Friday favourites: Platinum Dirt, Ski Queen, Until the End of the World

Here's some stuff that's inspiring me lately:

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The soundtrack from Wim Wenders’s Until the End of the World. I saw the movie with my friend Peter sometime during a Montréal summer in 1991, and then I listened to the soundtrack obsessively for years. I pulled it out it out during a recent road trip and it's still so evocative. I need to watch the movie again. The premise — (loosely) people becoming addicted to revisiting their dreams — seems so prescient/relevant these days, when so much of our lives is chronicled and available online. How long will it be until we can see each other's dreams? Here's my battered CD copy.

(Speaking of movies, we watched the original Karate Kid for family movie night a week or so ago. Still totally awesome, and I love the kookiness of its premise: in six weeks, YOU TOO can not only get the girl but ALSO become California's reigning black belt karate champion! All you have to do is landscape Pat Morita’s yard! More seriously, though, I love how director John G. Avildsen just lets the story unfold in its own sweet time. They don't make patient movies like that any more.)

New pens! I’ve been writing with these since forever and still love them.

My new “shark” bag from bag Platinum Dirt: I splurged on this one while I was in California, and am now regretting not splurging further on a couple arm cuffs and other accessories. You guys, this bag curves around my body and is made from recycled Cadillac leather upholstery. Plus it has two inside pockets and one of them is lined with fuzzy, fuzzy material. It holds everything, and it doubles my cool quotient just by wearing it. Plus it looks like a shark fin in backpack mode. 

This cheese. I hear Norwegians eat it for breakfast, which is another reason why Norwegians are so sexy. It's like caramel. But cheese.

An atheist walks into a synagogue with her kids…

I made these. For reals.

I made these. For reals.

My latest post on Todays Parent explains why, as an atheist, I still take my kids to synagogue. Reason #1: Community.

Community: We live in Thunder Bay, Ontario, population 110,000. Of that 110,000, approximately 50 people are Jews. I’m not kidding. When I take my kids to synagogue and they celebrate Shabbat and Hanukkah and Rosh Hashanah with a couple of dozen (or just a few) other Jewish people, it lets them know that they’re not alone, that they’re part of something larger, that they’re not freaks.

You can read the other reasons here

 

On pain

cracking up, holding together

cracking up, holding together

I’m working on a big client project right now. The subject? Ha. Pain. Specifically, pain for cancer patients: what it is, what causes it, what it feels like, how to talk about it, how to treat it, people’s fears and emotions around it. Yesterday, I spoke with a lovely, lovely man who was so open and generous with me about his (ongoing) physical pain: what he lives with, how this disease has bankrupted him, how difficult it was to make his needs for relief to hospital staff understood and respected. He broke down a couple of times during the conversation, and we sat in silence for several moments while he collected himself and I focused hard on keeping collected.

And yet, the first thing he said to me when we got on the phone was, “You sound tired.”

I am tired. I’m not sleeping all that well. These are painful times for so many of us, at so many levels. Acute and chronic individual physical pain; anxiety and depression, as so many of the responses to Robin Williams’s death have brought up; the ongoing atrocities in Ferguson, in Gaza, in Syria, in places too numerous and scary to mention. It feels as though we’re all living a little closer to the surface right now, more nerve endings exposed, rubbed raw and referring outward, pinging off of other things so that we don’t know exactly why we’re weeping in the grocery aisle, doubled over in the archway between the kitchen and living room.

From this project and others similar to it, I know that people find it hard to describe their pain, to remember it once it’s passed, to articulate it in the midst of it. Personally, I've found it difficult to say much articulate, coherent, about world events, but I'm not comfortable sitting in silence either as people's humans rights are violated, over and over. I don't want to be the hospital nurse who could do something to alleviate the pain and chooses not to. It’s exhausting to live in the midst of pain, to get up as it literally and figuratively knocks you over again and again, to stand and move forward. Some of us don’t get to stand up and move forward. Too often, that’s through no fault of our own but an accident of geography, chemistry, skin colour, gender, sexuality, heritage. And guess what? In my research for this project, I came across this: “Inadequate pain treatment in patients with cancer remains a significant problem and appears to be more frequent among minorities,” who are nearly twice as likely as white patients to receive inadequate pain treatment. 

No wonder I’m so anxious these days.

Pain is information. It’s a sign that something is wrong, that something needs to change. We need to change things, because we are all too tired, rubbed raw and living too close to the edge. We need to take care of each other, every single one of us, to ask what we can do, to do what we can without being asked. We need to say, "You sound tired,” to open up about what’s going on and — if nothing else — sit in silence for a moment or two of acknowledgment, and then find some way to speak up, to help. 

My new digs — aka, Why you need to redesign your blog

Let’s backtrack a bit here: have you noticed this blog redesign? This entire new website? Are you kvelling the way I am over this new space? Because — I’m just going to say it — it’s gorgeous, isn’t it?

It was a long winter, as you may recall, and maybe the longness and coldness of that winter lulled me into thinking that I’d feel more like writing once things had thawed. And that may have been at least partially true, but a truthier truth was I didn’t feel like writing in large part because I had outgrown this blog’s old home.

When I first started blogging, 35 weeks’ pregnant with Isaac, who is now seven, it was a side project, an experiment with a platform and a technology and a practice. I began blogging as a way of creating a sustained personal writing practice, without much understanding — and how could I have known? — where it might all go. The short version is that it’s gone many, many places and that, now, blogging is no longer a side project but an integral part of my career and my (writing) life.

So I talked to writer, website designer (and friend and roommate extraordinaire) Elan Morgan over at Shmutzie.com about how to create an online space that reflects more accurately my creative and professional writing. And together, we (by which I mean mostly her) came up with this.

Early on in the process, Elan sent me a design questionnaire. When I couldn’t easily pick a single colour palette or choose the top 10 words that describe my writing (ironic, I know), I countered by sending her photographs of things in my home that I love to look at. Including several sculptures by my friend and client Sarah Link, a local ceramic artist with an international reputation.

I don’t think I’ve written yet about Sarah, which is a shame, because I’m constantly in awe of her work and amazed and grateful that I get to be privy to a small part of her creative process. I first became aware of her brilliance when Rowan was about two. You know when you’re at a gallery and for weeks after you regret not buying a piece that spoke to you? That’s what happened. In my defense, Sarah had gathered together a dozen or so delicate, creepy, ocean-inspired clay sculptures in a low wooden box filled with sand. And all I could think was, “I love that, but I have a toddler.”

But then I couldn’t stop thinking about those pieces. And I searched out Sarah online and made contact. And she very gently blew me off. And then, a few Octobers ago, I discovered that she was participating in a local home and studio tour. And that she lived two streets over. And so I gathered up Isaac (because what I really liked to do back then was to take my four-year-old to pottery studios) and hustled over. And Isaac was reverent. And so was I.

