I’m Slipping…or Not.

Truthfully, I thought I was losing my ever-lovin’ mind.

It’s bad enough that I have glasses that help me when my eyes are tired, but to lose a pair? Come one. I’m 47, not 87.

With the chaos settling around the house, there have been a couple of things that have gone “missing” temporarily, then found, as we all learn where things are going to be stored. I’ve even had a couple of good purge days where I was able to be merciless and toss or repurpose items that were not living up to their full potential.

But the glasses were gone. I couldn’t tell how long they had been gone. I just knew that any time I wanted to drive at night, I really felt like I would do better if I was wearing them.

Finally over the weekend, I got serious about locating the glasses. Fortunately I had my prescription sunglasses, but the other pair were GONE. I looked in places that I thought they might be. I looked in places that I knew they wouldn’t be. It’s like I had them and then, suddenly, I didn’t.

Both The Big Guy and Second Born Son were aware that I was looking for these glasses. SBS immediately indicated he had no idea where they were, but if he found them, he’d let me know. TBG, however, was far more invested.

As anyone knows, when you are looking for something, have someone making “helpful” suggestions is, in fact, far from an aid in the objective. TBG asked if I checked my purse. I had. He asked if I looked in the Jeep. I had. He asked if I looked in any of the new handy drawers in the kitchen. Of course I had – that was the first round of searching. He tried his “Dad Voice” on me, lecturing me about keeping track of my things. I reminded him that I already had a father and TBG need to slow his roll. I added the eyebrow for emphasis. I’m pretty sure my eyebrow trumps his Dad voice.

It wasn’t until Sunday that all was revealed. Heading out the door to grab some groceries, I happened to look up to the very top shelf of the front door closet and there they were; on the highest point on the highest shelf, in an area that I cannot reach without a stool to stand on. Remember, I am not short. I immediately knew what happened.

This shelf is a favorite of TBG’s for when he wants to quickly clear the hall the table of any items that he deems to be clutter, junk or simply don’t belong to him. I grabbed the nearest chair, hiked up to grab my glasses, and set out to find the father of my children.

I found him, unsurprisingly, cuddling Roman in the garage. Apparently I had interrupted a nail clipping session. Whatever. I held out the glasses for him to see. He was genuinely happy to see I had found them. Then asked the obvious question.

“Where did you find them?”

As I relayed the location of the glasses case, I could see the penny drop. He didn’t initially recall putting them there, and even tried to suggest that perhaps I had put them there, but couldn’t row that boat because he KNOWS I hate things being put up there. I would NEVER put my glasses there. He doubled down and tried to suggest that I should just be happy that I found them.

I suggested that he needs to stop “helping” me.

Because it’s causing me my sanity.

I Now Pronounce You…

It’s been many moons since The Big Guy and I vowed to fight over blankets and morning routines. Sometimes I look back and shake my head over the things that were deemed important and necessary to have a wedding in the early 90s.

Although there was some small movement away from traditions, (we didn’t have a traditional receiving line – GASP THE HORROR!)  we were pretty conventional. Except, when it came to my name.

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I was drawn back to a conversation I had with my future in-laws about 25 years ago, after reading this article. It seems crazy to me that a quarter of a century after I hyphenated my name, there is still a debate about women taking their husbands’ surnames.

It never occurred to me NOT to take TBG’s name. I just didn’t want to have to give up MY name. For some men, the issue of a woman refraining from linking last names is too big a picture. They need to look at the root of the matter; you are asking someone to change what they call themselves. I was Sarah B for the first 21 years of my life. I was actually called that in classrooms when there was more than one Sarah and we had to tack on the first letter of the last name to distinguish between me and Sarah K. It was a small school and it we knew it was going to be a long year whenever we realized we were in the same class – the only two Sarahs.

