Sunday, September 30, 2007

For the stories we will tell

This weekend’s Globe and Mail featured a prominent story about French author Corinne Maier whose book No Kids: 40 Reasons For Not Having Children has climbed to the top of that country’s best-sellers list and inflamed many people in a nation obsessed with shoring up its fertility rate.

Some of her reasons include: childbirth is torture, children will destroy your time and your freedom and you will inevitably be disappointed by your child.

Predictably there has been a great uproar about what a horrible person she must be and what a horrible mother she is. (Yes, of course she has kids, otherwise on what authority could she write a book about why others shouldn’t?)

But I say in addition to being bitingly funny, she’s right.

First, the book is a satirical and much-needed response to the Sarkozy government which, fearing a rising immigrant birth rate, has valorized motherhood in an attempt to get French women to pop out more children. Second, most of her reasons for not having children are pretty compelling.

So why did I decide to ignore those reasons and have a child anyway?

It has to do with a Chinese proverb that my father often quotes: Don’t pray for a happy life, pray for an interesting one.

I would like to be a happy person, but I desperately want to be an interesting one. And while Ms Maier is right that people without children have a better shot at a less troubled life, she should also know that not all of us aspire to an unruffled existence.

It’s true that childless people are more in control of their own destinies. Their disappointments and failures are theirs alone and they have a greater capacity to manage and mitigate both. In a practical sense they are freer to seek lucrative careers and enjoy exotic travel and fine food and wine. They have more time to pursue whatever hobbies in which they are interested.

But that doesn’t make them interesting.

What makes people interesting is what they endure. Pain. Fear. Sadness. Disappointment. Loss. All these things parents will endure in varying degrees throughout their lifetime and that of their child.

Does parenting bring great joy? It certainly can. But there is never a guarantee that the joy will outweigh the pain. To be a parent is to introduce an excruciating element of risk into your life. It is to create something that can either elevate you or completely destroy you.

Is that not thrilling? Terrible? Heartbreaking? Fascinating?

I understand why people don’t want children. I believe it is a perfectly legitimate choice, neither wrong nor selfish. As long as you are not troubled by an unfulfilled urge for children, I think a childless life is undoubtedly easier and less turbulent.

Maybe even happier.

If 25 years from now my son is healthy and happy and our relationship is close and loving, then I will undoubtedly feel that my life has been immeasurably richer and immeasurably happier for having had him.

If 25 years from now my relationship with my son is broken or a source of pain and worry and stress, then I will be living the most profound tragedy of the human experience. I will have hoped, sacrificed and loved, but ultimately failed. I will tell a story that will break your heart.

I will not be happy, far from it. But I will have a perspective on love, life and humanity that no childless person can imagine.

And so in answer to Ms Maier’s book of witty and spot-on reasons why you shouldn’t have children, I will offer just one reason why you should have children.

Because it will make your life more interesting.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Book Club Redux

I think the fact that I covered the social aspect of our book club night ages ago and am just now getting to the reviews should tell you something about my priorities when it comes to partying vs. literature.

So let that be a warning to you that the following reviews are informal and not only subjective, but subject to time passed since the discussion and wine consumed during the discussion.

Shantaram - Gregory David Roberts
Loved it, loved it, loved it. This was my pick and I think the overall favorite (though maybe tied with Kite Runner). The writing is exquisite; we all copped to rereading passages over and over just for the sheer beauty of them. A big sprawling epic book about the underworld in Mumbai, India we were all fascinated by the autobiographical aspect of it. A convicted bank robber, Roberts escaped a maximum security prison in Australia and fled to Mumbai where he set up a free clinic in the slums and eventually worked as a mobster. He was recaptured later in Germany and wrote Shantaram while serving out his sentence there. Can’t wait for the movie which is to star Johnny Depp.

The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
We all loved it and thought it moving and beautifully written, but acknowledged that it was difficult to read in places. It led to some pretty heavy discussions about Canada being in Afghanistan and whether we have a responsibility to not only help victims of tyrannical regimes, but to listen to their stories no matter how disturbing or graphic. The Kite Runner is due to be released as a movie soon and the Afghan child actor who plays the rape victim in the story made headlines this week when he claimed that he was tricked into filming the scene and that his family would be persecuted when the movie is released.

