tripping the life unbalanced

Saturday, September 23, 2006

things that creep me out

I'm making my way back from the dead. Dead sick, that is. We've all been holed up together as a family of illness the last week or so. Being home sick can be so boring, no? There are only so many episodes of Dr. Phil-I-got-your-kids-back-from-a-cult programs that I can stomach. And then there's the sleepless nights.

You'd be surprised at what kinds of lists I can come up with at 4AM. Lists with titles like "Things I Have Not Yet Worried About That I Should Start Worrying About" or "Things I Should Have Said to Alice to Calm Her Down When She Ran Into A Wall At Daycare and Smashed Her Mouth Instead of 'Oh, Not Your Teeth Again?!'"

I've always been a bit of an insomniac, and for some reason making lists really helps me get through the hours of absolute boredom that can arise from staring at the ceiling. Lately, I've been inspired by thinking about things that creep me out. And, as always, have decided to share it with the internet.

Things That Creep Me Out

James Blunt
Good god, people, WHY? I know I have some friends who actually like this whackjob's music, but the lyrics? The over-the-top stalking emotion is too freaky for me. I saw him perform on SNL a few months ago, and when he sang "Goodbye My Lover" into the camera, I'm pretty sure I heard the sound of bunnies boiling in a pot.

The sound of fingernails scratching fabric
I have no idea where the distaste for this comes from, but suffice to say that this sound makes my skin crawl. Worse offenders are those on couch fabrics - yuck.

Mama Bear's voice on The Berenstain Bears.
I've noted my hate-on for this show before, and truly it is Mama Bear's tisk-tisking that creeps me out the most. It can haunt me. For days.

Men on the public transit system who ask me how old my daughter is
Dude, you probably mean well and aren't a total weirdo, but for your own safety please do not even address me when I stand beside you with Alice. In fact, please avert your eyes completely and pretend we don't exist. You know, the Toronto way.

The word "bon bons"
Seriously. What good can this bring the world?

The texture and smell of cooked eel
Matt loves this stuff and once he ordered it during a marathon of Six Feet Under. Needless to say, we did not make out that night.

That stupid horror movie "The Ring".
I'm not even going to link to it in case I have to continually link to it for years to come until people hear its message.

Water on the floor of the changeroom at the public pool
The idea of stepping in someone else's water that dripped from their body is so gross, so creepy, that it prevents me from swimming in public pools unless it's really too hot outside to live. And even then, I have to swallow back barf and run through the changeroom on my tip toes to just make it into the pool. Pretty mature and impressive, I know. Especially with my 3 year old, who thinks mommy is playing some kind of game. "you win, mommy, you win!"

So, what creeps you out?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

damn yo, this horse is DEAD

So the internets have been swirling and swirling around this topic the last few days. I meant to get on here earlier to post what I PROMISE are my last thoughts on this topic for now, but alas the cold/flu has hit my house. And hit it hard. (hey, as a side note, has anyone else ever hallucinated to Tylenol 1 with codeine?)

I apologize in advance if some of you are sick and tired of hearing about this debate. I just gotta get my last thoughts out, and then I am done.

I want to clear up a few things first: I don't have a problem with popular bloggers. I'm not jealous of bloggers with more readership than I, nor am I interested in being the blog police. I actually respect and read a lot of the bloggers with high readership. What I have felt exceedingly more uncomfortable with, and please note I include myself here, is the climate that surrounds the popularity. It bothers me that there exist companies who are invested in what they hope is our competitive nature (Technorati and Blogshare, for example) My original rant on the subject was somewhat born from my own obsession with checking my site meter. I know a lot of you disagree, but I truly feel as if this constant search to increase your readership can affect your content.

That's how I feel. You can disagree with me (as many have), and you can also call me on my arguments (which also others have). And I respect your right to do so. But I stand by my argument.

Another thing I want to make clear is that I was wrong to limit this argument to just the mommy blogging world (and hey, don't even get me started on the term "mommy blogger" right now, OK? 'Cause that's a whole other can of worms I am not prepared to open at this time). It's everywhere, this obsession with increasing readership, and I should not have limited my argument to this one group. By way of explanation (and not justification) I called out the mommy bloggers on this issue because this is where I personally tend to reside in the blogging world. I never ever meant to suggest that women are alone in this regard, and I do retract my focus on mothers. (I also gave back York University my Women's Studies degree, when they called to ask for it back after reading my post, in case you are interested).

