You Say It’s Your Birthday?

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No, YOUR child’s birthday is exactly eleven days away and you have made exactly ZERO plans to celebrate it.
 
This isn’t a call for help with ideas on how to celebrate. Captain Sassypants has had a new idea every week since before Christmas on how she’d like to celebrate, which may in fact be why we have no confirmed plans at this late stage. I’m not sure what’s gone wrong this year, because in previous years, I’ve had this birthday party thing totally wrapped up at this point. I’ve been a master-planner in the celebration department for the six years we’ve celebrated her birthdays, and each one has been a blast, if I do say so myself. Maybe that’s the problem. Perhaps I’m suffering some sort of party-fatigue brought on by my own obsessive need to outdo myself every year to give her a dreamy party she’ll never forget. Only to find out that by the time her next birthday rolls around, it’s me who is reminding her what she did last year and all the other years too. I know she’s just a normal kid, but it broke my heart that I had to remind her how three years ago, we took her to Disney for five days and did the whole “Bippity Boppity Boutique” experience and dinner with Cinderella on her birthday. I mean seriously – don’t the price tags of these things guarantee indelible inscription in their little memory banks?
So this year I’ve sort of given up. We’ve discussed so many different options; originally we were going to do New York City for her birthday weekend, but that fell through for a few reasons. Then we discussed a movie party to see the long-awaited live-action version of “Jungle Book” coming out, but I hate having to wait until the week before to confirm the exact show time. Yeah, I know. There was a brief excitement over laser tag, until we found out that the kids need to be a certain height and weight to comfortably carry the backpacks required. This eliminated about half of her friends who somehow don’t seem to be growing quite as quickly as she is. Each idea had some negative aspect or two that cause their elimination, until now we really aren’t considering very many options and I’m feeling like a play date party at our house just pales compared to the rainbow of bashes we’ve thrown for the past six years. Don’t worry, I’m getting over myself as you read this.
I’m trying new approaches to life this year, and *winging it* has never really been something I’ve embraced in adulthood, so I could simply say that’s what I’m doing now and sound very goal-oriented, right? Except I’d be lying. I’ve simply lost my ambition to create “memorable” kids’ parties that cost a fortune and end up making me painfully aware of how we spoil our kids. We stopped doing birthday parties for my stepson when he was ten and offered instead “experiences” like horseback riding. I tried this approach with Baby Girl this year, despite her only turning eight, and initially she liked the idea, but being the social butterfly that she is, quickly cast suggested experiences aside for group activities with her friends.
Part of me is really ok with my lack of motivation regarding this important milestone, but there is a sliver of hope because I do recognize something needs to be done really soon or I’ll risk utter disappointment from the star of my life. I’d call it a mom-fail, if I believed in such terminology. Instead, I’m going to classify it as a “Mom-exercising-last-minute-creativity-challenge” and get my ass in gear. Tomorrow. Possibly.
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On #InternationalWomensDay – Be You, Because You ARE Strong

Happy International Women’s Day!

You might be surprised to know that history records the first International Women’s Day as far back as 1911! Women have been fighting a loooooonnnnnnnggggg time for equality, and will continue to do so. I hate this fact, but to avoid dwelling on the negative, I will take pleasure in seeing how far we’ve come! Keep up the fantastic work, my sisters!

I’m seeing so many quotes and memes on social media today about women, and I’ve observed many of these quotes and memes focus on the word STRONG. Why is that?

Even my personal favorite: “Strong women: May we know them, may we raise them, may we be them.” urges us that being strong is the ultimate goal. Yet, I can’t help but wonder if this battle-cry is being interpreted the same way across the board.

Naturally, the physical sense of the word is a positive goal. Being physically strong isn’t just about how many pounds you can bench-press, but about being healthy. Everyone wants health for themselves and those they care about, right?

But what about being strong in other ways? How do we define that? And what about the women who don’t exude the “traditional” traits of “strength”? I use quotation marks simply because these words are so open to interpretation.