19 minutes – Jodi Picoult
Everyone agreed it was a real page turner, if not great literature. It’s a fictional story of a Columbine-type school shooting and how all the characters are impacted. Most everyone liked it a lot better than I did. I found it hard to shut up about how cliché I thought it was and how I thought it was a trashy, beach read dressed up as a serious, issue-oriented book. I also complained about how it was designed to scare (and sell books to) the fearful, white middle class. Yeah – I got pretty self-righteous and irritating during this discussion.

Lullabies for Little Criminals – Heather O’Neill
I liked this book a lot, but I was in the minority. It’s about Baby, a young girl growing up the daughter of a heroin addict and her struggles with foster care, poverty and life on Montreal’s mean streets. I think I might have a sensitivity problem because I found the protagonist's voice somewhat sad, but really funny and refreshing while most of the others were pretty disturbed by the whole thing. We all agreed that we felt lucky none of our children would suffer the neglect that Baby did and we had an interesting discussion about how we would handle the appearance of a child like Baby in our children’s lives.

Law of Dreams – Peter Behrens
Okay, this is the one book that I didn’t read. Everyone seemed to like it quite well but said they picked it expecting it to be more about the Irish famine, a topic of particular interest in our Irish-Canadian family. (Three of us in the book club were in Ireland in April).

Brick Lane: A Novel – Monica Ali
Meh. No one was too crazy about this book. It’s about a woman who immigrates to London, from Bangladesh in the 1980s and while it does offer some insight into the isolation faced by immigrants, it is one slooow read. The underlying theme is fate and whether we truly control our fate. We did have an interesting discussion about how many people in the Third World perceive fate versus the cult of self-actualization that dominates western thinking. So there was that.

The End of the Alphabet – C.S. Richardson
Suzie was the only person in the group who liked this book at all. She even got choked up recalling her favorite part which was lovely and made me a little jealous, because I really wanted to be moved by this book. It’s about a dying man who decides, with his wife, to spend his last days traveling and visiting a place for every letter of the alphabet. I love the concept, but just didn’t dig the book. At all.

A Complicated Kindness – Miriam Toewes
Hated it, hated it, hated it. I think the verdict was pretty much unanimous. How is it possible that eight voracious readers could find virtually no redeeming qualities in a book that was so well-reviewed? I personally couldn’t even finish it and God knows I tried. I found the constant snappy one-liners of the protagonist to be inauthentic and increasingly grating.

All in all, I think there was some disappointment with the crop of books we chose; they were certainly a depressing lot. Anyway, I'm looking forward to next year’s club and not just for the home karaoke follies that followed the discussion.

By the way, if you’ve always wondered whether cosmetic surgery is in my future (and really, who hasn't?) check out my latest Shooting for Hip column over at Mommyblogstoronto.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007


So here I sit counting the bite marks on my arm.

Only two are still visible, of the six or seven good, hard bites I received in the space of about an hour earlier this evening.

Graham has developed a habit of screeching, hair-pulling, slapping and then biting when I take away something he's not allowed to play with. Or when I resist his attempts to pull me over to the garage-door opener to which he is addicted. Or when he has to get his diaper changed. Or when I say no to anything his toddler heart is set on.

Was it only a month ago that I was rhapsodizing about the purity of the two-year-old temper tantrum? Karma has really and truly bitten me on the ass for that one.

I have a routine reaction to his outbursts, which I execute exactly just as all the "parenting experts" advise. Down to his level. Eye contact. Strong and firm voice. No biting.

To the naughty step he goes. He sits, compliant, wide-eyed. He tries to catch my eye. He giggles. Tries to make me smile. I resist. Shake my head. No biting.

After two minutes, Okay, get up, let's play. He laughs with delight. His eyes dance. His mouth opens joyfully.

He sinks his teeth into my arm with relish.

And so it goes.

