Friday, January 30, 2009

Write on! Respect the blog.

Let me be straight about a few things right off the top.

I know that what the Times On-Line did is not illegal and I never thought that it was illegal.

And I know that this space and what I write in this space, however personal it often feels to me, is most certainly public.

I get that.

But here's the thing.

I have a university degree in journalism. An honours journalism degree that I busted my ass to earn at a school widely considered to be the most rigorous in Canada for that discipline.

At this school a typo or spelling error resulted in an automatic zero. Not a failing grade; a zero. You had to be neutral. If you wrote "he insisted" as opposed to "he said" in a news story you were called on the carpet for editorializing. If you wrote "The meeting will be held on Friday" you were knocked down a grade: the meeting was merely scheduled for Friday and you had no business asserting with certainty what would happen two days hence.

Sources and source material, we were taught, were to be attributed with scrupulous care.

I don't claim that my journalism degree necessarily bestows upon me the ability to routinely craft perfect prose or anything close to it, but I do know that my years of striving to better my craft have made writing well, honestly and as accurately as possible a point of fierce pride.

I am proud of this blog and I am proud of the writing I have done here.

And I am especially proud to be a member of the blogging community despite the fact that the phrase "Blogs Ruin Journalism" brings up 3,900,000 hits on Google.

That's right folks: that's what a lot of people think.

Or at least that's what a lot of journalists think.

I got a reply from one of the reporters who wrote the Times On-Line story and she had a lot of perfectly wonderful things to say about my writing and my insights. She apologized for catching me off guard, but pointed out that she did mention my blog, that my blog was by its nature public and that she never actually said she had interviewed me for the article. (emphasis mine)

And she is right of course: technically, she is right.

ButI still feel that my content was expropriated in a cavalier fashion. And I told her that. I also asked her to try and understand how disrespected I feel: how intensely frustrating it is for journalists-cum-bloggers like me who are struggling to establish their on-line space as a legitimate means of publication to be denied a link (after asking twice) or proper and accurate attribution from a member of the mainstream media - the very establishment which has written endlessly (nearly four million hits!) about how unprofessional bloggers are.

She hasn't responded.

But I think you should.

I think everyone out there who blogs with passion and with creativity and with skill should speak up and declare themselves a Writer with a capital W. I think it's time that all bloggers, especially daddy and mommy bloggers (no, I don't resent that term - I embrace it) should demand the respect that their traffic, their influence and their talent commands.

I want you to speak up and tell the world that you and your writing and your blog deserve respect; from the Times On-Line, from the mainstream media and from every one of the millions of so-called "professional" journalists out there who have mused about whether blogs ruin journalism.

Here's the button and the code:

Throw it in your sidebar and then write a post. Write from your heart about what makes you and your writing and your blog worthy of respect. Send me the url and I'll link every single one of you at the end of this post.

We will create, right here, a gathering place where people can read about the revolution that is happening in writing and in publishing and in journalism.

You better believe mommy blogging is a facking radical act.

Write on! Respect the blog.

One Strangely Lush Mother
Michelle's Blog: Stains and All
Cool Zebras
Parent Club
Singing With My Heart
Don't Take The Repeats
Island Mom
A Little Piece of Heaven
Just Another Mommy Blog
If Mom Says OK
Missing Woman in Mommaland
The Adventures of the Headless Family
Them's My Sentiments
Chicken and Cheese
Fat, Frumpy and Fifty
Big Blue Barn West
Out and About in New York City
Brit Gal In The USA
Juggling Life
From The Cheap Seats
M.I.T. Mommy
Everything and Nothing
Carma Sez
Content To Be ME
Flea's World
Bella Foxx's Life
Whiskey In My Sippy Cup
Asthma Girl
Welcome to Schaererville
A Weird in Edgewise
BIBI Has The Last Word
Bringing Up Charlie
Katney's Kaboodle
A Woman of No Importance
A Day In The Life
The Rocking Pony
Lucy's Life in Suburb World
Compost Happens
Pleasure Notes
Ginaagain, and Again, and Again
Chris's Coop
The Mad White Woman
Just Kat Stuff
Adventures of the Reluctant Housewife
The Life of Writing
Postcards From Across the Pond
Random Thoughts From Gemini Goddess
Blonde Mom Blog
My Life as a Hotfessional
Thoughts From an Evil Overlord
Hey What's For Dinner Mom?
Life, Liberty and the Pursuit
Care and Feeding of Wild Things
Greenhouse Glimpses
Mommy Wizdom
Pagan Culture
Enspyre 1 American Pop Culture Blog

A Shelter From the Storm

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Times On-Line flunks journalism 101

I don't know whether to be flattered or furious.

