Thursday, September 27, 2007

Oh humble computer gods, why hast thou forsaken me?

Did I not toss enough alms at your shiny white stores? Did I not show the proper gratitude to your humble servants geniuses? Did I not listen to, and accept, the word of Jobs? Did I not genuflect daily to the mighty Macbook, symbol of your infinite power and supreme rule?

Why then? Why hast though forsaken me? Where was my guardian angel hero MacGuy when I needed him to step in and save my world from the apocalypse that was about to occur?

A few weeks ago one side of one of the hinges on the Macbook broke, but the Macbook was still functional and was being gently nursed and cajoled by me. Today, though, the Peanut managed to grab the Macbook off a footstool and
hurl it behind her. (It must have been the lentil stew I served her yesterday, because where she got the strength for that I'll never know.)

In seeming slow motion it flew behind her, tilting as it arced towards the ground, where it landed directly on its corner. The corner with the partially broken hinge.

Now a fully broken hinge.

The fully broken hinge, which means that the screen no longer functions. It's just a big, blank white canvas. No pretty apple appears when I turn it on.

I cried a little (although I did hold it together around the Peanut, merely issuing a small squawk when it hit the ground with that ominous thud).

So now I'm stuck using my old Averatec PC laptop to write this, which quite literally gives me third degree burns if I actually try to use it as a laptop and I have to use it with the adapter as the battery dies after 30 seconds, thus, on both counts, completely defeating the purposes of a portable laptop. Seriously. It's only two years old. Averatec - avoid them like the plague as they are the biggest pieces of crap. Don't be wooed by their small forms and sexy low price. It's a con I tell you, a con!

Thus, I am left to mourn my wee Macbook, my faithful friend and companion. Farewell my lovely! My you enjoy your time in the Macven, frolicking with so many who have come before you.

* * *

However, as with most things, a little retail therapy can mend a girl's broken heart and help her mourn the demise of her beloved Macbook. Specifically retail therapy of the literary sort. Yup, I hightailed it down to the local Chapters (sorry Mr Babbler - I broke my "no books until Christmas" promise. It was extenuating circumstances!) and purchased a couple of books for both the Peanut and myself.

For me:

For the Peanut:

I attempted to buy this book for the Peanut:

(the fish at the top are actually beads that you can slide and count along with) only to discover that every single copy in the store was ruined. It was either bent or chewed and while I know that it will get chewed in my house like (although the Peanut doesn't really chew her books anymore), I still prefer not to have it pre-chewed when I pay for it. (As an aside, I love the bookstore. And I love to browse and read a few pages of a book before committing to buying it. But when did the bookstore become a library? Again, seriously! So many of the books in the kids section were destroyed, and I saw one mother just sitting on a chair. Reading all sorts of books to her kids in the store, and leaving them in a pile for someone else to clean up. All right - end of rant.)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Using my muscles this weekend

A little while ago Her Bad Mother put out the call. Many of you have read Tanner's story before, and there has been great generosity shown by the blogging community.

This Sunday is the 5K Charity Challenge Walk as part of the Waterfront Marathon. I'll be lacing on my shiny white freshly broken in runners, tossing on some workout wear (do I have workout wear?) and getting up at a ridiculously ungodly hour. And I'll be overcoming my fear of meeting new people (are they really new people when you've been reading their thoughts and lives for years? things to ponder...) to show my support alongside Her Bad Mother and others for Tanner and the many others afflicted by Muscular Dystrophy.

So, now I call upon all you good and kind readers. Go on over and read Tanner's story and leave him good wishes, thoughts and cheers. If you can't walk with us, you can head on over here to pledge HBM and help her meet her goal. (If you prefer, you can e-mail me for my pledge information.) I'll be there this weekend, using my poor, under-used muscles, and being grateful for the pain.

It's the very least I can do.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Telemarketer negotiations 101

The phone rings. It is the subscription service (again) for a to-remain-nameless Toronto newspaper.

