Sunday, February 25, 2007

It's not you; it's me.

Dear Blog:

I know it's been awhile since we last spoke. Thanks for being so understanding and giving me some space.

You've always been there for me through thick and thin and I'm afraid I've treated you rather shabbily, haven't I? I know I've been neglectful and while you've been mostly silent in your reproaches, this has only served to increase my feelings of guilt.

There are so many things which have been happening in my life lately and I've failed to share them with you. I didn't mean to shut you out but I suppose I did.

I guess every couple reaches a point where the comfortable silences in between conversation become greater and greater in length. At what point does it become uncomfortable and unbearable?

I know our friends are wondering what has been happening with us lately; don't think I haven't heard the gossipy whispers of those who wonder whether we are on the verge of dissolving our relationship. I don't think I'm ready to let go of you just yet but neither am I ready for a full-fledged commitment. Please don't expect me to be with you every moment of the day or to think of you constantly when we are not together. The bloom of our relationship has faded; the excitement and obsessive passion of our early courtship days has waned but has been replaced by the knowledge and comfort that you are always there for me, watching and waiting patiently. Is that asking too much of you?

You must know that I've been faithful to you throughout. Not everyone is monogamous; some people bounce back and forth between their main blog and the OTHER blog. And then there are those friends of mine who have moved on and are onto their second, third or fourth blog. Not me. I may have been oblivious to your needs, but I've not been out there servicing the needs of others.

Please continue to be patient. I promise to come home for good when the time is right and hopefully we can pick up where we left off. Until then though, you will have to just satisfy yourself with our brief and infrequent conjugal visits. Please don't lash out again and compare yourself to a McDonald's drive through window -- I can't bear the hurtful comments you hurl at me.

your loving partner
Earth Mother

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Rip Van Winkle

Goodness ... has it been over a month since I've last posted?? Where does the time go?

Friday, December 22, 2006

Season's Greetings

I've been so incredibly swamped and scarily busy these past few weeks, so I haven't had much of an opportunity to post anything.

I wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays! Enjoy the break and try to survive any family gatherings.

Monday, December 04, 2006


I was sickened by the late news last night about the woman who threw her young child over the rail of the 401 and then jumped immediately after.

As tragic and incomprehensible this act may be, I always wonder about the other stories that never get any media attention. How horrible it must have been for the drivers on the highway to have inadvertently hit a falling child. How can those people continue their lives without constantly replaying the awful sound of the thud which the bodies must have made against their vehicles?

I once sold a house which was located in a very swanky neighbourhood and was surrounded by million dollar homes. Despite its location however, this house sold for only half a million dollars because it was in a serious state of disrepair. Another agent informed me that the owner of the house was divorced, and that her ex-husband had been one of the pathologists who had worked on a horrific multiple homicide case in which the young teenage victims had been tortured, sexually assaulted and then dismembered. Apparently, he never got over the horrors of what he had seen and turned to alcohol for solace. As a result, his marriage disintegrated and he became estranged from his wife and children. Following the dissolution of his career and relationships, he fell further apart and wasn't able to support his family. His two sons suffered immensely as they struggled to school themselves, maintain a modicum of normalcy and help support their mother.

For every hair raising news story, there are so many more victims than we care to contemplate. I wish the media would just once acknowledge that fact.

The winner takes all

When my youngest child was about three months old, I was ambushed and subsequently interviewed for a local TV parenting show. Several questions were posed, the most memorable of which was "Do you think that parents today are competitve when it comes to their kids". I think at the time since I was incredibly sleep deprived I probably flubbed the question and chattered on incoherently, but my answer was essentially "yes".

Through the years I've been amazed by how parents choose to compete with one another. During the baby stages, competition appears to exist mainly between the mothers. Sometimes it begins as early as the day after the birth of their precious one -- "Well, I had natural childbirth despite the fact that I had the most excruciatingly painful back labour the entire time. It's too bad you caved in and had the epidural".

And it doesn't stop there; it goes on to encompass feeding, sleeping and pooping schedules. "My little guy goes down for five hours straight and he's only six weeks old. You must be doing something wrong if your four month old still isn't settling down for long stretches of time".

The other divisions of competition includes when the babies uttered their first words, who cut their first tooth, who started eating solids first, who crawled first, who rolled over first, who started walking first, who smiled first ...

Enter the toilet training years ... "My sweet darling is soooo smart ... she potty trained herself by the time she was eighteen months old. We only had two accidents and since then we've never looked back". "Your son sits down to pee? My guy always stands up like a big boy".

There are endless tasks at which one's child could be the best. Is your child an early reader? Did he or she learn to write his or her name by the time he or she was two? What about the alphabet song? Did they express an interest in the arts from the time they could talk and walk? Does he or she have a great sense of humour? Play the piano or violin? No? Well, you better get on that one. They say it's never too early to start. It helps boost their math skills. And on that topic, can your little one count to thirty yet?

I spent this past weekend at a squash tournament for my eldest son. He is and has always been fairly athletic and has a keen interest in sports of any kind. I guess at a certain age it's not enough to just play squash now and again; one wants to see how one ranks against the masses. So at his request and upon the direction of the raquets pro, I registered him for a junior silver tournament.

It was a marathon event, running from Friday until Sunday evening, and fortunately, it dovetailed quite nicely with our hockey schedule. J. was pumped for the whole event. He had been practising since September and he felt that his game had improved dramatically since last year.

I was a bit nervous about the whole thing because I knew that he would be playing against some of the province's top-ranked kids and I didn't want him to lose his love for the game if he got crushed early on. Fortunately, he held his own fairly well and although he didn't win, he did get the satisfaction of knowing that he was just as good as most of the kids there.

What fascinated me however, throughout the tourney was the dynamic between dads and lads. The squash courts were designed in such a way that the back wall was almost competely bulit of glass. This permitted a second floor viewing gallery where most parents opted to sit. As the tournament progressed however, parents began sitting downstairs so that they could pop open the court door at any given time and yell out instructins to their child.

I noticed that each boy would either look up towards the gallery or directly past the door at his dad when he missed a shot. The dads would often be making grimaces, wildly gesticulating while mouthing instructions "Go deep. Don't get sloppy with your backhand. Use your head".

Most of the moms on the other hand, simply smiled encouragingly and waved. Not that we women aren't sports fans ourselves, or don't engage in the game of squash. I had a number of tips I could have given my son had he asked, but I wasn't about to start screaming them out between games. It's interesting that while women appear to be competitive when our kids are babies, we often don't exhibit that streak of cmopetitiveness in the arena of sports. I guess it's because the dads step in with their pride of their sons in this regard. During the tournament, I heard so many fathers trying to one-up the other "My son is only eight and he's already got a killer serve." "Oh yeah? Well both my boys have been told that they could be number one in Ontario by next year".

Of course, I would have been delighted if my son had won, or at least made it into the finals. I wanted this not because I harbour a deep seated hope that he will be a squash champion, but because I wanted him to be rewarded for his hard work and I wanted to see him happy. One of the toughest moments of the tournaments was watching him lose his fifth and final game of an amazing, crowd-drawing match. He came off the court in tears, upset at the ref for missing an important shot, angry at the other player for being dishonest and just generally frustrated with himself for failing to return balls he felt he should have easily gotten. Inconsolable, he refused the hugs offered by the entire family and sobbed in a corner. Albeit seemingly unwillingly, he listened to me tell him that sports, and life itself, was all about focussing on the positive moments, that he just had to acknowledge any of the mistakes he made and just move on, without the negative feelings colouring any future games. He stared bleakly past me as I told him that the whole point of the tournament wasn't simply to waltz in and win, but to get some valuable feedback about oneself and to learn how to play against others in a respectful and sportsmanlike manner. In the end, I concluded, despite his loss, it was a postive event; he had learned that he could stand up against some of the best players and give them a worthy match.

What people forget when they try to establish that their children, and themselves by extension, are the best of blah-blah-blah is that these titles are meaningless. The glory of being Numero Uno is a worthless one really. The journey to get there however, regardless of whether one achieves the actual goal, is what counts. My son may never be among the top ranked squash players in Ontario, he may never make it to the finals in a tournament and he may never improve his strokes, but I hope that he will grow up with a great deal of character and that he will learn that it's important to always keep trying. Along the way, I hope he also remembers to conduct himself with respect.

For myself, I hope that I won't consider my children's victories to be my own and that I won't ever steal their thunder. I hope that I won't ever hope to bolster my own ego by looking to my children's accomplishments.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar

The naivete and sheer innocence of children often reminds me of how jaded we adults are. Two stories come to mind whenever I think about how far and away from our childhood:

1. Within our household, we are fairly careful with our language. Not only do we refrain from using profanity, but we also discourage our children from employing words like "hate", "fart", "stupid", etc. Our children have been instructed to try to be positive in their thinking and in their speech. We've tried to impress upon them the adage that "if you've nothing good to say to someone, then don't say anything at all".

When my eldest son J., began grade one, he was exposed to all sorts of children, a few of whose parents didn't necessarily subscribe to the same school of thought as we did. Indeed, their philosophy appeared to be more along the lines of the blurt-whatever-comes-to-your-mind-however-inappropriate-it-may-be variety. J. was horrified that kids would say some of the things that he would never dare to utter.

