Thursday, December 24, 2009

Confessions of a Reformed Grinch

It's Christmas Eve. Any second now, my little daughter will spring out of bed, turn the Christmas tree lights on and do a check to make sure all the presents with her name on it are still under the tree. She will ask for the chocolate in her Advent chart, try to scam a gingerbread cookie before breakfast, ask to watch the Grinch and then remember that there are no more sleeps until Grandma comes and Santa comes tonight. And my smile will match hers, because I have rediscovered the joy of Christmas through my little girl's eyes.

It hasn't always been that way. For many years, Christmas was a time to be survived, dreaded and the time was spent in a state of suspended animation waiting for "it" to happen. My father's favorite Christmas companion was Cutty Sark, and his favorite target was his only daughter. Mom and I spent year after year holding our breath, waiting for daddy to get mean when the booze hit. I remember one Christmas when I almost threw a tv tray though the television because, for reasons I still don't know, my father wasn't speaking to me at Christmas and we spent Christmas dinner in stony, awkward silence as mom and I filled the gap.  Christmas was not a fun time of year.

The irony, of course, is that my father loved Christmas. He would put the Christmas carols on at the end of October, so we were well and truly sick of "O Come All Ye Faithful" by Christmas Eve. My mother decorated the house beautifully, and in those days, Christmas was spent with the Allison clan, like all our holidays then.  We usually went to mass on Christmas morning, and then either the Allisons came to us or we went to them. Either way, I tried to keep out of dad's line of fire.

I've always liked parts of Christmas. I love to buy presents for people, although wrapping is not a favorite job. I love to write and receive Christmas cards and I still send 60-70 every year. When I was an awkward, zero self esteem teen, I discovered that not everyone baked from scratch and thought that Christmas cookies, and people who bake them, are brilliant. From that point on, I turned out dozens and dozens of Christmas cookies. I tried a new kind every year, often baking 7-8 different kinds and even branched out to making my own hand-dipped (3 freaking days to make) truffles and dipped cherries. I added cheesecake a few years ago. The "wow" factor I got from my baking boosted my shaky self esteem and made me feel better about myself...for a little while anyway. 

Times change. My uncle Ken and Aunt Helen Allison both died young and the Allison boys moved away. We moved to Kitchener and started spending Christmas with my father's family instead. Christmas Eve at Donovans is still a must-do, happy event, even though we lost Aunt Kay just after Christmas a couple of years ago.  After dad died, it was often just mom and I. After I married, we started the tradition of always hosting Christmas, and my mom and Dave's parents come to us.

Still, some legacies are harder to shake, and Christmas remained a tough time of year. No one is yelling at me in a booze infused rage anymore, but I still did not count Christmas as a favorite time of year. Too much work, too much hassle...and then our daughter arrived.

Whatever our personal opinion, we try to make Christmas magical for our kids. I've cut back significantly on the amount of baking I do, but have continued with the family favorites-shortbread, sugar cookies, gingerbread and melting moments. I jettisoned the truffles a few years ago, and Christmas still came. This year, my daughter was old enough to help decorate the cookies, and although it took 5 times as long to bake 4 pans of gingerbread, the pride on her face was worth it.

After skidding into Christmas last year, I put my foot down and the decorations were completed by the end of November. My daughter helped decorate the Christmas tree, and has assumed responsibility for turning on the tree lights, a job she takes very seriously. She started school this year, and her excitement about Christmas has been contagious. You can't be dour when there is a small voice singing "rudolph" to herself in the back seat of the car.  Her enthusiasm has been staining backwards on my heart, erasing the years of pain and making room for the happier memories that had been swamped by the pain.  Through the eyes of a child, I'm rediscovering the beauty and excitement of the season.

May you find small pockets of joy in this season. May you feel peace and love. Two acquaintances of mine have terminal cancer, and this will be their last Christmas. I wish them a day free of pain and full of happy memories, and I wish their families the best Christmas ever to treasure in years ahead.  I wish you all happy memories, unexpected moments that make you laugh, and I send you a hug, peace and love. Merry Christmas and all the best for 2010.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Living inside the Box

Today was Fashion Disaster Day at Kindergarten. The children were supposed to dress in a funny way, with mixed up colours, mismatched socks and have fun doing it.

My daughter was a wee badger this morning and wanted no part of anything but going back to sleep. She's been living up to her Vampira, Mistress of the Dark nickname, again. I pulled some clothes out of her closet and tried to make her a fashion disaster.

Problem was, coordinating outfits in an acceptable manner has been drilled into me since I was my daughter's age. Colours HAD to match, outfits HAD to be appropriate to the occasion, and my mother didn't care a tinker's damn if everyone else was wearing it, her daughter wasn't. Period. End of conversation and turn around, go upstairs and change. I'm 46, and she still checked to make sure I would be dressed appropriately for my aunt's funeral last year. Socks must match. Colours must coordinate. Clothes must fit properly and be appropriate. What would people think otherwise?

I had a real struggle with letting go of that. It's Kindergarten, not Christmas Dinner with my mom. It was supposed to be a fashion disaster. And yet, even though my daughter went off to school decked out in multi-coloured tights, a purple skirt, an orange Halloween top, purple and lime hoodie and purple hair...all the colours were in the tights and worked. The purple hair was essential to "disasterfy" it. I couldn't get away from coordinating, even though I was aware of my weakness and tried hard not to conform.

My whole life is about structure. I need to know what I'm doing, when I'm doing it and how long I am doing it for. I can be spontaneous...just warn me and I'll mark it on the calendar. The only time I have ever been spontaneous in my life was on our honeymoon and that was because Hurricane George crashed it and we were tossed off Sanibel Island and HAD to improvise.  I didn't like it. Part of it probably stems from life as a teen with an alcoholic father when I could never predict what I would be walking into when I got home.

I write stories following an outline. I start at the beginning and write to the end. The ultimate in daring for me would be to write a scene in the middle before I got to it. I haven't actually tried it yet but I think it would be terrifying but liberating. The most adventurous thing I wear are brightly coloured, handknit socks, but only with my jeans. Everything else will match. I think I once did the radical move of wearing blue socks with black pants, but I was in a hurry and they were dark blue.

I've always played by the rules, dressed the way my momma told me to dress and conformed. I have questioned stupid rules but followed them nonetheless. I will stick up for someone being mistreated, sometimes longer than a smart person would do. The most dramatic things I have ever done in my life were to quit a full time job at Customs (that was sucking the life out of me) to go back to school to do my MA(on full scholarship, in 8 months) and venture into freelance writing so I could stay home with the wee badger in the orange Halloween shirt. My ears are pierced exactly once, I have never ridden a motorcycle, and I have no tattoos (although I secretly covet one). I hate rollercoasters, spicy food and am quite happy to stay home. I envy people who have let their hair go naturally grey or dye their hair wonderful, wild colours. I don't have their courage (and as far as the hair goes, I'm 46 with a 4 year old. I don't want to be mistaken for her grandmother.)

I need to shake things up a bit. I need to get out of this rut that I find myself in, find out who I am again and take some risks. Darn it, I'm going to write the final scene for my YA novel, even though I'm only at the beginning of crafting it. If JK Rowlings can do it, so can I. But first, I need to go put on a different shirt because I'm wearing a sweatshirt, taking my mom shopping and it's not an appropriate thing to wear out of the house. To my mother's horror, I lived in jeans and sweatshirts for 4 years at university, but that was then...

Baby steps...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tearing my hair out.

There's few things more beneficial to my soul than time spent getting a good haircut. It was one of the few luxuries I have kept when acrylic nails, salon highlights and massages fell by the wayside. Granted, sometimes the good haircut comes courtesy of my mother's pocketbook, but few things make me feel better than going in looking like I'd been dragged through a thicket backwards, and come out an hour later coifed, cosseted and feeling great.

One of the luxuries I gave up was having someone else colour my hair. I've been a box brunette for 20 years, and for at least half of that, I've been colouring it myself, with a great deal of success. I even custom blend 2 shades to make one that I like. I've learned how to adapt the colour to get what I want, and I've always been happy. Until yesterday.

I decided to forego the Amber/Golden variations of my hair colour this time, and go back to basic brown. I haven't liked how it's looking, so I thought I'd go with a plain slate and then paint in some highlights. I chose basic, Medium Brown, L'Oreal Excellence, a brand I've been using since Clairol discontinued Hydrience.

I mixed the formula and it looked like a light blonde colour. No worries, it darkens as it processes-I know this from years of experience. I started applying the colour with the professional brush I bought a while ago that makes it much easier to banish the grays.  That's when odd things started happening. As the colour started processing, instead of the rich brown I was expecting, it looked more like wet charcoal. I checked the box. I checked the labels on the colour and the activator. Yep, Medium Brown. I kept applying, but became more and more alarmed as the colour started to process because it did not look like any medium brown I've ever seen (or used). I know from experience that the colour when it's curing doesn't usually look like the final result so I took a deep breath and waited and rinsed.

I don't know what this is, but it isn't Medium Brown. I had coloured root to tip, combing the colour through half way through the processing time so that the previously coloured roots didn't go too dark and the grey crap had the full benefit of camouflage.  (I always know it's time to do my hair when people start talking to the skunk stripe of gray on the top of my head). I know from long experience how long to leave the colour on for optimum processing and when to comb it through.

