Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Following my sun: the one where I say goodbye

I know my recent absence from this space has been abrupt in light of the considerable effort I have spent the last two years convincing readers to invest in my life.

I know that radio silence for a month is perhaps even disrespectful, given the fact that I have often drank deeply, nay greedily, from your virtually never-ending well of support and goodwill.

But I hope you will forgive me when I explain that since I have last written, everything I used to assume about the way my life would play out has changed.

At the beginning of the summer I applied for what I can only describe as my dream job: a job that would catapult me several steps up a career ladder on which I already occupied a comfortable middle position. It is a job that represents an enormous challenge, a job that would move me into the inner circles of the film and television industry and allow me to advocate for the people and places I hold dearest in my heart.

I am not normally a humble sort, but suffice to say I firmly believed that my application was a long shot

But I got the job.

I got the job and in just a few days I will fly to Los Angeles, California on a nine-day business trip during which I will find a place for my family to live.

In mid November I will leave Don Mills and Canada and my life here behind to chase my dreams and ambitions in a place where success in my chosen industry represents the very pinnacle of success.

I have been offered what I believe is the opportunity of a lifetime folks and I'm going for it.

It will not be easy. It has not been easy. In the month since I accepted the offer I have plummeted down the rabbit hole into a vortex of details and lawyers and contracts and home listings and visas and export papers and anxiety and studying and disbelief and sleepless nights and joy and uncertainty and heartfelt late night talks.

I will pull up stakes and move south towards the end of November. Rob and Graham will await my return about a month later and after Christmas together we will return to Los Angeles as a family to build our lives anew in a sunny place, far removed we hope from the uncertainty and darkness of the past year.

It was on last New Year's Eve that we learned that cancer cells had been found in Rob's mother's stomach lining. That very day she was released from the hospital to our home where at midnight we raised a hopeful, if tentative glass to the possibilities that 2009 would bring.

We did not know then that we would mourn her death just 11 weeks later: we have learned since that, more often than not, both life and happiness are hard fought.

And so we are fighting. And we are moving. And I am moving on from this space which I believe is incompatible with my new job, at least in its present incarnation.

In just a few weeks I will be taking Don Mills Diva private and providing a password for friends and family who may be interested in photos and basic updates on how we're doing.

If you'd like to keep in touch feel free to request the password via e-mail and if you live in the Los Angeles area especially please touch base.

I will miss Don Mills Diva and I will miss all of you. It is thanks in no small part to my readers, supporters and even dissenters, that I was successful in obtaining this job. Even more than the guerrilla social media and Internet marketing skills I learned from the blogosphere, I learned confidence in the expression of my ideas and confidence in the importance of what I could contribute.

If there is one regret that I have with regards to my withdrawal from the blogging community it is the vague sense that I took so much more from it than I was able to give. During some of the darkest days of my life you gave me a renewed conviction in my personal power and there is no way I will ever be able to repay that.

Thank you each and every one for lifting me up and helping me soar.

Good bye and God bless you.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009


There are some life-changing events afoot here at Casa DMD: I hope to be able to tell you what's happening in the next few days.

Thanks for your patience.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009


The call from Graham's school came on Monday, barely an hour after I had settled into a busy day at work.

"We have Graham here in the office," said the voice at the other end of the phone. "He's not feeling very well and I think you'll have to come and get him."

"What?! Is he okay?"

"I don't think it's serious," was the reply. "Here, I'll let you talk to him."

There was a shuffling noise and then, Graham's voice, so thin and tiny that I instantly felt my chest ache as my heart swelled and pushed against it.

"I throwed up in the trash can Mommy. Are you going to come and get me?"

I went and got him.

I took him home and tried to catch up on work e-mails while he lolled on the couch and watched cartoons. I fed him chicken noodle soup and buttered sourdough toast and anxiously inquired about his well-being.

He appeared to be perfectly fine.

He appeared better then fine, actually: he appeared buoyant and, in retrospect, perhaps just a little relieved. That evening I even took him to the park and let him run off an obvious surfeit of energy.

Yesterday morning I walked him into his classroom where we were greeted by his teacher.

"Graham seemed fine at home yesterday," I told her.

"Well I think it was probably just nerves, but he looks way better today than he has since he started," she said. "I mean, he's just seemed so anxious."

He has?


I decided not to make a big deal of it: when I spoke to Graham after school yesterday he was happy as a clam and assured me he had a "great" day. I decided not to say anything about it at all.

And then this morning, as I buckled him into his car seat, a look of pure panic flashed across his dear, wee face.

"I'm gonna be sick Mommy, I'm gonna be sick," he wailed. "I need a sick bowl."

I handed him the car's waste paper basket and stood there for quite a while, rubbing his back and trying to reassure him.

"It's okay. It's normal. Everybody feels a little nervous sometimes. Even Mommy when she goes to work. All the other kids at school probably feel a little nervous too".

After a few minutes he seemed okay and off we went.

I walked him into his classroom again where the morning story was already in progress and apologized for our lateness.

"Graham had a little attack of nerves," I whispered to the teacher, as discreetly as possible.

She smiled kindly.

"Yes, that happened yesterday as well."

It did?


And so it seems that perhaps my darling boy is not quite as confident as he seems or as I so proudly asserted he was following his first day of school last week.

And so it seems that I must come to grips with the painful realization that the child I thought I knew better than my own heart has anxieties and fears that, for whatever reason, he feels he must keep hidden from me.

The heart, it breaks.

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Friday, September 11, 2009


By all accounts today is significant, but it is especially so for me.

Today is my 40th birthday.

I celebrated with my family already last weekend and I enjoyed tons of well wishes and cake at work today, but despite all the exhortations from female friends who've already hit this milestone, I don't feel liberated. I have instead been unable to shake the melancholy that has plagued me since waking: it is nearly bedtime and I still feel unsettled.

I am happy enough, but not knowing if my family is complete leaves me unable to exhale and ill-equipped to make grand declarations about what the next year or the next decade will bring.

I cannot help remembering that last year I was so rushed on my birthday that I completely forget it until my sweet mother-in-law forced me to slow down for a birthday kiss: little did I know it would be the last one I would ever receive from her.

So what if I never expected my life would look like this at 40 - that's hardly surprising is it?

