Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Am I Getting Used To Death?

Deb: I remember when I was a kid and my Mom and Dad would go to a visitation or a funeral. It always seemed so incredible to me that they could function at all, let alone iron their funeral suits and go to a reception afterwards. I mean, isn’t this death? Aren’t they scared? Freaked out? And why aren’t they crying all the time? I would watch them come and go. And each time was different, accompanied by fluctuating levels of emotion. Their level of pain was on a sliding scale of sad depending on the deceased. 

We have, all of us, suffered losses in our lives. Some are devastating and stay with us till we die, others are quite painful, some are sad, a few “regretful”, and others are “a darned shame.” It occurs to me that as we get older we almost need to have that Sliding Scale of Grief to cope with all the death and dying we encounter. It sounds awful, but whether or not we admit it, we rate death. We have to deal with everything from the death of our nearest and dearest which shatters us, to the death of a person we barely knew for whom we are just paying respect to a life lived. 

I have come to accept that, but the thing I still struggle with is how accustomed and sometimes almost comfortable I am with the ritual of death. It has, at this time of life become a constant, a duty, a loving tribute, and even sometimes an obligation. We all know death is a part of life. And the irony is not lost on me that the appearance of death and my attendant juggling of schedules has become the most spontaneous part of my life. Sad but true. I go, I mourn. 

Now I wonder why it is that I can take time at a moment’s notice and switch everything for funerals, but I can’t do it for something fun. I wonder why I can’t just clear my schedule for the possibility of something wonderful. Sometimes I do, but mostly I don’t. I continue to schedule my life on a dime––and then someone dies and all my planning goes to pot. Then I dutifully pull out “my funeral suit” and I go and I pay my respects, human to human. It’s what life is. It’s death. But I’ve gotten used to it. 

Barbara: I’ve often wondered how you cope, Deb. Deb comes from a very large extended family and lives close to her relatives and all their close friends and family. She also has a huge range of friends and associates from years in one of the most socially-diverse jobs there is. I swear, not a month goes by where she doesn’t (sadly) have to attend another funeral. And I’ve seen how these funerals take their toll on her, both the near-and-dear ones and the dutiful-honouring ones. I never thought of it before, Deb, but I don’t doubt for a second that you must be getting “used to death” by now. 

I, on the other hand, have not had the same huge, ever-expanding circles of friends and family, and friends of friends and family, and parents of friends and family. There have been some funerals of this ilk, yes, but nothing like your experience. And too many of the funerals I have had to attend have been for people too young for their deaths to be mundane. 

But maybe there’s something strangely comforting in your words, Deb. It is our life-journey, right? so we shouldn’t be fundamentally undone by it. And these rituals that we have so wisely put in place around death really do help us make some kind of peace with it, don’t they? The visitations, the wakes, the eulogies, the sobbing, the drunken reminiscences, the human-to-human bonding. Who doesn’t go to a funeral and find themselves feeling a little cathartically better at some point? Even if it doesn’t last long, that catharsis makes it somewhat bearable. And it becomes our reminder that this is a normal part of life. Even one we can—or must––get used to.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Art-felt Emotion

Barbara: I think lots of people are moved by beauty and art, by things joyful and positive, but I am often embarrassed—and a bit flummoxed––by my overwhelming emotion in certain situations. 

My daughters spent several years in dance classes and there was always an elaborate recital at the end of each year. The recitals were staged in an impressively pro theatre that required endless rehearsals and small fortunes in advance for the costumes. And the frickin’ thing would last 3 ½ HOURS! Each year, I would brace myself for the recital’s endless eternity of children, young and old, shimmying, arabesquing, and tapping their little hearts out, knowing only 3, maybe 5, minutes of those long hours would be occupied by my own progeny in all their glory. Well, dammit, if I didn’t weep—WEEP—for the entire 3 ½ hours! I don’t know what it is about my psyche that would get so verclempt at seeing these young performers who were, for all intents and purposes, complete strangers. 

But I’m beginning to realize that it’s not just the sweetness of talent (or lack thereof) in youth that moves me. I think there’s another—maybe weirder––incarnation of the soul at work here. Because the thing is: I get weepy at ANY display of communion between people—no matter what the cause. 

I remember when I was a kid and my family was driving somewhere for Easter. As I looked around at all the other cars on the road, I got teary because I suddenly realized that all those other people KNEW it was Easter and that in some way we were “celebrating” together. And this event called Easter was bonding us for a brief moment (yeah, yeah, I was young, little did I know that not everyone celebrated it, or even cared, but my adult self can still argue that a high percentage of those other carfuls at least UNDERSTOOD it was Easter, and so we were still in some sort of legitimate communion.). 

