12.16.2010

Time's Person of the Year - Not to Be Consfused with Time's Man of the Year - Now With More Man!

Congratulations, Mark Zuckerberg, for becoming Time’s esteemed Person of the Year for 2010.

The 26-year old developer of Facebook joins 83 others in accepting the honour, first established in 1927 to recognize those that have been the biggest influencers on the magazine sales planet.

It should be noted that Time’s Person of the Year was formerly known as – shocker – Time’s Man of the Year, but those forward thinking journalists smartly recognized that men are not the only newsmakers or influencers in… 1999.

And then, a scant three years later, they actually named a non-man person of the year!
Congratulations to 2002’s Cynthia Cooper! Oh, and 2002's the FBI. And another woman, Coleen Rowley! Oh, and Enron. Wait! Another woman! Congratulations, 2002’s Sherron Watkins! Oh and here’s another 2002 representative, WorldCom. Collectively, these women… and companies… and government organizations were named person of the year. Only, they weren’t. They were named The Whistleblowers, and three women made up 50% of the title. That’s, let’s see – 16.66% each! Congratulations, women!

Of course, I’m being silly. These were not the first non-men to be honoured by Time. In 1936 they gave Wallis Simpson the prize in a specially re-named Woman of the Year edition. And the next year, China’s Soong May-ling shared the title with her husband, Chiang Kai-shek. So, Time was into gender equality in the pre-WWII years. Good to see, because it would take 15 more years before Queen Elizabeth II took the title, for, I would guess, becoming Queen, a post she obviously worked monumentally hard to achieve. Er, inherit.

We’ll have to fast-forward a few years now, let’s see, in 1966 The Generation 25 and Under (now known as those that will soon bankrupt Social Security/Pension Plans – or maybe just Mom and Dad – the Baby Boomers) got a shout-out; must have been some girl-bits in there… 1969’s Middle America had to have included a few of the ladies… 1971 was Nixon, no surprise, but surely 1972 had to have gone to Israel’s Golda Meir! We remember the Summer Olympics, right? The massacre of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches in Munich and Meir’s Mossad operation to hunt down the killers? Agree or disagree, that was a pretty spectacular year for Meir. Surely she got the nod! Wait, let me take a look to be sure… 1972… Richard Nixon. Again.

But don’t despair. In 1975, American Women took home the gold, represented by 12 esteemed individuals because if they’re not part of a Monarchy, Time only liked to award women as part of a group.

Breakthrough in 1986 with the appointment of Corozan Aquino as Man of the Year, then Time moves safely back into, Do Not Let the Women Go It Alone campaign, with 2002's The Whistleblowers whom I’ve already mentioned, and then the inclusion of Melinda Gates with her husband, and Bono! in 2005, as one third of The Good Samaritans.

So there you have it. 52 Americans, 1 computer, 1 planet, 4 Black men, and 3 women in 84 inductees, including 2010’s Mark Zuckerberg, who, although Facebook has been around since 2004, beat out Sarah Palin – oh wait, she wasn’t on the list. Beat out Michelle Obama – um, no sorry… Oprah? No. Nancy Pelosi? J.K. Rowling? Lady Gaga? (remember, these are supposed to be ‘influencers.’) Any double X chromosomes out there?

There was, in fact, not even a woman on the nomination list, so chances that a woman would have won 2010's Person of The Year title were pretty darn slim.

However, Time for Kids is now in the voting stages of their version of Person of the Year, and on the nom list are Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama and Lindsey Vonn. Three women on the nomination list? That looks good!

Except we all know that Justin Beiber’s gonna take it.

***

12.10.2010

Are We There Yet? Special Crayola Giveaway

**And the winners are... drumroll, please... Mamalooper and Sara! Yay! Congrats, friends, expect your parcels soon :) **

I love spending Christmas with my husband’s family. I love being in their cozy house; I love all of the food; I love staying up late to sit in front of the fire and chat or sit around the table and play games. I love that my kids are surrounded by grandparents and great-grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and friends.

The only thing that can put a damper on our week of family and Christmas celebrations, is getting there. In good weather, and outside of rush hour, it can take 3 ½ hours to travel to my in-laws. Add the possibility of some bad weather and an increased volume of holiday travelers on the road, and it can take almost twice as long. My kids are used to long drives and are good in the car, but anything I can do to keep peace and patience from disintegrating in the back seat is greatly appreciated.

With that in mind, I am offering two lucky readers a special gift from Crayola, to help keep the kids happy in the backseat and beyond. As a member of the Crayola Mom Advisory Panel, we have tried and tested new Crayola products all year, and these were definitely two of our faves. They are still in regular rotation at home, and both have the added bonus of transitioning really nicely to a travel toy, which is why I specially requested them for a giveaway.


No doubt the kids will be the recipients of lots of great toys this year, but I promise that these will rank high with them. And if you are facing a bit of a journey to get to your holiday celebrations, consider surprising them as you hit the road. You never know – you might even make it all the way there without ever hearing an, ‘Are we there yet?’ uttered from the backseat.

Enter to win one of TWO Crayola prizes:

Color Wonder Sound Studio with expansion pack
The interactive Creative Coloring Pad brings Color Wonder to life – with sounds! Choose from 60 sound effects that play while you color! Create endless sound combinations that play back when you color your picture. Available with a Disney Princess or Pixar Toy Story expansion pack –you choose!

*both my 3- 5-year-old girls love this









Twistables Pencil Sketch n’ Shade

All-inclusive portable set for sketching; twist pencils never need sharpening and are completely erasable. 27 bright, vibrant colour pencils and a 40-page sketchbook, plus PVC-free pouch for handy travel and storage.

*This was better suited to my 5-year-old



To be entered, simply leave a comment with your email address and your preferred prize! Prizes will arrive before Christmas. Contest ends Thursday, December 16.

Sorry, Canadian entries only.

***

12.06.2010

These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things

Still looking for a perfect gift? I'm no Oprah, but here are a few of my favourite things from 2010 that you might want to put on your gift-giving list.

For the Reader: Light Lifting by Alexander MacLeod - $19.95

By time I figured out that Alexander MacLeod is not Alistair MacLeod (it’s his son), I was already literary crushing on him. Hard. What is not to love about somebody that can write such hopeless, amazing short stories? My favorite was the story that I considered the most hopeless and amazing, Adult Beginner 1, about swan-diving into the disgusting Detroit River for fun. But maybe you’ll love the hopeless and amazing story about long-distance runners the best. Or the one about the mistakes that parents make or the one about the strange boy down the street, or the one about a horrible accident and forgiveness. Everybody is calling the stories ‘urban,’ and I guess they are, but really, my best comparison is to my very favourite short story ever by Margaret Atwood, Death by Landscape. Light Lifting is the best thing I’ve read in a while. A long while.

For the Hard Worker: Dr. Scholls Rolling Shiatsu Chair Massager - $49.99+

Two things about my husband: he often works from home, and he has bad posture. Put those things together and it makes for a good amount of backache. Being the concerned wife I am, I thoughtfully picked up a chair massager just like this one to help soothe my aching, hardworking husband’s back and make sure he never again has to ask me to take out the garbage because he’s in too much pain ends the day feeling sore.


For the Smug Baker: Breadman Ultimate Breadmaker - $112.99

It is hard not to be smug when you tell people that you bake your own bread. I mean, really? In this day and age, there is nothing easier or more convenient than buying bread. But – BUT – baking your own bread is the shizzle. Dude, you get to bake your own bread! Pioneers bake their own bread! Domestic Goddesses bake their own bread! I really have to encourage the whole make-your-own bread thing. You, and the people around you will be impressed. I promise.

*A link to my favorite bread machine recipe. Write it out on a card and put it in the bread machine pan as a extra touch.




