March 31, 2006

Spring Ghosts

I'm looking out at the backyard, and realizing I have to get out there and do all the stuff I put off last fall. This is the house I grew up in, and I guess I just think my dad will still materialize with his wheelbarrow and cutoff rubber wellies and start doing the clean up.

It's a mixed blessing, where I live. I'm staring at my father's tigerlillies, his favourites, pushing their way up. His tulips are everywhere, and a few stinky hyacinths still remain. The glorious jumbo irises, my mother's namesake, are now all over the place. I think he'd like that I've been dividing them everywhere.

I've totally wrecked the roses, dad. Sorry. But I've turned the original eight hostas into hundreds, they ring the yard. I'm lousy at composting, there still are no vegetables out there, and I'll be damned if I can get an ivy to grow against the fence. You never liked ivy. Trying to tell me something?

My mom wanted flowers, my dad wanted vegetables, so we always had this odd garden of roses mixed with garlic, green onions amid tulips. To this day, I smell garlic whenever I work in the garden, and I impatiently wipe away tears with the gloves that I still wear, the ones dad lifted from Dofasco thirty years ago.

Sorry folks. It's a tough, wonderful time of year.

March 30, 2006

The Mom Diet

My mom was on a perpetual diet her entire life. Her weight would bob around like a seal in a riptide, but ultimately stay the same. Higher than she wanted.

She used to warn me it was our fault, the kids. She said her wartime mentality forced her to eat stuff we didn't, and if I wanted to retain my girlish figure after having kids, I should leave the leavings alone. I try hard to take this advice, which is sometimes relatively easy. I had my first mouthful of Kraft Dinner after Marc wanted it as a three year old, and I almost barfed.

It's tough to leave half a grilled cheese sandwich on the plate. Especially the square half, which everyone knows is better. I leave the kid's fries alone if we're out, because I can still hear my mom ordering a salad, then polishing off two plates of kiddie fries. Which of course wouldn't count, because she didn't order them.

As I type this, I'm eating Christmas Rice Krispies, because no one else will. And two past-date yogurts, because the boys think they'll die if it's a day late. Nobody stops me.

I, apparently, am expendable.

March 29, 2006

Ditching the P.S. Stupid.

Okay, it's not really called that. It's a PS2. The video game thing. If you have a kid, or a wannabe kid, in your house, you probably have one, or one of it's ilk. I swore I would never buy one, because I viscerally hate them.

For Step-Father's Day three years ago, I caved. I thought it would be a pleasant gift for Brad from the kids, and as it wasn't theirs, they couldn't commandeer it. Right. We did everything you're supposed to; setting time limits, no using it on school nights, when your eyes bleed you have to stop.

Of course, I hadn't factored in the biggest hassle would be with the biggest kid, Brad himself. It is more addictive than crack. You can actually see brain cells flying out of the user's head. After a few months, I ripped it out.

No one I told believed me. My family was doing something counterproductive and useless. They would sit in front of this ridiculous thing, and magically five hours could disappear into a giant time suck. There was nothing hard about ripping it out.

It's been two years. It gets plugged in for a day or two at Xmas or March break, but that's it. At the end of spring break, the kids went to their dad's. Brad walked by the controls on the floor, the sirens beckoning him onto the rocks.

It's gone again. But I'm still waiting for that Intervention show on TV to cut off some other guy's P.S. Stupid.

March 28, 2006

College students..

Hey, any college kids checking in here...I'd love to hear the fallout, from your view, on this recent strike. Notice any differences, other than the fact that your summer earning period has been slashed by 2 weeks? Talked to your teachers? I'd like to hear from someone on the front lines...thanks. You can email me direct if you want...

March 27, 2006

Why I Work Alone

What's more fun than a migraine?

Having a dentist's appointment the day you have a migraine. Argh.

There's an interesting article in today's Toronto Star regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. Still a pervasive issue in many workplaces, it's particularly concerning if you work in male-dominated industries, where there can be a poisonous 'good old boys' network at play. If you work in a smaller shop, there is often nowhere to go but out the door. And of course, the crap continues for the next woman. We can do better than this.

I don't know of any woman who hasn't experienced this - myself included - and there is usually nothing subtle about it. I have always been at a loss to understand men who will exhibit behaviour they would not tolerate having their wives or sisters endure for a second.

