August 31, 2006

Lasagna and Bombs

Sometimes you read something in the paper, or see a story on the news, and you think to yourself 'now, that's a really cool idea'. Maybe it's a way to make your famous lasagna with less fat and calories. Maybe it's a tip for stopping paint splatter when you use a roller on the ceiling. Maybe some little kid from a poor country has been made well by a wonderful Canadian doctor. Yes, the news is a treasure trove of wonderful stories, fabulous ideas.

Of course you have to take the good with the bad. When a townhouse in New York City blew up a few weeks back, the nation got jerked to it's collective feat as a reflex 9/11 gasp snuck up on everyone. Please, not again, everyone thought.

There was a sigh of relief when it was discovered it was only a looney man who didn't want his ex-wife to get her talons on the house. Gee, that's a reasonable response, don't you think? A little twist for the times - if I can't have it, nobody can.

As he lay injured in the rubble, I hope he felt that warm, cozy feeling of satisfaction in knowing that the whole world thinks he's an arsehole. It's a house, idiot. Walk away, earn another one, display a little dignity. I mean, really, who would do such a thing?

Well, not only real estate-crazy Manhattanites, apparently. Mississauga has a copy-cat. The owner of a house that was levelled by an explosion apparently tooks his cues from the good doctor. I need to know: What part of this seemed like such a great idea? I mean, you watch the news, you see a house destroyed along with other people's property, a situation where many people could have been hurt or killed, a guy who not only lived, but now has to live it down, and your response is, "hey! What a great idea!"

Excuse my reaching here, but if a guy can do this, he's only inches away from being able to kill his ex. Seriously. If your thought processes allow you to place innocent people at risk, can you imagine what you'd be capable of doing to the person who you blame for your sad, sorry life?

I think there's two things happening here. Maybe she's a vicious bitch who you feel doesn't deserve a dime of the money you earned. Shouldn't have gotten married. If a guy's sense of worth is wrapped up in what he owns, he should go live in a room somewhere and count his money. Have a nice life.

If you've been wronged (and you can't write a song about it), you want the other person to know. Trust me; they don't much care. It's over. So take your share, go buy another house, and get your revenge by becoming happy and living well. Happy people totally piss off unhappy people. And quit filling the news with stories of rumoured bombings in a fragile world.

What we really need is recipes for more low-fat lasagnas.

August 30, 2006

Let Them Eat Cake

I hate when someone asks me what my favourite book is, or author, or actor, or comedian, or song, and I can't remember.

I mean, I can start listing bunches of stuff, but then a day or month later, I'll see the someone or something I totally forgot about. My cluttered mind is losing things, like an overloaded truck dropping bits of this and that as it trundles down the highway.

Yes, I love Jon Stewart, and Ellen Degeneres, and assorted others. But how come I keep forgetting Bob Newhart? And Carol Burnett? I've loved them forever, and I let them slip away.

I slot favourite writers in and out like a kid at a gumball machine with a fistful of nickels. But when I instinctively reach for Alice Munro or Anne Tyler or Jonathan Franzen or Oscar Wilde or Rita Mae Brown or John Irving or Carol Shields or Martin Amis or Jane Austen, depending on whether I want to laugh or cry, lose myself forever or find myself again, I know I have a stable. And yes, Arlene, even Hemingway now.

I can't read fast enough to find them all. Great writing is art, and it's timeless. We waste so many precious moments on the uninspired musings of the museless uninspired. You know what I mean.

I think I need a book of the week club; a musical artist of the week club; a movie of the week club. I need to start making a list of all the wonderful things that are slipping past me, and make a committed effort to read and listen and watch things that champion excellence.

We all spend far too much time eating icing.

August 29, 2006

Odds & Sods

I killed JonBenet. Well, as certainly as that other freak did, anyway. I figure it would be nice to have a free flight to Denver with shrimp and Champagne. Even though I don't like Champagne. But it would take the edge off a dull day, all that activity.

When his ex-wife instantly came forward and said Karr didn't do it, they should have listened. Wives know everything. And ex-wives will tell.

Moving right along...go to the link on Slate today. It features a new Ford commercial - I have no clue if it'll be running in Canada or not - and play the clip. It's the standard Mom and Dad and the kids in a Ford minivan, but the kicker is that Dad is really Divorced Dad and gets turfed out of the seat at the end to go live with all the other Divorced Daddies.

Aw, come on, Ford. We see enough of this crap in our real lives. I don't need to be reminded of this sad-sack reality in your ads. I mean, really, Mom even got to keep the damned dog. This ad says nothing, and adds nothing, to our culture. Maybe Dad was boffing his secretary. Maybe Mom was a hermaphrodite. Maybe it's none of our business. You want to make a movie, make a movie. You want to make a social commentary, make one. I suggest you just stick to making minivans.

On another note, I hate awards shows. I think they're boring. I think caring about a bunch of frothy dresses is stupid. My favourite moment was recently when some awards show (Oscars? Emmys?) won an award in a category of Special Shows. Argh.

So, Bush is heading down to New Orleans to celebrate the first anniversary of botching things up. Well, one of the anniversaries. So many choices... It'd be nice to see a normal person call him out on his administrations' criminal behaviour - but you know that'll never happen. He's the equivalant of a prisoner kept in solitary because the other inmates might kill him.

I read this article from Macleans in the dentists' office yesterday about the horrific problem of finding a nanny. Snerk. I'm not a total idiot - one of my closest friends lived through nanny horror stories for years, and I was right there with her. What I will never understand (read some of the comments about what these women actually think about the women they are leaving their children with) is that nannydom, or childcare, is not the time to be looking for someone who earns $1.15 an hour.

People will pay a thousand bucks for a purse or a hundred dollars for a manicure, but when it comes to someone their children are going to spend most of their waking hours with, then they decide to go bargain hunting? I want my kids safe, happy and engaged. I want them to split their time between me, their teachers and people that echo my values and create opportunities. I don't care whether they're teens or toddlers - it's all the same. A bored caregiver is poison to a curious, energetic, malleable kid. Consider the cost of your bargain.