I don’t know if you know that one of my superpowers is getting artists to sell me things that they’ve decided to keep for themselves. I honed in immediately on two huge ceramic bowls in Sarah’s studio — the last two pieces, she told me, from a residency at the Medalta historic kilns in Medicine Hat, Alberta. (I love this fact: those tiny holes in those bowls? Made with the tip of a ballpoint pen. Over and over.) They weren’t for sale, she explained, because she needed to keep them to remind herself of that time. And I commented that maybe that was the key difference between her kind of art and mine: if I sell a story, I still get to hold on to it. And she said, “You’re a writer?”

And the upshot is that those two bowls are sitting on my kitchen counter, and Sarah can come over any time she likes to visit them and all the other wonderful pieces of hers that make my home more beautiful. I write articles about her and her work for various galleries and trade magazines, and she pays me in beauty. I’m totally winning.

But that’s not even the real point. The real point is that Sarah and Isaac have built their own friendship. The real point is her ridiculous generosity; the way she has spent hours with him at the wheel, showing him how to build pots, and glaze them; the way she takes his creative vision so seriously; the way he brings her pretty rocks that he thinks she’ll like and the fact that she displays them on her studio shelves next to her own work.

So when I sent those photographs to Elan, and she said, “You know, what really stood out were those sculptures,” I knew we were onto something. With Sarah’s permission, I set about photographing the various rocks and eggs and pods and other works around the house — many of them touchtone pieces that I hold in one hand while I’m trying to figure out an approach to an article — and sent the photos to Elan, who helped to shape them into what you see here, on this site.

So, sure: on the one hand you could argue that I sit alone in my office at my computer for hours each day. But the truth of the matter is that this so-called solitary writing life is always a collaboration. You just have to know where to look.

(P.S.: Shameless self-promotion, but in celebration of the relaunch of the site, don't you think you should sign up for e-mail subscriptions or — if you haven't already – like this blog on Facebook? You can do both with the handy links to the right. Thanks.)

 

When an eight-year-old asks, "Who's the real mom?"

No one asked them. Toronto, circa 1972.

No one asked them. Toronto, circa 1972.

I've got a million strategies — some more effective than others — for dealing with invasive questions about my family. But what happens when the questions come from kids? That's the topic I take on in my most recent Today's Parent post

I can easily see how the subject could become contentious: Forcing a kid (or a grown-up) into an inane conversation peppered with unanswerable questions seems like a surefire recipe for frustration, or worse. I, for one, do my best to be matter-of-fact and move on. Because, frankly, either you get queer families, or you don’t. If you do, we generally don’t need to explain the more philosophical questions about exactly what constitutes a “real mom.” And if you don’t, well, then you’re generally not looking for answers to your questions. Too often, you’re trying to get me defensive about my family. And I have better things to do than defend my family’s reality against people who can’t really deal with the fact that it exists, right there in front of them. Reality bites sometimes, dude.
But I will talk to kids, because kids do what kids do, which is test, and ask questions, and gauge from your words and your openness and your body language just how comfortable you are with a given subject. When kids ask questions—questions they already know the answers to—they’re trying to figure out the bigger picture, to solidify their own place in the world relative to everyone else’s, and see how we all fit together.

Two nice counterpoint to this whole discussion are my blog-girlfriend Casey Casey-Brown's recent post on SheKnows: Stop Asking Me Where I Got My Daughter, and Vikki Reich's (to whom I am blog concubine) article "How many moms does she have?" on VillageQ.

Between 10 and 19

I have two anniversaries, as one does: the anniversary of the day we first got together, and — as more and more of the gays do these days — a wedding anniversary.

Today is the first anniversary, marking that evening that in 1995 when Rachel and I both showed up at that big old house in Toronto’s Annex, where our friend Kathryn was house sitting (for one of our mutual women’s studies profs, natch) and had decided to have a sleepover party. I remember arriving, tingling, knowing that that girl would be there. And we sat under a grape arbour in the lush backyard, all vines and leaves entwining over our heads, and I was thinking of John Wyndham’s post-apocalyptic novel when Rachel said, “Have you ever read Day of the Triffids?” And I was all like Deal, sealed.

Funny, that.

We got married in June 2004. I was pregnant, as one is. And at our wedding our friends Jodi and Caitlin gave us a bottle of wine and told us to open it on our 10th wedding anniversary. And then June 2014 came and went and she was at a soccer tournament and I was away and then she was away and children and life and commitments and I don’t feel like drinking tonight and it took until two nights ago for us to finally crack open that bottle, closer to the second anniversary than the first, but somehow that seemed appropriate.

You guys, I worried about uncorking that wine. I was surprised that the bottle had lasted as long as it had — that it hadn’t broken, hadn’t been accidentally drunk at a party. Frankly, I was also somewhat incredulous that we had lasted the full 10 years, not to mention the 19. Because relationships are hard. Relationships are work, a lot of it, almost all the time. A lot of that work is boring: as Isaac is fond of saying to us, "All you guys ever talk about are washing machines and refrigerators." And then you add in one baby and then another and the actual work that pays you money if you’re lucky, and getting older, and all the other things that make up a life and it’s a wonder any of us stay together for more than a drink or two.

 

But there we were two nights ago, with the entire house to ourselves and doing the kinds of things that parents do when their children have been whisked away by angelic other people — cooking a real dinner (risotto with local chanterelle mushrooms, since you asked); eating late, outside, music on; lingering over an entire bottle of wine.

We hadn’t stored the wine properly — just stuck it on the top shelf of the wine rack and let it be, subject to light and heat and temperature fluctuations. When you have toddlers, children, a single bottle of wine has to fend for itself, a couple of rungs lower than the cats. And I thought, Well, if it’s corked, that’s not a sign. It’s just a thing that happened. We’ll open something else. It’ll be fine either way.

But, really, I wanted it to have lasted. I’m too hooked on metaphor and imagery to not have had a pang or two for the bottle that represented so much hope a decade ago to have withered away to vinegar.

The wine wasn’t corked. It was rich and complex and interesting and delicious. And we ate our dinner on the deck we built for the house we bought together. And it was lovely.

Look: I have no idea where I’ll be 19 years from now, 10 years from now. Even a couple of years from now is a quantifiable unknown. Around me, relationships crack and heal and scar and dissolve and re-form, although you wouldn’t know it on Facebook, at least not until after the fact. I can tell you what I do know about me and that girl at that house in the Annex: I know that wherever we are, it will be as the result of doing that daily work and how well we do it. I also know that even if we do a great job, the results aren’t guaranteed.

So this isn’t going to be one of those “Happy anniversary!” posts where I say, “Here’s to the next 19 years, babe!” Because who knows? What I do know, for sure, is that no matter what happens (and so, so much fantastic stuff could and likely will happen) over the next decades, no matter where we end up, that I hope to always be able to sit down with you over a great bottle of wine, and spend an evening in rich, complex, interesting, delicious conversation. 

Baggage

I’m trying to learn how to travel light.

