Just a little rant. . .

It’s been a while. But I’ve got something to say and this is quite likely the best place to say it.

I wish to GOD that people would stop posting all those melodramatic posts about what it means to be a mother.

Don’t get me wrong – I know being a mom is a tough (tuff) job – but come on people! It’s not like you’re working in the salt mines or digging ditches in 100 degree heat all day!

The tone of all these posts that get circulated on the internet is that somehow being a mother is akin to being in shackles and that there is absolutely no respite or appreciation or compensation for the job.

I call bullshit!

I don’t get why all these women who wanted a home and family are now so bent on getting attention and recognition for their ‘sacrifices’.  It wasn’t a sacrifice — it was a choice. A choice women since the dawn of time have made. And they made it knowing that it would change their lives. Mostly for the better.

Despite all the mewling and whining and ‘woe-is-me’ out there, I believe most women who have been mothers or are mothers just get on with the job of being mom. That includes being wife, housecleaner and chief bottle washer. They get up each morning with a smile and greet their families without the marks of self-flaggelation upon their backs.

You don’t see a gazillion weepy-penned articles or posts about what it means to be a dad.  If all these women crying the blues think they’ve got it so bad, think they’re so under-appreciated and under-valued, why don’t they try being the dad for awhile. Gain a little perspective, then talk about sacrifice.

I was a mom. I loved it. Not every day did I love it, but 93% of the time I have to say, I completely loved my job. To me, it was the most important thing I could ever do in my life. Raising a child, teaching him, guiding him, providing for him. I chose that, no one forced me into it.

I was lucky, I had a husband who worked full time while I stayed home. Occasionally I worked at a part-time job when we wanted extra money for holidays or some big purchase. But mostly, I got to be at home – a place I took pride in, a place I felt blessed to have, a place I knew was my responsibility to keep clean and maintain as a trade-off for being a stay-at-home wife and mother.

I don’t get how the women in these posts and articles feel they need all this validation. They’re constantly bemoaning the fact hat their husbands come home and question them about what they did all day when they walk in the door to chaos and no supper. Well, I question that, too.

What the hell are they doing all day? Surfing Pinterest for the next great birthday theme so that they can impress all the other whiny-mommies? Or, perhaps it’s searching for butt and ab exercise routines that can be done in under 20 minutes? No, more than likely it’s for smoothie recipes to help them lose weight.

And, if it’s not Pinterest, then they’re probably on FaceBook or Twitter or just texting to complain about how hard their little lives are. Meanwhile their kids are being ignored, the house is a mess and they don’t get why their husbands are  no longer attracted to them.

It’s time for women to stop acting like martyrs. Time for them to step up, do their job, and do it well. Time for them to stop begging on social medial for respect and acknowledgement. Nobody, except movies stars and athletes, gets to do that.

You’re a mom — get used to it.

 

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April 24th

Day 115 — I saw swans winging there way in a sunny blue sky this morning.  It made me smile.  I wished I could chase after them, but I was on my way to work.  Lately, I’ve been thinking about how nice it would be to not have to get up and go to work every day.  But the Universe has yet to bless me with enough money to make that a reality.  I’ll just have to keep believing that one day it will be so.

Gotta get back, gotta get back. . .

Some words borrowed from The Who.

That’s really dating me, I’m afraid.

I can just imagine some younger readers going The Who who?

But, I won’t be going there.  This is not a post about old rock and roll bands.

This is a post about old me.

Although, really, I’m not old.

But, man!  Was I ever starting to act like I was!

For a couple of years now I’ve been kind of free-wheeling in place, not really knowing what I was doing or where I was going.

Over the past 6 months or so I’ve really been doing some stock-taking, some re-evaluation, some soul-searching, some trying to figure out what the hell I’m going to do with what’s left of my life.

And, I’ve decided I need to get back.

Back to a place inside myself where creativity once reigned supreme.

I used to pride myself on my ability to creatively problem solve.  If we didn’t have the money for something (which was quite often) I could usually come up with some way to find it.  I thought outside the box.  It was normal.