There. Back to work. Enough crabbing.

August 28, 2006

Live @ 5:30 Monday

Tune in today - you just know Donna and I will gang up on Mark somehow!

August 25, 2006

Cottage Calling

Off for the weekend - talk amongst yourselves...

Pluto, We Hardly Knew Ye

Aw. They've dissed Pluto. Officially yanked it's planet status, because it's too small, too useless.

I always liked Pluto. It took up less of my magic markers when I was drawing the solar system in school. You could make Pluto your favourite colour, because you wouldn't waste as much. And now, just like that, a bunch of academics have told us what we thought we know, we don't. It's like when a judge tells a jury to 'disregard that last statement'. Was it Dylan who mentioned unringing a bell?

So it's a wee planet. Or planette, perhaps. Let's rethink a few things here. I think baby toes are pretty useless. They get squashed sideways, and mine are just little blobs that make it impossible to paint the nail on. Maybe we can find a committee to deem them no longer toes.

How about those little tiny photos they give you a whole sheet of in your kid's school photo package? The size of my thumbnail, they are utterly useless. If we're being sizest, let's abolish those while we're at it.

Dish sets that come with saucers, restaurants that plop little containers of jam on your plate (just put 'em in a bin on the table, please), free samples of shampoo you have to open with your teeth, and those little tiny screws that hold your glasses together. All of this stuff is more useless than Pluto. And especially those screws. I mean think about it. We wear glasses, that itsy bitsy thing falls out, you have to find it and try to put it back. I WEAR GLASSES. I CAN'T SEE. MAKE IT BIGGER.

The linked article does explain the protocol they developed to assign planet-ness. If the object circles the sun, is round, and free of debris in it's orbit, it can be a planet.

Now I think about it, except for the debris part, I could be a planet.

August 24, 2006

Power Shift

Today's Power Shift promises an accident check list. Click on this link to take you to a PDF file you can open and print out.

I recommend making two copies, and filling out your own information on the top part of one. This is to hand to the other driver in the event you're in an accident. It'll save you messing around with additional papers and numbers at a stressful time. Keep both papers in an envelope in your glove box.

This is a link to my webgod Jeff's recent scary brush. He sent me this picture after his accident - what can I say. Listen to crash test results, and decide for yourself if Hondas are worth a little extra dough. He walked away.

A word to the wise, in the event you have an accident. Shut your mouth. Don't assess or accept blame, just, shut up. The police and insurance will have plenty to do and say - don't complicate their jobs, especially at the scene of the accident. If you don't say anything, you can't regret anything you said.

August 23, 2006

Blaming All Women...

I can't let this slide by. After a panel discussion on CH the other night about overweight children, comments were aired the following night. In dispatching blame for the problem, some, er, butthead, called in and definitively stated that mothers are to blame.

Women, actually. All women. We have destroyed not only our families, but the entire social fabric because we work. If we would just get our barefoot, pregnant selves back into the kitchen, all that is good will be restored to the nation.

This article in Forbes will have Butthead nodding along, even as his lips moves while he reads it. (For anyone who isn't sure, if you click on my little blue words, you will be taken straight to the article I'm talking about). Note: On edit, Forbes pulled the article from their site. I've re-linked to another blogger who grabbed it before it disappeared. Nothing like sticking to your guns, Forbes...

Beware those educated working women. They fool around; they hate their children; they run off with their co-workers, and they undermine their mate's self esteem.

Boo hoo.

I love that they classify 'career' women as making more than 30K. Live it up ladies. As they flog away on the old saw about women being in the workforce being disruptive (we're more likely to have affairs when we see more than the postman each day), they conveniently forget that men have been eating at this particular buffet for years.

Why can't women just pony together what works for them, and their marriage? It's a partnership that evolves and changes, and everyone I know who is making it work is working together.

And anyone I know who has busted out of it had more than good reason to do so. I think Butthead likes the security that Mrs. Butthead won't get a glimpse of something better than being married to a caveman. I can guarantee this is the guy who talks about the 'little woman', slaps her on the rump in front of company, and hollers for a beer while he farts in his Barcalounger.

And this will be the same guy who will chase the secretary around the construction trailer or office where he works, and if she's stupid enough to return his advances, he'll leave his wife and deny he owes a penny of support.

To all the Buttheads out there, let me explain: We educate ourselves because we can. We are smart, and if they're smart, our parents have encouraged us to do so. This is a big world, and we are just as entitled to a piece of it, or to run it, as anyone else. We also know how important it is to pass down a non-judgmental, educated world-view to our children. Especially if we're married to someone like you.

We work, hopefully at something we like, for the same reasons you do. People need a sense of accomplishment. It is rewarding to use what we have learned, and it is also rewarding to be able to support ourselves. Being independent means we will be able to care for ourselves, and our children, if something happens to you. Like the neighbour who mows her lawn in short shorts.

Having children is something we think about from about age 12 on. Believe me - we can't escape the implication of procreating, or not, without bearing the wrath of one special interest group or another. We stress over the timing of having kids, how many to have, and which man will be the best equipped to partner with us in such an important decision.

Like the time you drove home after 10 beers, we don't always make the right choices. But our ability, and insistence upon, working is to make sure our children don't pay for their parents mistakes. Most women I know do some combination of work and childrearing that fluctuates with the age of the children. And don't worry - you guys are still getting most of the best promotions and pay raises, because when a kid barfs at school, they only have a mother.

Butthead, a lot of guys are cooking now. And doing it well, and enjoying it. Good marriages share the load - and good women put up with guys like you.

JoJo Revealed!

The current Motherlode features an actual photo, taken by Jackson, of JoJo for anyone interested.

I figure only me, Maggie and JoJo use our real names, so the cats may as well get their mugs in the site as well!

Maggie will follow...

Where For Art Thou, Sleep?

I hear people brag that they get by on 3 hours sleep. All the smart people in history apparently caught a cap nap for 30 minutes each night, then spent the other 23 and a half hours painting and philosphizing and running the world.

