December 31, 2007


See Ya, 2007

What a perfect time of year to have a blast of cold, fresh air blow through my brain and teach me something wonderful. As I was trekking through the business section of the NYT yesterday (I tread lightly, though maybe I should devote more time to it), I came across this article that I think should be in every section.

It's truly enlightening. And mostly for its simplicity. As we get older, we become so certain of what we know, that we find it harder and harder to learn anything new, or even acknowledge that there is anything new. The constructs of our brain get so hardwired, we take these shortcuts that leave out all the scenery - learning new things, acknowledging other points of view, and the ability to share that information.

They use a great example - your remote control. You know all those little buttons on it? You know how you use about 3 of them, and stare blankly at the other 47? Some engineer somewhere knew - just knew - you would need all 50, and diligently set about developing them. Because he needed them.

But the best example they use is one I've run across in person, playing Cranium at the cottage, drunk. In the study, one set of people had to tap out popular songs to another group, who were supposed to identify them. For the tappers, they were bewildered that only 2.5% of the listeners could get the song right. And yet they could hear it so clearly in their own heads! We do this with Cranium, and we even get to hum the song, and yet still Roz is yelling out 'O Canada!' while I'm violently humming 'Bridge Over Troubled Water'.

The upshot? The smarter you think you are, the stupider you will end up being. Our assumptions are bunging up the works. If you're so busy stroking and nurturing the things that you can count on knowing, you might as well turn out the lights and lock up. Your life is only as great as the things you have yet to learn.

I kind of love this idea. Imagine if all of us devoted more brain cells to listening and understanding, rather than coercing everyone over to our side of the fence. I can't think of an industry or discipline that wouldn't benefit from some of this mental cross-pollination.

It's probably not going to send me running to read any engineering text books, but I am going to hold up a prism to things that confuse me. Maybe another view is just what I need to clear stumbling blocks out of the way. And besides, 'fresh view, clear mind, open heart' is a way better New Year's Resolution than 'exercise and eat more celery'.

December 29, 2007


Me & Jack

Okay, I've been cleaning up Christmas junk all day (part of that out with the old thing I have going), and I finally got around to digging in my own stocking.

I found a bag of chocolates, which someone brilliantly decided to inject with Jack Daniel's. And I don't mean 'brilliant' like Madonna would say it with a fake English accent, I mean 'brilliant' like everything should be injected with Jack Daniel's.

Because there's still a bag of turkey in the fridge, I'm on a cooking boycott. Everyone has to eat leftovers until everything is gone; Jackson got a toaster/egg thing from Santa (cough), that makes these perfect egg mcmuffin things. It too is brilliant, and he is eating egg mcmuffins for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Marc eats anything that isn't stapled down or turning green, so I'm sitting here eating little chocolates stuffed with Jack Daniel's. I'm washing them down with wine, and little sections of clementine oranges.

Betcha never thought of that taste combo.


Walking Backwards With a Large Branch

I'm going to spend today erasing my footprints through 2007, which means doing everything from getting tax stuff together to purging into writings that may, or may not, ever see the light of day. So, I shall bring to you some funny reads you may have missed from others more able.

The first one has been around awhile, but Millington is one of the funniest things I've ever read. Look for his books through his site.

David Sedaris has a new piece up on the New Yorker - stuff about his grandma had me laughing out loud.

Bill Maher has had some good moments this year. This is a great one, his idiots of the year from Rolling Stone. Only he doesn't use the word 'idiots'.

The Beast website has its 50 Most Loathesome Americans of 2007 - love it.


There. Something to read.

December 26, 2007


Box This

Boxing Day Sales. Blech.

Everyone knows the best way to start out the day after a nice, quiet family Christmas is to get up at 5am to take your kid to his job. My eldest, Marc, works for one of the Big Electronic Stores. He was scheduled to work today, and told to be at work by 5:30. I thought he was mistaken; surely he meant he had to work tomorrow. Nope. They either changed the law, or the fines are worth it. So 5am it was.