As time progressed and money became less of an issue I began to find it easier to just buy whatever it was I/we needed.

Not creative.

Well, maybe a little.  Because, I always look to get the absolute best deal I possibly can — and that can require some small measure of creativity.

There’s another word for that, I know.  Cheap. I prefer frugal.

It sounds more creative.

However, I need to get back to what I was saying.  About getting back.  Getting back to a part of myself that I’d abandoned.

About a week ago I was talking with a friend and she mentioned how she sees herself doing something entirely different from what she is currently doing.

She envisions herself as being a motivator.  Talking to others, giving them inspiration.

And I know, that if anyone can do this, my friend can.  She inspires me.

And, after I got off the phone I started thinking:  where do I see myself in 20 years time?

Sitting in front of a TV?  With knitting or crocheting?  Waiting for a phone call from my son or my grandchildren?  Waiting for the community senior’s bus to pick me up so I can go play cards or do a jigsaw puzzle?

I was horrified.  This is not what I had ever imagined for myself.

No, the future I had imagined long ago, in the time before marriage and children and grandchildren was something entirely different.

I saw myself as an adventurer, a photographer, a writer.  I saw myself as living in a place that nurtured me and inspired me and fed me.

Somewhere along the way that vision was altered.

And, not for one minute do I regret the alteration.

I have had a wonderful life up to this point.

Marriage, family, grandchildren, love in abundance.

A beautiful home, a great job, money to pay my bills and afford a few luxuries.

But, now, as time seems to slip and slide around me and I become daily more aware of the preciousness of it, I’m beginning to wonder.

Shouldn’t I be doing more with my life?  Shouldn’t I be trying to live as creatively and beautifully as I possibly can in the years left before me?

Because, really, how many are there left?

As my favorite sister and brother-in-law pointed out to us this weekend it could all end in a moment.

You could step into the shower feeling strong and healthy and then, as you step out, have your heart falter and fail.

All chances to live better, live to your potential, live with creativity– gone.

And how you are going to be remembered is who you were when you stepped into that shower.

Maybe you wanted to be someone different.  Someone who ran marathons.  Someone who wrote poetry and read it aloud in small coffee shops.  Someone who painted.  Someone who took singing lessons. Or swimming lessons. Or bungee jumped.  Or sailed around the world.

We all have dreams.  We all dream that we can do and be so much more than who we really are.

Very few of us ever actually pursue those dreams.

Because doing that takes conviction and creativity.

And being creative takes work.  It means always thinking beyond what’s obvious.

It means being willing to take a chance.

It means choosing the road less travelled, risking failure, forsaking ‘normal’.

I don’t know yet what it is exactly I’m going to do, but I do know it’s going to be something great.

I don’t mean great as in President of the United States great (I am Canadian, after all).  I mean great in that it will make me feel great, make me feel as though each day I live has meaning and purpose.

It’s going to be fun and I’m going to do it with joyful abandon.

I’m going to get creative.

I’m going to inspire the people I love most in this life to live their lives the same way.

To their fullest, most creative potential.

That’s something I wouldn’t mind being remembered for.

Resisting

This is a post about how tired I am of being ripped off.  Specifically for television; for entertainment, really.

For a year we had a great deal on the cost of our cable, internet and phone through Shaw.  $67.95/month, plus taxes and long distance charges when incurred.  Rarely did our monthly bill go over 80 bucks.

Now, I knew it was going to go up after the year was finished, but imagine my shock and horror when the new bill came in.  $180, plus change.  More than $100/month increase!  I nearly fainted.

So, I asked my husband, who’s a great talker, to call and see if he could get us a better deal.  He couldn’t.  So, I decided to give it a go.  Afterall, I was the one who managed to get us the great deal we’d enjoyed for the past year.

Two wasted hours of my life later I had haggled my way to a whopping $14/month discount, agreed to pay 2/3’s of the cost of a new PVR (with FREE installation!!) and an added bonus of 6 months free long distance anywhere in North America.