It’s an ongoing quest, this push toward bare essentials. I fantasize about perfectly organized, lightweight suitcases; about wearing everything I bring and longing for nothing. The reality is a little messier: just one more black T-shirt, one more pair of shoes, the perpetual agony about whether to pack workout gear, the tension between bringing the clothes I know and love and wear every day and bringing the more experimental, “special,” clothes (hello, funky silver pants, blue dress!) that I feel I should wear but never quite do.

I pack for weeks in my head before any significant trip. It’s a coping mechanism to deal with travel stress; I know this. If I focus on acquiring travel-sized toothpaste; that go-with-everything lightweight black wrap; a party clutch that will hold my phone, a couple of chargers, business cards and room key; then I don’t have to think about the leaving, the people, the money spent, the social interactions, whether I’ll make an ass of myself at a conference session or on the dance floor. If I can just get that magical packing part down, then everything else will fall into place and the pre-trip deadlines will meet themselves and I’ll even sleep the night before I leave.

Oh, I’m adorable.

I’m getting better — I managed to get everything for my recent weeklong trip to California and the BlogHer14 conference into a single carry-on (plus a fairly hefty “purse”). And this is because, instead of packing for weeks in my head, I finally caved to my demons and made a proper list: toiletries, jewelry, tech, documents, a list of outfits for each occasion, lingerie and sleepwear, reading materials, shoes. Always the shoes. I used fancy headings and columns and checklist bullets, and my stress levels decreased almost immediately. That’s one of the best things I ever learned from life-hacking guru David Allen, author of Getting Things Done (read it; it’s life-changing): things are on our minds because (a) we don’t know what we want, (b) we don’t know what to do next, or (c) because we know these things but we haven’t created some kind of trustworthy system — i.e., a list — for remembering them:

“Until those thoughts have been clarified and those decisions made, and the resulting data has been stored in a system that you absolutely know you will think about as often as you need to, your brain can’t give up the job. You can fool everyone else, but you can’t fool your own mind. … Even if you’ve already decided on the next step you’ll take to resolve the problem, your mind can’t let go until and unless you write yourself a reminder in a place that knows you will, without fail, look. It will keep pressuring you about that untaken next step, usually when you can do anything about it, which will just add to your stress.”

Amen. So, the list. The day before the trip, I gathered every item on it, threw it on my bed (my voice dictation software keeps typing in “threw it on my dad,” which I find inexplicably funny, but no mind), rolled up everything into tubes and stuck it in my carry-on. And then I threw in a few more things, until the suitcase was full.

The upshot? Middling. The photo at the top shows everything I took with me to California. The pile on the right is all the stuff I actually wore. The pile on the left contains things like the silver pants and the blue dress and the extra black T-shirt — mostly, stuff that wasn’t on the list.

I get that life is too short to strive for packing perfection. I get that packing is not a zero-sum game. (And, yes, it is understood that if one can blog about one’s special silver pants from the safety of one’s own home then packing is a first-world problem.) I get that sometimes you need to bring a bathing suit or a warm jacket that you will never wear but that you might need. I get that maybe the hotel will have a gym and you’ll be really happy you brought your sneakers, but that mostly you won’t. I get that sometimes you don’t know exactly what a trip, a city, an occasion, will call for and that it is always good to have a party dress and shoes you can hike in — and that life is too short to dance in shoes that hurt. I get that I might want to wear the same thing three days in a row, or I might wear the same thing at this conference that I wore at the last conference and that I’ll just have to hope that it’s true that nobody really cares, or even notices. I get that you may leave your favourite jacket on a train, and that you can always, in a pinch, buy more underwear.

What I’m learning, though, is that at least half the weight of my baggage is emotional, and that maybe I can learn how to leave that stuff behind.

As an editor, sometimes I get so caught up in the cutting, in honing down stories and paragraphs to their barest essentials, as though efficiency is writing’s only or best virtue. But of course it’s the flourishes — those extra, well-placed quirks or digressions — that, ultimately, add personality, make the piece. And the same, perhaps, is true for baggage: you know, less is more, except when it’s not.

Also, I bought the shoes, because the Internet told me to, And because they may just be the sexiest things I own.

Also, I bought the shoes, because the Internet told me to, And because they may just be the sexiest things I own.


Ink

So, this happened.

Of course, it didn't quite just "happen": like I woke up from some bender with a typewriter on my arm. 

But it happened, in the sense that I walked into San Francisco’s Black Heart Tattoo on Valencia with one idea — a sailor heart with “MOM” on the banner — and ended up with this instead. But that’s sometimes how these things go: all the planning, all the analysis, and then you find yourself in the chair, being inked with an image that came to you in a flash and that you knew, immediately, was completely right. Or at least close enough.

My dad worked for IBM when I was a kid, and one of the highlights of visiting his Vancouver office in the early 80s was getting to call my Toronto friends long-distance on the company dime. The other was typing for hours on the heavy, humming IBM Selectrics that populated the office, crunching out words and sentences in analog before we even knew what that was. 

I wanted one of those machines, desperately, but they were out of my price range even with the family discount, and so when I was 13 I plunked down, on a whim, $300 for a lesser-quality electric typewriter at Woolworth’s. That machine — more specifically, seeing my words in type — gave me such a sense of power: what a rush, to press a key and have a machine respond so immediately, so eagerly, to my touch, to feel the speed and the weight of metal keys striking real paper, nothing between them but ink.

I don’t remember what I wrote on that typewriter, nor do I know what became of it — our family acquired a PC and a dot-matrix printer shortly thereafter, and that’s what I begin using for school assignments, letters, stories. My dad got me my very own PC when I started my undergrad degree, and it was on that computer’s internal modem that I first hooked up to the Internet sometime in the mid-90s. (“Guess how many e-mails I got today?” I once remember my friend Kim asking excitedly: “Twelve!”)

And the rest, you might say, is history: from e-mailing and primitive online chat to Facebook and Twitter, Facebook, blogging, Instagram, all of which I participate in fully, knowingly, even as I no longer actually type — three-quarters of a lifetime on keyboards and mice long ago blew out my forearms and wrists, and so now I dictate into my computer and my words and images appear magically on the screen, all over the world, with the silent push of a button and who knows what kind of behind-the-scenes machinations.

“What do you all do?” asked Cody, my taciturn tattoo artist, inking in the keys. (Everyone in the place was taciturn, not quite unfriendly but definitely not going to give me the benefit of the doubt — just another fortysomething walking in off the street without a clear vision and mostly virgin skin. The resplendently tattooed Farrah Braniff, who was with me and took all these photos, was determined to warm them up with a steady stream of Texan charm and tattoo cred, and eventually Cody got talking and laughing.)

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"Um, I’m a writer,” I said, gesturing to the stencil of the typewriter on my right bicep. He asked what kind of writing I did, and I explained: magazine, essays, blogs—

“Hey — there’s a blogging conference going on in San Jose!” he said, and we laughed, because that’s where we had just come from: BlogHer 2014. “A couple ladies came in last week were going to that.” And so we put two and two together and midway through my tattoo I was Twitter DMing, one-handed, with Tiffany and Christine, whom I’d met at the conference, and who now sported Cody’s seahorse and butterflies respectively. And of course I was fielding Facebook chat about the process, all the while Instagramming the ink, as Farrah took and shared photos.