As the author of the article points out, the costs are both human and bottom line. If you can't be persuaded that respect is the only way to go, perhaps you can be made to understand that exhibiting or tolerating a sexually-charged workplace will cost you good employees and cold hard cash.

If you're being accosted, stick up for your rights. If you're the pig, stop having so little respect for another human.

And now back to my regularly scheduled migraine...

March 25, 2006

A Rose By Any Other Name

Having kids turned me into a morning person, kicking and screaming against my will. Actually 'morning person' is a bit of a misnomer. I am physically out of bed, but if you get between me and my first pot of tea, I will chew your arm off. I do not sparkle before noon.

So of course on weekends, it's business as usual. Today it was 5:45. Argh. I have been productive though, which makes me feel a little better. I started laundry. Which entailed emptying the hamper, which meant carrying armloads of gross stuff right under my nose.

I emptied the litter boxes, which is how I know I can hold my breath for over 90 seconds. Twice. And of course, JoJo the stupid cat has to promptly hop in the clean litter and frolic like she's trying to win a dance contest.

I have cleaned the bathroom. I am quite proud.

Dirty laundry, litter boxes, toilet scrubbing. I think I've finally found the common denominator in my life.

March 24, 2006

Walk the Line

I'm going to stick my nose in where it maybe doesn't belong, but, what's new? My kids have hopscotched through their school career and we've dodged several threatened strikes.

I don't remember this when I was a kid. Strikes were something the guys at Stelco did; our teachers didn't. I can recall exactly *one* time there was talk of it, and while my sister and I were rejoicing like they'd announced there may be a second Christmas, my father informed us we would be going to school at the cottage, where he also paid taxes. That's right. He threatened to take us up north and make us go to school with all those kids who dressed funny. We were inconsolable. The strike was averted. We were actually relieved.

I can only imagine the outrage being felt by college kids right now. Basic tuition has tripled since I was there, and higher learning is no lark, no excuse to party. I also recognize that class sizes have exploded, and more and more classes are being taught by contract hires.

Our kids deserve the best teachers available. Our teachers deserve earned tenure, stable recompense and benefits. Stop with this patchwork approach to education. We are effectively outsourcing a huge part of the entire learning process at the expense of the future. Outsourcing does not produce a foundation to build on. We need to get our heads out of our butts and start looking ahead.

We tell our kids they have to stay in school if they want to get anywhere. And then we give them an education system that shows them way too early exactly how the real world actually works.

Or doesn't.

March 23, 2006

SPF 100, Anyone?

Anyone else think Brigitte Bardot should have taken better care of her own hide before she poured all her resources into saving the four-legged kind? She looks about 312 years old, which is her perogative, I guess. But my mother always warned me about the least we can all say we look better than BB and not be lying.

While I'm thrashing on the Rich and Famous, Sharon Stone is spinning mildly (wildly?) out of control in her continuing quest for sexpotishness. This picture shows her to be the new Sally Kirkland. That's not such a good thing, Sharon. Sally went from Oscar nominee to punchline before you could say 'there are just no good roles for women over 40'.

A little grace, a little class, not to mention keeping a dime between your knees might be a refreshing touch.

March 22, 2006

What Should Bush Do?

If you've any interest in American politics, and you should, this is a brilliant piece in today's Salon by Garrison Keillor. Wish I'd written it.

Baa Baa Oh shut up...

Okay, this is hilarious. Political Correctness Police in England are changing the words to 'Baa Baa Black Sheep'. They're going to make a bunch of confused little kids sing 'Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep'. I'm no music major, but that just doesn't fit.

And how long before somebody remembers that 'rainbow' is the colour used by most Gay groups? Which interpretation would be easier to explain to a bunch of 3-year-olds?

Black is a colour. A great colour. End of story. Black sheep are rarer than white, at least in my travels. We always thought it was cool to see one. We had a black sheep in our family (the two legged kind) but she's given up her rebel ways and is now as boring as the rest of us.

Sure, historically there have been negative, hurtful uses of the word black. But this nursery rhyme ain't one of them.

March 21, 2006

If I Can't Have You...