Just last weekend, between bites of an early birthday cake, my father quoted me an old saying that has rung in my ears all day today: "The secret to being happy in life is not getting what you want, but being happy with what you get."

And in the absence of grand declarations, that, I think, will be my mantra for the coming year and hopefully for all those that follow it.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Brave new world

As much as I deep down might entertain the notion that I am somehow different and perhaps even a little special, I was today humbled to learn that I am but a walking cliche.

That is to say, oh yeah, I cried.

Graham didn't, but I did.

He was a little nervous, but not overly so. He needed only some gentle reassurance and a great big hug before confidently taking his teacher's hand and allowing himself to be lead right out of his babyhood without so much as a backwards glance.

And I lingered, at the classroom door's edge, uncertain and teary, straining to keep him in my line of sight as he settled into a circle of his peers at the front of the room. The teacher nodded, a kindly cue for me to take my leave and even as I cursed myself for being that mom, the tears started to spill.

There's a reason why cliches become cliches and it was more emotional than I ever imagined it would be to know, at that moment, that the person I would die to protect was beginning his journey into a world where the sum total of the affections of a hundred friendly faces he encounters won't equal a millionth of the passion his mother has for his well-being.

So I cried, just a little, and I wished with all my heart that his Oma could have seen him today, so handsome, so grown up and so confident.

So yeah, I am a walking cliche and I cried, because even though Graham returned home today, looking exactly the same as he did this morning, I already miss the boy he was when he left.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

How can you tell if your kid's a spoiled brat?

There are two ways of looking at the photos below: a selection of shots I took yesterday at the closing day of the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) in downtown Toronto.

If you just glance at the photos you will likely take in a scene that looks very similar to scenes I often present here, in pictures and in words: scenes of a carefree and charmed childhood enjoyed by a boy with two parents who, whatever their struggles, endeavor to create happy memories that will one day act as a bulwark against the complications and difficulties that adulthood inevitably brings.

Looks like a great day, right?


Yesterday was a terrible day.

Yesterday was a terrible day not because the CNE was hot and crowded and ludicrously expensive, though it was all of those things, but because it caused both Rob and I (though really mostly me) to question whether all the effort we put into creating memories with Graham is actually having the desired effect.

Let me be blunt: Graham wasn't just poorly behaved yesterday, he was insolent and just plain bratty.

Look a little closer at the photos.

Can you see the frustration and the exhaustion on our faces now?

We were exhausted - by almost constant, enduring temper tantrums that erupted over the most insignificant things the instant Graham's gratification was denied or delayed. We all know that keeping a three-and-a-half-year-old in line anywhere there are crowds and candy and rides and noise is bound to involve some major headaches, but normally the fleeting moments of joy and fun make it all worthwhile in the end.

Not yesterday.

I have never spent so much time correcting behaviour: talking, discussing, sternly warning and yes, yelling. I have never felt tears of frustration sting my eyes so many times in such a short time frame. The pain involved in yesterday's outing so far outweighed the pleasure that even a full 24 hours later, I still wish I had not bothered to go at all.

I still feel unsettled.

Graham's Labour Day weekend was a whirlwind. He celebrated his uncle's birthday with a big family dinner that went late on Thursday. On Friday we headed for the lake and spent Saturday and Sunday at Grandpa and Grandma's where Graham collected clams and played in the water with his cousins. He had a campfire and a sing-a-long and boat rides and barbecues. We came back to the city Sunday night for the express purpose of taking him to the CNE on Monday, our seventh wedding anniversary.

Was Graham overstimulated?

Maybe. Rob thinks so. He also thinks he was way overtired (true) and nervous about his first day of school on Thursday (possibly). He doesn't really think that Graham's behaviour, however awful, is completely out of the norm or that it indicates a problem with discipline or entitlement. He thinks I was right to be so hard on him, but that I should stop being so hard on myself.

But I'm not so sure.

Because I can't shake this nagging fear that my well-meaning attempts to make my son's childhood special have unwittingly contributed to the creation of a spoiled, entitled little monster.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

First love

Many, many moons ago, before Graham developed his fixation on a certain comely neighborhood girl, he had another obsession.

And this obsession. I think, may well outlast his affection for any girl he has met or has yet to meet. This obsession, after all, has persevered since the very beginning of his short life; from the very first time he started to become capable of making his wants and desires known.

Graham is a balloon-a-holic.

He has been since birth and still is, as evidenced by the picture below taken at the birthday party for the daughter of a dear bloggy friend last weekend.

Yes, during a birthday party featuring wonderful food, tons of kids and a magic show with doves, a rabbit and an iguana, my boy spent most the time fixated on his first, true love.


Oh well, odds are balloons will never throw him over for the captain of the football team, right?

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Damn: the potty training edition


It's days like today that I dearly wish I had not committed myself to refraining from the use of stronger profanity on this site (and in real life, though in real life I almost never quite manage to refrain from it).

But anyway...DAMN!

Just damn.

I've been trying to potty train Graham for almost a full year now. I beat myself up over my failure to do so way last January. Then I decided to just let it happen on its own. Then I tried to put my foot down again in May. That was a disaster that upset me more than I thought it possible to be upset over something like potty training. Then I resolved to just let it happen in its own time. And now?

We're back at square one.

Well, not square one. Let's just say square one as far as number two is concerned: as in, he won't, absolutely won't, poop in the potty.

It's been three days since he's gone at all. I know this can't go on. I know he WILL go eventually. But here's what you don't know...

The last time we got to this stage, he did go eventually. In his sleep. In his bed. And guess what? The humiliation, the discomfort, the sheer GROSSNESS of that experience was NOT enough to convince him that perhaps the potty was a better alternative.


What happened was he seemed quite comfortable to get settled into a routine of just holding it all day, soiling his bed in the night and going happily about his normal routine in the morning.

So now he's not gone for three days and he's refusing to go on the potty. I know eventually he will go. And if I continue to refuse a pull up, I suspect he will go in his bedsheets tonight just like last time.

In fact, I suspect he will continue to soil his bed on a nightly basis as long as I refuse him a pull-up.

Graham has told me outright, over and over, that he will NOT poop on the potty.

Graham will be FOUR in November.

Graham is not frightened of the potty and no longer has any hang-ups about the potty: he is stubborn, plain and simple.