Also, I never meant to offend anyone with my rant. If you notice, my original post does not discuss specific bloggers, and for a reason. Because, as I have said, it's not particular bloggers but rather the general obsession that engulfs the community at large. The focus on linking and commenting and blah diggity blah - it can consume you, eat you up until there's little focus on content and more on the linkage. At least it can consume me. I know some of you disagree and I respect that. In fact, I truly appreciate the debate that has arisen from this discussion. I have listened and read the counter-arguments, and have to at least say this: damn we mommy bloggers have lots to say!

Blogs are a fluid, ever-changing medium, and we should always feel free to challenge their power. Hold it up for introspection. I believe that the blogging world is a microcosm of the outside world in many ways - complete with hierarchy and all. How can we deal with this, and what are some possible solutions? I have some ideas, but they are still percolating and I'm not ready to get into this again. And please, my poor brain just wants to focus on the fact that America's Next Top Model starts tomorrow.

Also, just to be my own devil's advocate about links - I would point out that I too have benefited from linkage. It was through links that I met some close friends, and have many more online blogger friends who I hold dear. I have, like many of you, received great support and created bonds from blogging, and these relationships were first created from a link. So, yes, in that respect, links can be an extremely positive thing.

As for ads on blogs, my jury is still a little out on that argument. But I do think that others are debating it well, and I would encourage you to go see for yourself.

Whew. I'm done with this for now. Where is all the bloggy love, you ask? Because friends, I do have it. Contrary to what you might think. The love is still here, it's just buried a bit amongst my finger wagging and furrowed brow.

So coming up next - a return to the reason I started this blog. My 3 year old. My beautiful spitfire of a daughter, who knows nothing of ads or blogs or real debate (yet). And who yesterday, while I lay in agony on the couch convinced rats were eating my eyeballs, insisted on taking care of me and checking my temperature. Such sweetness, such innocence, this little girl. I should take some cues from her, I think.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

the debate rages on

For any of you who are following the debate around mommy blogging and popularity (and y'all know where I stand on this issue), check out the continued conversation over here. See the comments for the ongoing discussion.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

i'm still here

This blog has been down for almost a day now, and I just managed to get it back by republishing the whole blog. So if you are having a similar problem with your, you might try that.

Otherwise, you can join me in giving a collective finger to Blogger.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

best google search string

Dear internet,

To the person who found me by searching for "baby gravol dogs": you made my afternoon!


Crabby Kate

Sunday, September 10, 2006

this space for rant

I've just finished reading an excellent piece by Jen over at MUBAR about the business of blogging. And what a business it has become, indeed. I've had my own thoughts stewing about this issue for awhile.

We all know about the increasing presence of ads in blogs, and we all also might know about the debate around certain bigger bloggers posting ads on their sites. I don't even want to get into a long discussion of that here, because actually for the most part I take no issue with those bloggers for making that choice. I recognize how wonderful it could be for some bloggers to make a business out of blogging. In fact, I can appreciate the ways in which those ads are shown: up front and very obviously. There's no pretending those blogs are not receiving ad dollars, (wheras the looming presence of advertorials makes my stomach turn).

What I take issue with is not necessarily the intent of the ad world, but rather the intent of blogging for fame. It seems like it's become a slippery slope from blog popularity to narcissism. And this state of constant need for popularity is rooted on by companies like Technorati and Sitemeter and Blog Shares. It's a world in which links and comments become ads themselves. It's the same world of obsessing about how many links you have, who links to you (and who doesn't), how many hits you get, and on and bloody on. What is problematic, of course, is when there is more focus put on linkage and less on content. I'm no stranger to this obsession myself, and I need to let it go.

The new economics of blogging means you hold up your words as product and look for the best buyer. And we continue to push for bigger and better buyers, damnit.