"Good afternoon ma'am. How are you today?" says the young man on the other end of the line.

"Fine thank you."

"Great. For the last few weeks you've been enjoying our complimentary weekly service of our newspaper. However, our records show that on September 29 your free subscription will expire. I also see here that you are weekend subscribers. We'd like to offer you regular weekly service for only an extra $1 a week."

Holding the phone away for a moment, I double check briefly that Mr Babbler does not, in fact, wish to continue the regular weekly service of this newspaper. He does not.

"No thank you," I reply. "Unfortunately the paper doesn't really get read around here from Monday to Friday."

"But ma'am," comes the quick rejoinder, "it's only an extra $1 a week!"

"Yes, but you don't understand. It doesn't get read, and only ends up in the recycling bin, normally after I have to remove it from my daughter's mouth after she tears it up and tries to eat it. That's a waste of paper."

"$1 more per week is only twenty cents a day. Twenty cents..."

"Yes, I understand it is only twenty cents a day, and that really is a good deal. However, twenty cents will also buy a quarter of a jar of baby food*, which arguably is more nutritious and healthier for my daughter than the newspaper she ends up eating, wouldn't you agree?"

"Well, I can't argue with that ma'am. Have a good day."

"You too!"

*for illustrative purposes only. I do try to make most of the Peanut's food, as time consuming as it is.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Value of the victim

This past week in Toronto, a woman died after undergoing cosmetic surgery that was performed at a private clinic. This is certainly a tragic story, to be sure, and I in no way intend to minimize what her family is going through at this time.

But I do have a problem with how heavily publicized this case is, and the reason, as I see it, for the intense media scrutiny and coverage. The story has been on every newscast since Friday evening and covered in every newspaper. Ostensibly this is because of the nature of where this woman had her surgery - at a private clinic with an unlicensed "cosmetic surgeon" instead of in a hospital with a trained plastic surgeon. While these are worrisome factors, and certainly something that needs to be examined and rectified, I don't think that the issue of private clinics and unlicensed doctors are the sole reason behind the media's focus and attention on this particular case.

If you've heard details and seen photos of the woman, you'll know that she is a successful real estate agent in a trendy Toronto neighbourhood, that she is quite pretty, based on popular perceptions of beauty, and that she is Caucasian. As I watch and read the rabid media coverage of the story, I can't help but wonder, cynically perhaps (or perhaps not) if the story would have received as much coverage, if that coverage would have been as outraged and horrified, if the woman in question had been a less conventionally pretty, maybe a little overweight, middle-aged housewife. If she had had a less than perfect smile. If her hair hadn't been as glossy, if it had been a little frizzy, if the roots hadn't been touched up in a few weeks. If she had been Latino, or Middle Eastern, or African American. If her photo had not been a re-touched professional portrait, but instead the average photo snapped in haste during a summer barbecue with a sunburn, shiny forehead and unbleached teeth on prominent display. In essence, if she had been anything less than the poster child (woman) of a gorgeous successful Caucasian woman living the urban dream.

I am aware that this is not a unique phenomenon. How many women had to die in British Columbia before the police finally found and charged a suspect? It took over two decades and more than 60 missing victims from downtown Vancouver before the police finally charged Robert Pickton. Who
were the victims? Most of the women were prostitutes and/or drug addicts and some were Native Canadian. In comparison, it took two missing girls from St Catherines and approximately two years before Paul Bernardo and his wife, Karla Homolka, were charged with their disappearances and murders. The victims in this case were both young, pretty school girls, good students and Caucasian. Different victims, different priority on the respective cases?

This past summer Madeleine McCann, a young British girl was allegedly abducted from her bedroom while on vacation (her parents are now suspects). Media coverage was extensive and global, often running as the lead story even here in Canada, far away from the scene of the crime. Global celebrities got involved, offering rewards for her safe return. Horror stories about the possibility of her being sold into slave trade or a child prostitution ring abounded. Yet every day in this world children are abducted from their families and sold into slavery and prostitution. Most of these victims come from poor countries. The parents of these children are not wealthy doctors vacationing with their children in far away countries and fancy resorts. Their stories do not make the evening news, their pictures are not splashed across every newspaper and magazine on every continent. They are faceless victims, they are nameless victims. There are no rewards offered by important celebrities for their safe return.

