Monday, 2 December 2013

A stupid story, in seven parts

I feel silly even saying this, but I had an argument with my boyfriend, and the sheer ridiculousness of it is taking up space in my brain.

Prelude:  We had a fantastic weekend.  Spent some quality time with friends on Friday night, playing Cards Against Humanity, laughing uproariously.  Got home late (like 3am late), slept in Saturday, enjoyed a lazy afternoon,  a light dinner and watched a movie.  Sunday was much the same, except we puttered around the house a little, had a nap in the afternoon.

Background:  A perpetual irritation to knitters, and I think it’s fair to expand it to most crafters, is an inability of people who don’t practice your craft to recognize that comments like, “Hey, you’re good at this, can you make it for me for next weekend?” are generally poorly received, as is their inability to understand that you could, in fact, buy it cheaper at Walmart, but that does not mean it will be made and sold for that price when it’s handcrafted. 

The Antagonist:  Steph draws and paints (often in First Nations style, having lived up north for many years), and he is also a woodworker.  He recently made me some beautiful shawl pins.

A couple of years ago, he made paddles for his nephew and his bride as a wedding gift.


Last year, he carved a tiny paddle for me to include in a swap package being mailed to a fellow knitter.  Her real life job is a canoe guide on the Nahanni River. (My apologies for showing the rest of the swap package.  I can't find the photo I took of the paddle by itself.)

Setting:  Last night, a once-close friend of mine had posted her urgent need of a knitter for a complicated pattern.  More out of curiosity than a desire to actually knit something for someone else, I responded to her post with the words,  “How complicated?”  She emailed me a picture of the huntress vest cowl thing that Katniss Everdeen is wearing in the new Hunger Games movie.  I had a look at the pattern, which is not complicated but it is not a super-quick knit, and which called for at least six hundred yards of bulky yarn.  I had a look online for the suggested yarn, which was a mostly acrylic blend, and saw it would cost about sixty dollars for the yarn alone if you walked into Michaels to purchase it.

The Protagonist:  I emailed her to let her know that if she was commissioning someone to knit this item for her, to not be surprised by the cost, especially if she was looking for it in a short timeline, and told her what I’d found.  She emailed me back and said she was grateful for the information, and said her next door neighbour had said she could probably do it but would get back to her with a quote.  She said she hadn’t understood why it would cost so much that she would need to get a quote, but said that what I'd passed on to her gave her some perspective.  End of story.

The Conflict:  I mentioned this to Steph, in a, hey, yet another person who doesn’t really put a price on how much a handcrafted item really costs, kind of way.  His response surprised me.

You know, you could get that at Walmart for about ninety-nine cents a ball.

YOU are telling ME what acrylic yarn costs?  You’ve bought yarn at Walmart lately, have you?

He tells me, with more than a little snark, that while he doesn’t doubt I know what good quality yarn costs, he doubts that I can accurately price inexpensive yarn, because I’m not looking to get her the best possible deal.  He tells me I could buy acrylic yarn in bulk, by the bag, and pay for shipping, and still get it for less.

In the meantime, I’m sitting on my couch, saying, what the hell is going on here?  I’m not actually PLANNING to knit this for her.  I gave her what I think is a reasonable estimation of what she might get asked for to cover materials, because she and I used to be good friends, and I don’t want her to feel stupid when she does start talking about price with someone.  Why are you debating me?  Why do you even care?

We spend the rest of the evening a little edgy with each other.  He was clearly teed off with me, and it bugged me that I cared, but I did.

The Anti-Climax:  Fast forward to this morning.  He sent me an email at work, with a breakdown of costs, for the same or similar acrylic yarn we were discussing last night, with the websites I could theoretically get it from, showing the cost for a bag (that has three times as much acrylic yarn as needed for a vest that I will never ever knit) being about a third of what I’d told my friend she could probably expect to be asked for to cover materials.

It really, truly left me shaking my head.

I emailed him back and said, you need to prove you’re right that badly that you would take time out of your workday to come up with that list? 

I would never question what his materials cost.  I’ve known him to use plum, rosewood, oak, cherry, apple, cedar, maple, black walnut,  sumac.  Some are found materials, some are purchased.  I would never question what his tools cost.  My father was a woodworker, and we used to get the Lee Valley catalogues.  Nor would I question what he rates his time as being worth.   When someone asks you to make something for them, and you quote them a price, and you put a value on not only your time, but also your years of experience and your toolbox, both of tools and of techniques.

Why you gotta be that guy?  You're NEVER (at least, in the ordinary sense of practically never) that guy.

It’s ridiculous for me to be this irritated, isn’t it?

Saturday, 30 November 2013


I love me some sparkle.

My maternal grandmother loved costume jewellery.  Whenever I was at her house when I was little, she would let me sift through the necklaces and bracelets and clip on earrings and adorn myself however I chose.  I would pile six necklaces on top of each other and put clip on earrings not only on my ears but in my hair as well, with bracelets laddering up both arms.  I would put on one of her wide brimmed hats and one of her gaudily flowered dresses and prance around in my finery.  But the real star of the show, as far as I was concerned, were the sparkling paste jewels I adored.

My mother is not a fan.  Maybe it skips a generation?  My daughters aren't big on sparkly stuff either.

In no particular order, here are some of my favourite pieces from my own collection of finery.

This necklace was a thrift-store find, and for $25, I could not walk away from it.  There is one more loop on each side of the citrines surrounded by the white aurora boreallis square stones, and then it becomes a single strand of the white stones all the way to the clasp.  It reminds me of a very similar piece my grandma had, except hers was blue instead of amber.

I bought this brooch, with matching earrings, from a school friend whose mother sold Avon when we were in grade school.  I lost one of the earrings, sadly.

A friend bought this for me as a birthday gift, about fifteen years ago.  She found it at at one of the stalls in Kensington Market.

I bought this brooch off ebay, many years ago now.  The stones have a coating of blue aurora borealis, and the layers of stones make it easy for things to get caught on it.  It's less green in real life, but I couldn't quite capture the colour.  I don't wear it as often as some of my other brooches, but I always get compliments on it.  At about four inches wide, it's pretty striking looking!