And here I sit. The bite marks are finally fading, but I'm still nursing my lingering guilt. What kind of a mother loses it and screams at her not-even-two-year-old not once, but twice in the course of one evening?

Apparently a mother missing a large clump of hair and sporting two still-visible bite marks.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Mama's got a brand new style column

It’s true.

Apparently the folks over at Mommyblogstoronto like the whole Don Mills Diva thing enough to give me a voice on their fabulous parenting blogzine and I’m pretty freakin’ excited about it.

My column is called Shooting for Hip and it’s about reconciling the desire to stay stylish and current with the realities of parenting. I’m hoping to post a few times a week there and I’ll likely cross post some of those columns here. I’ll also post non-style-related rantings and photos exclusively on Don Mills Diva so suffice to say that mama’s gonna be a little busy from here on out.

Not that I’m complaining.

Those of you who know me well know I’ve been a writer searching for readers my whole life. I’ve worked as a journalist. I’ve dabbled in screenwriting. I’ve published smutty stories in True Story (for real!). I’ve even occasionally published articles and essays in more serious-type publications.

But I feel it is here at Don Mills Diva that I have truly found my voice.

In the mere six weeks I have been writing here, the response I have received has been overwhelmingly positive. I have received dozens of encouraging e-mails, phone calls and comments from my family, friends and readers. I have spent way too many hours trying to wrap my prehistoric brain around the technology and I have spent way too few hours catching up on my sleep. But not for one single second has it seemed like work.

Thank you, each and every one, for all your support.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Please continue reading and continue sharing this blog with everyone you know.

Please check out Shooting for Hip and all the other fabulous writers over at mommyblogstoronto. The site features the writing of some of Canada’s most provocative and witty moms (and dads) and I am truly honoured to add my voice.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Friday, September 21, 2007

Why I don't go there

A few things this week have inspired me to write about the things I won’t write about.

The first was the poignant piece over at My Bad Mother in which the author says her posts lately have been not talk, but chatter, as she struggles with things in her life she’s currently unable to talk about.

The second was a lovely message from one of my cousins in which she praised my blog and my ability to juggle it with parenting and a full-time job. How do you find the time? she asked.

And though she was being nothing but complimentary, it made me feel like a bit of a fraud. It made me feel like maybe one could read my words and find there a life so managed and buffed and polished that they were unable to relate. And I feel compelled to paraphrase Jessica Rabbit and say I’m not a perfect person, I’m just written that way.

I specialize in cheap and cheerful writing, you see. A twist of a phrase here. A fragment left hanging for effect. A description crafted to elicit both joy and sadness as surely as a three-legged puppy. It’s an emotionally manipulative style. I’m good at it. I recognize and enjoy it when other writers use it.

But just because I don’t write about darkness in my life doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

We all have difficult days and I’m no exception. I have said over and over again that I am blessed and so I am, but few people’s lives, including mine, are completely charmed.

But it is unlikely that I will ever share more than a melancholy moment with my readers and this is why.

My writing is my escape. It always has been. I write to remind myself of the good things in my life. I write because if I set myself to it, I have the power to make a reader smile or well with tears and that power is reassuring to me. It calms me like nothing else can. It says to me, Yes, things are hard right now, but this is your power and it is real and it is still here.

And then there is my family. Me? I’m a blabbermouth. My husband? Not so much. He is a private person, a quiet person, a rather old-fashioned type who values decorum and propriety, modesty, even. It’s one of the reasons I fell in love with him.

He has been a wonderful sport about being included in my writing over the years. And I’m sure it’s not always easy. When you are a writer, everything and everyone in your life becomes grist for the mill. Every exchange is the potential inspiration for a paragraph, every event an essay. I can’t help it; it’s how I process things.

When I started this blog I was quick to assure my husband there were certain lines I wouldn’t cross. There are many bloggers out there, whom I hold in the highest esteem, who weave touching and poignant tales about their complicated familial relationships, their sex lives, their financial woes, their intimate pain and daily struggles.

But I am not one of them.

There are certain pieces of myself, that I will, I must, keep only for me.