Roots, where they took, which isn't everywhere, are a murky, brown with charcoal gray tinges. Middle, variety of shades from old to new, depending on how the colour combed through. Ends, despite my efforts-WAY TOO FREAKING DARK. I'm not happy. I'm not happy at all and I think this is more than a box of highlights will fix.

Before I mucked it up more, I called L'Oreal Canada this morning. A few times. I kept getting caught in a voicemail loop- "appuyez sur le 1, press 2 for English". I kept pressing 2 and getting re-routed back to the "Bienvenue à L'Oreal..." Merde.  I hung up and called back. Same thing. 3rd time, I got put through to Customer Service, only to be advised that "to help to serve me better" the whole freaking customer service department are in training all day and the place is "extraordinarily closed."  Epic Customer service FAIL. There is no way to contact them on their website other than this number and their website has no information. Looks like it's in training too and is "extraordinarily closed."

I had an old box of Hydrience kicking around, and I called the Clairol line a couple of days ago. I got a real person, with real answers who advised that the discount CNE hair colour had expired 3 years ago. (Note to self, don't buy from them next year no matter how cheap it is). That lead me to this current mess on the top of my head.

I understand that I have to wait a few days before trying to fix this. I know that going to a salon to have it fixed is not in my budget. I don't think highlights are going to do it, but now given the fact that there was not one living, breathing body at L'Oreal who could:

A-explain to me why Medium Brown turned soggy charcoal when applied (and others who commiserated with me yesterday noted the same thing. Medium Brown should NOT have dark gray/light black tinges when wiped off the skin. It should be well, Medium Brown)

B-What shade I use to fix this.

C-How long I have to wait until I can fix this,

I don't have much faith in their newly trained customer service department answers. I mean seriously, who closes a whole freaking customer service department right before holiday social season?

I've had a challenging few weeks with my small child because my husband has been working long hours, and she's been acting out because she misses dad. My grey hair makes me feel ugly (and before the fingers fly, that is my personal opinion about only my hair. I know and respect and in some ways envy women who went grey early and went, oh well. I am not one of those women.) and all I wanted to do was restored a modicum of my previous well coifed existence before the advent of small child, work from home and business casual meaning I get dressed in something other than jeans or my pyjamas. I'm not a rookie at colouring my hair. I've been visiting Aunt Clairol, and now Tante L'Oreal every 6 weeks for over 10 years. I can't change the mess currently irritating me on my head. I can only go forward to a salvage operation.

I guess I shall throw myself on the mercy of the cosmetician at the local Shoppers Drug Mart. I shall wait for the Goth, and by-pass the one who argued with me for 10 minutes about a notice that the store itself had sent me about a gift with purchase, even when I had said notice with me but it was different from what the flyer said. (not my problem the flyer was wrong). I shall similarly by-pass the blonde with the cell phone permanently afixed to her hand, even when supposedly helping customers. It is not going to help my present frame of mind to have to wait for her to stop txtg her BFF.

I need to fix this mess because it's making me feel ugly at a time when I don't need any help in that department. I need my hair to look good again. Because I'm worth it. Right, L'Oreal? L'Oreal? L'Oreal?
Hello, aunt Clairol...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Kid Friendly Recipes

I've started writing for, and here is my inaugural contribution. I enlisted the help of my 4 year old to whack the candy canes. She had a ball, and it proved the recipes really are kid friendly.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Kid Friendly Home

I went to lunch at a friend's home the other day.

Her house is lovely. Black ceramic tile floors, white leather couches, classically elegant side chairs, a wrought iron bench in the hall...and not a crayon, marker, lego or Barbie in sight. My friend does not have children.

I must admit a touch of envy at her pristine house that actually had a decorating style to it. Her black and white colour scheme was echoed in the little lamp on the fireplace with the white and black shade, there were throws placed just so on the couch, and even the cat beds blended. She shares her space with 2 cats and a dog, but it was elegant, classic...and in another postal code, no wait, another province, no wait another universe to my home.

Our house is shabby chic, forget the chic. We have a small house and too much stuff. We also have 2 cats and a small child who loves crafts. We are both stackers, although my husband is an uber-stacker. Our living room overflows with colouring books, crayons, markers and paper in my daughter's corner, and yarn, pattern books and works in progress in mine. My husband's domain in the living room features a Whomping Lazyboy  chair and a pile of the latest ads and flyers. We all have our own particular thing.

We have furniture. We don't have a style. I moved into my husband's house from an apartment when we got married and over the 11 years we've been married, we've slowly been moving from yours/mine to ours. We sold both our couches and bought a leather one a few years ago, which now serves to hold the stash of flyers. We sold my antique table and chairs and his kitchen set that had been residing in the basement for 11 years, and bought a kitchen set that fits our kitchen better. I have an antique wing chair that I re-upholstered last year, and then hid in a slip cover so that the cat couldn't destroy this version with his claws. Hubby's Lazy Boy is burgundy, and the kid has a chair in the same colour.

The focal point of the living room should be the fireplace, but the Whomping Chair only fits in one corner. Also, the kid's table and chairs sits in front of the fireplace. The couch looked nice in front of the window, but it blocked too much light. If the Whomping Chair is in THAT corner, then my wing chair can only fit in the OTHER corner...and then of course, there's the television.

The rest of the house does not fair much better...Only my daughter's room has some semblance of style to it, and it's stuffed animal explosion in her room. She likes it that way, even if you can barely see the ballerina bedspread.  I'm not even going to dignify our bedroom with a mention.

I was never much of a house decorator. I've always had to make do with hand-me-downs, cast-offs and what I scrounged from home when I moved out. I bought my first couch after I'd been working a lot of years, and totally messed up on the choice of print. I've never had matching anything, so working with what I had is what I do.

My house is a home. Maybe too much of one. It's gotten out of control, but I don't know where to start. I work from home around my daughter, and if I'm on deadline, crayons and drawing are my best friends. We're slowly teaching her to pick up her toys when she's finished with them, although I would still recommend wearing slippers if you're padding to the bathroom in the dark. Legos hurt when they come in contact with bare feet. 

We have too much stuff. We need to purge. My husband is the king of the packrats, and getting him to part with anything is a challenge. I need an office, which means the spare room needs to get cleared out. I don't know where to start.

I like to watch Colin and Justin's Home Heist, but I don't think there's room enough on the t-shirt for all of our design crimes. They wouldn't know where to start either.

My friend recently described my house as "kid friendly" which translates into the kid took over the living room. It's true. We waited a long time for the kid and she needs a place to play where I can still keep an eye on her while I'm working. Still, a little less kid friendly might be nice.

So I guess my style of decorating is Mommy Chic. And that will have to do for now.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

November 11

I have a red box in my possession. Once upon a time, it held a fruitcake, but for many, many years now, it has held my father's photographs, including many when he was a navigator on the home guard in World War II.

My father never talked about the war. My father really never talked about the past at all. He lost his father at a young age, when his father, a railway man, was crushed between two rail cars. Dad was the eldest, and felt the weight of responsibility for his younger siblings and his mother. My mother said that dad once told her about how he and his brothers would follow a fruit truck during the Depression and steal fruit from the back of it to take home to eat. Dad never talked about it.

The photos in the box tell of a life I never knew. I didn't know the box existed until after his sister's death. She might have been able to identify some of the people in the photos. I would have liked to know who "Ray" was for example, because he certainly figured prominently in photos. Mom thinks he might have been the friend that dad mentioned was killed in the War, but she isn't sure.

There are many pictures of dad's whole squadron from World War II, and the back of some of them is signed by every member.(In the photo above, my father is in 2nd row,  centre 5th from left) Dad never made it overseas during the War, and I think he felt like he didn't contribute as much somehow because of it.

The only story my father would tell, with glee, was of the time that he was chosen to escort Yvonne DeCarlo. Ms. DeCarlo (the original Lily Munster) was a famous movie star, and was filming in Vancouver and decided to do a goodwill visit to the base and the hospital to boost morale. There are photos of her with my dad and a couple of other fellows, and that is the only War related story my father would ever tell.
(My father is in the centre)

Remembrance Day in our house was special and required attendance. We were all home because it was a stat holiday then (and should be again) We sat as a family and watched the ceremony from Ottawa. My mother and father would explain the significance of the day, and what each section of the ceremony meant. A couple of family members were Silver Cross Mothers through the years, my mother's cousin was an Engineer who received the Distinguished Service Order for bridging the Orne River, my uncle was a pilot who flew in D-Day, and was shot down. His plane burst into flames on impact and someone on the ground pulled him out. He became a charter member of the Guinea Pig club, where plastic surgery techniques were pioneered. I don't know how many times they re-built his elbow. My father would occasionally join in the discussion, and he was adamant that we watch it as a family. Mostly, he would sit silent, dealing with his own demons and memories, a faraway, sad look in his eyes.

My daughter is at school for Remembrance Day this year, and my father will be dead 20 years on November 22. I don't want to pull my little girl from school to sit and watch Remembrance Day with me, so I'm counting on the school to start teaching the lessons. One of these days though, I will keep her home, we will watch together, and I will show her some of the contents of Grandpa's red box. No story in a book, no lesson in a classroom can replace first-hand accounts of the sacrifice that people gave.