I worry that International Women’s Day is moving towards a different meaning – a celebration of society’s perceived “best of the best” so to speak. That’s not what it’s about.

The woman who doesn’t run marathons for herself or charity can still be strong simply running after her toddler at the park. Or watching Netflix marathons on TV.

The woman who doesn’t own a financially successful business or have a high-powered career can still be strong owning the responsibility to feed her children by working hard at her minimum-wage job.

That woman who doesn’t prepare kale-qinoa-chia seed-avocado crust-less pie to feed her family can still be strong asking her kids to set the table and put the ketchup and plum sauce out for the frozen chicken fingers with tater-tots her family will devour with enthusiasm.

That woman who never declares loudly “Fuck that shit!” can still be strong when she sobs into her pillow because someone hurt her feelings.

That woman who can’t be Ms. Independent-I-Can-Do-It-All-Myself can still be strong when she asks friends or family for physical or emotional support.

That woman who doesn’t kick that asshole partner’s ass to the curb can still be strong when she stays in a seemingly unsatisfying relationship for complex reasons that nobody but her really understands.

That woman who doesn’t proudly don her swimsuit while ignoring her obesity can still be strong when she avoids pools and the beach.

Nobody defines “STRONG” for everybody.

As far as I’m concerned, anyone who opens their eyes and confronts the challenges of life each day is strong, and even those who open their eyes but then decides to close them, stay in bed and avoid the world are still strong in making the decision to do just that.

If you are human and trying to live your life as best you can – you are strong.

Should women be equal with men? Youbetcha.

Should women stop being human to try to fit into someone else’s definition of “strong”?

I think you know my answer to that question.

Be you. That’s strong enough.

 

Some Better Ideas Than #NoHairSelfie for #WorldCancerDay

Smith and Sam

 

Oh sure, it looked romantic and amazingly supportive when Samantha’s hunky boyfriend Smith Jerrod did it on Sex and the City, but shaving your head, or worse – simply plugging a photo of your mug into the #NoHairSelfie app that photo-shops a bald version of you – isn’t really showing support for cancer patients, in my opinion. Unless your spouse or dear friend or child has expressed consent in such a personal statement, you are running the risk of offending cancer patients and survivors, like this courageous woman who just recently lost her hair. I’m not speaking for all cancer patients and I do see some of the merits in actually shaving your head for a spouse, child or close friend, to make them feel less unique in their appearance or to encourage people to donate money. I just find a mass movement of strangers trying on baldness with an electronic app really minimizes the painful layers of what losing your hair via chemotherapy feels like, both physically and emotionally.  It has rankled me from the first moment I heard of it. Why do I feel I’m entitled to even have an opinion on this movement and its impact on cancer patients and survivors?

Because I am one.

At the age of four, I had emergency surgery after a fall from a swing left me with overwhelming pain. The doctors assumed I had ruptured my spleen, but instead found a kidney busted open with a previously-undiagnosed cancerous tumour that had burst on impact after my fall. My kidney was destroyed and needed removal, and in the words of the doctor who finally told my parents why they had been waiting for hours – I was a very sick little girl. Subsequent radiation treatments and chemotherapy followed, to ensure stray cancer cells that were released when the tumour burst didn’t quietly take up residence elsewhere in my body. I don’t remember much about the radiation part (except the legacy of infertility it left me) but I have vivid memories of the chemotherapy; of how the drug would wind through the IV tube and as soon as it entered my body, I would begin vomiting and wouldn’t stop for most of the day. Chemotherapy isn’t just poison for the cancer, after all.

