Chanel’s Mom

“If you don’t own a dog, at least one, there is not necessarily anything wrong with you, but there may be something wrong with your life.” 

Roger A. Caras

20130202_kbw_00012-2

Our neighbors down the hall have recently acquired a puppy. They have named her Chanel. Yes, as in Mademoiselle Coco Chanel, founder of the House of Chanel, famous for Chanel #5, the Chanel suit, and the Chanel purse. Given that we live in Vancouver, and in Yaletown no less, it’s a given that the dog is a purebred (though shockingly one of the rare breeds not small enough to fit into it’s namesake handbag); I suspect her name is an homage to the sacrifice made by her owner in choosing to spend a months rent on this new addition to the family rather than a piece from this season’s ready-to-wear collection. Though groundbreaking in it’s innovativeness, I don’t have the heart to tell the new parents that their choice of names isn’t winning them any friends on the strata. Comfortably nestled in their 17th floor unit they simply aren’t witness to the confusion and possessive purse clutching provoked in the neighborhood women as their private ‘dog whisperer’ hollers “Chanel” repeatedly during obedience drills designed to whip their new puppy into enviable submission.

 

I know what you’re thinking. That I sound sarcastic, judgmental, or even contemptuous. And you’re right. But if you know me personally or have read some of my blog posts you likely know that I also suffer from a much more fatal flaw: I am a hypocrite. For I myself am the proud owner of a 4 year-old purebred French Bulldog named Oscar, who while at 22 pounds full-grown certainly cannot fit into even my largest of purses, sure does look cute in a bike basket.

20130202_kbw_00041

I still maintain that my becoming a dog owner (particularly a purebred dog owner) occurred somewhat unwittingly. I have never been a dog person, so when my husband (then live-in-boyfriend) said to me almost 4 years ago “Let’s get a dog!” I was less than enthusiastic. I believe my reply was: “How about a hairless cat?” He eventually sold me on the virtues of dog ownership (namely undying devotion), but I was determined that we would do the only conscionable thing and adopt a rescue mutt with one foot out the door. We certainly weren’t going to become one of those people, the ones we sneered at, proudly parading our purebred Labradoodle or Chihuahua around the neighborhoods in their tutus, booties and strollers. We would have a real dog, a BIG one, with indiscernible heritage, socialization problems, two different colored eyes and fleas. Unfortunately, once we started doing our research we quickly realized that there is a paucity of quality rescue dogs in the greater Vancouver area. There is also a surprisingly high demand for free dogs. Most of the desirable pups, such as those saved from the horrible conditions they are exposed to in ‘puppy mills’, where they are not fed organic kibble or Evian water, are snatched up immediately. The ones who are not, along with the majority of other dogs being given away for free just weren’t cute at all. We really had no choice but to go the purebred route. Getting a French Bulldog was my husband’s idea, the breed has been his favorite for years. And I must admit that when I laid my eyes on our little guy it was love at first sight. And at least we had enough respect for Oscar to give him a real name, a man’s name. Because that’s what he is. He’s my liddle, widdle man.

 

I knew that when we got a dog our lives would change. What I wasn’t counting on was how quickly Oscar would capture our unyielding love and affection. Or how quickly he would strip me of all sensibility and self-respect. When we first got Oscar, he slept on the floor. Now I regularly wake up stiff because he and I share my side of the bed and he likes to spread out. When I get home from work I kiss my dog before my husband. There is often tongue involved, and it’s not always just his. My husband and I used to take long, romantic showers together. This is still the case, however the mojo has been off since we have  decided to use these opportunities to give Oscar his weekly baths, spending the time scrubbing him down while the squirms and scratches at our wet, naked bodies.  I used to scoff at the people whose dogs were on unnecessarily restrictive and expensive diets: hypoallergenic diets, raw food diets, boiled tripe diets. Then I realized that Oscar is eating better than I am on his all organic diet consisting of $5 cans of food with names such as ‘Granny’s Pot Pie’, ‘Cowboy Cookout’, and ‘Turducken’. I promised myself there would be no clothes for my dog. He now has a Tupperware bin full of apparel for every occasion, including a raincoat, an impressive collection of Christmas sweaters and an adorable Santa hat. I have attended 2 doggie Halloween parties. Oscar was an ‘Orca Whale’ the first year and a ‘Scarecrow’ the next. At this party I met a woman who’s dog was dressed as a spider. She had sewn the costume herself, all 8 legs. I actually rolled my eyes while thinking about how pathetic she was as I chowed down on the refreshments, ghost-shaped cookies that were edible for both humans and dogs. I now know better after a recent incident in which Oscar slipped a disc in his back and I actually found myself sitting in a doggie neurologist’s office and then subsequently purchasing a convertible stair/ramp combination to assist him in getting on and off the bed.

oscar

I have finally accepted that my dignity is gone. What I have found harder to accept is the loss of  identity that has come with owning a dog. Because more than anything, I have learned that getting a dog is like acquiring a membership to a club you didn’t ask to join. As soon as I got a dog I was suddenly thrust into the category of ‘dog owner’ and expected to act accordingly. People started stopping me on the street with Oscar and asking me questions that I didn’t have the answer to, questions about diet, grooming, breeding and training. People began to recognize my dog and call him by name as we walked down the street each day, often offering him treats such as dog biscuits, Hot Rods, or Ritz Crackers. When I waved to the same people when running errands without Oscar they would stare at me blankly despite my platinum blonde hair and signature stiletto heels. The other tenants in our building have also come to know and love Oscar. Every morning when we get in the elevator I hear greetings of “Hi Oscar!” from our neighbors. Once in a while I get a nod or even a “Hello.” But it’s the neighbor’s children, unaware of social etiquette (or the canine reproductive cycle) who really call it like they see it: “Hi Oscar’s Mom!” they will sing at me, clearly unable or unwilling to separate me from my pet. I don’t really mind. I’m fully aware that he’s the bigger draw, though he can’t do a single trick and he farts a lot. But I can’t help but feel somewhat inclined to warn our neighbors down the hall what they are getting themselves into before it’s too late. So I think I might just knock on their door tonight and have a little chat with, oh, what’s her name again? Oh yeah,  Chanel’s mom.

 

Update: Since the time I started writing this blog post (3 weeks ago) and today I must report that our neighbors decided that they were not equipped to take care of Chanel and have since given her to some friends. Also, I accidentally got some of their mail and I now know their real names.

 

 

Put this in your toaster and eat it!