I catch a desperate few hours if I'm lucky, and spend the balance of my day acting like a lion with a thorn in its paw.

I've always been an insomniac, even as a kid. I used to meet my Dad in the hallway as our roaming laps interconnected at least once a week. But it gets worse and worse, and sleep becomes the Artful Dodger.

I've tried everything. I love the ads on TV for sleep aids that warn you they might cause drowsiness. One can only hope. My system is immune to all of it, and in the back of my head is my doctor's voice warning me that pills can be habit forming. I've decided all the best things in life run that risk.

Up north, the kids will stand for hours with a net at the ready stalking minnows. Ankle deep in the water, they sneak up on the unsuspecting silver darts like stealth bombers. Once in awhile they catch one. This is how I chase sleep naturally.

There used to be a family on our lake, years back, who had a big boat. They would waterski around around our tight little lake, tossing up a wake that never got a chance to settle before they were back 'round again. In the wake we'd find lots of little minnows, smacked to death by the outboard. This is how I chase sleep with the help of Big Pharma.

I've been up for two hours and even the cats have ambled back to bed.

Maybe tonight I try sheep instead of minnows.

August 22, 2006

Whose Fault Do You Think It Is?

Okay, so I was a little chippy last night on TV. The topic was obese and overweight kids, and the parents that deny there is a problem. Everyone who recognizes a parenting problem here, raise your hands. Are we unanimous? What? We're not? You, the expert from somewhere arguing that the parents aren't to blame?

I'm not usually a black and white person when it comes to issues. I can see the grey. I can point out the grey to others. I can dwell in the grey to make my point. This is not so grey. Not even for me.

My children are my responsiblity. They are of me. I feed them, I clothe them, I teach them, I discipline them and I instill values in them. I look to the rest of the community for support and help, but it is my job to make sure my kids are adding to, and not taking away from, that community.


Didja hear me in the back?

Having said that, it's never too late to start making some changes. I know what it feels like to have life beat up on you. I also know sometimes taking the tiniest steps of control can lead to bigger ones, and you can find accomplishment and happiness in the most basic places. So sorry for yelling. But it's yelling, not judging.

You teach them to walk, to ride a bike and wipe their own butt. You also teach them about nutrition, and hygiene and brushing their teeth. Hold your arguments that teenagers will do whatever they damned well please, including eating Doritos for breakfast. I know that. I did that. But if you're seriously telling me that the first conversation you've had with your kid about decent food is when they are a teenager, you can't even see the boat anymore. It's been gone that long.

The same way you can't all of a sudden start disciplining your child when they turn 13, you can't start teaching them about decent food then either. It is a process, ongoing from birth. They watch as much as they listen, and if you eat crap, they'll eat crap. If you're a lousy cook, ask the best cook you know to show you how to make 5 healthy dinners. And then make them.

Oh, and every child is a picky eater. So be quiet. We know. I've got one kid who won't eat fruit, and one who won't eat vegetables. Part of my brain is called 'imagination' and I have to use it.

Here are things I've learned:
French fries are not vegetables. Just, forget it.
If I can make muffins, anyone can.
It is very expensive to eat poorly. Learn how to shop.
Many kids love to cook. Let them help.
Make it pretty. If you throw a kid an apple, they'll toss it in the bin. If you cut up a bunch of fruit on a platter and plunk some vanilla yogurt in the middle, they'll fall on it like locusts. Same for cut up veggies with some dip. They will bypass the chips. Which you shouldn't be buying anyway.

Look, people come in all shapes and sizes, which I think is a wonderful thing. What isn't so wonderful is a nation that is eating itself to death, and hating itself in the process. Teach your kids that food is fuel, not a substitute for love or affection.

And make sure you give your child every possible tool to succeed - it's a hard world out there, especially if you're not there to protect them and make excuses for them. This article (click here) made me so sad. We're closing the barn door way too late.

August 21, 2006

New Archives...

...are up!

CH Live @ 5:30

What if your child is overweight, and you're the only one who doesn't know it?

It seems parents beliefs aren't lining up with medical facts when it comes to kids who may be heading for a lifetime of struggling with their weight.

Tune in to CH Live @5:30, or a taping at 11:30 11.

August 20, 2006

Plasma vs LCD

We talk television around here all the time. Well, they ask, and I refuse to buy any more. Good article here if you're thinking of investing.

Mid Life Crazy

Everywhere I look lately, all I find are articles and shows talking about the differences between men and women. Nothing new in that, I know, but science just seems determined to find some absolute proof in why we women act the way we do, and why you guys are, well, messed up. Okay, I'm projecting here.

This article in the Washington Post is reviewing a new book out, and the author uses both medical and observational techniques in her work as a physician to explain what most of us already know. Women like to talk; men don't like to cuddle. She delves into the testosterone and estrogen thing, and the fluctuation in these beasts that women spend their lifetimes both celebrating and lamenting. We are not high maintenance - we are complicated.

The onset of middle age brings its own backpack of new nonsense, as explored in this piece from the British Independent. It nicely delves into what I've often heard men try lamely to express, namely, "What the hell is happening to her?!".

The journalist notes the perfectly acceptable occurence of women hitting 40, and deciding they've had enough. They want a different job, they want a different body, and they want a different husband. I put in that part about 'perfectly acceptable', by the way.

Let me explain it this way: Women spend the first half of their life sucking it up. You take care of everyone around you, from mate to kids to parents to siblings. Then, you hit 40 and figure it's your turn. The problem is not with the women, it's with everyone else who used to think you were so dependable. Fooled ya.

I see the reverse thing with men, all convertible-mid-life-crises jokes aside. Take jeans. When a guy is in his early 20's or so, he discovers a brand of jeans that fit just right. And he just keeps wearing them and wearing them and wearing them. He doesn't even try them on when he buys them, and while he may go up a size or two over the course of his lifetime, guys don't mess with the jeans that are working for them. Why would they?