In the meantime, I have a red box of photos. I may not know the who but they were important to my father, and that makes them important to me. Be at peace, dad. They are safe.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Stop whining and write

I'm pretty sure I've lost the rest of my mind, but I've signed up to do NaNoWriMo.

What is NaNoWriMo? It is the National Novel Writing Month. For the month of November, several thousand crazy people around the world will be typing frantically, trying to write $50k words before November 30.

I'm one of them. For the next 30 days, I'm going to try to write my teen curling novel.

I'm tired of whining about my lack of success on Wii, so this is the last post. I'm going to keep doing it, I'm just going to stop kvetching about it.

So ready, set, go.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Autumn is my favorite time of year. The weather is comfortable (although I love hot summer days), the colours are beautiful in Southern Ontario, and the sound of scrunching leaves takes me back to my childhood in Montreal.

My mom's best friend had a backyard with huge maple trees. In the fall, they would shed their leaves in vast quantities, leaving hours of work to rake and bag them. Hours of work, unless my mom and I happened to come for a visit.

While the women visited in the living room or kitchen, I would be outside armed with a rake that was taller than I was.  The abundance of leaves meant that the creation of the perfect pile of leaves for jumping in took some time to create, but worthwhile things often do. Sometimes, it would take me almost an hour to gather all the leaves in a huge mountain in the middle of the yard. And then I would carefully lay aside the rake....take aim and JUMP!

The size of the pile of leaves cushioned the impact and I would disappear into a bed of red, yellow and orange. The musty smell of nature would surround me, and I would peer out of the leaves at the sky. I would make a leaf angel in the pile. and then hop out, re-build the pile and jump again. I would repeat the sequence until I was summoned inside, grass stained, leaves sticking out of everywhere, and with a grin on my face.

My little girl is now discovering the joys of leaves. We don't have big enough trees to make a decent leaf pile, but there are tons on the walk to school. We might not be able to build a pile and jump in them, but we can certainly shuffle through them. I shocked my 4 year old yesterday by running ahead of her to the pile of leaves and scuffing through it. She looked startled for a minute at mom's behaviour and then joined in the fun. We arrived at home with leaves in our shoes and grins on our faces, hand in hand.  The first thing she told her father when he got home was "mommy and I ran through the leaves, daddy."

I love the fall.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Getting Over Things

A friend request on Facebook has spawned this post. At my last "corporate" job, I became chums with a co-worker. We had lunch together, we sat together on the plane as we flew to and from a 2 week training session in another province, we helped each other learn new things and I bailed her out a few times when she was struggling with new concepts.

And then she screwed me royally to our boss. To cover her own mistakes, she sent an e-mail claiming that I was refusing to assist her with something (she had refused the offer of help until it was a huge mess) and that I was "rude and unapproachable" when she had come to me seeking assistance. She then put on an Academy Award worthy performance in a meeting she orchestrated to make me look even worse in the eyes of the bosses. The "rude and unapproachable" tag followed me the rest of my years in that department, became a performance issue, and eventually, one of the justifications for firing me in a restructuring. Many of the people who claimed I was unapproachable had never tried. They were just going by word of mouth.

I am many things. I can be rude, especially if I'm in the middle of a train of thought and get interrupted and the train derails. I'm a helper and a fixer by nature. Unapproachable? Not even close. 

And then she added me as a friend on Facebook this weekend.

I was dumbfounded. Seriously? Seriously! Just seeing her name sent me back to a very dark place in my work history. My then boyfriend, now husband washed mascara out of his shirt a great deal during that time. He was the only boyfriend I ever had with whom I felt safe to cry. I don't cry often, or easily. It was a measure of the man that he is.

I've had to suck up and get over a great many things in my life. Sometimes, circumstances dictate you put up and shut up. It's that whole "forgive and forget" thing.  With very few exceptions, I try not to hold a grudge because life is too short.

But this was different. I moved on. We continued to work together for several years and I managed to keep up a good appearance and played nice.  However, I don't HAVE to play nice any more. I don't HAVE to pretend that everything is gone and forgotten. It may be gone, but if my visceral reaction to just seeing the name is any indication, it is definitely not forgotten.

I can finally take a small measure of control back.I don't have to put up and shut up. I ignored the friend request, and blocked her. Blocking her was petty. But it felt good. This time, I'm choosing to be unapproachable for all the right reasons.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Wii "stuck in neutral" update.

I haven't reported in on the Wii Fat to Fit lately, because there isn't anything new to report. I'm still doing the Wii consistently. On the days that I walk my daughter to and from school, I don't do the Wii. My knee is slowly getting back to normal, but I'm not going to push my luck. Unless it's torrential rain (or picture day, kid wearing dress and I want to keep it nice until she gets to school) we walk.( I'm not looking forward to snowpants. On either of us.)

I'm struggling and I guess I'm a bad, mean-spirited person. My husband has been working his butt off, literally, doing Wii Active and following Weight Watchers. He's lost 28 lbs so far, is toning up, dropping pant sizes and looking great. I am really proud of how hard he is working, and I support and applaud his results.

But here's the thing. He obsesses...a little. I'm really proud of his accomplishments...but it makes it harder for me to keep going because nothing is happening on my end. I do not sit at home and eat all day, even with my self-confessed Skittles obsession. We eat the same dinner. On weekends, we eat the same everything. I either walk or do Wii every day. He's losing. I'm not. At this rate, my BMI will be higher than his soon. Sometimes, when he's going on and on and on about how his jeans are too big, the frying pan looks tempting as I envision the target upside his head. He's struggled with body and self esteem issues for years, and I'm happy to see him taking pride in his appearance. He's a wonderful, caring person and I'm happy he's starting  to see what the rest of the world sees.His success shines a light on my failure, and sometimes I just want to scream "shut up already, you insensitive boob."

I am currently on a medication known to cause weight gain, and I haven't gained anything. I have medical issues that wreak havoc on the hormones and make my body think it has thyroid issues when it doesn't. Last winter I was so anemic I almost passed out driving the car and dizzy was my normal state of being. These are all facts. I haven't gained any weight, so intellectually I understand that the work that I'm doing on the Wii is probably preventing that. People who haven't seen me in awhile think I look slimmer. The fit of the clothes hasn't changed-the 1 cm that I have lost in my waist isn't having a significant impact.

I wanted to weigh less before my surgery in January, and that is looking less and less like it will happen. I'm discouraged, despondent and wondering why I'm still doing this to myself. I hope that the surgery will rectify a number of things, and will definitely eliminate the meds.

I'm discouraged at the same 2 lbs up and down, up and down. I'm discouraged that adding even 1 exercise back in right now stresses the knee, throws the pelvis out and causes me pain for the rest of the day. I'm discouraged that my husband is disappearing before my eyes, and I'm stuck in neutral. Do I always make the best food choices? Of course not, who does, but I make good choices most of the time. Skittles and poutine were on my menu this week-it was a rough week-but I was down on the Wii this morning.

So why continue? The answer is my 4 year old daughter, currently at the ice rink. I'm 46. I need to stay healthy for my daughter. She is the motivation for my husband as well.She asks me if I've done my workout. She's disappointed when we don't walk (or in her case run) to school. She's busy and active and learning to be physically fit. She sees mom and dad taking care of themselves and learning by example. I'm watching my self talk so that she doesn't hear it. She will be tall, and will have enough to deal with being the tall girl in the class.

I will continue, because quitting is not an option.I will keep stepping on the board, cringing at being called "obese" and going through the motions...but my heart's not in it anymore.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Things you do when you're a mom.

It started out to be a simple request. Back in the spring, my little girl spied a Rainbow Bunny on the cover of Crafts and Things magazine. It was a very cute crochet project, and she asked me to make it for her. It was single crochet, easy peasy, so I said yes. How hard could it be?

8 Months later, I finally finished the never-ending Rainbow Bunny. What started out as a simple project to please my daughter morphed into a yarn and time sucker that required patience and attention to detail. It numbed my wrists, tested my patience and sent me to knitting purgatory until I finally finished the beast.

The results are worth it, judging by the look on my daughter's face. I'm not sure where "teddy" the giant rainbow bunny will reside, but it's a one of a kind (never do again) gift that is special to my little girl. Sometimes moms get it right.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Writer's Hierarchy of Writing Genres

I attended Wordstock at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario last weekend. I've always been eclectic in my interests, and do a bit of this and that. I am a corporate and magazine writer, a wanna be kid lit writer, a wanna be novelist and a lover of words. I have been a contract writer, an academic writer and a government risk-assessment paper writer. I am not, nor have I ever considered myself a journalist.

Journalists, to my mind, are more immediate, more facts and figures, and often, more courageous than I will ever be. You will never catch me standing in a war zone reporting on an important, minute by minute event, or sitting in a courtroom reporting and analyzing the trial. It's not the kind of writer I am, nor is it the kind of writer that I want to be. I couldn't ask someone who has just lost their family how they feel. I admire journalists; I just don't consider myself one.

It's a funny thing, this writing profession. There are many different types of writing, and there is a subtle hierarchy, or at least there appears to be one. Non-fiction writers consider many fiction writers to be hacks or lucky, although I suspect many of us harbour fiction desires. I know I certainly do. I was amazed at the vitriol that Dan Brown's, Stephenie Meyer's and JK Rowlings' books have been met with in the non-fiction sector. Maybe there are some grammatical and constructional short comings, but they are a darn good read and in the case of Meyer and Rowlings, my mind boggles at the depth of character development. I will be reading Dan Brown's latest book when I save enough pennies to buy it.