I was so tired and worn out by the end that I simply didn’t care anymore.  However, I did tell the young man I’d dealt with that I wanted the name of the president of the company and his address.  He was a bit dumb-founded, said he’d never had such a request.  He promised to get the info for me, but when he came back he told me how I could go through the many steps of customer contact/feedback utilizing the website.  I thanked him and hung up.

Angry, I was determined to write the president/CEO of Shaw and tell him exactly what I thought of their customer service.

NOT, that we were treated poorly, with disrespect or anything like that.  It’s more a matter that customers, especially long-term customers — we’ve been with Shaw for over 23 years — are not valued.  Not in the least.

When I asked how it was that for 12 months the company could provide me with High Speed internet, Premier channel packages and home phone with 4 cent/minute long distance for the low price of $67.95, but that now that a year has passed that same package is worth nearly two and a half times as much, they would not answer me.

When I stated that I was not looking to have that fabulous deal last forever —  I am not stupid or unrealistic, I declared — I simply wanted to get the best deal I possibly could.  And, seeing that they were offering good deals to new customers could they not offer the same deals to me?

Well, no, I was told.  Shaw simply cannot afford to offer back-to-back deals like that, it’s not an effective way of doing business.  Well, I said, how effective a way to do business is it if your customers decide to leave and take their business elsewhere?

There are always choices, I was told.

So, we made a choice.  Or, rather, my husband did and I’m supporting him in it.  He called Shaw two days after my deal-making and told them they could keep their new PVR and that he was cancelling our cable.  They were a little flummoxed at first, but they quickly refunded the deposit I’d paid on the PVR and the disconnected our cable service IMMEDIATELY.

Guess that will teach us to resist.

It’s only been two nights without television, and other than the odd glance toward where it sits mutely in its corner, I haven’t missed it.  I do wonder how we’ll feel once ‘our’ shows are back on — The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, Hell on Wheels, and Game of Thrones — but Tim assures me we can stream them all on the computer.

All this has made me think of how much we — thinking, feeling, intelligent — human beings are willing to pay in order to be entertained.

Way back when, when we first moved to Bon Accord our cable television cost us about $36/month.  The internet hadn’t been invented yet, so there was no cost for that.  The phone cost about $40/month.  We didn’t have cell phones.  It was pretty cheap, comparatively.

Slowly, as technology advanced, the phone company and the cable company started upping their rates.  It was for all the improvements they were making, don’t you know, so that we would have better reception, better selection, better choices.

Our monthly bills for entertainment creeped steadily upwards so that by November 2011, my bill for cable and internet had reached $145/month, my landline $65/month (with unlimited long-distance for $19.95/month), and our cell phones $100/month.  I called Shaw and asked them what they could do for me to keep me from switching to Telus.

They put together the great deal I enjoyed for a year.

Going back to my wasted two hours, the young man I was dealing with kindly pointed out to me just how preferentially Shaw had actually treated me, and that this showed just how much they really did care about their long-term customers.  In fact, he told me, Shaw had actually saved me over $1000 that year!

I nearly choked.  Excuse me, I said as politely as I possibly could, you can take that $1000 dollars and average it out over 23 years and then tell me how great a deal it was.  Don’t you dare try to make me feel guilty or look greedy because I am taking offense to the outrageous cost of having your services delivered to my home.

I don’t know when it became acceptable to pay $200 and more a month for things like television, internet and phones, but it’s not something I’m willing to accept.  This is entertainment, people.  Delivered to the masses through satellite dishes, fibre-optic lines and good old transmission signals.

We’re constantly being told how cost-effective and efficient these methods of delivery are, so why in the name of God are they so expensive?

I believe it’s simply because we’ve become a culture that needs to be entertained all the time.  We’re addicted to reality shows instead of reality, we prefer texting and face-booking one another rather than talking face-to-face, we’d rather spend family time in our living rooms huddled before our giant plasma /HD/3D televisions mesmerised by images of other people’s imaginations rather than pursuing or nurturing our own.  We have, for the most part, forgotten how to entertain ourselves.