I have pleaded. I have cajoled. I have firmly instructed. I have shouted. I have talked softly. I have sobbed. I have tried rewards. I have tried letting him take the lead. I have tried making him stay bare. I have tried withholding privileges. I have tried EVERY single piece of advice I have been given.

I feel like a complete and abject failure

I never, ever thought that I would find myself in a power struggled of such epic proportion but now that I have, I feel that it's a power struggle from which I must, as the PARENT, emerge victorious. After all, what kind of message does it send to him if I don't follow through? If I repeatedly threaten consequences - no tv, no school, no birthday party tomorrow that's he' s been looking forward to all week - only to turn around and give in?

And yet, deep down, I don't believe, even for a second, that my following through on these consequences - and a million more I tearfully threw at him in the throes of frustration last night, consequences that will make us ALL miserable - will change his mind.



I almost forgot to say thanks for all the tips on locating the Curious George Balloon - thanks to Cheryl and Wendy I believe one was found in the shop at Sick Kids Hospital. Also, many thanks for suggesting we visit our old house to look for our missing kitty. We did just that AND put our former neighbors on lookout duty: I'll let you know if our dear Eddie turns up.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The showman


Are there no lengths to which...

...a guy won't go... impress a girl?

Just out of the frame of these pictures was the object of Graham's latest obsession. Earlier this evening he climbed to the top of this play structure and jumped off about...umm...76 times in a desperate bid to get her to pay attention to him.

Unfortunately for him, it didn't appear to work: she apparently doesn't notice or appreciate great bravery and superhuman athletic prowess in men.

Clearly, it's her loss.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

On preferring sticks and stones

Three weeks later, her words are still with me, roiling through my gut like pesky, intestinal gnats; not exactly painful but just galling and irritating enough to still sting in the quiet moments when I stop and take their measure: yes...they are still there.

Yes, they still hurt.

The words were part - just a very small part actually - of a conversation I had with an acquaintance, a dear friend of a very dear friend, I had met briefly a few times before. She is tall, blonde and pretty and works in independent film. She's thoughtful,

We ran into each other at a girls gathering and were chatting about her upcoming wedding (to a member of Canadian music royalty no less) and comparing notes on parenting. She has a one-year-old and is stepmother to a 10-year-old and a 20-year-old.

She admitted with a grin that she was already thinking about a second child with her soon-to-be husband and I remarked that at least she had a few built-in babysitters. I didn't mention that I had been thinking about a second child for almost three years now, but I noticed and envied the ease and assurance with which she discussed her plans to add to her family.

I always notice that in other women: I always envy that.

And the conversation turned, as it so often does these days, to plastics and phthalates and chemicals and all this crap that has apparently crept into our children's food and toys and how it might be affecting them, particularly their future fertility.

Another woman remarked on a documentary she had seen about the decline of fertility, particularly male fertility, and how the phenomenon was something we had all seen around us. I talked about a book I was reading that deals with this very thing.

"Well, maybe it's not such a bad thing really," said the first woman, she of the one-year-old and the two step-children and the blithe plans for more. "I mean, the earth can only handle so many children, it's probably just the earth's way of self-correcting and saying 'no more'."

I didn't say anything: I didn't think I could say anything without bursting into tears, so I didn't say anything.

"I mean, at some point, something has to force people to really stop and look at why this is happening, about whether it's because we're overpopulating the earth, right?"


I think I may have just mumbled something or changed the subject, or at least someone did, and the conversation went on. I spent the rest of the evening not thinking about what she said while continuing to chat with her and thoroughly enjoying our conversation. The night ended when I sincerely wished her good weather for the upcoming wedding and headed for my car.

It wasn't until the way home that I let myself replay the conversation; until I let the hurt and the indignation wash over me.

I cried much of the way home actually, but more out of plain old frustration than any real anger, because I know her words were not meant to be hurtful. I'm quite certain, in fact, that she would have been mortified had I taken her aside and told her how I was feeling.

She probably would have been mortified if I sought to confirm that any plans she had to stop and really look at the issue of overpopulation were meant to be executed after her partner had fathered his fourth child.

She probably would have felt badly if I had gently pointed out that positively glowing with happiness and good fortune whilst that speculating that someone else's ailment might be the result of a necessary and perhaps even deserved Darwinian correction is, at the very least, staggeringly insensitive.

I probably should have told her how I felt, but I didn't.

Perhaps I would have if I had known that more than three weeks later her words would still be there, roiling around my gut, gnawing at me and making my eyes sting with tears when I watch my only child try and make a playmate out of our 12-year-old cat.


Do you live in the Toronto area? Do you know where one can purchase a Curious George balloon? If so please, please spill your secrets in the comment box - I have a dear friend who may have to renege on a serious promise to a toddler who's about to turn three. We can't have that, can we? Help!

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Friday, August 21, 2009

We Miss Eddie

So...umm...yeah...this sucks.

"We Miss Eddie. Eddie (Edgar) is our small, tabby (black and grey with
white tummy)
cat who went missing when we moved into (our new address)
last week. If you have seen her, please call us!"

The poster's been up for more than three weeks now: no one's called us.

I think it's pretty safe to say that Eddie isn't coming home.

Despite the fact that these posters are up all over our new neighborhood. Despite the fact that Rob and I have spoken to countless new neighbors and ventured out separately many a night calling for her at the top of our lungs (and annoying said new neighbors).

Despite all these things, I think it's pretty safe to say Eddie isn't coming home: it's been exactly a month since she slipped out the back door three days after we moved in.

She (yes she's a girl) is a scrappy cat and a mouser, so she might well be managing just fine. But what keeps me awake nights is the knowledge that she won't be fine at all once the cold weather hits. And despite the fact that I've babied her for the past nine years much the same way I've babied her feline brother, she's always been skittish and fearful of people: I'm almost certain she would never let any well-meaning cat lover take her in, no matter how much she needed it.

I feel awful and Rob feels awful. Graham did feel awful but cheered up considerably after I marshaled my considerable acting ability to convince him that Eddie had just gone to live with another, perfectly wonderful family. (Does that count as a lie? Probably. Do I care? Nope - he just lost his Oma for chrissakes).