“About eighty percent of the food on shelves of supermarkets today didn’t exist 100 years ago.”
― Larry McCleary

In recent years I have noticed that grocery shopping, an activity most people undertake in order to eat, which in turn is necessary for survival, has turned into a labor of guilt. The trend from supermarket towards health food store has been steadily progressing to the point where it seems the shelves have been taken over with kale chips, tofu, protein bars, and a myriad of gluten-free products, the staple of today’s holistic foodie. If it is even possible to find the wicked indulgences I sometimes crave (mmm, Sweet Chili Heat Doritos) among all of the “healthy alternatives”, I find myself feeling compelled to hide them in my cart underneath the quinoa and almond milk. At least I can rest easy knowing that I got my 30 minutes of physical activity for the day power-walking from one end of my local grocery store’s vast new organic food section to the other. While I certainly agree that health and nutrition are important, sometimes I wonder if things haven’t gone a little too far. That is, I did wonder. And then I saw this:

janes toaster chicken

Take a good look folks. No, your eyes are not mistaken. And no, unfortunately, it’s not a joke. It is in fact toaster chicken. As in chicken that you put in your toaster, toast, and then eat. I’ll give you a moment. I know I needed one.

Ready? Okay. Let’s talk about this. As I stood in front of the freezer section for several minutes trying to wrap my mind around this curiosity while simultaneously snapping photos and texting them to everyone in my contact list before my husband found me and dragged me away, I myself had but one thought: Why?

Though practical considerations may not be the only or even the leading detractor separating me from the Janes FlatJacks (that would be my husband who said there was no way in hell we were buying them, even for research purposes), there are nonetheless several concerning ones. If a buildup of toast crumbs can be a challenge to clean out of a toaster, imagine the work it would take to remove the breading residue from toaster chicken! Furthermore, is it even sanitary to put chicken in a toaster? And how greasy would said chicken be given that it is presumably deep-fried in a factory before we simply toast it in the comfort of our homes? Perhaps some thought should be put into putting some type of protective coating around it to protect consumer’s hands, for instance a delicious pastry shell.

Looking at the box, it’s easy to see that from a marketing perspective, this is a snack geared towards kids. ‘Hey kids! I’m a fun treat! I’m hip! I’m chicken that comes from your toaster!’ Moms will buy the product because they are overworked and stretched too thin, and will be sucked in by it’s deceiving presentation as a very convenient and marginally nutritious option (0 trans fat!), and because their children will whine loudly and incessantly for the latest novelty item on the shelves. And at first glance, it may appear to be a reasonable choice for today’s busy lifestyles.
“Johnny! You’re going to be late for soccer practice! Grab your chicken from the toaster and let’s go!”
However on closer examination I came to see that, as with most things, the product at hand just might not be the miracle of time liberation that the fine people at Janes would have you believe. (Naturally I had to look into this further. My husband thinks I’m obsessed and should seek help but I am simply doing market research for the good of you, my fellow man). We live in a world with products like pre-made crust-less peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pre-stuffed bagels, Lunchables and drinkable liquid yogurt. People have gotten pretty lazy when they are willing to pay money to buy a sandwich with the crust already cut off for them. A new product basically has to jump out of the freezer and cook itself in order to compete with some of these items in the ‘convenience’ category. This item doesn’t even stand a chance. Sure you can cook it in your toaster, but when you read the fine print you learn that it takes TWO FULL cycles on the toaster’s highest setting. So you have to stand there like a chump for what, like, two minutes until the toaster pops and then press it down AGAIN, and wait for ANOTHER two minutes?? A kid could have had a pepperoni Pizza Pop, a Fruit Roll-up and a Yop in that time and covered all 4 of the food groups.

When I was a kid my mom made sure my sister and I had a well-rounded diet. We had milk at dinner every night, never pop. Our school lunches always consisted of a sandwich, a juice, 2 servings of fruit and a healthy recess treat. To make sure we ate the fruit, she would peel our oranges for us and put them in plastic bags, just to eliminate any barriers to our nutrition. Once (in high school) she couldn’t find seedless grapes at the grocery store, so she cut every single evil seeded grape in half, removed said seeds and placed the grape halves in a little container for me to ensure that they would be up to my high standards. Unfortunately my friends didn’t understand her vision and after they got a glimpse of her loving masterpiece (complete with tiny Oscar the Grouch fork!) I never took a lunch to school again. But I digress. My point is that even though she was very conscious about our nutrition, once in a while if she was tired after a long day at work, she would give in and let us have Kraft Dinner, Chef-Boyardee Beefaroni or even McDonalds for supper. If we whined enough she would buy us Pizza Pops or Pop Tarts at the grocery store as an occasional treat. And about once a month I would open up my lunch and there would be a mini bag of Old Dutch Ketchup chips in there for my snack. Perhaps the youth of today are just different. They may prefer FlatJacks above Toaster Strudel or Pizza Pops, and who am I to judge? What I don’t understand is why food producers and retailers are so desperate to slap any greatly exaggerated health claim they can legally defend onto their products in order to convince people that there is even marginal nutritional benefit to what they are selling. Why not just call a spade a spade? Crap is crap. Back in my day (I can say that now that I’m over 30) we didn’t pretend that junk food was anything other than junk food. Now when I want to buy macaroni and cheese I have to wade through shelves full of whole wheat, organic and gluten free varieties just to find a $1 box of regular old KD. And I’m sorry, but I fail to believe that any noodles, be they high fiber, organic, or made out of Flintstones vitamins, are all that healthy when covered with powdered cheese. (Nor are they worth $4.99 plus tax). When I was a kid we enjoyed our breaded chicken snacks from the oven, not the toaster, but the idea was much the same. No one felt the need to go on about the fact that we were eating “All white meat!” with “No trans or saturated fat!” because nobody cared. We were kids. Our cholesterol levels were relatively well controlled at that point.

This trend towards aggrandizing the nutritional advantages of the array of convenience foods available on the grocery store shelves and from fast-food outlets coupled with the ever-growing number of options available means that people aren’t just enjoying these foods as occasional indulgences or a quick family meal-on-the-go when a parent is feeling overstretched. They are starting to creep into people’s everyday lives. And that’s the problem.

I’m not an expert. I don’t have children, and I won’t even pretend to understand how difficult it is to try to juggle all of the responsibilities of managing family life. I find it exhausting to manage my own life most days. Convenience food has become a mainstay of the modern lifestyle, a necessity even to some. If people are honest about it’s virtues and, perhaps more importantly, it’s weaknesses, there’s nothing wrong with that. But I think that we can do better than toaster chicken. I hope we can. There will never again be a world devoid of junk food, but perhaps if we’re looking for more things we can conveniently cook at home in our toasters, we can just come up with a new Pop Tart flavor. And I’m not placing my bets on chicken.