As we pulled out in the dark, you could have shot a cannon down any street and hit no one. I've never gone Boxing Day shopping, and started to wonder why my kid had to work. And then we got closer to his store. Lines of cars; not a single parking spot left. And hundreds of people snaking a long line back out to the main road. Unbelievable. Shopping? For computers and TVs?

But it only got worse. I went to pick him up, and a ten minute round trip took an hour. People are unbelievable. Honking, cussing, bird-flipping and shrieking. And some of the other drivers were pretty rude too. Okay, I stayed calm, actually. But yay for cell phones - it was the only way Marc and I could find each other, as I got trapped for half an hour on a parking lot ramp.

He hopped in, exhausted. A nine hour shift had apparently started with people sprinting through the store, after camping out front since 10pm - last night. Yup. Christmas Day, pitching tents to buy electronics. I realize it isn't Christmas for everyone, but cold is cold, and camping on a sidewalk is nuts no matter what you believe. The most ironic thing I saw today? A bumper sticker ahead of me, sported by someone intent on barging his way into a parking spot like his life depended on it: "The Best Things in Life Aren't Things". Oh, really.

I worked retail for ten years. It killed any appreciation I ever had for shopping dead, dead, dead. Marc also worked Christmas Eve, and after buying gifts for all of us, he headed to his counter to start his shift. A customer asked him some questions, and he went to grab an item to show him. The customer grabbed my son's Christmas presents and left the store. Ripped a 16-year-old kid off for a CD for his mom, a DVD for his stepdad, and a computer thingee for his little brother. He bought his little brother an xmas gift, and some piece of crap stole it.


You didn't wreck our Christmas - truly, the things matter so little, nobody cared. We had a terrific day, everyone was well, the kids got along famously and dinner was a marvel.

To the person enjoying my son's selections? Karma's a bitch.

December 22, 2007


The Christmas Tree

To really appreciate the fabulous artwork of artist Raffi Anderian, I would love you to get hold of a copy of today's Toronto Star (Saturday).

Here's a link to the story. It's about my Dad.

December 20, 2007


Fresh Slate - The Explainer!

My favourite column of the year, from my favourite column on Slate. Ask the Explainer answers dozens of great, interesting questions all year. Daniel then does a year end round up of questions he didn't get to, or is simply still shaking his head over. I have helpfully, for the second year in a row (here's last year), provided my own answers.

1. Could you play sports in space, if you had a spacesuit?

It Depends.

2. Can a baby get drunk off of nonalcoholic beer?

You know when you go to the video store on a Saturday night, and all the new releases are out? And you can't remember which season you were up to in Punk'd or Survivor? That is when you test this out. Until you hear Child Protective Services knocking on your door.

3. Very rare to find a hotel room with a light on the ceiling, they're usually floor lamps or desk lamps. Is there some structural reason for that?

If you've been lying around staring at hotel room ceilings, you need to discover Pay-Per-View, or bring a better guest.

4. Mitt Romney is running for president. His father, George Romney, a former governor of Michigan, ran for president in 1968. Is "Mitt" named for the mitten-shape of Michigan?

Wow. That's something the press haven't picked up on yet. But you know, that makes sense. Mitt's face even looks a little mitten-like. I am shaped like the province of Ontario, hence my parents named me Lorraine.

5. How do surface-dwelling fish survive monster sea storms?



Those fish were designed by a guy named Darwin to be the kamikaze members of the fish world. They instinctively know when it is time to forfeit their own lives as an early warning system to everyone else in the ocean. That is why you see them flopping about on the beach just ahead of the huge storms, in order to let the camera crews move into position to report back to places where this weather isn't happening. If Darwin had been just a little kinder, he would have given them hands so they too could hold onto lightposts like the announcers.



6. If I drank a bunch of orange juice, which caused me to get heartburn, then ate a bunch of antacids, would it neutralize the vitamin C, thus providing no benefits from the ingested vitamin? If so, if you ate antacids continually, would you get scurvy?



Oh, and I thought you'd just been riding horses all your life.


7. I've been looking for information on how the word "dick" became an insult, especially since people still go by the name Dick. Why would anyone choose that name, when it has other meanings?!?!

You realize when they seize your hard drive what all the searches are gonna come up as, right?