On our way home from school one day, J. announced from the back of the car that one of his classmates constantly used the "S-word". While I thought that this language was somewhat inappropriate for a boy on the verge of his sixth birthday, I also knew that there was a small faction of kids within the school who consistently used what we deemed 'bad' language. The difficulty was how to keep our kids from employing obnoxious or inappropriate terms when others used it regularly.

While J. was expounding on the evils of employing the "S-word", his little sister suddenly piped up "What IS the S-word?" to which J. replied "You don't want to know ... it's SOOOOOOOOOOO bad". Of course, this just piqued her interest and she kept pressing him to tell her what the word was. After many refusals on J.'s part, she finally asked him to tell her what the word meant. J. hesitated and asked me to help him out with the definition, so I said "It's a not very nice word for poo". At this, J. said "It is? I thought it was the opposite of smart". Uh oh ...

I asked J. what exactly was the S-word and he leaned in and whispered in my ear "Stupid. What word were you thinking of?"

"Um ... never mind ..."

2. A few years ago, I was speaking with a close friend of J. This particular boy is utterly endearing; half-Parisian with a mop of hair, he possesses a charmingly earnest demeanour. On this particular occasion, he was walking alongside me and my children as we exited the school.

At one point, I glanced down at his feet and noticed that his shoes appeared to be several sizes larger than J's. Since J. has always asked me if he is of average height or not, I enquired as to the size of his friend's shoes. As it turned out his shoe size was probably only about two sizes smaller than my own -- large if you consider the fact that he was in grade two at the time.

When I exclaimed "Wow ... you have big feet for a kid your age", he replied with a "Well you know what they say about people with big shoes, right?"

I stopped dead in my tracks, my heart pounding, all the while thinking "Oh no ... this kid not only has way larger feet than J., he is clearly so much more precocious". After the boy prompted me again with his question, I then felt compelled to respond with a weak "Um well I've heard of something but I can't really remember ... so, WHAT do they say about people with big shoes?"

The answer with a lovely French lilt followed immediately, "Well, that they are fraidy cats. And that's not true because my cousin has really big feet and she's so brave. She's not scared of anything". He then followed it up with an innocent "Is that what you were told?" I smiled down at his big brown eyes and managed to stammer out "Why yes, I think I remember hearing something likethat".

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Walk a mile in my shoes ... or not

Wow, I'm running so far behind in everything! I had a completely packed and busy week last week because of my son's tenth birthday followed immediately by Hallowe'en. Tons of baking went on in my house (I used a total of twenty cups of flour) as well as lots of binging.

I absolutely love Hallowe'en. When I was younger, that day was all about getting candy as my parents never had junk food or sweets in our house, so the 31st was our one day to make a big score and ration it out through the year. As I got older, I think I just got more and more enamoured with the whole idea of getting dressed up and cutting loose that one night. Once I had kids, I think I got off on the process of making the most creative, unique and fun costumes for them.

What is funny is that my kids -- the boys especially -- are not so into trick-or-treating. (This despite the fact that they drive me crazy in the weeks beforehand with the stress of finding or making the perfect costume). I suppose it's because, unlike my childhood household, my cupboards are bursting to the seams with all kinds of goodies and my kids can pick and choose between their treats.

We went trick-or-treating with one of my friends and her two sons who are both best friends with my two sons. Our whole experience didn't last beyond an hour though before our boys were clamouring to go home (die hard candy addict that she is, my daughter wanted to keep going for another hour or two). On our way home, my friend and I both declared loudly that our kids were just way too soft and that "back in our day, we would go trick-or-treating for four hours ... in minus fifteen degree weather ... and uh ... with no shoes ..."

Kids today ... they got it easy!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Those outfits aren't just aerodynamic ... they're waterproof, too

Once again, i've been so bogged down that I haven't had much of a chance to post. It's funny how blogging, which began as a pleasurable activity, has sometimes descended into the ranks of burdenous commitment! I suppose I should ease up on the pressure which I place upon myself if I don't post as regularly as I used to.

While I privately sort out my neurosis surrounding blogging, let me leave you with this amusing little anecdote:

My youngest child has a tendency to sleep with possessions that are brand new. When he got his first pair of running shoes, he insisted on putting them upon his bare feet before climbing into his crib for the night. When he got a new basketball that went into his crib as well.

Yesterday I bought him his Hallowe'en costume. Unlike my other two children, he is not interested in exploring the fun of homemade costumes. He's very much a commercially driven child who enjoys the canned pop culture version of life. His costume choice this year was Batman. For the whopping price of $35.00 we got a one-piece grey and black Batman jumpsuit, a yellow power belt and a fabulous black cape with the Batman mask attached. It was a veritable polyster-wrought masterpiece; in other words a young child's dream come to life. Of course, he had to don his superhero ensemble as soon as we'd cashed out of the store. (God forbid anyone should see him in his civvies).

No surprise that after his shower that night, rather than jumping into his pyjamas, he opted for his costume instead. His only concession to my concerns of nocturnal overheating was to abstain from wearing the cape and mask, although he insisted that they be placed next to him in bed. I guess he was anticipating that Toronto might have some emergency in the dead of the night which would require Batman's services.

At about 6:00 a.m. I was awakened by a very agitated mini Batman. Our young superhero was hopping back and forth from one foot to the other performing his best rendition of what is known in our household as The Pee Dance. Apparently, he awoke with a very full bladder but somehow couldn't negotiate his way out of his costume in order to relieve himself. Ironically, as soon as he was freed from the shackles of his nylon duds, he ran with superhero-like speed to the washroom. My husband and I chuckled throughout our little one's entire three minute-long pee session, and then laughed even harder when he very solemnly put his outfit on again before going back to bed.

God bless my kids ... without them I'd have absolutely nothing to blog about!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

It's all about you ...

I've been so busy lately and haven't been moved to post at all.

I was at a social gathering on the weekend and a question was asked to the group at large which I still haven't been able to answer yet. Curious and interested enough to poll all you bloggers.

If you had to pick someone famous (and living) to spend one hour with, who would it be and why?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Both ends of the spectrum

My youngest son just keeps hitting those milestones mercilessly.

Within the first week of having begun first grade, he lost his first tooth. As if that wasn't a painful enough reminder that my baby is growing up, his sister came home from school last Thursday and announced that during recess that day, he had kissed a girl. On the lips, no less.

While I gazed down at him incredulously, my baby at least had the good sense to look shyly down and colour slightly. Still, when I enquired as to what his opinion was regarding how the whole event went, he responded cheerily "It was good". I was only moderately comforted by my daughter's remarks that the girl had been far more willing to participate than he had.

The following day when I picked up my kids from school, my daughter reported that this time, he had kissed a boy on the lips. Not sure who had made the first move although I have a fair idea.

My husband and I used to speculate on what life would be like when our children got older. He always described our eldest son as being more of a lover and the younger one a "banger" (his choice of words, not mine). We always imagined that our eldest would finally bring home a girl and that over the course of dinner, our youngest would make a play for her and charm her pants off.

Funny, even though I think of myself as a liberal and open-minded parent, I had had never considered the scenario in which my daughter's boyfriends might get stolen by her younger brother.

The next few years should be interesting ones ...

Friday, September 29, 2006

All we need to know, we should have learned in kindergarten

I am often fascinated by how easily children, boys especially, can get together and play.

It's as though all they say is "I'm a kid, you're a kid. Great, we have so much in common. Now let's go tussle out back".

A couple of years ago, I got back in touch with a university friend. We had been quite close during our undergrad years, but then drifted apart and lost touch with each other subsequently.

Upon our reunion, we discovered that our sons were about four months apart in age so we arranged an impromptu playdate. Without consulting her son, we arrived at her house with my eldest guy in tow. We discovered her son in the basement playing basketball by himself. As we stood awkwardly in the doorway watching him, my friend made the introductions, during which time our sons remained completely silent.

While my friend started chattering about how we had been best friends for years, her son suddenly bounce passed the ball to my son who, without missing a beat, caught it, entered the room, shot the ball and then bounce passed it back. Immediately, they fell into a rhythm of taking shots on net and passing the ball back to the other. All this went on wordlessly for several minutes. My friend and I watched this, shrugged our shoulders and went upstairs for a cup of coffee, leaving our children to their own devices.

I'm not sure at what point one of them finally spoke, and what was said exactly. But the two boys got on like a house on fire and hours later when they emerged from the basement, they were giggling and chatting as though they'd always known each other.

I've observed this kind of easy acceptance and camaraderie amongst other children on many occasions, and I'm constantly amazed by it. Many adults tend to complicate things in that they spend more time and energy sizing each other up and deciding if another person is the right gender, religion, personality type, intelligence level, etc. before they can decide if they want to go forward and extend any kind of friendship or friendly gesture.

Maybe we need to take a leaf out of our children's books and just learn to relax.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Have any of you ever seen the movie Single White Female? It's about a woman who advertises for a roommate. Said roommate turns out to have a few screws loose, fixates upon the woman and ultimately tries to get rid of everyone important in her life so as to have an exclusive and close relationship. At one point, the deranged roommate from hell deliberately tries to look and dress just like the object of her obsession.