I sat in a session at Wordstock that had a few magazine writers and the rest were journalists. They way we approached a story and research could not have been more diametrically different. While the mag writers would be busy transcribing interviews, organizing notes and planning the drafts, journalists had gotten the quote, filed a story and gone out for a beer. We looked at each other like we were crazy. Both Mag and journalists write and tell stories but one approach was alien to the other.

It got me thinking about the different types of writer and how we view each other.

So here's my own version of the writer's hierarchy. At one time or another I have been all and continue to be some of these. This is done tongue in cheek and with complete respect and affection to my peers in other genres. Hopefully I will offend no one by offending everyone equally:

1. Top of the food chain: Academic Writers

Academic writers are the top of the writing food chain. They do serious work, they do serious research and write about serious things. (they may or may not be paid serious money, seriously) So serious, in fact, that no one outside their own discipline (and sometimes within it) can make heads or tails of what they are saying. Of course, no one wants to admit that they don't understand the writing. (It's kind of like modern art-no one wants to admit they don't get the painting so they nod and say something like "what an interesting composition.) Unless they teach (shudder) Women's Studies, English, Media Studies, or some other fluffy arts program academic writers remain at the top of the writing food chain, secure in the knowledge that they will not be challenged because no one understands what they've said anyway. (and just to be clear, I hold a MA in Political Science with a specialty in Canadian Government and Business-Government Relations)

2. Not far behind: Technical Writers

Technical writers are a close second to academics. They write textbooks, manuals and handbooks and enjoy it. They talk a strange language peppered with words like Visio, screen grab, xml, info-mapping, decision trees and text boxes. They are detail-oriented and genuinely care whether the egg or the chicken came first because it could impact the decision tree graph. Technical writers get excited over the minutiae. Why use words when a bar graph will do?
(I am a geek who likes writing handbooks and position papers)

3. Corporate Writing

Corporate writers and trainers can command rates of $100+ an hour. Brochures, websites, client correspondence, annual reports-the money is in corporate writing. Now granted, you have to make a CEO who is an actuary look humble, compassionate and aware of something other than the bottom line, but the money is good and the gigs tend to be steady. It may not be as exciting as writing about pets and babies, but it certainly pays much better.

4. Magazine Writers and Journalists

Magazine writers and journalists write informational pieces, current events, political analysis, how-to articles and many other things that are the bread and butter of the media and print news world, and increasingly, the web. While the approach may be different-journalists often do not have the luxury of a 3 week deadline, the approach is the same: investigate, interview and inform. It's much harder to write a good 200 word article. Unfortunately, pay rates do not reflect the hours of research, background, sources and interviews that are required to create the finished product.

5-Marketing/Advertising Writers

Marketing and advertising copywriters make things look interesting, compelling and entice people to buy something. I spent many hours when I worked in compliance taking out all the pretty marketing claims that, unfortunately were against insurance legislative rules in most of Canada. Because of this propensity to pare down the fluffy marketing stuff, I have to work really hard at writing fluffy marketing stuff...To some people it's easy peasy. I am not one of those people. I'm far too honest to be a good advertising copywriter, although I'm learning. I have nothing but respect and admiration for good marketing copy writers.

6-Fiction Writers

Fiction writers live in an alternate dimension from non-fiction writers. They create worlds and characters that take over plots, refuse to speak planned dialogue, and argue incessantly with their writer-creators. If successful, they score huge book deals, have their books made into movies and end up on The View or on Oprah's book club. Their books get banned, debated, discussed, analyzed and translated. Their characters may become part of the zeitgeist of a period, and their books may become the "must read" of the moment. Most non-fiction writers harbour dreams of a best selling novel but hide the envy behind derision for sentence structure, run-on sentences, dangling particles, serial commas and verb-article agreement.

Romance writers and children's writers are a special subset of fiction writers. I rediscovered romance writing, and has it come a long way from heaving bosoms. I'd like to try to write romance, but I suspect I'm too Catholic and straight-laced. I might be able to write it, but I'd giggle like a 6th grader the whole time. As far as kidlit goes, everyone thinks they can write for children...until they try. Picture books are harder than they seem. Been there, done that, amassing the rejects.

So there's my writers' hierarchy. Where do you fit? How would you order it?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Not Another Day-the Life Intervenes Update

I've fallen off the wee Wii this past week. For the first time since July, I went 4 consecutive days without pulling out the Balance Board. Why?

  • My knee hurt. My knee hurt a great deal. I am now walking my daughter (barring torrential rain although we did do that one morning) to and from school on the days that she goes, and I need to be able to do that. If the knee hurt, I didn't Wii.
  • We painted our kitchen for 3 days this past weekend. While I opted for the high parts so that I would be standing upright rather than crouched, 3 days up and down the stepladder, paint roller and brush in hand constituted a workout in my books.
  • I didn't want to. There's the truth. I lost my motivation because I'm not seeing results. I know that part of it is medication which has a side effect of weight gain. The fact that I haven't gained weight is a good thing. I haven't lost any either. It's hard to stay motivated without tangible results, especially when I share the house with a man who has lost 24 lbs and counting doing basically the same things that I'm doing.
  • I was drumming up business, and that was a higher priority than the tree pose.
  • I dug out the Balance Board this morning, and managed to do 20 minutes before the knee complained. It's a start. I'm not going to push any more because pain is not a good thing. I don't care if the wee Wii chastises me for being away for 4 days. I needed the time away to re-focus. So suck it up, little balance board, I'm doing the best I can.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


My little girl started school today. With her ladybug backpack and lunch bag, her unicorn top and socks, she marched through the door to Junior Kindergarten and into a new world of learning.

Like any mom, I have no idea where the time went. People tell you when you become a parent to savour every moment because the time flashes past in a heartbeat. During the first years, it's a sleep deprived, tantrum infused blur. My little girl has an aversion to sleep, and it's been a tough battle dragging her out of bed earlier and earlier to prepare her for this morning. It's been challenging...on both of us non-morning people.

I made sure that my daughter was socially ready for school. She was very timid when she was small, so I put her in summer camp and a pre-school program so that she would have more social skills than her mother did when I started school. I also wanted her to become familiar with the concept that she is not the only sun in the universe. We're still working on that one. The teacher's comment at the end of the day today was "holy moley, she likes to get her own way." My response was "um yeah, we're working on that."

I had a couple of worries as she headed off to school-body functions and food. She's been toilet trained 3 times-once at 2 1/2 until she broke her leg in 2 places and couldn't GET to the bathroom by herself for 2 months and by the time she could again she'd forgotten how. The second time was at age 3, until she pitched a sustained hissy fit when summer camp ended and regressed to peeing her pants again. We're working on this latest one, and she left a puddle in the living room yesterday... a couple of times. She came home in the same clothes I sent her in this morning. I'll take it. Yesterday, we went through 6 changes of clothes. I suspect it will be some time before I stop crossing my fingers as I send her off in the morning.

The eating was a big concern. My daughter is a grazer, and given her druthers, it takes her most of the day to eat her lunch...if she eats at all...which she sometimes doesn't do, which leads to meltdowns. It was such a big concern that I sent her off to her first day of school with shrimp in her lunch. Yes, shrimp. She will devour them, and thanks to the gods who invented gel pack cups, she had shrimp that kept cold until lunch. I also tucked in a pudding, some ham, a cheese string, some crackers, cookies, chocolate milk and an apple. The crackers and cookies came back home, because she forgot that I'd put her snacks in her backpack and her lunch in her lunch bag. She ate all the heathy stuff, so it's all good. She can cope and listen much better when she eats.

I know she has some challenges ahead. Strong willed, independent people and structured authority are not symbiotic. I know she will do well in the structured environment because she likes to know what she is doing and when. I also know that she has some tough lessons to learn about having her own way. We've tried to teach her and now we will support and partner with her teacher.

I didn't cry as I sent her off, although my husband was blinking his eyes suspiciously. I confess I drove by the school on my way home from an appointment just to see how she was doing. It was lunch time, and the children were outside. I could see my little girl, playing on the periphery but keeping an eye on everything. That's what she does in new situations. I also saw some children engaging with her which encouraged me. There's some residual timidness there, but there's nothing wrong with being timid and shy. It will change soon enough when she gets comfortable.

She goes three full days next week, and that will be the test by the end of the week.

I wish my little girl the same joy in learning that I've always had. I've tried to prep her by telling her how much fun school can be, and how exciting learning new things is. I've tried my best to lay the framework for a lifetime of learning, and I will continue to partner with her teachers. I won't always have the answers, but I will do my best to find them. I still love to learn, and there's a whole bunch of things I don't know, although I've already bought a Math Dictionary. You can never be too prepared.

Time for chocolate chip cookies and milk. It's the perfect way to end a school day, don't you think?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Not Another Day-Update

Here is this week's Fat to Fit update.