Before I get a bunch of comments saying "but hey, what's wrong with being a popular blogger?" I'm not saying that popular blogs are bad. I'm not even saying that we should do away with advertising on blogs, per se. What I am saying, rather, is that the blogging world (and the "mommy blogging" world in particular, I think) could do with some reality checks in this regard. We need to shine a very strong light on the fact that these popularity contests take the focus away from the actual "product" of a blog and more towards pleasing a "buyer", or "buyers". The whole idea of blogging to please or blogging for links is disturbing at the very least.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Family on Beartown Road

As I have mentioned, I have strayed a bit from my original list of 50 books. My reading habits are a bit like my tv watching habits: I will jump from show to show to show. Finding a gem makes me giddy with excitement, and I want to celebrate the off-road finds as well as my original selection. One find in particular has been The Family On Beartown Road: A Memoir of Love and Courage by Elizabeth Cohen. The story of a family's struggle with Alzheimer's, this book spoke volumes to my personal life.

The Family on Beartown Road is a snapshot of one year, as newly single mom Elizabeth Cohen lives in a small town with both her elderly father and one year-old daughter. Cohen is a member of what they call the "sandwich generation" - people caring for their children and their parents at the same time. Living with both her baby daughter and 80 year-old father, Cohen becomes witness to her child’s glee in learning language at the same time her father grows more confused with his. While there are heartbreaking moments throughout this book, it is an inspiring tale of a transforming relationship between father and daughter, and a pull-no-punches look at the realities of caregivers. What struck me most about this novel was its look at language: there is a painful dichotomy between Cohen’s father’s growing confusion and loss of memory, and her daughter’s increasing grasp of language and ever-increasing army of words. They are almost reflections of life itself: on the way in, and on the way out.

(page 267)

"The brain of my father and the brain of my daughter have crossed. On their way to opposite sides of life, they have made an X. They look upon each other with fond familiarity. And they see each other heading to the place they have just come from. On his way out of life, Daddy had passed her the keys.”

That last sentence always makes me teary, no matter how many times I read it. This experience is not that uncommon, as I am sure many of you have experienced an older family member’s struggle with Alzheimer's or dementia. My family themselves have aging parent stories of their own, not without pain and struggle, and I know other bloggers who are living their own brand of hell with this disease.

We recently lost Matt’s maternal grandfather, a man who had progressive dementia and increasing memory loss. His death was not a surprise, but a great loss nonetheless. The first and only time I met him was a few years back when I was pregnant with Alice. Matt's mom's side lives in BC, and we were making a trek out there to see everyone before the baby arrived. I had heard many stories of this engaging and intelligent man, as well as the recent decline of his memory. Reginald was still at the stage then where he could "fake" a lot. He seemed lucid and on top of things when I met him, making me laugh with stories from his childhood in England. But Matt's mom and grandma had heard these stories many times before, and it was obvious as the night progressed that he was relying on a certain number of memories to get him by. One moment in particular that I will hold dear was when he and I were alone in the living room while the others made dinner. He leaned over to me and whispered "you know, those people in there think I'm a bit crazy. I forget things, so I'll have to apologize in advance if I do that while you are here." He was incredibly sincere, and I was amazed to hear him speak so clearly of the situation. I laughed and said "Well, I'm pregnant and forget things all the time so I think we have that in common." He laughed too and squeezed my hand, saying "well then we'll get along great, I think."

Unfortunately, our visit with them was only for a few days and I didn’t get the chance to get to know them more. The past few years saw him become more and more unable to be cared for at home, and he eventually went into a care facility last fall. I can only imagine how painful a decision Matt’s grandma had to make, to let her lifelong partner go. But really, by that point, the saddest part of course was that he already was unrecognizable: letting go might have brought some relief in many ways. My conversation with Reginald has stuck with me since that visit, and it reminds me of how fleeting time can be. Age eventually catches up with you, and perhaps it is the legacy of lives you leave behind that matters the most. When I see Matt’s gentle ways with Alice, and listen to his long storytelling sessions with her, I can only think that this is a trait passed down from his mom from her dad – and how wonderful a legacy that can be.

Thank you, Elizabeth Cohen, for giving me cause to remember that.

And rest in peace, dear Reginald.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Operation: ducks in a row

Returning from summer vacation always gives me feelings of general unrest. I'm a creature of habit, and when I'm away I stray from my regular routine and it fucks me up. I pretend I'm all "hey no problem, dinner is at 9PM! and hey look! The child is still awake at 11PM! and HA HA HA, I'm just so relaxed about the fact that we've all been wearing the same clothes for 5 days in a row..."