There is a young woman who used to teach my eldest son a couple of years ago. She is on the verge of turning thirty and is in all respects a very attractive person. For whatever reason, she has always liked me and my family, and that feeling has been mutually reciprocated.

A couple of weeks ago, she approached me and commented favourably on the outfit I was wearing. Among her gushing comments was the confession that she felt herself to be a "safe dresser" while she perceived me to be edgy and willing to take risks in the fashion arena. I suppose in a sea of Lulu Lemon clad women gingerly clutching Starbucks coffee cups so as not to ruin their French manicures, I might appear a little different, bur I'm hardly way out there.

Last week, the teacher sidled up to me in the courtyard and started fishing for compliments with regards to her outfit. I couldn't help but think that her ensemble seemed like an attempt to recreate the look that I'd had the week before, especially since her opening line was "I'm trying really hard to be a little edgier today". I complimented her nevertheless and said that as always, she looked wonderful.

On Friday of last week, I was dressed fairly conservatively as I'd been meeting with new clients. Still, my outfit had a bit of punch in that my skirt was of an unusual shape and was a beautiful shade of hot pink. That afternoon, the same teacher approached me, complimented me yet again on my look. She then went on to say that she had the exact same skirt and that she was "taking notes on my outfit".

Yesterday, as I entered the courtyard to pick up my children, I did a double take. Standing about twenty feet from me was the teacher clad in a virtually identical outfit as I had been wearing on Friday.

It's funny. That kind of thing always happened in high school. In every high school, I think there is always at least one girl who has a certain je ne sais quoi about her. Hand in hand with that girl is at least one friend who is mildly adoring and wants to be like her in every respect possible. Generally, that desire to emulate is expressed in terms of clothing. But for whatever reason, the obsessor can never quite pull it off.

During the summer, I was sitting in a coffee shop one day when in strolled these two young girls. They were probably about fifteen years old and they had that I-am-the-cat's-pyjamas-confidence that only a young teen can possess. I had to stifle a giggle watching them as they were dressed virtually identically in brown tank tops, fashionably frayed jean minis, flip flops and clutch purses. But even though they were fashion's answer to the Bobsey Twins, it was still obvious who was the trendsetter and who was the follower. I wanted to shake the second girl and say "What are you doing? Why do you want to be a clone? Wouldn't you rather be unique?"

I'm way past my high school years, but I have to admit that it does bother me to have a clone out there. It must be genetic because my daughter, who expresses herself by her own completely creative and unique sense of fashion, gets upset if anyone copies her.

Update: This afternoon when picking up my children, I was approached yet again by the teacher who asked where I got a particular item of clothing I was wearing today. She said that coincidentally she had just been flipping through a magazine this afternoon and had wanted to create the very same look I was sporting. Wondering if this means that tomorrow I will be greeted with a version of myself?

Monday, September 25, 2006

Tales from the fifth grade

Can't think,
Brain dumb,
Inspiration won't come.
Bum pen,
No ink,
Best wishes,

That little rhymer was scribbled into my grade school autograph books on numerous occasions by various classmates.

In the third grade, the teasing began:

Not because you're dirty,
Not because you're clean,
But because you kissed a boy
Behind a magazine.

As we got older, the rhymes would take on a more lewd tone (at a third grade level, that is):

She offered her honour,
He honoured her offer,
And all night long,
He was on her and off her.

We tee-hee'd over that one, thinking we were so bad.

I haven't a clue why we persisted year after year, in ceremoniously making the rounds of the class in order to get each person's John Henry. We were very much a community school; there wasn't a single classmate that didn't walk to and from school. The day after school ended and every day during the summer, we would find each other at the neighbourhood public pool, so the point of bidding each other "adieu" in our Mickey Mouse autograph books was fairly pointless. I guess the idea was to hold onto the books on the off chance that one of our classmates would become a famous porn star or politician or both and then we'd have some priceless memorabilia. Unfortunately, i am the child of two completely unsentimental people who are the absolute anti-thesis of pack rats. Sigh ...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Today was the first day of school. My youngest child began grade one. There are just way too many emotions to sort through.

I have a big lump in my throat.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Knit one, purl two

I've been so busy trying to soak up the last few weeks of summer that I've ignored the whole world of blogging. (Surprisingly the entire infrastructure did not collapse without my obsessive supervision).

I've also been spending a lot of time knitting. Throughout my life, I've tended to go off on these sporadic craft jags where I'll either knit, crochet or sew. Of the three, knitting is my favourite activity. There's something vaguely hypnotic and soothing about the whole thing. I'm endlessly fascinated by the fact that a fabulous creation can spring from two sticks and a ball of string.

Since I'm a fairly experienced and seasoned knitter, I tend to go on autopilot while completing a project. I find that I can just zone out and let my mind wander off on its own tangents. It's interesting where it sometimes meanders.

Most recently, for some reason, it played back a few scenes from my childhood. One of the earliest that kept flashing through my mind was a time when I was about two years old, if that. I remember that it was a crisp fall day and my father had taken me and my brother outside to play. The reason why we were dispatched into his charge was that my mother needed some peace and quiet within to finish sewing my new fall coat. My parents were both frugal people and always recycled things. Hence, the fabric for my coat came from one of my mother's maternity suits. My mother was very conscious of quality, so my coat was of a beautiful green wool pinstripe fabric.

I still remember how excited I was when my mother emerged from our apartment and presented me with the finished product. I immediately donned the coat and pranced around feeling incredibly grown-up.

At the time, i took for granted the fact that my mother is a creative genius. A number of items in my closet were hand-me-downs courtesy of my brother, but my mother always reworked them so that they looked nothing like boy's clothing. It never occurred to me at the time how much time and energy my mother expended on these tasks. Neither did I ever stop to consider how little of either precious commodity she had available.

The other memory that popped up was also from the same era; I may have even been younger than two years old because I seem to remember still being in diapers. My mother came home unexpectedly early one day and I ran to greet her excitedly. Since my mother went back to work within a month of giving birth, neither my brother nor I ever really had much play time with her and had to contend with a series of horrible babysitters. The prospect of having a little extra time with my mother was therefore, a thrilling one.

That particular day I was eating chocolate chip cookies and I had two, one clutched in each pudgy little fist. My hands and face were smeared with crumbs and chocolate. When I ran to hug my mother, she dropped down to her knees and gave me a hug, simultaneiously gracing me with a huge radiant smile. At some point, I remember looking down at one of my hands and seeing that the cookie had been bitten into. I was never sure if I'd eaten it, or if my mother had had a taste while I was busy chattering to her. I prefer the latter scenario because it makes me feel particularly close to my mom.

I've spent a lot of time on my blog here engaging in some form of therapy or another; sharing with the world at large some of the feelings that I've had with regards to my family and to my past. It's a new experience for me given that I spent my entire life keeping all of it secret and trying to invent a different family life than the one I had. I often feel guilty about the amount of indiscreet venting I've done with regards to both my childhood and to my family. A longtime friend of mine once made an idle comment about my lack of discretion online and I felt particularly ashamed because his mother passed away years ago while he was still far too young to be without a parent.

As I furiously and obsessively finished my sweater it occurred to me that perhaps I was doing more than just creating a fashion statement. As trivial and uneventful as my memories are, I hang onto them closely. I somehow believe that if I can just connect the dots between those types of moments, I can fashion a more positive and glowing view of my mother and overlook all the glaring problems that existed in our relationship.

And then like so many of the hang tags that accompany our store-bought garments, any deficiencies in the fabric would simply add to the beauty of the item itself.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Two sides of the same coin

I took my kids to see "Superman Returns". Most of the movie focussed on the relationship between Lois Lane and the tights-in-flight guy.

I know that it's fiction, but it's always bothered me that Lois Lane never gleans onto the fact that Clark Kent is really her super love interest. We are led to believe through our pop culture that love is all-encompassing and has the rare ability to change us. Yet, someone who claims to be in love with another being can't recognise him when he dons street clothes and geeky glasses.

In real life, are we really that superficial? Scarily, I sometimes think that we are indeed. People often fall in love with another, citing his or her good qualities, and fail to take into account that the less desirable qualities are simply the flip side of what we love. They also fail to realise that often you can't have one without the other. I think of my husband who is impulsive, spontaneous and has this incredible joy and passion for life. When I first met him, I was bowled over by his ability to be happy despite all odds. It was a novel concept for me since I grew up believing that enjoying life was frivolous and that planning was everything. What I later came to realise was that my husband is quite possibly also the single most disorganised person on the face of this earth. He would probably curl up and die if a strict nine-to-five regime was imposed upon him.

Am I charmed by the fact that his desk is constantly buried beneath a mountain of papers? Probably not, but I've come to realise that that comes hand in hand with his good qualities; he wouldn't be so able to give into the mood of the moment if he was an anal person.

At the heart of every plainly clothed person lies a superhero. I'm convinced of that fact. The hardest part is trying to love both the civilian and the hero equally.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Maybe they're onto something ...

This past weekend, I was at the cottage entertaining our wonderful friends from Denmark (five of the loveliest individuals one could ever have the pleasure of meeting).