I don't have much to report this week. My knee has continued to give me grief and has had a significant impact on my ability to do exercises. Even Jackknifes (jackknives?) hurt. I just bought a knee brace and I may have to break down and phone my doctor, which should be good for at least 2 days' worth of dialing to get an appointment to get it looked at. I should probably have physio, but the kid starts school this week, so it can wait.

  • No change in the weight, unless you count the 2 lb up and down, up and down, up and down...
  • Clothes still aren't fitting any differently, but then I'm just reluctantly starting to dig out long pants again, so maybe I'll notice a difference in THEM.
  • 3 sleeps until I start walking the kid to school on the days she goes. (note to the PTB-staggered start for Junior Kindergarten is DUMB.) I'll be making the trek 4 times-she'll do it twice.
  • I got nothing else. I'm not inspired, I'm not motivated, I'm not encouraged. I'm just in pain and forcing myself to keep going.
Any words of wisdom? I could use some.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Not Another Day-Update

Here's the Fat to Fit update.

Sometimes, life smacks you upside the head and reminds you of what is important. This was one of those weeks. I sang at 2 funerals, and heard catastrophic news about someone younger than me who had a heart attack a week ago but no history of heart problems, is currently in Intensive Care on a ventilator and is a single mom to a fabulous young man who has to start school with his mom in the hospital. Instead of starting school with anticipation and excitement, he's living with his grandparents and starting school with worry.

Another friend of mine is also dealing with terminal illness in her family.

In the face of that, my fat ass doesn't matter.
  • I missed a couple of days of workout this week because my hip was cranky and the knee didn't appreciate extra reps of the squats. Because of the other commitments in my life this week, some of the workouts were abbreviated, but I did the best I could manage.
  • We de-constructed my daughter's bunk bed, so I was pulling and hauling on mattresses and other things.
  • The kid and I practiced walking to school one day this week, and then went to the park and walked home. We also walked all over the market and a couple of shopping malls.
  • I've logged 37 hours on Wii Fit since I started and I can now do decent Jack knife exercises. I can almost touch my toes without bending my knees, which for my stiff muscles is a major accomplishment.
The weight is all over the map and I'm still not seeing any difference in the fit of my clothes, but other people are.

My daughter now asks me daily if I've done my workout. She asks if daddy has done his. Occasionally, she will do the yoga poses with me and loves to "race" with me when I'm able to do the run. We're leading by example and that's a good thing. We have our challenging, funny, stubborn little girl and we're getting healthier for her. At the end of the day, and in light of the serious health challenges others of my acquaintance are dealing with, it's enough. It may not be perfect, but it's a start.

Instead of whining about lack of progress this week, I am counting my blessings and sending love and prayers to anyone who is dealing with serious illness. Sometimes life smacks you upside the head and refocuses your priorities. This was one of those weeks.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Not Another Day-Update

Here's the weekly Fat to Fit update.

  • Ate my Belgian waffle with strawberries at the CNE. Walking for 8 hours back and forth along the complex more than compensated for it.
  • Been dealing with cranky pelvic bones all week. So bad on Tuesday that I had to call husband from driveway to bring out the crutches to get me in the house after the PWAC Guelph BBQ.
  • Skipped Wednesday workout entirely because I was still crippled and unable to weight bear on right side. Took it easy the rest of the week because it's still dodgy.
  • Had a really stressful, emotionally draining week...gave in to poutine...twice. Enjoyed every artery clogging mouthful.
  • Opted to watch Senator Ted Kennedy's funeral Saturday morning instead of working out. I made the right choice. What a majestic send-off to such a powerful advocate for the less fortunate, the marginalized and the forgotten.
  • Poutine and waffle notwithstanding, still no change in fit of clothes, weight on scale or BMI. Standing straighter. That's it.
  • Added jackknifes to my routine. After the Pilates I've been doing, they were easy.
This was not a great week in Wii land for a number of reasons. I did the best I could around injury, stress and unanticipated driving trips with my mom. I tried. That's all I got this week. I tried.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Not Another Day-Update

Here is the latest Fat to Fit update. Not Another Day.

I took some flack last week about the use of the word "Fat." Many people took me to task for applying the word to my situation. I chose the word for several reasons:

  • It makes a nice alliteration.
  • It's what I see when I look in the mirror, regardless of what the scale says. (Yes, I do. No, maybe I shouldn't but it's what I see.)
  • It's what the Wii Fit Balance Board tells me every morning. Actually, it says "that's Obese" which is just a fancy way of saying fat.
  • According to a couple of on-line dictionaries I checked, alternative meanings include "plump", "obese". The word stays.
It's been a tough week in Wii Fit land. I actually missed a day of workout for the first time since I embarked on this little journey on July 13. I had to take my car in for service at the time I normally work out. By the time I got back, it was too humid and my asthma had kicked in and I was dizzy, woozy and likely to fall off the Wee Wii board if I'd tried to push through. It wasn't safe, it wasn't healthy...and the wee Wii still gave me grief the next morning for missing it.

In the quest to tone and tighten, (read, pushing past my common sense limitations of previous injuries) I reinjured a couple of things from my ballroom dancing days. I have managed to annoy my right knee to the point where running and the advanced step are out of the question some days, even if I only step up 3 inches. Running barefoot on hardwood has not been good for my knee, either (although it's been good physio for the foot I broke in the spring). The three middle toes on both feet go numb within minutes of being on the Wii Balance Board. Because I'm working out barefoot, I'm stressing the arches, which stresses some nerve around the toes which gets mad and goes numb. It's hard to hold a decent tree pose when your toes are freaking numb.

I've only managed to lose a grand total of 3.5 lbs since July 13. My husband is following Weight Watchers and doing either Wii Fit or Wii Active every morning. He has lost 15 lbs and who knows how many inches, but enough that it's noticeable. His pants are actually belted and sitting where they are supposed to on his waist, instead of tucked under the "tummy overhang."

While I am not following Weight Watchers, I have been very careful about what I am consuming so that I can trim calories and support him. He has always been able to wash the weight off in the shower when he puts his mind to it. I know that. I've lived it. I've seen it. Intellectually I understand that but it burns my butt when I'm working so hard and consistently. (Although in fairness to him, so is he). I had a day last week when I was ready to resign as a parent and ended up substituting suicidal/homicidal thoughts with a DQ Blizzard. (It was Miracle Treat Day anyway-so it was for charity) The next morning, instead of being the same or slightly up on the scale I was down 1.5 lbs (but had gained back 1 lb by the end of the workout...) The morning after I ate ice cream TWICE in a day, and ate Swiss Chalet complete with French Fries (but still no poutine), I reached my goal. I don't understand my freaking body chemistry, although I do know that I can go up as much as 3 lbs overnight. I've gone up 2 lbs in an hourlong workout that did not include stuffing my face.

I've added Pilates into the mix. I'm a singer, so I've already got pretty strong abs. Shocked the crap out of a muscle-head personal trainer one time because I don't look like someone who can do 70 situps in a minute. I can, I have and I did. It was my salvation on the Canada Fitness Award every year when I was a kid. (and the flexed arm hang doomed me to gold every single freaking year but I digress). If Pilates can't tighten the gut, nothing is going to.

I've had to really struggle to continue this week. I'm putting the effort in and I'm not seeing results. Yes, I know, it's Wii Fit, and is limited by the exercises that the Balance Board can track. Yes, I know, I should be at the gym, walking on the road, swimming at the pool, blah blah blah. I can't manage those things right now. Wii Fit I can manage. It may not be Body Bootcamp...but it's more than I've done in 4.5 years.

I know that I have some serious hormonal issues going on that are going to have an impact on my metabolism and subsequent weight loss. One of the meds I'm on right now has a side effect of weight gain, so at least that didn't happen.

I'm counting on stubborn and determined to keep me at this. I need to see some results though. Nothing is changing fit-wise, the scale is moving in glacial intervals downward, and the time is ticking on towards January and the slice and dice. I don't always make the best food choices, but I make much better food choices than I was making 3 months ago. I haven't touched Poutine, for example, although I just about mugged someone for their New York Fries Poutine at the mall the other night when the greasy-cheese scent wafted towards me as the fries were carried by me. Instead, I had really bad Pad Thai and ate half of it. We're going to the Canadian National Exhibition tomorrow, and I WILL be having a Belgian Waffle with ice cream and strawberries. It's one of my must-dos at the Ex and I'm not going to miss it. I suspect I will be walking enough to balance it out...and don't care if I don't. It's a once a year indulgence.

I'm wondering why I'm bothering to continue. Yes, I am setting an example for my daughter by taking care of myself physically. Yes, I know it takes time for results to show. Yes, I know I need to stick with it. Yes I know that I'm seeing incremental improvement in my ability to hold certain poses or do more reps...But doubt and "why bother, it's not working anyway" are creeping into my psyche and it's getting hard to hold them at bay. Couple that with injury, and you have one discouraged little blogger. Sigh.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Real revisited.

I've had something stuck in my craw for the last few days, and it's making me crazy. I need to write about it. Why does the world CARE so much about who the biological father of Michael Jackson's kids are? Why does it matter?

