The day after

I am struggling to get through every activity today. I am finding it so challenging to answer work emails, and go about my business like today is any other day.

I live about 30 km from Nice, far enough away that my family and I were nowhere close to being in danger, so far in fact, that we were asleep in our beds while our neighbours were having their lives thrown upside down. But we are close enough to feel the pain of those around us, to see their fear, and to know that their lives will truly never be the same.

When I left the comfort of my bed this morning, I was confronted with the news. I turned on my iPad, and instead of finding information, knowledge, understanding, I found messages of anger and of hate, promises of more war and more violence. I was overwhelmed, I nearly drown in a sea of ignorance and terror.

Then I realised something else, I had emails, Facebook messages, and text messages from people far and wide, those I spoke to yesterday and those I haven’t seen in years, all trying to make sure we were okay. People whose lives we have touched, who in this time of crisis thought of us. Again, I was overwhelmed. I had no idea that so many people would think of us, would care to know that our family was okay.

After I had answered all the emails, a new wave hit me, I was okay, but were the people I care about? I quickly scanned Facebook for all those that live in Nice, searched to see if they were marked “Safe” and then I started sending my own text messages of concern.

It’s 15h00 the day after; I am still feeling…feeling too much to really process everything, but my brain is slowly trying to take over. I am reacting less and less to my emotions and more and more to the facts. I am reminding myself that France is still one of the greatest and safest countries to live in; I have my family and friends who are today safe from harm. I have my health, a home, food on the table, clothes in my closest, running water, electricity, plumbing, the right to be at work, and be independent. I have love, a sense of humour and reason.

Today is a tragic day, but I won’t be crippled with fear and anger, and I refuse to feel hopeless and lost, because I will remember that one man created so much ruin, but tens of thousands of people have since shown nothing but love and kindness. The world is a good place, filled with happiness, and many many wonderful people and beautiful things. We must not lose sight of that.

 

 

A small gesture

This is the story about a girl, a loud, smart, driven girl. She was not bossy, she was a natural leader. She was not a cry baby, but she owned her emotions. When she walked into a room, she turned heads, mostly because she usually tripped or walked into the door frame and swore loudly, but that is beside the point.

She was not perfect, she had no fashion sense (seriously, as a teenager she wore her fathers 30 year old clothes, which ironically were in better shape than anything she had bought), she had little control over her personality flaws (I consider the compulsive need to correct imprecise statements a personality flaw) and interpersonal communication was a skill learned later than the average girl.

But, she worked hard, and put all her energy, thoughts and time into growing her mind, scholastically, emotionally, and creatively. As soon as she saw her own reflection, she would disappear into a story in her head and act out a scene of grave importance, it didn’t matter that it was dinner time and her family was staring at her blankly. (FYI – kids who do this are super cute…except when it is bed time or when trying to go anywhere on time).

This girl grew into a woman. A loud (yes, still loud), clumsy (it actually got worse) and extremely principled (no…not stubborn, principled) woman.

The woman moved to France and in doing so was forced to learn a new skill; the ability to survive in an environment where she was first and foremost a woman, a characteristic that redefined all of her other qualities in the eyes of those around her.

As luck would have it though, she met a French man, the perfect man for her. He was a man who liked to cook delicious food, a man who did laundry and dishes, a man who loved to spend time with his children. This man is probably the reason the woman did not end up in prison for inflicting violence on the ass-backwards sexist dillholes she encountered on a near daily basis or against the kind-hearted lovely gentlemen who were never properly educated to see a woman as an equal.

This woman tried for years to move the world around her in a direction where she could just be herself, and failed miserably on many occasions. But she never gave up hope and never stopped trying. She changed tactics, perhaps learned to be more discreet and less bulldozer-y, but she never gave up.

Then one day, she tried again, she dove down deep inside her to build up the courage to say something that might cause ripples. She asked quite simply to be treated equally to all the men around her; she asked for a handshake; she asked to avoid the physical invasion of her personal space that is the custom in France, “the bise”.

She asked quite simply for the right to choose those with whom she was intimate rather than have intimacy forced upon her. She asked to not start the day, the meeting, or whatever with being reminded that she was different, not equal, separate, apart.

In the grand scheme of things, she asked for something that has absolutely no cost, but provides infinite value. She asked for something small, inconsequential really, and this tiny infinitesimal request was met with shock. SHOCK?!?! Not shock because the gentleman suddenly came to the life altering realisation that OF COURSE setting women apart and invading their personal space in a professional environment could potentially make a woman feel uncomfortable. It was more closer to shock that a woman could dare to break protocol, shock that in civil society a woman could dare to challenge centuries old etiquette.