Women stick to a formula for most things as well, but mostly out of necessity. Like the female of most bird species, we have to dress it up a little more, while the males come more decked out to strut right out of the egg. Women get bored with the same old thing over and over again. Why wouldn't we?

So, is there such a thing as a mid-life crisis? We've accepted, even expected them, from men forever. But it appears we women have an actual chemical note-from-home that entitles us to one. Do I condone it? Well, I certainly recommend it. You go around exactly once. And you have no idea how long or short that loop may be. I say love who you love, take care of your kids, and don't forget about yourself. It's too easy to do, and the women who are too scared to take a chance become the martyrs that nobody wants to sit next to at family functions.

August 19, 2006


Okay. New feature in this blog.

Tell me the commercial that make you nuts. The one that makes you cringe.

I'll start. There is a Brita commercial, where some chick flushes the toilet then comes out and drinks a glass of water. They want to remind you that the same water is in your toilet that you drink out of that glass. Fine.


A Penny Saved...

For years and years now, one of my favourite things to read in the weekend paper has been this column they run in the Toronto Star. It's called Reader Exchange, and it's the corniest, most entertaining thing in the whole paper. Without fail, there is at least one, and usually more, snicker-worthy entry every week. People write in with their ingenius household recycling/reusing/safety tips, and some are an absolute scream.

It is mind-boggling the extremes some people will go to to save a penny. And listen, I lived with the cheapest, most frugal guy on the planet for over 20 years. My father saved twist ties. He saved 2 inch pieces of string. He saved bent nails.

Today's has some person advocating saving old coffee filters to pick up dog crap with. Oh come on, really? Read further down, someone else thinks you can make a bottle of shampoo last months by adding water over and over. I don't advocate waste. But I'm a huge proponent of common sense.

The column features endless ways to recycle slivers of soap; the best ways to wash out milk bags; removing scuff marks; homemade facials (you don't want to know); getting a stuck cake out of a pan; killing raccoons; you name it, it's been in there. Some of the hints (which are neither tested nor endorsed by the paper) are stupid; some are cruel; some are dangerous; some are so far beyond cheap (separating 2 ply toilet paper so it lasts longer?!) you can't tear your eyes away.

I used to threaten my sister, who lives in Toronto, with this column. I told her I was going to write in some hysterical hint and sign her name to it. The name Sommerfeld is unique enough, and she works in a large enough business field, that it would cause her no end of ridicule. In short, it's the perfect nasty thing to do to her. What could I possibly write that would embarrass her?

My dad used to kill squirrels. Save your indignation. He was an old farm boy, and the squirrels wreaked havoc with his garden. To balance out the karma, I feed squirrels now. Anyway, he'd kill them, and put a nasty gabage bag of dead squirrels out with the garbage each week or two. He preferred winter, for obvious reasons. So I told Roz (aka Liz) that I would have her recommending people with dead squirrels put them in their freezer throughout the summer killing season, until it was cold enough to dispose of them.

I'm just glad my Dad isn't around to take the hint seriously.

August 18, 2006

Look Out East Coast...

If you're a columnist, the sexiest word anyone could ever whisper into your ear would be "syndication".

It's what we all want - the chance to write one piece and get paid over and over for it. Not a lot granted, but still. We also want the ability to reach out beyond our usual audience, and see how it flies in Peoria.

Or my case, in Newfoundland. I found out a couple of days ago that a newspaper in Newfoundland/Labrador has picked up Power Shift. The Independent is a newish, classy weekly, and this makes me immensely happy.

Let me share with you the exact order of events around here, as they occurred. The Syndicate emailed me and told me. I smiled to myself, finished the column I was working on, and promptly burst into tears. I started writing less than 3 years ago, and my parents have been gone 6 and 10 years respectively. I have not been able to share a single success, large or small, with them. This means every little accomplishment is accompanied by a little hollow pain and the belief that I waited too long.

Marc, 14, came home first. I told him that Power Shift would be running in The Independent. He looked at me with disbelief. "Power Shift? The one where you don't know anything about cars?" he asked. He is still struggling with the premise of Mom writing in the auto section.

Jackson, 11, was in next. I briefly explained the concept. "Power Shift? Why? They should do Motherlode, it's way better," he exclaimed. This is the lad who is included in Motherlode far more often than Power Shift. I'm assuming his reply was a little self-serving.

The grown ups in my life were more enthusiastic. I am beyond pleased to have been brought on board by The Independent. Why shouldn't another little patch of this planet be allowed to know what kind of nutter I am?

August 17, 2006

AOL Party Line

Because I like to think there is a little voyeur in all of us (truthfully, would reality TV exist if there weren't?) this story of AOL screwing over their clients is just one big gasp-inducing news piece.

America On-Line released three months worth of the search requests made by 658,000 subscribers. They say it was a slip. They pulled down the info, but by then other sites had grabbed it and made it available.

In a nutshell, what they published was a listing of every search term that these subscribers had typed into the search bar. Most of it's mundane stuff. Some of it is absolutely incredible. The problem came with posting the customer number along with them, where a fairly easy reverse search technique revealed their names. Their real names. It's like, let's say, you slump over your keyboard one morning, feeling like a camel crapped in you mouth and your head is splitting, and you type in 'hangover remedy cheap homemade wine'.

Depending on your situation, you may not want anyone to know you drink. Or, maybe you don't want one of your best friends to know that the garbage he's bottling would be better being poured directly into the toilet. To clean it. Now you're outed.

You can imagine some of the vile things people search for. Or maybe you can't, and I'm not going to burst your virgin sensibilities. One of the best exchanges is this one - a husband and wife using the same computer are cheating on each other. What's not to love?

As always, I think it's a good reminder that even though you think it's just you and your little ol' keyboard tapping away late into the night, no move goes untracked. As stupid as I think AOL is for this colossal screwup, it's a timely little smack in the head for the unassuming among us.

Which is probably all of us, I'm guessing.

August 16, 2006

On Being Still

"We are none of us heroes for long."

What a great line, from the piece linked below.

I've plugged Garrison Keillor into this space before. I like the way he writes. Usually. There are days he's just phoning it in, but there are days all of us do that. When he's on, he's on.