Funny, isn’t it? The way these two worlds have merged? I spent a week in California, three days deep in Silicon Valley, discussing new paradigms for publishing, the increasingly visible Web, live-tweeting everything, texting and DMing and Facebook sharing privately and with the world so many of the details.

And yet, as always, what the conference was really about was direct connection: conversations over lunch and brunch and dinner, a quick coffee grabbed between sessions (thanks, Liz — and now I’m noticing sentence fragments everywhere, including the ones in this post), stealing away with my roommate/blog girlfriend for blog-girlfriend conversation the midst of it all, all the dozens of micro and macro connections made in real time, the way you can meet someone for the first time instantly know she’ll be your favourite.

And, as always, the best conversations and moments are probably the ones we don’t necessarily Tweet right away, or ever. Instead, they inform our writing, our work, our perspectives, get distilled into the words and the art, the bigger picture, keep us thinking, help keep us focused on the next project or adventure even when we can’t quite see how it will turn out.

I didn’t bring my computer to the conference — one more thing to weigh me down when I already have baggage about carrying too much — but after a week in California without making time to journal, I wrote eleven (yes, eleven) longhand notebook pages on the plane, taking up the better part of two hours just getting down thoughts and impressions, barely any analysis.

I didn’t take enough photos, don’t have the energy to write out all eleven pages’ worth of details here, and even if I did you wouldn’t want to read them all. But what I came away with from the conference is that, for me, blogging is still about the writing. Even if writing is no longer only about ink on paper. I led a session with Meiko Patton on self-editing at the conference, and when people asked about things like SEO, I just shrugged my shoulders. It’s not that I don’t care about the numbers, about visibility. Of course I want my posts to pop up first in searches, to reach a wide audience. But mostly, I want to play with words, write headlines that will make me happy, even while the blinking light in my SEO indicator stays firmly in the red. I don’t care if it goes green — I just hit publish when the words are ready (enough) to go.

In a world where so much is digital, it’s good to remind myself of that. It’s good to come away from the epicentre of technology reconfirmed in what I’ve almost always known: what I want most is to get the words out, to get them down, indelible. What I need most in this loopy, hybrid, digital/analog world are the words, as immediate as possible. Pen on paper, metal keys striking through the fabric ribbon, or my voice transmuted through microphone onto a blank page — that’s what that typewriter reminds me of, Cody’s hands etching it into me, metal needle on skin, nothing between the two but ink.


In between nothing at all

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I am in between right now.

That’s the best way to describe it. At this very moment, in between lunchtime pickup and collecting the kids from camp and childcare to take them to the dentist. Waiting for one load of laundry to finish washing and another to be put away. I am in between worlds, trying to follow what's going on in conflicts across the globe, caught between my desire to know more, to try to make sense of it all, and the overwhelming amount of information and opinions masquerading as understanding. I am in between jobs — everything is at design or with its editor or waiting for approvals, and I sit here with my checklist full of checkmarks, wondering what might next come down the chute. I am in between “work” and “vacation”: I head out tomorrow for a weekend in a tent with Isaac (I know, I know ...), and then next week to California and BlogHer, and I am so excited about that that I want to pull a Madeleine L’Engle and wrinkle time so that I can get there without all this messy business of being in between then and now, here and there.

(BlogHer, California: I want to see you, and you, and you, some of you whom I’ve met before in person and some of you for whom it only feels like it; I want to close the circle between the richness of last year’s conference — and the one before that — and this upcoming one, refuel with the physical presence of all you on-liners, and chance encounters, and spoken words, and dance-floor shenanigans to get me through another year.)

And so I’m in that space where I find myself saying, “I guess we’ll talk about that in August. I guess I’ll see you after I’m back,” as though nothing real can happen, no plans can be made, between now and then.

(Even this website is in between — you can’t tell right now, but it’s under a serious overhaul as I grow it up, take the ultimately rewarding also occasionally profoundly uncomfortable steps of shedding an old skin, moving to an online presence that’s a more accurate reflection of who I am, what I do (and what I want to do). Nothing like taking a hard look at all the work you’ve done over the past decade and a half and trying to quantify it. Nothing like talking about yourself for pages, struggling to find the happy place between honest portrayal and marketing-friendly. Especially for somebody who so loves to use em-dashes and parenthetical asides.)

It’s not my favourite state of being, this liminality, hovering between what’s happened and what’s next. I don’t like waiting for the ping of my e-mail (one just came in, by the way, from a magazine: they love that essay on Star Wars, but can’t use it, in case you want it), for the likes on Facebook, the reply to the text, as though they and not I will determine next steps.

I should be doing something, but what? Write, work, or step away from the computer, pull the kid (the one not at a beloved summer program this week) out of the babysitter’s, and head out on a river hike with a friend and her children — out of cell phone range, off the grid.

Because, these kids, they know how to be here now. We hiked (walked, meandered, skipped) through the wooded path out to the rocks and the river, until they suddenly stopped at a pool filled with tadpoles and baby salamanders, where they stayed for the next two hours, catching and releasing and processing and engaging in the usual discussion of the ethics of taking home living things in plastic bags. (“And what do you think it would be like if a giant monster came down and picked you up and said, ‘He’s so cute! I think I’ll take him home and put him in a jar and feed him motor oil! I'm sure he’ll like that!’”)

At one point, we asked — as grown-ups do — if the kids might like to walk a little further, a little higher up the river, and they replied immediately, in unison, “NO!” As though the idea was preposterous, even offensive, which it was: why on earth would they want to be anywhere but exactly where they were, right then? And who were we to ask?

They were right. And so we stayed, and played, and lay in the sun, and peed in the woods, and found a frog, and a spider with an egg sac, and a carnivorous plant, and looked and looked at the sky and the rocks and the trees, none of which were waiting for anything at all.

The kids are still all right, already

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Guess what? It turns out that kids of queer parents are still doing just fine.

In my post this week at Today's Parent, I talk about the findings of the Australian Study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families, released Monday.

In fact queerspawn aren't doing just fine — they are doing the same as or better than their straight-reared peers, a finding that is consistent with other studies on the subject showing that queer families do better in part because we're less likely to abuse our children, divide up childcare and household responsibilities more equitably, talk to our kids about how their families were created, and teach our kids about activism bullying, and standing up for the underdog. Just for example:

It was see no like you go where you do a lot of slow stretches lie down around you realize that you seeSpecifically, children of LGBTQ parents showed no difference on factors such as temperament, mood, mental health, and self-esteem, and scored six percent higher in the areas of general health and family cohesion. Researchers collected data from 325 families with a total of 500 children. […]

What I find striking about all the studies isn’t that kids of queer parents are just fine — better than fine in fact. What I find striking are two things. First, it’s astonishing to me that we still need to study the issue at all, rather than accepting as a foregone conclusion that kids with loving and committed parents tend to do well.