This is much more modern - the lilac is painted white over the metal, and the leaves are enamelled.  I wear this all spring on a denim blazer with a pashmina.

I bought this peridot brooch off ebay as well - in fact, I think it was one of the very first things I ever bought online.  The green is very fresh, and it sets off the aurora borealis stones so perfectly.

These earrings were a local thrift store find.  They are clip on earrings, and they are very tight, so I don't wear them often, but after I photographed them, I found myself in front of the mirror, putting them in my hair and preening just a little.

I love collecting sparkly things.  Seeing them, touching them, and especially wearing them, bring me a little closer to my beloved grandma, who died when I was fourteen after a double mastectomy.

No danger of the sincerest form of flattery

Today was mostly a pyjamas and lazy day.  I was out really late last night with friends, slept in this morning, and felt supremely unmotivated to do much of anything.  Hello, internet!

I was reading a thread on Ravelry where the person in question had asked a question about beading a particular shawl.  I’ve only beaded one knitted item, so I clicked the picture to find the project and read the description of beading. 

One of the great things about Ravelry (and I was tempted to leave my typo as Revelry) is that you can click names and get taken to that person’s profile.  I scrolled through her projects to find the shawl, and was glad to see that she had a few pictures of the shawl from different angles on a dress-form, styling it by draping or tying it in several ways.  She had written up a complete list of her modifications, including bead weight and placement, and a short how-to of the beading method she’d used.

I favourited the project and then jumped back to her project page.  It took a couple of minutes to load, as she had over a hundred projects listed, and as I scrolled through, admiring her photography and  the styling of the various items, which were mostly accessories, I found myself wondering about her wardrobe.  The wardrobe not shown, the one the accessories had been made to augment.

Almost everything had been made in a solid or semi-solid colour.   I compared her projects to mine, which are RARELY one colour.  I gravitate towards the variegated skeins, affectionately known in my group of knitterly friends as clown-barf.   I do own some semi-solids, but mostly not. 

Not only were they solid or semi-solid, they were almost universally neutral.  There were a couple of pops of orange and chartreuse, but overwhelmingly gray and navy and cream and camel.   I closed my eyes and let my brain free-associate.  

Classic.  Minimalist.  Zen.   Restful.

I even found myself imagining the knitter, because she does not appear in her project pictures.  In my mind’s eye, she was well-dressed.  Expensively dressed.  The close-ups of her knitting showed even, well-defined stitches, lace that had been blocked hard to show the beauty of the pattern, an appreciation of something well-made, of high quality materials and workmanship.  I went to her flickr account to see more of her knitting photos, and her photography is the same.  The background is not competing with the item.  Cream walls, blonde wood surface.  The items that are photographed with jewellery or other items are also chosen for the simplicity of the accent.  Pearls.  A single leaf.  Such precision.

I couldn’t help comparing my own photos to hers.  In the summer, most of mine tend to be outside.  Yarn nested in a container garden, which almost certainly has at least one bright flower.  Draped over chairs, or with a smiling kid modelling.  There’s a chaos about them.  A lot going on, visually.  And again, multicoloured yarns make multicoloured items.

I found myself, momentarily, feeling inadequate in comparison.

Fortunately, that feeling only lasted a minute or two.  I remembered that both knitting and photography make me happy.  Colour makes me happy.  So does movement, and the unexpectedness of things. 

I love to look at the beauty of a Japanese garden, but I would rather spend time in the overgrown English cottage garden in my own backyard. 

I could learn from this person, but I’ll never be her.  And I’m okay with that.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Plain, ordinary Friday

Another end of the week.  Lately I've had an extra reason to rejoice in Fridays.  One of my colleagues works a short week.  Friday is the day she isn't there.

When I first started working at the firm, I was taken around to meet people.  When I was introduced to her, I gave her a big smile and said, I understand you are the office guru in PC Law, so I hope it's okay while I'm learning the program if I can ask a couple of questions.  I like learning from the best!  She glared at me and said, are you making fun of me?  She told me later that since no-one in the office liked her, she was convinced I was mocking her.  I said, no, I was told you were very good in a program I had to learn.  I just wanted to, you know, say hi and make you feel good, maybe get our first meeting off to a good start?  Oh, she said.  I guess we'll see.

She's very confrontational.  VERY.  Over four years, I've watched her alienate almost everyone she's ever come into contact with.  The guy behind the counter of the corner store where she goes to buy smokes - one day she doesn't have money, asks if he can stand her purchase to the following day, he says no, she flips out, I'm never patronizing your store again,what good is it to be a regular if you don't get anything for it.  The guy at the post office.  The guy at the bar and grill across the street.  The guy at the sports bar a block away. The process server.  The dental hygienist.  The hairdresser.  

After four years, I may have finally crossed over into the group she actively dislikes, instead of just distrusts (which would be everyone that she doesn't actively dislike).  

The building our firm is located in has been up for sale for about six months.  This has made her edgy, from feeling like she has to be nice to the real estate agents bringing people through, to the outrage she feels about the managing partner selling the building he purchased from the older, retired partner and therefore in her eyes not respecting the history of the firm, which has been at this location for more than fifty years.  

The building sale went firm, and she and the lawyer she clerks for went to view a new set of offices.  When they came back, I asked her whether she'd liked them, which was apparently the wrong question.  She flipped her lid, and what I got out of it, beyond the swearing and the suggestion that I was information-gathering to take it back to the managing partner to use against her, instead of, you know, asking whether she liked the new office.  She put forth her speculations about the move and related matters down as fact, and chastised me for being too stupid to know the truth when it was right there in front of me.  

I really don't do well with confrontation, but I had surprisingly little difficulty responding politely and calmly, and then telling her I was turning my back on any further gesticulations or loud remarks.  And then doing it.  Which sent her over the edge anger-wise.  She has not spoken to me, unless there is absolutely no way around it, for at least two weeks. 