For the Music Lover: Mumford and Sons: Sigh No More - $9.99 iTunes

There is music to buy beyond the Glee soundtracks this season, and this freak-folk outfit from London, England is such a refreshing change from the over-produced, auto-tuned mediocrity that dominates the airwaves. And by refreshing, I mean dirty, risk-taking, rough and rootsy music that fuses the best of the folk tradition – layered vocal harmonies and rich acoustic melodies – with a thoroughly modern sensibility. The lyrics are raw and often brutally frank, sometimes delivered atop of a banjo strumming at break-neck pace with percussion hammering the point home, and sometimes delivered in a manner most vulnerable and gentle. Either way, it's worth a listen. Or 20.



For the Kids: Educo My Backyard BBQ Set - $149.99


 Here’s my gift-giving philosophy when it comes to my kids – one great  wooden toy is way better than a bunch of cheap plastic shit that’s going to end up swirling around in the middle of the ocean one day. So this year, we got my daughter this BBQ for her third birthday, and it has been a total hit. We put away the play kitchen for now, and watch the girls get creative with the BBQ. My little one is partial to taking my order and playing around with the knobs, while my five year old likes to rearrange the skewers into new and interesting dishes for me and manipulate the cooking tools that come with the set. And for this ‘battery-operated’ hating family, the only noise this toy makes is the sound of my kids working out whose turn it is to cook next.



For the Game-Lover: Carcassonne by Rio Grande - $49.99

I always knew I married a geek, but I didn’t know that I was one too! We love board games, and this year we got hooked on Rio Grande games. I know, I’m totally late to the party and people have been playing Rio Grande’s canonical Settlers of Catan for years, but thanks to friends, we now know what all the fuss is about. I’m highlighting Carcassonne, a well thought-out strategy game that changes with every play because it’s a fairly fast game (>30 minutes) that does well with two people. The board is an ever-evolving series of laid tiles, and the goal is to build and lay claim to countryside comprised of towns, roads and farmland. It’s fairly addictive, and like Settlers of Catan and Dominion (another huge favourite), Carcassonne has a seemingly never-ending supply of expansion packs that add new and interesting (and sometimes confounding) new elements to the game.



For You: Naot Imagine Boots - $220


Full disclosure – Naot sends me footwear to test and talk about. But as I have said before, it’s not a challenge and barely an obligation for me to do so. To paraphrase Olivia Newton John, Naot, I honestly love you. These boots seriously rock. They are cute, they are made of the softest leather I’ve ever drooled on worn, they have a cork and latex footbed that is so comfortable, and they have a great tread on them, so you won’t fall on your ass on a slippery subway floor. Did I mention comfortable? For me, these are high heels, and as somebody that trips in flats, I was concerned about staying upright in them. Not a problem. In these heels, I can actually walk without looking like I have a pickle stuck up my ass. Oh, and I have them in Merlot colour, because that’s the kind of girl I am.




For Anybody: Flip Camcorder - $159 +

This was undoubtedly the best swag I have ever received. I love that it’s small, I love that it’s easy to use, I love that it has a built in USB arm that plugs straight into the computer, and I love that it’s mine. You guys already know all about these little beauties. All I can say is that everything you’ve heard is true, and even your mother could use it. Why not talk to your sibs about getting her an awesome group gift?


***

12.01.2010

All I Want for Christmas

I started writing a post that was an essentially an anti-post to my last post; a must have list to my previous must not list, but that’s not the post I’m going to write.

Because somewhere in the bottom third of the first paragraph that I was writing, I realized that nobody was going to figure out that I was writing a post about things you should spend your money on. I realized that I give my posts clever little titles that I like, and keep myself on the bottom ranks of search engines thanks to my propensity for clever.

And then I realized how fucking shallow and contrived and not the heart of the matter that SEO practices are for a personal blog. And how fucking shallow and contrived the holidays are. And I devised this clever little comparison about how shallow the holidays are, and how shallow blogging can be:

Presents are to the holidays what SEO is to blogging.

And what I mean by that, in this context, is, go ahead. Put all of your effort and time and energy into shopping for presents or devising ways for search engines to find you.

Then you need to back that shit up.

You need to put some effort into something other than a pretty package, a ribbon, the wrapping. What do I get when I tear the paper off? Do I get something thoughtful? Do I get something meaningful? Am I glad I travelled here? You sure wrapped that present up all pretty; you sure tried to impress me with your fancy ribbons and your keywords.

What else you got?

I’m glad you lined up at 4am in the cold and the dark and went to the effort of sleeping in Walmart so that you could buy a whole ton of shit. I’m glad there will be a ton of presents under a fake tree on December 25.

But once all the presents are opened, I hope there are smiles, and love and lots of good food and traditions and singing and drinking and visits with people you love. I hope there are, and I hope that after you’re finished telling me about all the great loot you got, you’ll tell me about those things.

And I hope that after you come up with a totally contrived headline with the best searchable terms for our demographic according to google, or figuring out what long-tail search terms are or peppering your posts with optimized content, I hope, that you can at least write.

Because I could care less what your stats are. I could care less about what my stats are. If you have been in my reader for 6 years – yes, I’ve been doing this for that long – or if I’m reading you for the first time through a link on twitter, don’t just give me pretty wrapping. Don’t just load your post with words that will bring somebody to your place and then have nothing nourishing for them.

Don’t put a present under a tree for me unless you intend to share a cup of tea and a conversation and some time with me. And don’t spend more time on getting people to your post than you do on making it amazing once we’re there.

Good writing – it’s all I want for Christmas from the blogosphere.

***

11.24.2010

Baby Item Reviews - Do I Need This More Than I Need a New Pair of Shoes?

A few weeks ago, my friend Ann Douglas asked me to provide a little bit of feedback for an article that she was writing, on some new and interesting baby products and whether or not parents (and the world in general) needed such things. I happily complied, and while Ann’s article turned out wonderfully, it did have one flaw – not enough of me.
Because I am not relegated to a strict word count or any journalistic integrity, I decided to give you the benefit of my (non-truncated) opinion.  So without further ado, and just in time for the holiday season, I give you:
Baby Item Reviews: Do I Need This More Than I Need a New Pair of Shoes?
My first reaction to the Baby Bed Blocks was, ‘I don’t get it. Why am I turning my baby’s bed into a ski hill?’ Then I read the description, and although I would never bother, I suppose for $19 it might buy some peace of mind if my child is stuffed up.  Then again, I have a pile of magazines that I don’t have time to read that would work just as well as a bed-lift, and I’d get to de-clutter at the same time.


Am I being punked? No, seriously, you want me to dangle my baby from the wall of a public bathroom stall, hoping the person in the next stall doesn’t unhook my baby from their side?  You want me to pay $39.99 for the bathroom dangler and it doesn’t even double as a baby carrier? I’ll have to find some additional use for it – I suppose I could use it to dangle my baby from other doors. Perhaps I’ll dangle my baby from my closet door each morning, so that I can coordinate my outfit with hers.


babykick kickTrak
Even if I wasn’t offended by the babykick kickTrak’s creative use of spelling and capitalization, I would give this item a pass. Pregnancy is a wonderful, beautiful, nerve-wracking time.  We keep track of, obsess over and research every little aspect of what our body and our baby are going through. I just don’t think that an expectant mother needs to rely on this gizmo to record the minutiae of her pregnancy. That’s what blogging is for.


Where to begin…  Ok, in theory, I could see how something like this might appeal to the same kind of mother that buys a baby-wipe heater (i.e. a first-time mother). We do worry about our baby’s skin, and diaper rash sucks for everybody. BUT (BUTT?) – fanning your baby’s tukhas dry seems a) time-consuming b) contrary to the good health claim once ‘essence’ of lavender is added,  and c) cold. Just use a towel and stop giving manufacturers reason to believe that women are total chumps that will buy anything.