I’ve been wondering lately why it is that I don’t have time to crochet or do crafts like I once did.  Why it is that it takes me forever to read a book.  How come I can’t seem to find the time to go for a walk in the evenings like I once did.

Well, the truth is because I now spend all that time either in front of my computer screen or in front of the television screen.  (Well, I used to, anyway.)  And, I admit, that if I could have all that for the cheap prices of yesterday I’d be more than happy to continue on watching and interneting.

Maybe Shaw did me a favour, maybe by charging so much they finally forced me to wake up and pay attention to how much of my life I was wasting in front of a flat screen.

Perhaps, resisting isn’t futile after all.

Menial Chores, the luxury of

So, yesterday, I got up close and personal with my kitchen and bathroom floors.  For the first time in over 10 years I got down on my hands and knees and scrubbed them.

Now, don’t go thinking I’m some kind of slovenly pig — I do wash my floors quite regularly — at least once a week, but I usually do it with a mop.

My husband owns this horrible pair of black-soled shoes that leaves awful scuff marks whenever he tromps through the house with them on.  I’ve asked that he cease doing that, at least in those shoes, but, he’s a man and he forgets.  So, I’m forever stooping down to scrub them away and cursing him while I’m at it.

Yesterday, I decided it was high time to wash the floors and I noticed that there were scuff marks all over the place.  I would be stooping and cursing a lot, it seemed.

It would, I thought, be easier to just stay low to the floor.  Out came the mop bucket, a good rag, one of those miracle sponge thingys and a scrub brush — and a towel for my knees, which I didn’t think of getting until I was nearly half-way done.

I enjoyed the exercise.  Honestly.  While I was down there scrubbing away and wiping off the scuff marks I had a great conversation with myself.   I thought about the Christmas just past and how much I’d enjoyed myself, I envisioned my afternoon with friends and the movie we were going to see.  I mumbled and muttered away to myself about all kinds of little, forgettable things.  Yes, it took twice the amount of time it normally takes me to wash the floors, but, it was time well spent.

My floors are old.  They’re pushing 30, I believe, and need replacing in the worst way.  But, they’re going to have to last for a couple more years, at least.  I took my time while scrubbing and wiped the baseboards down, I dug into corners and scrubbed grimy spots under the cupboards. I was horrified to discover just how much hair I’d lost — my god, it was everywhere!

While I was down there I thought about how much use these floors have seen:  the years my son spent growing up here and the thousands of footsteps he’d taken upon them; the scrabble of our two dog’s nails upon them as we tossed balls or played catch-me! with them; the hushed footsteps of my husband and I as we traversed the cool linoleum on early mornings trying not to wake each other as we begin our days; the untold number of friends and family’s footsteps during visits and holidays; and now, the constant patter of my grandchildren’s small feet as they run and dash through the house whenever they’re over.

They are old floors, they are battle-scarred and worn, and as I washed and scrubbed and scoured I felt thankful that I had such wonderful floors.

Still, when I was done, when I stood up and slowly flexed my aching knees and stretched out my crooked back I took an appraising look at my handiwork and declared loudly that that was the last time I’d wash a floor on my hands and knees.  Ever.

Oh, and lovely memories or not, those floors gotta go.

My New Year Plan for 2013

Jar full of memories -- what will mine be?Image courtesy Google images.

Jar full of memories — what will mine be?
Image courtesy Google images.

Saw this neat idea on Facebook about creating a jar full of happy memories that you would then review at the end of the year.  It’s very simple:  you take a large, empty mason jar and every time something good happens in your life you write it down on a piece of paper and stick it in the jar.  On December 31st you open the jar and read all the wonderful things you experienced throughout the year.

I think this sounds like a terrific idea — sort of the daily affirmation thing (that I’ve kind of let slide lately).  But, what I’m going to do is use my blog as my jar and post my good things on here, and, I’m going to try and post something each day.

That’s 365 good things, one small post a day.  I think —  I hope — I can manage it.  Surely, there has to be at least one nice thing that happens each day.  This little experiment will prove it.