After the stunned silence, the moment passed and life went on..possibly more easily because while this woman may be a woman, she was also a Canadian, and they know nothing of etiquette.

Biggest regret as a parent

I still consider myself a new parent, my kids are 4 and 6, aka, very young. I don’t actually remember life before having the little people, at least not really, but at the same time, it still seems to me like I am far too young to be responsible for other people’s lives.

I mean seriously…me?

Anyway, I have tried to be a good parent; I have failed on a few occasions and did a decent job on others, but there is one thing I regret more than anything in my young children’s lives.

I regret never investing in a high quality camera with night vision.

Nope, I’m not even kidding (starting to agree with me on the fact that I shouldn’t be a parent eh?)

Every single night of my life I walk to wherever my kids are sleeping to look at their darling faces. More times than not, rather than looking at them peacefully sleeping, I bust out laughing because it just seems absurd that one could fall asleep with his foot in his drawer, or with his head under his bed, or sprawled on her back like a star on the floor, or with her head turned in a way that just doesn’t seem completely natural when compared with the position of her body.

Hubby and I have been reduced to tears on several occasions because we try to contemplate the situation that led to my son sleeping with his legs on his bed, but his head on the floor or to my daughter sleeping with only her face under her blanket.

As an adult, could you ever imagine (soberly) falling asleep like that?

Hubby and I have literally…no wait, figuratively…had hours and hours of joy watching them sleep and it’s so common to find them in less than comfortable looking positions that I can’t even remember half the ways we have found them. Thus, I regret having no photographic evidence to remind me of these wonderful moments.

See, at least I’m not such a bad parent that I would throw on the flash in a dark bedroom in the middle of their night for my own personal joy.

Today is our day ladies

Contrary to my usual posts, I have decided to write something mildly serious, and not completely pointless. Why you ask, because today is the United Nations International Women’s Day…WAIT WAIT WAIT, don’t leave, please read this, I promise it will be worth it***.

So, as I was saying, it is International Women’s day and many people question the necessity of such a day, well I don’t. A few weeks ago I got a letter addressed to Mr and Mrs Hubby’s Name Only…again (I adore you my dear…but come on, I deserve a name). I am an adult, a respectable, smart, ridiculously funny woman, and when I got married, I did not agree to become an appendage of my husband, nor did my husband expect this of me either.

I understand that this is “tradition”, but so what? Some traditions are stupid. This is one of those.

Many people think there is no need to celebrate women, no need for us to have a day, to fight for our rights, or to advocate for continued initiatives to help women, well, that’s crap. It is still completely needed and shouldn’t be ignored.

Why you ask?

Well here are a few reasons (from my rich first world life, which I fully understand has all the advantages that so many people are still missing):

  • My management chain all the way to the top are men. Capable men, but men all the same. At my level, in my field of view at work, we are pretty well equal, but up one more level and suddenly the ratio drops to about 10% female, up one more, and it drops further.
  • On the radio station I listen to, they took requests for songs to celebrate women on Friday and all the respondents that I heard made requests for songs written by men, that mention women’s names. Seriously? Shouldn’t we maybe celebrate female artists and their achievements?
  • My base salary remains less than my husbands. We work not only in the same field, but in the same company and hold the same position.
  •  Maternity leave is still seen as an issue for advancement. Seriously, in a 40 year career, is a few months off really that big of a deal? Nobody seems to think an extended sickness leave of a man should impact his career, why should a mat leave be different?

Okay, these may seem like things that should be considered the icing on the cake compared to what some women suffer, I get that, but again, so what? I still see a world that is not open to me, and I don’t see why I shouldn’t work to remove the walls, ceilings (glass or otherwise) and open doors that are in my way. Not only for myself, but for every other woman who is standing beside me. I know I am lippy, bold, in your face, and full of energy, why shouldn’t I take these gifts to move the world in a direction that just makes sense.

I think it is insanely important to not lose sight of these inequalities, because they are still there, and all the rules that govern our society and impact us from near infancy are defined primarily by men, ensuring that the inequalities will remain. We need more women at the top to challenge the status quo and help those that are in no position to help themselves.

To help the little girl on the playground who is called bossy for telling a boy what to do, when no one bats an eye when it is the other way around.

To help the woman who has followed her partner around the world for his career, raised their children, only to be left with very little when he decides to move on.

To help the woman in corporate America who sits alone in a meeting room full of men and is asked to pour the coffee and take notes.

To help the woman who stands up on stage, delivers a powerful speech and the only thing she hears when she is done is that her dress is lovely.