At the request of the matriarch of the Danish crew, we went to the market at St. Jacob's, which is a Mennonite town about a twenty-five minute drive from the cottage. Whilst there, the eldest son would discreetly point to some of the hard core Mennonites. In his charming European adolescent fashion, he would comment about how their lives must suck. On this point, he was obdurate despite my explanations that there could be some beauty in the simplicity of it all. (While lecturing him of course, I was trying to block out the depressing conflict and dreariness which I'd read about in Miriam Toewes "A Complicated Kindness").

My teenage friend kept waxing and waning about a life devoid of cars, electronics and good clothes. Since Denmark is a socialist country, his is certainly not a life jammed with the commercial pleasures into which we greedy North Americans regularly dip our gouty little fingers. Because of this, I thought he could relate to the lives of the Mennonites. From his perspective though, he couldn't figure out why a North American would choose to forego the luxries which he himself was forced to do without.

This weekend, my car broke down, followed by my traiterous cell phone which decided to just literally fall apart within my hands. Then my Palm Pilot started acting up and I oculdn't figure out which end was up in my life anymore. I realised that the Mennonites had one up on us; they could easily star in a Survivor series and thrive, while I would lie moaning on the ground complaining about the lack of electrical outlets for my hair dryer. Speaking of a no hair dryer existence, I think I just figured out why the Mennonite womenfolk sport those hideous black bonnets ...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Bend over ... trust me

Growing up, I was cautioned to trust no one. My parents were very suspicious of others, particularly those of the non-Korean persuasion. I suspect that their mistrust found its roots in the early days of their emigration to North America, and was no doubt fuelled by their parents' and fellow countrymen's cautions.

As I grew up, my parents constantly chastised my brother and I for our apparent naivete. The fact that we naturally instilled any trust and belief in our friends was considered sheer stupidity. I felt conflicted at the best of times.

When adolescent rebellion set in, I began thinking, in typical teenage fashion, that my parents didn't know much about anything. Therefore this whole mistrust of the world at large was clearly silly. I felt that my parents were too paranoid and needed to rethink their position on others' intentions; not everyone was out to take advantage of us at every turn. Surely some people were good.

"Not so", declared my father from within my head in a Norman Bates' mother-like way.

"Oh. do shut up please," I thought as I resolutely ignored him and continued on my merry way.

As the daughter of a theoretical scientist, I can't help but feel that every hypothesis must first be tested before one could declare it a theory. Therefore, I went to the lab so to speak, and set out to prove my parents wrong, all the while feeling the weight of my parents' disapproval.

About four years ago, I made the acquaintance of a young man in his early twenties. We met in the street right outside of my house. I live in a very quiet middle-class neighbourhood. This particular man was visiting his girlfriend who rented a room in a house two doors away from me. The initial jumping off point of our conversation revolved around the question of ownership of two well-groomed dogs which were wandering up and down the street. Somehow our conversation evolved and within weeks, he was doing some odd manual work for my husband around our house and at one of our investment properties. After work, he would often play basketball with my eldest son and would chat with me. As he was on his own, I sort of took him under my wing.

One day, D. asked me about my large book collection which he had seen in the living room. After we had chatted about what types of books he preferred to read, I then selected several from my shelves and pressed them upon him. It was obvious that he was interested in reading them all, but he was quite reticient and suggested that I lend him one at a time rather than all three at once. I insisted that they were essential reads and that he should take them all at once as I had read them already and wouldn't need them back for awhile. He cautioned me several times that he was an extremely slow reader and that it would take him some time before he would be finished with them.

Shortly thereafter, D's girlfriend moved away from our street and out of neighbourhood. As I never go D's phone number, I lost touch with him.

Now, it should be known that the one possesion about which I am slightly obsessive is my books. Through the years, I have lent out many of my books to various people and have never gotten them back. Since I have a nearly photographic memory, I still remember to this day who has which book.

After D. stopped being a regular in our household, I would often have regrets about having been so reckless in my offer to him. One of the books in particular, had been given to me as a gift by my first love and had an inscription written in it. I felt a certain longing for a book that held a chunk of my past within its covers.

Several years later, I was going through my book shelves sorting through my collection. I thought fleetingly of D. and my lost books and silently cursed myself for having trusted a virtual stranger.

The next night as I was feeding my children dinner, I heard someone knocking at my front door. Our area is heavily canvassed by charities, schoolkids and Jehoval witnesses, so I'm somewhat leery about answering my door if I'm not expecting anyone. I peered out of the window and saw a tall man standing on my front stoop. He called out my name and although I couldn't place him, I thought it was someone I knew, so I opened the door. It took me a minute for the penny to drop before I realised it was D. He looked very different as he was dressed in a suit and had cut his dreadlocks off.

I invited him in and we began chatting about what he had been up to since we had last seen each other. Before we got very far in our conversation, he dashed out the door and ran to his car. He returned with my books and apologised for their late return. Apparently, he had moved many times over since we'd last spoken and had taken the books with him to each place. The most touching comment was that he'd felt honoured that I'd trusted a virtual stranger with my possessions and he had wanted to make sure they were returned to me.

At the time, I remember feeling that this was an important life lesson; that good feelings such as respect and trust which are given out to someone eventually boomerang and find their way home to you just as my precious books did. As I learned in my physics class, energy is never lost.

I'd like to end the story on a good note. Unfortunately, after our fuzzy reunion, D. ended up moving into an apartment in one of our investment properties and stiffed us for about four months' rent with neither an explanation nor an apology. The weird thing is that that did nothing to erase my feelings that he was a person with an honour code in place. (In fact, from what I learned afterwards from others, he was going through an extremely tough time in his life which no doubt contributed to his inability to pay). I suppose it's an indication of how much value I place upon my books.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

David and Goliath

One of my neighbours got married and had a child later in life. Said child is extremely petite; she weighs twenty-two pounds and is about the size of an average fourteen month-old, despite the fact that she is a couple months away from her third birthday. As the product of a long-harboured desire, she appears to be indulged in very interesting ways.

Yesterday, I was on my way to another neighbour's house with my children. We were going to go swimming. My daughter ran into Thumbelina and played with her briefly before telling her of our plans. Thumbelina then decided that she was going to come with us and ran down the street to tell her father that she needed to put on her bathing suit.

My daughter waited for her and after nearly fifteen minutes, she finally emerged from her house with her mother in tow. Mrs. Thumbelina advised us that her daughter had never really been in a pool and didn't know how to swim. She also said that she didn't know the pool-owning neighbours upon whom her daughter had foisted herself.

After about fifteen minutes of splashing about, during which time Thumbelina commanded my children to fetch and carry, Mrs. Thumbelina asked her daughter if she thought they should leave. As anyone with half a brain would guess, the little one volleyed back with a resounding "no". What kid would chirp "Yes, in fact, I'm ready to go now, Mother dearest"??!!

Then followed thirty minutes of painful dialogue between mother and child. As it turned out, the mother was expecting dinner guests and she kept asking the child if she didn't think she should come home to visit with the guests who had no doubt already arrived. I couldn't figure out what the hell the two were doing there in the first place if the mother knew guests were imminent. Why didn't she just refuse to bring her child swimming when she asked?

So I sat there and bore witness to a twenty pounder pushing around an adult who very willingly took it. It was all I could do not to scream out "Just bloody take your child out of the pool and TELL her it's time to go home!" Why on earth did the mother feel compelled to keep asking her daughter for permission to leave?

Now I'm not the world's most perfect parent, but I do believe in setting boundaries for my children. I can't imagine ever asking them repeatedly "Kids, do you think it's time for to stop all your fun and go home?" Instead, I usually give them the five minute warning, throw in a bonus two minutes and then tell them to pack it up. And yes, on occasion, I have gotten angry if they haven't cooperated.

I sometimes have to stop and wonder if I'm being too hard on my kids. I grew up in a family where no respect or consideration was ever given to one's children or to their feelings, lest said children got horribly spoiled. Because this was the norm for me growing up, I have nothing else to reference when searching for a good role model. Therefore, the task of finding a happy medium between authoritarian parent and jellyfish permissive parent is sometimes a difficult one. In this case however, there is no way I would ever aspire to be like this geriatric mom.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Forget the metaphysical questions ... these are far more pressing

I heard on the radio yesterday that Wireton Willy died after a bout of pneumonia or some such groundhog version of the ailment.

I was curious how they will go about picking Willy's successor. Do they hold auditions by shining a flashlight above the groundhog to see how they will react? Do they pick one of Willy's children? Did Willy have any say in who would follow in his hallowed footsteps? Do they attend some kind of metereology training academy? Will they announce it and have a great big press conference?

Friday, June 30, 2006

Another of my pet peeves

Well since I'm feeling utterly wretched at the moment, i thought I'd just engage in some public bitching.

Why is that people feel compelled to speak some kind of condescending and retarded form of English around immigrants who don't have the greatest command of the language? I mean, I certainly modify how I speak somewhat in that I try to slow down a bit as I am slightly manic in my speech at times. I may also try to simplify my language a bit, in the same way as I would if I was speaking with a younger person.