Two winters ago a young white girl, Jane Creeba, was shot and killed outside a store while shopping on Boxing Day - the unlucky victim of a gang shooting. Her story received pages upon pages of coverage in the local media and newscasts covered the story and its updates over the course of the ensuing two years. Yet there are many, too many, other innocent victims as a result of gang violence. Go to any of Toronto's neighbourhoods with heavy gang influence and you will find husbands, wives, sons and daughters lost to the exchange of bullets between warring gangs. Their stories may make the evening news, but too often it is merely a footnote, a blurb and the media quickly moves onto the next victim(s).

Any time I'm confronted with this dissonance, I term it the value of the victim theory. The more marketable the victim is, the more coverage that victim and their story will receive from the media. The more sympathetic the victim, the more police attention and resources the case will receive.

I'm sure I'm not alone when I say how much this disgusts and upsets me. While I feel terribly for the tragedies like the Jane Creebas, the Madeleine McCanns, the Leslie Mahaffy and Kristin Frenchs, and, this past week, the Krista Strylands, and I wish for them the justice that they deserve, I also wish to see justice for all the victims of senseless gun violence, of kidnapping, of child prostitution, and of every other horrific crime that this world has to offer. This emphasis on the value of the victim has other troubling implications. When we focus so much energy and resources on single victims, we can miss the opportunities to save many others. With the massive of use of global resources in the search for Madeleine McCann, how many other children may have been saved? How many women's lives in British Columbia might have been saved by an increase in police resources on the case? Or is a Native Canadian drug-addicted prostitute's life worth 3% of a Caucasian teenage girl's life (the 60 women it took for charges to be laid in Vancouver versus the two girls in Ontario). While I understand every case is different, 60 women died. These weren't random women either, with no discernible connection. They all came from the same area of the city, and most worked in the same trade.

What would happen if it was you, or someone you loved, and you didn't fit the model of a "good victim"? Would your case or story get swept under the rug. Would you only be a brief soundbite before the more important news (victim) of the day? Would you get the resources, the police help, the justice that you deserve?

The question, of course, is what can we, as the average person, do to change this? How can we avoid being influenced by the value of the victim. While we may have great difficulty in changing what the traditional mass media airs and prints, we can choose to pay attention to all the stories even when that means following non-traditional media. We can read publications such as these and support organizations like this that focus on all victims globally, and increase our awareness of the issues at a global level. We can get involved at a regional level by working in communities and with organizations that are working to effect change in low-income communities and communities overrun by gang violence. We can read our mainstream newspapers and watch our mainstream newscasts with a critical eye, and question the motives behind the elevation of one story over another. We can ask for action from our police and from our political representatives even when the case or the community may not seem to be applicable to us. And we can stop ourselves from viewing images of a victim and making the easy comments, the "oh what a shame, she was so pretty" because the value of a victim lies not in their appearance but in the gap that they leave in others lives and in the loss to society that lies in the potential of every person.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Oh, the difference a week two weeks makes

Because the days seem to have slipped by this week (but also because I've been stuck in a state of bloggy-inertia for the last week - too much to say, too little time, posts bouncing around in my head) this has been ready and sitting in my drafts folder for six days.

The Peanut is nearly 11 months old (but only nine months adjusted). For us, that has meant waiting a bit longer than most for some milestones. However, it seems that in the past week two weeks, she decided to get busy, blow the infant popsicle stand if you will and transform into an (almost) full blown toddler.

To wit:

1) She claps her hands.
2) She cut her first tooth two teeth.
3) She sits up on her own.
4) She crawls.
5) She pulls herself up to standing using any available object.
6) She cruises using furniture.
7) She sits reading her own books, the right side up.
8) Shes tries new food after new food, loving everything.

and also?