To help all women everywhere to be seen as people, to be seen for their personalities, their skills, their talents, and not just their gender.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not a man hater, not even close. I don’t think men are out to get women,  I don’t think most men even realise the thousands of little ways they are pushed forward while women are held back. They are small ways, they are almost imperceptible, it’s in the fairy tales we hear as children, it’s in all the language we hear around us every day, it’s in the way school programs are designed, it’s on the television, it’s in the toy stores, it’s literally everywhere.  Small little reminders that girls should be quiet and calm and boys should be powerful and strong.

This mind set not only hurts the girls, but it’s not doing any favours for the boys either. Men are so poorly equipped to handle their emotions that they are suffering as well. Men are rarely taught to deal with their emotions or to even accept that they have them and this leads to so many completely different issues that impact us all. Alcoholism, substance abuse, domestic violence, or violence of any kind are all the results of society not accepting men for the complex creatures that they are and giving them the tools to deal with their emotions.

This post is not just for my daughter and me, but for my husband and son as well. I want my husband to be able to say “I don’t work Wednesday afternoons; I look after my kids” without having some dillhole answering “Isn’t that your wife’s job?”. I want my son to be able to continue to take dance classes all his life if he so chooses without his masculinity being called into question.

I want my family to be good people, with equal opportunities, and lead long happy lives. I don’t think that is too much to ask.

HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY.

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***I hope it was worth the read, because it was definitely worth writing and if you feel it is a subject that is unimportant, well, it just goes to show how far we still are from a world where half the population is not left behind.

 

Random act of kindness, again!

So, since accusing my dear friend of trying to kill me well over a year ago now, I have started to actually enjoy running. In February for example, I ran a total of 39.5 km (thank you smart phone and running app, seriously, how did people run back when they had to use an actual paper map to find out how far they ran). I fully realise that in a month, I still ran less than a few of my friends do in a few hours when they run their “marathons”, and it took me WAY longer, but whatever, that’s pretty awesome for someone who thought running = death not so long ago.

Today, I went for a long run, which in my world meant 11 km, which is the longest I have ever run in one go. Yes I got lost, but that’s not why I ran so far, I would have run just as far not getting lost, but it would have been WAY more boring.

In any case, just as I was finishing up km 9, I was half way up a killer hill, trying to give myself the force to keep going, and a random dude out washing his car lifted his head and said “Bravo”.

I don’t know if he knew how much I was suffering at that point, I mean I wasn’t hiding it, I was dripping with sweat, my face was probably a solid cherry colour and plastered with an expression of pure pain and suffering, but still, maybe he didn’t know. But man, THAT was exactly what I needed to keep going. A smile broke across my face, I thanked him, and I even found a little left over energy to speed up a bit (and before anyone even thinks to comment, it was not a young little hotty , it was a middle-aged, slightly over-weight kind gentleman who took pity on a struggling wannabe athlete).

I gracefully (at least that is what I choose to think I look like when I’m jogging) finished my last 2 km, drank 2 liters of orange juice mixed with water (see Dad, I do listen to you), and stretched for nearly 40 minutes. I didn’t necessarily need to stretch for that long, but I was a little terrified that if I sat down, I may cease to be able to get back up again (Barney running a marathon anyone?).

In any case, thank you random dude for your kindness, and I’d also like to thank a dear friend who is doing this insanity tomorrow for giving me the willpower to run 11 km…in  a row…without stopping (okay, I stopped once to look at a map, I got really lost).

 

 

 

Too much TV?

When I sit down to spend some time in front of the TV, the purpose is quite clear, I want to relax or zone out or just wash the day off. I do not want to think, learn, discover or spend any energy whatsoever. As such, my taste in television programming is quite simple, it must be pointless (this is the most important characteristic), it must be funny, it must not contain any moral lessons, it must not make me feel a single emotion and it must be, well, entertaining. If it gives me hope that good will conquer over evil as well, I’ll allow it.

So, what fits into that criteria?

A lot of really stupid shows, a few sit-coms and a few silly crime shows (not serious crime shows like CSI or extra stupid crime shows like CSI Miami..seriously, when I heard the phrase “He’s got a pulse, quick give him CPR” I gave up on that one completely).

Right now, the crime TV  has taken over (Castle…it’s only Castle) and Hubby and I have been watching that quite frequently. But I’ve started to notice a few small side effects to this genre.

First, when I go to the beach (in February…yeah that’s right family, you are suffering through -27C and 40cm of snow and I’m at the beach), and there is something floating in the water, my first thought is “dead body” rather than “drift wood”.