I was nibbling away yesterday at the last vestiges of summer in The Motherlode (see the home page), and Garrison is taking a poke at a similar theme here, today in Salon.

The appeal for me, of Keillor, is that he is a man who very much knows his place in the world. Even as he speaks of not knowing it, he is acutely aware that if you pluck just the right string, you can find the same note in everyone. Disparate backgrounds, different cultures, varied truths - inside all of us beats a heart that can soar, a heart that can be broken.

As a writer, I don't want to make you understand something I'm feeling as much as I want you to recognize within yourself something I'm writing about. Make any sense?

Most of us work in environments where Important People, or maybe you personally, run around yelling about people needing to see the Big Picture. I talk a great deal about global issues; we want our weather promised in long-range forecasts; extended warranties comfort us.

But in the midst of being responsible, of doing the right thing, of thinking ahead and looking before you leap, sometimes you just have to pause. Pause and appreciate that in this very moment lives everything you need. There are times when speaking in a whisper makes more people listen to you, because they must be still and concentrate. They must want to listen.

And perhaps if they are choosing to listen, they might just hear what you have to say.

August 15, 2006

Me & Boy George

Every romantic movie worth its popcorn has a scene where a lovely young thing is told by her I-only-have-eyes-for-you-lov-ah to 'pack a bag, get in the car, I won't tell you where we're going until we get there'.

In real life, I have known of this happening exactly once.

I've often wondered how I would cope if told to pack - NOW! - and get going. Would I have the right clothing? Would I have enough impossibly romantic outfits to match such an impossibly romantic gesture?

Doubt it.

So, what's got me musing on wardrobe particulars so early in the morning? This picture of Boy George, believe it or not. He's been sentenced to garbage duty in NYC. I think it was for drugs or something, I mean, it's Boy George, who cares?

I stopped short when I flipped past the photo. He's known for ages that this would be his punishment. Yet even with all this beforehand knowledge, he manages to come up with the stupidest, most inappropriate pair of pants I've ever seen. I think I owned a pair something like these when I was 10. But I was a girl. And I was 10.

He has on these gaucho things that stop short 8 inches from his ankle. He has on goofy little running shoes, though if this guy has run a block in his life I'll pay you money. Boy George is not a historically attractive guy. He capitalized nicely on his oddity, in a way that was more about saying to his father 'you shouldn't have been so worried what all the neighbours would think - now look what I've gone and done!.

So, here is this largish, quite regular guy sweeping up garbage, in guachos. This is the most appropriate thing he had in his wardrobe. In the midst of my snickering, a small, sad thought crept into my head.

If told to pack my bag for a surprise romantic weekend 'somewhere hot', I would be running around borrowing things.

If told to get dressed for pitching garbage off a city street in the morning, I would have a large selection of appropriate ensembles.

Boy George is cooler than me. I'm going to go cry now.

August 14, 2006

Crabby Applesauce Face

That's our name for, well, crabby people. It's actually a name I learned from a couple who were my parent's friends, Kay and Gayle. Some kid called Katie that one time, and it stuck. Like Mom and Dad, they're gone and I miss them terribly.

Anyway, you may have noticed that darling Ms. Motherlode has been on a bit of a rant of late, truly a crabby applesauce face. You're not imagining it. Life has been tossing me curve balls faster than I can dust off the plate, and it's taking its toll.

People often ask me what I want to be when I grow up. They ask me what the grand plan is to all this, well, stuff. Easy, I tell them. World Domination. Capitalized like that. Hold your shorts - I get that I'm not there yet. I get that I'm not close, I get that I probably never will be. But we are obligated to paddle our own canoe, and you can steer yours anywhere you want.

I get cranky when real world stuff bumps into my quest. When I have to stop to clean up cat pee, when I have to fill out forms to try and sort out the boys school issues, when I have to take the van in for a tuneup, when the fridge is perpetually empty, when the new Vanity Fair comes out and I have to drop everything and sit on the swing...wait, forget that last one.

In truth, I'm going through a truckload of very stressful issues. It's damned hard to put on a happy face when the chore of putting one foot in front of the other seems impossible. And so I tend to rant.

I'm getting to my point. Stay with me. I've been asked how I plan to achieve this, er, World Domination. (I don't put the 'er' in there, other people do). I have always said the same thing - the children and the women. If you want to change the world, replace hope with despair. And the easiest place to instill hope is in a child. The best way to craft a fair society is to educate the women, who will pass that on to their children.

I'm not a man-hater. No, though that certainly would have made my life an easier trek if I was. But face it guys - you've had your shot, and you've messed it up.

Want to feel the power of this? Check out this story in today's Star. Feel the power that grandmothers have - historically one of the least listened to factions of society. Women get it. They always have. The AIDS conference has been going on all week in Toronto, and following the politics and science and humanity of this issue is an absolute necessity for all of is. This matters. Stephen Lewis, who is just a hero if you ask me, has helped spearhead Canada's involvement in the AIDS crisis. This classy guy brings a sense of urgency, a sense of humour, and a sense of hope to everything he touches.

You know how when the Olympics are on, and you find yourself cheering for some Canadian in some sport you never previously knew existed? You run around yelling that 'we' got a medal in it? That's what we do with Stephen Lewis. This man fuels his own fight. The 'voice' of Canada, PM Stephen Harper, didn't even show at this international conference. Talk about a total dissing of one of the most important issues facing this world today. Not convinced? Do some research and check out the staggering statistics. Staggering.

The rest of the world matters, and much more than the tiny little sliver that I occupy. My problems are what some call First World Problems - and I should be ashamed of myself. I am.

I don't care what you drive, I don't care how many toys you can buy your kids, I don't care if Winners is opening a new store around the corner. When the day has come that we finally no longer care how real human beings are being treated, either far away or right in front of us, we have lost. And get your head out of your butt - we know exactly how the world is working. Thanks to the magic of this very machine you're staring at, we have never had the opportunity to access more information.