To bring my point even further down the rabbit hole–– the other day, I got emotional when I was driving through the city and had to pass a motorcade of police cars. It was just one of the many friggin’ G20 security rehearsals (don’t get me started), but suddenly I found my emotion (so completely despite myself) stirring and welling inside me. Get this—because an assortment of human beings had pulled together and was working in communion for some kind of good. Like a ballet of service vehicles. 

Every year, Deb and I attend Toronto’s Nuit Blanche, which is an all-night art exhibit spread throughout the city—and a million people attend! We wander through the hundreds of installations in awe of the artists, but also in awe of our fundamental connection to a million other people who are also there to appreciate, celebrate, and bond. Do we weep? You betcha. But privately, not daring to admit it even to each other. 

My sister founded and runs (with her partner) the Guelph Contemporary Dance Festival which takes place over 3-4 days the first weekend of every June. Because I adore modern dance, I drive down to Guelph (about 45 minutes west of Toronto) and immerse myself in the many inspiring performances. There are free shows in the park and several shows in the local theatre. The dancers are uniformly impressive and amazing. So, of course, there they are again: those friggin’ tears. Watching these dancers dance from the heart kills me, especially because they need to communicate something essential to us through their bodies beyond just the loveliness of movement and music. And then there’s further emotion because I’m sharing that vision with hundreds of strangers, each of us experiencing something special, each of us moved for our own reasons. 

So, maybe the tears feel weird in the moment—I wipe them away as subtly as I can––but I’m realizing now that, yes, it is an art-felt emotion, but it also the human bond. The particular bond that makes us human and keeps us humanely connected. Heartfelt.

Deb: Oh yes, Barb, this resonates with me as well. When I was younger I thought of myself as an “eventist”, someone who liked sharing emotional and stirring events with other people. The moon landing, the Summit series, a meteor shower. But there is nothing in the world like being moved by art and feeling those around you sharing your feelings. 

My family just got home from Toy Story 3. It might not be the ballet but it killed me with its perfect beauty. I have had a tough week and felt sure that I had no tears left for at least another year, but darned if I did not muster up a bucketful at this movie. I love crying for beauty. It makes up wonderfully for all the times we cry for sorrow, doesn’t it? 

Oh and P.S. while I am writing this, the thunder and lightening is cracking in the sky! 

Barbara: Wasn’t that the most stirring storm? Nothing scary (unless you’re a dog), just lovely cracking and pouring, indeed! You see, we just shared that storm together—beauty. 

And I love “eventist”. 

PS: If you’re interested, click here to see a beautiful photo-video of my sister’s festival (that’s her voice at the beginning and end).

Friday, June 25, 2010

Weather Vane

Deb: Today is one of those days where I find myself embarrassed for the weather. 

I am not a complainer of all things weather. I take it as I find it, just happy to be alive and experiencing it. Actually, people complaining about the weather is number one on my pet peeves list. FOR GOD’S SAKE IT’S THE WEATHER, YOU CAN’T CONTROL IT, JUST DEAL WITH IT. 

However there are days like today when I find myself feeling embarrassed for it. Unable to really look at it in fear that it will spot my mocking glance and feel more ashamed of itself than it already does. For today we have a weather limbo, a rock and hard place, a shit or get off the pot kind of day. It is 8:15 am. It was supposed to pour rain. Fine with me. Then we heard sun and a little cloud. Great, bring it. But what we have is what I can only describe as Mother Nature’s constipation. It is dark and ominous, but nothing is happening. It tried to rain but barely misted. 

Now the poor weather is so stopped up, it is panicking. Getting darker and darker with nothing to show for it. Poor impotent weather. It is so still outside, like the weather has gone all quiet hoping someone will notice and bring help. Need to rain ... Need to rain ... but ... just ... can’t.... 

Don’t worry weather, help is on the way. I’ll wash my car. 

Barbara: And what brings the sun out, I ask. Throwing a shower? Er… 

By the way, I’m the total opposite. I’m that person you hate. I blame the weather for everything. My headaches, my mood, other people’s moods, fatigue, depression, stress, bad driving, bad traffic, being late, being sick, you name it! It’s the weather’s fault. I frown at its snow and storm, I grumble at its cold and damp. I revel in its sun and warmth. But I am in constant communion with it. It makes my day or holds it back. Bad weather, bad news; good weather, good omen.

It’s a bad habit, I know. And when people like you tell people like me to get a grip, I smile benignly and pretend you have a terrifically valid point, then turn my head and mumble under my breath that the weather better smarten up and only rain, gloom, or snow on days when I have nothing better to do. 