I don’t recall a specific moment when I decided I was going to keep my name. I do remember thinking for a while before getting engaged, that there were no males to carry on the family name. It was important to me to carry that on, and to preserve my identity. I had also done some research into the family I was joining and learned that there were not one, but two previous Sarahs. I’d be Sarah The Third with this last name. I didn’t really think about my future kids, but figured we’d sort that out down the line. I know when I told my father of my plan, he was quietly pleased.

But the aforementioned conversation with my soon to be in-laws took place about six months before the wedding. There was a discussion about the service and how we would be introduced as Mr. and Mrs. Big Guy. My oh-so helpful future brother-in-law, who knew of my plan, said, “That’s if Sarah takes TBG’s name.” Two pairs of eyes were on me.

“You AREN’T taking our name?” asked my future MIL with a look of disbelief on her face. My FIL didn’t speak but had an equally perplexed expression.

“No, it’s not that,” I tried to explain, “I’m actually going to hyphenate my name.”

Silence.

“Did you tell TBG this?!” demanded his mother. I stated that we had talked about it, and that he was in complete support. Conveniently, TBG was not in the room for this charming exchange.

This was more than shocking to my future parents-in-law. I don’t think they personally knew of any other woman who had done this, and it was outside their understanding. I’m sure for them it was an insult, but they could have chosen to see it as a young woman who had a more independent mindset, wanting to demonstrate her commitment to her husband, while still being autonomous. It had nothing to do with how much I cared for my fiancé. In fact, the idea that he was supportive of this, and wasn’t threatened by it, made him all the more attractive to me. Gotta love an open-minded man!

On the day of our wedding we were introduced as “Mr. Big Guy and Mrs. Maiden Name – Big Guy.” An easy way to let our family and friends know how I was addressing myself.

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When it was time to have children, the agreement was that they would only have their father’s surname. If they decided they wanted to have a hyphenated name, we would pay to change it. TBG agreed.

Traditionally, women were considered the property of men – that’s why her father would hand her off to her husband on her wedding day; a transfer of ownership – and with that was a name change. Times have changed and the issues surround the surname have become somewhat complicated. When a woman divorces, the dilemma is there – do I change my name back to my maiden name? Do I want to have the same name as my children?

In this era of women fighting for, and being recognized equally in most modern relationships, it seems a little dated to argue over what she calls herself. And a little archaic to insist she have the same moniker as her spouse. Welcome to the 21st Century!

 

 

 

 

Looking For The Answers

The tone in her voice said it all.

“So, what do you think?!”

Aside from the fact that I had no answers for her, the question bounced around my head. She has questions. Heck we all have questions. I find myself questioning myself more and more lately. Which, I find rather ironic, given the fact that I’m “middle aged” (if I live to 90) and you’d think I’d have my shit figured out.

Nope.

While I’ve gained confidence compared to my early adult years, I certainly would have thought that I would have more answers, more stability and more clarity about the future. I have, thankfully, have developed more confidence in myself, my abilities and my relationships. This, sadly, does not extend to other areas of my life.

Is this the point where the mid-life crisis settles in? When you get frustrated enough with the plan you set out for yourself when you were mere “child” in your 20s that you say “F it” and sell off everything to move to a Caribbean island?

<PAUSE> For the record, my particular skill set is apparently highly coveted and in one week there were two job postings in Jamaica alone that were TAILOR MADE for my skills and abilities.The Big Guy had to talk me off that ledge, let me tell you! <PLAY>

So when “she” came to me with her question, I thought, “She must think I have my act together!” Followed by “Boy, do I have her fooled!”

What did I actually SAY to her? That her decisions are hers alone to make. That this is the beauty of life; that we are the only ones who get to have that kind of power to make those decisions. This also prevents us from hating the individual who gave us the advice.

This doesn’t make our decisions any easier, and leaves us with the nagging questions…

Papercut

In an effort to give you a break from the reno madness (Lord knows I want to get away from it!) let’s talk about something that has bothered me for a couple of weeks now.

