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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