Deb: Okay, you are going to say that I put the Polly in Pollyanna ... I WISH. But ever since I was a kid, I had a weather-appreciation gene which always had me seeing the upside of any weather whatsoever (try saying “any weather whatsoever” three times fast). If it was raining, for example, I would think, “Yeah, I can get to my scrapbook and have tea.” The only issues I had were “the tanning years” where even a second of cloud could send me into the deep doldrums!

Sadly the enjoyment of my favourite weather––which is a thunder and lightening storm––is dampened (pun intended) by the terror and disgust emanating from my little blonde dog! Coincidence, Barb? So, the next time you are pissed at the weather, dear friend, just wag your tail and reach for the nearest complimentary adjective! 

But I won’t lie to you ... freezing rain will be a challenge! 

Barbara: You have a terrifically valid point.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


As today we have posted to our WTF?! page and really want you to click over to read it, we’re keeping things to a fun minimum on this page. 

First, we want to encourage (beg) you to share with us any of your own fun WTF or Side of Slaw stories—email us at: We’ll mete them out over time—while of course giving you credit and linking to your own blog. 

Second, if you guys remember our (*cough* Deb's) rant about Grammar a few weeks back, here’s a very funny video for your amusement that perfectly illustrates our (Deb's) point. 

And lastly, we want to give a shout-out to all our great readers who also have their own wonderful blogs, which have been amusing us and warming our hearts. You have only to link to any of our Followers or Commenters (is that a word?) to see what we mean. There are some extraordinary writers and dear hearts out there! 

And then, last week, three of our readers virtually simultaneously posted videos that brought a wee tear of joy to our eyes (Deb commented on the virtue of those kinds of tears in the Apron Strings comments). So, for your further enjoyment: 

An amazing skipping rope performance and audience reaction on Life at Golden Grain Farm.

A sweet Free Hugs video from Nag on the Lake

And a downtown Toronto flash dance performance celebrating inspirational women at Ramblings of a Woman

But don't forget WTF?!  Enjoy!!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Apron Strings

Barbara: I was in Montreal last week and had the chance to spend some time with my father and stepmother. It was great. We strolled through the Botanical Gardens and ate food so delicious, it will colour my dreams for years to come. 

The trip also became another chance for me to reflect on the wonderful good luck I’ve had when it comes to parents—and with Father’s Day just past, to acknowledge what an interesting and lovely man is my own. He who was rarely around in my growing years because of work and work-travel is now a manifestly connected and considerate dad with whom to commiserate. In truth, I never minded his business trips when I was young—I was very close to my mother and sisters and we kinda looked on his time away as a good excuse to Girls’ Night it up—no matter that we weren’t old enough for discos and gin tonics, we rallied with fast food burgers and late night TV. 

So, as an adult, it’s been a very sweet development to get to know my father. And he constantly surprises and delights me with his intuitive wisdom. Like the other day on our visit, he tells me that he and my stepmom were just realizing that my husband and I had now entered into one of the best phases of adulthood: the time after your kids are grown and before you’re too old to be sidelined by physical constraints. Now, before I go on, I just want to say: it’s not my intention to nyah-nyah those of you who are still in the thick, or to discourage those of you who haven’t yet started that part of your life-journey, but to clasp arms with those of us on the other side so we can tell you, “Yeah, it was exhausting and wonderful and crazy and stressful—sometimes beyond words—but there comes a time when your job is done and you can let go and sit back and abscond responsibility from other people’s life choices.” 

It’s a cutting of the apron strings from the other side of the old cliché. We let go because we have to and because it doesn’t matter anymore what we say because the kids are fully cooked and will do whatever they damn well please. And there is something so liberating about that. When the kids were babies, on sleepless nights my husband would moan with complete conviction that our children would never, ever, ever sleep through the night or poop in the toilet. Well, he was wrong on both counts. And of course, we knew that one day our kids wouldn’t need us anymore, but in the long moments between birth and maturity that concept seemed/felt unfathomable. And then one day, they didn’t. Like overnight. Both of them still at home, but fully cooked and independent and apron-less. And I get to enjoy them, counsel them, worry about them––but I don’t get to handhold them anymore. So now my hands are free to pick and choose. It’s a curious feeling. But I know that’s what my Dad meant. 

I also realize that this is why it took for me to reach adulthood to finally be privy to his gems—I think he was saving this precious stuff for when it would be welcome as conversation … and not shunned as lecture. 

Deb: So much of what you had to say resonated with me, although from a slightly different angle as you know. We have been empty nesters for two years now and have had a huge taste of what you speak of. Most of the time, except for holidays, there is no boy in the house at all. So we are thrilled to have created a friendship with him before he left, as I know you have with your girls. As a result of this friendship, we find ourselves decidedly not guilty about enjoying this “new” couple before us. The couple that is into going to a Jazz Festival on a Tuesday night! Where did they come from? And when we see the boy, the time is rife with quality because we are such friends and really enjoy each other. 