In other, more cheerful cat news, it's been almost exactly a year since so many of you weighed in on the tough choice I made with regards to our other feline friend. I'm happy to report that Horace is still living healthily with his facial lesion: he ain't as pretty as he used to be but at least he's present and accounted for.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sweet Carolina

Graham is in love.

Graham is in love with a much older "woman" who every evening rules the playground just steps from our new front door. Her name is Carolina and I'd guess she's about 13 years old.

Carolina is tall and beautiful with long, dark hair. She travels with a fawning entourage of younger girls who are noticeably less confident than she and quick to conform when she rolls her lovely eyes and tells them they're being "so immature!"

Graham noticed Carolina the very first time we visited the playground and he's remained in her thrall ever since.

"There she is Mommy! There's the girl! I'm gonna go play with her!" he shouts gleefully. Ever the picture of blissful optimism, he generally runs headlong in her direction only to be summarily dismissed.

"I think she's a little old for you to play with Graham," I cautioned him a few nights ago, after she once again rebuffed his enthusiastic invitation to join him on the slide with a giggle and a bemused pat on the head.

"But she has pretty long hair, Mommy," Graham countered. "I have to play with her. I JUST have to."

And so he tried - all night that night and all night again tonight when, upon arrival at the playground Graham pushed his way into her gaggle of pre-teen admirers and announced, "Hi there! You might remember me from last week at the playground."

I don't believe Carolina did.

No, she just smiled weakly and turned back to the task at hand: impressing her friends with her brand new cell phone.

Graham was undeterred and determinedly stepped into the circle again.

"Well, gee, that phone sure looks like it's got everything except the kitchen sink!"

Yes, he actually said that.

And this time he actually got some genuine laughs and oohs and ahhs from the girls before they moved on.

I can hardly bear to watch the way Graham puts himself out there these days, the way he cheerfully wears his tender heart on chubby sleeve.

I just watch with a strange mixture of apprehension and admiration, scarcely believing this is the same boy who only a year ago inspired me to worrying about his extreme shyness.

And it's funny; while I am thrilled that Graham seems to have well and truly outgrown his shyness, I never imagined that his new-found fearlessness would somehow terrify me in a way that his introversion never did.

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Friday, August 14, 2009


When I hit my late 20s about 10 years ago, I figured I was pretty much "full up" as far as friends were concerned.

I was lucky enough to be surrounded by a ton of interesting people who I had known since practically forever and with whom I barely had time to keep up friendships. I was busy, really busy, and I just didn't have the time nor the inclination to invest in a brand new friendship.

And then I met her.

It was at a keg party of all places. An affair to which Rob - my then newish boyfriend - dragged me. We were surprised to arrive and find a house overflowing with hundreds of debacherous teenagers and when he got lost in the crowd I gravitated towards a woman closer to my own age who seemed similarly bemused at the attention we attracted from boys a decade our junior.

Sheona was a colleague of Rob's - a set script supervisor - and after a few drinks we let our inner cougars roar and formed a bond that I have come to cherish as one of the most important in my life.

Here's the thing about friends you meet later in life: they love you for the person you are, not the person you were. There is no comforting common history and no sense of obligation. There is simply chemistry and a sense that no matter how busy you are, you must fit this person into your life because they were sent to make your life make you better.

And so Sheona was. And has.

Sheona has inspired me to dream and to dream big. She is a mother. She is a partner. She is a maker of beautiful, important films that celebrate life and loss. When I spend time with her I come away invigorated, renewed, filled with the sense of my own strength and possibility.

Sheona helped me through endless rewrites of my film script and sat proudly through its premiere. She celebrated with me when I married, mourned when I learned I might never have a child and celebrated again when Graham made his debut.

Her daughter's birthday party was the first one Graham ever attended and when I read the eulogy at my mother-in-law's wake it was her face in the crowd that steadied me and gave me the strength to continue.

Sheona moved 3,000 miles away from me last week and I don't know what I'm going to do without her.

She has been my rock these past several months. I have literally cried on her shoulder and she has fortified me with her wise words and the gentle, pragmatic way she has of looking at the world.

She and her actor partner are off for greener pastures on another coast and as much as I know we will always be friends, I am still bereft over the distance that geography will inevitably create between us.

Godspeed Sheona.

Thank you for being my friend and for making my life better. Thank you for teaching me that one's life can never be too full to accommodate a kindred spirit.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

I'm working it!

It's not that I've dropped off the face of the earth.

It's just that I'm swamped over here.

So swamped, in fact, that I barely had time to write this post for Work It Mom about how busy, working moms can maximize their time.

Check it out!

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Friday, August 7, 2009

This just in: Don Mills not dead! Sinful Love lives!

Back when I wrote my very first post here at Don Mills Diva, I pointed out how ironic it is that Rob and I made our home in Don Mills.

It is ironic because back in 1985 Rob was the lead singer in Sinful Love, a Ramones-style band that had a local hit song and video - Don Mills is Dead - which points out, in no uncertain terms, that our chosen neighborhood is lame.

So last night, as I searched YouTube to see if anyone had posted video of me reading at the BlogHer Community keynote (vanity, thy name is DMD), I realized that someone had posted a video of Don Mills is Dead.

The video and song below were written, directed and produced by Rob and his band mates in 1985 when the technology we take for granted today was years away from even existing. It achieved regular rotation on MuchMusic (Canada's MTV) and garnered Sinful Love a cult following in Toronto.

Rob was 18 years old.

Sure, his haircut leaves something to be desired. But you know what?

I couldn't be more proud.

(And also, the woman who opens the door and shakes a frying pan at the band? That's my late mother- in-law. Secretly, I think she was proud too)

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Catch of the day

"Many men go fishing all of their lives,
without knowing that it is not fish they are after".

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Friday, July 31, 2009

How to be a permanent POS

Remember when I declared in front of about 1,200 people that I'm not too concerned about what I say on-line?

Well, I meant it.

But that doesn't mean that I don't have concerns about other sites Graham will one-day read and see on-line.

That's a different story and that concerns me a lot.

That's why when Norton offered up a chance to test-drive their new on-line safety software for kids I asked my sister-in-law LeeAnne to check it out and report back. Her kids, aged 13 and just turned 17, are too old to need a constant POS (parent over shoulder) but too young (IMHO) to be given free rein with regards to on-line content.