8. Why do male ice skaters have routines that are so feminine in execution? After all these years, there should be some kind of movements on ice that would be more masculine-looking. The gymnastics shows have them.

The gymnastic 'shows' feature strong men that don't wear sequins. Ice skaters long ago learned if it quacks like a duck, you put feathers on it and glide.

9. Why are some cats softer to the touch than others? Is it possible I have the softest cat in the world?

They are covered in cat spit, a well known emollient. And no, that is not possible. I have the softest cat in the world.

10. In Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Identity, he says that Jason Bourne can pack with great economy of space, allowing him to pack much more in a small bag than it would seem. How would one do this, and is it even a real thing?

Don't tell anyone, but Jason Bourne is actually a magician. If you look closely, you will see that his bag is always sitting on top of a magic table that has a secret compartment in it. You can buy one on eBay.

11. Do you have any idea why sporting the moustache was so much more common in the military than in any other job in 19th-century Western countries, and to some extent present-day Western countries?

I'm not sure about the days gone by, but for today's men, they all want to look like Sam Elliot. And I would like them to look like Sam Elliot.

12. If an unscrupulous bar owner was to mix diethylene to, say, whiskey, what would the effect be on the consumer?

It's funny. You say 'unscrupulous bar owner', and yet, I hear 'disgruntled business partner' or 'non-custodial ex'. Someone's at your door. I'll wait while you go get it.

13. I am an Afro-American woman. I am in my youthful 50s. My hair is strong and a little past the shoulders. I wear it pressed (hot combed or flat iron). It is also a salt-and-pepper color; I get great compliments on it. The problem I have is static. Could you give me some tips on what to use to stop this?

To reduce static, just turn each of your ears a little. Watch in the mirror until the static goes away.

14. There was the most beautiful sunset here in Indiana last evening. Would the California fires have anything to do with that?

No, I've heard the wildfires will have nothing to do with sunsets. They just plain don't like 'em.

15. I haven't seen this in the news, but perhaps you could explain it anyway. Why do people feel like destroying things when angry?

Sometimes it's because their daddy didn't get to finish a job he started, and the son feels the need to avenge the bad guys on his behalf. The problems start when children are not taught that they must pay for things they break.

16. Why do most reptiles go to sleep when you rub their bellies? I have done it myself with everything from domestic water dragons to wild alligators, but I heard recently that it is bad for them—and they only appear to be sleeping, when in fact they are having trouble breathing. Is this true?

Uhm, where do you live? I'd like to come and rub your belly for good luck.

17. Would it be possible to "shoot" someone with "lightning"? Like, a Taser with no electrodes.

Oh, it's totally possible. The hardest part is finding the right kind of gloves to hold onto your end of the lightning bolt. Canadian Tire is almost always sold out.

18. Why do men almost never win on ABC's Wheel of Fortune?

They have a hard time looking at the clue, and admitting that they're on Wheel of Fortune.

19. Are any of the scorpions in central Vietnam deadly? I was stung three times one night, and evacuated to a hospital where doctors said the one that stung me was the only lethal one in Vietnam. Truth or lie?

You found it?

20. Why don't we drop medical waste and nuclear waste into active volcanoes, the "ultimate high-temperature incinerators"?

It's one thing to find a fine coating of volcanic ash on your house and car. But think how disturbing it would be for the children to find body parts on their trikes. Oh, and one other word for you to try out: Chernobyl.

21. Hello. I am an editor and writer and I would like for everyone to change some letters that are now in lowercase to uppercase. An example would be the 18th century to the 18th Century. Where does one go about starting to do this?

Please get to work on all examples you are proposing. List them in alphabetical order, categorize by subject and don't leave any out. You then take it to the World Academy of New Writing Rules, which is chaired by e. e. cummings.

22. Is it "open sees me" or "open says me"?

I'm not entirely sure, but I would like to watch you standing in front of a cave yelling these two options until you figure it out.

23. Can dogs be mentally retarded?

Of course. It was a dog that sent in question number 22.

24. Why don't they build into cars a secret button for police to use, and when these people are trying to get away from police down the freeway and city streets at 100 mph, the following police car could push the button, making the engine on the speeding car stop? Surely there must be some smart person who could make this.