Fresh Outta Nephrectomy Surgery

Fresh Outta Nephrectomy Surgery

One of my most painful set of memories of this time revolve around the loss of my hair. In today’s medical advancements, some cancer patients are lucky enough to avoid complete hair loss, but back then, hardly anyone escaped it; even four year old little girls. My mom woke me one morning and found almost my entire head of hair over my pillowcase. It had happened overnight while I slept and I still recall her trying so valiantly to be brave for my benefit, yet failing and crying in front of me. Now that I have a young daughter of my own, I cannot fathom how my mom got through all of the treatments and crying (mine and hers) and needles and vomit and worry. She deserves a medal, for sure. Also at that time (1975) wigs were not much of widespread  fashion statement and were in scarce supply. My parents had me fitted for an old-lady wig that resembled the hairstyle Maude sported, minus the style. Suffice to say, wearing a wig at that age was no easy task and led to other painful situations of kids teasing me and even threatening to take my wig from my head.

Yeah, I WISH they had taken this wig. And burned it.

Yeah, I WISH they had taken this wig. And burned it.

Eventually my hair grew back and life went on, but those childhood experiences changed me in innumerable ways. I still have very strong reactions to seeing children who are wearing scarves around their heads, and I can’t watch any movies or TV programs where children are terminally ill. So when I saw the campaign for #NoHairSelfie and some people on social media proudly posting photos of themselves smiling with their hair electronically removed by an app, or urging their readers and social media followers to “celebrate” World Cancer Day, my reaction was visceral; I cried, I raged inwardly, shouting at them that losing your hair is no reason to grin proudly, and cancer is definitely not anything to “celebrate”.

I get the intentions, I really do. I just don’t think much thought or sensitivity was put into this campaign with respect to how it might make some cancer patients and survivors feel. My overwhelming gut response is a desire to scream at the images of healthy people pretending to be bald “YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IT’S LIKE.” And they don’t. An app can’t begin to give you the experience of feeling completely abnormal and a freak of nature when all of your hair suddenly leaves your body. It doesn’t provide the fun of having constant insecurities that everybody knows you’re wearing a wig or that your wig has shifted unnaturally or that it looks fake or doesn’t suit you. All those smiling faces being uploaded into the app? They look healthy and happy. People who have lost their hair to cancer are not healthy and rarely look so. Some may be fighting their damndest to hang on to some of life’s happiness, but rest assured they aren’t happy about losing their hair or having cancer.

Even people who are “brave” enough to actually shave their real heads still aren’t experiencing the full range of physical and emotional traumas that chemotherapy often reduces its victims to. I have far more respect for those who patiently grow out their hair and cut it off to donate for wigs for cancer patients and I am baffled that a prestigious establishment with powerful public engagement such as The Princess Margaret Hospital* wouldn’t see this as a much better campaign to invest their marketing efforts with. Wigs are expensive and real hair for them is not easy to come by, even if you want to donate your own. Hair has to be a specific length and cannot have dyes or chemical treatments in it.

Hair, Returning

Hair, Returning

While I understand the #NoHairSelfie has attracted some worthy attention and awareness for cancer patients with hair loss, I still feel that if you really want to help cancer patients, donate your money, time or supportive kindness. Volunteer, fundraise, or simply make some freezable meals for the cancer patient you know in your life. These are meaningful, helpful actions that have direct impact on those struggling with cancer or survivors who live in fear of relapse, unlike posting a picture of yourself and counting your “likes” using a hashtag originally meant for REAL cancer patients to reach out and support one another. Think about your actions, not just about jumping on the bandwagon because it sounds fun and all your social media friends are doing it.

It’s Word Cancer Day. My thoughts and prayers go out to all the brave fighters currently battling for their life and health, for all the survivors who have won, and for all those who tragically could not overcome this terrible disease.

 

*Please be assured that while I don’t agree with the campaign of baldness, I absolutely support The Princess Margaret Hospital in their efforts to support cancer patients. I was once a patient at the old hospital and have visited the new one, and I know the world-class establishment is full of hard-working and dedicated health professionals who strive to give the best physical and emotional care to every patient they treat.