If you had told me when the boy was 2, 5, 9,12 and even 17 that it would feel this right for him and for us, I would have never believed you. The day we left him in another country to go to school and watched him walk away from us was a sting in our hearts I will never forget. He let go of our hands and walked in one direction and we grabbed on to each other’s and walked in the other. In that very moment, it felt different … and nice.

Barb, I have had a similar joy with my Dad lately but for different reasons, as you also well know. He is having some health issues and at 83 has needed my frequent help. What I discovered through these excursions we take from groceries to drugstores, to specialists appointments, etc, is that I treasure this time with him. It has been challenging given his lack of mobility, but this reversal waltz we have been doing has been an unexpected pleasure. It has further illustrated to me what an amazing human he is. And as I just wrote in his Father’s Day card, I am still learning gorgeous life lessons that, as you say, Barb, are not even couched in lecture any more. We are two loving adults sharing wisdom, history, and deep respect. My time with him could be summed up as grateful time. We are just so happy to be here together right now.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Duck Out Of Water

Deb: I have a few Donald Ducks in my life. Allow me to explain. When I was a kid watching the Mickey Mouse Club, Donald freaked me out. Yes, I was very young, but still. I was always so confused at his anger and jealously towards Mickey. 

I find myself to this very day confused and confounded by the Donald Ducks in my life. People who cling to jealousy, who can’t let go of a grudge, who don’t know how to forgive and forget. How do they function with all that hate and anger? The best life lesson I have learned to this point is forgiveness. It’s the lesson that keeps on giving. Heals you, heals the other guy. It is what brings me peace, and I think/hope it has helped me on my quest to be a better person. 

I have always strived to be Mickey with his sweet optimism and Pollyanna spirit. Mickey is a lover of Man and Mousekind who doesn’t have a bad word to squeak about anyone. He inspired me as a child and still as an adult I was always enthralled with the idea of “Anything can happen day” on the Mickey Mouse Club. I try to look at my journey as an “Anything can happen Life” where every day is a new and positive adventure. And in those moments of my life when I was jealous, vindictive or envious, I thought of Donald with his angry scrunched up sweaty face and I thought, “Yep, that’s what I look like inside and out”. I hated that reflection and the realization that in those ugly moments, the only difference between Donald and me was that I was wearing pants. 

Last year I made a big decision to change something in my life that was causing me to see Donald’s reflection in the mirror on a daily basis. It was a very painful decision, but now when I look in the mirror I see Mickey with his huge hopeful eyes. M,I,C––see you real soon, K,E,Y––why, because we love you! M O U S E. 

Barbara: That’s at once funny and painfully sweet, Deb. 

We’ve spoken many times about the best way to handle things when life gets tough. There’s often a Donald/Mickey quandary, isn’t there? Do you Donald it up and say what you mean and truly feel, and in so doing let that little scrunch-faced-bare-butted brat have his way? Or do you Mickey it, look on the bright side, decide you’re going to be okay if you don’t make those twenty valid but demeaning points, pull up your little be-buttoned shorts, and put your best paw forward? 

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been tempted to let Donald have his quacking way a few times over, even wished afterwards that I’d been “brave enough” to fully unleash his voice (even sometimes long afterwards), but I can truly say now that I have not regretted a single one of Mickey’s good-natured victories. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

When Seeing Isn't Believing

Barbara: I remember watching the film What The Bleep Do We Know? several years ago. I don’t know if any of you have seen it, but it’s an interesting look into the quantum physics of life. It’s very accessible and easy to watch and understand, but also very hypothetical, so you can grain-of-salt everything in it. But we loved the questions the filmmakers posed and some of the arguments their scientists and experts offered, and we had lots of really fascinating family discussions about the theories. 

One theory that made the strongest, most lasting impression on me (and it’s been a while since I’ve seen it, so I may be screwing it up) was that if we have no experience with something, we can’t (or have great difficulty) processing it. They gave the example of Columbus and his ships arriving on the Bahamian shores for the first time. Apparently, an island village populated by hundreds of indigenous people was located in direct line of their arrival. Columbus’s ships would have been well within sight of the villagers while the ships approached and then anchored and before the European sailors came ashore and the two different peoples finally made initial contact. But apparently the villagers DID NOT SEE THE SHIPS. Even though these were enormous vessels, and even though they were anchored for DAYS! Only the villagers’ shaman was finally able to discern that there was something there, and he had to explain to the villagers what he saw before they could see—and therefore process––them. HUGE SHIPS. THREE OF THEM. (Now, please don’t ask me how our historians know this fact—is this something passed down through stories or through detailed accounts? I don’t remember this being addressed in the film.) 