They actually did discover how to do this years ago. The problem has been in coming up with windshields strong enough to stop shattering when the bad guys go from 100 mph to a full stop in 1.3 seconds.

25. Why does having a foreign accent make a person seem more attractive?

Oh? Zu you rilly tink zo?

26. How often are presidents born, and how often do they die? Do they die in bunches, or on average every four years?

Presidents are actually like Canadian trilliums. They are born every year, but you only notice them when they bloom every seven years. And then they die quietly in the forest, and there is a parade.

27. When a fly lands on a ceiling, does it execute a barrel roll or an inside loop?

Are you the guy from the hotel light fixture question?

28. Is there such a thing as "crazy eyes," where the whites go all the way around the corneas and makes the person look psycho, such as those of runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks and wife-dismemberer Stephen Grant?

The only way to test your theory is for these two to get married and have kids.

29. I've always wanted to know why bald heads shine!!!

Pledge.

30. Who is Daniel Engbert? I'm sure that I'm spelling his name wrong, but he's one of a few guys that you regularly go to as a reliable source—and I want to know who he is and why he's qualified.

Oh, everyone has their secret 'reliable source'. Daniel Engber (who writes this column) uses Daniel Engbert. For my column, I use Lorraine Sommerfeldt.

31. What infections do viruses and microorganisms suffer from? My guess is none. They only suffer from random mutations and suffering caused (mostly by humans) by chemicals.

In the virus post office, there is a picture of Purell posted.

32. I have been looking for an old movie from about the late '60s. I was born in 1960 and watched it as a little kid. It was a Santa movie and it had the Devil in it. It was like the Devil was trying to stop Christmas. I remember the Devil was wearing red PJs. Santa has a magic powder that would make people sleep. It was a cute movie. Please help.

That would be Rosemary's Baby. And that magic powder was from your mother trying to get you away from the TV. If you remember that movie as 'cute', please ask your mother what that powder was. I would like some.

33. What do the SWAT teams do to keep their fitness? Like, do they run for half an hour, or do five pressups?

They pack Jason Bourne's suitcase for him, and drop medical waste into volcanos.

34. If mountains are measured from sea level, then the 12,000-foot peaks in Colorado are only about 7,000 feet above Denver since they lie on a 5,000-foot-high plain. That being so, a one-foot rock lying on the ground becomes a 5,001-foot-high mountain. Do we need to address this differently, if it really matters at all?

What?

35. Is it possible in any way to prove that someone was on crack cocaine nine to 10 years ago?

Oh, honey, if you have to ask, just leave his sorry ass now. You know it's only going to be years of heartbreak.

36. Why don't long-haired football players, many of them of Polynesian descent, get their tresses tugged during their gridiron clash?

Would you tug on a 6'5" 250 pound Polynesian man's hair?

37. This may be a dumb question. Most people spell their names as first name, middle initial, and last name. But some people spell their name as initial, given name, and then last name. Is the initial before the given name their first name, and they go by their middle name? Or is the initial before the given name their middle initial? If it is their middle initial, why would you put it before your first name, because then it is not in the middle anymore? It seems like conservatives or Republicans are more likely to list their name starting with an initial.

I'm so glad you asked this. You are absolutely right. It is a dumb question.

38. What would happen to the rest of the planets and the sun if Jupiter were to explode, or somehow leave our galaxy altogether?

Looks like we found a way to test for the crack cocaine addiction from ten years ago...

39. Which is the best hearing aid? Why are there so many different ones, and are the ones that allow you to hear others' conversations across the room legal?

Only if you're Jaime Sommers.

40. When a man lies to his lawyer to obtain a divorce from a wife of 47 years when she is ill and does not even know and cannot defend herself, is this legal, or perjury?

It would only be illegal if a tree fell in the forest and landed on the lawyer. And everyone knows the best defence is a piece of fence.

December 14, 2007


Oh, That Webgod...

This is just a test blog, actually. WGJ has been tinkering, and found a way to let me post more easily to this blog. Hold your applause until the end, thankyouverymuch. If you ever want a website, this lad is your god.
 
