Real life


Late Friday night…

My cell phone rings, and I pick up.

“Mom, where’s your car insurance?”

“What?” I ask Warren, slightly confused. “Why do you need the car insurance?”

“Because a cop pulled me over because the license sticker is expired, and when he asked for the insurance, and we checked the glove box, it wasn’t there.”

“What do you mean there’s no sticker? I bought a two-year sticker last year in Waterloo.”

“Yah, you did,” he answers, “except you left it in the glove box, and the cop just put it on for you.”

“Oh… Well, of course the car is insured. The pink slip should be there.”

Turns out, it wasn’t. And when Warren couldn’t find it, the cop had helped look for it, which is how he came upon my errant license sticker, stuck in with my ownership and a lapsed insurance slip.

Perplexed, I channel back to a year ago, January 2015, when I bought the sticker.

It was a cold, sloppy winter day, the kind where the walk from the parking lot to the Service Ontario front door kicked up glops of grey, salty slush on the back of my jeans. I remember buying that two-year sticker, but then I remember that I didn’t put it on right away because of the weather. I knew it wouldn’t stick to my plate, with all that slush, but I figured once home, I could pull the car in the garage, clean off the license plate and then stick it on. So I put the sticker in my glove box, and obviously, as I am now acutely aware, I never did put it on.

When Warren is home, he tells me the cop gave him a $1200 fine for not having valid insurance. In his tone, I hear frustration growing as he repeats that if I had put on the sticker he never would have been pulled over in the first place.

He’s right, but out of habit, I cite my aged-addled mind and forgetfulness as an excuse, rather than simply apologize, or maybe I do that too. But it’s such an aside that it’s lost in the rabbit hole, circular spiral of our back and forth argument. A mood threatens to spill into the rest of the evening and curse a good night’s sleep.

It’s so hard not to lapse into defensive mother-speak, but I actively fight the instinct and shut my mouth. And then I wait for anger to settle, because somehow, in this almost year of living with my youngest boy, I’ve managed to learn to wait is good, to think first is good, and to speak to my son, not as mother but as adult, is good.

Later, before I go to bed, I say to Warren, “We’ll figure this out. I will call the insurance. I will get it straightened out and the fine cancelled, like the cop said we could do. It will be a pain, but we will get done. Have a good sleep sweetie.”

“You too mom.”

I sleep well.


Sunday morning…

Hardly ten minutes into my run, I can’t seem to muster the chutzpah to run up Citadel Hill. It isn’t the weather because it’s a pretty nice morning, and even if it weren’t, I’d run up that hill many times before and through sketchy winter weather, no problem.

“Weird,” I say to me. And then I channel my inner optimist, along with an inspiring mantra to get me in the running swing of things.

 “Legs! Run up the hill.

And they do. My legs do run up the hill, albeit at a slow trot-like pace. And I continue on my route, though I have to keep singing my new mantra to keep myself motivated. After a few kilometers, though, I have to let go the concept of a ‘run’ to embrace the “walk-trudge’ actually going on and admit I may not make it through the 9 kilometres this morning.

Somehow, I keep going and make it to Cogswell Street and the last hill I have to conquer before home. It is on that hill that I notice I am gulping at air, rather than breathing through my nose because my nose seems not to be working.

I assess. Tired. Nose out of order. And now that I am paying attention, I notice an all-over achiness throughout my body.

“Okay. I get it,” I mutter and then put my head down to give myself the forward momentum necessary to propel myself the last few blocks to the cave.


At home, I peel sweat-soppy running gear off what now feels like a increasingly hot, fever-enflamed body.

Teeth chattering, I head for my multi-purpose pharmacy stash and rustle through the odds and sods drug basket, ferretting out an old, crumpled sleeve of Neo-Citran from the eclectic array of mostly empty medicine packets.

I fill the kettle, and while it rolls toward boil, I jammy up, jack the heat to 32 and then stuff myself into the corner of the couch, shoring up with blankies, hot lemon-drug drink, and a full box Kleenex. I’m not sure if the tissues are for my nose or for the sorry-ass wail I feel building up inside.

Sick. I am sick, and I hate sick.

When I was little, being sick was made bearable due to a bell beside my bed (so I could ring if I needed anything), a TV in my bedroom (so I could watch minus annoying brothers) and Green Pea Soup plus Cheese on toast, melted in the oven (my two favourite things to eat). Fifty years on, I may as well be light years away from my five-year old self, though knowing that does nothing to stop the longing.