So save your money for the important things parents, like booze and a nanny.

Oh, and for the record? I have spent my fair share of money on items I thought I needed but then never used, including a rectal thermometer, a sleep sack, socks for newborns and two cribs.

Next week: Reviews of Items for Pets that Only Deranged, Wealthy Childless People Would Spend Money On 

***

11.12.2010

Little Green Flags

There’s a little green flag sitting on my desk at work; one of those push-pin kinds of things. I’m supposed to write my initials on it and stick it on a map that’s affixed to a bulletin board. I’m supposed to stick it on the country of my heritage, and next week, I am supposed to prepare a dish for a potluck lunch, and that dish is supposed to represent the country under my little green flag.

And I don’t know where to stick my little green flag.

Well, you’re going to just stick the flag on Israel, right? Because you’re Jewish. Is what somebody said to me.

I’m Jewish, not Israeli, I replied.

And not everybody in Israel is Jewish. And the people around me were sticking all sorts of little flags on top of all sorts of countries. But I couldn’t find Jewish, so my flag is still sitting on my desk.

I guess my heritage is Jewish, because being Jewish accounts for a lot of the things I believe and the way I act in certain situations. But my Catholic friend is not looking for Catholic on a map, even though being Catholic accounts for a lot of the things she believes in, and the way she acts in certain situations.

If I was still in Israel and we were having a heritage potluck lunch, I would stick my flag on Canada and bring in maple fudge. But in Canada, I’m not called Canadian. I’m called Jewish.

I’ve also been called, You People, and I can’t find You People on the map either.
It must be next to Jewish.

***

11.03.2010

Does This Motherhood Look Good On Me?

A few years ago, I wrote a story pitch to Mothering Magazine on how to stay connected to your child and continue attachment parenting when you work outside of the home. It was received positively, and I was encouraged to write and submit my piece. But I didn’t do it.

Within a month of my submission, I found out I was pregnant again. And then I had a miscarriage. And then I was pregnant again. And then my dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer. And three years later, the piece still isn’t written.

A little while ago, I started thinking about it again, and about how my piece has changed since I first wrote the outline. The piece has changed because life has changed – I now have two children, not just one toddler; I have additional responsibilities outside of work hours and while my perspective and patience may have increased, the hours I have in a day certainly haven’t.

I thought I could write a piece on being a working attachment parent because I had one child, cared for at home by a nanny. My daughter’s days were simple and mainly dictated by a schedule that I had set in place, so staying involved and informed was not that difficult. I knew that the way we spent our hours together made up for the hours that we spent apart.

But now I have two children. One is in school and they are watched by a babysitter. We don’t have a nanny anymore, and the truth is, their days have little to do with a schedule that I have set for them. Staying on top of what happens during their day is macro-easy – I can ask the babysitter or the teacher how the day went and she will tell me, and if I have any concerns we will work them out. But on a micro level, I am often in the dark. My daughters now interact with many people during the day, and I miss out on the minutiae of their interactions. They have influences that range beyond their parents or nanny, and those influences spark ideas I am not always cool with. I am no longer their filter or their protector, in person or by proxy, during a large portion of the day.

And then I was reading a piece on Mothering.com yesterday, and I felt a little betrayed. And I felt like a fraud. How could I possibly be an attachment parent? How could I possibly be a nurturing parent? Yes, my children are vaccinated on a delayed schedule and almost always end up in my bed by morning. But for the first time, I felt like I could not possibly have a voice in that community. It was not a specific article that left me feeling hollow, just a sad realization all of a sudden, like, I don’t belong here.

We feel things that like throughout the evolution of our parenthood. We lose our place in the parenting continuum constantly, but it is always replaced by a spot, a belonging, elsewhere. Our infants gradually become toddlers; we trade commiseration over breastfeeding and cribs and diapers for commiseration over cooking and big girl beds and toilet training; our children enter school and we trade strollers for scooters. Every step of the way in parenting is an exchange of experiences.

But it’s like I have just walked into a store carrying a philosophy, the posted rules of which no longer feel comfortable; no longer fit and in fact, are beginning to cut off my circulation. And I can look around; I can scan the racks and the shelves and I can peer at the things that the other customers are putting on, but there doesn’t seem to be anything here for me.

I thought this was my favourite store, but this season, nothing here looks good on me. I’m getting the message that I should no longer be here. I’m beginning to feel bad here. I’m going to stop looking for things that suit me here.

Things change.

I no longer have only one child and control over her hours, just like I no longer have a nanny and I no longer spend money on diapers. Things change. Life changes.

I have two children now; two funny, happy, beautiful children. They still spend most of their day together, and they still want to sit on my lap at night while I read them stories and they still want to squish into bed with us and sleep with their tiny arms around my neck. And I still make the choices I do with them first and foremost in my mind, and I hope that they know that now and will understand it later and be kind to me in their teenage years.

I might not be the kind of mother I had hoped I was. I might not be the kind of mother I used to think I was. But I’m not worried that motherhood doesn’t look good on me; I’m just kind of sad that the store I used to shop in doesn’t seem to have anything that fits anymore.

So I guess it’s a good thing that I’m learning how to sew.

***

10.22.2010

Goodbye, Mel Gibson

What do Mike Tyson, A-Rod, Charlie Sheen, Kayne West, Sean Penn and John Wayne (amongst many others) have in common?


They’re all douchebags!

But what other unfortunate traits do these pathetic souls share?

Their douchebaggery has not stopped them from remaining pop culture icons, who, save for some negative publicity every now and then, are let back into the public fold, time and time again. Who get awards and accolades and affection and celebrity and everything that goes with it, despite being, say it with me, huge douchebags.

Mike Tyson is a convicted rapist.

Charlie Sheen was convicted of assaulting his wife.

Kanye West is arrogant and interrupts little girls and is such a douchebag that even President Obama called him a Jackass.

Alex Rodriguez seems to be ok to hump anything that moves, whether he has a wife waiting for him or not.

Sean Penn plead guilty to a misdemeanor after being charged with felony domestic assault and has a long history of not being able to control his temper.

John Wayne proves that there have always been douchebags.

And I’m only talking about one special brand of douchebag here – the kind that we won’t let fade into obscurity. There are lots and lots of douchebags out there, (Seriously. Lots.) but they have either a) blatently made their living off of being a douchebag and we know it, or b) their douchebaggery is more like a sad affliction that attacks their own life and career, making the hunger of the public’s judgement less voracious.

No; the douchebags that I really can’t stand are the douchebags that we allow into the camp of, ‘forgive and forget,’ over and over again despite repeated and abhorrent transgressions. They are the douchebags that we will bring out of obscurity and virtually fetishize in pop culture. They are the douchebags that prove, over and over again, that they are not worthy of our money and attention, yet we give it to them. They are the (sometimes) really talented douchebags, and for some reason we put more importance on being a good performer than we do on being a good human.

And that is why I am saying thank you to Todd Philips and Zach Galifianakis and the producers of The Hangover 2, for booting Mel Gibson’s ass out of their movie.

Because I don’t think this is a ‘rough time’ for Mel Gibson. I think Mel Gibson is a serial racist, misogynistic, homophobic fuck, and he has been forgiven one too many times.

People are defending Mel Gibson, just as people have defended every other douchebag I’ve named and all the ones I haven’t, and maybe, if he keeps his head down and mouth shut for the next 10 years, I’ll be ready to hear a line or two of sympathy for the supreme asshole. But the original move by the director and producers of The Hangover 2 to capitalize on Mel Gibson’s douchebaggery while it is still making major headlines? To ostensibly paint Mel Gibson as a cool fucking dude by putting him a cool fucking movie NOW? Well, if I objected to a convicted rapist being given another 15 minutes in the first Hangover movie, my head was about to explode over this proposed cameo.