I feel flattered because I was quoted yesterday, quite extensively I might add, in a story entitled Danger online: Perils of revealing every intimate moment published in the Times On-Line, the Internet version of the venerable UK newspaper.

But I feel furious because I was never interviewed for the story and had no idea I even appeared in the story until my daily Google Alert for Don Mills Diva lead me there.

The published quotes, which are attributed to me, are lifted from an interview I gave to a Canadian newspaper in April of 2008 and from two blog posts I wrote around that time: one on the dangers of becoming addicted to blogging and one which was a response to the nasty on-line comments to the Globe article.

Neither the newspaper - the Globe and Mail - nor this site are attributed as sources.

Further, it appears the article is an excerpt from a forthcoming book on social media authored by one of the reporters.

Ironic, wouldn't you agree, that the author purports to explore boundaries surrounding the publication of on-line material while failing to observe any?

I have sent an e-mail to the Times On-line editor outlining my concerns and asking whether this is standard journalistic practise at that publication. I have contacted the Globe reporter, who mused about whether she would be credited in the book's footnotes.

I'm betting not.

I'm betting not because I think this is a clear example of the kind of shoddy and misleading journalism that the mainstream media is continually accusing bloggers of practicing. I also think it's highly unethical, though admittedly not actually illegal.

I know it's disrespectful.

And that's why I'm feeling just a little more furious than flattered.

Stay tuned.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Mother knows best

"It is true that you may occasionally overhear a mother say
"'Children must have their naps,
It's mother who knows best.'
When what she really means by that
Is that she needs a rest. "

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Tiny gifts

Sometimes the universe drops tiny gifts in your lap.

Sometimes a small victory, a shared laugh and connections made build one upon another to renew your confidence that life will always sort itself out.

Sometimes, when you express yourself from the heart; when you ask for a sign that someone or something is rooting for you and your family, the universe answers.

And it says yes.

My late friend Grace's book, about her battle with chronic illness, arrived on my doorstep just a week before my mother-in-law went to the hospital suffering symptoms which we now know are a result of cancer of the lymph nodes.

The comment from Grace's mother - a pastor at a tiny church in northern Canada - arrived just hours after I posted my ruminations on her life, her faith and the meaning of her reemergence in my psyche and my life. The e-mail from Grace's sister - who runs a centre for victims of sexual assault not far from where I live - came shortly afterwards.

Both these women, who I met just once more than 17 years ago, thanked me - me! - for what I had written about Grace and expressed how much my words had meant to them. And while I am profoundly humbled that something I wrote has brought them some measure of comfort, I am also gratified and awed that these connections, fostered across cyberspace, by way of this space, have brought me a renewed faith that my life, however trying at times, is indeed unfolding in the manner in which it was intended.

Yes, the end of last week was much better than the beginning, the timbre of which was characterized by this post about how inadequate I felt for having neither the energy nor the inclination to potty-train.

Just hours after I heard from Grace's sister and returned home to Rob and Graham after a much-needed, post-meeting wine and gab session with two work colleagues - wonderful women who I now proudly call friends - there was a surprise in store.

"Go ahead, Graham," Rob said. "Show mommy what we've been working on while she was at work."

And over to the potty chair my boy went. And with the biggest, proudest smile you have ever seen, he sat right down.

Yes, he was wearing a diaper. And yes, he was fully clothed. But Graham sat right on the potty, cheerfully and without apparent fear of the monsters he has long insisted reside inside.

I never thought such a little thing could make me feel so hopeful.

Hopeful not just about potty training, but about everything else, because Graham overcoming his fear and stubborn resistance so suddenly demonstrates to me that we are never truly stuck and that people and situations always evolve.