Nothing to Read Here…

zero

It’s finally summer here in Vancouver. My brain is cooked and my fingers are much too sweaty to pound out a coherent string of words. Therefore, I am going to be both lazy and self-congratulatory at the same time and direct you to my guest post at Striving Onward. This is the second time I’ve written for the site after founder and editor Suzanne Davis contacted me about a month or so ago, and it has been a really positive experience for me. The site tackles subject matter relevant to teens and women today ranging from the fun and flighty (food! fashion!) to the weighty and sometimes hard-to-talk-about. My first piece was about body image, an issue that most women I know, myself included struggle with daily. My post today gives my insight into the issue of conflict, an area I (unfortunately) excel at. I hope you enjoy my it, and the whole Striving Onward site! Have a great day!

Ode to Big Hank!

ken and dadToday, my dear old dad celebrated his 64th birthday. Sadly, I couldn’t gift him with the pleasure of my company. In fact, I didn’t get him anything at all. It’s not that I’m holding out on the old man out of  frugality. No, my dad has cornered that market for the entire family. He is so cheap thrifty that it literally goes against his nature to allow himself to appreciate a birthday gift. What my dad does appreciate is the value of a dollar. I know that deep down in his core somewhere he secretly loves getting presents. I see his giddiness upon being handed a brightly wrapped package, the child-like sparkle in his eye before he inevitably retains his composure when he’s asked “Do you like it Henry?” He always answers the same way: “I don’t know yet. How much did it cost?” Anything over $50 is likely to be sent back, particularly if there is any sort of technology involved. A digital camera, a very generous offering from my stepmother, proved to be an epic failure one Christmas when my father discovered it had more buttons than he was able to navigate, and furthermore, there was no way all that perfectly good film was going to go to waste. Last holiday’s e-reader is just barely within his realm of comfort as long as someone else sees to uploading and downloading all data, leaving my dad responsible only for turning the machine on and off and turning the digital pages. Keeping this in mind, for his birthday this year I’ve decided to forego a traditional gift in favor of this heartfelt dedication, though in light of the light roasting he has just faced, perhaps I should start over.

There has been a steady and substantial succession of time since my tender formative early childhood years, enough time for my father to accrue the distinctive crankiness of men his age. He has firmly adhered this quality to his characteristic wry cynicism, both traits provoked by, or quite possibly exploded from, the storm of  my adolescence. Despite the havoc that was to come (more on that later) I can say without hesitation that I had a truly happy childhood. Many of my earliest and most cherished memories would not exist if it were not for my doting and enthusiastic dad. Though my father’s superior intelligence and impatience causes him to find many people insufferable, he has always had a soft spot for children. He just has an easy way with kids that causes them to migrate towards him. He is funny but not in that condescending way that adults tend to be with children, he is animated, he is creative, he is athletic. As a child, he was always finding new activities for my sister and I to do, always teaching us new things. Tobogganing, ice skating, tennis, badminton, bike riding, hiking. My dad was a teacher with summers off, and though he liked to golf and play tennis, he always had lots of time for his two little girls. He would take us to the library and to the movies, we would go camping and swimming. My dad was my hero, I thought he was the smartest, strongest, handsomest man in the whole world. I wanted to be just like him when I grew up, so much so that I would follow him around the house and mimic his routine. I wanted to shave like him, so he would give me a razor like his with no blade and put shaving cream on it, and we would shave together in the mirror. I remember telling my mom once that I was going to marry my dad, and being upset when she informed me that I couldn’t (as he was already married, she didn’t see to think it was a problem that he was my father). Thankfully by the time they divorced I had moved on.

kids

As a little girl I just assumed that everyone’s dad was like mine, but looking back I realize that this wasn’t the case. I had an especially great dad. He was beyond involved in our lives and always there without hesitation or prompting, always enthusiastic to spend time with my sister and I and even our friends, and at least in my memory, the activities that we did together were enjoyed all of us. I contrast this with many of my friends fathers, who on the rare occasion they happened to be around, were sullen and quiet, or clearly thought taking us places was a chore they were forced to endure, and I realize how lucky I was.

When I was in Grade 3 my parents decided to divorce. They were very civil about it, it was probably the most amicable divorce in the history of the world, at least from a child’s perspective. I hardly ever heard my parents fight, so when they told me they were divorcing it came as quite a shock. I remember my dad sitting on the bed in my parents room telling me that he was moving out, and I remember my heart breaking. I remember hating my mother. I didn’t hate my dad, at least not then. I didn’t start hating him until I was a teenager. My parents were very insistent that they wanted the divorce to affect us as little as possible, so they resolved that there be as little change in our lives as possible. This meant that my mother and father communicated ardently about everything. If I was punished at my mothers, I was punished at my fathers. No pulling any fast ones. Also, for the first couple of years at least, the two of them decided it would be best for us children if we continued to celebrate holidays together as a family. They even went in together on presents. So divorce for us kids meant all of the psychological damage and none of the rewards like double the gifts at christmas. It was shit.

I have alluded to my adolescence above. Well, these years were particularly hard for my dad. I think it all started to go downhill the day I got my period. It happened, of course, on the Friday before I was to go to my dads for the weekend. I begged to stay home but my mother disagreed that menstruation was a disease and sent me anyway. She refused to let me take her feminine supplies (something about teaching my dad a lesson) and instead sent the two of us to the store. This is how my dad and I ended up in The Real Canadian Superstore, in the personal hygiene aisle, perched awkwardly on the edge of my womanhood. “Sooo….See anything you like?” says my dad. I want to melt into the linoleum. I frantically scan the 100 pink packages in front of me. Finally I see one that looks somewhat familiar, I think I recognize the brand as the ones my mom uses. I point and run out of the store back to the safety of the car. Safe. I wait. 10 minutes later I watch my dad walking out of the store, swinging the the box of pads like a big pink sign that screams “HELLO, MY DAUGHTER JUST GOT HER FIRST PERIOD!” He gets in the car. “You couldn’t have gotten a bag??” I screech, giving my best teenage wail. “Pay for a bag? It’s just one item!” My dad says. And that was that. We drive home. The box of pads sits between us on the drive home, but we don’t talk about it, it’s the elephant in the room. I didn’t know then that it was a foreshadowing of the many bigger things that would be left unmentioned between us in the years to come.

