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.

2016-01-31 16.31.57

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.

Fifty Shades of Silver AKA A Hair Raising Situation

I have had a love/hate relationship with my hair for a long time.

Growing up, I had long hair. Think waist length. My parents loved it. Both Little Sister and I would go years between trims and I can remember how  exciting it was, that I might get a hair “style”, but no. It was just a trim of dead ends. I begged for shorter hair like some of my friends. I was told I could cut my hair when I was “older”.

Well…that wasn’t Grade 8…

Lookin’ like I just fell off the buggy….

Hair as thick as a horse’s tail and would give me a headache when it was up in a ponytail. My friends had adorable shags, bowl cuts, perms. I had brown-blonde hair. Although my mother will swear on a stack of bibles that I am a blonde.

I enjoyed some relief in Grade 9 when I was sophisticated enough to trim off some length.

WHOO – HOO. Trimmed all the way up to my shoulders. Daring!!!

I must have forgotten to book my back to school trim, because I have a mane full of hair again the next year.

Holy Nelly, the girl has bangs. Or is that fringe? Or just a sad excuse of….oh forget it. Like those “bangs”.

In fairness, I should mention, I did have braids, the occasional bun and was the proudest owner of the largest barette collection this side of my sister’s room.

At some point in my later secondary school career, I sported the Wilson Phillips; that is the same chop job sported by Chyna Phillips. Somehow, I didn’t look as good as she did. Now I know it is because she has fine, thin hair, and mine, uh, isn’t. So it grew back out once more and by the time I was in college, it was long. Again.

I waited until after my graduation photos were taken, and hacked it off again. The only thing that consoled my father was that he had the photo of me with “normal” looking hair.

Not long after that, I became engaged, and thought long hair sure would be helpful if I wanted to sport a bun with the very chic and simple veil and headpiece I had in mind. Two years later, I had the hair I needed. Two days after the wedding, I step off a plane in the Caribbean and my hair went up four dresses sizes. I couldn’t do anything with it. I had also neglected to pack a trunk for all my barettes.

With my new husband in tow, I found a fellow passenger whose coif I fancied and asked her to help me. We found a hair dresser and he cut off my hair. From that point on, the honeymoon was a blast and I needed A LOT less conditioner.

My return home was less smooth, as Little Sister, who had just completed her training as a hair stylist, was severely annoyed that I dared to let someone else tame my tresses. She finally forgave me when I agreed to let her put highlights in my hair.

“Don’t do it!” my mother warned. “You’ll end up coloring your hair!”

I scoffed. A couple of well placed touches of sunlight couldn’t possibly hurt. Two years later, I’m blonde. Like the blonde my mother thinks I’ve always been. Like, Marilyn Monroe and I finally have something in common.

In the years following, the longest I got my hair was to my shoulders. I couldn’t imagine letting it grow any longer. My hair was a rainbow of colors from red, to black and even blue. When I worked in the entertainment business, my hair became somewhat of its own persona. People discussed it, admired it and actually anticipated seeing me again, just to find out what color it would be. In my current position, my coworkers could give a rat’s ass what color my hair is.

Over the summer, with my “blonde” look matching my sunny disposition with the warmer weather, I watched my roots grow out. I wondered what colour my hair was, exactly. After another trip to see LS, this is what we got…

Something special in here!

Perhaps you can’t see it on this side, or the blonde tips are blurring your vision. Let’s try again.

I don’t like to call it “grey”; I prefer “platinum”!

When I was 19 I noticed a patch of grey, which obviously spread and took residence on the rest of my cranium. Reaction to this new do has been mixed.

The Big Guy doesn’t get a vote. I told him that since I don’t get a vote on whether or not he loses hair, he doesn’t get to comment on my silver follicles.

First Born Son was very supportive. He liked the idea that this was my “real” color. He thinks I should keep it like this.

Second Born Son, however, thinks it ok. He doesn’t want it to be a permanent move though.

“You have to color your hair, Mom!” he declared.

“No, I don’t, actually,” I replied.

“But your hair, it’s your….THING!” he said. “People know you because you color your hair!”

While he most definitely overstates this, I can’t help but think it might be novel to actually move away from coloring my hair and just stick with what I “am.”.

Who knows, maybe the next thing will be waist length locks!?

Highly unlikely.

Catching Up

I think it is an unspoken law of blogging that one takes off the summer months, if not cut back the number of entries. In my case, I tried to pack as many things into each day as humanly possible.

It’s hard to believe that with the return of back to school and fall routines, that it was only two months ago that we were admiring First Born Son’s gardening abilities.

 

While the lettuce was impressive, his corn and sunflowers are MASSIVE. He entered the sunflowers in the local Fall Fair and won third. The tallest stalk was 10’4 ft so I cannot imagine how tall the winning entry was!!! I’m waiting to get sick of eating corn, since its on the table every night. Hasn’t happened yet!

 

It was a nice hot summer for swimming at Mom & Dad’s pond. I’m not sure who enjoyed it more, the kids, or Roman!! On a related note: this was one of the few activities Second Born Son could actually take part in – so he spent a lot of time in the water. His are is healing well and we go back down to the specialist in October for an update. This could be an ongoing pattern for a while.  

 

 

While you saw M&M’s photos, her sister, Lil’ O also played softball and we loved watching her year-end tournament. “The power is strong in that one, master!!” So nice to see the kids enjoying ball. Now if we could do something about the nut-job adults who organize their teams….SIGH.

FBS had a great season playing ball. It was great to see a team of players who wanted to play ball, and not simply signed up because of their parents. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot of structure to the team, and they didn’t perform well overall. “There’s always next year!”

 

SBS was my little fish this year. Since swimming was considered good therapy for his arm, and we normally do swimming lessons through to the end of elementary school, he enrolled at the local pool. PARENTING TIP: Try to get your child into swimming during the summer Olympics. I wish I had video of SBS splashing at himself and getting psyched like the big boy swimmers. HeeLARrious!!!!

 

What summer is complete without a wedding? It was a beautiful July day when this lovely couple made it legal. The painful part, to me anyway, is that I USED TO BABYSIT THE BRIDE! That’s right. That gorgeous creature you see there – I used to feed her snacks and keep her and her deliciously chubby little brother entertained. He’s not longer chubby and she’s beautiful. I’m taking all the credit.

 

Then there was the cottage. Easily the highlight of the summer. Due to the time restraints dictated by work, Lil Sis and I decided to split a week. She took the girls and our parents up from Monday to Wednesday. We all enjoyed Wednesday together, then she took her crew home, and my family stayed on until Friday. HEAVEN! Even when the weather was poor, it was nice to just be together and not have to do anything. This beach has special meaning for me and The Big Guy, since it is where he proposed. I love the fact that the cottage was on the beach, so we didn’t have to load anything up to enjoy the water!!!

 

 

 

I love how this summer turned out; with birthdays and sunshine and being outside. I just need two more months!!!