And I never thought that such a little thing could make me feel so proud: proud because it demonstrates to me that me and my little boy and my little family are capable of working on anything together and getting results.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Not Guilty

I have some good news and some bad news.

The bad news is I had neither the time nor the inclination to present the winners of Debbie Travis's new book Not Guilty - My Guide to Working Hard, Raising Kids and Laughing Through the Chaos in a manner that was remotely interesting or creative.

The good news is I'm taking the lady's advice and not feeling the least bit bad about it!

Check it out - the contest winners are now up over at Don Mills Diva Recipes and Reviews.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Mickey knows cake!

(posted by LeeAnne)

Remember when I went to Disney World and brought back that fabulous soup recipe from Boma?

Well, that's not the only great recipe I managed to get their chefs to reveal. While I was there I got to wondering how a visitor with allergies would survive at Walt Disney World: it turns out very well, thank you very much.

The chefs at Boma are allergy savvy and know the scoop. While there, the flourless chocolate cake caught my eye. Although our dairy-free readers may want to make some substitutions, I recommend anyone who is gluten-free check this one out...

Pop on over to Don Mills Diva Recipes and Reviews to check out the great recipe for flourless chocolate cake that LeeAnne scooped from the chefs at Boma in Walt Disney World. And while you're there be sure to enter the contest to win a copy of Debbie Travis's new book Not Guilty - the contest is closing this weekend!

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Knocked Off My Knees

You're probably thinking that I didn't have the heart to read it.

But I did.

I read every word of Knocked Off My Knees, the book that my former university roommate and dear friend Grace wrote about coping with chronic illness.

I read every word of the book that I didn't even know existed until I attempted to respond to Grace several weeks ago, more than two years too late, and learned she had succumbed to lupus-related complications.

And while I felt my heart breaking just a little more with every page I turned, I have since carried Grace's words and her attitude with me as a kind of talisman against the fear and uncertainty that the spectre of cancer has recently visited upon me and my family.

Grace was my dormitory roommate in my first year at university. I met her just moments after parking the big beat-up, pickup truck I had driven, alone, to school in a big city several hours distant from my tiny home town.

It was 1989 and I was the stereotypical small town girl on the loose - big hair, tight jeans and too much makeup. I was there to party, make no mistake, so I hope I can be forgiven for admitting that my heart sank just a little when I met my roommate Grace.

Grace had sensible clothes, thick unruly hair and a face devoid of makeup. She was sweet and soft spoken, not loud and flashy. She had a way of pausing before she spoke, of really thinking about what she was going to say, that seemed awkward to me - someone who was accustomed to judging a person by the speed at which they could deliver snappy one liners.

Grace was, I soon learned, one of those rare sorts: a deeply committed Christian who actually weighed her every word and act to be sure they would do justice to her beliefs.

Grace lived her faith, truly lived her faith, and once I got over my shock - "You've never been to second base with a boy?! You can't remember the last time you saw a movie?!" - I came to deeply, deeply admire her.

I admired Grace because, although she chose to love God, there was nothing in her manner to suggest that she considered herself above the dozens of girls in the dorm, myself included, who chose instead to recklessly demonstrate a love of alcohol and parties and football players.

Grace didn't judge and she didn't preach: she didn't have to. There was a thoughtful confidence and calm about her, an inner peace - if you can forgive the cliche - that spoke volumes about the quiet rewards of unshakable faith.

After our first year as roommates I moved off campus, but remained friends with Grace. She visited my parents' home with me and I was a guest at her wedding, just half a year after graduation. But we didn't stay in touch much after that.

If I am honest, I will admit that there was a bit of a reluctance on my part to reconnect with Grace over the years. As time passed I put her on a bit of a pedestal. Throughout my lonely, single years as I struggled to find someone to love, I imagined her with a house full of beautiful and pious children and expected that she might pity me and my foolish choices.

Imagine my surprise, and my regret, when I learned in the book that she and her husband struggled with infertility for years and that lupus first struck, and left her a quadriplegic, when her first and only adopted child - a son - was less than a year old.

Grace sounds in the book just like I remember her: incredibly centred and pragmatic with regards to the injustice of her lot. Incredibly strong and full of faith. Knocked Off My Knees is not a philosophic rumination on living and dying, but rather a clear-eyed view of what patients endure and how they and their family members should conduct themselves, must conduct themselves, if they want to maximize the benefits of our medical system.