Though my father has a lot of winning qualities, he has some that are perhaps less appealing. He is an unbearable perfectionist, he is impatient and he is sarcastic. I am also all of these things, perhaps to an even greater extent. I have always placed an immense amount of pressure on myself to succeed at everything that I do, and that has led to a lot of stress and misery in my relatively short lifetime. Luckily for my dad, the wisdom of his many years has taught him to ease up on himself. Instead, he focuses his perfectionism on others, namely my sister and I. As a result, in addition to the tremendous internal pressure I have always sensed, I also felt like I had to live up to the impossibly high standards set by my father. As a sheltered young child without much free thought or perspective of the world beyond what had been spoon-fed to me by my parents, it was relatively easy to succeed in my consuming goal of pleasing the father that I so idolized. He looked infallible through my rose-colored glasses, my naive faith in his knowledge and judgement felt justified, and I didn’t resent the high standards that he set for me;I accepted that my father knew what was best for me. As a result of my passionate quest for his approval, and also likely owing to the fact that I was a particularly gifted child (and not just self-proclaimed, I skipped Grade 2 people!) our relationship was mutually rewarding and simple. He made it know what accomplishments would elicit the  most praise and I directed my actions appropriately, desperately lapping up all the attention that I could get. Unfortunately, it  couldn’t last.

It’s not that I was a particularly rebellious teenager, it’s just that I wasn’t necessarily an obedient one. Also, being the oldest child, I was a trial run for my parents. I think that having teenage girls is especially hard on fathers. I remember my dad blaming my mother for a boy giving me an ‘inappropriate’ look at a hockey game after she had the nerve to let me get my ears pierced. I was 12. I see 12 year-old girls now wearing bras as shirts with their thongs hanging out of their pants and wonder how my dad would have tolerated these fashions. My sister just had a baby daughter, so I guess time will tell. But I digress. Yes, I think it’ s difficult for most fathers to see their little girls grow up. But I think it’s probably even harder when it appears that your little girl is growing up into someone who appears to resent and despise you, which is how I treated my dad a lot of the time.This wasn’t the exactly the case, but as I entered my teenage years I found myself overwhelmed with inexplicable feelings of anger, resentment and helplessness. With no identifiable source, I lashed out at those closest to me, most often my parents and my sister. Fights with my father were always particularly awful;Because of our parallel personalities I know exactly how to provoke him.

Leaving my childhood and entering my adolescent years I realized that a great big world existed beyond the walls that my parents had built for me. I started to form ideas, make my own decisions, and forge my own path. I struggled with wanting to be my own person and striving for the acknowledgement and acclamation from my father that I had come to rely on for my self-gratification. I rebelled, which won me the acceptance of my peers, yet disappointed my father. I would never admit it, but it hurt to let him down. Yet throughout these tumultuous years, I found that often even my best efforts, which I still exerted in many aspects of my life, especially school, seemed to fall short of ‘good enough’. If I got an A: “Why wasn’t it an A+?” As a teenage girl who already set impossible goals for herself, this was the last thing I needed.  And perhaps the cruelest lesson that I learned during this time, one that most children must face as they enter adulthood, was that my father himself wasn’t the perfect man that I thought he was. Though this lesson has ultimately helped our relationship, at the time it was hard to abandon the idea that the man whose approval I had been seeking so desperately perhaps wasn’t the ultimate expert in everything.Needless to say, ages approximately 13-19 were rough.

But despite how many fights we had, despite how awful I was, my dad was always there. Every second weekend and every Wednesday he would show up to pick me up, no matter how much I hated him that day. I would scream and yell and tell him that I hated him and he would be there. My father, like me, is not a stellar communicator. He shows how he feels by his actions. Yet one day, he really hurt my feelings and I told him so, really driving the point home by crying, and I’m pretty sure refusing to speak to him for a period of time (that’s my style). He must have really felt bad, because he responded in a very heartwarming way. He wrote me a letter. I am not a sentimental person. I’m not like some girls who have hope chests filled with letters from ex-boyfriends and ticket stubs from first dates. I have a plastic box with a couple of old report cards and my silver medal from my pharmacy class. And now a my letter from my dad. It is my most prized possession, one of about 4 things I would save if my apartment caught on fire, and that includes my dog and my husband, and those are in order.

My relationship with my dad now is great. My husband would argue that it is too good, as he thinks that I share too much with my father, but I enjoy the open relationship that I have with him, and the fact that when something good or sad or just plain emotional happens to me one of the first people that I want to call is my dad. Perhaps this is a sign that I need more friends, but I like to think that it is simply a reflection of the closeness of our relationship. We have had to endure a lot of strife in order to get to this point and I wouldn’t change anything about the way our relationship is now. Anyone who knows my dad can attest to his many positive properties: His humour, his kindness, his athleticism, his brilliance, his social prowess. He likes to swing an invisible golf club at invisible golf balls. He might ask you to call him “Big Hank”. He could break into song at any moment. That drink in the plastic cup in the centre console of his automobile may or may not be a beer. If it is, he will insist it is a “victimless crime”. However as his daughter I am privy to information that may not be public knowledge. He can be a sensitive, sweet, and goofy man when no one is looking. He would do anything for those that he loves.He gets $10 haircuts at Singletons.

Happy Birthday Dad, I love you, and I miss you!

She’s Here!!

Maylen

On June 14th, 2013 my sister welcomed the magnificent little critter you see above into this great big world. I wasn’t there for the grand arrival. I was 2300 km from her birthplace of Winnipeg, MB in Vancouver eagerly awaiting news after hearing that my sister had finally gone into labour a week past her due date. Her husband had been sending me pictures throughout the early stages of the process, cute little snippets like that of my sister bent over the bed in her hospital gown in the throes of a contraction, or her in the bed, red faced and sweating with wires hooked up to her stomach and a somewhat strained smile on her face eating a popsicle. I’m sure they stopped because she managed to get a hold of his iPhone and shove it up one of his orifices. It’s probably for the best, as I have heard that the the baby wasn’t nearly as photogenic as pictured above upon her debut. The extra week in the womb was enough time for her to discover some of her more primitive bodily functions, and she entered this world, as the term goes, “covered in shit”. No worries though, after a relaxing soak in the tub she was good as new.
maylen2You are probably wondering: where is this blog post going? Is she going to talk about new life? Motherhood? The challenges that children face in this modern world? The answer is no. I am just too overcome with pride to come up with any sensible thoughts. And besides, the baby blanket that I have been working on for about 9 months now is still not completed, and since I have a baby shower to attend very shortly that is my most pressing project right now. The truth is, I am simply using my blog as a forum to shamelessly brag about my niece. My colleagues at work have started to avoid me and my endless stream of pictures, and my friends are no longer returning my call. But you, my loyal readers, have not yet been privy to the awesomeness that is Maylen (that’s her name, it’s Argentinean, very exotic), and are therefore doubtless just lapping this post up.