Second, and more important: good parenting outcomes don’t depend on sexual orientation or gender identity. Any set of parents, gay or straight, could divide up chores equitably. No parent ever has to hit a child. We could all learn how to tell the stories of our family’s origins and what makes us strong — and we could all teach our kids to stick up for themselves and for the underdogs. We could all stand up to bullies.

Read more…

Photo Via Australian Marriage Equity

And thus was born a new tradition

IMG_1250[1] “Mom, who left the two dollars under my pillow?”

“What two dollars?”

“The one for my tooth.”

“You left a tooth under your pillow? Why?”

“For the tooth fairy!”

“Don’t you mean the tooth garbageman?”

“Who’s the tooth garbageman?”

“He’s the guy who looks around under your pillow and says, ‘Ew, a tooth!’ and throws it in the garbage.”

Living in sin

[gallery ids="3275,3274,3273,3271,3272,3276"] Way back when, in our hip, pre-children, pre-homeowning, student days, Rachel and I shared an office in our apartment just off Queen West in Toronto.

(Already, I have to digress: our landlord was the now-defunct Toronto Housing Corporation, which at the time owned several properties throughout the city, which it managed in an entirely corrupt, Kafkaesque manner. We got the place not because we filled out a form and our names came up in some kind of orderly, fair lottery, but because we lived next door to the previous tenant and we knew she was leaving and the whacked people at the THC — apt acronym, that  — were happy not to have to do extra paperwork and just handed the place over. It was rumoured that the previous tenant — a lovely woman — had been a (cough) former mayor’s (cough) mistress for many years and that she lived rent-free. Other neighbours used to describe the black limousine that would pull up in front and discharge the mayor, who would disappear into our apartment for a couple hours at a time.)

(TORONTO! What's with all the mayors with secret lives?)

Anyway: back in our hip, pre-children, pre-homeowning student days, Rachel and I shared an office in our notorious, den-of-iniquity, checkered-history apartment just off Queen West in Toronto.

It was a two-bedroom place. We slept in the smaller bedroom, and worked in larger of the two. It was quite a lovely arrangement. There was something rather soothing about working in tandem, each of us at our own desk, humming along on our various projects in our own computers. At its best, the set-up pushed us to keep at our work, not to break the spell of more or less steady concentration with idle chatter or Facebook. (In any case, Facebook didn't exist — which is good, because it would've been incredibly slow on a dial-up connection.) Occasionally, we’d break the silence to confirm grammar points or to bounce around ideas about opening lines or hypotheses.

And then, we moved up here, and bought this house, and we got our own offices. And while this has mostly been a good thing, we have also occasionally missed each other’s company, especially during the stretches of time where one or both of us is working on a longer-term project — you know, the kind that requires you to sit at your desk for hours and days on end even when you don't really feel like it, which is much of the time. That kind of work can get isolating (with teeny, tiny amounts of euphoria thrown into the mix, just to make sure you don't give up entirely). Having another body there, working alongside you in companionable silence, can make a difference.

And so yesterday we decided to create an extra workstation in my office. I hadn't imagined how there could be any room for it, but it turns out that an extra desktop fits quite nicely in the room’s southeast corner once we moved some plants out of the way. My filing cabinet and my copy of the Riverside Shakespeare are now holding up a corner Rachel's new desk, and we will experiment with sharing a workspace at least part of the time. Even if she isn't in here that often, I'm already realizing just how useful a second desktop can be — last night, I used it to move forward on a sewing project (which I have since carefully tidied away so that the space is still there for Rachel).

I love this about functional spaces — how, with a bit of imagination and repurposing and rearranging we can make something from nothing, or, rather, a workstation from an old IKEA tabletop and a filing cabinet and a book that's been one of the most useful I've ever owned, and not just as a desk prop. I imagine at some point I'll have to refer to my Riverside Shakespeare again, and then we will have to hold up the desktop with a phone book or something. But for now, it's me and my girl and Will again, and maybe something like poetry will emerge from it all.

Crab/apple

IMG_0921[1] The giant crabapple tree in our backyard is finally in bloom — a month later than normal, granted, but in bloom nonetheless, its delicate white flowers wafting their subtle fragrance through the weekend air, shedding their petals slowly onto the lawn.

So of course what the boys are doing is whacking away at the tree with a garden rake and booting a soccer ball in amongst the branches in an effort to knock down as many petals as possible. They have a friend over — another neighbourhood kid — and he is helping with the flower massacre when he is not trying to set the deck on fire using the sun’s rays and a magnifying glass.

I’m witnessing all this from the kitchen, where I’m scrambling eggs for the three of them. I’m vacillating between the three “As”: annoyance (The tree is in bloom like this for only a few days – can’t they just leave it in peace?), amusement (Those crazy, creative kids!), and acceptance (This is what kids do. At least they’re playing outside and not watching cartoons.)

“Mama?” Rowan comes in through the screen door and hands me a sprig of crabapple blossoms. “These are for you.”

A wave of pure love for him washes over me as I tuck the flowers behind my left ear. “Thank you, honey.”

“Can I have sour cream and salsa on my eggs?”

“No problem.”

And then he’s back outside, and in the next minute the three boys decide that what would be a really good idea would be to sell the flowers to all the neighbours. Fifty cents a bunch! Listening to them, I groan inwardly (maybe also outwardly), because I’m already envisioning the overexcited kids running in and out of the house, door slamming behind them as they make and change plans and shout over each other. I’m already rolling my eyes as I imagine the multiple discussions I’m about to have around the fact that, “No, you cannot go door to door and ask the neighbours to buy the flowers that grow in our very own backyard.” And one kid wants me to make a sign and another one is trying to find something out of which to build a table, and another is now dragging the cooler up from the basement to use as a table and Isaac is shrieking “Flowers for sale! Give us all your money!” up and down the street even though he’s been told is not allowed to yell on the street (“It’s ADVERTISING!” he protests.). Part of me wants to applaud their entrepreneurial spirit, while another part of me cringes at the thought of the racket they’re trying to run, coaxing quarters out of neighbours. Why does everything have to be for sale? Why can’t you just give some flowers away? I want to ask, and at the same time I’m marvelling at the innocence of children, how enamoured they are of their plans, the way Isaac thinks that this will make him rich. RICH!

I love my children, but sometimes they are tiring.

And then, thankfully, it’s time to leave for Rowan’s soccer game, and — even more thankfully — it’s Rachel’s turn to take them, and soon all of the chaos will stop for a couple of hours, during which time I will write this post about all the conflicting desires and emotions that come with bringing these small, wild humans into your life. But first, I have to help Rowan get his soccer cleats laced really, really tight.

“Um, Mom,” he says, looking at the flowers still tucked behind my ear as I kneel over his foot, “You owe us fifty cents for those.”

“Nice try,” I tell him. “Nice try.”