...nobody can. Chilling words, those. Ever heard them said to you?

Another dead mother, another dead child. And within seconds I'd heard the familiar refrain 'perhaps some good can come from this if....'. Forget it. No good can come from this. Women have been getting killed by their husbands and estranged husbands ever since there have been marriages. Yeah, men too, but let's stick with the statistics here. Bear with me.

We blame the victim. We accept children held hostage by parents that can neither stay together, nor let go. We wave a piece of paper as a shield, and inform the terrorized that our limp wristed laws prevent us from doing anything until he actually, well, does something.

There was a talking head on a show I like the other night. A show I actually appear on. But this guy was going on and on about how there needs to be more services available for these men. That's right. Funding is being slashed to those who reach out to terrorized women and children, but there should be MORE money spent on trying to force violent husbands to accept counselling and ego bolstering.

What part of 'it is never acceptable to drive a hammer through your wife's forehead' is so hard to grasp? Couples divorce every day. Most of us adjust, sometimes adequately, other times more painfully. Time helps, people move on. You're going to get a better guarantee with a muffler than a marriage. Get used to it.

Our courts need to recognize that children need both parents in their lives. Our children are taking their cues from us - how to be men and women, how to form relationships, how to handle loss, how to build a safe haven for their own kids. Consider the children first and foremost. Love your kids more than you hate your ex.

Raise your children to know that love and control are not to be confused. Teach them to respect themselves. Give them enough self-esteem that their identity does not need to be validated by somebody else.

Human life needs to be made sacred again.

March 20, 2006

Writing is Child's Play

Anyone familiar with Motherlode knows I frequently write about my kids. People ask how I ever come up with stuff to write about. Some people ask me to stop coming up with stuff to write about.

All the names in my column have been changed, except my own. I got to effectively name my boys twice, which was kind of cool. 'Marc' hates his Motherlode name, but I told him he had as much say now as he did when he was born. 'Marc' is what I wanted to name him originally, and I figured better late than never. 'Jackson' couldn't care less...he doesn't even read it.

Sometimes people send me their own funny kid tales (which I love getting), and want me to write about them. I can't - if I didn't live it, I can't relay it. But I wish everyone would record those moments for their own family history. Note more than births and deaths and marriages. I crammed a bean up my nose when I was four, and it is in the hallowed family archives. The story, not the bean.

Jackson,11, an actor without equal, will often do something, pause, and look at me. He will then offer to do it again, funnier. He will ask if I'm going to write about it. He will provide variations, rehearsals, and improv. I tell him to go sit down.

Marc,14, mostly begs me not to write about him. A rich, rich field is going untilled here...but he'll be my son longer than I'll be writing a column. Initially, I had to pay each kid five bucks if I got to use something embarrassing. They were earning more than I was.

The trick is never about running out of things to write about - it's about choosing from an embarrassment of riches.

And according to my sons, the emphasis is on 'embarrassment'.

March 19, 2006

Me & Pammy

Ah. I finally I have something in common with Pam Anderson. A quote I just read says she requires guys she dates to love children, ex-husbands and implants. Oh wait, nevermind.

I have only basic requirements of the Poor Sod That Lives With Me. He should be quite near-sighted, profoundly deaf, and as patient as a pre-school teacher.

And men think they need to be perfect.

March 18, 2006

Day of the Locust

My son Marc, 14, has turned into an eating machine. I'd heard rumours about the Ghosts of Grocery Bills to Come, but I don't think you can prepare for this.

He has size 14 feet. Last week he was nearly 5'11". He leans on my shoulder and calls me 'little mom'. Today I decided to chart his food intake. It defies description, but I'm going to try.

He didn't get up until nearly noon. When he emerged from his cave, I mean room, he was growling like an emaciated bear waking from hibernation. We'd been making these smoothie things in a new blender and he stumbled into the kitchen and drank one of those. His eyes lit on a piece of brownie lying on the counter, and with it halfway into his mouth, he asked if he could have it. I'd cut his brother's bite marks off of it from the night before. I told him sure.

He had been awake ten minutes at this point. He sliced a huge Porteguese bun thing and put it in the toaster. He drank another smoothie as he waited for it. Defying biology, he ate the bun without chewing, grabbed a bottle of forbidden Coke from the fridge and headed outside.