My Graham is only three and a half so thus far his biggest on-line transgression is a stated preference for the Britney Spears version of Womanizer over this one.

I know, I know - I'm working on it.

In the meantime you can click over to Don Mills Diva's Recipes and Reviews, read about LeeAnne's experiences with OnlineFamily.Norton and download a free copy for yourself.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

So maybe I'm not such a Diva after all...

Can I be honest?

I think the reason I had an absolutely fantastic time at BlogHer this year was because I determined in advance that I was not going to try too hard to insert myself into the social whirl.

I made that determination partially because I have so much difficult stuff at home to deal with that I knew I absolutely couldn't arrive home depleted of energy, and partially because I did not want to be one of the relentlessly social bloggers who, perhaps inadvertently, contributed to a lot of hurt feelings over the weekend.

We've all heard it said a million times that the blogosphere, and in particular the mommy blogopshere, is like high school and I think there is a lot of truth to that. For a very long time now, I have felt uncomfortable with what I perceive to be the increasingly cliquish atmosphere of the community and the increasing striving to climb to the top of the heap, no matter the cost to people's feelings or the integrity of a community in which one should be able to express himself or herself without being attacked.

I did not go to BlogHer to increase my profile: I have become extremely ambivalent about whether I even want a profile. I did not want to dance on tables and BE SEEN! I wanted to meet and hang out with interesting people and in the real world, my world at least, the most interesting people are the ones who aren't trying too hard.

This is my opinion and just my opinion, of course, but I believe I had a better time because I stayed low key and approachable. I can't tell you how many times people came up to me at the conference almost sheepishly, because they were afraid I wouldn't have time for them.

I can't tell you how many times people seemed surprised that I was happy talk to them or how many stories I heard from people who felt embarrassed and hurt because they had approached "bigger" bloggers who blew them off and dashed away in search of more popular peeps.

I know this sort of thing is such a common complaint at BlogHer every year that it's now just generally accepted that feelings will be hurt: newbies are advised to just put themselves out there and be prepared to take their knocks and shut up about it.

But I still think it's a shame.

I don't begrudge the genuine social butterflies who went to BlogHer and danced on tables and partied til dawn, but none of that felt right for me this year. I'm dealing with a ton of heavy stuff in my real life right now and I needed to know that any connections I forged in Chicago were real and not the result of someone's misplaced notion that hanging out with me might possibly be "good for business".

If you and I met or hung out over the weekend, please know that I am very happy to have met you.

If we didn't meet or hang out and you wanted to, I'm truly sorry if my low-key approach prevented it: please know I'm always just an e-mail away.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Home again

I did it!

I did it without being sick, peeing my pants or even, believe it or not, feeling very nervous at all.

I read this here post at the community keynote BlogHer 09 in Chicago on Friday night in front of about 1,400 people and it was incredible.

That's me folks. (Thanks for letting me use it Sassy Monkey)

I kept a low profile this year, hung with my roomie and met lots of lovely new people. I also took a million pictures and will post them all as soon as I can manage to find the memory card holder that is hidden amongst the millions of boxes that are still littered around this new house.

Stay tuned: I figure I'll get around to getting the pictures up about right about the time that you are darn sick and tired of looking about BlogHer pictures, 'cause I'm timely like that.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009


Oh, how I wish I had made the time to buy a new dress for the BlogHer conference.

Or even to iron the ones I think I might want to wear and just threw in my suitcase.

I didn't.

I didn't have time: I am currently in the middle of moving from a 3,500 square foot house to a 2,300 square foot house. There is stuff everywhere. There are boxes stacked on boxes.

And I can't find anything.

So I didn't buy a new dress. Or iron or even try on the old ones I packed. I didn't have time to get a manicure or a pedicure and my eyebrows haven't been done in weeks.

My haircut is sloppy and my roots are showing. My legs are covered with bruises and I can't remember in which box I packed my earrings and necklaces.

I have been surviving on junky food and way too little sleep for days now and it shows in my skin. Yesterday, while unpacking the "bathroom" box the middle finger on my left hand got in a tussle with business end of a razor and emerged a bloody, pulpy mess.

I returned to the blogosphere for the first time in days last night and read, with a sinking stomach, approximately a million posts about the joyful preparations so many of the attendees are undertaking.

You are all going to be buffed and polished and absolutely beautiful, I just know it.


I'll be the one in the corner with the roots, the bloodshot eyes, the ill-fitting dress and the bandaged finger.

Save me a dance anyway?

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Out with the old

We are moved, though far from settled, into our new home.

There are still boxes everywhere and I have yet to find a million things, but last night Graham returned from a few days at my parents' house to a new room, complete with a big boy bed.

And even though there were a million things I should have done first, I spent hours setting up his room in hopes that its beauty would distract him from the fact that he had well and truly left his old home and his old crib (the crib I often thought would serve as his marital bed) behind.

The room and the bed are spectacular. (As soon as I figure out where my camera is packed I will post pictures to prove it, but in the meantime take my word for it: seriously cute.)

But that doesn't mean I wasn't worried about Graham's reaction. Graham is about as stubborn as your average mule and has been known to loudly declare (sometimes apropos of nothing) "You KNOW I don't like change mommy!"

So last night, just before I switched out the light, I cuddled with him on his new bed and indulged in some gentle reassurances.

"Isn't the new homestead nice Graham?" I asked.

"Yes mom," he replied.

"And don't you like your new room?"

"Yes mom."

"And I just love your new bed, don't you?"

"Yes mom."

"And don't you think-


"Uh...yes Graham?"

"Could you please go away now so I can get some sleep?'


Apparently Graham is going to be just fine, thankyouverymuch.

(I'm not so sure about mommy).

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Thursday, July 16, 2009


Until yesterday, Graham had never expressed any actual sadness about the death of his beloved Oma.

For months now he has asked me repeatedly, sometimes dozens and dozens of times a day, "Are you sad about Oma?" but when I answer in a manner designed to engage him - "Yes I am, because I loved her and you did too didn't you?" - he has abruptly changed the subject or simply repeated the question over and over: "Are you sad about Oma? Are you sad about Oma? Are you sad about Oma?"