Most of the source of her panic, I think, comes from the sudden realization that her area of the firm and mine will be under different roofs.  I will be at the main office, quarterbacking, as the managing partner calls it, while she will be at a satellite office, and she will be in the position of having to assume some administrative duties which would normally fall under my umbrella.  The managing partner, however, has decided that she is capable of handling it, that it makes more sense for her to handle it, and so I will have almost no contact with her at all.  As much as you might think that would suit her down to the ground, it has had the exact opposite effect.

With the exception of her husband, I get the impression that I am virtually the only other person in her life who generally suffers her outbreaks of hostility and disagreeableness with a degree of tolerance.  Moving to a different office, she will have to cultivate a new punching bag.

Today, in a solo day at the office, I have had classical music and productivity and absolute quiet. Not a confrontation or unpleasant word in sight.

I have to admit, I really looking forward to this being the norm for the week, instead of just Fridays.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

My very first blog post ever

I was a very unassuming blogger when I first got the urge to write for an audience.  My sister-in-law (the one who defriended me, if you’re a reader of past posts, based on our differing opinions of parenting) was very internet-savvy, as the company she worked for was internet-based, while I was a stay-at-home mom, and my familiarity with the internet had more to do with stuff you did online.  The extent of what I was doing online was banking, ebay and the odd magazine website.  She was, indirectly, the reason I started what I thought of at the time as blogging.

She used to post pictures of herself, her husband, house and garden on her MySpace account, but as you may have gathered, was overly protective of her son, so she would email those to us.  The tipping point for her was a poorly-worded comment on one of her photos – her hubby rode a Harley, and they actually got married in Sturgis during the Rally one year, and she had uploaded some photos of the two of them.  As someone who fancied herself an almost-professional photographer, with a good eye for composition and a knack for candids, she was taken aback when someone posted the comment “SHOW US YOUR T*TS!” on one of her Harley rally photos.

Now, I’ve never been to Sturgis, and I’ve only ever ridden on the back of my dad’s Harley, but even I knew that the sentiment expressed is pretty typical for Harley riders, and not intended to target any particular female.  She, however, did not look at it that way, and immediately panicked.  MySpace did not have suitable privacy capabilities.  OMG, wherever can I ever feel safe posting pictures on the internets? *back of hand to forehead*

All of us subsequently received invitations to sign up for Facebook.  I did a bit of reading about it, and I kind of liked the idea.  A private place to share photos and exchange news – sounds great!

I signed up for a Facebook account over Christmas break, 2006.   As the family photographer for my branch of the family tree, I didn’t have a current photo of myself, so I made a mostly accurate picture of myself (or one that would have been accurate if I was a fifteen year old stick bug - similar glasses and hairstyle to mine, and wearing clothes I would wear if I was, as I said, a stick bug) using my daughters’ favourite website, Doll Maker, and started exploring the world according to Mark Zuckerberg.

It didn’t take me long to find the “Notes” feature.  I didn’t know how other people used it, but to me, it seemed like the perfect vehicle to post my scribbles to a captive audience of “friends”.  At that time, and into at least March of 2007, my friends list was about six people max, five of them being family much younger than me.  My very first blog post was written on January 5, 2007 entitled “Looking back on 2006...” with a companion piece later that day, “...and looking forward to 2007”.

Rereading the two, I have to roll my eyes at the second one and say, yeah, I’d probably still do that in exactly the same way.  I commented, among other things, about new slang that was reputedly about to become popular.  Hindsight matched my prediction – none of it did.  In the first one, I make some remarks on a few life events, including my love of the way I was changing my body via Turbo Jam, my regret for neglecting the garden I loved due to two dragged-out family deaths that summer, and the raw feeling I still had about the death of one of them, my paternal grandmother (who died on my son's fourth birthday), which I would also expect as the kind of retrospective I could still see myself writing.

I’ve reread this post a few times over the past ten or fifteen minutes, and there is something driving me more than a little nuts.  Here’s what I wrote, as a retrospective regret:

*Having to admit to myself that I don't try nearly as hard as I think I do to understand people & stay connected to them. For example, last year I lost someone I love, maybe forever, because I was only listening to what I thought she was saying, not what she meant, and reacted accordingly. Hopefully I will have a chance to right that wrong soon.

I have been racking (wracking? spent ten minutes trying to decide if by that word it’s better to allude to stretching/draining or torturing/punishing) my brain to remember who it is that I’m referring to within the context of this regret. 

I’ve scanned my digital photos from that year.  Almost a thousand.

I searched 2006 in my gmail inbox saved emails. A dozen or so over two hundred.

I’ve spent the last half hour trying to recapture the sense and flavour of things I would have done, either with my family or without, in that year.

I CANNOT remember who it is that I felt I’d loved, and lost.  I haven't got a clue who I'm referring to.

Since then, I’ve written 162 notes on Facebook.  A few have been cross posted here, although most have not, since “here” has only existed for a year.  My friends list has grown from six to over five hundred, and I feel genuinely indulged when I get comments or likes.  In some ways it’s easier, in some, harder.

Regardless, I’m still writing.  To those I’ve forgotten, to those I remember, and to those I’ve yet to meet.  

You inspire me.  Always have.  Always will.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The makings of a duster

A few days, maybe a week ago, I posted about a dress I picked up intending to make a duster, and the other dress I found later that was maybe perhaps the exact thing I was looking for to complete it.

Because of internet connection problems, I missed a couple of posts (because I declared my intention of one post per day for NaNoBloMo), and I thought I might catch one up by posting the photos of the actual dresses.

Here's the skirt of the dress that screamed DUSTER to me.  I can't get the whole dress into the frame against a plain background, so I decided to photograph the skirt, which is most of the reason the dress appealed to me in the first place.

You can't tell from the picture, but the points are actually uneven (different lengths and widths), and I love the lettuce edging.  It adds to the ethereal, floaty quality of the floral pattern, and the fabric.

This is the second dress.  I LOVE this crinkled satiny fabric, and the contrast edging.

A close-up of the hemline, which gives a better sense of the texture of the fabric, and also the colour.

And the two dresses together.  I took this one from the top, so less focus on the skirts.  I wanted to highlight the contrast edging of the second dress, and the way the colours are SO! PERFECT! together.