Seven-year-old, II

IMG_0954[2] Dear Isaac,

We spent this past weekend together, just two of us, while your other mom and your big brother headed off for an out-of-town soccer tournament. I haven’t spent this much one-on-one time with you since you were an infant (that time when Rachel and Rowan headed out on that West Coast vacation ahead of us and I hung out with baby you and painted your brother’s room while you napped BECAUSE BEING LEFT ON MY OWN TO PAINT A ROOM IS VACATION TO ME DAMMIT). And, frankly, we were long overdue (for the one-on-one time, not painting, although I bet that if I had suggested to you that we get out some rollers and slap some paint on a wall or two, you would’ve been completely game).

Anyway. I was very much looking forward to spending the weekend with you, but I have to admit I was just slightly concerned that maybe you wouldn’t feel the same way. After all, for so long it seems as though I’ve existed in Rachel’s shadow when it comes to you. And while your absolute and passionate preference for her seems to have faded, vestiges of it remain: “Is Rachel putting me to bed tonight?” you’ll often ask, hopefully, although by the time we cuddle up in bed on my evenings with you, you’re completely content to read and to cuddle with me. Nothing I can’t cope with emotionally, but it did occur to me that maybe you would balk or — possibly worse — be indifferent at the thought of just the two of us all weekend.

I mean, you’re not the most sentimental kid: unlike your brother, you seem not to have inherited the Goldberg penchant for getting weepy at comings and goings, for tearing up at significant emotional events and commercials. When I walk you to school, your brother is the one who turns around for extra hugs at the schoolyard gate, while you tend to march happily into the playground without a backward glance. “I love you,” I’ll call. “Have a great day, Isaac!”

“Yeah yeah,” you’ll say.

And then, when I collect to you on Thursday after school, at the beginning of our solo weekend adventure, you handed me a card. On the front, you’d written my name (OK, you’d written “SHEZIN,” but I’ll take it) surrounded by Xs and Os. Underneath my name, you had drawn a heart. And inside the card, you’d drawn a picture of you and me, holding hands, inside another heart.

IMG_0955[1]

And it’s a good thing that I had these two extra hearts, because the one inside my chest nearly exploded just then.

We had a fabulous weekend. We had tickle fights. You spent a happy hour or so sorting out the international coins in my coin jar. We went out for sushi and you ate flying fish roe and an entire hand roll and copious quantities of wonton soup. We saw How to Train Your Dragon II. We made muffins and I remembered to breathe as you measured all the ingredients and dumped them into the Cuisinart. You found the discarded metal brackets that used to hold up the old Venetian blinds in my office — I nearly said no when you asked if you could have them (another mess, more chaos, bits of metal scattered throughout the house), and then remembered that I’m trying to say yes more, and two hours later you had created several found-object sculptures with the brackets, much electrical tape, and household string. On Saturday morning, inspired by said sculptures, I dusted off your other mother’s childhood Meccano set — right up your alley with its zillion tiny metal pieces, each in its own place in its Styrofoam tray — and you got right to work, building a bridge. We never left the house that day but instead worked in companionable near-silence, you screwing together metal brackets and me puttering about, playing guitar, doing bits of work and occasionally putting some food in front of you to feed that miraculous, ridiculous little brain.

IMG_0999

Your brain: it’s nuts. I’ve taken to jotting down snippets of conversations we have before you go to sleep. You’ve got a definite penchant for the gory and the macabre. We’ll be lying there, all cuddly in the dark, and then you’ll turn over and say something like, “Mama? Is it possible to die while standing?” or, “Mama? What if you’re dead do you just see clear?” or, “Mama? Why would you tie someone to a train?” or, “You know, I don’t really like bedtime. I always wish it was more … explosive. You know, like if you got a little bomb every night.”

Despite (maybe because of?) your fascination with the grotesque, you’re such a happy kid. After a few weeks of practice, you can now do the splits, a fact that you share with everyone, dropping — boom! — suddenly down in the schoolyard, in the parking lot, in the living room, so that people marvel at your flexibility. Maybe you’ll take up figure skating, marrying your bendy limbs with your love of the ice. You’re joined at the hip with your best friend, who joined us for a sleepover Saturday night. When the two of you are together, it’s as though you work on one brain: the two of you remind me of those toddler twins on the Internet who have their own language. You are still an inveterate magpie, snitching shiny things from my desk, my dresser. You have cleared out everything from your bedroom closet and created a lounge/lab, where you hang on your own or with your friends. You love Minecraft and being read to, maple syrup on your oatmeal. And while you have, mercifully, mostly given up the habit of climbing into our bed at 4 AM, you still arrive most mornings by seven to snuggle up and say hello. Usually, you walk around to Rachel’s side of the bed, but more and more often, you climb right into the middle of us and whisper, “Is it a family day? And can we have French toast?”

Lately, I’ve been missing, longing for, the baby version of you, trying to remember the weight of you on my hip, curled next to me in bed those hazy newborn days. There’s no trace of that baby left in those long, skinny limbs of yours — sometime in the last year or so, I realized that you no longer suck your thumb. Your once indispensable security blanket is now utterly optional. But that’s OK: there’s so much more joy in spending the weekend with you now than there was six years ago, even if I did get the satisfaction of painting a room on my own.

Happy seventh birthday, Isaac. You’re the bomb.

Love,

Mama

We have a winner!

Mazel tov to Karen Greeners, who is the winner of her very own copy of The Jewish Daughters Diaries: True Stories of Being Loved Too Much by Our Moms. I'm sure your mother would be very proud of you for being randomly selected to win. And the other girls are mean to you, it's only because, as Mayim Bialik's mom says, they're jealous. Enjoy! And thanks everyone who commented on my post!

An open letter to my hairstylist

kitten before Dear Tonya,

I’m just checking in to make sure you’re OK after yesterday.

Not that I think anything untoward happened. After all, we exchanged only pleasantries. I may have communicated firmly, but I know I did so kindly.

It’s just that, as you said, I seem to do a very good job of “pushing you out of your comfort zone,” and so I wanted to make sure that you weren’t too rattled after my second visit to the salon in five days. I mean, you did say to come back if any aspect of the cut wasn’t working for me, and so I did that thing that I am historically so bad at doing with hairstylists and asserted myself.

The cut was good, Tonya, it’s just that, well, I have a shitload of hair. I have, conservatively, about three normal people’s worth of hair. And it is thick, and it is curly, and it does what it wants. And it needs much product as well as a strong and drastic hand in order to be tamed. And you, Tonya, are going to have to be this strong and drastic hand. Even if it does push you out of your comfort zone and cause you to say things like, “Well, you’re definitely the most… different… and… determined client I have.”