I was blown away by this fact. That you could see something, but NOT see it if you didn’t understand it. I think the film put forth the notion that if aliens indeed came among us, we might not see them because we wouldn’t understand them. Okay, so that’s my long-winded set-up for my own experience: 

My husband and I were in a deep sleep one night. Suddenly, I was jolted awake—by the sound of faint but insistent rustling. I couldn’t figure out what it was. I wondered if I was hearing a mouse that had somehow infiltrated our to-that-point rodent-free fortress. I was apoplectic. Don’t think I need to explain such abstract fear to any of you? Well, I reached over and turned on my bedside light because I had to see what I was dealing with (and then get my husband to actually deal with it). And then I saw it––this fat, little CREATURE on the ground near our bedroom door, just sitting there, staring off into space. I have had experience with mice (our last house was a hell-hole for them), and this was NOT a mouse. And it seemed way too round to be a rat (god forbid). It felt rodent-like, but for the life of me, I COULD NOT identify what it was. To make matters worse, my husband was still fast asleep, not yet on his white horse ready to rescue me from this mysterious infiltration. Would this creature still rise up and attack me? Would it scurry into my walls to forever torment me with its midnight rustlings? Terrified, I nudged hubby awake. 

Groggy and eminently calm, P. looked up and said: “What’s Cinnamon doing on the floor?” What? … Cinnamon? … Really? And then I saw the creature for what it was: our younger daughter’s beloved, adorable, and slightly manic hamster, Cinnamon—who had lived with us for almost TWO YEARS! Somehow M. had left the cage unlatched and Cinnamon, poor thing, in her all-night exploring frenzy, had bumped against the open door of her cage and tumbled off the shelf where the cage is perched and landed in a pile of M.’s clothes (the one time I was THRILLED she doesn’t throw her dirty clothes in the hamper) and decided, what the hell, she was going to explore the ol’ household for posterity’s sake. 

Thank goodness, Cinnamon was none the worse for her little adventure, but I have still not gotten over that utterly disorienting feeling of confusion I experienced on looking and looking and LOOKING at her and not understanding what the hell I was seeing. 

So, point is, don’t ever ask me what’s what because what the bleep do I know? 

Deb: Incredible! They could not see what they just could not take in. There are mornings in front of the mirror like that for me.

We were in the Congo in January and we were deep in the jungle in a very small village. This village just happened to be in a flight path and we asked our interpreter what the kids in the village thought of the planes flying overhead all day and he said that they think they are big birds. They just can’t take the truth in.

And from Cinnamon the Hamster’s POV, I’m sure he was staring out in space thinking, “If I knew the humans were unconscious when it gets dark, I would have partied like this long ago!”

Monday, June 14, 2010


Deb: All my life I have had crappy little nails. Genetics I guess. My Mom’s are the same. They crack and split. I have tried a myriad of products: hardeners, strengtheners, fancy creams, and cooking oil. And because my nails were always a mess, I got into a VERY bad habit of biting––nay, ripping the skin from around them. Sounds sexy, doesn’t it? 

A grown woman ripping the skin off around her nails with her teeth. Worse part was that it became an unconscious activity. Having dinner with friends––ripping into my fingers. Business meeting––drawing blood. Being presented to the queen ... you get the picture. Our evenings in front of the TV were peppered with my husband’s voice saying, “Quit biting … Quit biting … Quit biting.” The sad thing is that I asked him to stay on me about it so I would stop! Didn’t work. I would go to bed with my fingers caked in Polysporin and covered in Band-Aids. 

So, finally, I bit the bullet instead of my nails … and I got gel nails. Not long luxurious nails, but short, clean, neat nails with a pale pink polish on them. And you know what? They have changed fundamentally who I am. These nails have transformed me! With their magic qualities, they have shifted my DNA totally and I am now “nail woman”, a gal with confidence who brazenly points out various and sundry things with my manicured finger. Gone are the days of pointing to a menu item with my knuckles. I am constantly gazing at them proudly, all neat and polished, devoid of ripped, bloody skin! My hands and I have a whole new relationship. We are sympatico. We understand each other. We belong to each other. Up until my gel nails, I think my hands thought they were Frankensteined onto me, someone else’s freak of nature, not mine. But not now, uh uh. They are proud to belong to me and I to them. So I just have one question. What the hell do I do about the inside of my mouth that is newly ripped to rat poo? Gel lips anyone? 