Attempts to break through often result in Graham chanting in an increasingly loud crescendo with slightly different wording: "Are you sad about Oma? Are you sad about Opa? Are you worried about Opa? Are you worried about Daddy?"

For four months now, louder and louder Graham has chanted, drowning out every attempt I make to respond to his questions in a thoughtful and loving manner.

It is the most gut-wrenching thing I have ever experienced.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday his babysitter, the woman he calls Omi and my late mother-in-law's best friend, said Graham approached her during play time with tears coursing down his cheeks.

"I can't help it Omi," he said. "I'm just so sad about Oma."

And so she took him onto her lap and together talked they talked about how much they loved her and how much they missed her and all the wonderful things they used to do together.


Last night, exactly four months after her death, I dreamed about my dearly, dearly-loved mother-in-law for the first time.

I dreamt I walked into our living room and was astonished to see her sitting at our little cherry wood table sipping a cappuccino. My shock and happiness at the sight of her was so overwhelming I can still feel it now, crowding the air from my chest and stinging behind my eyes. In my dream I fell to my knees and took her hands in mine as tears rolled down my face.

"I have missed you so so much," I told her, over and over again. But she just regarded me with a bemused smile, as if she were confused over my outpouring of emotion.

"I can't believe you are here," I cried. "Don't you know you died four months ago?"

But she just smiled and in my dream I rushed and found a calendar in order to impress upon her what a miracle her presence was. But when I found one, the dates on it had been replaced by a series of nonsensical letters and numbers. All the dates and clocks throughout the house looked the same way, I realized, and so finally I stopped rushing about and just sat with her, clasping her hands and crying in wonder while she smiled benignly.

And then I realized what she wanted.

"Don't go anywhere!" I told her.

I rushed into Graham's room where he was sleeping soundly. I lifted him up, rushed back into the living room and thrust him into her arms.

In my dream Graham's eyes fluttered open as he clasped his chubby arms around her neck.

"Oma!" he breathed, snuggling into her. And she kissed the top of his head.


I awoke with a start this morning and my mother-in-law's presence was so fresh and so real that I could only lie there and sob quietly for a few moments, as dawn's light and its harsh reality crept into my consciousness.

I did not want to get out of bed and leave her behind this morning but I had to: we are moving into our new house tomorrow and there is much to be done.

We are moving tomorrow from a house that she loved to a house that she will never see.

We are moving. Graham is growing. Our lives are changing.

And yet it seems that none of our forward motion is sufficient to fill the gaping hole her death has left behind.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Ennui is commonly defined as weariness and dissatisfaction resulting from inactivity or lack of interest.

And ennui is the best way to describe my current feelings about this space.

Okay...maybe not the best way, but certainly the easiest way and I am all about the easiest way right now.

At least part of the above description is spot on: weariness.

I am so very weary. I am weary of worrying about the health of my father-in-law and my husband, weary of worrying about the details of my new move and weary of worrying about the state of the industry in which both Rob and I both make our living.

I have a lot of ideas for posts which I am quite certain you would find entertaining and enjoyable, but I fall into bed every night exhausted and strangely gratified that I have at least managed to just feed and care for myself and my family for another day.

Writing and the community it has helped me find here has taken a back seat for now and, as wistful as I feel about that, I know that this ennui, or whatever you want to call it, is serving a purpose by forcing me to slow down and be good to myself.

I have recently made a serious commitment to eating better and exercising more regularly: here's hoping those changes will produce in me the energy to tell you all about that commitment, and a million other things, very soon.

Thanks for bearing with me folks.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Moment of zen

Rob's dad is out of the hospital, but he's not out of the woods.

None of us are.

He is grieving, we are all grieving, struggling not just to put in the days and the weeks, but to possibly wrestle from them just a little bit of happiness and contentment.

It is tough going, but we are trying.

And in the spirit of focusing on the positive, I'd like to present, from last weekend at my parents' house, my own little moment of zen.

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Michael and me

I cried like a baby when I learned Michael Jackson was dead.

I was already teary-eyed when I heard the news. I had just posted this about my father-in-law's illness. I was missing my mother-in-law like crazy, lamenting a blow-up with Graham during which I lost my temper and terrified about how Rob was going to cope with the seemingly never-ending stress.

I had, in fact, taken to wondering when exactly being a grown-up started being so hard - so goddamned hard - when I heard that Peter Pan was dead.

"Have you seen my Childhood?
I'm searching for that wonder in my youth
Like pirates in adventurous dreams,
Of conquest and kings on the throne..."

I worshipped - worshipped! - Michael Jackson during my formative years. I was 13 when Thriller was released and he swiftly became the object of my every puberty-obsessed dream and desire.

I memorized every dance move in Thriller. I fell out with my best friend and cousin over a crush we shared on a boy who styled himself as a Michael Jackson look-alike. (He preferred her.) My first boyfriend in the ninth grade brought me home a Michael Jackson calender from a family vacation and grudgingly sat for hours while another girlfriend and I stylized his face, hair and clothing in an attempt to Michael Jackson-ize him.

I loved Michael Jackson and his music just as passionately when I grew older. I was in my early 20s and driving Canada cross-country when I made an hour-long detour in rural Saskatchewan on a wintry afternoon in order to find a bar where I could watch the North American premier for the Black or White video on the big screen.

I do not know whether Michael was guilty or innocent of the spurious child abuse charges that were ultimately his undoing: nobody does. I suspect he was innocent. I know that he was a victim of abuse and exploitation in his own childhood and later in his adult years when his money and fame seemed a barrier to treatment for what was clearly a heartbreaking descent into mental illness.

I never knew Michael Jackson, personally - obviously - but I feel I understand somewhat the lure that precipitated that descent. I understand - God, do I understand - the desire to keep the responsibilities and the pain of adulthood at bay. I understand the appeal of spending millions of dollars, of going to fantastical lengths, to try and recapture the halcyon days of childhood when laughter and happiness and the world itself was light and simple and gloriously uncomplicated.

I met Rob at the door on the day Michael Jackson died.

Graham had long since screamed himself to sleep and Rob had been out walking in the rain trying to clear his head and rid his stomach of the gnawing pain that plagues him on and off and had returned with a vengeance at the news of his father's illness.