So, to the good people of The Hangover 2, again, I say thank you. I agree in giving Mel Gibson a chance – a chance to fade into nothingness and never be heard from again.

Does Mel Gibson deserve to be blacklisted in Hollywood? It does happen you know.

And I think the time is ripe for it to happen again.
***

10.18.2010

The 10-Month Pregnancy - It's Not Just For Whales Anymore

The Globe and Mail published an article recently about a group of people advocating that the normal, healthy gestation period for a pregnant woman be officially acknowledged as 10 months, and not 40 weeks (or 9 months, which every woman that has gone full term knows is bullshit).

Two things surprised me about this article: 1) that this is seen as a new and controversial idea, and 2) that people still believe that, left to its own devices, the human (female) body is not to be trusted.

I feel confident speaking on this topic as I am an expert. Yes, I am. I am a woman that has had 4 pregnancies and two babies, one of whom was born at home, the old-fashioned way, and one that was forced from my uterus in an operating room, after deciding that 9 days overdue was the perfect time to turn sideways. I went past 41 weeks with both my babies, and know that home or hospital, unaided or about as intervened as it gets, pregnancy and birth can only be regulated to a point.

See? Expert.

Here’s something else I know: Just because you say I’m 40 weeks does not mean that I am 40 weeks. Hospitals, doctors, science and policies can get it wrong. My pregnancy with my daughter came approximately 3 ½ weeks after my miscarriage. Menstruation had not started again, so I could not pinpoint a date of conception. I was sent for an early ultrasound, the results of which stated that I had conceived February 14, and that I was therefore x weeks and x days pregnant.

Except, that’s not when I had conceived.

The report insisted that yes, that was when I conceived, but I can assure you, it was not. I can assure you because it was Valentine’s Day on the 14th, and to be very frank, we did not have sex on Valentine’s Day, 2007, and that is kind of easy to keep track of. I believe that my daughter had been conceived about a week earlier.

Pushing the ‘normal’ gestation period to a more fluid 10 months, allows the body (and the baby) to do a bit of self-correcting and deliver when ready. Does this mean that, left to its own devices, every birth will be safe and perfect and healthy? Unfortunately, no. But if you are getting the amazing care you should be getting *cough*midwife*cough*, than you are seeing your caregiver regularly throughout your pregnancy, and your appointments get even closer together once you hit 38 weeks. If you are receiving adequate care, then most of the time, you will know how the pregnancy is progressing. Most of the time, you will know if there is any reason that your pregnancy should not be allowed to continue on past 40 or 41 or 42 weeks safely.

My first daughter was born at 41 weeks, 1 day, and weighed 7 lbs, 7 oz. My second daughter was delivered via c-section at 41 weeks, 2 days, but who knows how much longer she would have stayed in on her own accord? And according to my calculations, she was actually one week older than that. My second daughter also weighed 7 lbs, 7oz.

Some babies want to show up at 38 weeks, and we consider that normal, full-term, healthy. So why can’t we go the other way? I’ve heard of hospital policy dictating inductions at five days overdue and c-sections at seven. If there are no complications, than I counter those policies with a hearty WTF, and suggest that, if pregnancy and birth are merely a numbers game, than perhaps we should be looking at this new one with some seriousness.

***






10.06.2010

Oh Cheesus Christ, Glee

When Glee started last year, I was excited. Corny jokes, ridiculously awkward social situations, lambasting teachers – it was absurdist situational satire at its best. It poked fun at everything we hated about high school and stood up for everything we were afraid to admit that we loved about it. Plus there was music, and totally annoying auto-tone notwithstanding, it was fun to listen to. And then we could buy the soundtracks and sing along to it, and I know I certainly did, and thanks to some pretty open-minded behind-the-scenes music direction, I even knew most of the songs. Glee was doing for show tunes what Guitar Hero did for classic rock, and the whole first season was anticipated, campy, easy fun.

And now it’s season two, and I don’t know if it’s a sophomore slump or what, but I am just not really enjoying this season. The first bit of the first episode of season two was funny, as vlogger Jacob Ben Israel caught us up on what was going on with New Directions, but from there? Well, it’s been going downhill faster than a celebrity marriage ever since.

And if I thought that the Britney/Brittany episode was slutty and just plain weird, last night’s Grilled Cheesus episode grossed me out even more than Jacob’s pep-rally dry humping did.

I thought that Glee was immune to the patronizing, moralizing, simplistic religious overtures that so many shows indulge in. And I don’t mean that religion never comes into play in Glee – some of my favourite moments were those that – as with so many other topics on the show – poked fun at the topic of religion, whether it was the president of the chastity club getting pregnant or Puck entreating Rachel to make out because they were a couple of good-looking Jews, or Jacob being patted on the ‘Jew cloud,’ or yes, Finn frying up a grilled cheesus. But as far as I could tell, Glee last night was not about theology. It was not about inclusion or faith or tolerance.

From the moment that Tina exclaimed to Kurt, You don’t believe in God?!, my eyes started to roll. Funny enough, my reaction was, OH GOD, NO. Tina doesn’t strike me as the kind of kid that is so incredulous that somebody does not follow the same path that she does, given that so much has been made of her own struggle to remain an individual. It seemed naively out of character, and the fact that pretty much everybody, except maybe Santana (thank you, Santana, for keeping it real), couldn’t understand how a gay kid might not care about the almighty. Call me naive, or maybe progressive, but I really don't expect everybody I know to defend belief in God so vehemently. I guess I expect people - especially teenagers - to maybe, I don't know, question a blind belief in the almighty.

An almighty, I might add, that was of course, the Christian almighty.

Why did Puck have to give a shout-out to Jesus? He’s Jewish, something that he (and Rachel) have been clear and unapologetic about for 25 episodes now, and sorry, but no, Jews don’t worship Jesus. He’s actually not the number one Yid. (Neil Diamond is. Just ask my mother.)

Rachel kept stupidly quiet during the whole fiasco, until finally admitting to Finn that she was uncomfortable with his newfound religion, and that she was, make no mistake, Jewish. Then she rewarded his understanding by letting him touch her boob. That’s more like it, Glee! But still, I hesitate to believe that outspoken, obnoxious know-it-all Rachel Berry would have not objected to the Glee club’s God-fest. Hell, she practically cries discrimination when a solo is given to somebody else.

And then there’s the whole issue of Kurt realizing that, thanks to the God-fearing Mercedes and her most happy Church ever, he doesn’t have to shun the institution that has shunned him! I was ridiculously disappointed in the predictable, self-righteous ideology that it was the prayer, the belief, and not the acupuncture, that finally penetrated his father’s coma. I was ridiculously disappointed that Sue’s handi-capable, charming big sister was able to soften her hard heart and change her mind about the existence of God. We don’t need a kinder, softer Sue. We need the smack-talking bitch that keeps everybody honest and cynical and is out to get Mr. Shue, who, if you’ll allow me to say so, really is a pansy.

Let’s hope Glee remembers what it’s good at and leaves the religious angst where it belongs – because if I want Christian moralizing, proselytizing and self-denying Jews, I’ll watch Little House on the Prairie.


***

9.24.2010

Autumn

As a Canadian, it is almost illegal to complain about summer, but for a full-on Semitic summer-lover, I had a really miserable time these past few months. All of the liberating, easy things about the summer, from being barefoot and bare-shouldered to enjoying fresh produce and curly hair, were simply random punctuation marks in an otherwise unbearable, run-on summer. It was hot, dude. Hot. Swealtering, stuffy, smouldering, smelly hot. I hate complaining about the summer, traditionally my favourite time of the year, but this summer was tough.