What WGJ is supposed to be doing, however, is getting my new site up and running. Perhaps you'd all like to offer him a little encouragement?


Live @5:30 Friday

So, when is it time to run? Parents at an Oakville school are considering keeping their kids home after threatening notes were found in a washroom.

Join me with Mark and Donna today at 5:30 (repeat at 11:30), parents all of us, to discuss.


Aussie Rules

It has come to light that Nigel Scullion, a senior Australian Senator leading a global fishing conference in 1998 in Russia, ended up in a strip club handcuffed to a stripper pole in his underwear. When the married senator was asked to comment on the event, this is what he said:

"It was a terrific night. If you ever get an offer to go drinking with Icelandic whalers and Canadian crab fishermen, take them up on it," he said.

Ah, now this is my kind of politician. When Russians sailors started a fight, he took off, partially clothed. This small news blip was buried way into section one. If he'd denied it, it would have made the front page, you just know it. Instead, we have to look at Brian Mulroney's doughy head trying to double talk and stick handle his weasel words around anyone with a brain and a pulse.

The only advice Scullion offered from his experience? "Always wear clean underwear."
Hmmm. Think BM needs that advice right about now?

December 13, 2007


Santa Claus Fund

Okay, I think the Toronto Star's Santa Claus Fund, which delivers thousands of Christmas boxes to kids in need in Toronto is a wonderful thing. For 101 years now, it has seen families through tough times, and provided children with a sense of love and hope at what can be a difficult time of year. It's an excellent charity to donate to. They do great work.

But today, I am slamming my head against the keyboard in disbelief. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, the paper features a daily story on who the boxes are helping. Sometimes they're stories of people who donate now, recalling harsh years when the Star box was the highlight of their year. They're quite touching, and I usually sit here crying like an idiot.

Not today. Today's story features a 20-year-old woman who is expecting her first child on Christmas Day. And because she grew up in an impoverished family of 11 kids who received boxes each year, she wants to carry on this great tradition. Those are her words: "I thought it would be a great tradition to pass on."

No. It. Would. Not. Get it through your skull that you don't plan to be unable to care for your child. Charities like this one are to assist those who find themselves in tough times, not those who purposefully put themselves there.

"I want to do it for my son," she continues. Waaaaahhhhhhh? Carry on the tradition of not having enough to support a child? Carry on the tradition of what, planning on being too poor to provide for a child that isn't even here yet? Are you kidding me?

Having a child is a monster obligation. That child must come before everything else, and you owe that child. Life can thwack a curveball at your head in an instant, and for that I'm thankful for charities like the Santa Claus fund and dozens of others that step in to make sure all the magic isn't sucked out of a child's life. But I have to shake my head at what some are now characterizing a 'tradition'. This is an act of kindness; this is a spot of happiness in a tough world; this is a break for parents who got hit with that curveball.

But please, this is not a tradition you decide on before you've even had the kid.

December 10, 2007


Canoe Wife

Unless you've been under a rock, you've heard about the British guy who faked his own death in a canoe accident 5 years ago. His wife claimed the insurance, and started making plans to join him in Panama. They got caught posing for a realtors photo, trying to buy a yacht, and similar things you evidently shouldn't do if you're trying to, say, hide.

Their sons aren't speaking to them. Good. I hope they never do. I can't imagine being told "Dad's dead, come, let's get you suited up for the funeral, so sorry", while you're taking calls from Dad the whole time. Huge, giant WTF? And I don't usually swear in this blog.

Every day provides new amazing details of this case. Read this. He actually hid in his own house for 3 years, through a hole in the wardrobe. The freak was living in his own house, with his sons mere feet away, pretending he was dead. I'd been wondering how much the insurance money was, and finally, here it is: $50,000.

I'll be honest, I couldn't even find the back of my closet for $50,000. It's a mess in there, and if I made it to the back, I would be well and truly lost and they might as well collect on my insurance policy. But to knowingly put your children through this is mind boggling.