I left the house for a couple of hours, during which time he descended on my friend Grace, across the street. Her 15-year-old Nick is even bigger. We've debated locking cabinets, but are fearful of Child Services. When I returned, I discovered that while at Grace's he'd eaten two more brownies, two kaisers stuffed with meat, ice cream, and cereal. He then came home and ate errant leftovers from our fridge, usually assigned for Brad's work lunches.

There is a lone banana left in the fruit bowl. The hidden cookies I'd been stashing are a distant memory, and dinner was more about hole filler than esthetics. I hadn't even started the dishwasher and he was asking if there was anything to eat. Upstairs, I found an empty pretzel bag.
edit next morning
I went to bed before Marc, with dreams of financial ruin dancing in my head.
This morning there are crumbs all over the counter. And the banana is gone.

March 17, 2006

I Wanna Hold Your Hand

I was talking with Jamie West (CHML) yesterday about why baby boomers don't have sex anymore. Stories are still frothing in today's papers. Now, for the record, I barely consider myself a boomer. I am, I believe, the last last last baby born in the boom census. 1964. I'm practically a Gen Xer. Okay, maybe not. I like talking to Jamie because he talks like a typical man, and I talk like an enlightened woman. It's like a reality show.

Everyone is too tired. I think we're too stressed about money too. And yeah, sorry guys, but chances are good that if you give us a backrub, we're going to be deliriously happy about it, and then promptly fall asleep. One of the sexiest things I think a couple can do is hold hands. Really. It's a kindness combined with an intimacy, it's selective without being all territorial.

We're surrounded by sexual images selling everything from gum to shoes. You get numb to the sexual, and thirsty for the sensual. If the world out there has effectively reduced me to the sum of my parts (and found them sadly lacking), it is important the world in here restores my faith that wit and wisdom can obliterate droopy boobs and a bad hair day.

Shore up the person you love; hold their hand.

March 16, 2006

Spanky and Alfalfa

Remember the He-man Woman Haters Club? Little Rascals with a pack of boys and Darla? Darla had the right idea. Nice odds.

I wrote a column about International Women's Day, and a couple of readers decided I hate men. Yeah, like that's ever going to happen. Somehow, you aren't allowed to speak openly about any women's issues without someone always interpreting it to mean you are dumping a world of woe at men's feet. Or my favourite, whining. I'm a lot of things, but whiner isn't one of them. Get a grip. It's not always about you.

Most issues are people issues. But there are still some that are absolutely about women, and I would like to think that the men in my life, including the two I'm raising, are open and aware of that fact. And they are - I'm lucky.

I have a nephew who is about the cutest little spud ever. One day he was here, and my sister and I were conveniently ignoring him as he played. He wanted help putting some toy together. Finally, in this little exasperated voice, he yelled down the stairs: "IF WE ALL WORK TOGEVVER, WE CAN BUILD THIS BRIDGE!".

These are the kind of men -and women- I want in my world.

March 14, 2006

'Raine's World....

There's a new ad on television. It says if you quit smoking, you can win a car. So I started smoking.

Ah, welcome to my world. Here's the goal, the deal. I plan on keeping this blog up daily for anyone who's interested. Columns will be posted twice weekly, and I'll rotate twelve pieces through the archives sections on a monthly basis.

Like a cheesy piano player in a dimly lit lounge, I'm taking requests. Life is a little crazier of late - in a good way. And with the clapping comes the critics (some guy was adamant about his absolute right to take up two parking spots - get an issue buddy) but for the most part, the song remains the same. I write something I feel strongly about, and if a single soul agrees with me, or at least doesn't heatedly disagree, I am a happy woman. Sometimes I don't even care if anyone agrees.

Bring on your comments, your questions. I'm notoriously honest. My skin is getting thicker by the day - working in the media has been a baptism by fire. I won't be nannying or editing any comments unless they're something I wouldn't let my kids read - or yours. I'm not a big proponent of censorship for grownups, but the Internet is crass enough without this site adding to it.

The contact page will let you contact me directly if you prefer - I respond to pretty much any email, unless it's so cranky or weird that I don't know where to start. And if I think you're weird, you may have a problem.

And with that, we're off....