Barbara: I have nail/hangnail issues too. Not like Deb, with the antiseptic creams and cast-like casings wrapped around bleeding stubs. But, like Deb, when my nails look nice, I feel like, well, maybe not a million bucks, but certainly a solid 99. A little sassy, a bit more confident, a little prettier. And if I do polish my nails, I definitely pick at my hangnails a lot less. So, again like Deb, a little effort makes a lot of difference. 

But here’s the rub: I am way too cheap for gel nails––not only do you have the initial expense, but they have to be kept up every couple of weeks. On the other hand (couldn’t resist), I am too frustrated with “old-fashioned” nail polish––you apply it, it looks great, then two days later the edges are chipping, the finish is fading, and now you just look like you either don’t give a shit, or like there’s some strange fungal disease eating away at your nail beds. Oh, and the interminable hour of waiting for the application (or applying it yourself) and then the drying, where even turning the pages of a trash magazine becomes major surgery. I love me a good spa treatment, but manicures are just torture for me. Take my hands away, take my mind with them! 

Makes me wistful for the days when I sucked my thumb for stress relief … Was that so bad, I ask you? It didn’t destroy my nails, fingers, or skin. It didn’t beg infection to winnow its way into bleeding cracks. And I never did it in front of people! Why did my parents insist on stopping me?! 

Anyway, I will say this: Deb’s nails look GORGEOUS! And I am cheap and jealous, jealous, JEALOUS.

Friday, June 11, 2010

And The Meek Shall Inherit The Earth

Barbara: Two disclaimers: 1) I am not nor have I ever been religious, so if I screw up any biblical references (see title), please forgive; and 2) I recognize that I live a middle-class, comfortable life and, as a result, have limited experience with the dark side. 

Deb and I already chatted about the Human Spirit and Human Kindness because we are so moved by it. And I think it’s a good subject to come back to. I am by nature an optimist, but lately I have found more and more reason to embrace that optimism—even as the world goes to hell in an oil-smothered, privacy-adverse, poverty stricken hand-basket. Terrible things are happening around the world––and will continue to do so, I’m sure. From wars to environmental catastrophes to financial crises. But has anyone else noticed how we seem to be pulling together like never before? There seems to be a sense of communal GOOD rising up and reminding us that we can handle anything if we stick together and take care of each other. 

Not that there aren’t terrible stories of crime or power-mongering (and always will be), but people seem to be less shy in expressing their non-violent objections. And in developed countries, this seems to be the most effective strategy possible. I noticed it first in small ways. I am new to the whole modern world of chat-rooms, blogging, and social networking. But when I joined my first discussion forum, I was surprised to see how polite and considerate hundreds of strangers from around the world were to one another. Everyone was universally kind and conscious of social decorum, even while expressing their own opinions and beliefs. And if anyone stepped out of line through crass negativity or rudeness, they were gently but firmly told to back off. It wasn’t long before the jerks either apologized and played nice, or retreated back from whence they came. And I’ve seen this same phenomenon on every one of the blogs or forums I’ve since explored. 

Deb made this comment in response to other comments on Spitting Mad just the other day: “The degree of separation always makes me sit back for a second and go ‘wow, the Internet!’ I know it gets tons of flack, but what a miracle in our lifetime to really connect this quickly and frankly with other people from all over the planet.” So true! 

And the power of nice has worked on the big guys too! Look at BP. They have had such a steady stream of suspicious anger leveled at them that they are trying desperately to come across as concerned and responsible citizens, instead of tantrum-throwing three-year-olds who hide their faces in their hands and pretend that if they don’t see us, we’re not here. Or look at Mark Zuckerburg, founder and CEO of Facebook—he felt he had so much power that he could do whatever he wanted with our privacy. He didn’t care. But the gentle backlash of the Good But Angry People washed so quickly and irrefutably over him that he has been forced to play nice––“I want to be the good guy”––and change things. He wants to be on the side of right. It seems that most people do. The good majority of the population seems to have found its voice and its power. And maybe the more our world gets smaller, the more kindness and caring will insinuate itself into every sphere. Because it works! And so, the meek shall indeed inherit the earth, as promised. Took a millennium since the prophecy, but I think—believe—we are on our way. 

As long as we don’t let the power go to our heads, bwa ha ha…. 

Deb: I live in the world of Pollyanna and Doris Day, so I am always at once shocked and elated by human behaviour. I totally agree that we are making progress in many, many ways. I know that there are parts of the world where things are a nightmare, but there are people living those nightmares who are still optimistic and that is the precious bottom line.

