Wednesday, October 26, 2011

He's Still Here

We've all been there. When the twinkle dust of a new relationship settles, the Disney birds flutter away and we're left with the cold, hard fact that our partner, like us, is merely mortal.

Mine is not the toilet-seat-leaving-up kind, but he does have certain habits that make me grit my teeth (witness pie crust edged tongue from over-clenching - ew) and make me mutter to myself because no one on Twitter should have to read such cussing.

Case in point: every day when I shower, I have to first push down the shower head holder so the spray doesn't hit the back wall of the shower and find its way as gentle sprinkles on the toilet paper. That's because of HIM. And every day, he moves it back up. (You'd think we were dealing with a giant here.)

I have more, and they seem petty, so I'll get to my real point. For all of my griping, mostly inward, there is this perspective: These habits are proof that he's still with me. Not in a relationship kind of way, but on this earth.

I would take shower head re-positioning, unfolded towels on rods, coffee table moved within couch reach, spandex bike wear and all the sports channels in the world (okay now I'm listing them) over the alternative: not having him here with me.

He works the night shift but if he happens to catch me in bed in the morning, he always touches the small of my back. I wait for it, half awake, every time. And there it is. Just as comforting is the daily adjustment of the shower head.

He's still here.

Monday, October 24, 2011

It's a Colourful Life

It's not until my business partner Breanne and I take a step back that we realize how crazy our lives are. In one moment we could be dressed to the nines and discussing code delivery with a client, and in the next we're dressed as clowns and high-tailing it to a gig in one of our Mini Coopers.

We have so many anecdotes, we joke about writing a book. Things like, late night phone calls where one of us says to the other "Quick! Put on the Balooberry costume and slap a moustache on him so we can show our support for Movember!" or "Damn, I'm all out of nose glue. Do you have any?" or "Come on over and let's paint each other over a bottle of wine!" or "These balloon swords are looking disturbingly phallic."

Good times, good times. I no longer remember what normal families do. In the early years of the company, our basement was full of party props we could pull out at a moment's notice. My older children helped out at parties, often dressed in costume. Their friends sometimes helped make bookmarks or stuff jelly bean "swag" bags for a trade show. On the occasional Thursday, my kids and I are still flying down the highway (as fast as you can fly in a Mini), heading to clown practice.

Ah, the photo shoots: Planking in Victoria Park (yep, we're trendy clowns), black light face painting at Elements Night Club with our whole crew, three silly clowns working it for the camera in a studio, and the birthday party of our contest winner. All so memorable.

Most importantly, we've laughed until we've cried. It's a colourful life and I wouldn't trade it for all the sleep in the world. Well, maybe some.

I Telecommute with Clothes On

For almost eleven years now I've worked from home in Waterloo for a company in Toronto. I am one of many employees of this company who telecommute from all over North America. We program and consult from our desks, attend client meetings on the phone, and travel to the client as needed, which isn't often.

We don't visit each other's cubicles or gather around the water cooler, but we communicate often through phone, e-mail and video conferencing. Technology has enabled us to share information in this very visual work we do.

About ten years ago, Maclean's magazine had an issue with a clearly naked woman lying on her bed, covered only by her laptop. The subject was telecommuting. I was so angry at this portayal of work at home employees and felt the cover hurt the movement toward more employees of this nature, so I wrote to the editor. The letter, indicating I was fully clothed and fully engaged was published.

Here we are ten years later and still the daily commute continues because management feels work must be done in person. Industries where employee performance and accountability are easily measurable are not taking advantage of the tools available today. Offices are still leased and all of the expenses associated with having that office are eventually passed along to consumers. Don't get me started on the environment.

So while resources are being sourced outside the country, wouldn't the real savings be in setting up more "fully clothed" and "fully engaged" telecommuters?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sanity Saver: The Meal Plan

If you're a parent, we've visited the same hell known as "meal time." It's that time when coincidentally, you just want to go to sleep after a long day rather than think about what to make for dinner, wonder if you should have defrosted something, and then stand at a stove as your children in constant rotation ask what's for dinner, cry "ewwww!" and then ask if it's ready yet.

I don't claim to be the most organized person, but with a full time job, a small business, three children and a house, I can be cut a bit of slack. Thanks for that. Now I'll share my sanity saver: the Meal Plan.

My Meal Plan is a four week schedule of what's for dinner. The important part here is that I didn't create it alone. I sat down with my children and asked them what their favourite foods were. Mine are older, so we didn't get too many outrageous requests, but I still had to use discretion so not everything was slathered in cheese.

I took the list of suggested entrees and sides and made my four week plan. Then I posted it on the friedge. Because my children were involved in the process, they have automatic buy-in. Now they go to the fridge and squeal when they see what's for dinner. My shoulders have come down an inch. My shopping list is virtually created for me each week.

We do stray from the schedule sometimes if I'm away at dinner time or if the children want a special "eat out" night, but now I'm ready in advance of a meal. The energy draining question of what to make, followed by the usual rejection by the children has been eliminated.