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As you may know, The Bowery Girl started as “The Bowery” and was a column in a community newspaper I used to work for. I have written for three newspapers, along with two periodicals. Last week, I found out that the paper it worked at during my college co-op and later as a freelancer, was no longer producing a hardcopy edition. Basically it’s finished. The Guelph Mercury was in its 149th year when it was determined by Metroland Publishing to be no longer a viable business venture. In an effort to find some aspect of “glass half full”, the statement released last week indicated that the online version would continue.

That’s kind of like saying, “The Titanic may be sinking, but we’ve got a couple of great lifeboats over here!” With the amount of staff left behind following the layoffs, they wouldn’t be able to fill a lifeboat.

Another paper I used to work for, the one in my current hometown, has also experienced serious downsizing. Pointing to financial considerations, the weekly paper has shut down its storefront, which it has enjoyed since its inception, and moved to a town 45 minutes away. This would allow them to allegedly reduce costs (one would argue that increased milage and decrease subscriptions due to public dissatisfaction would be larger costs). This paper is also owned by Metroland. Now before you think I’m throwing shade on Metroland, please know that I worked for Thompson Media, Southam Media AND Hollinger Inc. They were all terrible. In school, our teachers advised that you wanted to work for a Thompson paper first, because the excellent work ethic environment (read here – they worked you like a slave) along with the fiscal restraint, would position young journalists well for opportunities at the more plush Southam papers. They were wrong. Once my publication became a Southam paper (because community papers were swapped, traded and bought out like NHL contracts), we were told that Hollinger was where the REAL money and opportunities were at. WRONG again!

For me, it was a no-brainer that when it came to being a working mom and contributing to a household, I could not continue as a full-time journalist. I have never made as little money as I have when I’ve been a professional writer. Low income wages are the norm in this line of work, something I kicked myself for not investigating further before applying to college.

Truth of the matter is this; journalism, and in fact journalists, are not overly valued in today’s society. I’m not talking about Katie Couric, I’m talking about the workhorse journalists. The ones who write locally. From a corporate standpoint, editorial was always the losing end of the stick. Advertising is where the money was literally and figuratively. If Advertising cried, the Publisher wiped its tears. Editorial was the hanger-on. Necessary to fill the holes between display ads, or the pages before the classifieds, but otherwise Editorial cost money. Cameras, dark rooms, mileage.

I was angry to hear about the local paper moving away and losing its community profile. I knew it wasn’t a local decision, but rather a corporate one. And therein lies the problem. The farther away you are from the community, the less you relate to it. Faces and stories are lost in numbers and dollar signs. I interviewed hundreds of people while I was a beat reporter. I had people who came to me with stories ahead of other reporters and publications because we had a relationship. That’s what’s at stake with the closure of these  newspapers. The community needs a relationship with its newspaper. Cutting costs, focusing on spreadsheets, slashing and burning. It has nothing to do with community support, investment in people, connecting with the reader.

Sadly, I’m not sure that people understand what they are losing, or have already lost by not having an active and thriving newspaper in their community. You may feel you aren’t impacted because of your internet connection or (God forbid) you find out news faster on Facebook. But you don’t have the balance that comes with the Fifth Estate (no I’m not referencing CBC right now). You don’t have the experience, accountability and conscious that comes with an investigative journalist. You don’t know how your community is unique and why you should be proud to be a part of it.

I do think that was part of the problem; the slippery slope of cutting back coverage to reduce costs, reduce pages, reduce local content all due to a reduction in ad revenues. The public gets their information elsewhere. The paper makes further cuts. The public gives up their reliance on the paper entirely. The paper shutters. The community will suffer.

Is there an answer? I think there is, but the travesty is that no one is looking for it. That would require effort, and heaven help us, money.

I’m just sad that it seems it’s as hard as ever to see the value in the printed word.

 

 

CATCH UP

Another stretch of radio silence and I do apologize for that. I was visiting with a dear friend the other night and we were catching up after a long stretch of our own brand of radio silence. We discussed spouses, kids, family members and jobs. Sadly, a lot of the discussion was rather sad, and stressful, but to a certain extent, we both realize that no one gets through this life unscathed. I learned a long time ago to stop asking, “It couldn’t get any worse, could it?” because the answer is sometimes frightening.

