so this is probably the only winter we'll be here. I need to capture the bits of beauty we do have so I can remember that it wasn't all bad. If I continue to keep holed-up like a hermit I will never know the beauty of a sunny morning after a night of constant snowfall...

and how the plants look with snow caps and the way the the sun casts shadows on the snow.

We could be one of those houses that people have to trudge past because its inhabitants don't care enough to shovel a path, or we could do our civic duty.

I grabbed that shovel and stopped to take a picture of that door.

I'm pretty sure we're the only people in the world with a window like this.

(Pause for gratuitous gorgeous dog shot.)

Kali watched as I spent the next hour shoveling a path from our front door to the street. It was the best workout I've had all winter.

When you find yourself stuck you have to dig your way out, carve a path, and move on.