It’s OK, Tonya. I can take it. I mean, you’re not the first hairstylist I’ve made uncomfortable. The first 20 years of my life were essentially a quest to find someone who could figure out what to do with my hair. Sure, I had unrealistic expectations. As a kid, I wanted hair like Barbie’s: long, blond, straight. If not Barbie, then I would have happily settled for Cindy Brady hair: those two pigtails in their perfect ringlets. In the early 1980s, I wanted hair that would feather. I was a young Jewish girl who longed for WASP hair, and it wasn’t happening. For a while, I had a good thing going with Al, who wore leather pants and worked out of a salon in Richmond, British Columbia. He managed to coax something like style from my masses of frizz, but then he died of a heroin overdose and I was back to square one. For a while, during the late 1980s and early 90s, when big hair was in, I managed to work out a trick involving a whole lot of styling mousse and a bandanna. By the mid-1990s, I spent hours of my life I’ll never get back flat-ironing my hair into submission and avoiding rain and swimming pools at all costs.

And then, I met Jimi. Jimi, at Coupe Bizarre on Queen Street West in Toronto. Jimi, who had hair EXACTLY like mine. Jimi, who never once used thinning shears — the bane of my existence — but instead sliced away at my hair with a straight razor, carving out great swathes of it. Jimi, who cut out channels of hair directly at the scalp, defying everything anyone else had ever told me about hair in order to thin mine out, make it manageable. Jimi, who cut my hair dry. Jimi, whose cuts lasted a good two months. When he was done with me, he was up to his ankles in hair. “It looks like kittens!” he once said at the end of a cut.

And then I moved up here, to Thunder Bay. Where there was no Jimi. Fortunately, I returned to Toronto often, visits that were planned with a trip to Coupe Bizarre in mind. But, sometimes I needed a haircut here, and as time wore on, I visited Toronto less often, and so the quest to find someone to whack away mercilessly at my tresses with a straight razor, to carve out channels into my scalp, began.

Tonya, you’re at least the sixth person in town I’ve been to. Everyone says that they can thin out my hair, and everyone pulls out some thinning shears and hacks away at it for a while. And I look down at the ground, and there are no kittens there. And I feel the weight of my hair against my scalp, and I know that they haven’t done what I want them to do. And it irks me, Tonya. It really irks me.

And then I met you. And you were game. Reluctant, but game. And you timidly carved a few tiny channels and my scalp. And I pushed you to do a couple more, and you did, and I felt that perhaps I had pushed you far enough for one day. And then, during the next visit, you did a bit more, but still not enough. And then you blow-dried my hair and that made it poof out. I’m sorry that I got cranky when that happened, but I had told you that I didn’t want you to blow-dry my hair because it would poof out, and also I had to pick up my children. And then I came back for another cut on Friday, and I pushed as hard as I could push before stepping out of my own comfort zone, but still, at the end the haircut there was too much hair on my head and not enough on the floor and so I pulled it together and made a follow-up appointment. And I vowed that I would not leave the chair until you had cut channels into my head a centimetre apart all the way around. I wasn’t leaving until there were kittens.

KITTENS, Tonya!

And you did. It went against everything you have ever learned in hair school, but you did it for me.

So, yes. I am determined. I am perhaps even different. And thank you for not saying it, but if you think I’m difficult, so be it. You’re stuck with me, and I sincerely hope that you are not fond of heroin, because we are going to make this WORK.

Love,

Susan

kitten after

 

Fear, vomit, post apocalyptic YA, Jewish mothers & aliases

P1030788 Friday is brought to you by dirty emoticons, my fantasies about post-apocalyptic science fiction, vomit, Jewish mothers, coddled children, and Shani Mootoo. To wit:

  • A while back I tagged Emma Waverman and Tanya Gouthro to write blog posts about their writing processes. Read what gets them motivated (hint: fear and vomit).
  • My post this month on VillageQ is a fantasy about a fantasy – thoughts on Patrick's Ness's More Than This and how we might deal with homophobic bullying in high schools.
  • At Today’s Parent this week, I muse about rescuing my children. From what, I'm still working out.
  • I also wrote about my mom's overinvestment in my own education. For chance to win a copy of Rachel Ament's anthology, The Jewish Daughter Diaries: True Stories of Being Loved Too Much by Our Moms, leave a comment here.
  • And! Thunder Bay locals: this coming Tuesday, June 10, is the annual Thunder Pride Literary Evening, featuring headline reader Shani Mootoo (who has told me that she used to use the alias Susan Goldberg – for reals.) If you were as blown away as I was when I first encountered Mootoo’s writing — her novel Cereus Blooms at Night was so overwhelmingly lush and beautiful — you'll want to be there. If you haven't encountered her writing before, now's the time. See you at the Mary J. L. Black library on Tuesday at 7 PM

Giveaway: Jewish Daughter Diaries

 P1030788 The phone rings.

“Good afternoon, Bliss!” I answer, in my best friendly-sales-clerk voice. I am winding up the last of my sales shifts at the now-defunct Bliss Weekend Wear, an overpriced women’s clothing store in the Bayview Village shopping Centre in a Toronto suburb. It's the summer after Grade 12, and in a few weeks I will fly to British Columbia to be a counsellor at Camp Hatikvah.

“Your report card arrived in the mail.”

I flip immediately into primal defense mode.

“DON’T OPEN IT!”

“But…”

“I said, don’t open it! It’s mine! It’s private! It’s addressed to me! You have absolutely no right to open it and if you do you’ll be breaking the law!”

“Susan, don’t be so dramatic!”

“I’m not being dramatic. I am telling you not to open my report card!”

“But you’re not going to be home for six hours!”

“I don’t care. You’ll just have to wait.”

“Susan–”

“If I see even one corner of the envelope lifted…”

“Fine. You’re being ridiculous.”

“Goodbye!”

I hang up. Esther, the older woman on shift with me, is staring at me open-mouthed.

“That was my mom,” I explain. She just nods.

I write about my mother at fairly regular intervals here. These posts tends to be of the “grab some Kleenex” variety — all the cancer, and death, and grieving, and the bittersweet of everything she was, everything she’s missing.

And sometimes, less often, I write about the quirkier things, like that time she bought me that black PVC outfit for my 25th birthday. But today I’m thinking about the quirky things, because ten years later, there’s more room for them. And while there is no denying that my mom was a saint (a saint! And if you say anything to the contrary, I will shiv you), and an unobjectively wonderful person, she had her quirks. And one of those quirks was a tendency to be over-invested in my academic life.