9) She got hold of one of my books for the first time and starting gleefully ripping out pages (okay, I got there after one page, but still!)
10) She threw her first belly-and-fists-to-the-floor temper tantrum.

Yeah, little things really. Did I mention the crawling? And the standing? And the nearly walking?

And the fact that I'm feeling just a little bit overwhelmed by these rather sudden changes?

Oh, but I'm just getting started!

Needless to say, the house isn't really baby-proofed as of yet, so I'm constantly running after her, pulling electrical cords out of her mouth, rescuing my books from her destructive little paws and saving the poor, unsuspecting dog and cat.

But, this has also brought some fantastic benefits. First, she is much less frustrated. It's like her wee body has finally caught up to everything that her mind has been silently plotting for the last several months. And the fun? She's become a mischievous little monkey, dragging herself madly across the floor and tearing into the bin of cables as soon as my back is turned, hoisting them above her head like a prizefighter with her trophy. Working her way along the sofa when I'm making her lunch, and then quietly grabbing my wallet, yanking out bank cards (with her back turned to me of course, so I can't see), then giggling maniacally when I catch her. Oh, and the giggling. The wonderful, sweet giggle, so easy to charm out of her now.

Not so big, though, that I don't crawl out of my own pants!

Having waited a little longer than average to meet some milestones, these moments have been that much more special. I'm constantly amazed when I see the Peanut do or try something new. Watching her balance on her knees, tiny feet tucked under her bum to play with toy? Precious. Watching as she tastes a new food, realizing that she likes it, and then opening her mouth wide like a wee bird? Adorable. Seeing her grab a pile of books and then sit quietly, "reading" them?

Warming the cockles of her book-loving mama's heart.

I can't wait to see what she does next, and despite some of my reservations about leaving the workforce, I'm so glad I'm going to be here to experience every moment of it.

Not quite a baby, not quite a toddler.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A life unknown

Edited to correct spelling errors.

From the time I was three years old until I was twelve years old I was raised by my maternal grandmother - my Nana. My Nana was a formidable, complicated woman. No, complicated is too simple a word, and doesn't come nearly close enough to describing the breadth of contradictions in her character.

Dorothy, Dot to her friends, was a smart, intelligent, articulate woman. She was a woman who worked in an era when women - wives - did not work outside the home. A woman who, in the age of housewives who "yes dear'd" their husbands, always had an opinion, and wasn't afraid to share it, strenuously if necessary. She ran the household, her household, with the efficiency and precision of a military sergeant. She had an ability to be so very good, incredibly good to her neighbours and friends. She was always the woman that new mothers turned to, able to soothe an angry baby's (and mother's) cries, to offer time-worn advice and suggestions. She gave fresh produce from the garden to the neighbours, and prepared casseroles to the widowed dad down the road, struggling with three youngsters. She could entertain in high style, and always hosted Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter for friends and extended family. She didn't miss birthdays and dutifully sent out Christmas cards to a roster of people. She loved to garden, to sew, to knit, to paper tole, and was willing to share her knowledge (and cuttings) with others. She had an incredible memory, with an attention to detail that was unmatched - she remembered each friend and acquaintance and their stories. She had a never-ending supply of stories from "back-in-the-day".

And yet, she also had a cruel streak, deeper than the richest vein of gold ore. Despite her ability to be good and kind and supportive of those outside her family, she wouldn't, couldn't, extend that same level of caring to us, her immediate family. For as patient as she could be with outsiders, with those in her family she was harsh, demanding, angry and oftentimes cruel. She demanded perfection from each of us, accepting no less, my grandfather included (a man whose own life story is often only told as footnotes to my Nana's story. Even in death, she will have the last word.) She had a tongue more cutting and devastating than the sharpest Henkles, Wiltshire, Ginsu knife. She could find your weakness, the Achilles heel of your ego, your soul, and exploit it or destroy it with a few well-chosen words. She was quick to judge, and even quicker to condemn. She was a woman incapable of apology, even when the sin, the error was so egregious as to demand one. And yet the chorus of my childhood was "I'm sorry Nana, I'm sorry Dorothy, I'm sorry Mom" for far lesser transgressions. All of us who had let her down (again. Always.) Grudges were held for years (for a lifetime). Even if forgiven, nothing was ever forgotten, and was always ammunition for a future battle.
Nana rode the moral high ground like a well-trained dressage horse, nimbly stepping over obstacles in her own logic and reasoning.

