Sunday, 19 June 2011

And I Quote

In honor of Father's Day, here are a few famous words from the Dads in my life, and of course the subsequent lessons learned.

"You don't have to go to a shiva just because someone died." This is one of my favorite things that my father-in-law has ever said.  The only reason on g-d's green earth to go to a shiva is because someone died. But I know what he meant.  He meant that if someone you vaguely know dies, or it's someone you didn't like, or if you weren't close, or if you don't really know the family, then you don't necessarily have to go to the shiva/visitation/memorial service.  There are enough tragedies that we have to witness.  If it's one where you aren't really needed - spare yourself.

"Kids, eat this or it's going to end up in soup."  My husband thinks I am sometimes a raging lunatic  a bit over-creative with the leftovers.  He's not wrong.  Yesterday's crudites are tomorrow's stir-fry and er, sometimes next week's soup.  While I defend my right to be efficient in the kitchen, I have to give a little credit to him and think about the end result - taste? texture? smell? -  not just my selfish desires to clear fridge space.

"That's not the last straw.  This is."  For a few weeks in the late eighties my dad walked around with a straw in his suit pocket waiting for someone to say "That's the last straw" whereupon he would hand him the pocket straw and say - "nope, this is".   This struck me as hilarious.  I learned that catching people off guard can be a great ice breaker.  Things are a lot funnier when they are unpredictable.

"Do not park in anyone else's driveway." My great uncle has a long and extensive list of life lessons, and this is one that resonates with me because whenever I park in someone else's driveway it ends up being a bad idea.  Either someone comes home and needs their spot, or I am blocking someone in, or people want access to the basketball net.  It's not your driveway.  Don't park there.

"You are coming to a party at my house.  Do not wear your boots. Please wear nice shoes." Rewind twenty plus years ago when I loved my Doc Martens deeply, but I love my uncle more.  And when he asked me to please wear nice (read - ladylike) shoes to his party I appreciated the direct approach and did what he wanted.  I think it's much more respectful to tell someone what your expectation is than to leave them to do their own thing and then whisper behind their back or worse - become insulted that they didn't read your mind.

Any favorite quotes you want to share?

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The Real Reason Strep is Going Around

It's amazing how many people sat on Oprah's couch and said I saw it coming, but that didn't stop me.   I reached for the ice cream and I thought I felt a foot in the deep freeze, but his eyes were just so blue, I couldn't tear myself away.

We watch, amazed that someone could see that their wife spent every penny she had, kept mumbling under her breath about Bingo, but still left the bank account in both our names because, hell, her macaroni and cheese was just so damn creamy.

We would never do that, we say to ourselves.  We would recognize the writing on the wall and run shrieking in the other direction.

But when it comes to our bodies, how many times to we ignore symptoms or put off going to the doctor until it's really too late?  How many times to we ignore the throbbing pain in our shoulder just so we can keep on knitting? Or maybe that last one is just me.

My friend C has strep.  She called to complain.  (I know you also have strep, but since you didn't call me to complain, this story is not about you.)  C's complaint is that her kids were sick and she thinks she picked something up in the festering swamp of germs known as the pediatrician's office.  

I reminded her that last week when she was forcing me to climb hills more appropriate for first year marine boot camp on our walk, she was already feeling run down.  She was exhausted.  She was depleted.  She had nothing left to give.

She saw the signs. 

But did she heed this warning, book a ticket to Tahiti and blackberry be damned?

Did she crawl into bed with a good book and lay there for 24 hours?

Nope.  She went back home, back to work, back to the kids and continued to burn the candle at both ends until, well, until she got burned.

So, the soapbox statement of the day is -

If you take a preventative break when you start to realize you need to, you can probably heal yourself in a half a day.  If you ignore the flashing red light over your head until you end up in an ambulance by yourself at 3am because you threw your back out, it may take six weeks to recover. 

Ladies and gentlemen, if your body is trying to tell you something please heed that message.  

Otherwise you are no better than the suburban mom saying she noticed most of her spoons were missing but figured her boys really liked ice cream.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Have you ever been on a diet and maybe you weren't perfect, but as you pull into the parking spot on your way to get weighed, you remember that you turned down home-baked chocolate chip cookies, you said no to an after-work beer with colleagues, and politely refused your mother-in-law's world famous potato salad? and then you get on the scale, all smug, and you are the same, or worse up .02?

And you feel doubly annoyed, first because the numbers aren't what you had hoped, but also because you feel you should get the credit for every thing you didn't eat?  You feel that there should be some sort of recognition system for everything you said no to?

I am thinking that the same principle applies to simplifying my life.  I would like to get credit for everything I didn't do this weekend.  Everything I turned down, said no to and gently refused.