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will remember that I had a similar rant last year. (October last year, entitled Real) I am an adopted child and an adoptive parent, and the business of who the "real" parents are makes me homicidal. I've dealt with it all my life and dread it when it's my daughter's turn for ignorant comments about "real" parents. What does genetics have to do with parenting? So maybe I don't look like my parents-although people who don't know I'm adopted find a resemblance-and people are amazed at the resemblance between my adopted daughter and I. But what astounds me is that people feel the need to tell me that she looks like me. I don't give a tinker's damn if my kid looks like me or not. I care that she is a part of my life, because for a very long time I didn't think it would be possible for me to be a parent. Any adoptive parent will tell you the same thing. We don't care what our kids look like. We care only that we get to look at our kids, and marvel that they are, in fact, OUR kids.

My daughter can break my heart in a million pieces with a sleepy "I love you, mommy." My daughter can break my heart in a million pieces by refusing to sit beside me on the school bus for a field trip. My daughter can swell my heart a million times its size with a neat craft, a well-executed star fish float or riding her "big girl" bike. My daughter can bring tears to my eyes by graduating from pre-school, by going off to summer camp without me there for a couple of hours, and in a few weeks, by starting school. If that isn't the response of a "real" mom, I don't know is.

Was Michael Jackson a good parent? Don't know. I wonder about the "hanging the baby over the railing" incident, but he certainly did a good job of protecting them from the media circus that surrounded his every move. I was sort of caught off guard by the third child-Blanket-I'd forgotten or never heard of his arrival. And for what it's worth, "Blanket" sounds like a nickname that any parent any where sticks their kid with as a sign of affection when they're little. My daughter has several of those "cringe inducing when they're teenagers" nicknames. It certainly sounded like a name given in love by a parent.

At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what I think. His daughter, Paris, certainly thought he was a good dad, and if the grief on the faces of the other kids is any indicator, so did her brothers.

Genetics contributes certain character traits. It does NOT, however, make a parent. You are a parent when you sit up half the night with a sick kid. You are a parent when you cry at the first day of school, the first step, the first heart break and the first grandchild. You are a parent when you play the heavy and restrict candy after the first cavity, cancel a promised field trip because of misbehaviour, and sit up half the night waiting for them to come home. And you are a parent if you give your kid a nickname like Blanket.

So let me be clear. A real parent may or may not share DNA. A real parent may have grown the baby in the heart rather than the tummy. And a real parent loves their child with the fiercest, most over powering love possible. Michael Jackson was a real parent. He may have been a flawed one, but he was a loving parent nonetheless. We all make mistakes. Most of us don't do it surrounded by paparazzi. It doesn't matter whose DNA those Jackson kids have. They just lost their dad, and they need to be left alone now.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


I've been hearing, not the kind of voices that will land me in a psychiatric evaluation but those inner voices that keep me on the straight and narrow, or prevent me from being courageous.

For example, I have been knitting socks lately. I used to knit them, but I hated working with 4 double pointed needles, because I was forever dropping one, or losing stitches off the end or leaving ladders because I could never pull the yarn tight enough at the turn. A few months ago, Nathalie Nasr, one of the singers in the Grand Philharmonic Choir, and one of the fastest knitters I've ever seen in my life, taught me how to do the Magic Loop. Instead of knitting the sock on 4 needles, you knit it on a long circular needle. All of a sudden, I could knit socks: no more dropped stitches, no more dropped needles, and much more portable to throw in my purse and take with me to knit while I wait. I am still learning, however, and when a sock turned out much floppier than it should have, I realized too late that I had forgotten to do the decrease after turning the heel. At first, I tried to pretend that it was fine. Then I tried to felt it to fit. And then I heard the Voice.

Sr. Mary Alfred of Jesus was a nun at Queen of Angels Academy who went to school with Moses, or so it seemed at the time. She taught us needlework, and many's the time I sat in her room, unravelling completed work because it wasn't perfect. Imperfection was not an option. As soon as I tried to settle for "good enough" with that darned sock, Sr. Mary Alfred's voice appeared in my head. "There's no excuse for shoddy work, especially when you can fix it." she would say. I stalled a couple of days longer...and then ripped back the sock and I'm fixing it. I heeded the Voice.

My mother has always been concerned with appearances and apparel. Even when she was working in Ottawa during World War II, earning something like $75 a month, and then paying $40 for room and board, she managed to have her suits and skirts tailored and she wore cashmere sweaters. She didn't have many clothes, but she took immaculate care of them and she folded them very precisely, so that she would always know when her sister had borrowed her clothes, because her sister could never fold the clothes precisely the same way. My mother had definite ideas as to what was appropriate to wear, and she passed those ideas on to her only daughter (who is in turn, passing them on to the kid).

I've struggled with my weight quite a bit the last few years (Not another Day) and not everything fits the way it is supposed to. Sometimes I'm tempted to wear it anyway, and then I hear The Voice. I can clearly hear my mother stopping me halfway down the stairs when I was in high school and marching me back upstairs to put on something a little longer, a little looser, a little less revealing, a little more appropriate to the occasion...a little...whatever. While I have developed my own sense of style, her basic principles still guide me.

Appropriate also translated to maquillage in my mother's world. She wouldn't dream of leaving the house without at least powder and lipstick on. That was hammered into my head from when I was old enough to wear makeup, along with that fine line between being made up and being a clown. I have left the house a few times without makeup this summer, usually to take the kid to a water park where makeup is a hazard because chlorine and mascara are not generally a good combination. I always hear the Voice admonishing me for "letting myself go." Sometimes I shrug and go anyway. Other times, I scamper upstairs and do mascara, blush and concealer....because grooming matters and I want to set a good example.

Other voices are harder to ignore. When I am struggling with self esteem issues, it is the drunken voice of my father telling me that I am stupid, lazy, fat, ugly and a slut. I don't think he knew what the last one even meant, (and I was far from it) but it was hurtful and insulting, and so he used it. When I am struggling with body issues, I hear the voice of the man who molested me when I was 12-13, blaming me for his depravity because I chose to wore a turtleneck sweater that clung a bit to my breasts. It took me years to silence that voice. When I am struggling with professional self doubt, it is the voice of a former boss who did more to undermine and demoralize me in a year than anyone before or since. I was left with no real picture of my worth, my abilities, my value, my intelligence, my integrity or my professional qualifications.

I can often silence or ignore these other voices, but when I am struggling, the task of challenging and blocking them becomes more challenging. I try to replace it with the voice of my Grandma Harvey, who loved her grandchildren unequivocally, but wasn't afraid to kick our butts if she didn't like how we were behaving. We knew without a shadow of a doubt that she loved us with that fierce grandma love. We also knew without a shadow of a doubt that we would not be able to put something over on her. She knew more about the goings-on of her grandchildren than the respective parents did. She listened, she loved us, and then she set us straight.

I'm still trying to develop my own voice-to learn to trust my judgements, my instincts and my abilities and talents. Some days are better than others, but I will get there. I think I will add a new voice-one that I hear frequently from my stubborn and independent 4 year old daughter. "Oh yes I can" she will exclaim petulantly, when she has been advised against taking a certain action or acting in a certain way. I think I need to add a bit of petulant and defiant 4 year old back into my psyche. "Oh yes I can."

So who do you hear? Who is your Voice?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Fat to Fit Update

It's time for another Fat to Fit Update. For those of you not following the playbook, here's the original post. Not Another Day.

  • I have not missed a day on Wii Fit yet, including the day when my pelvic bones copped an attitude and locked halfway through Hula Hoop. I still managed to do the Yoga and Strength exercises.
  • I have not had poutine, although I was sorely tempted last week.
  • I average between 45 mins and an hour each day. The minimum I will do is 40 minutes.
  • I'm not seeing any difference yet, but other people have commented that I look more svelte. Clothes might be fitting a tiny bit looser, but negligible for the amount of freaking effort I'm putting in.
  • Definite difference in my centre of balance. This is a good thing since I have wonky hips and pelvis from car accident.
  • Managed to scrape another pound off my butt. Not going to make the goal for tomorrow of another 2 lbs, without enema intervention, which is not on the option list.
  • I have managed to do the Rowing Squats, the Plank and a half-ass Shoulder Stand. I have managed to run for 3 minutes. I don't run; this is an accomplishment.
  • I'm really discouraged today. Read reviews that Wii Fit is not a valid fitness tool. Watched Hubby do Wii Active-no freaking way I can do the majority of the exercises on it. Lunges and a bad knee are not a good combination.
I'm going to keep at it. It's better than nothing. I will be walking small child to school a couple of days a week in a month. The kids around here walk to school. So will Vampira.

Could really go for pizza today. I will be eating salad instead. Sigh.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Not Another Day-Update

It's time for a Fat to Fit update.

Since I posted the Not Another Day blog, I have stuck with it. I have not missed a day on Wii Fit, averaging 45-50 minutes. (with a couple of sessions over 1 hour) I've managed to scrape 2 lbs off my butt(although the hormone gods have spoken today and I was up 1.5 lbs by the end of the 45 minute workout...not likely.) My centre of balance is improving, and my pelvic area hasn't locked up.

My 4 year old daughter is an enthusiastic participant, and so is our black cat. It's tough to do Downward Facing Dog when both cat and kid are lying under the "bridge". It's tough to do the Lotus Focus with said kid leaning on one side and cat chewing watch on the other. My daughter loves to "race" with me and although it's only 5 minutes, I am running. She loves to watch me do the hula hoop and she tries some of the yoga poses. She can do the shoulder stand; momma, not so much. It will come. Or not.