I sometimes find myself feeling very depressed and sorry for myself, but when I look back at my wonderful life I can see that really I have nothing to despair about.  Anything that bothers me is usually because I choose to let it bother me.  There is so much in my life that I have to be happy and grateful for that maybe by writing down one thing each day I will stay focused on that.

And so, with that little preamble, here goes.

Saturday morning

Just a little bit about being grateful —
Today
I am grateful for
My health
My family
My life;
I am grateful for
Fresh ground coffee
Irish cream to go with it
And time to enjoy it;
I am grateful for
Generosity
Optimism and
Spirit;
I am grateful
For words,
My love of them and
My ability to use them;
I am grateful for
Friends
Laughter
Love.

Monday — the last Monday. . .

. . . of this 2011/2012 school year, that is.

This last couple of weeks has gone by really, really slowly.  Today was our last day with the kids. We won’t see them again until Friday when they come in for half a day to pick up their report cards and attend one last assembly.

We have to switch classrooms — again — seems like Special Ed is the most transient group in the school system.  We just moved into our new digs last year and we had come to really like and appreciate our space.  Next year will be our third time moving.  It’s enough to make me want to cry.  Hopefully, this latest move will be our last.  Our kids need and deserve continuity.  Ah well, here’s to hoping.

I have mixed feelings about what to expect for next year.  We are going from having 5 full time aides and one part timer to only 3 full time aides (possibly only 2).  The needs are the same, perhaps even greater in some respects, but we’re really going to have to spread ourselves out in order to meet the demands.  It’s going to be a challenge, that’s for sure.  Good thing I work in a challenging environment.

 

 

 

. . .and now, for something completely different

. . .we had a terrific weekend.

It was my husband’s birthday on Friday.  I kidnapped him and took him out for dinner and a night on the town.  I booked us a hotel room for the night right smack dab in the middle of downtown Edmonton.

We went to Lux for supper.  Had a fantastic meal.  Steak, lobster mac (homemade macaroni and cheese with lobster– sounds weird, but it was fantastic!) potatoes gratin, asparagus, hollandaise sauce and a Cabernet  demi glace (which neither of us cared for).  We also had, by far the best caesar salad I’ve had in nearly 20 years.

Dinner was a leisurely two and a half hours and two bottles of a lovely Gewürztraminer.  We finished up with a an absolutely divine creme brulee with homemade almond shortbread cookies. When we finally left the restaurant, it was close to closing.  We wandered back to our hotel — a mere 5-minute walk away.  Then we decided that, what the hell, we’re on the town, we can stay up late and go back out.

We walked another 5 minutes to the Baccarat Casino, where we spent a couple of hours just playing the machines.  We broke even in the end and left just 15 minutes before the place was closing.

This little escape from normality was exactly what we needed.  We didn’t get out of bed until nearly 10:30 the next day.  With no phones to jangle us awake it was a real treat.

We went and had a really late breakfast and then decided to go shopping for a bit.  Out to IKEA we went.  I was bored after an hour and wanted to leave.  But I got a new rack to hang my pots from and a cute little shelving unit for the laundry room.

After that we went to check out barbecues, because I am in the market for a new one now that I have a new deck.  We checked out a couple of different ones, and I’m pretty sure I know which one I’m going to buy, and it’s not the $3500 Bull model, though, I am sorely tempted.  If we had won the lottery this weekend then I’d spring for it.  But, for our budget, I think I’ll go a little (quite a bit littler) cheaper. Really the barbecue I’ve decided on is a lovely one, much, much, much nicer than the one I’ve had for nearly 25 years.

If I can convince Tim to go order it tomorrow, I may have a barbecue by next weekend.  I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed.

So, that’s enough about the bbq.  We got home and spent the evening just relaxing some more. Watched the latest Mission Impossible movie.  It was okay.

Then today the kids came out for supper. Tim went for a bike ride with some buddies and I cleaned and cooked.  Got to sit out on my deck in the sunshine and read some more of The Help.