How sad and shameful that we continue to use it to remove ourselves from the suffering.

August 13, 2006

Sweatsocks and Sour Cream

You couldn't pay me to buy groceries at Wal-Mart. Seriously. I know, I know, I refuse to shop there at all. But groceries? Just, ewwwwww.

Remember Consumers Distributing? Now, that was my idea of a store. I worked there for ten years, so yeah, I'm a little partial. But it was the concept I loved. Park, go in, get your stuff, leave. No wandering aisles aimlessly, no impulse purchases. There was never a better place to buy an iron, a toaster, a blow dryer, or a cheesy TV stand. Christmas just isn't the same without standing around for an hour waiting to be told they don't have your Cabbage Patch doll in stock.

I despise walking into a huge store, doing my usual deer-in-the-headlights facial expression and realizing I should have packed an overnight case before I started my journey on the search for new gloves or a blender. I am not a shopper. I am not a stroller. I do not idle in housewares, I do not scour markdown racks, I have no interest in sales being announced over a garbly speaker system advising me to race to men's underwear.

How many times have I gone to a department store, flyer clutched in my shaking hand, trying to find the advertised towels/jeans/duvets. If you ask for assistance (if you can find anyone - customer service, anyone?) in locating something in the flyer, you get that face. You know the one. Everyone knows the stuff in the flyer is a ruse, a trick. Like Tom Cruise's kid or George Bush's morals, the stuff in the flyer doesn't exist.

If I'm lucky, I'll find the sale table. A small, sad pile of the advertised item will be presented willy-nilly, while next to it will be a staggering display of something far better. You ask yourself, can these both be duvets? How can this, the advertised duvet, stand to sit next to this upmarket cousin? The shabby little duvet that looked so promising in the glossy flyer has just become the friend-with-a-great-personality.

So, I avoid department stores. And malls. I don't trust anywhere I can't see sunlight, or escape from in thirty seconds. For groceries, I go to my No Frills (two boys, 300 bucks a week, we can't afford frills). I joke with the same guys loading the shelves, I know which checkout woman is allergic to my pineapple, and I know who won't make me lift the watermelon or fabric softener out of my cart.

Wal-Mart is finally pushing into groceries. Read it here. See, I have a problem with this. Disappearing into the artifical lighting of a cavernous store, pushing by racks of too many clothes that fall apart after one washing and odd electronics by manufacturers I've never heard of (and I used to make fun of Candle and Citizen).

I'm not gonna grocery shop in here, then try to wait in those ridiculous checkout lines as my non-perishables perish. The only department I haven't quite located in a Wal-Mart is the one labelled 'Souls'.

Lord knows they've sold everything else.

August 11, 2006

Boarding Call

I'm not much of a fan of flying anyway. I get headaches (surprise), I can never decide if the seats are getting smaller or my butt is getting bigger, and after reading an article about recirculated air, I try to hold my breath. Which of course means turning a funny colour, and panting like an old dog every few minutes. That's the way to get the window seat. That's the way to get the whole row, actually.

I usually just try to read, and wait for the dulcet tones of the drink cart to come trundling down the aisle. It's hard to concentrate while playing the 'who gets the armrest' game, or to resist an emergency limb amputation of the little puke who's kicking the back of your seat. A couple of gins usually makes me surrender the armrest, and the scalpel.

Now I'm worried though. What if liquid terrorism takes away my liquid courage?

Ugly Terror

A passenger travelling from Washington to Las Vegas was interviewed in an article that appeared on the front section of the Toronto Star today. I can't link it for some obscure reason. Sorry.

Her concerns were an echo of much of what is being said after the foiled terror plot that could have seen as many as ten planes blown up over New York, Los Angeles and Washington after they left British airspace. The new restrictions on any and all liquids, from deodorant to water to hair gel to sunscreen, have left passengers tossing many of their carry-on items into the dustbin before boarding. The woman interviewed used the word 'scary'.

She's right, of course. It is disconcerting at the least. But she used the word scary in a different context.

"I won't even have lipstick to reapply....going without my makeup bag is scary".

There are days I just wonder how the damned terrorists haven't already won.

August 10, 2006

No Equal Footing

Think for a second about all the sore losers you have to tolerate in your life. The co-worker that refuses to be wrong, the friend that pouts until everyone else gives in, the little sister that flips over the chess board if she's losing. Yeah, that would be you, Gilly...hee.

Self-centred brats are made, not born. As parents, it's your job to introduce your kids to the realities of life, the spirit of competition, and the need for focus and dedication. Anything worth having is worth sweating for, and the ability to get yourself up after a disappointment and carry on is the most valuable lesson you'll ever learn.

Not so, apparently, anymore. This article explores the trend of coddling. Everybody wins, everyone's a star.

What a joke. I've long been an advocate of all-or-nothing when it comes to Valentine's Day in the classroom, mostly because I would have ended up with an empty little construction paper heart-shaped envelope taped to my desk otherwise.

But if my kid wanted a birthday party, I did not feel obligated to invite the whole class; in fact, people that did that just seemed to be doing a present haul anyway. End of the year party? Sure - everyone gets to come. But be reasonable.

The article mentions the leaking of the politically correct asinine-ness into sports. How stupid do you think kids are? They know who crossed the finish line first. Way to take away the glory from the fastest kid, and remove any reason for anyone else to try to get better.

Parents, use your heads. I believe every child is great at something. Your job is not to level all the playing fields so that your little Chelsey can pretend she's a sprinter; it's to find out what she really is good at, and happy pursuing, and let her achieve in that arena.

In social circumstances, there will always be the popular kids who ostracize the dweebs. You don't need to make your child less popular, but you do have to teach them kindness, and a responsibility for their actions. And heads up here - they will mimic what they see. If you're a gossiping, mean-spirited know-it-all, don't be surprised if Junior duplicates your odious traits.

The same way I despise children being judged by how pretty they are, I also can't stand an unathletic one who is sidelined in more ways than one. Teach your kids about the big picture. Let them know that oftentimes the nerds triumph, and may even go on to excel in later life.