My air conditioning and asthma medication were constantly being used, and there seemed to be no relief from the heat or for my health. I worried about the kids being out too much because the sun was so strong and the air so thick. We barely ate our meals outside, in contrast to last summer when we barely ate our meals inside, because it was just too. bloody. hot. I barely even cooked anyway, because there was no way I was turning on the oven, and our bbq bit the dust at the beginning of the season, not to be replaced until the very end (gotta love those end of season sales). It was really disappointing.

And now it’s autumn. Officially autumn, and I have never been so happy to see it in. I am ready, so ready, for socks and sweaters and blankets on the bed. I’m ready for apples and root vegetables and soup and tea. I’m ready for changing leaves and changing clocks. I’m ready for cool evenings and canning food. I’m ready for closed doors and opened bronchial tubes. I’m ready for shorter days and longer coats. I’m ready for cozy nights snuggled with my husband and cozy mornings snuggled with my girls.


I never thought I’d be glad to see summer end, but this year? I’m ready.

***

9.15.2010

Registering for Programs in the City of Toronto - An Exercise in Frustration and Futility*

I was prepped: client numbers and course selection numbers at the ready, website up, phone number already on speed dial on my desk phone and my BlackBerry.

I watched the clock tick down the moments. My heart was racing with anticipation of ‘the catch’ – this was going to be my lucky day, and like a huntress, I was ready…

GO!

Dial, type, dial, and…. victory! a busy signal!

A website that wouldn’t load.

Another busy signal.

Lather, rinse, repeat for 25 minutes.

Finally… yes! The website loads and my chance is at hand! I WILL ACTUALLY BE ABLE TO REGISTER MY CHILDREN FOR A PARKS AND REC PROGRAM!

But now that the website has loaded, a dilemma – this might be my only shot. What do I choose? Do I try to get swimming lessons, for which I need one session but two spots? Or skating, which poses the same challenge? Hmm… ignoring the implications this might have on my younger daughter’s self esteem in the future, I choose Ballet for my older daughter.
Sorry, younger daughter, but I gotta go with the sure(est) thing. Ballet for the five year old, 6:30pm Mondays (it’ll be a race to get there, but I can do it!), punch in the numbers and success! Right?

Wrong.

Class is full.

I punch in the numbers for the swimming class. Full.

I punch in the numbers for the skating lessons. Full.

I adjust the number by one digit for fun. Full, and I don’t even know what it is.

I try a different tactic, and search by available classes in my area. What I find is depressing.

There are no vacancies in any of the classes I am interested in putting my children into (or even variations on those classes) in the 6 – 8:30pm time frames or the Saturday/Sunday classes that I would be able to take my kids to.

However, if I wanted my 5 year old to take Ballet Tuesday at 2pm, I could get into that. If I wanted swimming for both my kids at 4:30pm, we could get into that. There are a bunch of spots open for skating at 6:15pm, but they are at rinks so far from my home that we would never be able to make it
there in time. I keep scrolling, and keep coming up empty-handed.

I stop looking, and resign myself to the fact that, once again, I will have to enroll my kids in private swimming/skating/ballet lessons, and pay roughly ten times the rate of the city-run programs if they are to go at all. And the likelihood will be that availability and budget constraints will keep us from all three anyway. Maybe they’ll get swimming lessons.

I know that I am not the only user of the system that finds it frustrating, but my experiences have led me to believe that the process is particularly biased against working mothers. We have the same rights to the programs as anyone else in our district, yet the schedule constraints are greater and the options more limited with no way to gain priority to those limited spaces. And of course there isn’t - there could be no democratically legitimate way to save evening spots for those that truly could not utilize daytime spots. And why should we get them anyway? I couldn’t say that it would be wrong for a stay-at-home mom to choose an evening class over a day class so that she could leave her younger child with her husband instead of having to schlep her with to gymnastics. That’s legit, even if it means that somebody’s want of convenience trumps my need.

I already know that my kids hate swimming lessons, but now, if I can even find a spot somewhere private, I’ll be able to watch them refuse to get into the water for $250 each, instead of $39. And skating? Knowing how to skate is a Canadian child’s birthright, for pete’s sake. I was hoping they’d get some professional lessons before I take my little ankleburners out on my own, but I guess not.

And, idiot that I am, I’ll probably try again in December. But I think I’ll go oldschool next time and freeze my ass off lining up for 6 hours, Fun Guide in hand, to register in person, like our mothers did. And while I’m at it, I will try to convince somebody to change the name of the session catalogue, because there is nothing, and I mean nothing , even a little bit fun about this process.

*If you are a working mother. If not, enjoy your 2pm ballet class ignore this post.


***






8.31.2010

Eyes Pried Open

I can’t sleep.

I can’t sleep, and I can’t even blame my babies, who are no longer babies and are sleeping in their own beds in their own room for a good 11 hours each night.
It’s all me, and I can’t sleep. I do everything one is supposed to in order to facilitate and maintain a good night’s sleep, but come 11, 12, 1 o’clock, I can’t sleep.

My body rebels by midnight, becoming restless and heavy and uncoordinated, but still, I can’t sleep.

I try playing solitaire, in bed, on my Blackberry, the beam of light from the screen just narrow enough that I won’t wake my husband, slumbering peacefully out cold beside me. I do this until I literally cannot keep my eyes open, but as soon as I lie down, I am wide awake again.

I can lie in my bed, wishing to be asleep, and my body literally tingles with anxiety. Anxious because I cannot sleep leads to anxious because we lost our nanny; anxious because I miss my children during the day; anxious because my anxiety leads me to scratch at itchy patches on my hands until they bleed. And as the hours tick past, so does coherent thought, and it’s not unusual for me to wake Chris at 3 am because I am no longer anxious about rational or real, but am now convinced that the crack I saw in the kitchen wall means that the floor under my children is about to give way or that the cat is scratching her hind leg because we have bedbugs and I will fly out of bed and turn on the light in order to catch them, but all I catch is a groggy, panicked husband wondering why I had to fly out of bed and turn on the light in the middle of the night.

And he’s good; he’s so good. He tells me to wake him if I can’t sleep or if my legs feel shaky, and he’ll talk me down or massage out the tension until his touch lightens and falls and I realize that he is asleep again but I am not.'

I have seen my naturopath and my doctor about this. I have tinctures and regiments and mantras and exercises that I see through but don’t sleep through. I have little blue pills that I don’t like to take but sometimes I will, and half the time they don’t work either, but make me groggy enough that when I pad down the hall to the bathroom I ricochet off the walls and doorframes and end up with funny bruises on my hips and shins.

Last weekend, I went away with some friends to a beautiful, peaceful lakeside home. We ate too much, drank too much, smoked too much, and I slept. I slept dreamless, until 9:30 each morning. But life is not lived in limitless repose, and I was unable to transfer the momentum of those nights home.

I’m not particularly stressed out during the day. I don’t fight off catastrophic thoughts at 2pm or cry over the upcoming anniversary of my father’s death at 11am. Those thoughts are the company I keep at 3am, no matter how hard I try to head them off with sleep.

I’m hoping that the cooler weather that surely must, has to be on its way will help. I’m hoping that my return to running, although I hate every single bleedin’ second of it, will help. I’m hoping that sorting out our childcare and some other short and long term decisions will help.

Because sleep deprivation sucks, ask any new mother. But sleep deprivation when you don’t even have a baby to make it all worthwhile? Well that’s just downright cruel. I’m just too tired to be angry about it.

***

8.23.2010

Joiner

Send this to 5 friends including me.

You have one hour to forward this message or you will have 5 years of bad luck.