I hesitate to say she raised me well. She certainly instilled good manners and discipline, a good work ethic and an emphasis on education. At times, I knew she loved me. But she also never forgave me for being my father's daughter, a man she hated with a passion reserved for those who in no way met any of her exacting (unreachable) standards. I was her disappointment, the grandchild ruining her golden years, daughter of that man (said with a disdainful sneer that only Nana could muster effectively).
(My younger sister, relatively protected and sheltered from the winds of Nana's discontent - her grand chance to do over, to not make the same mistakes.) Her words, and actions were cruel, hurtful. For many years I thought I was less that I truly was (had low self-esteem, that clichéd phrase, so paltry, to describe the worthlessness I felt).

When I left her care, at the age of twelve, the parting was not sweet. It was full of recriminations, acrimonious, angry, bitter. We did not speak for many years, seeing one another only once, across a courtroom.

Shortly into my first year of university, I was drawn back to the family. Over the years I had lost much of my fear of Nana. Over time we managed to put much of our differences and our anger aside. We forged an uneasy truce, built on an avoidance of the past, of wrongs committed, of uncomfortable topics, of people (that man). We even found some type of peace (still no apologies though). However, despite her dire warnings and predications, I had turned out better than expected, made something of myself, lived up to some of her expectations.

For the next several years there were periodic phone calls, birthday cards, Christmas cards and letters, visits ever few months. She was very pleased when I announced I was getting married (to a good boy no less, one who might possibly meet her standards). Even more pleasing (to her), I wasn't having one of those newfangled weddings. No, I was to be married in a proper church ceremony (communion of course), and would be dressed appropriately, no strapless gowns, breasts hoisted up to here for Dorothy's granddaughter.

Then, six weeks before the wedding, I got the call. After 50 years of smoking, Nana had developed lung cancer. It was a serious case, and treatment wasn't an option. I raced to their home town. (My Nana, of course, having instilled a supreme sense of duty and obligation.) Nana wanted to be sick and, ultimately, to die at home. She had no desire to remain in a hospital. Arrangements would have to be made. (Even at the end, demanding and organized.)

Perhaps because I never had any desire for the melodramatic, we-only-have-so-much-time-outpourings-of-the-heart discussions, I became a favorite caretaker for Nana. I spent the next six weeks doing the hour and a half drive from my city to theirs, often arriving after work, taking the night shift from my Granddad (please, go sleep, we don't want you to get sick too), and then driving back to work the next morning. I did weekends, I did nights, I took days off. I did all those tasks that taking care of a seriously ill person requires, the bathroom trips, the changing of sheets, the preparing of perfectly mashed potatoes (thrown out into the garbage an hour later, one bite eaten).

During this, my Nana had made me promise, promise, that the wedding plans would not change. I was getting married, September 7, come hell or high water (or she would march to the city, oxygen tank in tow, to demand that I follow her plan). The day of the wedding - a beautiful, gorgeous summer day - I had entrusted a cell phone to our most reliable of groomsmen, to be answered in any event. It rang, just as we were about to enter the reception hall. My aunt, the doctor has said she's taken a (not unexpected) turn for the worse. Please tell your sister.