I think of Grace a lot these days. I wonder if her faith ever wavered after she fought back to recovery and published her book, only to see the disease return. I even wonder if she ever railed against God for not allowing her to live to see her son grow to manhood.

But I do not think that she did.

I also don't think she intended the book to make people feel sorry for her, but I am nonetheless overwhelmed with sadness at what she endured. Given that I was not able to offer any comfort to her during her time of need, I feel compelled to take away from her words some sense of meaning: I feel that I owe at least that much to her memory.

My life has not been easy these past few months. My beloved mother-in-law is fighting cancer and I am struggling to help both my husband and my son cope. There has been darkness these past few years that I have only hinted at here - sickness and stress and worry that has tested my strength and my marriage.

But I wonder if there was a reason why I decided, after all these years, to finally reconnect with Grace, the person who personified her name like no one else I have ever known. I wonder if I was meant, at this time in my life, to read her words and remember her strength and her faith and her calm.

And when I read this passage, at the closing of her book, I wonder if she isn't speaking directly to me.

"I don't know how healthy I'll be tomorrow or next week, or next month. But today I feel quite strong and well and am so thankful for that. All I can do is accept the unalterable, and wonderful, truth - it's in God's hands."

I like to think that she is.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Another cherished notion of childhood tradition shattered

In our house there is a hammock in a corner of a room surrounded by lots of glass and tall, green plants.

And ever since Graham was just a few days old, it is to this hammock in the corner of this room, that I have retreated with my boy in my arms to croon the same song: Happy Together by the Turtles.

"Me and you and you and me,
No matter how they toss the dice,
It had to be,

The only one for me is you,
And you for me,
So happy together."

And Graham doesn't fit into my arms the way he used to, but nonetheless we still retreat to that same hammock a few times a week and I still sing that same song to him. And every time I do I imagine that he is feeling the same sense of love and connectedness that I am.

Until yesterday.

We were swaying and I was softly crooning when Graham interrupted our reverie.

"Mommy please don't sing that song anymore."

I was taken aback.

"But I thought you loved that song."

"Well, I do like that song. But I just don't want you to sing it anymore."

"But Graham, mommy loves to sing it."

"BUT MOMMY!! I am just saying that I would just rather that you didn't sing that song anymore, OKAY?!"

I gulped.

"Oh...well...okay Graham."

And so it goes.


Thank you each and every one for your comforting words, support and thoughtful advice on Saturday 's post. They made a difference, they really did: much love and appreciation.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Ice Princess

Do you think there's such a thing as cold weather beauty?

I have to believe that there is.

Given that another 25 centimeters of snow just fell over the weekend here in Toronto and that the mercury has barely risen above -10 Celsius in days, there had better be.

Otherwise I may as well just give up the ghost and resign myself to spending several months every year packing on extra pounds, sporting dry skin and hair and wearing dreary, shapeless clothing.

But it's hard to be fetching when you're freezing, no question. And staying warm isn't normally very conducive to looking hot.

But as a self-proclaimed diva who makes her home in the Great White North - that's Canada, eh - I believe it behooves me to try. To that end I have a few tips to share before I turn the floor over to all you snow queens out there for your favorite ways to generate heat in the dead of winter.

Click on over to my Shooting For Hip column at Better Than A Playdate to read my tips on staying hot when it's cold outside and to contribute some of your own!

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Saturday, January 17, 2009


With regards to potty training, I'm back to the original plan.

Which is to say I'm back to having no plan whatsoever.

Six months ago I was happy to have no plan, comfortable with my decision to just let Graham start using the potty whenever he damn well felt like it and perhaps even a little proud of my ability to remain unconcerned about something that seemed to get other parents in a lather.

Today having no plan, no inclination and no energy to potty train feels like an epic failure.

About a month and a half ago, when Rob and I were seriously considering stealing south with Graham for a solid week of rest and relaxation at some dreamy resort that economic turmoil had suddenly placed in our price range, I realized that many of the kids clubs at said dreamy resorts didn't take kids who were still in diapers.

Suddenly potty training seemed like a good idea and I resolved that my more than two weeks off work over Christmas would be spent convincing Graham that, despite his assertions to the contrary, monsters do not live in the potty.