Grab this twibbon if you support women’s rights/animals rights/the long-gun registry/bringing Buffy back/bringing sexy back

Do this today/don’t do this today/wear this today/don’t post that today/show them/show us/show me/ show your/support us/support them/follow us/boycott them.

I’m kind of tired of the internet telling me what to do.

I love that social media and the people using it have become amazing, powerful catalysts for education and change and support, but it is starting to feel like every single day there is new, powerful mandate being unveiled on twitter, on blogs, online. And sometimes I feel like they come with a caveat that if I am not joining, not following, not supporting that mandate, than I temporarily have no place in our community. Sometimes I feel like these movements come with a veiled sense of, either you are with me or you are against me. Sometimes I feel guilt if I don’t join these movements, and resentment if I do.

Since I’m not interested in being passive-aggressive, I’ll give you some examples.

Almost daily, I get a well-meaning email from somebody I love, telling me how much they love me. These emails are often accompanied by photos of kittens, flash animations of grumpy yet sage women rocking in a chair, or a badly photoshopped image of a lamb sleeping with lions or some such crap. So, this email telling me how much I am loved, must be sent back to the person that sent it to me, or else they will, what? Think I don’t love them? Think I don’t love kittens? Think I am godless and heartless and have no time for friendship/beautiful women/strong women/women that only get better with age week?

I never forward these emails on. I appreciate the getting of these emails, but I hate feeling bad that the person that sent it to me is expecting me to reciprocate. Because I always delete these emails. But it’s not because I don’t love the person that sent it to me.

And then I log on to twitter, still feeling bad about the kittens, and find that the next day has been declared ‘Complaint-free Monday’ on Twitter.

It’s a nice, really nice thought. It’s meant to keep everybody’s spirits and hearts and attitudes in the pink.

But I kind of resent it.

Of course – OF COURSE – nobody is forcing hashtags on me, or forcing me to follow the mandate, but, when a hashtag like that comes from a popular, well-respected blogger, it spreads like wildfire and is being declared over and over again in my twitter stream constantly. And it does kind of smack of an almost parental, ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it,’ kind of vibe.

And to me, that means that I’m going to bum people out if I tweet what I would really like to tweet today, so I’m kind of staying off twitter. Because it’s possible that something I say is going to sound like a complaint, and then someone will undoubtedly remind me that it’s Complaint-free Monday and I only have 140 characters for my kvetching, so I can’t afford a disclaimer in front of every one of my complainy tweets.

And I could use the sympathy of my twitter peeps today. It’s our first day without our nanny, and I miss her and I still feel really sad about some things that happened last week, and I couldn’t sleep last night because I was upset and stressed and things feel worse when you’re stressed and tired, and I just wanted to lay it out there and –yes – fish for some love, because that’s one of the things that twitter is really, really good for.

But I can’t do it today, because even though I’m bummed out, the mandate is not to complain, and it’s a big enough mandate that it’ll be obvious that I’m ignoring it when I tweet, and then it’ll be like I just broke some unwritten rule about internet rules.

Twibbons bug the crap out of me, too. Well, I shouldn’t say that – I have a twibbon on my avatar right now, supporting gay rights. But I didn’t put it there because everybody else in my stream had one and I felt like I needed to prove my solidarity with those that I follow. I put it there because it represents a cause I believe in. But I never mentioned that I put it there, and I never told you that you should put one of your avatar, and it didn’t spread like internet wildfire and I didn’t assume that you don’t support gay rights if you didn’t put one your avatar.

I know nobody is keeping track of whether or not I forwarded an email or complained on twitter or wore a tutu or any of that, but these mandates can feel oppressive. And bossy. And like I’m not a good person if I don’t do them, when the truth is, I simply have my own shit going on, and that the level of my online commitment to these things might have nothing to do with my love/support/encouragement/belief in the awesome things that you are doing.

And this might be my own sense of guilt talking, but sometimes these campaign make me feel like I have been put in a, ‘you’re-either-for-us-or-against-us’ position, and not wanting to choose between the two, I simply choose silence.

And that, I’m quite sure, was not the point at all.

***

8.10.2010

This Would Be a BlogHer '10 Recap if It Wasn't So Long

It’s two days after my return from BlogHer, and I think I have processed about 25% of what I experienced, which, I’m going to hope, is enough to allow me to write compellingly about it.

First, the nutshell: It was amazing. Amazing.

And it was the perfect mix of amazing – amazing people, amazing experience, amazing opportunity.

So, I guess I’ll break it down that way, although really, everything overlaps.
Was it one big bloggy love-in? No. Yes. No. Kind of. Everywhere you looked people were being introduced, reunited or most often, finally putting a face to a twitter handle. Every time I stood still I had the opportunity to shake a hand or give a hug; share a laugh or swap a card. Make no mistake – this is a very social conference, which I guess can be weird for a group of people that prefers to hide behind a screen or an alias. I was in heaven, being a mostly social being, and if you are somebody that I met that thinks they aren’t – you’re wrong. We all have our foibles, our filters, our fears, but I think anybody that goes to BlogHer must be willing to transcend their social anxiety (or just put it out there and not care), or else there’s not really a whole lot of reason to go. So, what I’m saying is, despite the tweets I saw about quickening pulses and popped ativans, y’all did great from where I sat.

I was with my people, you know? (I have a whole ‘nother post on that, my people.)

One other thing I’ll say about going to BlogHer – it’s a seriously good way to pull back the curtain on the personas we assume people live. I was surprised in both directions. Some people that I had judged as opportunistic or egotistical fucking tore my heart apart with their realness, and some people that I thought were totally friendly and egalitarian turned out to be, well, not so much. Or maybe I caught them at the wrong moment. Or misinterpreted what was going on. See why it’s good to share real space with someone? I’m guessing I probably surprised some people as well.

I’m not going to talk about swag, except to say that some of it was useful, and some of it was useless. I didn’t go to any of the private corporate parties, so I kept the crap to a minimum. I don’t mark my self-worth by the number of private invites I got, and even though I know that lots of people only had party passes and therefore had many free hours in the day, I was grossed out that so many of the corporate things overlapped with conference hours. And I think that if you chose to go to a private swag party instead of listening to the closing keynote on Saturday than sister, you missed out, but do what you gotta do.

Disclosure – I was part of the whole Gap Magic thing, because they offered speakers the opportunity to get styled. I went on Thursday, before the conference, and I loved every second of it. Again, my issue is more with the stuff that was going on at the same time as the conference.

As for the experience – Elisa Camahort Page, Lisa Stone and Jory Des Jardins have built us something unbelievable. BlogHer was whatever you made of it. To me, it was about power. About inspiration. About understanding. About words. I know I’ve said this many times, but I’m a blogger because I’m a writer, and I need a place where my writing can be for me. I write for others on a full-time basis, but I need my outlet, my column in a make-believe magazine where I am writer, editor and publisher. And if you wanted to find inspiring, beautiful, brave wordsmiths, this was the place to be.

I actually only attended one session on Friday, and I found it most helpful. It was in the Job Lab, and recommended ways to merge your online accomplishments with your employable skills to make yourself marketable as a job seeker. I thought it was fantastic, and as someone that has not updated my resume in 10 years, walked away feeling confident, with pages of notes to review.

The rest of the day was spent trying to calm my nerves as the clock ticked down to my time onstage. My chillout regime included picking at my lunch, a fitful nap that was put to an abrupt end by heartburn, some wardrobe insecurity, and a lot of deep breaths.
And then it was 4:15, and I gathered in the Grand Ballroom with my fellow presenters, and we kept each other sane with jokes and high fives and more deep breaths. Finally, we queued behind the stage curtain, and one by one, faced our fears and our audience.