 

My Child’s Thoughts on Menopause

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Yesterday, I was rushing around to get out the door by a certain time and as is usually the case when you’re stressed and time-challenged, the process made my body temperature increase. I removed the sweater I was wearing and said to Captain Sassypants: “Phew! I’m getting hot and sweaty!”

Her response?

“I hate to say this, mommy, but maybe you’re getting the HOT SHOTS.”

I knew immediately she meant “hot flashes” but tried to contain my laughter because I wanted to know if she knew what she was talking about. I asked her “What are the hot shots?”

“Actually, you probably won’t get them, because you know it’s when a woman has made a baby in her womb and the baby has come out and then when the woman gets older, she gets the hot shots? Well, you’re old enough to get them, right? But you haven’t made a baby in your womb, so you probably don’t need to worry about it!”

I like her thinking. Yes, I DO deserve an exemption from menopause because I wasn’t able to make a baby in my womb!

Who do I speak to about arranging this?

I Like Big Jokes, and I Cannot Lie

There sure are a LOT of songs on the radio these days that aren’t really suitable for children, aren’t there? One day I’m going to write a post on all of the child-inappropriate pop songs that I’ve had to explain to Baby Girl, but for today, I’m going to only discuss the gem by Sir Mix-A-Lot called “Baby Got Back.”

Love it or hate it, for those of us like myself who have got some serious junk in the trunk, the opening line of “I LIKE BIG BUTTS, and I cannot lie!” has become a bit of an ego-boosting anthem. It has always put a smile on my face, even though the rest of the lyrics are sexually gross, objectifying and misogynistic.

So it was rather ironic when today, driving in the car, this particular song came on and I instinctively turned it up and crowed out the opening lyrics in my shouty-singy voice.

I immediately realized the folly of this action. With Baby Girl listening intently in the back seat, I was prepared for questions along the lines of “Why does he like big butts, mommy?” and “What does he mean by that?” which are the usual awkward queries I have to field as a result of banishing kid-diddys when she was only two.

Instead, I got a treat – an unexpected peek at her emerging brilliant and subtly sarcastic humour:

Does the guy singing this song know you, mommy?

The layers of humour buried in that statement made me proud, despite the fact that she was basically telling me I have a fat ass.

There was an intentionality to her humour that signalled her growing awareness of the world at large and how to make fun of it.

Sometimes her comments strike me in the worst possible way. Like the time she told me my bum makes a wave every time she touches it. THAT was unintentionally ego-crushing.

Or like the time she was splashing around in the bath and I had disrobed to grab a quick shower simultaneously. She sized up my nekked carcass and matter-of-factly stated “You look nice with your clothes ON, mommy.”

Not “nicer.” Just “nice” – because “nicer” would have been an obvious insult.

I may not like my butt being the butt of so many of her jokes, but I do know she is quickly learning what makes me laugh.

And I love it.

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Thanks for reading my blog! Feel free to share it, and if you’d like to hear more from me, slide over to the right side of your screen and “Like” my Facebook page, follow me on Twitter and subscribe to get my latest post in your email inbox – yes, that’s right – stalk me!

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Happy, Happy, Happy

A few months ago, I began to keep an online Happiness Jar. The idea came from one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Gilbert, who often shares her fans’ pictures on her Facebook fan page of crafty DIY Happiness Jars containing their daily writings about what made them happy.

I’m no Martha Stewart, but I have my hands on my laptop for many hours a day, and I thought perhaps using my blog’s Facebook page would be a good way to start conversations with people about happiness. I’d share what I was happy about each day and invite others to do the same and perhaps create a small positive energy movement.

Initially, it was a great conversation – people were responding every day and sharing their pieces of happiness, just like I had hoped. Then that slowly died off, and every time I posted MY Happiness Jar entry, you could hear the crickets chirping away. Nobody even “liked” what I was saying.