My sister, at the wedding only through the intervention (interference) of my Nana. My sister, who had started dating a much-reviled ex-boyfriend. A boyfriend who hurt me, with words and more, who was an angry and violent man. A man who had belittled me, tried to make me into a different, smaller person. A man who nearly succeeded before I came to my senses and wrenched myself away. A man who showed up, now a different, better man, who had found true happiness with my sister. All of this, cheerfully told to me by my sister. A man who proposed to her, had made her his fian
cée (news also delivered with all of the excitement and glee of a women announcing she had won the lottery). While I had no sense of jealousy (merely a sense of betrayal, and mild annoyance at the whole matter), and indeed warned her he might not be the man she thought, I had no desire to have him at my wedding. My wedding day.

Another example of my Nana's cruelty, even on her deathbed, invite her, she's your sister. And he deserves to come, he's her fianc
é, you must accept it. (Perhaps, in following her orders, I still needed some validation, the kicked dog still looking for the pat on the head?)

We left that night for our honeymoon in Cuba. An uneasy week to be away, with worried phone calls over bad connections. On our fourth morning there, five years ago today, a phone call from my aunt, a request, a final burden to bear.

We've all said goodbye to her, and told her we loved her, but she's waiting for you. Please tell her that the wedding went well, that you love her, and tell her to go to sleep.That you'll see her soon. The doctor says it's the only way she'll slip away.

Later that afternoon, the first time my husband and I had been separated the entire week, with me down at the pool immersed (hiding) in a book, the phone call came. She had died.

We arrived home at the end of our trip, a late Sunday afternoon. A whirlwind drive to their town, to attend the funeral. I looked down at the open casket (in the background, the overwhelming sound of my sister's grief, her
fiancé's flaccid attempts at conversation with my new husband, the suprised sounds of reunions between people who hadn't met since the last funeral) and I realized Nana looked nothing like the Nana I feared, reviled and loved growing up. Death had taken her steely resolve, her words, both kind and hurtful, her very being. I no longer knew, or understood, who she was.

But then again, perhaps I never did.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Tuesday tidbits

In lieu of one cohesive post, I offer some tidbits, this Tuesday, September 11.

* * *

Yesterday in the Shoppers Drug Mart I saw perhaps the most awesome statement on aging. I was passing the "family planning" aisle when I stopped dead. There, in the condom section, perusing, deliberating and giving great consideration to the selection, comparing brands and features (ribbed versus bumped), was a woman. A woman who was, no word of a lie, at least 75 years old.

75 years old.

Yes ladies, there is definitely hope for the va-jay-jay and the sex life after (most likely) childbirth and menopause.

You go amazing condom-choosing grandma-chicky. I hope that your selection was the right one, and that the combination of sensitivity-for-him/extra-stimulation-for-her gives you the best, most rocking hot-'n-heavy night between the sheets.

* * *

I haven't written much about my in-laws here. I get along well with my in-laws, even though we are different types of people. They are good people, of the Lions joining, Friday night bridge playing variety. I haven't had a lot in common with them, specifically my mother-in-law. Having the Peanut partially helped to remedy that, and over time my mother-in-law and I have found some common ground and are able to make conversation far better than when Mr Babbler and I first got married (handy, since we've spent an extraordinary amount of time together lately... but that's a whole different post).

However, today in conversation with my mother-in-law I made a horrifying discovery that could just undermine all of our hard-won progress.

I was eagerly telling her all about the upcoming Complete Jane Austen on Masterpiece Theatre, airing starting January 2008, knowing her love of all things PBS/History Channel together with movies that don't use curse words every other sentences (or at all, ahem).

"Isn't she the one that wrote... um..." she replied.
"Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Emma..." I said.

She wrinkled her nose.

"Oh yes, she's not my type."

The silence was absolute. I had nothing to say to this.
She doesn't like Jane Austen.

Good lord, are we now back at square one?

* * *

Finally, instead of telling you all about my horrible upcoming second-in-a-series-of-four dentist appointments to remedy dental problems stemming from seven long years without visiting a medieval torturer dentist, I'm going to shamelessly promote some good friends work.*

The good guys of Sinking Ship Productions, creators and all-round geniuses behind This is Daniel Cook, This is Emily Yeung, and Roll Play, are back with some two new shows this fall. Please go try to catch and episode (or three, or four...), as these three guys are the type of amazing young talent that we need to support (and keep) in Canada.