I don't feel any better yet. It's an effort to do this every day. Even when I was really fit and working out with cardio and weights (pre-kid) 6 days a week, I never reached the "buzz" that people talked about. I never got energy from working out. I still don't. It's something I need to do. It's not something that I want to do.

I'm more aware of what I'm eating. My husband is actively following Weight Watchers right now and I'm trying to support him by cooking in a more healthy fashion. I've had a couple of really bad days this week where I medicated with food, but otherwise I've been pretty good. On a day when pizza and Marble Slab ice cream were the alternative to mass homicide, an extra 20 minutes on Wii balanced it out. I might not do that every time I food self-medicate, but I am more aware of what I am doing.

I am not an athlete. I never have been-just check my run down of Olympic events. I used to swim a great deal when I was a kid, I've always loved to dance and once upon a time, I was a competition-level ballroom dancer. I never had a weight problem when I was ballroom dancing. Since I stopped ballroom dancing, my weight and fitness level changed in an inverse relationship.

I may never run a marathon, a triathalon or run around the block for that matter. I haven't ridden a bike that wasn't stationary and parked in front of a television since we left Montreal in 1977, and I don't see it happening any time soon. I don't know if I'll ever manage some of the yoga poses. I'm okay with that. I may never do the lotus position or a shoulder stand. I know I will never be able to do the splits. Never have, never will. I'm okay with that. I'm doing the best that I can, and I'm doing it so that I can keep up with my kid and take better care of me. And that's good enough.

Monday, July 20, 2009

(Not So) Bad Parents

Every once in awhile, the universe throws you a bone.

We've been having some attitude challenges with our four year old daughter and I've been wondering if I created the monster with my parenting. Yesterday, we went to African Lion Safari, and had the opportunity to witness several different parenting styles. We came home feeling much better about our parenting...and our intelligence.

(For those of you unfamiliar with African Lion Safari, a brief explanation is in order. The park was founded 40 years ago with the premise that you "cage" the people and let the animals roam free. People can drive through the safari area in their own vehicles, or pay a small fee and take a guided bus ride. The Safari no longer has tigers after a visitor ignored the "close and lock your doors and windows" warning and was mauled by a tiger a few years ago. While there are park rangers all through the park, the animals are not restrained in any way. The monkey area in particular is hazardous to cars. The baboons climb on the cars and help themselves to siding, windshield wipers, license plates, bug screens. They seem to have a particular hate for luggage racks, rear windshield wipers and tow-mount covers. If you choose to take your car into the area, the minute you cross the gates, liability is on you. You can by-pass the monkey area if you choose to. Now that I've set the scene, on with the blog)
  • As we were waiting to enter the park, my husband glanced sideways and then did a double take. In the SUV next to us, a young boy who appeared to be 6-7 years old was sitting on his mother's lap BEHIND THE WHEEL of the car. He was not wearing a seatbelt, and was turning the wheel. One sudden brake, one rear end collision, and that child was through the windshield. As I clicked off the traffic violations in my mind, we observed the Georgia license plate- maybe the rules of child safety seats are different in Georgia. We are still debating whether we should move our child from the front-facing car seat into a booster, even though she weighs 43 lbs and is rapidly approaching 4 1/2 ft tall. We're not such bad parents after all.
  • Peacocks roam free in the park, including females with chicks. If I had a dollar for every small child I saw being permitted to chase the birds, I could have paid for all 3 of our admissions. There was a near miss when a small child got a little too close to a chick and mamma took a peck at the child who was pulled out of the way in the knick of time. No doubt the parents would have blamed the park if the child had been hurt. My support was squarely on the side of the hen protecting her babies. Our daughter was not allowed to chase the peacocks, peahens or babies. (or the seagulls) She's been taught to respect animals from the start.
  • Not being stupid people, and being rather fond of our paid-for car, we forked over $15 and the three of us took the guided tour bus. We were amazed by how many high end cars were driving into the park-Mercedes, BMWs, Lexus, and the people in the Mercedes were all eating in the car. Those of us on the bus were hoping that we would see the Mercedes when it hit the baboon area...that hood ornament was as good as gone.
  • I was shocked at how many people were driving through with their children on their laps. There are white rhinos that roam free in the park. They decide to charge the car and those children are going to be hurt or dead. If you're worried that your kids can't see; park your car, fork over $5 a person and take the freaking BUS.
  • Many people were driving through the park with their windows open. Our bus witnessed a full-blown meltdown between a man and woman in a minivan. She was freaking out, yelling, gesturing and screaming at her husband, who was flat out refusing to roll up the windows as they headed towards the lions. A number of us on the bus had vowed to vouch for the park if the couple was subsequently mauled for being stupid. A couple of minutes later, as one of the lions started to stroll towards the minivan, the windows were rolled up...rapidly.
  • Some people, many with children in the car (and on their laps) were rolling windows down and FEEDING the baboons. in passing carrots out half-open windows, tossing bread onto the roof or hood of their car and holding the food and passing it to the baboons. These same baboons can rip a license plate off a car, ripped a number of bug screens off and had a few windshield wipers, towing caps and the complete weather stripping off a minivan. They apparently get high on the glue. We watched one SUV get swarmed because the similar SUV in front of it had been feeding them...and the 2nd one wasn't. It wasn't pretty...and it's a good thing it didn't rain last night because they were short 2 windshield wipers. These are strong animals, not King Louis. If the window is open, they could rip it out...with your kid on your lap beside you. You cannot sue the park for being stupid. Also, the safari knows what to feed the animals...and I don't think Pita is on the list.
  • Many parents let their kids wander around on the "African Queen" boat. While there are railings, kids can slip and roll. Our kid's butt remained planted on her seat.
  • One father thought it would be fine to lift his small child OVER the fence TOWARDS the pretty elephants who were bathing in the pond. As one curious elephant started to come over to say hello to said small child, sending the elephant herding dog into a barking frenzy, and chasing the elephant back to the water (with a trumpeting protest) the elephant keeper told the father in no uncertain terms why that was a dumb idea.
We came home tired and feeling better about our parenting. We might not be perfect, but at least we seem to have some common sense when it comes to raising our small daughter.

Sometimes the universe throws you a bone.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Not another day

I'm writing this down. You may hold me to it.

  • I will do Wii Fit at least 6 days a week. I'm 3 days in. So far, so good.
  • I will eat more carefully. Au revoir, poutine, my stress-day comfort food of choice.
  • I will support my husband as he follows Weight Watchers, whether or not he ever gets around to giving me the freaking books so that I can cook appropriate meals for him.
  • To the best of my ability, I will try to love my body, no matter what shape it is.
  • This is a long shot, since I've never actually done this in my life, but I will try to develop enough self confidence to wear a bikini (bikini, not tankini) at the water park next summer.
So it has been written, so it shall be done. (with apologies to Yul Brenner and the writers of "The Ten Commandments.")

I've hit rock bottom (or top limit depending on perspective). A couple of days ago (3 if you're perceptive...) I hit a new number on the scale, and ventured into a realm that I never thought was possible. Who knew the numbers went that high. I also hit the "not another day."

I've always had poor body image. I can remember my mother telling me when I was a young girl (maybe 10-11) that I had big legs. I'm sure she won't remember the conversation, but I sure do. Now in all fairness to my mother, I DO have big legs. They are short and squat, and probably would have been highly prized if I was a settler in Western Canada building a soddy. Legs like a ruddy ox, she has. (they are strong, too) My oldest friend (oldest as in known the longest-since we were 3, not as in chronological years) is 6ft, and most of that is legl me, 5ft 5 in if I'm standing straight, and my legs barely reach my waist.

I have what is apparently the ideal feminine shape-an hourglass figure. Okay, so it's not so much hour as century right now but I'm working on it. (my waist is still smaller than the boobs and hips-it's just everything changes proportionally) It's the "ideal" shape...until you try to buy clothes, because apparently, fashion designers were never told this is supposed to be the ideal-at least not in this era. I remember reading a quote by British actress Dawn French that went something along the lines that in another era, she would have been worshipped as a model, and Kate Moss would have been a paint brush. I laughed out loud, and nodded in agreement. Big boobs and "good child bearing hips-you can turn a bus in them" (as my friend Clare's mom remarked to me in high school) are not fashion friendly. I also have the curse of "curvy" women everywhere-cellulite. If Kim Kardashian can own it; so can I. (Kim Kardashian)

I am what I am. I've accepted the fact that I can't draw and math gives me hives. I've accepted my singing, my writing and my crafting as part of who I am. It's time to accept the package the talents came in.

I have an extra challenge, though. I was molested when I was 12-13, and the molester blamed me. After I'd slapped his hand away from my breast, he said "do you blame me-you in that tight top. What did you think?" I remember what I was wearing: it was a multi-coloured, turtleneck and jeans, and oh yeah, I was a freaking CHILD. From that day forward, the Girls have stayed under wraps. It took me a long time to be able to place the blame where it needed to be, but it also set up a life time of hiding "the Girls". I've never worn a bikini, at least not since the Girls arrived. The only time the Girls peek (and I mean peek) out for air is when I'm wearing the dreaded bathing suit, because I have always reasoned that people would be so busy staring at the Girls that they will never notice the legs. (It works.) The Girls had many courses in high school and university taught to them, have had many conversations addressed to them and were surgically reduced when I got tired of the back ache, the neck strain, the stares, the oggling, the subway groping...(and for those of you who know me now and not then, yeah they used to be BIGGER...)