The first few days were fairly promising: he was proudly wearing his big boy underwear for a few hours a day and I felt confident that we would soon be kissing diapers goodbye.

Then Rob's mom got sick and it all seemed too much. The pleading, the cajoling, the resultant tears and tantrums: it all seemed too, too much. The day I burst into tears when he refused to sit on the potty was the day I knew I was done.

And so I gave up, I just gave up.

I'm back at work now and we're still waiting for tests and results of tests on my mother-in-law and quite frankly, I barely have the energy to make it through the day, never mind potty train.

Graham's still in diapers, exactly like he was a month and a half ago, but it doesn't feel the same as it did a month and a half ago. I don't feel comfortable or satisfied with my laissez-faire attitude about it: I won't be turning this situation into a charming and humorous post about how he might wear diapers to his prom.

My failure to follow through just feels like a failure, as does the increased television and junk food that Graham is now enjoying and I simply don't seem to have the strength to resist.

And all of this...this shitty parenting - because really, what else can you call it? - just feels like proof that I'm not coping well with this curve ball that life has thrown us.

Apparently all I needed was an excuse to embrace my lazy side. Apparently I'm not as capable a parent, or a person, as I once imagined.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Not Guilty!

(by LeeAnne)

Women spend so much of their lives feeling guilty.

Guilty about working outside the house, guilty about not working outside the house. Over scheduling, under scheduling. It just doesn’t matter: we feel guilty.

But Debbie Travis, star and creator of The Painted House, a 14-season, 200- episode, world-wide phenomenon has a new book that advises women to cut out the guilt.

Not Guilty - My Guide to Working Hard, Raising Kids and Laughing Through the Chaos is part memoir and part how to succeed in business, but mostly just Travis relaying how she made it through with lots of chutzpah, tantrums (hers) and laughter.

Click on over to Don Mills Diva Recipes and Reviews to read more about Not Guilty - My Guide to Working Hard, Raising Kids and Laughing Through the Chaos and to enter for your chance to have a copy of the book shipped right to your front door!

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Couldn't we all use just a little more Britney?

I am convinced the universe knows the DMD household could use a little good cheer these days.

How else to explain the uncanny convergence of my current favorite band with not one, but two (listen to the bridge!) of Graham's all-time favorite songs, which were recorded more than 40 years apart?

I discovered this video on Youtube a few days ago and Graham and I have watched it non-stop ever since: I take it as a clear sign that someone or something out there is determined to put a smile on my face.

Hope it does the same for you...

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

What cost Rain Forest Cafe?

I'm pretty sure I know how it's gonna go down.

There is a knock at the door and I open it to find an impossibly stylish young woman peering at me with a pitying expression.

And I try to play it cool.

"Hey bitch, whassup?!"

Her face goes from pitying to whithering: I've gone too far.

"I mean, hello," I gulp. "What brings you here today?"

"I think you know Kelly, I think you know."

And I do know, of course, but I pretend I don't and try to change the subject.

"That's an awesome shirt you're wearing, I used to have one just like it."

"I know you did," she says. "But that was a very long time ago, wasn't it?"

Her expression makes it clear that she's tired of making small talk.

"You can't prove anything," I hiss.

"Oh I think I can Kelly, I think I can."

She steps forward and I can't help but marvel at the confidence inherent in her swagger, to say nothing of her kick-ass stilettos.

"Nice boots, aren't they Kelly? A little nicer than the last ones you got, no?" She pauses and sneers. "Did you wear your new boots to your favorite new restaurant?"

Damn, she reads my blog!

"That's just mean!" I protest. "You know I only go to that restaurant the odd afternoon because Graham loves the play area! You can't possibly be here because of that."

Is that a flicker of sympathy I see in her eyes?

"It's not just that. Look, I could probably overlook that. I'm here because of what happened last Saturday night."

Last Saturday night?! Oh God. My stomach falls.

"Come on Kelly, don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about. You spent Saturday night at the Rain Forest Cafe, didn't you?! The place you swore you'd never go. The place where they have animatronic gorillas and paper mache crocodiles!"