Are We There Yet
? is a children's travel and adventure show in the style of This is Daniel Cook. The unscripted show follows a pair of real-life siblings as they travel, explore and meet new people in some pretty far-flung parts of the world (Germany, India, Mexico are just some of the places that they visit). It's airing on Discovery Kids Canada and Treehouse. It also has a pretty awesome interactive website for kids. I think it's a fantastic way for kids to learn about other cultures through the eyes of children their own age.

From Are We There Yet?

TreehouseTV (10 minute episodes):
Mon, Wed, Fri - 5:50 PM, 7:55 PM
Tue, Thu - 7:55 PM
Sat, Sun - 4:30 PM

Discovery Kids Canada (30 minute episodes):
Sat - 10:30 AM

Also new is The Jungle Room, a program following real children as they learn, interact and face new experiences in their daycare (aka The Jungle Room).

From the description of the program:

The Jungle Room is a validation of their world of first times, big emotions, new friendships, instant tears and endless play.

While this might sound hokey, or exploitative, let me tell you it's most definitely not. It's a sensitive show that can be a useful tool for children about to head off to their own first day of daycare or preschool.

From The Jungle Room.

TVOntario (6 minute episodes):
Tue, Thu - 6:44 AM, 1:43 PM
Wed - 6:44 AM, 1:44 PM

Also airing on SCN, Access TV and Knowledge Network.

* Full disclosure: I've been friends and have helped out/worked with these guys since close to day one. I may be just a little bit biased, but I think it's totally justified. :)

* * *

While there are many others that can do a far better job than I at offering a tribute on this day, I want to briefly remember those whose lives were forever changed that day six years ago. May those that passed away live on through the memories of their friends, their husbands and wives, the children, their families, and the random strangers who came to their stories after they were already gone.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Again (always) yes

A long (short) time ago

Before careers, so stressful

Before home ownership

(endless renovations)

Before the passing of loved ones

Before Peanut

(did we ever understand how deeply we can love?)

There was a night

Planned for weeks

And a dinner

Glasses of wine on the beach

You so nervous

(so very nervous)

A question asked

And answered


One year later

Friends and family looking on

(bearing witness)

I do

Time passes

Five years

So fast (slow)

Again (always) yes.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

September beginnings and endings

I've always loved September for its new beginnings. The brand new notebooks, the uncracked spine of an unread textbook, the freshly sharpened pencils. The over-achiever in me loved the opportunity to start new courses, all those shiny As just waiting to be collected. Even after I had left school, I still looked forward to the end of summer for the new projects at work, the renewed sense of purpose as you head into the end of the year.

This will be my first September where I won't be at school or work in as many years as I can remember, but that doesn't mean that this September won't be a time of new beginnings for me. This September I officially become a Stay At Home Mother.

This last year I have stay-at-home-mothered, but if you asked me to identify myself, I would not have said I was a Stay At Home Mother. I had a career with all its attendant responsibilities and stresses. I was a Career Woman who happened to be on maternity leave. This was the particular lens that I viewed myself, and my time at home, through. This is why, despite the chorus running through my head that this is the right decision - this is what is best for Peanut - I'm so lucky - won't this be fun? I have a certain degree of trepidation and internal conflict about my changing role.

I've always been fairly ambitious. Throughout university my original intention was to attend law school. Due to several financial factors by the time of my graduation from university, this plan just wasn't feasible (massive student loans, de-regulating of law school fees, fiance starting his own company). I gave up the dream and joined the workforce. But not going to law school? Damn it, that wasn't going to stop me from having a career. I wasn't going to linger as a receptionist/assistant/etc for the rest of my life. I was going to destroy the glass ceiling, or at least do a tapdance on it. (Oh, the hubris. It's ok, go on and laugh.)