Not so much, internet friends.

But yet it takes me awhile to remember that I like structure. (Give me a good rut any day and I'm as a happy as can be). I tend to return to my city life and spend the first few days walking around in a haze, wondering why I feel so out of it. This year was no different. I couldn't for the life of me figure out why I felt so uncomfortable in my own skin upon arriving home. I was standing at my fridge, late last night, pondering the fuzzy yellow stuff that has taken up residence in the crisper, when it hit me: I NEED TO GET MY ASS IN GEAR! (No shit, Sherlock, the internets cry).

So I promptly sat down and did what I do best: make a list. I made a list of all the things I want to accomplish this fall. Some realistic, some not, but still it gives me great pleasure to write them down. And because I know you're all personally invested in my life at this point, I decided to share them with you. If only to remind myself of these goals in say, oh 4 months, when I'm doing some asshat meme that includes my New Year's resolutions.

Some of my bigger, more general goals for this fall include:

1) Finish what I start. Good god, how hard can this be? It's only been my biggest and baddest albatross since I hit puberty. I am the absolute queen of jumping on board at the initial stages of projects. I will convince myself that yes, this is the magical one I will indeed complete. I have piles of unfinished projects sitting on a shelf in my office that can speak to this, each started with the best of intentions. I eagerly start each one, only to lose interest half-way through, at which time they take their rightful place on the shelf of unfinished projects. (Case in point, my 50 book challenge requires a much-needed cleaning out. I actually have been reading the books, but not reporting).

2) Do more with less. This is part of a larger piece of a conversation Matt and I have been having about our life. I mean, it seems easy to say, right? We have so much, yada yada yada, many people don't, yada yada yada, do we really need all the extras in our life yada yada yada. And really, REALLY? It still matters to me. It still matters to actually write that goal down, as Matt and I did the other night. I am working on some of my own bad vices, like taking taxis when I could stand to use my leg muscles a little more than my hailing arm. Sometimes I feel like all the stuff we accumulate in our life just weighs us down. Makes us want more and then more. My house right now is filled to the gills with crap, absolute crap, that I convinced myself we needed. Like digital cable.

3) Enjoy my free time with Alice. Another one that sounds easy, ya think? But yet it's not always that easy, at least not for me. Lately it seems that Matt & I measure any free time with Alice as an obligation and therefore NOT FUN. It's "your turn, my turn" relay races at my house, and we're both losing out on some really great time with our daughter. It's not always the case, of course, but we could definitely stand to just enjoy the time we spend with her. No feelings of obligation or pressure. Just plain old fun with a silly little girl.

Aside from these larger, general goals, I also have some smaller , more immediately attainable ones. For example, I need to clean this place we call home, pack away all the summer clothes, drink a little, donate some stuff to Godowill, try to find the goddamn paperwork needed for the goddamn taxes (don't even say it), return so very many emails, catch up on some gossip, drink a little more, deal with what seems to be a mold problem in my bathroom (sweet jesus), start to prepare for my business trip to France next month, get some fall clothes for Alice, drink a whole lot more, investigate this thing they call "exercise" and finally maybe try to squeeze in some quality time with Matt (which will ultimately translate to: vegging on our respective couches in the living room, schooling ourselves on the fall tv schedule).

Maybe some of these goals are too ambitious. But damnit, I have to try.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

got to give it up

Crap. I really have to get back on the blogging train. I've been lurking and peeking and sneaking around at other blogs while up here at the cottage this week. I have a myriad of stuff to get out of my brain and onto the internet (imagine that!) and sometimes I wish I just had a direct link from the running commentary from my brain to the computer. The actual act of typing it out seems to be just TOO MUCH while on vacation. It's been a few weeks of over-eating and reading and movies and drinking and other stuff you don't need to know about. And while it's been somewhat relaxing and refreshing, I find that my brain is - or at least the part of my brain that is usually responsible for organizing - sleeping on the job.

Ok now. Let's get this train a-rolling, Kate. Let's not bore the internet with the minutiae of your brain activity, shall we?

I'm back in the city tomorrow night. And then I am making a vow (a VOW I say!) to get my head out of my blogging sand and back staring at the computer screen again.

There. I did it. I managed a post. Imagine that.