What I will give to you – and I dearly hope that it is enough - is pure enjoyment. A smile, a knowing nod, a misty eye, a swell of emotion, however brief, that comes with the recognition that no matter what our individual struggles, we are all similarly moved by the things we hold dear.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Arrested development: cool tv show, lame lifestyle

As someone who refuses to be labeled an older mother, you might think I’d cheer the recent news from Statistics Canada that kids are taking longer and longer to move into adulthood.

You’d be wrong. In fact, it leaves me achingly sad.

This news brings into relief the reality most of us have observed over the last several years: people living in their parents home well into their 20s and 30s, students getting degree after degree only to be dissatisfied with any job that doesn’t meet their expectations, men and women entering their mid to late 30s still convinced that the perfect partner is just beyond the next horizon.

To mix my metaphors, I think that kind of protracted adolescence is a road to hell that’s paved with gold.

My husband and I were both somewhat late starters. We met at 30 and 28 years of age respectively and were married 4 years later. Graham came along about 3 years after that. I can’t regret anything that has brought me to where I am in life right now, but I do feel like we dodged a bullet by settling down when we did.

Feminists may eviscerate me for this, but I can’t deny that the first few months of my marriage were marked by relief at having avoided the full expression of the nagging loneliness and lack of fulfillment that was starting to creep into my psyche.

There are obviously people out there who don’t aspire to a spouse or children or a particularly settled life – these are not the people of which I speak. I am talking about people who clearly envision their future selves as happily married parents settled into their careers, but are so paralyzed by the sheer number of opportunities they have, they are unable to accept any one and run with it. These people have felt the pull of limitless choice for so many years, that a commitment to any one thing feels like, at best like a capitulation, and at worst, a trap.

The real trap is the comfy cocoon of freedom without responsibility.

I feel some sympathy for these pseudo-teenagers, but I reserve real sadness for their contemporaries who want to get started on their lives, but can’t find a partner because so many eligible adults in their 20s and 30s are busy smoking pot in their parents’ basement, watching cartoons, eating cereal for dinner at midnight, going to all-night parties and showing off their comic book collections.

At 18 that kind of lifestyle is kind of rebellious and groovy and retro and ironic. At 28, it’s just lame.

I’m not sure if it’s completely accurate, but I find interesting the theory that adolescence wasn’t really considered a stage of life until the early 1950s when society had an interest in keeping very young men (and to a lesser extent women) out of the workforce in order to preserve jobs for the veterans who had recently returned from overseas.

Almost overnight, driving, dating and collegiate life were glorified in popular culture and music. Young people in their late teens and early 20s were encouraged to enjoy the freedoms of adulthood for several years before settling down.

For the most part I think it is a good idea to be an adult for a while, a long while even, before you make decisions involving career, marriage and children that will affect you for the rest of your life. But I also think if the glorification of teenage years was manipulated by some covert government cabal in the 1950s, then that cabal created a monster.

Some wives worry about their husbands spending time with their single friends – I welcome it. Most of the time my husband spends those nights listening to laments from his single 40-ish friends about the latest girlfriend that didn’t work out, the latest big idea that didn’t fly. These people, who years ago teased him about strapping on a ball and chain and busting his butt at work, usually end up telling him how lucky he is to have ended up with a house and a loving wife and child.

And when he comes home, we are both grateful.

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Party, party, party, PARTY

I don’t even know why I’m the least bit concerned about getting older, coming as I am, off a weekend bender involving not one, not two, not three, but FOUR parties.

Party number one was a joint birthday dinner for me and Rob’s brother Peter (born September 2nd) at Peter and Leeanne’s Etobicoke house on Friday evening. We enjoyed oysters and steak and thanked our lucky stars that Graham remained in good humor right up until we headed for home at the late hour of 11 p.m. Among other gifts, I received the book Infidel by Ayaan Hirshi Ali and the just released IT Girls Guide to Blogging With Moxie. (this could bode well for all of us, no?)