This story is also a reminder that if you're going to fake your death, leave your widow a cooler nickname than 'Canoe Wife'. I mean, Lord Lucan has been missing for over 30 years, and they don't call his wife the 'Dead Nanny Wife'. She still gets to be Lady Lucan.

I feel for the kids; let's hope the apples cleared the circumference of both trees as they fell.


Teens in the Attic

If you have teens (or were one) this'll make you smile. A columnist in St. Charles, MO, took an advert telling homeowners how to get rid of squirrels, and substituted the word 'teen' for 'squirrel'. I love it.

December 7, 2007


Still Not Working

Last one. Need some new emoticons to liven up your mail? I'm sitting here giggling like fool, especially at the bovine one, and Hitler and the ipod one.

Thanks to the New Yorker.


Joe Conason

I should be working, I know. But. This is a brilliant piece from Joe Conason in Salon. He nails what drives me crazy about U.S. politics, and in many ways, here too.

Why, why, why is religion part of the political process? How does someone rip the world apart, spy on his own people, torture at will and bankrupt his own nation, but reassure his sheep that because he does to church each Sunday, he's still a decent guy? How can we hoot and holler at the fundamentalists that are holding other countries in a death grip based on fanatical ideas, yet not see that we practice hypocrisy here by requiring, or worse yet needing, to know what you believe in the spiritual arena?

In some circles of readers, I've been accused of being anti Christ. Or even being the Anti Christ. Whatever. I despise political candiates that prop their religious beliefs in front of me as proof that they will somehow make better decisions because of it. Nonsense.

Keep your labels. Good and decent people contributing to a community, and country, they want to make better is the only thing I care about.


National Geographic

If your kids are bored this weekend link them up here. Some very cool videos, many featuring bugs. You may never eat again - or as in the case with the bed bugs one, sleep - but the kids will love them.


Lay Down With Dogs

Let me throw some names out, see what sticks to the wall. Brian Mulroney. Karlheinz Schreiber. Ah, would you look at that. They both stuck. Slime does that.

What the hell do these two really think they were doing, or more specifically, going to be able to get away with doing? You're the fricking Prime Minister, accepting gobs of cash like some doodied up Tony Soprano, and nobody will ever be the wiser?

Cash is suspect, people. Has been for years. Maybe sultans and dictators and drug lords can run around with satchels of bundled money, but the last time I checked, it's kind of a stupid thing for leaders of places like Canada to do. As my youngest says about many things, "this can't end well". Maybe Mulroney will get into a deep philisophical discussion about what "is, is". Maybe he'll insist he did.not.have.relations.with.that.cash.

Today in the G&M, Karlheinz (which I'm thinking is the name equivalent of JimBob) states that the money was 'success fees'. I want success fees. I mean, I thought Mulroney picking up a paycheque being Prime Minister was his 'success fees'. I'll even leave the 'success' part of the label alone. He was already getting paid to do his job. My success fees come from writing a piece. And if it's no good, well, the success fees lurch to a halt, and the kids stand at the side door waiting for casseroles to come from the neighbours.

Now, when Mulroney takes the stand, he's gonna bluster all over that ol' Karlheinz is a nutter. The best defense is a good offense, especially if your best defense is really, really lame. I like this quote from the article: "There is no evidence that Mr. Mulroney received money through a lawyer in Switzerland, and no indication that Mr. Mulroney was aware of the origin of the cash he accepted from Mr. Schreiber."

Okay. If someone is standing before me, wearing a balaclava (which I always confuse with the Greek dessert) and handing me fistfuls of cash while a dead body lies behind him, wallet flapping open, I know my first response would definitely not be "did you steal this?" Nope. I would never ask that question, because, it's not as if it's questionable at best to not know the provenance of your bounty - the important thing is that you take it - and run.

The true downside to all of this? We don't expect much better from any of them.

December 5, 2007


Fun With Fonix

Merriam-Webster now selects a word of the year. You can enter anything you like, and here are some already submitted.

I love words, and usually, to the consternation of my editors, make up my own when I can't find the one I'm looking for. I prefer to believe that language is fluid, as opposed to carved in stone. Unless you're dead.