Bon appetit!

Friday, October 21, 2011

What is a Single Parent?

We hear the term "single parent" and it creates a Pavlovian response of sympathy, as in "he or she has it tougher than everyone else", but really, what is a single parent?

Is it the parent who has single-handedly raised his or her children with no financial or other support from the child's other parent? Is it the the custodial parent who has his or her child most of the time while the other parent has access to the child and provides child support? Do we even need to differentiate?

Raising children with both parents present in the same home is challenging enough.
Now take away a parent and suddenly morning and bedtime routines, appointments, homework, clothes shopping, extra curricular activities, illness, etc. all fall on one parent, for the most part. Now take away a parent altogether and now there are no breaks for the remaining parent (which blows my mind) and no financial support. Add to that no second parent with whom to field questions of health, morals or education.

I know some parents in the last scenario who do it all and I don't know how they are still sane. Some say they prefer it that way but it certainly can't be an easy life.

My own situation has my children with me for half of the week. I miss them terribly when they are not with me but I'm also given that "down time" from parenting to do extra work, chores, errands, etc. The downside is that having a routine is next to impossible, as the children just start getting reminded of their responsibilities when they are gone again. All family business must be addressed in half of the time, leaving little time for just being a family.

Even though I have a partner, he entered into my children's lives when they were older, so the business of raising them (when they are with me) has fallen to me. Still, I don't feel I qualify or have "earned" the title of "single parent."

What is your definition and understanding of a "single parent?"

Friday, October 14, 2011

My Eyes Are Up Here

Interesting conversations on Twitter tonight around gender stereotypes, many centered around this thought provoking video from What is our responsibility when it comes to how gender roles are perceived? Is it our fault if our children grow up to believe men are more capable than women when we are inundated day in and day out with that very message? How much control do we have over our children's thoughts when as soon as they are out of our sight they see through all forms of media that women's bodies are the prize?

I grew up believing a man would be my protector and it's been a hard feeling to shake. I am surrounded by images of what my body should look like and only feel I am lacking when I frequent celebrity news sites showing "post baby bump" and "red carpet" pictures or leaf through magazines with endless photoshopped images.

The thinking is that the media and not the people are to blame, but is that accurate? I know that media and marketing push us toward what they think we want to think and feel but which came first in this scenario: the images of toned bodies with large breasts and full lips, or our desire to see/be those things? Futhermore, if we continue to be consumers of the movies,agazines and products that objectify women, can we really blame the media?

I observed a man tweeting that he was incensed to have been left out of a campaign by a large grocery store whose target demographic was women (who, incidentally make 80% of buying decisions). I agreed with him but also thought "if women are so powerful, why are they not using that power to say 'enough!' to gender stereotypical marketing?"

Now let's look at our children who from birth are exposed to the pink or blue world. Is there any hope that our own daily defiance of what they are exposed to as they just try to fit in will have any effect? How exhausting the effort seems to battle image after image from TV, internet, stores and magazines. I may have to quit my day job and don a unitard to battle each inference that my daughters can't be anything or that my son should open his mind to a woman's intelligence rather than her body.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Wealth is Relative

This week I attended the She's Connected Conference in Toronto. It was by invitation and I was grateful for the experience, not only because of the new and renewed friendships but because I was reminded that material wealth is relative. We were surrounded by brands, drove in a hands-free parking car, and received tons of swag. I was surrounded by smartly dressed women with a varying array of electronic devices.

I think it was the shoe party where the first stark contrast in economies hit hard: a friend stood at the back of a two storey shoe store where music blasted, price tags daunted and a roped red carpet let in only the invited. She was crying because of the helplessness of trying to give aid to a homeless women who not only refused the bag of food offered, she ensured she placed it in front of the shoe store for her donor to see.

Back at the hotel, as we stood outside, we were approached by a raving homeless man who stood two feet from our faces, wanting a cigarette. Normally I would have complied, but I didn't feel safe and told him to go away. With that, he snatched a lit cigarette from my friend's hand and walked away, daring us to call the police. I walked past the shiny new cars to tell hotel stuff what had happened.

While the two worlds of "have a lot" and "have nothing" were glaringly apparent, there was also the world of "woah is me." That world is occupied by those of us who look at what we do not have, instead of looking at what we have. We say we have "no money", but we have our electronic devices and our cars. We had enough to travel and stay in a hotel but not enough to buy the gorgeous shoes or purses.

When we compare our wealth to what we do not have, we are frustrated by our lot in life. We need to find ways to make more money. It is an endless, fruitless pursuit because we will never have it all.

If we compare our wealth to what others do not have, we can almost feel ashamed of the abundance in our lives.

I'm going to work on adjusting my thinking to realize all that I do have, instead of dwelling on what I do not have. It will be a monumental shift in thinking but one that will allow me to enjoy my reality instead of pining for future wealth. I'll bet just one year from now it won't matter that I didn't buy that fringed purse but it will matter that I spent more time with the people who are dear to me.