One thing I will say is that when a baby is born, all shame goes out the window. People abandon all self-respect. My sister has sent me more pictures of her breasts via text message than I can count. When there is a baby feeding or sleeping on them, suddenly it’s not pornography (and it’s okay to show them to your husband). Posting hundreds of pictures of yourself on Facebook inside of a week is not shameless or narcissistic, but only if you are holding a baby. I have found myself trying to find ways to slip a baby picture or two into every conversation. “What’s that? You just got a new couch? Funny, my sister just had a baby. She likes to lie on the couch. Would you like to see a picture?” Boom! Parents already wrestling with ’empty nest syndrome’ find the struggle even harder when their children start having babies of their own. The lure of an infant is impossible to resist and grandparents will find any excuse they can to “pop in”.

Babies make people happy. And everybody needs a little bit of happy in their life. So even if I can’t offer you any enlightenment today, maybe I can make you smile:

maylen 5

maylen 3

maylen 4

 

 

 

Beautiful box, ugly present: There’s no such thing as a positive stereotype.

il_fullxfull.266836924

“Once you label me you negate me.”

-Soren Kierkegaard

Jews are cheap.

Middle Easterners smell like curry.

Gay men are shallow.

Chances are you are surprised to see the above generalizations stated so casually. As I hold you, my readers, in such high regard, I trust you also feel somewhat offended. However I am confident that you are not hearing these statements (at least in some version) for the first time here. They are common stereotypes, whether we like to talk about them or not. Please refrain from sending me hate mail, at least until you finish reading my post. Let me be clear: These sweeping proclamations are in no way representative of my beliefs. I put them forth only to illustrate a point, which I intend to get to, I promise.

As a woman who spent the first 29 years of my life smack dab in the middle of the Canadian prairies in Winnipeg, Manitoba and my formative years enrolled in a German immersion program, you can imagine the vast ethnic diversity I was exposed to growing up. Up until Grade 3, when I met my best friend Tamara, relatively indistinguishable from the sea of white faces that composed my peer group save that her father was from Pakistan making her skin a whole shade darker than mine (which is translucent), I considered a brunette exotic. Going to her house was like visiting a foreign land full of alluring and exciting new experiences. Her dad would cook us delicious food full spices I had never tasted; Samosas, naan, and yes, sometimes curry, although contrary to the statement above no odor ever lingered in their home or on their person. I tried lamb for the first time at their house, a venture that should have been delicious had it not been for a young Tamara whispering “Baaah! Baaah!” under her breath with each bite I took, putting a damper on the culinary experience and rendering me traumatized for years afterwards. Although I myself have never been a person of faith, it was this young friendship that first taught me about religious tolerance when my household was forced to switch hot dog brands to accommodate her father’s Muslim beliefs. Luckily, miscellaneous animal parts of the beef variety are just as delicious as the pork kind when smothered in ketchup. Our fathers even became friends over their shared interests in tennis, badminton and arranged marriages for their daughters. In terms of the latter, neither man proved successful. On the bright side, they are both great at racquet sports.

Since my childhood years I have amassed a wonderful and very heterogeneous group of friends. My experiences with the assortment of people from a variety of racial, cultural and social backgrounds that I have had the pleasure of getting to know have contravened the negative stereotypes that I, along with most other people, have been exposed to in some form or another, throughout my lifetime, including those stated above. My husbands good friend Marshall, the MC at our wedding, and his wife are both Jewish. The night before our wedding they threw us the most lavish and elegant party. They invited all of our wedding guests, hired a caterer and waiters, provided amazing libations and they did this all unprompted as a way for our out-of-town guest to get to know our local friends and family. It was incredibly touching and so generous. I have several gay male friends. Some are more fashion conscious than others, yet not a single one of them has as many pairs of shoes as my very straight and very manly husband. I will admit I have dreamt of having a homosexual male friend like you see in the movies who loves to shop and drink Cosmopolitans and who says: “You go girl!” after everything I say. But truthfully, I wouldn’t change my gay friends one bit. I love them the way they are: Smart, funny, socially conscious, political, sensitive, engaging and above all, real. I’ve learned that being a gay man doesn’t mean that you are bound by some unspoken code to wax your eyebrows and gel your hair for the rest of your life any more than being a woman means that you are compelled to keep your legs and armpits hair-free at all times. Just ask my husband.

I’m getting to the point. I like to think of myself as a person free of prejudice. I know I’m not a bigot. I have always believed that I possess the ability to view and treat people the same and independent of their ethnicity, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status and physical/mental abilities. But something happened last Saturday that made me question my broad-mindedness. I brought a pair of pants to my usual tailor, an attractive Chinese woman, who, through numerous conversations resulting from ill-fitting final sale impulse purchases on my part, I would estimate to be about 40 or so. As we chatted, she lamented her perceived loss of youth and asked my opinion regarding her need for Botox. I gave her my honest opinion: “No way!” Then quietly and to myself I thought: ‘ I wish I had your genes. Asian women age so well.’

 

Asians age well. This is a stereotype, no doubt, but surely not a negative one. It could even be construed as positive. And if I am to be entirely honest, it’s not the only seemingly affirmative universalization that I harbor. And it’s not just me; There are many widely held stereotypes that could be considered positive: Asians are good at math, Filipinos are hard workers, women are nurturing, Blacks are good at basketball, running and dancing. These are all good things, right? Still, I couldn’t help but question whether there really could exist such a thing as a positive stereotype.

A part of me would like to think that there is, because that would mean I would be free from this philosophical dilemma that I now face. I would like to just go on living my life without the burden of questioning the ethics of believing something so seemingly benign, favorable (and hopeful!) as, say, Black men are well-endowed. But the better part of me knows that though such a presumption may seem harmless, things are never as simple as they seem. A stereotype, even if meant to be positive, by virtue of its nature will always be detrimental to society.

Stereotypes marginalize people. They leave no room for individuality. At the very least, if a person fits into the broad stereotype they have been cast into, that grouping is always a gross oversimplification of the traits and characteristics that encompass their unique make up. More common and exceedingly detrimental, a person won’t fit into the small hole the stereotype allows for, leading to unwanted feelings of isolation and inadequacy. Stereotypes are also harmful for society as a whole. Regardless if they are negative or positive, they only serve to reinforce the idea that people from varied backgrounds are fundamentally different, and this promotes intolerance.