On the list already compiled, I must say I'm drawn to 'sardoodledom'. It means an overly dramatic play, with too much big theatrics. I just like saying it. Sardoodledom.

Another one I like is 'wOOt', mostly because of the 'OO' in the middle. It means yipee, but you probably aleady figured that out. Some of the words are just dumb - 'sputum', people? The world of computers has understandably crept in like a drunk gorilla - 'facebook' (snooze), linkability, and I suppose we could toss 'sputum' back in here, come to think of it. The best computer word? 'Cruft' - bits of stuff that has no place to go in a program, or has to be totally reformatted to make it relevant. I can use it in a sentence for you: Lorraine sends Webgod Jeff pieces of cruft for her new website, and he works long into the night decruftifying it.

Now, I could get all uppity on the Webgod and tell him the customer is always right, but that would apparently make me a Pecksniffian. It's on the list. Look it up.

December 3, 2007


Buy a Vowel?

Here. We're gonna vote. An article in the NYT is addressing the whole whose- name- is- it- going -to- be -after- the- wedding dilemma.

Only, and here's my vote, why is this an issue? I remember as a child discovering my mother had had a different name, and I was aghast. I'm not sure what thought processes occurred at the time, but all of sudden, my mom became this different person in my eyes. Like, she'd had a life before us, and it must have been fascinating. She was very traditional, and I'm sure she never paused for a second in changing her name to my father's back in 1956, but surely there must have been a little wistful something there, right?

I could no more change my name than peel off my skin. Maybe if my last name was Tiddleywinks or something, but even then, I'm not so sure. I spent a lifetime getting people to spell 'Sommerfeld' (and many still can't) but I'll be damned if I'd fight that fight and then quit.

I'm not big on hyphens (as a dear friend of mine says 'pick one already!'), and while my kids have a different last name from me, they are half Sommerfeld all the way. I know; they know. I know people that have invented a new name for both bride and groom - again, if it's what you both want, I don't care. I like history too much to do that, and I doubt you can erase the slate anyway. In the article, there's a line about not knowing what to monogram on towels. Huh? Monogramed towels? How quaint. If fretting over embroidered initials is the biggest think you're having, just wait until the dress doesn't fit or the caterers screw up. Or your mother-in-law falls into the champagne fountain.

Here's what I think: do what you want. Keep a name, pick a name, swap a name, invent a name. Whatever you do, don't defend it - it's your business. Unless you make it ours, and then we can make fun of you for sticking all the letters of you and your bethrothed's names into a blender and announcing you will now be Mr. and Mrs. Gvothdrylt.

December 2, 2007


Snow Day

Well. Guess the forecasters were right.

Mark started a new job yesterday, which entailed him getting there for 7 yesterday morning, and 8 today. I firmly told him to set his alarm, then get me up when he was ready to go. My mom-alarm went off at 6:30 yesterday, and following a light down the hall, I found him sound asleep - with his light on. But yesterday was easy, and we made it.

Today? A foot of snow buried the cars, and I'd told him to get up earlier cuz he'd be digging them out. With my nightie stuffed into my jeans, which were themselves stuffed into somebody's snow boots, I was out there, of course, digging away. As I swore away not-so-under-my-breath, he daintily dashed some snow off the car as if he were holding a bouquet of roses in one hand.

I was not in a good mood.

And is always the case when you think you have it bad, you read something that firmly puts you in your place. This series by Ian Brown of the Globe & Mail is a distillation of all that being a parent truly means. I complain of sleepless nights and arguments over computer games as he and his wife raise their severely disabled son in a halo of love and acceptance. His writing is painful at times; I don't think I want to know this much about someone's truth. But there it is, and we could use more honesty like this.

The trouble of course, is that a piece like this makes much of the rest of a paper seem too trivial to bother with. I had no patience left for silly Bridget Jones' knock off columns.

What does matter? Books, of course. I was thrilled to see Brad Smith's Big Man Coming Down the Road named to the Top 100 List by the Globe & Mail's annual year end roundup. Actually, he's in the top 25 Canadian. Head to the bookstore to pick up this one, and many of the others on the list. Some excellent writers sharing company with Smith.

I have other links for you, but I have to do some work first.