Party number two was on Saturday afternoon when dozens and dozens of my extended family gathered at my cousin Nancy’s to celebrate her brother Alan’s 50th birthday party. She and her husband and live in a restored century home on a gorgeous piece of property in Cambray. Alan and his wife Colleen reside in Chelsea, Quebec so a visit from them is an occasion in itself. It was an afternoon of babies and wine and guitars and children and dogs and food and jokes and hugs.

Party number three started immediately after party number two. After driving the short distance to my folks’ house in Norland, mom and I left Graham in the capable (?) hands of my father, brother and nephew and slipped just around the bay to my cousin Laura’s lake house. There six of us cousins, plus my mom and my aunt Ruth, enjoyed a potluck dinner and the culmination of our summer book club.

Last Victoria Day weekend we each chose a book that everyone in the group was to read throughout the summer. On Saturday we went through each book, one by one and discussed whether we liked it or not and why. I’ll post a summary of our thoughts on each book later this week for the literary types out there, but suffice to say a few of them served as springboards into really dynamic discussions.

Suzie, Colleen, Laura - hard to believe these three gorgeous ladies have 10 children between them.

Aunt Ruth, mom, Heidi, Paula.

It was 11 o’clock when the book chat wrapped up and we got to what was arguably the real attraction of the night: Laura’s home karaoke machine. (Yes, home karaoke: the real reason the terrorists hate us).

I want to go on the record as saying that we all ROCKED the mic. It’s amazing what a few glasses of wine can go for one’s performance. Or at the least the perception of one’s performance.

Here’s Heidi and Susie making Jon Bon Jovi blush with their searing rendition of Livin’ On A Prayer.

It’s just a damn shame there wasn’t a camera around to capture me and Heidi just killing Barry Manilow’s Copa Cabana but you’ll have to use your imagination on that one.

The fourth and final party was the belated birthday dinner thrown for me by my parents. Me, my brother, my niece, my nephew, his friend and Graham were all in attendance (Rob was working) and we feasted on fresh bass that dad flew out (literally!) and caught earlier this afternoon.

Once again, the wine, music and laughter flowed – this time right up until the clock struck eight!

So maybe my four-party whirlwind wasn’t exactly a bender. I can’t deny that my party rampages these days involve less alcohol, earlier nights and a lot less drama and excitement. But the flip side is I remember a lot more and spend a lot less time recovering.

Do I miss the rip-roarers of the past? Sometimes yes. But a Sunday night like tonight is not a time to look back and mourn the excess of youth. It’s a time to reflect and count my blessings.

One, two, three, four.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

It's not me, it's you

Oh Facebook, this is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

I’ve been in the throes of infatuation ever since we first hooked up a few months ago. I know it hasn’t been that long, but you became such a big part of my life so quickly. The early days are always so thrilling aren’t they? I couldn’t get enough of you. When I wasn’t with you, I was thinking about you.

I was already writing a post in my head in which I was going to talk about all of your great qualities. I was going to go on about your sentimental side and how you got me all misty-eyed by providing pictures of former high school classmates cooing over their babies. I was going to thank you for brightening my melancholy mood yesterday when you reminded all my friends to wish me a happy birthday.

And then there was your sexy side. You really did it for me, you know? You made me feel like a schoolgirl again, so young and hip. When I was with you I wasn’t just some mom trying to keep up with the cool kids. I was popular! I had almost 100 friends! I was hanging out with modern technology’s greatest social networking system!

But then today I heard something about you. Something that made me think maybe you’re not as down with me as you had led me to believe.

I heard that Facebook thinks that breastfeeding is obscene.

I didn’t believe it at first. It’s just gossip, I told myself. Facebook is way too progressive, too modern, too globally sophisticated to delete personal photos of moms breastfeeding their babies. It was all about breaking down traditional barriers to communication, it wouldn’t just disable the accounts of women who asked for an explanation.

It just didn’t seem like something the Facebook I knew and loved could do. It just didn’t jive with the edgy, modern face that my Facebook presents to the world.

I mean, I’m not blind, I know you had your faults. You’re younger than me, you can tend towards the silly, the lurid, even the profane. But I was cool with that. I always knew about the skanky girls who hang around your pages and flash their goods and I’ve never liked it, but I figured you’ve got to take the good with the bad.