I am loving that book. I’m having no trouble keeping separated from the movie.  Both are excellent, I couldn’t recommend one more than the other, and I’d have to say it doesn’t matter which you do first.

We had a great time.  Took the kids to the park for a bit, then had supper and cake.

The hockey game came on, Landon and I argued a little bit about the worthiness of the Canucks.  His best friend came by with his new baby girl.  She is the cutest little peanut I’ve seen in a long time.  I got to cuddle her for a while, it was lovely holding a baby in my arms again.

Then, everyone left, and once again it was quiet.

It’s back to work tomorrow and my lovely, enjoyable, relaxing weekend will have become a memory.

 

 

Friday, March 23, 2012 The Hunger Games Review

Okay, so I’m going to attempt this again.

Big drum roll, and. . .

. . . the CUPE convention is done.  I only have a half day of a parliamentary procedure class to get through tomorrow and then I’m on my way home.  Yay!

Now,for The Hunger Games.

I finished the trilogy about 3 weeks ago.  I enjoyed the series, though got through the first two books a lot faster than the third.  This was for two reasons:

1.  the first two books are better
2.  I didn’t have as much time for reading with the third book as I did for the first two

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed these books.  Because they’re written for young adults I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Collins, though, writes quickly, clearly and with definite purpose.  And these books aren’t all about girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl finds boy again, girl lives happily ever after — Collins deviates from that formula just enough to make these books smart, intelligent and gritty.

I found myself really liking and caring about Katniss Everdeen, her friends, and family.  Collins creates a female protagonist who is very real; she’s got definite problems and they don’t just go away because a boy comes along.

The books are incredibly violent and deal with some pretty deep themes, which given the age they’re written for might seem surprising, but, if you stop to think about it, maybe not so much.

After all, Collins’ audience is one that watches movies like Saw, Hostel and the like, and that also plays some of the most violent and gruesome video games ever made.  These kids have been raised on this kind of material.  What Collins does do, though, is provide a backdrop of psychological terror and consequence that the characters in her stories must suffer as a result of the world they inhabit. It’s not just about who is stronger, and characters don’t get the living shit kicked out of them and then stand up victorious with barely a scratch to show.  And I think this is the real genius of her tale.

Katniss’ world is one of horror and hardship, but it’s a world she’s used to; she’s not looking for a knight in shining armour to come along and make it all better for her.  Despite her many problems, all she’s had to endure and all the horror that awaits her after winning the Hunger Games, Katniss survives because she thinks for herself.  Collins gives us a young female character who is fiercely independent, flawed and resourceful.  She is often wracked with self-doubt, as most girls that age are, but she never gives up on herself.

I hope that girls everywhere get that message.  The world is a messy place and you better be prepared to handle it on your own terms.  Bad things happen, but you can rise above them — and you don’t need anyone to hold your hand while you do.  No one makes it out of life without scars, it’s how you wear those scars that determines who you are.

Now for the nitty-gritty about the books themselves.  The first two were an incredibly fast read.  Book three, not so much.  It felt, as it does with most trilogies, not including The Lord of the Rings, that by the third book Collins was beginning to run out of steam.  It seemed rushed, like she just wanted the story to be over.  She does a credible job of ending it all, without the usual trite, happily ever after baloney, but I found it left me feeling a little flat.

Because these books were written specifically for a younger audience I often found myself frustrated by the lack of depth regarding secondary characters.  I found this especially troubling when it came to President Snow.  I wanted more — more history, more detail, more reaction.  It often felt like Collins took an ‘out-of-sight, out-of-mind’ approach to her characters.  Still, in all, the books captured my imagination, and not once did I ever think ‘oh, get on with it, will you!’

Was I sad when they were finished?  No.  Did I wish they hadn’t ended?  No.  Did I find myself entertaining thoughts of a fourth book?  No.

If I were to use a star rating here’s what it would look like:

Book One, The Hunger Games — 5 stars
Book Two, Catching Fire — 4 stars
Book Three, Mockingjay — 3.5 stars

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