I have made a decision since the new year, right or wrong, and it is working for me. I have stopped reading bad news. Like the Witch in the WIZ: “Don’t you bring me no bad news!” For real. I am done. I have not watched TV news since one week after 9/11 and I have stopped reading the front section of the three papers we get every day. I have decided that if I cannot get off my butt to do something about these things, I am not reading about it. I am sick of hearing of random killings, children and animals being abused, invasions, wars and their atrocities, and the list goes on. Cannot and do not want it in my psyche. So right to the “LIFESTYLES” section go I. 

And look, there is “a nine-year-old who has raised money for cancer with earnings from her lemonade stand.” … Bliss.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Handwriting's On The Wall

Dearest Blog Readers, 

If you had told me ten years ago that I would be sending thank-you notes online I would have been insulted to the very core of my being. I have, as my mother taught me well, been a stalwart thank-you card sender for these many years. Selecting just the right card, the perfect pen, and the carefully chosen words befitting the occasion was something I took pride in. For the final personal touch, I would get out my stamp collection and, pressing it onto the pad, would leave my inky message, be it “Happy Birthday”, “Congratulations”, or “Sorry for the loss of your hamster”. This would say to the recipient: you have been constantly on my mind from the moment I drove to the card store until the moment I stood at the mailbox craning my neck to make sure the card dropped out of sight.

So it is with some regret that I find myself clicking keys instead of dipping my quill into the ink well. Okay, I don’t use a quill, but I felt that it illustrated the vast disparity of styles. Is it enough of an excuse to say, “I’m just too busy”? No, damn it, not an excuse! I still send Christmas cards, does that count? Not a bit!!! Now, I have not abandoned the handwritten note altogether as I still write them when I can find time, but when I hear people talk of how wonderful it is to receive a handwritten card, I hang my head and press “send”. 

With warmest regards and continued wishes for your good health, 


PS If any of you are struggling with the demise of this time-honoured tradition, a great way to meet it halfway is with these Jacquie Lawson e-cards, which are––in my humble opinion––the best e-cards on the web!

***Picture Happy Face Stamp here*** 

Barbara: Oh dear. This is dangerous territory for me—and by that I mean, dangerous for my guilt-factor. I have a grandmother and a great-aunt who are very precious to me, but who live on the other side of the country. Over the years, we’ve always relied on letter-writing and card-sending to keep us connected. Or rather, they’ve always relied on it—while I have struggled every time with the several steps involved: getting the card or nice paper, writing pithy details of my life, conveying how much I miss them (I truly do) without sounding like I’ve cut and pasted the same sentiment over and over into each new letter, putting the letter in the envelope, getting a stamp (we are ALWAYS out of stamps when I need to send a letter to them), and finally—and here, for some reason is the single most difficult part—MAILING IT!! I can’t tell you how many completed letters have wizened and decayed on my hall table, waiting to be sent on their way. 

My aunt finally got a computer and an email account, which was very exciting. Not as glamorous and elegant as a letter, like you say, Deb, but at least I can communicate with them on a regular basis. Now my missives get reliably sent … but I’m told my aunt never looks at her email. *sigh*

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Little Old Lady

Barbara: Now that I’ve acknowledged that I actually am getting older (dang it, thought I could circumvent that pesky little phenomenon), I’ve become much more conscious of how we look at older people. 

Ever come across a wide-eyed and delicate older woman and heard yourself say, “Oh, she’s so CUTE.”??? NO!! She’s not a baby. She’s had a whole life full of experience—much of which may have been nasty, crude, or lascivious! She’s not “cute”, her features have just lost that supple elastic of youth and so her beautiful eyes now stand out like teddy-bear baubles, gazing sweetly around. Maybe not all the synapses are firing like they used to, so she seems to have the innocent curiosity of a child. But “seems like” are the operative words. She is NOT a child and she is not CUTE!

I was in the grocery store the other day and a man in his early 30s was taking his mother shopping. The mother saw an errant apple on the floor and picked it up, carefully depositing it back on the stacked pile in the bin. Now she was probably in her 60s––not a “little old lady” by any means—but her son turned on her like she was a naughty child he had to discipline. “Mom! You don’t do that. That is disgusting. Someone is going to pick up that apple and take it home and it’s been on the dirty floor!” Okay, he’s totally right—I mean, Ew—but I was completely mortified for his mom. And it didn’t stop there: “Why?! Why did you do that?” She stared blankly––not stupid, not mentally challenged––unable to speak. “Why?! Why would you do that, Mom?!” Finally, she uttered the only thing she could think of—presumably the truth: “I don’t know. I wasn’t thinking.” Yeah, she was probably on auto-pilot after all the errant socks, dishes, toys, games, shoes, and garbage she’d had to pick up and tidy through years of motherhood! And one misstep later and her dignity gets publicly leached from her by her own son. 