I ended up on a career path that I was good at, even if I wasn't always in love with the work, settling on jobs in finance and accounting. Eventually I started taking courses towards the ubiquitous accounting designation/MBA. Although my heart wasn't always in it and the jobs often required me to compromise values or parts of myself that were important to me, I convinced myself that this was the path I had chosen, this was what I happened to be good at. Surely, I couldn't abandon where I was now, after spending several years working my way up the corporate ladder?

When we had the Peanut, there was initially no discussion about me going back to work. It was just assumed that I would return to my job, continue my coursework, get the appropriate designations, continue working my way up in the company. But over time Mr Babbler and I started talking - talking about the possibility of me staying home, giving her at least another year of one-on-one parenting that we think she needs and deserves. With her early start in life, it would be better to give her that bit of extra time. We started talking about the realities of fitting daycare and a child's schedule into crammed workdays with unstable work hours. How fair would this be to her, to impose a twelve-hour day on her? How could I continue to be a good mother, a good wife, a good employee with the type of schedule we were looking at? Eventually we looked at the numbers, made some adjustments, and decided that yes, financially we could afford for me to stay home.

During all these discussions though, there was that ambitious, glass-ceiling shattering part of my conscious piping up:

Stay At Home Mother - you've been reduced to an acronym.
You know the looks you'll get when people ask you what you do for a living.
Can you live with that?
Can you live with people assuming you're less intelligent because you're the one not working?
By being reduced to merely the wife-of-Mr Babbler?
As having your success defined by his success?
What will you do when it comes time to re-enter the job market?
Will you be content to go back to your old career, even thought you weren't in love with it?
What happens when you are that woman, the woman who "just doesn't understand" anymore, because she's been away for so long with her kid(s)?
Will you be content with the limitations on your career as a result of stepping away for so long?

Oh, and what will you do all day? Won't you get bored out of your mind? Can you really do this?

Those were, and are, the questions that run through my head. I know, logically, that the questions and feelings with regards to being a SAHM are a result of the unfair expectation by society, of society's increasing reduction in the worth of parenting. Much has been said and written on the topic, and I don't think I need to dive into that particular mud puddle at this moment. I know, logically, that it does matter even a little bit what others think of me, that if this is what is best for the Peanut and my family, then to hell with the rest of them. But that little internal voice? It whispers in my ear.

As for the career, as hard as it is to step away from a path that I've already chosen (this also explains why I continue to diligently finish books that I don't enjoy) I think it's time to make a big change. I have to quell the voices whispering in my ear - the ones that tell me that there is good money in the job I'm at, why do I want to start over, that perhaps I might not be as successful at something else - but it will be worth it, oh will it be worth it.

In his book Stumbling On Happiness, Daniel Gilbert states that we mis-imagine the happiness of our futures because we imagine our future as a present with slight changes. My future is now a blank canvas, my happiness mine to discover in unexpected places. My days, now filled with endless games of peekaboo, chase the baby and trips to the park, swimming lessons, baby-and-me playgroups and (hopefully, finally) playdates with other moms, stay-at-home and otherwise, take on new meaning. All of this with no fixed end-date and the future wide open. Embracing the opportunity to see my little girl grow, take her first steps, say her first words. And perhaps, maybe, the chance to start over in something I love. Perusing the graduate offerings at the local universities, deciding on something that fulfills me as a person.

My steps may be more tentative as I wander off onto this new, unknown path, but I'm sure with time I'll be pounding the pavement of stay-at-home-motherhood, wearing my new title proudly, and looking forward to the next steps in whatever career I choose.

All for her...

C'mon mom. I'll show you where the true happiness lies.

* * *

Thanks BubandPie! Your post on obligations gave me the push I needed to finish
this post. This post, while long and rambling, is an obligation only to myself to work out my thoughts on this rather big change, and not to any one who might stumble by and find some incoherent ramblings in the place of a well-written, succinct post.

BLITHELY BABBLING © 2008. Chaotic Soul :: Converted by Randomness