I’m not talking about garden-variety questions like, “Where did you lose the 2%?” or “How did everyone else do on that quiz?” or “Was yours the highest grade?”, although those were certainly common questions in my household. I’m talking about scenarios like the following:

  • My mother sent back my midterm report card in fourth grade. SENT IT BACK, like one would send back an overcooked steak in a restaurant (although my mother would never send back an overcooked steak because to her, no steak, no matter how grey and leathery and juiceless, could ever be overcooked. I don’t know where I get my love of tartar from, but definitely not from her). She sent it back to my fourth-grade teacher, Mr. Fenn, told him it was unacceptable, and asked that he issue a new one. Her reasoning? That he was grading the entire class low so that our June report cards would show improvement. Our family, however, was moving across the country, from Toronto to Vancouver, over the Christmas break, and she felt that a fourth-grade report card that did not reflect my true (and substantial) achievements would hold me back. From what, I’m not quite sure, but I remember Mr. Fenn walking up to me in the library and handing me, in front of my friends, a heavily stapled replacement report card. And my mother was happy. And I was mortified. (I just told that story to my dad, and he laughed and laughed – and has no recollection at all of the episode.)
  • Three and a half years later, we moved back to Toronto from Vancouver. My father worked for IBM — the joke was, of course, that the acronym stood for “I’ve Been Moving” — and Big Blue saw fit to torture me by uprooting me not once but twice from all my friends and asking me to settle into a new social circle. The eighth-grade girls at my North Toronto junior high were vicious, but hey! I got material from that time and that’s what matters, right? The point of this anecdote, though, is that even though my mother knew that I would be moving across the country in time to start Grade 8 in Toronto, and even though we had already sold our house and purchased a new one, she still signed me up to write the entrance exams for not one but two prestigious private schools in Vancouver, just to see if I would get in. (I did.) And she was happy. And I was puzzled.
  • Also, just in case we didn’t move (like, you know, if my dad as the sole breadwinner at the time of our stalwartly middle-class household decided to, say, quit his job to find himself) and therefore we could not afford the prestigious private-school tuition, she registered me anyway at the out-of-zone public high school in Vancouver she thought I should go to (likely because Jews went there) rather than the public high school I was zoned to attend. In order to convince school officials that I actually lived within the boundaries of the desired school zone, she had friends of ours install a second telephone line, in our name, at their in-zone home. Where I lived, obviously, with my pretend adoptive family.
  • What else? Oh, yes: the PSAP. In sixth grade, I was chosen to participate in something called the (cough) Project for the Study of Academic Precocity. It involved me and a seventh grader from my school writing the SATs. I don’t know why. All I remember about the test is that I had a bad cold and was spooked at the thought that I wouldn’t be able to pee for three hours or leave the room to blow my nose. I have no idea how I scored or what those scores would’ve even meant. But my mother, bless her, knew EXACTLY how I scored and would often quote those numbers to dinner guests. For years afterward. When it came time to write the SATs for the purposes of actually getting into university in the United States, I outright refused.

I’m thinking of my mother’s glorious overinvestment in my brain today as I read The Jewish Daughters Diaries: True Stories of Being Loved Too Much by Our Moms. Edited by Rachel Ament, this anthology is full of stories — full of mothers — like mine. Mayim Bialik’s mom is convinced that anything that goes wrong in her daughter’s life is because, “Everyone is jealous of you.” Abby Sher’s mother adamantly denies that her daughter needs a nose job ("You're beautiful!") until Abby breaks her nose during a game of Ultimate Frisbee. “Well, since it’s broken already… .” Lauren Greenberg’s mom sets up a JDate profile for her and then impersonates her on the site in order to get her married. (To my mom’s credit, she never stooped to the, “Find a husband at all costs,” Jewish mom stereotype, which in retrospect is a good thing, because she would have been very frustrated. The first time she met Rachel, though, my mom did exactly what I thought she would do in an effort to make my girlfriend feel welcome: she reeled off a list of every final thing in the refrigerator that Rachel might possibly like to eat and offered to get any of those things for her. “I told you,” I told Rachel. “Everything will be just fine.”)

Rachel Ament was kind enough to send me a copy of the book, and I’m giggling away as I read it. The list of contributors reads like a Who's Who of young Jewish women in media today: Wendy Liebman, Mireille Silcoff, Iliza Shlesinger, Rebecca Drysdale, Kerry Cohen, etc. I don't think it's coincidence that so many of the writers also happen to be stand up comedians: I mean, it seems like a perfectly reasonable outlet with mothers like these. I also have no idea if these anecdotes are truly Jewish in nature, or if all of us with mothers have mothers like. I suspect a little bit from Column A and a little bit from Column B.

But! You tell me, after you read it: I am offering a copy of The Jewish Daughter Diaries to one lucky reader of this blog. Leave a comment below in order to be entered in a random draw to win it. Bonus points (in terms of my reading pleasure) if you tell me an actual Jewish mother anecdote (and no, you and/or your mom don’t have to be Jewish to win). I’ll announce the winners on Monday, June 9.

Till then, there’s some nice tuna in the fridge.

One for the team

Montréal habs price Rowan is wearing his Habs T-shirt to school today (and look at me, even knowing who the Habs are). We bought the shirt for him in the Montreal airport, en route home from Chicago (because of course why wouldn't you fly from Chicago to Thunder Bay via Montreal and Toronto, making what should be a two-hour trip into an eight-hour one?), and he's already customized it, scrawling “31 Price” on it for his favourite Montréal Canadien (goalie Carey Price, obviously. I looked that up on the Internet.).

The souvenir he really wanted from our trip, though, was a Chicago Blackhawks jersey. We didn't get him one, though, for equally obvious reasons, which I talk about more in today's post on Today's Parent:

I know I’m late to the party on this particular controversy, but, come on: how is it that we aren’t yet past the idea that it’s at all acceptable to appropriate First Nations names and symbols for sports teams? I’m not going to repeat the arguments that have been hashed out for decades now about the Cleveland Indians and the Atlanta Braves and the Washington Redskins. At best, the practice is insensitive and inaccurate and perpetuates stereotypes. At worst, it’s racist and potentially damaging — to both native and non-native populations.

For the record, we did talk to both boys about the hockey jersey — one of those talks where Rachel and I were completely serious and earnest and they were somewhat receptive but also kind of flighty and subject-change-y. In other words, it's going to be an ongoing discussion. But I think they got the basic gist of it — let's hope that the NHL and the NFL and the NBA and everyone else does, too.

Image courtesy shop.nhl.com.

Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe

abmm_cover Morning. Today, you can find me guest-posting over at the Queer Pride Chronicles. I'm very happy to have been asked to contribute to this blog, which is part of the exhibition Generations of Queer: Robert Flack / John Greyson / Elisha Lim / Kiley May's (www.ocadu.ca/onsite) at Onsite [at] OCAD U, the Ontario College of Art and Design's professional gallery:

The exhibition presents vital narratives through the works of Toronto-based artists Robert Flack, John Greyson, Elisha Lim and Kiley May. Influenced by age, background, current context and health, each of these artists has different stories to tell. Bringing these four artists together, the exhibition is creating a dialogue between the works of two senior queer artists who began producing in the 1980's and two younger artists who have come into queer discourses as beneficiaries of the activism of their predecessors. Please visit our website for a full listing of educational events and workshops accompanying this exhibition. www.ocadu.ca/onsite

I've shared the essay "Mamas' Baby, Papa's Maybe," from  And Baby Makes More: Known Donors, Queer Parents & Our Unexpected Families. Funny to reread this piece, nearly six years after I first wrote it. Life is so much less question-y now. Have a look, and check out some of the other posts up there.