I have to admit, I'm a little apprehensive about cutting into either one of them.  Almost all of the sewing I've ever done has been from fabric off a bolt of fabric (where, if I make a mistake, I can, you know, buy more), or making something small out of something larger.

I know it's just fabric, and if I plan and measure and am careful, there's no reason that the very persistent image that's in my head of this beautiful long faery duster can't come to life.

It's just that first cut, you know?

I woke up to snow outside today

I live in Toronto, and we get snow.  Sometimes, so much snow that our mayor decides to call the army.  Well, a previous mayor.  Now, when people think of Toronto mayors, they think of a different kind of snow.

I shivered all day, and now I'm pretending it's not winter by remembering a few of my favourite moments from this past summer.

My daughter Maddie at the cottage.

My son Cal, during his very first swimming lesson, spontaneously deciding to do something cannonball-ish.

And my daughter Melanie, looking very, uh,  intellectual. :-)

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Prompt: A blog post you wrote but decided not to publish

I was reviewing some old never-been-posted files recently and came across this one.  It's not complete, but you get the idea where it was going.

A love letter to my daughter, or why Mel almost got grounded from Facebook 

Dear Mel,

As you know, I've been a member of the Mean Moms Club since you were in kindergarten.  You and I would walk home with A and her mom, and the two of you decided early on that you had The Meanest Moms Ever.  Her mom and I used to joke about how we ought to come up with a logo and put it on the back of our jean jackets.  You were always pouty and petulant when you said it to me, and it always used to make me smile, because later you would whisper to me you didn't really mean it. While I've never expected that you wouldn't at some point join the generations before you who have played the time-honoured game, "My Mom is Worse Than Yours", I didn't expect that our smackdown would come about as a result of Facebook.

You know that over the years, especially when we were all still living in ***, that I made some unpopular decisions as far as parenting went.  Your nana and I repeatedly butted heads about my letting you go to the park by yourselves, or letting you stay there on summer nights until the street lights went on.  She was convinced I was just asking for the group of you to get abducted by pedophiles.  I was more concerned that you knew how to cross the street safely, because I thought, and still do, that on average it's more likely that you will get hit by a car than abducted or molested by a stranger.  Your auntie K actually defriended me on Facebook and in real life for the same reason...when your cousin came to visit us a couple of summers ago, I permitted him to go to the park with you, Maddie and Cal and the rest of the usual suspects.  I pushed back instead of backing down when she questioned my parental judgment.  I stood by my judgment, and held you and your siblings up as kids are bright, curious, courteous, they do well at school, they are well liked and well adjusted, so it doesn't seem like I'm making a whole slew of bad decisions.

I wanted you and your brother and sister to be able to play freely at the park with your friends without me hovering anxiously, calling out every few seconds to be careful.  To climb trees and have that dizzyingly good feeling that you were doing something daring, maybe even dangerous.  To go biking by the creek, knowing you would roll your jeans up to your knees and dangle your feet in the water and look for crayfish under the rocks, and then come home & swear you stayed on the path without me challenging you, because I used to do the same thing at the same age with my friends at the creek on the way to school or back home.  To explore, in a reasonably safe environment, the parameters that allow people to develop their own good judgment and to be able to think for themselves.  I did not want to keep you in a glass box, to restrict you so that when the time came when I could not confine you anymore, that you had already tasted some measure of freedom and had the tools to make good decisions without going too crazy.  

One of the conditions I put on you having Facebook was that I would observe and had the right to impose restrictions when I felt they were necessary.  Up until the photos a couple of weeks ago, I haven't.  I've wrinkled my nose a few times at the things you've "liked", winced at some of the language, but to me, those things were all within the parameters of you at your would be stupid for me to be an oblivious prude and pretend that you aren't aware of the crude and the vulgar.  More importantly, those posts gave me some insight into the music you were listening to, the interests you have, the friends you interact with most regularly.  A few weeks ago I was concerned about some photos you and J had posted and tagged on her profile, and that was the first time over the course of the year you've had an account that I have had occasion to raise a red flag.  

When we talked about it, and if you recall, it was actual talking, without yelling or demanding, I explained why I felt the way I did, and you seemed to accept my reasons for feeling that way.  You complied with my request to ask J to remove the photos I was both uncomfortable with, she did so, and I was happy with that.  I was proud of the fact that while you had made what I considered a bad decision, you apparently recognized my perspective and corrected the problem.  I'm now guilty of one of the oldest crimes in the book...pride goes before a fall.

I was taken aback when I saw a picture of you two or three days ago, same flavour as before, tagged with your name.  I sent you a message on Facebook, please untag yourself, we've talked about this already, I love you and I can't wait to see you on Friday.  Your response was angry...what's wrong with the pictures, I promised if I didn't like something I wouldn't let her post them...not all of them.  Within a minute, another message dropped into my inbox, one which you did not intend to send to me, but to J.

"My mom is fucked in the head.  She pretty much hates the pictures we take."

I can't tell you I wasn't stunned and hurt, and angry, when I read your words about me, but I moved past those reactions pretty quickly, and made a decision about how to respond to them.  

My first and strongest reaction, which is a gut parent thing I don't expect you to understand, is the same emotion I had to defend myself against, both to your nana and to your auntie K.  I experienced the same thing pretty strongly this past summer, walking to the store to get ice cream and passing a couple of older teenage boys on their bikes riding in the opposite direction.  I watched them looking at you, lanky and slim and still innocent in your cutoffs and tank top,  with predatory and covetous eyes, and had to swallow the mama bear reaction...she's only thirteen, keep your eyes off my daughter!  All parents react this way.  It's part of the manual when you take delivery of your daughter.

Understand, I could remove your profile from Facebook without a qualm for that reason alone, because I don't want strange boys looking at you online and coveting you, or because I could work myself into a frenzy about how complete strangers COULD stalk you, but that's not realistic, according to my own longstanding beliefs.  And, it wouldn't help you understand why I need to make you think about this.