Or, when I am at a childrens park with my kids and I see something hanging in a tree, my first thought is “dead body” rather than “some kids lost sweater”.

Basically, with my poor eyes, everything I can’t see clearly at first sight is “dead body”.

Second, when I’m out jogging and I hear gun shots (these were actual gunshots not my overzealous imagination; some dumbass hunter was a little too close to our park), my first thought is that if I get hit with a stray bullet, I’d better send a text message to my husband to tell him asap what happened so that when the hunters come to “cover up” their mistake and kill me and then hide the body, Hubby knows to keep digging.

I may be going out on a limb here saying that that may not be what typical people call normal thoughts.

Third, I’m now suspicious of everything, and I mean everything…nothing is what it seems, everyone is lying and it’s all just a big conspiracy. I’m also terrified of ever being alone and having no alibi for whatever crime someone is going to frame me for. It’s exhausting living in this constant state of fear. Also, just to please O, when I went to bed last night, there was something scary creeping along in the hallway, and I started to freak out so Hubby turned on the light (smart man) and it turned out to be a fly.

So with all these insights, changes in my mental state, and complete exhaustion from living in a constant state of fear, will I stop watching crime TV? Probably not, Castle is a really good show.

 

Life is weird

Life is weird. I don’t mean this in the existential way, like it’s so weird that life on Earth grew from nothing, and now we are being hurled through a universe that is so big that the concept of the size of the universe is too big for any one human head to contemplate. I mean that’s all sorts of weird, but it’s not the weird I’m focused on today.

When I say weird, I am talking about your every day, run of the mill odd, unusual, bizarre, wtf-esque. Let’s just start with nature, I grew up in Canada and sometimes wore a hat and mitts mid-October. Last week, however, I was at the beach and my kids were in the sea. I “understand” the science behind why there are different climates and such around the world, but this doesn’t stop it from being weird. I mean, my son is still trying to figure out the whole time zone thing that is flipping him out. I thought he had it some-what figured out until my dad told me he tried to call him at 4 am his time this morning.

Beach Oct 2015

So, back to the weird, last week on some day I don’t remember precisely, just after lunch, I walked into my house after eating outside on the terrace. I think terrace is the right word, it’s definitely not a porch or a deck; it is not a balcony, and it wasn’t a picnic in the garden, so until told otherwise, I will stick with terrace-I also feel it is worth noting that in my head, I read that tear-iss, not terr-ass.

So, I walked inside and found what looked like the outcome of a pillow fight from the movies, because they always have the cheapest quality pillows in the movies, as soon as anyone hits someone else, the pillow explodes in a cloud of feathers. They should seriously talk to whomever buys their pillows and suggest a new supplier, or at least a discounted price. I would go bankrupt if every time I threw a pillow at one of my kids it exploded. For the record, throwing pillows is not a form of punishment, my kids just really like pillow fights.

So, in my living room, feathers everywhere…and a half eaten bird carcass (that I will be pronouncing cark-ass rather than the more traditional car-kus, because it was super gross on top of being weird). The horrifying part was that this was perfectly explainable weird, and it turned out to NOT be the weirdest part of my day. In any case, it would seem my kittens are expert hunters and although I hope I won’t need to clean up their exploits very often, I am feeling positive about our rat problem (which is actually no longer a problem, but with any luck my mega hunters will keep it from happening again).

The weird culminated towards the end of the day, when my little girl was granted 20 minutes of iPad. She has taken a fancy to watching videos of kids playing with toys, and sometimes adults playing with toys. This whole concept of adults playing with toys frankly deserves a whole chapter in this post, but I am not feeling the energy or open mindedness to do justice to a group of adults who take time out of their days to tape themselves playing with toys, while narrating their actions and then posting said videos on the internet. I don’t understand so much about that, that it would read ??????? with a few wtfs and not much more.

So as per the norm, Cutie-Pie started watching a video of a little girl playing with something equivalent to an easy bake oven…in Russian. Yup, Russian. For like 10 seconds, I was concerned about the appropriateness of the language being used because I don’t speak Russian, so I couldn’t tell if they were using profanity or anything. I wish I could say I realised my own stupidity before asking Hubby his opinion, but then I would be lying. Luckily Hubby responded to my question with a crappy joke, so I just made fun of him to get the heat off of me.

Cutie-Pie broke our banter by laughing at her Russian friend and her easy bake oven – apparently it was a really good joke. We spent the next few moments in stunned silence and just before turning off the iPads, we learned that “double cheeseburger” is pronounced “double cheese burger” in Russian, this being a perfectly normal phrase to use when baking.