And sometimes they become writers with very good memories.

August 9, 2006

Get Well Soon

I swear that cats can spell.

JoJo has been on drugs for an infection the past week. We have had to actually drive to the vet every single night so they can give her the pill, because nobody in the house can get it into her. I have given every imaginable medication to a million different cats, but this one beats me. Her head spins around like Linda Blair in the Exorcist, she froths at the mouth and pees all over me. Nice.

At the vets, she is terrified and cowering. They just prise open her jaw and jam it in. By the time we get home, she's totally forgotten about it.

Unfortunately, she has been leaving little puddles here and there. If you get up at night, you walk through the house like it's a Cambodian mine field. Yesterday I finally flipped out and screamed that if she didn't quit, I was having her put d-o-w-n. She started crying.

There is a method to my nastiness. After the first several hundred dollars, I realized I couldn't keep spending her back to health. If she had some degenerative problem, it would not only cost me a thousand bucks to find out, it would keep coming back. I am a realist. My children think I am Hannibal Lecter.

I woke up this morning. No puddles. Coincidence? I think not.

August 7, 2006

5 Stages of Drunk

Fun additional piece here to my previous posting...

Belly Up To The Bar

Does drinking make you say stupid things? Of course. But does it make you say things you don't actually already believe, that belch unbidden from some surprise spring of nastiness that wasn't there before? Doubt it.

This article from today's NYT tries to explain why Mel Gibson is an idiot. His apology was nonsense. He blurted out exactly what he thought. Don't we all?

We are a culture of cowards. We say what other people expect us to, what other people want to hear. If we don't, we spend an awful lot of time working away on our computers, solitary in our pursuits, staring into the dark on endless nights. Wait a minute. Nevermind.

We call it 'I love you, man' drunk. When a guy gets enough beer in his belly to drape himself around anyone close at hand and declare his drooling red-eyed love for people he probably just met. Men are notoriously tight-lipped with their emotions. I think 'I love you, man' drunk is their chance to connect with a world they usually just watch.

And women? We're already the touchy-feely members of the club, so what happens when we get a little into our cups? Easy. We surrender our Director's Chair of Making People Happy and say what's really on our minds. I've heard friends finally admit they married the wrong guy, they are terrified of never being promoted, and if their mother were to move to Istanbul they'd help her pack and pay for the one-way ticket.

Booze usually makes female insecurities surface; for men, it seems to take away the straps of control that require them to move through their lives like stealth bombers. In other words, it both deadens the repercussions and amplifies the fears.

For most of us, a couple of glasses of wine is a tiny vacation from being who we're supposed to be. For chronic alcoholics, of whom I've known a few up close and personal, it's the recognition that who they're supposed to be is a barren wasteland of nothing. For some, there is no line to cross anymore; that blurred reality is the clearest thing they possess.

So is Mel an alcoholic or an anti-Semite or both? Maybe he copes with being the second by being the first. I don't know. I've never met the man. And even to those who know him, he is an actor.

I make a living saying things that nobody else will. Everybody thinks the things I write - I just take the shots and say it. Every time I think I've crossed a line, I get a bushel of mail telling me there's a crowd waiting on the other side. I say from now on, we make a pledge to dredge up natural courage, as opposed to the liquid kind. If you love someone, tell them. If someone is making you crazy, tell them.

Just make sure they've had a drink first.

August 5, 2006

Picture Perfect

It's too gorgeous a day to complain about anything I'll take a time-out with the frivilous instead.

Remember your school photos? Cowlicks, blinking, pimples, braces, and a bad copy of a Farah Fawcett flip? For me, that was just grade 11. Now you can fix it all. Read this. You can get your kids school photos retouched to perfection. Is it just me, or is there something inherently wrong with this?

Kids are supposed to look like kids. For the same reasons I despise seeing makeup on 8 year olds, I hate this idea. The whole point of school photos is to provide you with a visual progression of a child through to adulthood. It's a story - and it shouldn't be fiction.

There's a creepy paragraph in that link about swapping in the eyes of kids from shut to open. They combine the best of several class shots to get the best. My favourite pictures have at least one or two kids doing something dumb. Who got away with flipping the bird, who glared at the camera like a serial killer, who pulled back a grin that displayed every last tooth in his head?

I never knew when picture day was, so my kids have grubby shirts, uncombed hair and lunch on their chins. So what? They resembled that far more than the stagey Sears shots I got for posterity. And because I had a coupon.

The greater damage of course, is to a child's self esteem. What kind of message are you sending when you 'perfect up' a photo of your kid, explaining that pimples and braces are bad, bad, bad? We're going to have a generation of insecure, shallow children who become insecure, shallow adults. Like we need more of those around.

Opt out of the fashion shoot, if it's offered, folks. Our children are perfect because they are unique, and we'll be better parents if we celebrate that.

August 4, 2006

See You On The Links

I've put in a new 'links' page (well, not me, but superwebguy Jeff has) so you can troll in some of the waters I do, if you are so inclined. If you have good ones, share...

Signs of No Life

Ever wonder why you're here? Not here in my kitchen, but here on the planet?

If you isolate chromosones or put out fires or catch criminals or create glorious music, you probably don't wonder. You already know that you're bringing something valuable to the table.

I, on the other hand, have some serious doubts as to my purpose some days. I am chasing a cat around the house day and night hoping she doesn't pee on anything. She's having a little problem, currently being solved, but in the meantime, she's mistaking many things for her litter box. Things like the laundry basket, the bathmat, and random spots on the floor. If the boys step in a little puddle by accident, they act like they've stepped in battery acid. So this week in Lorraineville, it's been Peepee Patrol.

I weeded the garden a few days ago. You'd never know it.
I dropped 200 bucks on groceries a few days ago. You'd never know it.
I do laundry every day. You'd never know it. ("No, my good shorts...")
Jackson has gone swimming at a friend's place this week, seen a movie, had a sleepover, had a watergun fight, ridden his bike, gone to a car show, watched Maury Povich and gone out for lunch. You'd never know it. He's bored.
I've written a couple of pieces, done an outline for the next two months work, and had a couple of meetings. The kids don't care; they want the computer.
Brad left a note that he'd taken my keys for work today because he couldn't find his. I read the note, and realized it didn't matter. I wasn't going anywhere anyway.