I always believed that letting you have a childhood unfettered by paranoid restrictions would give you a sense of independence, and I wagered, if I can use that expression, that that independence would stand you in good stead when it came time to standing up to peer pressure and refusing to give in to the demands of the herd.  I believed you would make good decisions when it came to teenage issues like smoking and skipping classes, sex and drugs, anything anyone could bully you into doing or trying.  

That was three years ago.

I had intended to ground her from Facebook.  No fanfare, no punishing post on her wall for her friends to read and gleefully post, "HAHAHA YOU GOT PWNED BY YOUR MOM!"  Just, a week off to think about our discussions, and for us to talk more.

I didn't end up grounding her.  We have always talked about internet safety, and my main issue was that she challenged me about the photos I objected to, saying no one would see them except her friends.  What I did instead was, on a computer that was not mine and therefore with no prior connection to my own Facebook account, in front of her, set up a brand new user account, let her pick the name, and then looked her up to see what her public settings were, what was visible to complete strangers.

To say that she was shocked was an understatement.  Seeing what she thought of as some fun photos she had let a friend had taken were not, in fact, anywhere close to private, because of her friend's privacy settings.  The friend in question was someone I would have preferred my daughter not to hang out with, and with an oblivious dad in charge, I felt really helpless to prevent things from going from bad to worse.  

I could have lived without the super-provocative poses, or the set of pictures featuring my thirteen year old daughter in a bikini in the snow, draped over the friend's brother's motorcycle with her finger in her mouth.  I could definitely have lived without the friend encouraging her to smoke, or cut classes, or that it would be more fun if my daughter dropped down to hang out with her in some of her applied-level classes as opposed to in the academic stream.  The part that really sent me over the edge was the day she tagged Mel in a post saying they were"going down to the creek with a couple of grade twelve guys, know", with a smirky icon.

There was a happy ending of sorts.  Mel recognized, without my having to spell it out for her, that her friend was bad for her, as much because she wouldn't take no for an answer as because she did things I didn't approve of and didn't want my daughter participating in; that while fun, kinda-sexy selfies are totally okay with me, the ones J was tagging her in for the whole world to see weren't.   

More importantly, she understood WHY.

Grounded, then, but in a better way.  The way I always hoped she would be.

Monday, 25 November 2013

In lieu of a twee title about seas and monsters...yeah, I've got nothing

I had a lovely little moment with my son yesterday.

I tend to post more about my daughters.  They're older, noisier, and have some of the same interests that I do, while my son tends to prefer flying under the radar. Being a girl myself, sometimes it's just more intuitive to relate to my daughters. They love internet memes, music, books, clothes, makeup, nailpolish.  They're interested in my knitting and jewellery-making, and quite often just want to sit on my bed and have girl time with me, which I adore.  My son is quieter, tries to stay out of conversations, doesn't ask too many questions, loves to help but doesn't like making decisions. He is still my baby, at eleven, and I flounder, sometimes, trying to connect with him in a way that respects him getting older with interests of his own, without falling into talking about video games I wish he didn't play or television shows I wish he didn't watch, in order to keep him talking.

***Redacted from first draft - a rant about videogames and television shows that are inappropriate for eleven year old boys combined with parental inattention and indifference.  Trying to stay on topic!***

Unlike his sisters, Cal is more of a gamer than a reader.  I've tried to find things that interest him, with some success.  We went to meet Dav Pilkey, the author of the Captain Underpants books, at Indigo when he came to Toronto last fall.  Cal has read the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, some of the Junie B. Jones books.  He tried some Roald Dahl, some Gordon Korman, the first Harry Potter book.  He loves manga, so we loaded up on Naruto and InuYasha.  He loved the Lord of the Rings movies, so I got him a graphic novel of The Hobbit, with gorgeous photos.  He's definitely game to enjoy a good story.  It's just not as easy as I think it would have been, if he lived with me.  There would definitely be less videogames, more reading.

Steph took it upon himself on Saturday to invite Cal to go out to run some errands with him, and they stopped in at BMV Books.  It's one of the larger used bookstores in Toronto, and while they have a couple of locations, the biggest and best is on Bloor Street West in the Annex.  It's three floors, with the top floor being the main place we buy manga - it's all graphic novels, comics and mangas.  Cal came home with a book of short stories about dragons, and spent they first hour of Sunday curled up with a cup of hot chocolate and a blanket on the couch, engrossed in a story by George R.R. Martin.  That made my day.

The exception to Cal's feelings about books and reading is the Percy Jackson series.  He got the box set from Steph's parents last year for Christmas, and while he was slow to pick the first one up (not till the end of August, when we went to the cottage for a week), he read the first one happily, and is now well into the second.

Our Saturday night ritual is to have dinner together and watch a movie.  Steph usually downloads a few to choose from, and while we can always choose any others from his huge collection, he had specially downloaded Sea of Monsters thinking Cal would want to watch it.  Surprisingly, Cal balked very strongly, because he hasn't finished the book.

Before I continue, can I just savour having written that sentence?  Didn't want to watch the movie because he hasn't finished the book.  How much do I love that?  A lot.  A LOT.

Maddie was irate, and said so, because she read the books a couple of years ago and knowing that this movie was available, insisted that it was unfair of Cal to hold us all hostage just because he hadn't finished reading it yet.  I brokered a deal where the girls could watch Sea of Monsters on Sunday morning while Cal was otherwise occupied.  Sadly, things didn't work out quite that way, and it wasn't until just after lunch that the girls said, okay, let's put the movie on.

Cal tried very hard not to watch.  He declared his intention to watch some Minecraft videos on youtube, and put on headphones.  My computer does that thing where it shuts down periodically while on youtube.  I've replaced my fan, run scans, updated my drivers.  It still happens.  And it happened over and over to Cal during the first half hour of the movie.  Eventually, he gave up on youtube and settled into the beanbag chair, saying he would watch the movie until they got to the part he'd read up to, and then he'd leave.

Yeah.  That didn't happen.


I was trying to find a board that would tell me what else I could do to address the spontaneous shutdown of my computer, and suddenly Cal was standing beside me, big tears rolling down his face.  

"I need a hug," he struggled to say, before bursting into full-on tears.

