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?