This started to bother me a little. Then a lot. I felt like I was failing at spreading a positive message. I started to worry that I was “annoying” people and that nobody gave a rats. So I stopped sharing my daily Happiness Jar entries for a while.

Until the proverbial lightning bolt hit me.

The purpose of MY Happiness Jar was not to make anyone else happy.

It was about preserving MY bits of happiness. It was about MY desire to have a higher awareness of the positive parts of MY life.

It was about having a place to go to look back on the happy things in MY life if I ever needed some inspiration in a dark time.

It was NOT about anyone else.

So I started again.

Sometimes people share, more often they don’t. The crickets still chirp on a regular basis, but I have stopped giving a shit. Especially because when I re-started posting my daily Happiness Jar entries, I wrote a brief version of the above and had some pretty incredible comments – people telling me that MY Happiness Jar entries often inspired them, even if they never responded to my posts with their own statements of happiness.

So I am learning to refocus.

There are days when it’s damn hard to think of ONE happy thing, trust me.

Like today.

Today, I could tell you about how I’ve had a barking cough for 6 days now that obviously has decided to never leave. I could tell you how that cough combined with the stress of having to whip DD in and out of 4 costume changes with a 2-song time limitation twice yesterday and once Friday night have attacked my neck and shoulder with clenched muscles to give me muscle spasms that made sleep almost impossible despite my exhaustion last night. I could tell you how my 14 year old cat decided to poop on my bathroom floor because I wouldn’t get up at 3am to feed him. I could tell you about the laundry I did last Monday that’s still folded in a basket upstairs waiting to be put away because I was also at a conference for 2 days last week and have had no time to do anything resembling housework.

I could tell you a whole bunch of other crap that makes me weepy, crabby and a little bit stabby.

But happiness is a CHOICE.

I want to be happy. These negative things are all a part of life – every life – not just mine. Without them, I’d have no benchmark to compare the good stuff to. Yes, life has some unhappy moments, situations, times, but even on our darkest days, there is always at least one little thing that was good – the taste of a delicious dessert, the smile on a child’s face, the friend calling to see how you are doing.

I could dwell on all of the rotten stuff I listed, OR – I could tell you about all the people who told my daughter what a fantastic dancer she is at her recitals yesterday.  I could tell you about how every time she stepped out on that stage – 4 times per show for 3 shows now – my eyes filled with love bubbles that I had to breathe deeply to contain, or risk falling apart with the absolute love and pride I felt. The pure bliss of fulfillment, remembering how only a few years ago, I had convinced myself I’d never be a mom watching my child live out his or her passions. I could tell you how Huzbo, with his six left feet, actually agreed to dress himself up with neon colours and get up on that stage with other dads to shake his groove thing in the “Dancing Dads” part of the dance school’s annual recital, and how it made both of our kids laugh out loud with pleasure. I could tell you about how a beautiful, sweet compliment on Facebook from my best friend put a gigantic smile on my face last night when I was so worn out.

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My Happiness Jar can be half-empty, or half-full. It’s all a matter of perspective. I am the only gatekeeper of what goes into my mind and affects me.

Sometimes it’s hard to choose half-full, I completely agree. It’s human nature for many – myself included – to be pessimistic or negative. It’s often easier to let your inner bully crawl into your sacred mind space and take away your joy.

Optimism and happiness sometimes require work. Sometimes that work is extra-hard due to illness, and professional or medicinal help is needed – that’s ok, too. Whatever works – nobody should ever be faulted for choosing happiness and doing whatever it takes to get there.

So today, I choose happiness.

 

“Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.” – Abraham Lincoln

 

Thanks for reading my blog! Feel free to share it, and if you’d like to hear more from me, slide over to the right side of your screen and “Like” my Facebook page, follow me on Twitter and subscribe to get my latest post in your email inbox – yes, that’s right – stalk me!

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The Quest to Scratch the Seven-Year Itch

This *may* or may not be, the couple described in this post.