"But, but, they were actually kinda neat and--"

"NEAT!? I can't believe what I'm hearing. Remember when you saw those animals in the wild? Remember when you camped in Africa under a full moon and listened to the lions roar and swore that your life would always be full of excitement?! Have you forgotten that? That you swore you would always be coo?!"

"But Graham loved it, he really loved it," I protest. "Just look..."

She sighs heavily.

"That doesn't matter to me and you know it Kelly. Now hand it over."

"But I don't want to..." I hate the whine in my voice, but feel powerless to control it.

She just glares at me and slowly shakes her head.

"Never mind, I don't think there's any of it left for me to actually take anyway."

And she turns her back on me. And away she stalks, my impossibly stylish younger self, leaving me once again marvelling at her confident swagger and mourning the very last semblance of my cool which travels with her.

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Friday, January 9, 2009

Hanging on

As we left his baby sitter's last night Graham begged to go and see his Oma on the way home.

I hesitated because he is recovering from a cold and she is ill.

But when he began to chant, "I want to see Oma! I want to see Oma!", I relented in the hopes that a quick visit from him would lift her spirits and break up the excruciating wait for further tests she is being forced to endure.

We only stayed for 15 minutes and Graham was a nightmare the entire time we were there.

He refused to give her a hug and then shouted and slapped at me when I tried to implore him to behave. When I decided to ignore him and just visit with her myself, Graham stomped on the floor and tried to pull me away.

When I scolded him and put him in a time out in another room, his chants of "NO!" were so loud that we could barely conduct a conversation. When, exasperated, I rose to scold him yet again, I saw he had tossed my boots, her bag and an area rug down the basement stairs.

"It's okay," my mother-in-law said. "He's tired."

And he was. But I was pissed. And irritated. Graham had begged me to come. She needed a lift. All he had to do was show up and act cute.

I put his coat on and brusquely shuttled him back out to the car.

"I'm very disappointed with the way you acted Graham," I admonished as I buckled him into his car seat. "You were not very nice to Oma."

"NO!" he shouted.

I sighed and slammed the car door harder than I should have.

The ride home was silent. I caught his eye once, deliberately, in the rear view mirror and frowned to convey my continuing anger and disappointment. Graham glared at me and defiantly looked away.

By the time we pulled into the driveway I didn't feel like fighting anymore: I just felt tired.

I unbuckled him solemnly.

"I'm sorry mommy." The words burst from him like water from a dam. "I'm sorry I wasn't very nice to Oma and I want a huggy."

And so I hugged him there in the car in the freezing dark evening.

And he clung to me so tightly and for so long that I finally just carried him into our house like that, with his damp face buried in my shoulder and his little arms wrapped around my neck like he never wanted to let go.

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Skating well

Society is like a large piece of frozen water;
and skating well is the great art of social life.

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Day After New Year's Day Dinner

(by LeeAnne)

As many faithful readers will know, my mother-in-law left my house on Christmas Day and went directly to the hospital.

My parents and brother were also there that night. I had told them Henny hadn’t been feeling well lately, but they immediately were alarmed by her loss of weight and, more importantly, her loss of zeal.

Gradual decline is much more difficult to see, but that night they helped us all see clearly that we needed to act.

And so we acted.

Henny was discharged on New Year's Eve and I started the new year by bringing her a big pot of homemade chicken soup and her favourite gluten-free grain loaf (I will post that recipe soon!). With a grim diagnosis and more questions than answers, I wasn’t sure what other way I could nourish her.

Check out LeeAnne's latest and greatest recipe over at Don Mills Diva Recipes and Reviews.

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Monday, January 5, 2009

The healing power of slutty shoes

What a difference a year makes.

Remember last year when I wrote a New Year's Shooting for Hip column about how the exchange of slutty shoes is somewhat of a Christmas tradition between my mom and !?

Well, it was. Well, it still is I guess, which is to say I did receive a very lovely pair of boots from my mother this year. And, as per usual, I did pick them out myself.

So I guess I have no one but myself to blame for fearing that, when stacked against the slutty boots and shoes of years past, those boots are a symbol of all the things that made 2008 such a sucky year.

Check out my Shooting for Hip column over at Better Than A Playdate, get a gander at the new boots and decide for yourself if they're slutty enough to help me face 2009 with ferocity...