But are these really the things I should be whining about? I mean, according to the papers it is - we're encouraged to complain about the heat in the summer, the snow in the winter and everything in between. Hemlines, hairstyles, celebrity offspring, criminal sightings and new places to stick Botox.

It's hard to justify ragging on Marc to cut the grass when our soldiers are returning from Afghanistan in body bags. It's hard to tell my kids to run around and enjoy the summer when details emerge about the two kidnapped kids out west. As if removing their names from the public stage will ever erase those two vulnerable, beautiful faces from my memory.

I think sometimes I just am desperate to control my own little world in here because I feel so helpless at effecting change in the big world out there. But dialing down the dampers in here doesn't exempt me from still trying to find a way to leave the world better than I found it.

It's just a case of finding a way how.

August 3, 2006

Toxic Parents

Go all know a bunch. Parenting teenagers is hellish, and as this story in the Washington Post points out, there seems to be a bootful of people that haven't quite grasped the concept of who's in charge.

Do I want to know where my kids are? Absolutely. But it goes beyond that. I am obligated to know what they're up to, who they're with, and what they're doing. It doesn't matter how tired I am, or how much money I've spent on them - I still am responsible for them. Period.

I know people who have perfected hands-off parenting. You end up with the inmates running the asylum. And in my asylum, I'll have you know I am still in charge. Read through the linked story to the woman who was the 'coolest' mom. She was so proud that she'd kept her figure so as she was supplying her teenaged son and his friends with booze and drugs, she could also have sex with FIVE of them. Ahhhh, isn't that nice. All those life lessons handled in one-stop shopping.

Little boys are noise covered in dirt. Teenage boys are hormones in baseball caps. Think back to your teenage years - did you seriously need any help finding drugs or booze or trouble? My parents were my backstop. I at least knew I wasn't allowed to do it, even if I occasionally did do it.

My mother used to tell me "I know that right now you hate me, but one day you'll thank me...", and she was absolutely right. She was right about wearing a hat, she was right about the 4th guy I dated, she was right about using moisturizer, she was right about smoking, and she was right about the leather pants. Wait, no she wasn't. The leather pants were awesome.

But she was right to be my parent, and not my friend.

August 2, 2006

I Hate Walmart

Really. I do. I absolutely refuse to shop there. I could link a million articles to defend my position, but I'm not going to bother. It is a pox on not only the nation, but the world.

Coming to your hometown, sooner rather than later, a store that supports lousy wages, no benefits, a multitude of part-time positions to avoid both better wages and benefits, and a draconian policy of destroying their suppliers if they don't bow down to their bankruptcy-inducing demands.

A destroyer cloaked as a savior - proof that we're never gonna learn. Apparently, Germany has learned, and Walmart has pulled out. Accepted defeat, taken its bat and gone home.

I have a certain quantity of Kraut blood coursing through my veins, and I would love to trumpet how that attests to an intelligence as indicated by the Walmart decision. History, of course, stops me from doing that. In general, the German people are not a warm and fuzzy lot, and many of their decisions have been historically pretty self-serving, and not particularly helpful to the rest of the world. And contrary to Mel Gibson's drunken diatribe (and I suspect his privately sober ones) there is a blight on this nation that will never be removed. While I may not feel responsible for what my possible ancestors did, I still feel a responsibility to own up to what they did.

But I do love that they kicked this Trojan horse to the curb.

I hate the greeters; I hate the grungy stores; I hate the endless miles of aisles that confuse me and haul me deeper into a chasm of crap that nobody actually needs. I refuse to enrich an enterprise that impoverishes its workers. Retail is a tough enough gig (I put in over ten years) without decent wages, decent hours, decent benefits and respect.

Sometimes when the price is the so low, the cost is just too high.

August 1, 2006

Too Hot to Handle

With heat like this, you'd have thought it was too hot for me to go on a rant.

You'd have thought wrong.

Where to start? Mel Gibson, foul-mouthed arsehole who has gone from making movies about Christ to actually believing he is Christ?

How about the crazy uproar over a magazine cover showing a baby nursing? My teenage son wouldn't even snicker over that. Could we get one thing straight, everyone? Nursing a child is normal. It isn't gross, it isn't sexual, it isn't shameful. I will never in a million years understand the odd things that can motivate someone to write an enraged letter to the editor. This magazine has endured huge fallout over a nursing infant, while elsewhere in the world, let's see, children being bombed in their beds in Lebanon, tens of thousands of children forced to walk miles every night to escape kidnap by rebel forces in Uganda, and in Rwanda 6 year old children are becoming the heads of families because of the ravages of AIDS.

Anybody need any additional perspective? Are North Americans truly that obsessed with their tiny, trivial, inane First World problems?

And now let me stop my hands from shaking as I read that convicted pedophile Peter Whitmore has apparently kidnapped another young boy. This makes my heart rip. Why does this society place so little value on the safekeeping of its children? Why do we fail, repeatedly, the most vulnerable, and most valuable part of our community?

This monster, and others like him, should be tossed for good. Now, having said that, who lets their kid go with someone they don't know? If some older guy was befriending either of my boys, alarm bells would be sounding so loud in my head you'd be able to hear them. I know these bastards choose their victims carefully, and cut the weakest from the herd. So, do more than protect your own children. Keep an eye out for all children, and risk being intrusive or nosey. If someone is struggling as a single parent, forget feeling smug or grateful that you're not in that situation. Do something. Help. Give that child other options that make it less likely he or she will be easily flattered or lured by one of these creeps.

We have to stop punishing the children for the transgressions and bad choices of the parents. Period. Park your judgement and realize we all have a duty and obligation to all the children in our community. Sometimes one kind word can change a whole life.

Alright. I'm done. Sorry for the blathering. But am I really alone in this?