What I don't do though is either speak in extremely loud tones (because the person is non-English speaking, not hearing impaired) or speak in a stilted and grammatically incorrect manner. I overheard a co-worker yelling at a tradesman, saying something along the lines of "You come his house. You come for fix his fence. I give you address, okay?"

I find the whole thing utterly distasteful and insulting. Newly landed immigrants may not speak English properly upon first arriving to Canada, but they certainly aren't stupid. Also, maybe the reason they might take longer to learn to speak correctly is that idiots deliberately slaughter the language on the premise that they are helping out.

Because I'm too tired and sick to be original

This came from Snooze and while I thought it was just in the name of good fun actually seems to really scream me.

Your Birthdate: January 24

You understand people well and are a natural born therapist.
A peacemaker, people always seem to get along when you are around.
You tend to be a father or mother figure to friends, even to those older than you.
You enjoy your role, and you find that you are close to many people.

Your strength: Your devotion

Your weakness: Reliance on others for happiness

Your power color: Lilac

Your power symbol: Heart

Your power month: June

Monday, June 26, 2006

Who are we kidding?

I just love how the fashion world patronises us in an oh-so-obvious way.

It's yesterday's news that on the whole, people are getting larger. Obesity is on the rise and will no doubt reach epidemic proportions within the near future.

I'm lucky in that I've been blessed with a fairly good metabolism. I may have gained about ten pounds within the last few years, but since I'd always been thin I'm now average in weight.

In years past, I was always a size eight, maybe even a ten depending upon whether the garment was cut on the smaller size. I believe I even have some vintage items from my mother that are a size twelve. But now thanks to our expanding waistlines and fashion's transparent attempt to make us think we still look like we are still fourteen years old, I'm a size zero or a two. Do I honestly care so long as I find something that fits me properly and does the job? Apparently though, lots of women do. It's a big thrill for some girls to suddenly find themselves down from size fourteen to a size eight. Enough to make them buy ten pairs of pants just to have that lovely small size tag staring back at them.

Children's clothes are also made much larger. So that we can tell larger children that "look you fit into a size ten tall ... see you're no different than your friends". I guess I can see the point given that eating disorders are also on the rise amongst our pre-teens. It's pretty scary to hear third and fourth graders worrying about calorie intake and fat content. We wouldn't want our girls developing complexes about their bodies, now would we? And yet, we then prance around and happily announce to our girlfriends that we now fit into a teeny size four, so aren't we so thin now?

In the end though, how blind do the fashion moguls think we are, or how much do they think we are willing to fool ourselves? I mean, I know I'm not really a size zero. I'm hardly overweight, but I'm no waif either. And my perfectly average and normally sized eight-year-old daughter isn't "teeny" or "petite" as the salespeople like to crow delightfully. She's just surrounded by a sea of overly large clothes.

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet and a larger person by any other hang tag is still going to be faced with her own mirror image at home. Intead of deluding ourselves into thinking we are something we aren't, shouldn't we just learn to love and accept what we are?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Transplanted in Toronto Soil and Proud of It

There are a lot of things I don't like about Toronto. Or more accurately, it's not that I dislike Toronto so much as the fact that, at the heart of it all, I'm a Montreal girl; even after all of these years of residing here, I still don't feel quite at home in Toronto. Something about the atmosphere being more Anglophone perhaps?

i was downtown today and found myself in the centre of the Pride Week Parade. It was an awesome experience and I was glad to be a part of it. It is pretty amazing and wonderful that Toronto hosts this kind of an event on an annual basis.

When I first moved to Toronto, I was struck by the amount of uptight and close-minded people I met. I encountered more racism, sexism, homophobia and open ignorance and intolerance here than I had back home. But maybe it's just that the biases are different. Quebec residents have their own set of prejudices and I suppose since I've grown up surrounded by them, I don't give it a second thought.

As I stood amidst the throng of people this afternoon, I wondered why Montreal doesn't host its own Gay Pride week. We bill ourselves as being European, liberal and cosmopolitan in our beliefs and yet, we don't celebrate the wide spectrum of sexuality. Are we really not as open-minded as I liked to give us credit as being, or is it that we are just too pre-occupied with the whole Quebecois identity to even think about anything else?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

So much for the magic word

Does anyone remember good manners?

Don't get me wrong, I'm no Emily Post. I do occasionally put my elbows on the table, although never while eating; I don't write as many thank-you cards as I should although I did for all the more momentuous events (wedding, birth and christening gifts) and I have often issued verbal invites rather than the old-fashioned written ones for dinner parties and the like. But when it comes to the basics, I think I'm fairly well-versed.

It seems like etiquette is a dying art. I'm constantly appalled by the lack of respect people show for those older than themselves. Simple gestures such as holding the door open or allowing an older person to enter into or exit from an elevator first seem to be far and few.

I know I sound like an old fart, but honestly, back in my day we were trained to behave in a certain fashion. While I may not agree with the way in which those lessons were drummed into us, I do still believe that the lessons were important ones.

Today, we hosted our daughter's eighth birthday party. I am constantly amazed at the lack of consideration both parents and children exhibit during such events.

We issue written invitations to the entire class every year. Each year, I have to chase down about fifty percent of the parents to find out if their child will be attending. This despite the fact that I specifically ask that parents RSVP by a certain date. Because it's not my dream to run around at the last minute and buy extra loot bags or order a bigger cake to accomodate the late stragglers.

I'm always amazed at the cheekiness that some of the guests possess. Who paws through the loot bags before they are given out and then declares loudly that "it sucks"? Who proclaims that vanilla cake is most decidely not their favourite and then goes on to ask if there is another dessert for them? What the hell ever happened to the rule "if you have nothing good to say, say nothing"?

Many of the parents didn't even bother to thank my daughter or I for inviting their child. I always make sure that at the end of a party or playdate my children seek out all the adults who helped out and thank them, as well as going to the host child and passing on their thanks and/or birthday wishes. Apparently, this is unusual and rare behaviour.

Am I being overly and unrealistically demanding? Or is common etiquette going the way of the dial tone phone?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

We are definitely old ...

I went to a dance performance held by my kids' school this evening. It was far better than I hadanticipated it would be. It was really cute to watch some of the kids strut their stuff.

Somewhat simultaenously sobering and amusing, was that the emcee would occasionally announce that a "retro mix" would follow. Music from the eighties and nineties would then be played ... you know stuff that I listened to as a teenager or during my university years.

Even scarier was the fact that these songs had no relevance for our kids. They had no idea that some of these tunes were so popular during our formative years. To them it was just some obscure weird music.

Yikes! Our music is vintage ...

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Eh vs Huh

So while I'm on my rant about racial stereotypes, I thought I'd add in this post.

A few weeks ago, I snuck out for a much needed mental health break. Some friends invited me to go along with them to Niagara Falls for a few hours to visit the casino and have dinner. Since I'd never been to a casino before, other than the temporary one that runs during the CNE, I jumped at the chance.

After everyone had had their fill of the casino, we decided to go for dinner. One of my friends insisted that we cross the river to the States and go for dinner at their casino. He claimed that the buffet at this particular location was amazing. Starving, we all climbed into his car and headed for the bridge to cross the border.

I have to stop and give a little background on the occupants of the car. There were five of us in total; three men, two of whom were Caucasian and one who was of Persian descent. The other woman in the car was of Taiwanese descent. Three of us were Canadian born (the two Caucasian guys and myself), the other two were Canadian citizens.

The only ones in the car who had acceptable forms of identification were me (I carry my birth certificate at all times) and the Persian guy who had his citizenship card. EVeryone else just had their drivers' licences.

The customs officer at the border was this whitebread type who just seemed to be on a power trip. He had the temerity to say that I and the two other non-Caucasian passengers didn't look like the average North Americans and that we would therefore have to proceed upstairs. Now, I completely understand the reasons for taking extra precautions. What I didn't agree with was the way in which he felt it necessary to point out that since three of us were non-Caucasian, we didn't fit the bill of a Canadian. I mean, truly, what the hell does a Canadian look like anyway? My friends kept shushing me because I started on my spiel about how I was under the impression that North America was a multi-cultural continent.

What made me even more irritated was the attitude of the officers upstairs. We were called in as a group and each of us were asked to state our birth country. I pulled out my birth certificate yet again as I re-stated that I was Canadian born. I was then subjected to a multitude of questions, obviously posed to sniff out an imposter. What burned me was that my two Caucasian friends only had to say that they were Canadian and were immediately and politely dismissed. They weren't required to produce any corroborating documents or identification. The Taiwanese born woman? Like the other two guys, she didn't have anything other than her driver's licence and yet she was raked over the coals. And despite the fact that the other guy had his citizenship card, he was given the third degree and treated like shit for the longest amount of time. I would have thought that as soon as he produced his card, the conversation would have been over.

The entire time this was taking place, I thought about a childhood lesson I'd been given regarding diplomacy: you can ask for almost anything if you just ask nicely and with respect. I would have been fine with having the extra security measures taken if everyone hadn't gone so obviously out of their way to make their racial stereotypes known. Why didn't the guy at the booth simply say "Some of you appear not to have adequate identification. Please proceed upstairs"?

Of course, now I'm left with the lingering impression and ensuing stereotype that all U.S. Customs Officers are ignorant, power tripping asses.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Forty isn't too old for a frat party, is it?