In a multicultural society we are sure to come across people who seem to fit some of the familiar stereotypes we have encountered. We can accept these generalizations, or we can ignore this inclination and choose instead to ignore them and simply view people as the unique individuals that they are. In the future I will try to do the latter, even if it means abandoning my steadfast belief that every Chinese person I encounter is a biochemical wizard who has manipulated the human genome in order to turn back the hands of time.

SHIT! PEOPLE ARE ACTUALLY READING THIS!

CC

An artist cannot fail; it is a success to be one.  ~Charles Horton Cooley

 

When I was 3 or 4 years old, my very first and extremely formative nursery school year ended with a dramatic production of Sleeping Beauty.  The performance was a hit with all of the proud parents and no doubt achieved its intended purpose which I can only imagine was twofold: To highlight the inherent talent and limitless potential of myself and my fellow preschoolers and to showcase the many skills that we had learned that year; self-expression, imagination, team-work, creativity, self-confidence, and above all, learning to cope with crushing rejection.

 

Many of the finer details of the aforementioned theatrical milestone have long escaped my memory, however there is one thing I distinctly remember. I was not Sleeping Beauty. Despite my best efforts to display my full emotive range and ‘audition’ for the part by throwing a full-fledged tantrum screaming “BUT I WANT TO BE SLEEPING BEAUTY!!!” I found myself making my dramatic debut as a ‘Rain Man’. As I said before, I’m a little hazy on the particulars, and though I have since done some research (i.e. Google searching) into both what exactly a ‘Rain Man’ is and how one might fit into the story of Sleeping Beauty I have so far come up empty. If anyone has any answers here, please let me know. It is entirely possible I dreamt this all, after all I was a toddler. All I know is that in this nightmare, my character was one of several so-called ‘Rain Men’, all of who wore hideous aluminum hats, and none of who were girls save for me. I’m convinced I have my mother to thank for this, since it is because of her that I had a bowl cut, and, if every single picture ever taken of me is any indication, apparently wore the same pair of corduroy overalls until I was 5 years old. Regardless the reason, the role of Sleeping Beauty went to the glorious and revered Tara, my good friend to this day and a true beauty even back then. I recall awkwardly dancing around her with the other Rain Men in our stupid metal hats and tin drums and gazing at her lying there as Sleeping Beauty in her pretty princess dress, her thick, fair, hair (gloriously shiny from weekly mayonnaise rinses her mother would torture her with) hanging over the make-shift bed and thinking:

a)    You bitch. I wish you really were dead.

b)   I wish that I could be such a talented, convincing actress.

 

And so it began. This was the event that set the stage (literally) for my lifetime’s sense of artistic inadequacy. The first moment where I felt that I was creatively deficient. There have been many more since then. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking for any sympathy or recognition. I have many gifts and have had plenty of successes in my life, some of which have been the envy of both friends and foes. I have been blessed with a high IQ and a very mathematical mind. Schoolwork has always been easy for me, especially math and science. I have had numerous academic achievements. I was a ‘gifted child’. I skipped Grade 2. I have been able to get straight A’s all my life without really trying. I graduated at the top of my high school class. I put myself through University with scholarships. I graduated from my Pharmacy class with the Silver Medal for Academic Excellency. The Gold medal was stolen out from under me after some hussy slept with the Dean. At least this is the only plausible explanation that I can come up with for my second place finish. I take pride in my accomplishments, but I have always believed there must be more to life than just numbers and equations. I have always felt there is more to my being than this analyticalal, rational mind.

 

I have always regarded free-spirited, creative types with awe and carefully concealed envy. Perhaps I am drawn to inventive and imaginative people precisely because I view them as so different from myself and there is a part of me that feels that their genius will be contagious. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if I just decided to throw all caution and sensibility to the wind and quit my job as a pharmacist to pursue a career as a fashion designer, singer, photographer or mime. As anyone who has heard me sing karaoke or has seen my old jazz dancing recital tapes could tell you I’m not harboring any undiscovered talent. I’m not being humble when I say I don’t have the talent to quit my day job. However lack of ability aside, it’s also not in my nature to take the kind of risk it would entail to embark on something so bold as a career change. I’m a Type A Personality. I’m not free-wheeling. I’m not a risk taker. I could never deal with the uncertainty that a career in the arts would bring.

 

Once I came to terms with my true nature, I decided that I could at least explore my creative side. So I did. I took a photography course. I took a dance class with my husband. I asked for a guitar for Christmas that I have played a total of 3 times. I took a makeup application course. All fun activities, right? Wrong. I quickly learned that my intrinsically uptight nature does not allow me to relax enough to participate in these kinds of activities in the foolhardy way required to enjoy them. I seem to find it necessary to try to apply an equation to everything that I do in an attempt to figure out how to be successful at it. If there is a learning curve associated with a process, forget it. Game over. I simply cannot allow myself to be bad at anything.

 

You will notice I have left out writing. I have always had a love of literature. In high school I would relish being assigned English essays, always writing thousands of words above the bare minimum, never being able to find enough words to express what I felt about the topic at hand. I recall sitting in class while one of my papers was read aloud, a commentary on the famous paragraph from The Great Gatsby about the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. I sat beaming with pride while my teacher read the pages and pages that I had written about that one short paragraph while my peers rolled their eyes and nodded off to sleep around me. Writing has always been a hobby for me, a way of expressing myself, of working out ideas and emotions. As I graduated high school and ‘grew up’ I found that I had less and less time to devote to this amusement that I once took so much pleasure in. It was during the time that I began to examine ways to unleash my ‘creative genius’ that I began to really take an interest in writing again. Perhaps I wasn’t going to be the next Jimi Hendrix, but surely I could be the next Fitzgerald! (F. Scott or Zelda, you take your pick.)

 

It seemed like everyone was starting a blog, and how hard could it be? It turned out very. The 7 days I spent trying to set one up is frankly embarrassing and the topic for another post. The point is that my expectation was that I would start a blog and I would immediately have a congregation of thousands of followers hanging on my every word just waiting for my every entry. The reality was that I had to beg my husband, father and sister to follow my blog. And they did! My husband even started ‘liking’ my posts on Facebook after I explained to him that this was a condition of continued sexual privileges. My dad is very proud, although he doesn’t really understand how the Internet works and he probably doesn’t realize that anyone can have a website. I quickly realized that no one really cares what you have to say, which crushed me and made me feel like a failure. I almost took down my site and gave up.