I am always amazed at women who can wear "boob tops" that show more than half of the Girls. I am not one of those women. I remember a woman dressed in such a top who once criticized a breast-feeding mother for exposing herself. The mother was discreet; the woman making the observation, not so much and definitely was exposing more than the mom feeding her child ever did.

I know that I can take steps to reduce my body size. I can't change genetics or reality. Big or small, I will be curvy. It is what it is. It's what my (birth) momma gave me.

One of the best books I've read lately was Valerie Bertinelli's autobiography, not so much for the dish on Eddie Van Halen, but for her candour about self image and acceptance.

I know I have as much work to do mentally as physically. It's time. I have major surgery in January to fix on-going problems, and the fatter I am the more anaesthetic they will pump into me. Since I am violently ill after anaesthetic, the less gas, the better. I have 6 months. Check in. I'll keep you posted. Send me good thoughts, but hold the poutine.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Summer and Food Allergies

Hi all
I'm going to be a contributor on Here's my first post.

Groundhogs and Hawks and Mice, oh my

I was told once by an animal behaviourist acquaintance of mine that our house has a soft animal aura that reassures critters that they are safe. We live in a growing city, but seem to attract all manner of creature to our backyard. We tend to name the critters that share our space. There are limits, though.

We feed the birds year round, so we have a constant parade of feathered creatures. We have 3-4 pairs of cardinals, several mourning doves, and a wild canary that dashes in and out. Hummingbirds like our fuschia and honeysuckle plants, and we've had robins hatch babies in the tree in the middle of the back yard. The sparrows and wrens are bold little souls and will hop onto the deck when we're on it and peck at the crusts or stale almonds that are regularly "recycled" to the birds.

The robins know that they are safe with us, and they will chirp and chirrup to us. One of the regulars we have dubbed "bar fight Robin" because he looks like he got the worst of it in a brawl. The tuft on his head is ragged and his feathers always look like he just had a narrow escape from something bigger and more predatory than him. He's a cocky little fellow, and will sit on the fence, turn his head to one side if we address him, pause a polite moment and then chirp a response. He has sat a foot away from my daughter on the lawn as she dug in the garden, chirping thanks as she dug out "wormies" for him. He's a friendly, fearless fellow.

Where there is bird seed, there are bound to be squirrels, and we have several regulars. There is "Scrawny squirrel" of the skinny tail and desperate hoovering of anything available, there is "Patches" a black squirrel who was missing great tufts for fur for the longest time, and had obviously had a narrow escape from something,"Red" a black squirrel with a distinctive red tinge to his fur and then the other, bolder grey squirrels who sit on the top of the fence and only make a token scamper when we open the door. They are quality entertainment, especially in the winter when the feeders are full and they are hungry. I've wiled away many "should be writing" minutes watching the squirrels outwit the "squirrel proof" feeders. We arranged a compromise last year, and the squirrels got their own dishes of stale nuts or peanuts, leaving the sunflowers for the feathered critters.

There are hawks around our neighbourhood, too. We had a red tailed hawk land on our deck a few months ago, and it sat on the railing a foot outside our kitchen. Our black cat, who has never set foot on the deck but guards it rigourously, wasn't sure what the big thing on the deck was but fell as silent as the birds outside when the majestic bird arrived on the railing. The cat kept looking from the hawk to me, clearly wanting me to deal with it. The hawk also favours our smoke tree in the back corner of the garden. Sudden silence is a sign that the hawk is circling, because normally the air is full of bird songs and chirping.

We had a possum that would come and visit a couple of summers ago. My husband called me down one night to see this "thing" on the deck. I think he was afraid it was big-ass rat. I stepped outside and came face to face with a very brave little possum, whom I promptly named "Simon" in honour of one of the characters in the Rita Mae Brown books that I love to read. He was munching on leaves on top of the screen of the rain barrel, and wasn't at all concerned that I was standing a foot away from him. He was an infrequent but welcome visitor.

And then there was Chuck. About 5 years ago, my black cat set off an intruder alarm and I looked out the door in time to see a large brown butt motoring down the yard. Rather than head for the space under the fence, the critter headed for a hole under the door to our garden shed. Chuck, the groundhog, had taken up residence under our shed. After ascertaining that he wouldn't attack us, we spent a wonderful summer with Chuck in our backyard. He soon realized that he was safe from us, and would sit with his head sticking out of the den and watch the day go by. At first, if we stepped on the deck he would dive for his den, but after awhile, he would stand at attention to see if it was us, and then go back to his lunch. We had an understanding: he could eat the grass and the weeds but we hollered at him if he headed for the lettuce. He brought home the occasional friend, and a little groundhog would emerge from the den in the morning, inevitably to be chased off by Chuck, who was clearly a confirmed bachelor. He disappeared in early October and we waited for spring to see if he would come back but he never did. It was a fascinating summer of learning.

I have my limits, though, and a little brown mouse has reached it. I looked up a couple of days ago to see a brown field mouse standing on the deck eating the crust from the kid's lunch. It was the middle of the day, and there was mousey, bold as anything. It scampered off, only to emerge a couple of minutes later to grab another morsel. The second time it emerged, the kid was in the kitchen and saw mousey. If Max the Black Cat sees him, we'll be replacing the screen on the patio. Yesterday, I looked up and saw mousey 3/4 up the screen that leads into the kitchen. The glass door was closed, but that was a bit too close even for my comfort.

Mice don't bother me particularly. My aunt's farm had mice, and the sudden snap of the trap was part of life at the farm. I've worked in buildings with mice, and the house I lived in in Toronto had mice, although they were smart enough to stay out of my appartment because I had a cat who had a zero rodent tolerance. I don't want a mouse in my house, though. Mousey will have to go.

We have a couple of issues. The child has seen mousey and thinks it's "cute" and wants to pet it. Max knows the mouse is out there and would no doubt make swift work of it if it does make it in the house. I don't particularly want to wake up and find a mouse corpse on my bed or in the kitchen. I have enough trouble with those stupid bugs that get in flour and cereal; I do not want to add a mouse to the house, cute or not.

I'm mercenary enough to hope that the food chain will solve the problem for us before we have to deal with mousey. There are a number of outdoors cats and raccoons in the area, and there is always the hawk. I don't want the mouse to get in the house, but I don't really want to have it killed either. My husband is old school, and would set a lethal, solve the problem trap in a minute. Catching it and releasing it elsewhere just means mousey will have a car ride and a journey.

Even I, animal loving, talk-to-any-animal-anywhere have a limit and a little brown mouse has pushed it. I hope nature takes it's course before I have to authorize deadly force. Run, little mousey, run...

Monday, June 1, 2009

Bitchin' About Business Casual

Next to "team building exercise" and "performance review" I don't think any phrase strikes more terror in my corporate heart than "business casual." I have to pack for a conference, and the skuttlebutt is that the dress will be "business casual." Swell.

I've never been a "suits" person. Suits are tricky when you're built like I am, and I've never found jackets are particularly comfortable. I'm much more a twin sets and sweaters girl. Of course, since I work from home now, "business casual" has taken on a whole new meaning. Some days, it means I managed to get dressed. Other days, it means turtleneck and jeans. When I'm stressed, tired, bloated and on deadline, it means fuzzy sweats. I am the funeral cantor at our church, so I do have some "business-y" clothes, but many of the things that I would have reached for when I worked in an office are out of style, or more accurately, out of size range right now.

This conference is causing many of the women some grief, and since we will all be assembling later this week, a great deal of e-mail traffic, tweets and trading of opinions. Interestingly, it's the women who are worried about it. The silence from the male writers has been deafening. Of course, business casual for men is a bit easier-khakis and a nice dress shirt fit the bill.

There are levels of "business casual" for women. When I worked in the insurance industry, crop pants and capris were against the dress code. I don't know whether that still applies, since it's almost impossible to find anything OTHER than that. Skirts and sweaters, or a nice blouse and sweater with dress pants were considered "business casual". Of course, I wore that almost every day because I didn't like suits and denim of any kind was forbidden.

I have an added challenge this time. I broke a bone in my foot a month ago, and I'm still recovering. Right now, my Birks are the only footwear that fit my swollen foot and that I can wear without excruciating pain. I may pack my leopard slides for the banquet, but for the rest of the time, I will be hobbling around in ugly, yet functional sandals with Velcro to accommodate the bruising and swelling. I am still debating whether to tote the cane or not. It would explain the ugly shoes, at least. I have shoe angst, because I am a shoe harlot. I LOVE shoes. Unfortunately, broken foot and hot shoes are mutually exclusive.

I'm dreading it, but I have to go up and play "I wonder what fits in my closet?" to figure out clothes for the conference. I can't afford to buy anything else new, so what there is will have to do. I hope the weather warms up a bit, though. I will be drawing the line at "socks and sandals". A girl has to maintain some shred of fashionista...I know the black capris are okay, maybe the cute denim skirt and those new jeans don't really look like jeans. Then there's the tops, and the sweaters and I haven't the faintest idea what to wear to the banquet...oh hell, calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean...

So what constitutes business casual? I want your point of view.