But I’m not sure I can get past this breastfeeding thing. I want to love you again. I want to feel all tingly and connected, but I’ve always thought the truly cool were a little rebellious and all of a sudden you seem a little, well, prudish, a little corporate.

I guess what I’m saying is that I just don’t think you can give me what I need anymore Facebook. I have too much invested to just dump you on your ass, but I think we need some distance.

I’m going to start seeing what else is out there. I’m going to start broadening my definition of what’s hip and cool ‘cause I need to feel good in a push-up bra and a nursing bra and I just don’t think you’re mature enough to accept that.

Sorry Facebook, call me when you’ve grown up a little.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Birthday in a minor key

Like most of you I immediately called my family upon hearing that a plane had flown into the World Trade Centre six years ago. I remember my father’s reaction when I tearfully asked if he was okay.

I’m great – happy birthday to you!”
No dad…turn on the television…there was a plane…people are jumping…New York is burning.”
A pause.
Well, I can still wish you a happy birthday.”

And so he did. And while that particular birthday was spent drinking wine and weeping in front of the television, the birthdays since have been bittersweet reminders of just how fortunate I am.

People often murmur sympathetically when they hear my birthday is on September 11th, but I refuse to indulge that. I was not directly affected by that horrible day. I didn’t lose anyone I love and to complain that my birthday was ruined by the terrorist attacks feels churlish at best, and at worst, downright disrespectful to the real victims of September 11th.

I’m feeling a little melancholy about my birthday this year, though it has nothing to do with the date on which it falls.

I know I am blessed. My son amazes me every day. I love my husband like stink.

And yet.

I have a close and loving relationship with my parents, brother and in-laws. A huge gaggle of cousins and friends make me smile every day. I love my job.

And yet.

Sometimes it seems like the march of time is increasingly grim and relentless. Like the days, weeks and months slide one into another, a blur of keeping up, keeping house, paying debts, paying heed. I rush through the days and nights, stealing moments of happiness, waiting to feel completely present, waiting, if you’ll pardon the cliché, to exhale.

I think of the girl I used to be - wild, free and determined to change the world. I wonder if she would laugh or cry if she could see me now, sitting at my computer in Don Mills and indulging in my bourgeois introspection.

But I know that girl couldn’t possibly understand who I have become. I know she never brushed a baby’s skin against her cheek just to breathe in its sweetness or rubbed her husband’s shoulder just to banish his weariness or looked at the lines on her dear father’s face and thought When did he get so old?

She couldn’t possibly understand that time passes. Life happens. And birthdays come and go.

I understand – I do. But at times the knowledge still seems burdensome.

How about you? Do you love or loath your birthday? Do you count your blessings or mourn your expectations?

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Big boys don't nap

Another Monday after another whirlwind weekend – this one spent in the city.

Daddy was away or working the whole time and Graham decided Nap? I don’t need no stinkin’ nap! on both Saturday and Sunday, so here I am facing down the workweek with a wee deficit in the energy department.

Yesterday Graham spent most of his normal nap time at a fourth birthday party for his friend Miss Henley. A wet morning put the kibosh on plans to hold the festivities in Christie Pitts Park, so, brave souls that they are, Henley’s parents Sheona and Jon welcomed a huge gaggle of parents and tots into their home.

Here’s Jon being swarmed by party guests and birthday girl Henley (dark-haired girl in pink with painted face) during the opening of the presents.

Graham was a little freaked out by all the chaos and spent the first 15 minutes as a total cling-on, leaving me unable to even remove my shoes or my jacket. But he soon realized that there were electric shocks to be had and started a careful, methodical examination of every potentially dangerous light and/ or light fixture he could find.

As Graham and I drove across Bloor Street on the way to the party Sunday we passed several women whose excuse for fatigue today makes me look like a first-class complainer.