The other night I went to the worst and stupidest excuse for a party ever.

The event in question was a neighbour's birthday party. The birthday boy has a natural daily inclination towards inebriation. He clearly enjoys his drink. Since we are acquainted with a few of his friends who are also heavy drinkers, we knew that this party would be one big long alcohol fest.

What I didn't realise was that it was also going to be a party filled with alcoholic affluent but ignorant WASPs. Apart from the five nannies who were working industriously in the kitchen that night, I was the only non-Caucasian there.

All of the nannies in our neighbourhood (and there are plenty) are from the Phillipines. Apparently, this couple's nanny was asked to find assistance for the party, so she got a bunch of her friends and fellow countrymen to come in and help out.

We arrived about forty minutes fashionably late. By that point, most of the party-goers were half in the bag. About twenty minutes post-arrival, I got hit on by some guy who was completely wasted. So drunk that he first dropped his cutlery onto the ground and spent several minutes crawling around trying to find it to no avail. He then went back into the house to get extra cutlery and emerged shortly thereafter clutching two forks ("just in case, you know"). Apparently, the combination of speaking and sitting was just too much in his state, and he promptly dropped his plate facedown into the grass. He then scooped his food back onto his plate and began eating it quickly, all the while trying to pay me disingenuous compliments in a very slurred voice. At the first available opportunity, I excused myself and hurried into the house.

Unfortunately, the company that awaited me inside was no better. As I was squeezing through the bodies in the hallway to get to the washroom, another guy spotted me and enquired very loudly if I was the nanny. He then proceeded to tell me how he was looking for a nanny and that he would love to hire me since he'd always wanted to have a hot woman working for him. When the host informed him that I was most definitely not the nanny, but rather a neighbour with a bunch of kids of my own, the idiot thought he was kidding and kept asking "No, but seriously, whose nanny is she?" Brcause what else could an Asian girl be but a nanny? I personally loved the way he ignored the fact that I was dressed quite nicely, spoke English better than he did and was holding a wine glass.

It got worse. When the host was finally able to convince him that I really was a neighbour, the idiot then asked if I was the next-door neighbour's wife, knowing full well that that particular guy rented a single room in the house next door. Because apparently, there was no way an Asian girl could not be a nanny AND own viable real estate. When I pointed out which house I lived in, he then reverted back to the obnoxious question "Are you sure you're not having me on? You really are the nanny, aren't you?"

The last straw was when I went back outside to find my husband, and the wasted guy who ate his dinner from the ground, felt me up while I had both hands completely occupied (one holding a wineglass, the other holding some chick's umbrella while she rummaged around in her purse for a lighter).

The whole night reminded me of my experiences from my early twenties. The joke amongst my friends was that I always managed to attract the weirdest men in any given situation (I even got hit on at a Homo Hop by the one heterosexual guy who had no idea where he was). Not that I ever enjoyed being around ignorant drunken men, but at least back in my university days they were a whole lot cuter.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Back in my day ...

When I was growing up, a few of my friends and I used to have some fun with the phone. On PA days and during the summer holidays, we would phone kids from our class and pretended that we were officials from some kind of adolescent group and were gathering information via a phone survey. We wrote up a script so that our opening patter was flawless, and without pausing, we would move straight from it into a list of questions. We began innocuously enough, enquiring about their age and grade level, whether or not they smoked or drank or did drugs. From there we would quickly move the interrogations towards sex. Since we were only in the fifth or sixth grade, our questions revolved around the basics like "Have you ever been kissed? Have you ever French kissed? Have you ever been felt up? Do you masturbate?"

It was amazing how many of our classmates actually fell for this and were forthcoming with so much personal information. It was hard for us not to burst out laughing during key moments. Surprisingly, no one guessed our identity.

As we got older, our fun with the phone evolved. Through one of our older siblings, we caught wind of something called "looped lines". These were dedicated phone lines used, I believe, by Bell telephone employees to communicate between themselves. My usually photographic memory is a bit foggy on this front, but these numbers either all had the same first three numbers, or the same last four numbers. If you happened to dial in while someone else was also dialing that particular number, you got connected or your lines became looped. Otherwise, you simply encountered dead air.

My friends and I used to congregate at one or the others' houses after school and after quickly doing our homework (we were good students, after all!) would spend hours cruising the looped lines. I'm not sure exactly what our intentions were. Mainly, the lines were jammed with older teenage guys looking for phone sex. As fascinated as we were, we were only twelve or thirteen at the time, and therefore lacked the experience or the desire to have these kinds of conversations. Nevertheless we continued to make these calls on a regular basis and pretend that we were much older girls.

One day while at one of my closest friend's house, her younger sister gave us a slip of paper with a name, a phone number and a brief description of a person (twenty-eight, very horny and dirty-minded) whom she'd accidentally called once and who stupidly (or desperately) gave her his correct home number during the process. Curious as hell, we dialed the number and crowded around the receiver, giggling as it rang.

Quite obviously, the voice on the other end belonged to a man in his late twenties or early thirties. For whatever reason, he very willingly entered into a conversation with us and was quite graphic in his descriptions of what he liked to do. The most bizarre thing was that he never once asked us who we were and how we had gotten his number.

I'd like to say that our fun ended there, but unfortunately, we were strangely drawn to this aberration of a man. We called him on a regular basis, with different friends present, and essentially egged him on to tell us about himself and his sexual conquests. Each time, he never once asked us who we were, must simply eased himself into conversation without question.

Finally, one day many phone calls later, a friend and I decided it was time to find out what this pervert looked like. We made arrangements for him to come and pick us up at a street corner, and then watched from far away as he sat in his car and stopped every girl that might match the description we'd given him.

I grew up firmly believing that one should never judge a book by its cover, but really, this guy was completely ugly and slimy looking. He was quite obviously desperate for something because he apparently hung around waiting for us for close to an hour (we hopped on a bus and went shopping after the first five minutes, but found this out during a subsequent phone call).

I haven't thought about this stuff in years. I'd almost completely forgotten about looped lines until just the other day. Ironically I had been patting myself on the back the other day about how vigilant and careful I am about my kids' use of the computer and internet at home, when really they could have been in the other room using the phone for all I knew.

The only thing I have over them is that at least I was focussed -- I didn't multi-task!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Don't think it through, just do it

I read a little miscellaneous bit of nothing in the Globe and Mail the other day. The title of the blurb was "Why we need sex". (I realise I sound like some kind of obsessed nympho since I'm so often writing about sex and correlated issues, so I should abstain this one time, but this was just too damn funny to pass on).

The bit of piffle referred to research which looked into why members of the Kingdom Animalia engage in sexual relations versus asexual reproduction. Indeed, according to a quote from Smithsonian Magazine, the act of sexual reproduction requires a great deal of energy to carry out, while it only allowes an individual the possibility of passing on half of its genes, as compared to cloning in which one hundred percent of an organism's genes are transferred.

The part that cracked me up was the following quote: "Scientists have long wondered why organisms bother".

Um hello? Have you guys been spending that much time in the lab that you don't know the answer to that question? I realise that this was meant within the context of energy expended as compared to the genetic output, but really!

Why do we bother to have sex? The answer list to that could be endless ... because we're trying to have a baby, because it's damn good fun, because we're horny, because we're bored, because the power is out and the T.V. doesn't work, because we're too broke or cheap to go out on a real date, because we're procrastinating on a work deadline and this seemed like more fun, because she wanted the old geezer to give her a pretty and expensive bauble and this seemed like a good way to get it, because this is a good way to destress, because we just fought and the make-up sex is the best, or just because it feels amazingly, awesomely good.

The real issue here is why would anyone even question the reasons for doing it? I mean, why look a gift horse in the mouth? Are scientists going to come up with a more efficient (and less pleasurable) way for us humans to reproduce?

I was curious if any of those genius scientists had done any research into why people bother to engage in oral or anal sex. Why does that physiological drive exist when it doesn't have anything to do with reproduction per se? I smell a doctoral thesis in there somewhere.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Labour of Love

A number of my friends have buns in their ovens at the moment, and it's caused me to reflect back upon my own pregnancies. Snooze once said I should post something about my first pregnancy in particular. Apparently, she finds this little anecdote quite amusing for some reason -- no dobut because it was about me and not her.

I think I am not in the minority when I state that first pregnancies are special. The novelty is, at first, completely exciting; the excitement then gives way to nerve-wracking insecurities, a fear of the unknown and the anticipation of an irrevocable change in one's life.

Now, most sensible people think things through before they decide to conceive. Although typically a planner, I somehow naively and unthinkingly went along with the general idea that we would start trying to get pregnant. Fortunately, or unfortunately, my husband and I are a walking ad for the saying that "it only takes one time". We literally got pregnant the very first time we had sex after deciding to try.

In the ensuing excitement of pre-natal vitamins, leafing through What to Expect When You're Expecting, and eating healthily, my husband decided that it would be a nice idea to put together a photographic triptych paying homage to the dramatic changes happening to my body. The idea was that he would take a picture of me wearing the same outfit and posing the same way each trimester. Since I was self-conscious and shy back then, I refused to do nudies and the shots were of me clad in bra and panties, as well as in a black dress. It became almost a pregnancy flipbook because other than the emerging bump, the photos were identical.