"Michael Jackson is dead," I sobbed, as he took me in his arms. "I can't stop crying. It's like my whole childhood just, just died."

I was crying for the man who never had a childhood of his own, but whose life and music made mine a million times better.

I was crying for the man who never wanted to grow up, and for myself, the girl who couldn't wait to leave childhood behind.

Because he was right and I was wrong and now he was dead and I would give anything to go back to those days when perfecting the moonwalk on my parents' linoleum floor was clearly the simplest way to ensure future success and happiness.

"Have you seen my Childhood?
I'm searching for that wonder in my youth
Like fantastical stories to share
The dreams I would dare, watch me fly..."

Rest in peace Michael.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009


I apologize for the silence, but I don't know what to say other than thank you, thank you, thank you for all your heartfelt comments and e-mails expressing your concern for my family.

My father-in-law remains in hospital with a bleeding ulcer and perhaps more. He is undergoing a battery of tests and right now we have more questions than answers.

We did stay in Quebec for a few days and attempted to enjoy our time with Graham. Despite the fact that he decided he didn't like poutine (!) he had the time of his life.

And that?

That was enough. That is enough right now.

How could it not be?

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Thursday, June 25, 2009


Rob's dad is in the hospital.

We aren't certain exactly what is wrong, but he isn't doing so well. Rob's brother and sister-in-law are with him. He is undergoing a series of tests and we are vacillating between whether to stay in Quebec and try to maintain some sense of normalcy for Graham or to make the almost eight-hour drive home the day after our arrival.

Needless to say Rob and I are finding it difficult to eat or sleep, let alone relax.

Universe, God, Karma, whoever or whatever you are?


Just uncle.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Zut alors! Mah nez est sore


Oh my Lord, the sick.

I know it's just a summer cold, but good God I am miserable.

I am poking out from behind my pile of used kleenex to say that we three - Rob, Graham and the congested diva - are headed to Mont Tremblant, Quebec tomorrow to celebrate St. Jean Baptiste Day and to enjoy some much needed family time.

Graham is ecstatic at the prospect of trying his first poutine: I am practising saying "Sorry I'm such a snotty mess" en Francais.

Will try to post pics.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009


Despite my recent assertions to the contrary, had you been in the parking lot of my local supermarket last night you would most certainly have wondered if I were a bad mother.

You would most certainly have been shocked at the sight of me, right down in my child's face, screaming at him at the top of my lungs. You would most certainly have wondered why I continued to rant and rave long after the wee thing ducked his head away from me and long after tears started to flow down his ruddy cheeks.

You might not have realized that I was more frightened than I have ever been in my life.

Graham and I had stopped off at the supermarket on the way home to pick up the steaks for the barbecue and, as usual, I was pretty lax about letting him gleefully race up and down the aisles. This store is not the one where I saw my life flash before my eyes, it's a small, local store where I've been going for years and where everyone knows both of us by name.

Once into the busy parking lot however, as is my habit, I clutched Graham's hand tightly, pointed out all of the moving cars and sternly admonished him to stick close to my side.

Except he didn't.

Just a few steps out of the door he shrugged off my hand and ran ahead of me with a mischievous giggle.

"Graham!" I shouted. "Get back here right now, Graham!"

But he ignored me and continued running.

And then I saw the car.

The car was backing out of a parking spot at a rapid pace, the kind of jerky, jaunty pace a driver sets when they are absolutely certain there is absolutely nothing in their path.

Except there was.

I dropped my groceries and started to run, only vaguely aware that my screaming had a throaty, desperate quality that sounded unlike anything that had ever come out of my mouth before.

But Graham didn't stop.

There was a sickening screech of brakes just as the car's back bumper kissed Graham's back. As I ran towards him, the woman driver turned and caught my eye: the terror on her face was a perfect reflection of what I was feeling.

Oblivious, Graham turned to me, casually patted the car and giggled.

That's when I lost it.

I have never yelled at Graham like I yelled at him then. I yelled at him for a good five minutes in the parking lot and I yelled at him all the way home.

I gave my anger and my fear full license because I wanted Graham to remember it. I wanted to traumatize him, to cement in his head that bad things, very, very bad things happen when little boys run into the paths of speeding cars.

It wasn't until we pulled into our driveway that I lost steam. Graham was sobbing quietly and I was teary-eyed. I parked, released him from his car seat, brushed his tears away and hugged him to me tightly.

"Mommy was so scared Graham. You ran right into a car back there, right into a car."

He sniffed and buried his head further into my shoulder.

"You could have been killed Graham, do you understand that?"

More sniffles.

I brushed away my own tears.

"I love you more than anything in the world Graham. If something had happened to you back there Mommy's heart would be broken forever. Do you understand that?

Mommy's heart would be broken forever".

And we hugged then for a good long time before he raised his tear-stained face.

"I understand Mommy, I understand."

He doesn't, of course, but such is the nature of children and of childhood.

I can only pray my son, and my heart, survives it intact.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009


I have a confession to make.

Over the last several weeks I have felt deeply ambivalent about my plans to attend the BlogHer conference in Chicago this year.

When I bought a ticket three months ago I had no idea that the dates would fall right in the middle of the time we are embarking on a major move into a new home. And that they would fall during a week when my husband expects to be back working 14-hour days. And that they would fall just before the week Graham's babysitter has booked holidays.

We have so much going on during that time period, that the last few weeks I started to think that the logistics of actually skipping out to Chicago in the middle of it all was just an impossible indulgence.

And so this past weekend, despite the fact that I had already made plans to car pool with a great bunch of Toronto bloggers and room with this lovely lady, I started to seriously think about just selling the ticket and taking care of the mountain of business I face here at home.

Then I got an e-mail yesterday...

I'm Speaking at BlogHer '09

So...umm...yeah...I guess I'm going.

And...umm...I guess I'm going to read a commentary post in front of about...gulp...1,000 people at the Community Keynote.

Hold me?

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Monday, June 15, 2009

It's all good

So busy have I been first defending myself and then pointedly ignoring the firestorm that this post helped ignite throughout the Interwebs, I have been lax in sharing some pretty special and decidedly less controversial happenings in my world.

Remember last year when I reflected on my nephew's coolness and, ahem, where he possibly could have gotten it?

Well, he did it again.