You’ll have to tell me how it went. We couldn’t hear each other reading, being sequestered behind a heavy curtain as they projected their voices in the opposite direction, and when it was my time to read, I went on pure adrenalized auto-pilot. I caught fleeting glimpses – of my peeps up front; my words coming out; I think I even caught a few of you dabbing your eyes, which signified to me that I must be doing my job. Then it was over, and I grinned and took a moment to enjoy the applause and walked backstage, where the camaraderie was palpable. As each reader came backstage, we passed our posts around, reading the words that the audience had just heard, and I was floored by the pieces. They were funny, they were sad, they were smart, they were creative. They were amazing. And then to walk into the gallery, where 90 pieces of art were on display, and there was one – the best one, the most beautiful one – that was inspired by my words, well, I was overwhelmed and I started to cry a little.

The keynote is part of the 75% that I’m still processing. it meant a lot to me.
And that wasn’t even the end of the conference. It was certainly the peak, for me, but there was more.

Day two, I had an adrenaline hangover (sure, let’s go with that) after spending the night first on stage and then at the party and then in the Lower East Side at a hipster bar which was just so much cooler than the hipster bars in Toronto. At breakfast, I listened to the most fucking unbelievable women I have ever heard, describe what it was like to write in a place where you could be killed for what you wrote; where you had to find and trust a man to put your words on the internet because you were not allowed to have words or the internet; to photograph atrocities and humanities caused by war and disaster; to celebrate women and freedom and fight for their continuance in the shadow of a not-forgotten dictatorship.

Then I attended the session with Jory Des Jardins and MomSlant and the Bloggess about crossing lines and white lies and finding boundaries in writing, and holy shit. Those women are pretty awesome, like I had to tell you.

After that, I went to the session on Grief, Loss, Tragedy and Community, and it wrecked me. It wrecked me, and all I had to do was sit in the audience and listen. I wept for an a hour and a half straight, in sadness, in awe, in empathy, and I wondered if I should be there, if I was being a voyeur by being there, but I’m glad I was there, because those stories, heard face to face, are even more powerful than when I had read them. That panel deserved to heard, to tell their stories, face to face, so I am glad I was there. But it wrecked me.

I had to leave the next session on humour writing, and it was hilarious, because it was such a 180 from where I had been 10 minutes earlier, that I couldn’t pay attention. I couldn’t think or talk or absorb what the women on the panel were saying, so I took a nap.

And then it was matzo ball soup and corned beef on rye and pretty dresses and fancy shoes and unicorns and sparkles and dancing and drinking and soul-cleansing fun that lasted well into the wee hours of the night, which is truly the only place that one would ever find a room with two kinds of cheesecake and darth vader and a fiddler on a bed and a dozen women that rock my world.

I heard a lot of people talking about the ‘theme’ of BlogHer – some say it was finding your power; finding your voice; finding your inspiration. For me, BlogHer was an incredibly affirming experience, giving this gold-star junkie the fuel that I seem to run out of so easily when it comes to sustaining my writing; my place in the community.
And it was a weekend away, to recharge, to walk the streets of NYC, to connect with my dad, who I heard in every native accent, to learn things and watch people, god I love watching people, and I didn’t want it to end, until it did, and then I just wanted to be home. Home, with my family, where my family was waiting for my delayed flight, one child groggy with arms open, one asleep, bare bum in the air, head on the couch.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to get to San Diego next year; I’m too superstitious practical to plan that far in advance, but I’ll tell you, I want to go. I don’t know how the landscape of social media will change in the next year and I’m pretty sure I won’t be asked to grace any stages, but I can tell you this – if you haven’t gone before, because you were scared or worried or shy, go. Just go. Because you will meet so many people. And you will have so much fun. And I promise you I am a bigger dork than you’ll ever be. And because it’s ours, and how many people on the outside truly understand that? And because, quite simply, it’s amazing.

***

8.07.2010

BlogHer Voices of the Year

Last night I had the privilege, honour and knee-knocking thrill to be a Voices of the Year keynote speaker. At BlogHer. In New York City. In front of, oh, about a thousand of my closest friends.

It was amazing.

And so were the 14 other readers (ode to them coming soon)and so were Elisa and Lisa (didn't meet the gorgeous, very pregnant Jory), and so was Eden, who not only made people clap for me, but whose hug and kind words got my knees to stop shakin'.

I had 4 minutes to read, so here's the post, in all of it's verbosity. Go for it. I'm here to make you cry.

***

Miami




They came first for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I was not a trade unionist.
.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me,
and by that time, there was no one left to speak up.

– Pastor Martin Niemoller



"Only one bathroom?" The woman behind me looked ahead, at the half-dozen other passengers waiting for the tiny toilet to be available. I smiled and nodded, raising my eyebrows in a, what can you do? kind of way.

"I should not have had that second coffee,” she said, and we both laughed politely. She looked like any of my great aunts, like my grandmother - soft skin, kind face, a friendly, round body that countless grandbabies had no doubt climbed onto, seeking refuge from scolding parents and advancing siblings. She was shorter than me, and maybe age had done that, but if it had, she was retailiating by maintaining a gravity-defying hairstyle. It looked familiar, kind of like my own mother’s. A Jewish woman’s hair may gray; it may thin, it may even start to fall out. But as long as there are combs and hairspray available, it will be big.

“At least we brought a little snack,’ my line-mate continued, leaning in a bit. “Bagels. We don’t like to eat too many bagels – too fattening.”
She pronounced it, fettning, and I guessed she was Polish. It was a familiar accent; the accent of my people, although there were less and less of my people and their accents around with every passing year.

“We were going to wait until we got to Miami to eat, but oy, abruch! With the security, this plane is so late, and who knows when we’ll get to the restaurant?”
“Yes,” I agreed, “The security check was a bit ridiculous.”
We had been searched. And then metal-detected. And then re-searched. And then they shuffled through every single business card in my wallet, looking for implements of terror, or maybe a good aestitician. They spoke about ten words to me, but they searched.

The woman continued, “In Israel even, the security is not like this. They are smart. They know what to ask, and they know where to look – in your eyes. They don’t care about what is in your pocket-book; they care about what is in here.” She drew circles in the air around my eyes with her finger.
I told her that I knew about Israeli flight security; that I had spent almost a year in Israel on a kibbutz.

Somehow, in the five minutes that we were in line to use the bathroom on a crowded flight, I learned that this woman currently lived near where I had during high-school; that she was on her way to Miami for the winter because her husband couldn’t take the snow, and that she would miss her grandchildren, but maybe they would come for a little visit?

I also learned that she was a Holocaust survivor. That she was Lithuanian. That she had been six years old when she was sent to the camps. That her father and brothers never came out. I was astonished, not because of her footnote-version of her horrifying past – unfortunately, I have heard so many of those stories, told to me by my own relatives – but because I was on my way to Miami with my best friend, to share my birthday with her grandmother, who was turning 94 on the same day. And who was a Lithuanian Holocaust survivor. And if you know how small Lithuania is, and how big the Holocaust was, than you’ll know why I was astonished to meet this woman on a plane to Miami two days before my birthday.

***

We met in Vilna, the ghetto, of course - where else was there to meet someone? We were not allowed to leave, so in ways of romance, you took what you could get. Good thing what I got was so nice!

We wanted to be married, because we heard that they would not separate you if you were married. It was not true of course, like most things we heard. But, we wanted to be married and we were not allowed. If they found out you had been married, they would take you away and kill you. Don't look so surprised! If they found out that you were pregnant, that was even worse, because they would not kill you. They would make you get rid of it. And if it was too late to get rid of it, they made you have the baby, and then they took it... it was better to get rid of it.

But we went to the Rabbi, and he said come back at 5 in the morning. So we met the next day, at the Rabbi’s, and he married us. That was it. We came alone, and we left alone. I went back to my father’s house, and he went back to his. Love, like so many other things, was not allowed for the Jews.