Sometimes being an adult sucks.

With just enough energy to operate my index ‘click’ finger, I summon Netflix for company, (Joey, Rachael, Ross, Phoebe, Monica and Chandler), and prepare for battle. This body of mine may has elected to fill with mucus, throb at every joint, and tamper with my internal temperature gauge, going from Hot! Hot! Hot! to Cold! Cold! Cold! from minute to minute.

May as well hunker into the moaning, groaning, leaky, whiny, snotty mess I know is to come. And while I’m there, why not sink in for all its worth, however unpleasant the journey.

Nothing like a cold to wallop the be-jeeesus out of mind, body and spirit.



I am up from approximately 2am until 4am, hacking up a lung. Wee hours awake, sick and alone in bed, seem to usher in anything but sleep and only the rottenest of thoughts. Doubts, worries, fears, regrets and what ifs each politely line up to pay their respects.

Will I ever be smart and wise and grown up? What am I doing, anyway, trying to reboot life so very far away at this age? And this writer thing, what is that all about anyway?

In the darkness, I think of what a weird place it is to not know what is next, without having any for certains to fall back upon should next never make itself known. I am not yet used to this living. And actually, I don’t quite know how to get used to it. I wish for a manual, but until I find one, all there seems to be to rely upon is the adage that putting one foot in front of the other will eventually lead to solid ground.

And then it’s morning, and I’m up and out of bed and off to real life. I must work, write and finally take my car in to swap out the winter tires for the all-seasons.

I bring my computer while I wait for my tire change and plunk away on it. My keystrokes are interrupted when the erstwhile young mechanic pulls up a chair to sit next to me and delivers the bad news. Seems I need two new tires. Though he offers three different price points, I figure better safe than cheap and opt for the expensive option.

I don’t even blink an eye as my $50 day morphs into a $500 day. I suppose, with Warren’s fine all taken care of and cancelled on Monday, in the sum of things, somehow I feel like I am ahead.


Early evening, though I’m not near 100%, I feel well enough to make dinner. Cooking is something I don’t do all that much these days. But the day is beautiful, and I make plans to haul out the little portable barbecue to say welcome to the incoming summer season.

While I wash up potatoes and tear the lettuce, I remember last week, when Susan from Waterloo was visiting. On a walk along the waterfront, we talked about how long it takes after a move to stop feeling like everything is brand spanking new and it’s real life again.

I came here mid-July last year, and now it’s May. I’m working, I have a few friends, and sometimes, I bump into people I know. I belong to a writing group and a book group. While last January I was busy buying a license sticker for my car, this January, I was busy testing out romance. And though it didn’t work out, I’m no longer afraid of the notion.

In the spring, I finished out a bumpy school term and began to friend-date again, in hopes I might find a hiking buddy. Cross fingers, for I may have found one. And since my arrival, I’ve managed to keep on plugging away on my writing, week after week, even if I don’t know what or if anything will ever come of it.

From July until May, I’ve had waves of homesickness and heartsickness, and this week, body-sickness. Each time, I put my head down and pushed one foot in front of the other, head down, and with a little extra forward momentum, I’ve climbed back up the hill.

Two months shy of a year. Real life.


Our little barbeque fits perfectly on the short stone wall around the tiny patio that came along with the cave, and the smell of chicken in the air is divine. I vow tonight that I will never again take for granted how wonderful it is to have a working nose. But of course, the truth is that I  will soon forget once my nose has been in full working order for a while.

Someone is rebuilding on the site of last year’s crazy fire, and today when I was writing , I was inundated with whirrs and beeps and a continuous backdrop of construction noise. They’ve put away their tools and gone home for the day. It’s finally quiet outside, and now I get to hear the birds.

Warren is home for the evening, which is somewhat of a rarity. Now a host at Edna, the restaurant up the street from the cave, he works most nights. Quiet evenings outside on the patio were common last summer, but I suspect it will be different this year.

I build the stack for our first game of Jenga, while dinner sizzles on the grill.

Routine, issues to resolve, colds to get over and pockets of perfection. Maybe my physical self needed to tell me something my mental self couldn’t see. Real life.

Tomorrow, I may go for a run in the morning.


One thought on “Real life

  1. Karalee – “reality – what a concept! “. I think someone said that ! I hope you feel better soon – one foot in front of the other – fake it till you make it – all these sayings work! You are awesome …… Keep moving forward…….


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