Neither of us talks like this on a daily basis. Neither of us is the type to drop our heads, pop our lips out in a pout and whimper “why me?” It’s just that every now and then, a girl has gotta vent!

About a year ago I was fortunate enough to see a motivational speaker who called out a large group of people on the human nature flaw of self-pity. He pointed that drama is toxic, talking about others (gossip) is toxic, ranting is toxic. He also stated the obvious – that everyone who lives this life will face challenges. Some are small and annoying, some are large and life-changing, but EVERYONE will have them both. People who ask “Why me?” should then ask themselves, “If you not you, then WHO?” Does any one person deserve to have an inordinate amount of trials and tribulations so that others may have less??

Part of what makes life sweet, are the sour moments. Think about it. You cannot appreciate the light without the darkness. If you were given an existence without hills and valleys, you would undoubtedly, be bored – not to mention unfulfilled. Each of us has a journey. Whether it’s to learn a lesson, share a gift, have an experience, and we all have our crosses to bare.

Every now and then, it seems like my plate is overflowing with “character building” situations; but I also acknowledge how blessed I am, how good my life is, and how much I have to look forward to. There are days that are challenging, but they come with days that are wonderful. I’ll take the sour with the sweet.

Looking for a Good Friday

It’s been quite a week.

Whenever a holiday rolls around, it seems like time moves twice as quickly and my list of things to accomplish is twice as long. In the case of this week, we are down a day as well. I really enjoy Easter for a number of reasons, and look forward to it all winter long.

I wanted to be mindful of the religious meaning of this week; to take things in stride and be flexible when something popped up. But for some reason, it was the “Let’s See How Much Shit Sarah Can Tolerate Week”. Unfortunately, I didn’t get that memo.

Monday to Thursday was filled with tests and challenges. Kids who were seeing how far they could push each other, and me; days at work that went from slow and monotonous to being assigned a mountain of work; barely speaking to my husband, and not because we didn’t want to talk, but because he was just as busy as I was. Trying to sympathize, empathize and take the high road.

A friend of my was caught in a bind regarding the care of her horses, and being faced with no alternatively, I offered to help her out. It was something I found myself looking forward to! Which did help somewhat with the ongoing frustrations of the week.

Each time I looked at these events as challenges I could deal with. The kids were tired, and coming down with colds so I tried to get them to bed sooner. Well, I tried – they argued and resisted and ended up going to be a the regular time. I tried to think of improvements at work that could fill my down time and worked efficiently when the work load suddenly doubled. I gave a lot of thought to how we could accommodate the various schedules over the Easter Weekend so that everyone was happy.

That’s when things really started to hit the skids.

Every now and then, I find I go through a couple of days, or in this case – a week, where I could say “Hey, How are you today?” and the person I’m speaking to would hear “WHAT THE F— IS YOUR PROBLEM?” I’ve been told this is a problem for Virgos, so when I saw it starting to rear its ugly head, I made a point of gearing down and measuring my words. Sympathize, empathize, high road…… Rinse and repeat.

Yeah, that bombed.

So by Thursday afternoon, two people thought I was a Grade A bitch, ironically, the two people I had gone out of my way to accommodate. Massive FAIL. In both cases, the exchanges ended with me removing myself from the conversation so I didn’t say what was really on my mind.

On Thursday afternoon, I’m fighting my way through the throngs of people. People who leave their cart in the middle of an aisle in a grocery store so they can look for FRIED ONIONS THREE FREAKIN’ AISLE OVER! People banging in to you, and your cart, which is overflowing. People who think the day before a long weekend is the BEST time to catch up with their neighbors, five feet inside the store doors.