So I kinda worry. I worry that I’ll forget the example of that moment and talk to my parents like they’re bad kids. I worry that my own kids will threaten to send me to the corner. I worry that one day I will be infantilized by strangers observing me in the street. Well, I can tell you this: I may one day look like a “cute” little old lady, but I won’t deserve the adjective! 

Deb: What a tool. How dare he talk to his Mom that way?! I can guarantee that I would never speak to my parents in such a cruel, berating way. But I confess that I have had to check my condescension meter as they have gotten older. My parents are both 83 and both extremely bright, with-it people. Except when they are not. And I admit that when you become the partial caregiver as I have become and there are times when they seem to not get what is happening, you A) panic B) overreact, and C) maybe fall into a pattern of taking over for them. It doesn’t happen at once and it doesn’t happen on purpose and it doesn’t happen from lack of love. But it is a lack of respect no matter how deep your love for them is. They are the same people they were at 10 and 30 and 50, but we tend to treat them like babies. I already notice my son doing it to me when I don’t get something (lovingly, but still, I guess that’s where it starts). It is something that I am aware of and something I watch out for. As my Mom says, “I look in the mirror and I look into my eyes and I am the same person … but only I see it.” 

PS: If you want to see cute – THESE are cute! You must click over to check them out.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Spitting Mad!

Deb: Why? Why? Will someone please for the love of all that’s holy, explain to me why people spit on the streets? Is it some rare incurable condition that I don’t know about? Do these spitters have a reservoir of saliva the rest of us don’t have? What would be the worst that could happen if the spitters, dare I suggest ... SWALLOW IT??? Would they pass out, or break out in boils? Are the sidewalks too dry for these people? Are they like dogs, marking their territory? Or are they fearful that they are being poisoned and must run to the streets to expel this offending toxin? What the hell? WHY? There is nothing that can set my gag reflex to dancing like a well-placed lugie in my path. And why (insert your gagging here) is it yellow? What the hell are spitters eating? If you spitters are ill and dying, please beat a path to your nearest health-care facility. Otherwise, save your spit to cool your soup! 

Barbara: Oh god, I can hardly respond -- just this post was enough to "set my gag-reflexes to dancing" (and it's not the samba)! Thanks for that, Deb … 

But in case anyone wants to know more about spit, what it is, and why we do it, you can click over to this very child-friendly explanation. Personally, I like my explanations child-friendly …

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Just Your Average Swingers

Barbara: I had to work in a stranger’s house the other day. A whole slew of us were hosted by this gorgeous, maybe late 60s woman (age guessed at not by looks—which were FABULOUS—but by age of grown children) and her husband. Well, their place was heavenly, set in a garden-oasis, beautifully manicured, eclectic taste, photos and paintings covering every square inch of wall. The whole place just had a kind of cozy charm. To top that off, the host and hostess watched our work-related shenanigans with elegant grace, only occasionally sidling over to chit-chat and answer our myriad questions about the up-keep of such a magical property as well as proffering photo albums that showed the garden in its various beautiful states and garden-parties filled with happy revelers. It was all so, I don’t know … idyllically normal?? 

But then! Near the end of the day, I had a quiet moment to really look at some of the photos that lined the MAIN hallway—through which, remember, dozens of strangers had already trod––and, yes, there were several of the requisite photos with children and grand-kids and black-and-whites of yesteryear—but smack in the middle of all these, with a true “place of honour” so to speak, was a very large framed photo-collage filled with several images of our gentle host and hostess and their friends in what I can only describe as full swinger-mode! She in hot pants and bikini top, thigh-high suede boots, he (and several of the men) wearing their ladies’ bras. Lots of dancing in the photos, but the grinding kind, you know with (clothed) crotches in people’s faces. Two-on-one kind of action. You get the picture. 

It was one of those stop-you-in-your-tracks moments—where the superficial idea you had of someone suddenly shifts dramatically. Not just because of the swinging, mind, but thanks to the unadulterated (no pun intended) joy in sharing their private fun with all who enter their home—even complete strangers! It kinda made me jealous. Not the swinging part—that’s not my scene—but their freedom from the constraints of “normal” (“normal” in this dictionary meaning that most people wouldn’t necessarily collage and frame their excesses, then hang them in the entrance hall for all to see). And yet these two were all the best parts of “normal”: gracious, kind, and benevolent. As you can see, the whole “affair” really fascinated me! Oh, the many faces of regular life! 

Deb: I love it––photo of the great-great-grandparents, a christening, a grad, some swingers, a baby photo ...”One of these things is not like the others!” Boys and girls, can you find the one that doesn’t fit?