I took him into my room and cuddled him while he cried.  I rocked him, rubbing his back, stroking his hair, crooning wordlessly, and whispering, tell me what happened, buddy, until he choked out, Tyson died.

Tyson is Percy's only friend at school.  In the book, he's a street kid that Percy's school has taken on as a charitable thing, and he is widely regarded there as a freak.  He is eventually found to be a half-blood, like Percy and his friends, and goes on a quest with them from Camp Half-Blood.  Last weekend, when Cal brought his book and asked me to read to him, I enjoyed listening to him telling me about how if Tyson was at his school, there was no question that he, Cal, would be Tyson's friend.  That he sympathized with Tyson feeling like an outcast, and said that sometimes he feels that way too.

Tyson died.  Awesome.

Both of my daughters have friends who have lost parents.  Two for Maddie, this year, the circumstances of one of which I want to blog about very soon.  They were small when my grandmother died, and had never really met their half-sister's mom before she died abruptly of heart failure while driving.  Messy and ugly.  Grief is something that is really outside of my son's life experience up to this point.  The only people he has lost have been characters he has become attached to, in books or movies.  Don't even get me started about Wall-E, or the first five minutes of Up.

I blundered through about five minutes of talking about how sometimes a really good writer can create people that seem so real that they become friends, and it hurts to lose them every bit as much as it can to lose someone you love in real life.  I told him it was okay to cry when you were sad, even if his sisters made fun of him, and ventured the suggestion that sometimes it was good to have a kind of a practice run at experiencing emotion about something in a book before you go through something in real life.  I almost told him that this bit of wisdom was much more elegantly presented in my favourite Robertson Davies novel, The Lyre of Orpheus, but I refrained because TOO MUCH TALKING MOM.

I stopped rocking him and shifted so I could see his face.  His eyes were closed.  I touched his nose, and he smiled at me, my blond angel boy.  Thanks Mom...I love you for always trying to make me feel better, even if I don't understand all the things you're saying.  I'm still sad about Tyson, though.  I wish he hadn't died.

We rocked for another couple of minutes, and he said he thought he wanted to watch the rest of the movie.  I raised an eyebrow, and he laughed.  I'm still going to finish the book.  In the living room, Maddie mocked him gently for not remembering that Tyson was Poseidon's son, and that it was unlikely he would drown.  Cal's eyes lit up, seeing Tyson on the screen and none the worse for wear.

I can't make him love books the way his sisters or I do...but I want so desperately to find ways to relate to him.  Even if he doesn't understand all the things I'm saying.

And I MAY just have ordered the Percy Jackson game for Nintendo DS.  Just because it doesn't always have to be about books.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

No internet, and no dignity

I have had no internet for the past two days, between work and home, so I'm one post behind after this one.  Sneaking a weak wifi signal from a neighbour.

My daughter's iguana decided to climb up Stephen's arm and end up in his hair this morning.  Prior to coffee.

He acknowledges there is no dignity left for him.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Something old, something new

I’ve never been a clothes horse.  On any given day, I really couldn’t remember when the last time was that I went clothes shopping.  For months, I have sat on the edge of my bed when it comes to the time in the morning where I have to get dressed, and I have grumped at Stephen.  Spring, summer and fall, I have had the same complaint.

“I hate my wardrobe.  My clothes suck.”

Most of my wardrobe has been fairly casual up until recently.   Four years ago, when I was looking for work and most of my stuff was in storage, I went out and bought an interview suit.  It was a dark gray pinstriped jacket plus pants, with a coordinating black knee length skirt.  The three pieces cost me about five hundred dollars, and that was the most I had ever spent on clothes before.  I went to dozens of stores and tried on everything they had that was even remotely close to my size, but I was fortunate enough to have a friend with me who assessed every single thing I walked out of a change room wearing with an honest and helpful eye, and what I ended up was well made, fit perfectly and looked great.  Worth every penny.

Since then, I have added to my wardrobe in dribs and drabs.  As I’ve said before, I do a lot of thrifting.  I love jewellery and accessories, especially scarves, and if I’m going to spend real money, it tends to be more on shoes, because let’s face it, if I spend a lot of time running around for my job, my feet need to be comfortable.  I tend to be a little parsimonious on actual clothing, though.

Near the end of the summer, the decision was made at the firm that if we were stepping up our game, going for a wide break in terms of advertising, with an eye to expansion, that we also had to step up the game in terms of our dress code.  When I started, dressy jeans were cool with my boss.  Not anymore.  I had to dig out clothes I hadn’t worn in years and try to put together at least a week’s worth of outfits that would pass muster.  Early fall, not really so hard.  Once it got cold, I started to feel the gaps in my wardrobe.  Sometimes gets windy in Toronto in November!

As a result of last weekend’s thrifting expedition, I expanded my wardrobe by a total of eighteen items of clothing, which did not include accessories (scarves, jewellery, etc - add another eleven) or purchased for my kids, or Stephen (hello, beautiful dress shirt with interesting details, Guess, for five bucks).  Every day this week, I’ve worn an outfit entirely thrifted, or thrifted plus one item (not including shoes), and felt well-dressed, maybe even thought other people could be fooled into thinking expensively dressed, which is a novelty for me.

I took a break from writing this and tried to take a couple of pictures to give you an idea of how thrifting has enriched my wardrobe recently, but to style an outfit, you need to wear it, and to be honest, right now I’m in my pyjama pants and braless, and I can’t be bothered.  Instead, I leave you with a photo of one of the brooches I scored  - I collect vintage floral brooches, and this one just sang out for attention.  

You can see in the photo that it is missing one small blue stone centering a flower, but it is vintage Coro, stamped on the pinback with the mark they were using in the 1940s.  It was marked at $7.99., and I got it on the quarterly half-price sale day. 

I already know that I’m wearing blue tomorrow!

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Happy birthday, Damo!

My son Cal turned eleven this past summer, on a Friday.  It was a big deal for me, because unless my kids have a birthday on the weekend that they're with me, I either get to celebrate the week before or the week after.  During the summer, I enrolled him in swimming lessons, so he was with me for much of the two months.  