This *may* or may not be, the couple described in this post.

I have a story to tell you.

It’s a story about a woman who’s been married for seven years now, and while she may feel a bit itchy at times, she’s proud of the fact that she would never go looking for someone else to scratch that itch.

Yet, that itch remains.

Because the dude legally obligated to scratch that itch is not doing so as often as he should.

She loves him – most of the time.  She likes him – some of the time.  They are fortunate enough to have overnight babysitting every other weekend for regular date nights.  These dates are usually dinner and a movie, and on one of those dinner dates recently, the woman decided she would broach the subject of her itch.  She thought that maybe giving some compliments would motivate her man to return the favour, thereby making her feel a little sexy and desireable – which goes a LONG way to helping scratch an itch.

She suggested they dine at the restaurant where they first met, and by some cosmic happenstance, they were seated at the exact table they had sat at on their first date, although the dude, of course, had no recollection of that.

She began with what she thought was a VERY flattering compliment:

“You are sexier now than you were the day I met you eight years ago, sweetheart”.  (This is a really hot compliment for a dude who can, at times, be rather obsessed with his aging appearance – to the point where he asks for Botox as a Christmas gift.)

To which the dude responded with…nothing but a cursory “I am? Thanks!”

No return volley, no quasi-compliment, not one flattering comeback.

The woman counted to ten, because she was adamant that this date night was not going to end in a fight like many of them had lately.

“Uhhh, don’t you think when someone pays you a nice compliment, it’s gentlemanly and romantic to say something nice back to them?”

(The woman admits that she was fishing, and that it’s probably a sign of her vast insecurities that she wanted – needed – the dude to return a compliment, but she had decided at this point that hearing some compliments were going to help sooth her itch, and she wasn’t about to let his denseness prevent that from happening.)

“Oh!  Uhhh, yeah – you look lovely!” was the husband’s response.

The woman was put out.  “Lovely” was a word used to describe your mother’s Easter bonnet, or your aging auntie’s rose garden – NOT the word you used if you wanted to get into your wife’s pants and wanted her to want you to do so.

So the woman told him just that – she wanted him to come up with something a bit more passionate than “lovely” to let her know he still found her attractive.

To which the dude replied “You really do yourself up well!”

Now, despite the fact that the woman felt as though the man was really telling her that she was mutton dressed up to look like spring lamb, she patiently explained to him again the folly of this non-compliment, and gave him further instructions to compliment something specific about her looks.

“You have really nice lips for kissing, and great hair”.

Now the woman was feeling better – these were parts of her that weren’t painted on or gussied up with expertly-tailored clothes!  Yet somehow she needed just a bit more – after all, she was feeling really itchy and needed confirmation that her man was still even interested in being her itch-scratcher.

“That’s more like it!  Now, can you compliment something below my neck?”

Quite frankly, the woman knew she was skating on thin ice here, because she knew that before meeting her, the dude was not generally drawn to women who had such generous curves in the bottom-half of her pear.  Yet, she also knew that there were at least a FEW attributes south of her chin that were worth noting, and she felt that her husband owed her the effort of mentioning them once every couple of years.

“You have great boobs!” the dude enthusiastically replied, thinking he was acing this examination.

“What’s so great about them?” the woman prompted.

“They’re nice and small!” he exclaimed triumphantly, with his hands shaping cups the size of half oranges.

Despite the man’s rare appreciate of non-Pam Anderson sized bazoongas, the woman interpreted this as another non-compliment, applying the man’s love of “small” to her rather “not small” derriere and legs.

At this point, the woman gave up.

She is learning to accept that perhaps scratching your own itch may be the best approach after all.

 

 

Thanks for reading my blog! Feel free to share it, and if you’d like to hear more from me, slide over to the right side of your screen and “Like” my Facebook page, follow me on Twitter and subscribe to get my latest post in your email inbox – yes, that’s right – stalk me!

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