We eagerly awaited the arrival of the first two trimesters so we could immortalise my tummy in our photo shoot. Time being relative, those early months just crept along while the last two flew by. During the final trimester, I would fall into bed exhausted at the end of each day and as I would be turning out the light, my husband would remind me that we hadn't taken the final preggo shots yet.

One week before I was due to give birth, I was at my office helping out a colleague prepare for an offer presentation. After counselling her, I returned home at midnight and felt compelled to start cleaning the house like a fanatic because I deemed it to be in a complete state of shambles. That should have been my first clue that something was up. The second clue that should have tipped us off was my subsequent freak out over my discovery of hubby's dirty socks on the floor. After kicking toys and clothes around and nonsensically screaming four letter words, I flopped into bed, frothing at the mouth and silently resolved to never again speak to my husband.

My mortatorium on silence lasted but a short while for several moments later, I felt something weird -- a sort of scratching from the inside of my stomach. I held my breath and lay in the dark with my eyes wide open. After a few minutes, I whispered my husband's name. He was instantly awake and off the bed like a shot.

"Whaaaaaa??!! I'm up ... I'm up," he exclaimed, running around the room as if his rear end was on fire.

I quietly explained that I felt weird but wasn't sure why. He immediately reached for the multitude of pregnancy reference books which he'd purchased for his own sanity during the early hormone infused days of my condition. He quickly flipped through each of the dog eared tomes to the "Signs that you are in labour" sections and started reading off symptoms. At this point, I was sitting up with my back against the headboard and was beginning to feel silly because that scratching feeling had completely disappeared.

Suddenly, a small river wound its way down the bed. I jumped up in horror and disgust.

"What in the bloody HELL is THAT?" I shrieked, pointing a shaking finger at the mess on the bed.

Hubby looked up from his books and then nervously flipped to the index, all the while muttering "Membranes rupturing or water breaking". At this point, I started protesting that it wasn't that; I wasn't entirely unsure if maybe I'd just lost control of my bladder.

My husband recited a passage out loud that described the smell of amniotic fluid in great detail. This is where we reached the point of no return. We looked up from our respective positions on either side of the bed and without hesitation, my beloved husband then bent down, put his face close to the pool of liquid, took a deep whiff and then announced that yes indeed, my water had broken.

I knew right then and there that if one's relationship is at the point where one is sniffing the significant other's bodily fluids, it's a pretty good indication that one is going to be with the other for life.

While I frantically rushed about the house simultaneously trying to get dressed, throw random things into a bag to take to the hospital and communicate with the triage nurse on one phone line while calling my doula on another, my husband suddenly came to a screeching halt.

"The pictures! The damn pictures! We haven't taken the last set of pictures!", he exclaimed.

He coaxed and cajoled me into first stripping down to my unmentionables for the first shot, then donning the black dress for the second shot. In the meantime, that scratching feeling had suddenly transformed into full-blown contractions. I started snarling at my husband to hurry up and capture the moment already. (Much later, a close friend of the family saw the triptych pictures and asked why in the last framed shot, I'd looked so upset).

As if that wasn't enough ... as we drove away to the hospital, my husband realised that I didn't have any suitable nursing bras. Obviously we weren't thinking very clearly because in my leaky condition, who really gave a fig what kind of a post-partum over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder I had stashed away in my bag? So, while I sat in the car panting and puffing, he stopped off at several 24 hour drugstores and purchased a couple at each location. This while my uterus continued to expel amniotic fluid all over the car seat -- who knew a woman's body could hold so much liquid!!

Twenty-four hours later, our beautiful son came into the world and the whole importance of a prenatal photo triptych simply vanished. It was unimaginable that we'd once spent so much time discussing it and planning it, to the point where we'd taken the last shots at the nth hour. The only images we cared to capture on film were those of our scrumptious baby. It was ludicrous that I'd sat with my legs tightly crossed in the car while my husband shopped for some stupid undergarments. Suddenly none of that mattered any longer.

So for all you moms and expectant moms, I wish you a Happy Mother's Day.

Saturday, April 29, 2006


A few months ago, my step-daughter called me from university to announce that THE event had happened: she'd lost her virginity. Since the recipient wasn't someone whom she'd been dating for any great length of time (they were both a bit drunk), she'd failed to inform him that it was her first time.

As their relationship progressed (they are now officially boyfriend-girlfriend and in love), she never fessed up because it became too awkward to bring up with the passing of time.

The whole situation reminded me of a guy with whom I had a few brief interludes during our second year of university. P. and I had been part of the same circle of friends since we were about seventeen years old, but we never really got close to each other. We were somewhat attracted to each other, both physically and otherwise. I believe that we both sensed that we were a lot alike in some respects; P. was often uncomfortable in large groups and social situations. I felt much the same way but was far more successful at faking it.

We flirted playfully and harmlessly with each other on and off but never pursued anything. When I moved away to Toronto to attend university, we began corresponding, and our friendship developed.

The big moment came when I went home for a weekend visit. Naturally, I was scheduled to get together with all of my friends who still lived in Montreal and attended McGill. We were supposed to meet to watch a movie outdoors on campus one evening. Somehow only P. and I showed up. It started to rain and P. wrapped us both up in the blanket which he'd conveniently brought. Being that close to P. after all the years of eyeing each other longingly without acting upon our lustful thoughts, was just too much. We exchanged a few kisses and came away from that evening knowing that the next step was inevitable.

Because of the distance, P. and I had few opportunities to see each other over the next few months. Since we were both terrible communicators, we never really discussed our thoughts, feelings or expectations, and therefore neither of us knew what those intimate moments meant to the other. For my part, I was seeing other people, but I thought off and on about P.

Later, when I met someone else with whom I was developing a potentially serious relationship, I didn't know how to deal with the awkwardness of resuming a non-sexual friendship with P. At the first opportunity, I picked a fight with P. and ended all communication with him. It was fairly easy to avoid P. since the rest of our circle of friends had been having some difficulties with him and had stopped associating with him as well.

A few years ago, I was able to get back in touch with P. Luckily, we've both matured (sort of) and were able to put aside the past and pick up the thread of friendship. Finally, we were able to be honest about some of the issues which we'd both had in the past which had affected our relationship.

During one of our candid conversations, P. confessed a jaw-dropping secret: I'd been his first lover. I certainly would have never guessed that given that he'd seemed so self-assured and confident.

I wonder if it will take my step-daughter over twenty years to confess to her boyfriend that he had been her first.

If ...

When I was in the second grade, my father was on a year-long sabbatical. He chose to go to Brussels, Belgium, mainly I believe so that he could meet Dr. Ilya Prigogine, the Nobel Prize Winner for Chemistry.

Although we didn't fully appreciate it at the time, it was a rich and fabulous experience for my brother and I to live in another continent. We were immediately immersed into Belgian culture and although we looked markedly different than the average Belgian child, within months, we were spouting French and Dutch as though we had lived there all of our lives.

Since we were already in Europe, my mom and dad decided to take full advantage of our ability to travel. I'm sure they broke the bank that year because we went to France, Germany, London, Italy, Luxembourg, Holland and various other places during the school year and our summer holidays.

One of my favourite trips was when we travelled several days by train to the south of Italy and then to Rome. The idea of spending a night in a sleeper car was an absolutely magical and enchanting one for us.

Sadly though, since I was relatively young, a lot of the culture was lost on me.
After all, taking young kids on cultural trips can often be a waste of time and money. In retrospect, I realise what a wonderul experience we had; however, at the time I failed to appreciate a great deal of it because let's face it, when you're seven or eight, traisping through various countries in Europe and visiting museums, art galleries and other sightseeing landmarks at a less than leisurely rate can start to wear thin after awhile.

I remember when we travelled to Rome. We had spent about three blissful weeks in a villa in the south of Italy and then travelled from there to the Holy City for a brief stay. Not wanting to miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime, my parents dragged us everywhere worth seeing in Rome. By the afternoon of our second or third day there, I was exhausted, hot and extremely thirsty. My parents, being frugal people, weren't one to stop and buy us drinks or snacks. We'd run out of our own water which we'd been carrying and by this point, I could barely work up enough saliva to keep my mouth from achieving desert status. I asked my mother incessantly when we could stop and get a drink, and my enquiries were met with the unsatisfactory response that drinks were expensive and that we'd have to wait until mealtime before we'd get to order our libations.

At last, we reached the final destination of our sightseeing tour that day -- the Trevi Fountain. My parents spent several minutes oohing and aahing over it. No doubt, they'd seen it in Fellini's La Dolce Vita and were impressed with the real McCoy. I had no knowledge of the magnitude and importance of what was in my presence. All I knew was that my feet were killing and that I was unbelievably hot and dehydrated.

My mother then took my brother and I aside and told us that this was a famous fountain and that if you threw a coin over your right shoulder whilst making a wish, that wish would come true. She then pressed a coin into each of our palms.

Being older, smarter, savvier and more mature, my brother considered carefully before tossing his coin into the waters of the Trevi. I, on the other hand, closed my eyes and thought "I wish my parents would break down on their rules and just buy us a drink now", before pitching my coin over my right shoulder into the fountain.