He and his band mates organized the second annual Toucapolooza June 6th, a concert event which this year raised $1,500 for Foster Parents Plan Canada. It was also announced at the show that his high school is designating an annual scholarship named after the event and awarded to a student who shows the same kind of community spirit my nephew has demonstrated.

Can you feel the pride?

He's almost 19 years old, off to college in the fall and ready to tackle all that life has to offer. I'm so excited for him I can barely stand it and I can't help but harken back to my salad days when I first fled the coop and started plotting world domination.

Back then this was hanging on my wall.

I was so proud of it.

After buying the poster at a retro video store, I hauled the frame out of a trash pile, painted it pink and proudly hung it on the wall of my first apartment, convinced I was never more avant garde and stylish.

Ack...not so much.

At any rate, we are starting to clear things out for our move and it was with just a tiny twinge of melancholy and regret, that last week I placed the above on our front lawn, free for the taking.

And it was with just a tiny twinge of pride that I noted that someone snapped it up in less than an hour.

But I didn't really have a lot of time to reflect on the past this past weekend, as Rob was away helping his brother open the cottage and I designated all day Saturday and Sunday as special mommy and Graham time, which basically meant we were on the go, doing all my boy's favorite things from morning to night both days.

There was a play-date with his new favorite girlfriend, a haircut (yes, he likes haircuts now, despite this), a trip to his favorite restaurant (which mommy has learned to love), a visit to a water park and to a farm.

There were several games of hide and seek, a trip to the playground beside the new house, a bath in mommy and daddy's jacuzzi tub, a kids meal on a hopping patio and at least two ice cream cones.

It was, in short, a perfect weekend for both of us and the perfect reminder for me that no matter who beats me up on line, my mothering and my life is all goooooood.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Christmas gift in June

Have you ever been preparing a full Christmas dinner at the beginning of June when you suddenly stumble across a product that fills you with holiday cheer?

Me neither.

But LeeAnne has and she's talking about it over at Don Mills Diva Recipes and Reviews. Check it out and while you're at it, follow her on Twitter so you can check out all her antics and activities as the food editor for Canadian Family magazine -

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Monday, June 8, 2009

He ain't heavy

My big brother is the quintessential nice guy.

He's the kinda guy who takes time out from his work day and brings his dump truck around in hopes that his beloved nephew might want a ride.

He's the kinda guy who tells you quite sincerely that he'd be more than happy to clear a day from his schedule, drive two hours to your house and help you move.

He's such a nice guy that he really, truly, thinks that Graham could have a bright future as a cake decorator.

Happy birthday Russell - we love you.

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Friday, June 5, 2009

Why the bad mother trend is not good

At the risk of appearing terribly outdated and completely out of step with what the media has apparently identified as the latest trend sweeping the mom crowd, I'd like to step up and declare something publicly.

I am a good mom.

Shocking isn't it?

I don't think so either, but having been inundated these last several months by the idea that the "in" thing is to declare yourself as a bad parent, the rebel in me just wanted to be clear about how I feel.

And, for the record, I feel really very irritated.

I'm irritated that once again the latest in "how moms feel" has been identified as a brand-new trend, ripe for the picking by a seemingly endless parade of "parenting issues" reporters who fill ever-expanding lifestyle sections of media outlets with breathless prattle about new maternal archetypes.


There's the news that a compilation of the popular Bad Parent columns over at Babble will be made into a book, there's Ayelet Waldman's much-publicized new book, Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace and today there was this story in my local paper in which the director of the Association for Research on Mothering at York University (really!) cheerily quips " "If you're not a bad mom now, then you're a bad mom."

Double blech.

To be clear, I'm not taking issue with Her Bad Mother, the existence of which predates this latest frenzy to identify and make a buck off how moms are feeling . Catherine Connors is a real life friend and an astonishingly talented writer and I will consider any publicity she and her brilliant blog gets from this bandwagon to be the silver lining in a dark and sorry media cloud.

What I'm taking issue with is the endless push by the media to track, monitor and commodify trends among all segments in society and most especially the lucrative mommy crowd. It's big business. Trends create controversy, trends sell stories and books and trends provide jobs for pundits. Identifying trends also allow us to peg whole segments of society, take their measure, sum them up, add a big, red bow and walk away thinking we know how people tick.

But the thing is, we don't. All we've done is helped a very few people figure out how to sell something to other people who pride themselves on chasing trends. And when we participate in this we participate in the attempt to turn every damn thing into a "trend" and to marginalize the voices of people with experiences that differ from what's being reported.

Maybe I shouldn't care what the latest lifestyle headlines read, but damnit this is my history too that's being written and this bad mom trend is just another in a long line of trends that future generations will look back on and use to try and understand my experience and the experiences of my generation.

And it's not my experience. I don't think I'm alone in declaring that I'm not a bad mom and I have no desire to identify myself as a bad mom. In fact, I'm a very good mom and I'm proud of it. I have my struggles, like everyone, and while I might occasionally write about them in a humorous fashion, I'm not interested in endlessly tapping the vein of faux self deprecation for shock value or cheap laughs or sympathy.

Or to be trendy.

I understand that the "bad mom" trend is meant to be a backlash against the old "perfect mom" trend or what the above-linked Toronto Star article calls "impossible standards" for parents but guess what?

I think the so-called "widespread pressure" to be a perfect mom and the old trend of "impossible parenting standards" are nothing but made-up media constructs too. I've never felt societal pressure to be a perfect mom and no one has ever asked or, to my knowledge ever expected, me to conform to impossible standards. And also? I've asked around and none of my friends have either. Instead we all just vaguely recall the media prattling on about some kind of supermom phenomenon.

Whatever. I've written about this media beast before with regards to the much-ballyhooed and, in my opinion largely made-up, "mommy wars".

I think we owe it to the next generation of women to refuse to conform to the labels the media would stick on us, whether they say bad mom, supermom, helicopter mom, free-range mom or whatever damn mom sells papers and books next week.

When I was coming of age as a woman I read the Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan and The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir. Those books helped me find my way and establish my identity by providing thought-provoking, reasoned, philosophical discourse about the lives and struggles of women who had gone before me.

It bothers me that the next generation of women may well take my measure by studying media trends and reading a compilation of Bad Parent columns.

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