He came in to work with me on his birthday, which was a big deal for him, because much of the time when he lives with his dad, he's home by himself.  His two older sisters have large groups of friends and very active social lives, and Cal is more of a loner, preferring the company of his Xbox or Teletoon.  We shared a pizza for lunch, and he met a couple of our clients, who all complimented me on having such a grown-up, well-behaved sweetie for a son.

Five-fifteen found us at Drift.  Kris and I took Cal over to meet Damian and the rest of the Friday crew.  I told Damian it was my son's eleventh birthday, and that we needed a piece of the homemade cheesecake.

Damian put the order in to James in the kitchen for the cheesecake, and said to Cal, "Ready for a birthday shot, buddy?"  He put two shot glasses on the bar, one in front of my son, one in front of him, and filled them both with Tropicana orange juice. The two of them said "Cheers!" and clinked glasses with each other, then with Kris and I.  Franco brought out a huge piece of cheesecake covered in strawberry coulis, with a big bright candle in the middle, and the whole staff, plus the few guests in the restaurant, sang happy birthday to my son.  He hid his tears in my sleeve, and devoured his cheesecake quietly.

My son still talks about his birthday party at Drift, and how awesome everyone there was to him that day, but he reserves a special smile when he tells people about his birthday shot.

Damo, I wish I could tell you sensibly how much it meant to me, that small gesture from such a big heart, and how long afterwards the immense happiness it generated, lasted.  I have always said, to anyone who would listen, I've been a patron of Drift since it opened, and being there is like being in my best friend's living room.  You and your crew have become my friends over the past couple of years, and Drift is one of my happy places.  You have a gift for genuine hospitality, and it shows, in small gestures and big ones.

Wishing you the happiest of birthdays, my friend.  Nazdrovaya.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Got sucked into that Facebook meme

Tameka gave me the number ten - here are that many random facts about me:

1. Cooked apples are an abomination. No apple pie, apple crumble, apple brown betty, applesauce for me, thanks. More for you.
2. I collect sparkly floral brooches and single teacups.
3. I was addicted to Turbo Jam for two years, and dropped forty-five pounds. Did P90X twice after that and dropped another forty. Stopped moving after I screwed up my knee and gained most of it back. Working on that again, albeit more gently.
4. I have never played a video game in my entire life, although I own a PS3 and an Xbox.
5. In the privacy of my kitchen, I dance Gangnam style. A lot.
6. Ren and I took ballroom lessons for many months before we got married. I could probably still fake some of the jive, but the rest of them are long gone.
7. With the exception of recently seeing the All-Blacks defeat Canada, I have seen upwards of forty pro-level sporting events (primarily the Toronto Maple Leafs, but also the Blue Jays, the Argonauts and the Rock) and I have never seen the home team lose.
8. I wear a Celtic cross that I got when I was at uni in Wales. It is my signature piece of jewellery and I rarely take it off.
9. I can't skate backwards.
10. If I were ever going to be one of those people who learned a movie dance for my own wedding reception, it would be the one from A Knight's Tale, to Bowie's "Golden Years".

Monday, 18 November 2013

Fighting Irish

Most Fridays, K and I go to the pub a couple of doors down from the firm to have a drink and celebrate getting to the end of the week.  On the occasional Friday, we go to the pub a couple of doors down from the firm to self-medicate after a week full of suck.  We are treated very well, and as a famous sitcom used to say, sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name.

Recently, the pub added a new staff member, and he is absolutely adorable.  He is Irish-French, and I could listen to him read the phone book.  His voice is just like music,  It doesn't hurt that he's lovely to look at, and an extra bonus that he's very smart and articulate as well. 

Steph and I went to the pub last night, and after we were comfortably ensconced, he teased me about having a crush on the new bartender.  It was fairly obvious that I was watching him longer than strictly necessary.  I looked back at Steph and flushed.  

I'm sorry, I told him.  

He winked at me.  It's ok, love, he told me.  I have a crush on him too.  Then he started talking to me in an exaggerated Irish lilt, and I cracked up.  Life went on.

Faced with that same set of circumstances, my wasband would have accused me of cheating on him, made a scene in the pub, and dragged me out by the hair if I wouldn't accompany him willingly.  

His first wife had cheated on him, fairly spectacularly, with the best man at his wedding, and there were members of his family who would still wonder aloud, because it's scandalous and naughty to do it that way as opposed to keeping it to yourself, if his daughter from his first marriage was actually his.

He didn't like the small property management firm I worked for, because there were many young, single guys who worked there.  He additionally did not like it that one of my co-workers, who was married with a young son, had a fling with one of those young men.  He thoroughly disagreed with me when I said I had no intention of telling her husband or getting involved in any way, and only barely restrained himself from doing it himself.

When I left that firm and took a job as the executive assistant to the director of research and development to a multi-national company, working alongside an engineering department of about a hundred and fifty people (almost all men), he wasn't crazy about that either, despite the fact that many of them were married.  Marriage was, in his experience, not a barrier to relationships becoming intimate.  The worst part was that my boss had married his secretary, and was only hiring me because his recent promotion made it such that his wife could no longer work for him.

It probably didn't help that I had been "amoral" (his word) when it came to boyfriends in high school.  Once a cheater, always a cheater, in his book.

Next Monday is our nineteenth wedding anniversary.  Still married, due to circumstances beyond my control, though we separated in 2009.  For nearly our entire marriage, he told me he believed it was entirely likely that I was having an affair.  Every time we had an argument, he invited me, in much more vulgar language, to take a lover and seek solace for my bad decision in marrying him with someone else.

In 2007, and not at any time before, I did.  Coincidentally, with another lovely Irishman.

It was mostly an emotional connection, two people who were each with the wrong person, who had once had a thing for each other, but we were together once, and I said the L word in the heat of the moment, which I have regretted ever since.  It should never have happened, and the fact that the day I decided I was going to do it was the day after R took a swing at my face with a closed fist really shouldn't matter.  It wasn't vengeance, or payback.  I couldn't stop thinking, writing, dreaming, about a man I wasn't married to, who was married to someone else.  I could have ended our marriage cleanly, but I didn’t.