Throughout my tour at the grocery store, I noticed two women; one about my age and her daughter, who would be the same age as First Born Son. I noticed them look at me in the meat section. Then again in the frozen foods. I could feel someone looking at me a couple more times, and thought I was getting a complex.

Finally I navigate the humanity that is a grocery store at 5 p.m. on Maundy Thursday, and I end up in the line behind these two women. They look at me, look at each other, and then START WHISPERING.

Folks, I nearly lost my mind right there. After trying so hard to not feel negative, to try and look at things from other peoples’ points of view and trying help out friends and family who have need help throughout the week – only to get slammed, I was ready to put my fist through their carton of eggs. Very. Ready. “WHAT THE F— IS YOUR PROBLEM?” was on the tip of my tongue – and I would have meant to say it!

As we crept toward the cashier, and I started unloading my groceries, when the mother spun around, leaned in towards me and said,

“Your hair ROCKS! I LOVE it!!!!” with the biggest smile I had seen all week. The daughter, behind her, was smiling and nodding vigorously.

In a instant I felt horrible for being such a mental bitch to her, combined with a mix of feeling flattered and pleased, because one does not expect to receive compliments, never mind in public. I gave her a big smile and said thank you. She and her daughter continued to converse, but now I could hear some of it, “awesome” came up a couple of times.

Once I got in my vehicle, I thought about how things can spin on a dime. All week I had worked so hard to make everyone else happy, and  not a single person recognized me for it, or in fact, told me I had made things worse. Here, I go about doing my own thing, and a complete stranger comes up to me and gives ME a compliment; something that I myself have made a habit of doing to other people.

And the hair….

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Totally ROCKED!!!!

Happy Easter, Happy Passover!

 

 

 

Passing on Perfection

There was a conversation about my sons earlier this week. The person I spoke with made a profound comment.

“Your sons are just perfect.”

My heart sank.

Crazy, right? Mothers around the world would love to have their offspring branded as “perfect” and yet all I can think is “NOOOOO!” I thanked her and dismissed the comment at the same time. After all, there is no way IN. HELL. that my kids are perfect. Their mother certainly isn’t.

I’ve had issues with that word, that concept, for a while now. I don’t believe in “perfect”. Perfect is limiting, unattainable, and damaging. Lifetimes have been wasted in the quest for perfection. It’s a conversation I’ve had with The Big Guy throughout our relationship. He’s a big believer in “perfect”. As you can imagine, it makes for interesting chit chat.

The perfect couple, right? WRONG!

The perfect couple, right? WRONG!

He is driven by details, and is brutally hard on himself. He pours over the fine points. I am deadline driven. I can accomplish a huge amount in a very short period of time. Together we are a great combination, even if we don’t come from he same point of view. Perfection is something he values, and I’m still wondering why he ever wanted to be with me since I know that I don’t rank very high on the Perfect Scale. Nor would I care to.

You learn so much more from a mistake. I don’t want perfect children. They would be very uninteresting. They are better prepared for life with the flaws that they have and learning how to overcome or embrace them.

Perfection is a relative term. My idea of a perfect evening could be pjs, a bowl of popcorn, a great movie and a blanket to cuddle under. Yours might be an evening at a restaurant with friends. Which is actually perfect? Is my vision wrong because it doesn’t match yours? My definition the following night could very well change. Was my first night not “perfect” because I picked a new “perfect” the next time?

THAT'S more like it!

THAT’S more like it!

Once perfection is achieved, which in and of itself is almost impossible for the majority of us, the next mammoth task is to maintain perfection. Any less is failure, which perfectionists know full well, is the antithesis of perfection.

Now please don’t misunderstand, I believe in putting your best effort forth. I think its important to have a personal best. I have looked a photographs I have captured, which at the time were my best, and now I can do better. It’s about growth and the continued development of me. Tomorrow I will do better than I did today, just as I am better today than I was yesterday.

Perfection is uninteresting, predictable. Perfection is the starting place of downfall and disappointment.

Give me flawed, real, genuine. It speaks to me and is a far better motivator.