Here are three things I could have done this weekend, and didn't:

1.  Didn't go to Twentieth College Reunion.  This weekend is my twenty year college reunion.  I loved college.  My roommates are still my BFFs, we were each others bridesmaids, and even though we live in different countries we see each other a decent amount.  My husband was my boyfriend back then, so he knows everyone too, and would love to see Usdan as much as I would.  Then there are all the facebook friends that I wouldn't mind seeing IRL (In Real Life)  and all of this points to a fun time for all.  BUT, it has been an incredibly hectic season for us, featuring several trips to various time zones, and I didn't think we could handle one more road trip/hotel stay/ice cream social.  So even though I didn't have a huge reason for saying No, more like a lot of little reasons, I turned down the opportunity to have a good time for the opportunity to be responsible.  I would like some credit for this.

2. Didn't have a Garage Sale.  I was vaguely planning to have a Garage Sale before the summer got into full swing.  I have a few projects that I could be fundraising for, and a house that could always use de-cluttering.  Plus, my kids love to help with the Garage Sale, in part because they want to take the money and run to the nearest KFC.  Then, I just changed my mind.  Garage sales are a lot of work.  I can de-clutter, I can re-organize but I don't actually have to stand outside for four hours making change.  So, I didn't have a Garage Sale this weekend because I just decided it was too much work. I chose not to have a Garage Sale out of pure laziness, how's that for simplifying?

3. Didn't Cook Dinner.  Yesterday my superstar husband went to the grocery store, and before he left I asked him to buy something he could make for supper.  His culinary repertoire is a little slim, so I suggested sandwiches.  Husband thought sandwiches were more of a lunch food.  Couldn't believe that I was suggesting we dine on Portuguese rolls with oven roasted turkey slices after 6pm.  I didn't cave, though.  I knew I was going to have a busy day - simplification aside - and I didn't want to have to think about dinner.  Plan worked.  Came home at 6:15pm.  Sammies ready at 6:30pm.  Mission accomplished, and I didn't have to lift a finger.

Trying to lose weight does not come naturally to me.  Neither does simplifying my life.  But I sometimes feel I would be a lot further ahead if I got credit for all the things I didn't eat, drink, smoke or worse.

How about you?

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Stormy Weather, Any Port in a Storm, Upcoming Storm Warnings in Effect

A family in Toronto had a baby named Storm.  The kid was born healthy, with all its parts where they should be.  However, the parents decided not to tell anyone whether this is a boy or a girl.  They want the child to be able to make her/his decision when s/he gets older.

Three reasons this is insane:

1.  Not telling people if you have a boy or a girl (once the baby is born) is very weird behavior.  By extension, these parents are making their child very weird.  Before the child puts on its first brown and orange turtleneck, before it has even picked its nose and eaten it or accidentally wet its pants in public, this child is already a complete oddball.  Might as well lead the kid to the corner and hand him or her a pot of paste and a spoon.

2.  Gender is not a choice.  Veganism is a choice.  Gender is determined by your DNA, the level and types of hormones coursing through your blood, and a bunch of other things that would probably make more sense to me had I taken Biology instead of North American Literature.  Telling a kid they can choose their gender is like blindfolding them for the first few years of life and then letting them decide whether or not they want to see when they get older.  

3.  These parents are allegedly doing this because they don't want to make a big deal out of gender.  The best way to not make a big deal out of gender is to conceal your baby's gender, get interviewed by the local paper, capture the attention of the national and international press, and end up the most read and commented article online all week.  Way to fly under the radar, guys.

I can understand not wanting to stereotype your kids.  I get the gender neutral name, I can see letting your daughter play with cars. Hell, I even understand letting your son wear nail polish.  

But if you are born with a healthy child, for the love of g-d tell us whether it's a boy or a girl.  

We promise not to judge you for it.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

A Tip for Effective Complaining

Have you ever asked someone for directions, and they say something like: "and you're going to pass a gas station on your left, don't turn, keep going straight till you pass a school on your right, don't turn, just keep going straight, over a bridge and then keep going straight - no turn yet - till you get to a stop light and then go straight till Main Street where you go left"?

That is completely too much information for me.

I would like directions that say: "go straight until Main Street, and then make a left."

Please do not give me all the extraneous information regarding churches, gas stations, schools, sheep grazing in a meadow.  Maybe it's just me, but my exhausted brain can only handle the relevant information.  Please weed out the detail, and focus me on what I need to know.

Yesterday, a colleague came to see me for advice.  She needs to lodge a formal complaint on behalf of a relative at a health care centre.  She told me the complaint - let's say she didn't think the place was a good fit- and then she started telling me about every other encounter her relative had ever had at a range of doctor's offices, hospitals, community centres and parking lots throughout the city.

I don't care.

Not to be mean.  But if you are complaining about the ice cream melting, I don't need to know that you had ice cream in Italy, and by the way it's called Gelato there, and the flavors - oh, the flavors - and you go to Italy every summer, but this year you are thinking about France, maybe a houseboat.

Stay focused.

When you are lodging a complaint, formal or informal, know what your issue is and stick to it.

You may see gas stations, stores, or a few sheep grazing in a meadow.

Just keep going straight.