 

But I didn’t. I realized that having the courage to say what I felt I needed to say to the whole world, even if no one was listening at that particular moment, gave me a voice. It made me feel stronger. I decided I needed to get over my ego and do something for myself. So I kept writing. I wrote what was on my mind and in my heart and I posted it for other people to read (or no one  to read judging by the stats). I’ve had a few people take notice and acquired a cozy little network of readers who I cherish. Blogging is my creative outlet, it’s my form of self-expression, it’s therapeutic for me and it’s not important whether 1 person reads my posts or 1000 people read them.

 

Then, last week a very popular blogger reposted one of my blogs. So far that particular post has had almost 500 reads and almost 300 ‘likes’. I have almost 100 new readers on my blog. (That’s almost a 100% increase people). I am very grateful and humbled. I was shocked. And then I was terrified. Trying to think about what to write for my next post all that kept going through my mind was “What will people want to read about?” or “Will that topic offend people?” I am generally not a people pleaser. Just ask my husband. However I find myself paralyzed with the fear that I will lose all of my new readers by somehow disappointing them. But I have come to the conclusion that I can’t be anything but myself. I can only continue to write what I know and what I feel and I will continue to do that.

 

I want to thank everyone who has started to follow my blog. I am so thankful and I hope you will continue to read along. I am so very excited about the new community of readers that I have. I have been overwhelmed with positive comments and personal anecdotes and I am so grateful to everyone who has written to me.

 

I welcome any comments!

 

 

 

 

 

 

ASSHOLES AND LEMONADE

Source:zibkidz.com

Source:zibkidz.com

“Where’d the days go, when all we did was play? And the stress that we were under wasn’t stress at all just a run and a jump into a harmless fall”

Paolo Nutini

 

I was returning home from walking my dog today when I walked passed a lemonade stand beside the park next door that made me stop in my tracks. This wasn’t just any run-of-the-mill lemonade stand; it was truly a sight to behold. It had a sturdy frame, doubtless the result of hours of hard labor by a great craftsman (or overworked father). A checkered tablecloth and matching covers for the certainly antique wooden chairs added a country charm that drew the passerby in. The same can be said for the charming cardboard sign, having obviously been scrawled by a child: FRESHLY SQUEEZED ORGANIC LEMONADE $1.00.

 

The better part of me nagged: “Don’t do it! $1.00 for lemonade from a stand? That’s highway robbery! And it isn’t even CERTIFIED organic!” But the marketing was just too genius to resist and before I even realized what was happening, my wallet was out of my purse. That is, until I got close enough to realize that sitting behind the table weren’t children, as I had naturally assumed, but instead two exhausted looking, well-dressed middle-aged women. Wait just a second here. Now, I am happy to support fellow females in their business endeavors, but this whole thing just reeks of false advertising.

 

It was just at that moment when I heard the shrieks of children’s laughter. I looked over and saw a group of children playing in the park. The women in the booth heard it too, and I saw a ‘look’ pass between them, one I can only describe as defeat. It was then that I understood what was going on. I looked at my watch. 2:15 pm. Yes, it was obvious. Clearly the 6 year-old entrepreneurial masterminds behind this lemonade stand were on their coffee break. These must be their assistants who were merely taking over for the time being. I would have to return later.

This scenario reminded me of another lemonade stand I had come across last summer in the same park. I had bought some lemonade for 50 cents from an adorable little girl of about 5 or 6 and was sitting and basking in the sunshine enjoying it. Just then, another woman approached the same stand. I heard her ask the girl: “Is your lemonade sweetened? Because I don’t like very sweet drinks.” The girl looked desperately over at her mother who was sitting a few feet away, clearly supervising but trying not to interfere. The mother answered for her: “It’s sweetened, but it’s not too sweet.” I distinctly remember being annoyed by this woman and asking myself what kind of lemonade connoisseur purchases powdered lemonade from a random 5 year-old in a park. I was just relaxing again when the woman returned, lemonade in hand. “I’m sorry, but this lemonade is just too sweet for me, I’m going to have to give it back.” She handed the cup back to the little girl. I was flabbergasted. The child looked confused. She took the cup away, but the woman continued to stand there. The child looked at her mother as if unsure what to do. The woman still would not leave. Finally she said: “Can I have my money back please?” I almost choked on my own (wonderfully sweet and powdery) lemonade. The little girl was still looking over at her mother forlornly. The mother just nodded silently. She is a better woman than I.

 

Lemonade stands are a great idea in theory. They have the ability to teach children entrepreneurship, responsibility and money management, all very valuable life skills. But let’s be realistic. When we try to teach kids these lessons too young we really aren’t doing them or ourselves any favors. I can remember having my own lemonade and Kool-Aid stands when I was a kid. My mom did all of the work and I took the 5 bucks and spent it on candy. One of my best friends and I took it a step further and had a whole store set up in my basement. We would make arts and crafts and sell them to our parents and their friends. Not being satisfied with this measly income, we started stealing toys from our respective sisters, threatening them with violence if they told our parents what we were up to. We would then make them use their allowance to buy their possessions back from us. We were real innovators. We made quite a lot of money too, so much that by the time we had a huge blow-up over a Barbie doll at the end of summer and decided to close shop, we each had $75 to spend on toys. Likely more Barbie dolls.  Despite all of this, the only real lessons that we learned were that we could use our inherent childish cuteness (and violence) to make money. It wasn’t until I got my first real job in high school that I really learned the value of a dollar.

 

It seems like today kids are grow up faster than ever. There will be plenty of time for children to learn life’s hard lessons. Why don’t we just let kids be kids for as long as possible? Lemonade is a precarious potion best left to well-trained adults. Besides, 6 years old is too young to learn that the world is full of assholes.

WHAT I’VE LEARNED ABOUT LIFE BY WATCHING PEOPLE DIE

images

“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”

Mark Twain

I was a child the first time I saw a man die. I don’t remember the event as particularly traumatic. The man was a stranger and I watched the tragedy unfold through a window, the glass glaring the line between reality and fantasy and giving the sensation of watching a particularly disturbing television program. While swimming in the basement pool of our apartment block my father, sister and I noticed a group of 3 people sleeping on the private dock outside the building. We saw the beer bottles and noted that all three were in their underwear and figured they were just “sleeping it off”. My father ran outside after one man got up, stumbled to the end of the dock and got into the quickly moving river, but it was too late. He went under the water and never came up again. By this time another man who had been watching from his balcony had joined my father outside and when my dad started towards the water he held him back. The current was too strong to try to go in after him. He was gone. When the search and rescue team finally arrived at the scene a policeman spoke to my sister and I and gave us each a card for a local Victim Services program. I was old enough to know what a ‘victim’ was, but I wasn’t old enough to understand how I could be one in this situation. I looked over at one of the deceased’s two companions, a woman, likely his partner, who seemed to be sobering up quickly. How did she feel? The dead man was a victim.  She was a victim. Did they have children? If so, they were victims. I felt sadness for their loss and for the senselessness of it all.  But as for me, I was fine. I’m not sure what that says about me, if anything. I don’t think about that day often. The dock itself is even gone now, washed away by a flood years ago. Every so often I think about those people and how by some twist of fate I was a part of an event that changed their lives forever. Sometimes I feel like it should mean more to me.