***

“I just saw the lady from the plane!”
We were standing in Aventura Mall, near the entrance to The Cheesecake Factory, and I had managed to weave my way through the throngs of the over-shopped and underfed to be handed my pager and told that it should buzz sometime in the next 45 minutes.

“Really?” Asked Jen, from where she sat on the bench, holding her grandmother, Sarah’s, hand.
I told her it had definitely been her. I had seen her and touched her arm and asked if she remembered me from the flight, which she had. But before I had a chance to further expound on our great coincidence, I was summoned by a snooty, efficient hostess, and my newest friend had been swallowed by the wave of people constantly moving towards free refills of gastronomical mediocrity.

35 minutes later, we were seated, watered and in unanimous agreement that Sarah and the woman from the flight must meet; were meant to meet. I ducked out of our booth and made my way through the narrow aisle, looking for the woman. I found her easily, not quite at the end of the row that we were now seated in. I apologized for interrupting her and her husband’s meal, but her eyes lit up at the sight of me, and she waved me over graciously. I explained how I would really love to introduce her to my friend’s grandmother – not to rush, please enjoy your meal – but since you’ll be passing us on your way out anyway, I’ll wave you over. I asked their names so that I could properly introduce them to Sarah, and said goodbye to Marsha and Fredis for the time being.

***

At the camp, the women went to one side and the men to the other. The mamas held their babies but as long as you could walk, you walked. At first they let the children stay with their mothers. I was a young woman already. My sister Ethel was with me, but only because they didn’t know we were sisters. I had my maiden name on my papers because I wasn’t allowed to tell them that I was married, and Ethel had her husband’s name. Anna too came later to us, but only because she also had a different name, her own husband's name. She found us and they let her stay in our block because they didn’t know we were sisters. If they knew, we would have been separated.

Our step-mother was also with us. But when we were brought to work the next the day, she was not with us. We thought when we got back, where is mama? But they had taken her away while we worked. She was not an old lady, but she was too old for them.

The mamas with the babies too were together, but only for the first night. The next day, the mothers had to go to work. The babies also were not there when they got back.

***

"No, I was from Memel – you know where is Memel?"

Marsha lifted her finger and opened her mouth as if to say something, but paused. After a moment, she spoke. "No. I don't know." Sarah nodded.
"Ah, anyway, that was where I was from. You know Memel?" Sarah pointed an accusing finger at Fredis, Marsha's husband sitting on the other side of the table. Fredis had heavy-lidded eyes and more curly, white hair than you would expect on a man his age.
"Where is it?" Fredis asked, raising his voice over the din of the busy restaurant.
"Memel!" Sarah answered, louder.
"Ah, Memel – sure, sure I know Memel. I also know Klaipeda." His use of the town's German name made Sara purse her lips and furrow her brow in surprise. "You are German?" she asked him.
"No, no, Thanks God, I am not German. I am from Grobina."
"Ah, you are Latvian!" Sarah turned towards me. "He is from 90 kilometres from my home," she proudly stated.
"And your husband?" Fredis asked.
"Sure, sure, we met in the ghetto, in Lithuania."
"Where were you in the camps?" Marsha asked the question as casually as I might ask another mother where her child went to preschool.
"Kaunas," replied Sarah.
"Ah!" Fredis leaned forward, "Me too – 1944! And you?"
"1944 also, and my husband too."

Marsha, Fredis and Sarah sat back and a quiet fell over the group. Strangers mere moments earlier, I saw that underneath the table, Marsha and Sarah were clutching hands.

***

They gave us pills so we shouldn’t have our periods. We shouldn’t have our husbands, our sisters, our children, nothing. Not even our periods. I don’t know what was in those pills, but Anna, my sister Anna, she never had no children, nothing. I had my boys, thanks God, but Anna, nothing. No periods… No food. One slice of bread each day, and if it was moldy, you shouldn’t complain. No warm clothes in the winter, but if you were cold, you shouldn’t complain. No shoes. When we arrived at the camp, there was a pile of shoes ten feet high. I thought, what is that, my God – it was children’s shoes. A pile ten feet high of children’s shoes. My sister never got her period back, but she shouldn’t complain – there was a pile ten feet high of shoes that never got their children back.

***

Fredis leaned in closer to me. “How old is she?” he asked.
“She’ll be 94 tomorrow; that’s why we’re visitng.”
“She is sharp as a tack, no?”
“120 per cent,” Jennifer answered, proudly.
Their conversation drifted from English to Yiddish to German, back to English, and it was hard to hide my emotion at being privy to this reunion of strangers.

After about 15 minutes, our food arrived and Marsha and Fredis got up, not wanting to impose on our meal. Goodbyes were made, but these were not the goodbyes of polite acquaintences, desiring to exit a strange situation in a dignified manner. These were the goodbyes of old friends, of sisters, of people linked by an experience that none of us will ever know, or ever want to know. These were the goodbyes of people who knew what it was like to find out, over and over again, that the last time you saw a person, it would be the last time.

Marsha hugged me and kissed me, and said close in my ear, thank you, and also, treasure her.

Then she looked at me at arm’s length and smiled. She looked at Sarah. “I’m going to go home and cry now,” she said quietly.

I glanced at the plate of food in front of me. Sarah was already nibbling on her child’s-portion grilled cheese sandwich and french fries. On the eve of my 35th birthday, I looked at the woman on the eve of her 94th.

Well, I thought, as I sat down, then I guess I can wait until I get home, too.

* * *

7.30.2010

A Giveaway!

It’s no secret that I’ve had a great couple of weeks. Between planning for New York City, spreading the news that I will be a Voices of the Year presenter, and getting in a much-coveted couple of date nights with the huz, summer 2010 has been so far been really good to me.

So I thought I would pay it forward, and offer a little giveaway, compliments of Mom Central Canada and Playhouse Disney Channel.


The shows on Playhouse Disney Channel are a really nice mix of modern versions of our nostalgic favourites (Mickey Mouse Clubhouse; My Friends Tigger and Pooh), plus some newer entries into children’s programming that won’t make you want to poke your own eyeballs out – Imagination Movers is pretty cool, and Handy Manny, starring the voice of Wilmer Valderrama as a cross between Bob the Builder and Diego, is a huge favorite in our house.

So, if you think your kids would like Playhouse Disney programming as much as mine do, just let me know in the comments, and on August 18, I will randomly draw one commenter who will win a fun summer prize pack containing (drumroll, please)…

- A DVD with five full episodes of Playhouse Disney programs (including the ones mentioned above)
- A sticker page
- A colour-it-yourself magnet featuring a Playhouse Disney character (with crayons)
- A magnet pen that my 2-year-old can’t figure out, but my 5-year-old is going to go berzerkers for


A few details:
- This giveaway is open to my Canadian peeps only. Sorry friends south of the border; I will have to shower you with love in other ways.
- You can enter this contest on as many blogs that are offering it as you want, but you can only win once.
- Prize packs will be mailed out after my August 18 draw
- I am participating in the Playhouse Disney Program by Mom Central. I received a Playhouse Disney prize pack and a thank-you gift card to facilitate this post. The opinions on this blog are my own.

Good luck!

***

7.22.2010

BlogHer '10, Here I Come

One year I didn’t know what BlogHer was.



One year I didn’t go to BlogHer because I was pregnant and my dad was dying.



One year I didn’t go to BlogHer because I was busy becoming a finalist at a country fair cherry pit-spittin contest.



One year I didn’t go to BlogHer because I didn’t have the money.



This year, I’m going to BlogHer.



This year I’m going to BlogHer and I will be getting on stage to read a post as part of the Voices of The Year presentation.



And I’m going to dance.



See you in NYC.

Whoa.

***