As soon as I opened my eyes, my mother announced that she was going to go and buy the family some soft drinks from a street vendor; a statement which if you knew my parents and their stance on both the evils of sugary pop and spending money needlessly, could only have been propelled by some miraculous force.

I enjoyed the ice cold bottle of Coke immensely, but it was gone all too soon, and I was suddenly struck by the thought that I'd wasted a wish. If the Trevi fountain had this kind of power to make my mother open her pocketbook and buy us a round of pop, what else could it do? I needed another coin to make a really proper wish!!

I ran to my mother and asked for another coin. Unfortunately, my mother had a one-wish-per-customer policy in effect. Since she'd already spent money on drinks, there was no way she was going to give me more money so I could throw it into the Trevi. I begged, pleaded, wheedled and whined to no avail. I was dragged away from the Trevi fountain, all the while looking back longingly and mournfully.

I've never been back to either Italy or Rome since but I know that when I do, a trip to the Trevi will top my itinerary list. This time I'll be wishing for more than just a drink.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Whither the arm candy?

I hate ironing. It is the absolute bane of my existence. I've never liked it, even as a small child when dreary domestic stuff seemed sort of neat and exciting.

Whenever I am carrying out the dreaded task, I always feel as though I'm trapped in some kind of existentialist horror novel. Didn't I just iron this shirt the other day? What is the point of doing it again if it keeps coming back at me?

When I was single, I remember once dressing hurriedly for work one morning. I had this beautiful suit and needed a blouse to wear underneath. The problem was that I'd done the laundry but hadn't done any ironing. Checking my watch, I realised that I wouldn't have enough time to iron my white blouse, so I quickly ironed the cuffs and collars, buttoned the jacket and presto! I looked fabulously professional.

Later on at the office, I was dying of heat because we were at that dubious point in the year when building maintenance staff err on the side of caution and don't shut off the heat and turn on the air-conditioning. Everyone was walking around the office in shirt sleeves and several colleagues repeatedly suggested that I remove my jacket. As I knew my blouse was a total disaster beneath my jacket, I frantically declined, insisting that I was fine. This despite the perspiration streaming down my face.

The whole experience reminded me of that universal warning all moms give their kids about ensuring that one is wearing clean underwear at all times in case one gets into an accident.

When I first met my husband, his standard daily uniform was a pair of Edwin's baggy jeans or khakis, a button down Oxford-type shirt and a pair of deck shoes. He was the picture of immaculate preppiness. His shirts and jeans were always ironed perfectly, so despite the fact that he was dressed casually, he looked good.

As we began to have more children, I started suddenly looking at ways in which I could lighten my domestic load. Naturally, I turned to my least favourite zone -- the ironing pile. Despite all of my efforts, that damn pile never seemed to get any smaller. Worst of all, none of the clothes in the pile were mine! I started counting the items in the pile and realised that my husband was wearing about seven to ten pairs of pants and ten to fourteen shirts a week. This was just too much, so I started to scheme up ways in which to lighten the load. (Dry cleaning wasn't an option since I just couldn't justify the cost).

I started small. I began by attacking my husband in a subtle way.

"Exactly who irons their jeans? That just seems a bit too anal and fastidious. Jeans are meant to be worn unironed. Can't we just hang them up carefully after they've been washed to produce that crease?"

Unconvinced and skeptical, my husband insisted that I could never recreate the razor sharp crease. However, when I simply refused to iron his jeans, he had no choice but to capitulate.

Step two of my grand plan involved convincing my husband to wear shirts that didn't require ironing. Like long sleeved polo shirts or t-shirts.

Step three involved the khakis mysteriously disappearing.

Eventually I managed to get my ironing pile down to a manageable minimum -- the occasional dress shirt several times a year. I was in heaven.

Last week, my husband and I made arrangements to meet up somewhere. As I sat waiting for him, I noticed this very unkempt man approaching me in a pair of unfashionably creased jeans and a crew neck shirt. With a shock, I came out of my reverie long enough to realise that the man was my husband. While I sat there wondering why he looked so awful and so completely removed from the preppy, clean cut man I'd married (Geez, he's really let himself go, hasn't he?), it suddenly occurred to me that I was singlehandedly responsible for this vision.

Earth Mother's moral is that "Behind every untidy man, lies a lazy woman".

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Shit happens ... (don't read this if you are squeamish)

My day started off on a revolting note, then quickly descended into humiliation and defensive bitchiness.

Last week, I took my daughter to the doctor. She had been complaining about stomach pains on a daily basis for quite some time now. In addition, she had other accompanying symptoms which led me to believe that she had something worthy of looking into (I am refraining from details and won't get that graphic because it might gross you all out).

Our pediatrician decided that a stool culture was in order and dismissed us with a lab requisition form. I was told to bring a sample to the neighbourhood lab ASAP. Ew ...

Since it was nearly the weekend, I decided to have my daughter produce by Monday because there was no way I was going to hang onto a sample until the labs re-opened. Of course, the problem is that the weekend actually presents itself as the easiest time to obtain a sample since she is at home and not at school.

Finally, this morning after breakfast my daughter announces that today was to be the momentous event, and trotted off to the washroom in short order. Minutes later, she emerged with a disgusted look on her face and handed me the container. I bagged it (tightly and several times over), fished out the requisition form from my pile of papers littering my desk and stuffed it (the requisition form, not the container) into my purse.

After I dropped off my kids at school, I headed straight for the lab because there was no way I was going to have this thing in my car for any longer than was necessary. I figured that I would probably be able to just palm off the sample onto the technician and basically run in the opposite direction. No such luck.

I had the misfortune of having to deal with the world's unhappiest and rudest receptionist. After standing in line for about five minutes and listening to her kvetch loudly at other patients, I finally made my way to her desk and handed her my daughter's health card, the requisition form and the triple bagged container.

"What's this," she asked loudly, looking around the room.

"A stool sample," I whispered, suddenly turning a lovely beet red.

"What?" she practically yelled out.

I repeated myself about half a decibel louder.

She then asked me really loudly where I got the container from. Well duh ... it's a disposable tupperware as she can plainly see through the three opaque bags acting as a shield. Am I supposed to tell her where I shop for my goods now? What the hell difference does it make where I got the container from?

She shook her head, made this annoying "tch tch" sound that I've only ever heard from my ex-nanny and her family and then muttered nastily that the sample needed to be placed into a different container. All this while I stood in front of a packed room with all eyes on me.

She proceeded to pound on the keyboard in front of her, and yell indiscreetly at another patient about his test requirements, before she turned her attention to my requisition form.

"What's this" she asked, pointing to the part of the form that my doctor had filled out.

"It says 'stool culture'," I stupidly read off.

"No, this! Is this a stool?" she asked. I stared blankly at her wondering what the hell she was asking me exactly.

I then realised that she was pointing to this miniscule damp spot on the form.

"It's water," I chirped brightly. "It's raining outside".

She then leaned in and practically sniffed me (I kid you not).

"It's not water," she snapped loudly. "I think it's some of the stool sample. It's contaminated".

I shook my head and assured her that it was most decidely not spillage from the sample, while simultaneously grossing out and feeling pissed off that she'd think I was that much of a pig that I'd have splatter stains on the form.

Sour-faced, the woman banged down two labelled containers and then snapped that the stool samples needed to be moved into them. She then dismissed me with a comment that the washroom was one floor above.

At this point, I was steaming. Mainly because I knew that the lab has a washroom for patients to use when producing urine samples and that she was making me walk up a flight of stairs for stupid reasons, rather than offering to let me use the washroom onsite. Oh, that's right ... it's because she thought I was a contaminated slob and felt compelled to announce it to the entire patient population in the waiting room.

Normally, I'm a fairly patient and polite person, but this just ticked me right off. How can a cow like this be allowed to work in the healthcare field where respect for a patient's right to privacy, confidentiality and respect are essential? I then said very quietly that I would be happy to accomodate her by going upstairs to the public washroom, but could she please provide me with a pair of rubber gloves?

My request was met with indignation and blatant bitchiness.

"You want what?" she practically yelled out.

"Rubber gloves. You have those, don't you?", I asked snottily. After all, this is a chick who clearly has contamination issues -- you'd think she'd come to work entirely dressed in latex.

She stood there glaring at me and shook her head. I gave her THE look in response ... this is the same stony stare I give my kids on the rare occasion when they are being openly defiant. I continued to stand there tapping my fingers against the counter and refused to move aside for the patient behind me.
Now, I won't elaborate upon some of the details but the containers that I was supposed to transfer the samples into were small pill containers. I was supposed to do this with my bare hands? I guess in Bitchy Receptionist's opinion, it shouldn't matter since I was already contaminated.

Moments into my stare fest, a technician emerged, looked at me sympathetically and handed me a pair of rubber gloves.

Later, the deed having been done, I dumped the bagged containers onto Bitchface's desk. She snapped that they were to be deposited into the bin by the washroom which I wasn't permitted to use. I threw her another dirty stare and complied, but as I sailed out, I made a special point of coughing and wiping my hands on her desk counter.

Moral of the story: Just because someone has crap in their hands, doesn't entitle you to treat them like crap.