The second time I saw a man die I was in high school. The man was my grandfather. He passed away at an old age, in the hospital, after a struggle with leukemia. I was in the room with the rest of my family when he took his last breath, I heard his labored breathing become silent and stillness overtake him. In the room there was a sense of pain and peace at the same time. His last words to me were I love you. I did love my grandfather and I felt sadness when he died. My grandparents were a very large presence in my life as I was growing up, their home was a second home to me and their other grandchildren. But my grandpa was an old man and no one expected him to live forever. He had lived many great years, had lived to see his children grow up and have families of their own, and had met his grandchildren and seen them become young adults. He was relatively lucky in that his illness came on quickly and did not bring him very much pain until the very end. It was hard to watch my grandmother’s pain, to see the man she loved and her life’s companion. I mourned for her more than for myself. Through hearing stories from his friends and family members, reading his obituary and hearing his eulogy it was clear my grandfather had a full life that was to be celebrated and not grieved. In terms of sentences dealt by the universe his death felt fair and the sadness I felt as a result was endurable.

This is not always the case. I will never forget the Easter Sunday that I got the phone call from a friend to tell me the news: “Jay’s dead.” I had been walking to my car on the way to a family dinner and I felt my knees buckle underneath me. Dead. Gone. This was a man who I had loved, who I had lived with for almost 2 years. A person who I watched transform from a man happy, loving and full of life to someone who was jealous, suspicious, paranoid and scary. I watched helpless as his mind, personality and body were ruined by drugs and was helpless to stop it. The news left me empty. I wasn’t shocked; he was gone a long time ago. I felt angry. I hated him for what he did to himself and what he did to me. I felt guilty. He asked me for help so many times and nothing I did could save him. I had to leave. He literally drove me to it, in his car at 200 km an hour, threatening to kill me. We brought out the worst in each other. A part of me felt relieved. Relieved for him. He wasn’t in any more pain. Relieved for me. The darkest side of me was dead and buried with him. But mostly, I felt so sad. I felt sad for myself, for his family, for the world. For every person who once knew him and would never see him as he used to be. And for everyone who would never get to meet him.

Some say that when someone close to you dies it makes you examine your own mortality. I’m sure this is true for most people. Myself, I think about my mortality all the time. This is because I suffer from an anxiety disorder and I’m a hypochondriac, a double whammy. The first major health scare I had was a few years back when I thought I had a lump in my breast. When I went to my doctor, it turned out it was just a rib. Oops. Then I started having heart palpitations. Apparently these are a symptom of anxiety but I was convinced that I had a deadly heart condition. After wearing a heart monitor for 24 hours, a referral to a cardiologist, several ECG’s and an echocardiogram I am finally convinced (mostly) that in fact I am just crazy. If I have heartburn I think I am having a GI bleed. If my arm is numb it’s not because I was lying on it for an hour, it’s because I’m having a stroke. A headache means I’m bleeding into my brain. A neck ache means uncontrolled high blood pressure. The fact that I am in the medical profession does nothing to abate my fear, it just means that I know of more rare diseases that I could potentially have. My fear of dying also extends to activities. I have a crippling fear of highway driving. Deer crossing signs cause me the most distress as I become convinced of an impending antler coming through the windshield and spearing me through the heart, which would likely be the most painful way to die on the road. But my visions of head-on-collisions with semi trucks are also frightening. I also have a recurring image of the floor of the car coming off followed by me falling out of the bottom and being run over by my own back tires. Yes, I’m serious. When I say this out loud I can laugh at myself, but it’s through tears.

Working at a hospital I see tragedy every day. Whether it is a person learning of a devastating diagnosis, suffering from disease or ultimately succumbing to their condition, many of the people I deal with are dying in some way or another. It would be a heartbreaking job if it weren’t for rare moments of inspiration. A few days ago I had one such moment. Tasked with educating an 85 year-old man newly diagnosed with a serious heart condition on his new medications I went into his room to find him crying. Admittedly, my first instinct was to leave, but he had already seen me and was gesturing for me to come over. As I introduced myself he wiped away his tears and told me: “Please help me, I don’t want to die. I love my life!” For the next 45 minutes he proceeded to tell me why he loved life, namely his entire life’s story. Now generally I would stop someone after about 2 minutes of this, but something in the animation and urgency in his voice gave me pause and I actually started to listen. And then I was hooked. The man had the most amazing life. Born in Italy, studied in Germany, worked all over the world, professional hockey player son, divorced three times, owned a vineyard, the list went on and on. We bonded as we spoke German together, discussed restaurants in New York, talked about our favorite wine, and he gave me advice about my marriage. He had all of his faculties, up until this point he felt physically well and had close friends and family who visited him frequently. He enjoyed good food and good wine and entertained often. He said: “I’m 85 years old, and I love life. I’m not scared to die, but I enjoy my life, and I have a good life. When my life is no longer good, then I will be ready to die.”

The unfortunate thing for this 85 year-old man is that to prolong his life he will likely have to give up some of the things he enjoys so much. A healthy heart diet is pretty low on red meat and foie gras (although he can probably still have some red wine in moderation). He will have to make some hard choices. Will he be willing to give up some of the things that make his life so enjoyable in order to live a longer life that may not be as worth living?

I tried to put myself in his shoes, what would I do? It was then that the parallels of our situations hit me. Was I allowing my fears and anxieties prevent me from fully enjoying my life? A little bit of healthy fear of death is a good thing. It shows you cherish life. Act too recklessly and you prove nothing but a blatant disregard for your own mortality. However it’s important that you don’t let your worries about life’s inherent dangers prevent you from enjoying your days on this earth. I can’t know whether I will lead a long and full life like my grandfather or whether it will be cut short like that man on the dock or my former love but I do know that I want to live my life like I have something to lose.

SOMEBODY LIKES ME!

Hello everyone!

About a week ago the very lovely Suzanne at Striving Onward made my day by inviting me to write a guest for her gorgeous website.  Her culturally relevant site is dedicated to empowering women, and since I have long struggled with my own body issues, I jumped at the chance.

If you have a moment and feel so inclined, you can check out my post and her website here.

Have a great weekend!