We honked and waved to some of the more than 5,500 people who walked 60 kilometres (yes 60!) around Toronto Saturday and Sunday in The Weekend to End Breast Cancer. Among these superwomen (and men) who raised more than $17.3 million for the Princess Margaret Hospital, was my very dear friend Sherry – a kick-ass wife, mother and fellow former Norlandonian. Way to represent Sher!

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Thursday, September 6, 2007

Divas, yummy mummies and the whole ball of wax

With apologies to Three 6 Mafia, it's hard out here for a diva.

The other night Rob and I had a date night. We took the motorcycle downtown. I wore my newsboy cap and (if I do say so myself) some pretty rocking skinny jeans (with a long top to cover any evidence of muffin top, natch) and I felt good. As much as I HATE the expression, I felt a bit like a yummy mummy.

The next morning I checked out some internet pictures from New York Fashion Week and I came across this:


That’s Gwen Stefani – the alpha yummy mummy. She of the cool music, the amazing fashion line, the perfect pins and the ridiculously adorable toddler makes self-proclaimed divas like me hang their less-than-perfectly-coiffed heads in shame.

It is hard out here for a diva / mom who’s just trying to keep up. Trying not to succumb to mom jeans, a practical haircut and sensible foundation garments. Trying to balance sex appeal, style and vigor with early mornings, diaper changes and toddler tantrums.

I try. I believe in raging against the dying of the light. I believe in heels and red lipstick and matching handbags. I study fashion magazines and try to figure out which trends are within my budget and won’t look completely ridiculous on my 37-year-old, 135-pound body. In university I was even voted Best–Dressed on the Geology Field Trip damnit! (for real!)

But sometimes the striving seems endless, the standards increasingly unattainable. Take, for example this excerpt from the September issue of one of my favorite magazines, Harper’s Bazaar, entitled A Fashionable Life: Yummy Mummies:

"With "bump watches" filling pages of magazines and Katie Holmes, Heidi Klum, and Angelina Jolie going from hospital bed to red carpet in record time, the idea of motherhood has changed. No more frumpy, beleaguered moms — they've got to be whippet thin, glamorous, and desirable. "

Really? They’ve got to be? Is that an order? I admit to enjoying trying to bring the glamour, but who out there is telling women that they must use what little energy they have left at the end of the day to emulate the likes of Heidi Klum and Angelina Jolie? Doesn’t it all seem a little, well… repressive?

Sometimes I wonder if women today are actually worse off than the 1950s housewives Betty Friedan lamented in The Feminine Mystique: today we are expected to have perfectly waxed floors and perfectly waxed bikini lines. When does a woman get to stop worrying about being sexy and attractive? What happens if I stop enjoying dressing up? Am I allowed?

The simple solution would be to just give up and not worry about it, but that’s not me. I love fashion and I enjoy the trappings of femininity – I always have and I always will. So if I don’t want to hang up my diva moniker, I’ll have to put it into context.

I am not completely deluded and I am not a diva on a global scale. I’m a Don Mills Diva: a working wife and mother who has always taken pride in her appearance and who aspires to be, if not the most chic women in the world, at the least the most chic women she can be.

That in itself is a pretty tall order, never mind trying to meet the standards set by Gwen Stefani or mindless magazine editors who think every woman has the energy or the desire to emulate her.

I will never be a diva on the scale of those profiled in Harpers Bazaar. I’m no Gwen Stefani. Or Victoria Beckham. Let’s face it; women like that would eat a so-called diva like me for breakfast.

If they weren’t so worried about staying whippet thin.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Giving him wings

On Friday I introduced my son to one of the most sacred aspects of his heritage: I took him flying.

Graham has flown before: he has crossed the Atlantic and visited Ireland (also part of his heritage). But last weekend I bundled him and Rob into a four-person float plane and headed, literally, into the sunset. His eyes widened as we soared over the trees and I felt a rush of pride at introducing him to my passion and that of my father before me.

I did not grow up wealthy or privileged as some people assume upon hearing that my father owns a plane. I come from a hardscrabble, working-class background. One of my earliest memories is chasing cows off a dirt runway in a farmer’s field while my father started his old plane by winding its propeller by hand. I remember my dad's bush pilot friends sitting at our kitchen table, sketching plans for the flying machines they would build and telling thrilling tales about adventures in Canada’s wilderness.