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Friday, January 2, 2009

Of pearls and swine

Don't throw your pearls before swine.

I remember my late Irish grandmother saying that to me when I was an awkward tomboy, brimming with energy and a palpable yearning to be accepted and liked by other children. And I used to giggle at her and feel just a little embarrassed, even though I didn't know exactly what the expression meant.

But I know what it means now.

And I realized just what a great piece of advice it was last week while watching Graham in the play area of the restaurant-which-shall-not-be-named-but-which-I-have-nonetheless-learned-to-love-without-shame.

Yes, my son is only three years old. And no, there were no actual swine involved. There was only a perfectly normal and wonderfully boisterous group of eight or nine-year-old boys who were charging up and down the play structure, shouting and hooting and electrifying the air with their rambunctious energy.

And then there was Graham.

Graham spent the better part of an hour trailing the lot of them like a puppy dog in search of scraps. He stood at their edges, clapping his hands in excitement when they shouted and made vain attempt after vain attempt to join in their games of tag, only to be left in their figurative dust time and time again.

My heart ached to intervene, to distract him or implore the older boys to include him, but I didn't. I merely sipped my coffee and observed. Not only did the boys' rejection do nothing to dissuade him, Graham was so intent on trying to join the crowd that he actually failed to notice the overtures of a smaller, quieter boy who approached him and tried to interest him in a slide designed for children closer to their age.

As I watched I couldn't help but remember my grandmother's advice and I soon realized that the aching feeling in my heart was as much regret as it was sadness for Graham.

When I was younger I spent a lot of time and effort chasing the cool kids and the popular crowd; enough time and effort, it turned out, to ensure my eventual ascension to the top of the social heap in school. And while I largely remember my youth as a happy time, full of friends and socializing, I can't help but lament the huge amount of effort that I put into solidifying my social standing and the huge amount of anxiety I suffered as a result of the whole pursuit.

I wish I could go back and tell my younger self that it doesn't matter what other people think of her. I wish I could tell her that if she has to throw up before going on a date, then that guy probably isn't the one.

I wish I could tell her that B pluses and A minuses are fine, but that A pluses are within her grasp and that they will pay greater dividends than any party invitation. I wish I could tell her that she could win that scholarship to study in Hawaii if only she pursued it as fervently as she did popularity.

I wish I could tell her that sometimes the quiet kids are the most interesting ones and that one day she will wish she had spent more time pursuing deeper relationships with people of quality.

I wish I could tell her that her brother, despite his awkward high school career, was going to be her brother forever and that she would one day regret not cultivating his friendship and having his back in those days.

But we all know that it's impossible to revisit our younger selves. And as a result of that knowledge, I think it becomes all too easy to try and transport our hard-won adult wisdom and confidence to our children.

But the painful truth is, that is equally impossible.

One of the most revelatory aspects of parenting is the way it forces you to relive your own childhood, to suddenly be transported to the days when you faced the same challenges your children encounter.

And as cliche as it sounds, I am realizing that it is hard, much harder than I imagined, to refrain from seeing my child's life as a canvas on which I may repaint my masterpiece and correct past errors.

And maybe it is a tad overwrought to project the whole of my social history onto Graham's tender three-year-old soul, but watching him trail after the maddening crowd the other day left me fervently wishing that one day he would have the strength and the confidence to heed the advice that my younger self had chosen to ignore.

Don't throw your pearls before swine.

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Thursday, January 1, 2009


Especially this year Rob and I were happy, thrilled really, to continue what has been a New Year's Eve tradition since Graham's birth in 2005.

His mother, who was released from the hospital yesterday afternoon, and his father joined us for a lovely dinner. Rob and I put Graham to bed and slipped out to a neighborhood pub for an hour, returning before midnight, just in time to countdown 2009 and enjoy a celebratory glass of champagne with his parents.

The doctors have found cancer in the lymph nodes around my mother-in-law's stomach: this is apparently fairly common among long-time celiac sufferers. She will undergo further testing this week to determine if the cancer has spread to her chest or bone marrow and to determine what, if any, course of treatment will be most effective.

I do not know what 2009 will bring for my family. I do know we had a wonderful evening last night and that's a great start.

Thank you all for your continued support and good wishes.

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