What mattered was what followed.  

When he found out, he raped me anally, and told me I no longer had the right to privacy, because it was his right to give, and his to take away.

He absolved himself and his actions through the years of our marriage of any responsibility for the state of our marriage in 2007, insisted that counselling was necessary, because he dared me to lie to a professional the way he believed I was constantly lying to him.  Anything about our marriage that cast him as anything other than the victim was unacceptable.

He alienated my friends, called them at work and screamed at them to give him "information" about me.

He put a keylogger on our computer and pried into my FB, my email, my bank account, opened my mail, combed and re-combed my drawers, pockets, purse, daytimer, cell phone.  Took my library card away, removed the unlimited long distance calling plan from our phone. 

I would walk into our bedroom and find him lying on the floor, looking under furniture with a flashlight to see if I was hiding things from him.  He went through books to see if I was hiding papers, through my makeup case in the bathroom, the box of tampons under the sink, the paired socks in the laundry basket.  His rationale was that because he couldn’t find any evidence that I was a serial cheater, he needed to become more and more dedicated to finding whatever it was he thought I was hiding.

He had DNA testing done on my son, who was eight at the time, to determine whether "the child" was his...because my son doesn't look like either one of us.

He demanded an accounting of every single person I had any means of contacting - my FB friends list, my email contacts (including the account I had for subscriptions to email lists, and the account I used as an eight-year ebay seller), the phonebook on my cell.

We tried to keep it together for a year.  That year ended when R and I went to a friend's garden party, not expecting to see the man I'd been involved with there, and R went into a rage, punching and screaming, and in the end pushing a toddler into a wall to reach for me as I was being shielded by another friend.

Walking home last night, arm in arm with Steph, getting home, going to bed, in the moments before I closed my eyes and let sleep take me, I spent long moments being profoundly grateful for my life right now, both for the people who are in it, and for the people who aren't.  

And, in the spirit of not hiding anything, for Irish accents belonging to lovely men. :-)

Sunday, 17 November 2013

An unloved sweater

I slept for twelve hours last night, which was all kind of awesome.  But, it didn't leave me with a ton of time for sewing, as I had laundry and grocery shopping to do, and had to make a quick trip in to the office as well.  Call the whambulance.

So, instead of actually cutting OR sewing, I inventoried what I might need for the duster/jacket project, and discovered I need thread.  Lots of thread.  Nothing at all in the purple family or the goldy-cream family. That would be a fail and a sadness both, if I'd sat down to work on this.  The only sewing store nearby that's not a subway trip plus a bus transfer away is closed on Sundays.  Boo.

The crafty part of today has so far only involved photography.  Here's the sweater I bought yesterday, with the intention of unravelling it and reknitting it into something else.

It's not that it's ugly,'s just know...flattering.

The main colour is a deep forest green, punctuated by flashes of a purple-burgundy, and a warm cream. 


A local FB friend and fellow knitter suggested swants (AKA sweater pants), as recently made notorious by Stephen West, but I responded that although this sweater is soft enough to wear against the skin, it's too subtle for swants as they really should be done.  Although while thrifting I DID see more than a few that would be suitable...that's a rabbit hole for another day!

I want to knit a cardigan from this yarn.  It's called Vodka Lemonade.  I think I'd have enough yarn...the sweater's too big for me, too long in the body and the sleeves, and it's knit in ribbing, which eats yarn, compared to the stockinette stitch of the sweater I'm eyeing, so I should be good.  Really only two things I'm considering...I THINK it's going to be equivalent to DK weight but until I start pulling it apart I won't know for sure (perpetual what-ifs happening in my house!), and also, the pattern is generally only shown by other knitters done in a solid or semi-solid, which this yarn isn't.  The stockinette portions of the sweater would be fine, I'm sure, but I am not that good at envisioning the lace parts in variegated yarn.


Saturday, 16 November 2013

The colour aubergine

I hate paying retail, and I love finding a deal.  That makes it kind of a gimme that I gravitate towards thrift shops.

There are at least three good ones within two city blocks of where I live, which in Toronto is thought of as a hipster area, although I'm really not sure why.   I make the rounds pretty frequently, and my daughters are generally willing accomplices. My older daughter is taking a class called Fashion in grade eleven this year, and part of it involves evaluating their wardrobes and potentially refashioning some of the items in them. 

That probably explains why I bought the dress I found, back in September.  It's sleeveless, v-necked and is comprised of a floaty, chiffon-type overlayer with a crinkled satin under-dress.  The chiffon is patterned in a big, watercolour floral, on a kind of tea-stained background.  The floral is lilac, aubergine, gold and forest green.  The underskirt is a pale gold, and both skirts have an uneven, handkerchief hem.

The dress is Canadian designer.  The price tag in the thrift store was twenty dollars, which is kind of pricey for thrift  and I guess being designer accounts for the price tag, but it practically jumped off the rack at me.  It's EXACTLY my style, except for the fact that it is about four sizes too small for my chest.  Fortunately, measuring showed it just about fit me shoulder to shoulder across the back.  In my head, at that moment, it became a duster, or a long floaty jacket (maybe a vest, maybe with bell sleeves), although it needed some work to realize its potential.

I've been thrifting with a purpose since then.  It has added to my wardrobe more than usual, keeping a particular eye out for clothing in the purple family.  I scored a gorgeous, almost new suede blazer, military-ish, with shiny brass hardware, and a couple of work-appropriate skirts, but I was on the hunt for something else.  Couldn't quite put my finger on what, but I knew that I would know it when I saw it.

This afternoon, I think I found the thing I was looking for.  Another sleeveless dress, in a cool deep purple.  It has a small ruffle down the front and around the hem.  It's the same kind of crinkled satin of the underskirt of the first dress.

I think tomorrow I will break out the sewing machine and see what I can do about making this duster that's been in my head a reality.    I also scored a Liz Claiborne sweater that I hate the shape of but love the colour of, so I'm also going to have a go at unravelling and skeining that beauty soon as well.