I have been a licensed pilot for almost 10 years and have flown float planes (way more complicated than wheels!) for almost as long. I flew when I was eight and a half months pregnant (just a few circuits around the lake – it’s safer than driving - don’t e-mail me!) and have flown countless times since Graham’s birth.

But still, I hesitated to fly with Graham before last weekend. I think I wanted to wait until he was old enough to react in a way that could be recognized and reminisced about years later, perhaps when he earns his own wings.

On Saturday Rob and I had plans to fly from my parents house to my in-laws cottage, nearly an hour’s drive (but less than a 25-minute flight) away. We did a test run with Graham on Friday evening to ensure that I wouldn’t be attempting to fly a plane and comfort a hysterical toddler on the trip the next day.

We needn’t have worried. Perched on his daddy’s lap (as per the law for a child under two) Graham seemed fascinated but otherwise nonplussed as we took flight. In fact, on our trips to the cottage and back Saturday and Sunday he fell asleep moments after takeoff.

A deeper fascination, I hope, will come later. It’s quite likely, given that flying has captivated, to varying degrees, me, my father, my brother, my uncle and several cousins. It’s a sport I love because it makes you work at it every single time. It is endlessly thrilling and yet it demands calm, precision and endless repetition to properly master.

People ask if flying is like driving, but I reply it’s more like horseback riding. A small plane is powerful and spirited: it is brought to heel with skill and confidence. There is no feeling in the world like turning a skittish plane into the wind and harnessing its power to touch the face of God.

And I am proud to say that feeling is part of my son’s heritage.

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Monday, September 3, 2007

Labour Day - you say goodbye, I say hello

Just back from up north where I spent the best Labour Day weekend I can remember. That's really saying something because I've always loved Labour Day. Yes, it does mark summer's end. But as a chill creeps into the night air, so too does a sense of excitement and promise. Remember feeling like you were about to start the new school year with a completely blank slate? Like the months spent away from school had magically resulted in a new, improved version of yourself for whom the possibilities were endless?

We took off mid afternoon on Friday and headed up to my folks place in Norland. They were away but we settled in and enjoyed the lake view for a few hours before firing up my father’s float plane – a Cessna 172 - for a sunset flight. (It was Graham’s first, but more on that in my next post).

Later with Graham in bed we enjoyed a candlelit dinner on the porch and a fire on the beach where we drank wine and star-gazed.

The next day we packed up the plane and set off on a 25-minute flight to Rob’s brother’s cottage on Little Hawk Lake just north of Carnarvon. It’s only accessible by boat or float plane so it’s wonderfully private and quiet

We spent a great afternoon and evening with Rob’s brother, sister-in-law and niece. Graham enjoyed the trampoline and we all enjoyed LeeAnne’s fabulous cooking – bundling up against the night air and having the last dinner of the season in the screened-in porch. And later? Why another fire of course!

The next day, after much flying, swimming, boating and sunning Rob, Graham and I flew back to Norland and we dropped off Graham with my parents. Rob and I returned to the now-empty cottage on Little Hawk Lake where we enjoyed a dockside cocktail before having a fantastic dinner at the Oakview Lodge on the lake.

Graham has been my whole world for nearly two years now but the prospect of a whole evening and night alone with my husband had me doing a happy dance on the dock.

This morning I slept in until 9a.m. (9 a.m.!) and spent the day boating and sunning before returning to Norland, picking up Graham around 5 p.m. and heading back to the city.

A perfect weekend. Relaxed, renewed and rejuvenated, I’m ready to face work tomorrow and the winter ahead.

Will there ever be a time when Labour Day doesn't feel like a new beginning?

I hope not. For me, it's the weekend where childlike optimism and hope feels once again within my grasp. I don’t know what challenges lie ahead this fall and winter, but I have gobbled up every last bit of late summer sun and I feel full of strength and light.

Hope your Labour Day weekend was just as great.

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