Archive for August, 2010|Monthly archive page

I Got This

Last night, I helped a baby sleep. And in doing so, his parents. I lay on the couch, a little sack of long limbs and full belly curled into my side, and read the newspaper while New Mom took a nap and New Dad took a walk.

It was the most productive thirty minutes of my day.

The new parents were so grateful – not that I did much. I just showed up, insisted on not being entertained, changed a diaper, did the Mommy Hip Sway, handed New Baby over to New Mom for a feed when feeding time came, and cuddled on the couch when sleeping time came. That’s all.

“I got this,” I told New Mom as New Baby fussed. “Go take a shower.”

“We’re doing OK,” I told New Dad as New Baby snuggled. “Go get some quiet.”

I keenly remember just how much all this tiny-seeming stuff really is. How overwhelming. How terrifying. How exhausting. I remember what it’s like to be that grateful for a ten minute shower, for the luxury of a walk around the block with no one but your dog.

I’d forgotten, though, the satisfaction my mere presence, my soft snuggly side, my smell could bring. Twenty seconds after New Baby settled into my arms, he was asleep. Turns out I was exactly the right pillow at exactly the right time. And after an exhausting, anxious, unceasing day at work and home in my own life, it was such a pleasure to provide relief to theirs.

Last night, I made peace happen.

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Here He Goes Again…

There were paintbrushes, palettes and paint. Sheets of canvas paper were taped to the splash boards – one for each of us. Bonhomme had the cool tones, I had the warm. I had sponge brushes, he had the roller. We had our art on.

I’m dabbing away, practically humming with happy art thoughts. I probably was humming. Bonhomme is brushing, squishing, swirling, dipping, mixing, spreading.

“Look Momma, look at my hand!”

He shows me his completely purple hand. I make some sort of approving Mommy noise. I keep on swabbing.

“Momma, don’t put your hands here, HERE – because it’s hot. It could BURN you!”

“Yeah? That big bluey-green spot?”

“Yeah! Because this is the burner, and that is the chocolate, and see, I’m cooling it here with this purple paint, see, it’s COOLing, that’s why my hand is purple. And then – then – then I’m gonna pour it, and make a CAKE! A chocolate cake. And now, I need to knead the dough, and spwinka spwinka spwinka! And I need some of your orange paint. Yeah. Cause that’s the ingredient that I NEED!”

You can take this kid out of the cooking, but you can’t take the cooking out of the kid.

The Idea Bank

What would happen if capitalism weren’t based solely on the concept of intellectual property? What if social media, entrepreneurship, philanthropy, innovation and invention could come together? What if ideas got developed because the world needed them to be, instead of because it would make the founder rich? What could we accomplish if we harnessed the dispersed computing power of the human brain?

I’d like to introduce to you a concept that’s been kicking around in my little wee human brain: The Idea Bank.

What if good ideas didn’t languish just because they don’t have any start-up capital, or a working prototype, or a backer? What if mediocre ideas didn’t get shelved because they’re missing that little something that will turn them into fabulous ideas? If only there were a place, a virtual place, a participative website of some sort where these ideas could go, accumulate, percolate, connect, grow, and inspire. Where ideas don’t have to be owned, protected, withheld. Where they were free for the taking, the improving, the transforming.

What if there existed a place, accessible to all citizens of the world, where we could donate our ideas?

I don’t know quite what this would look like, what challenges it would face. But that’s the beauty of The Idea Bank. I don’t have to know all the answers. I don’t have to do it all myself. I can just plant a single seed, and watch it grow.

As with any idea that could be donated to this as-yet-non-existent Idea Bank, I can’t make this happen on my own. But there’s this fabulous little idea that’s grown into an amazing, astounding, powerful thing: the Blogosphere. What if we didn’t leave R&D only to those big businesses willing to invest in it? What if social media set the agenda? Bloggers, help me out. If you like the idea of a global Idea Bank, make it happen. Go forth, and blog.

Introducing Food For Thought

I’ve decided to start a new, regular feature – where I share a link to a news article that made me think, on a topic near and dear to my heart. Click, don’t click – whatever. But who knows? It might make you think too.

Today, it’s about the hidden costs of globalization and  off-shoring, and today’s cascading effects of yesterday’s policy decisions: moving the steel industry to China. Surely, food for thought.

What If?

Dearest suggested this morning that I consider running for school trustee in our district.

Hmm. Interesting notion.

I keep making it to the next stage in a competitive process for a manager position at my work.

Huh. Didn’t expect that.

When I’ve been speaking at meetings lately, the room has noticeably hushed. People seem to be paying a particular attention.

How odd.

I keep wondering who this period of my life will turn me into. What kind of future am I creating for myself?

I don’t like what I see in my workplace in terms of leadership, priority setting and problem solving these days. Nor do I like the same in my city council. And I have a big beef with people who also don’t like these same things, but choose to either complain about it, or protect themselves from it. For instance, I don’t think private schools and gated communities are inherently good for our society. Oh, I certainly understand their appeal. Boy do I ever. Who wouldn’t want what’s safest for their children? But here’s the thing. Is safest the same thing as best? What kind of a future do we want for our children? One that is collaborative and integrated, or one that is competitive and exclusionary? One that brings us together, or one that pushes us apart?

Choosing not to make a decision is still a decision; policy-making by default. Not being involved in how decisions are made doesn’t mean you are insulated from their effects.

This manager competition at work – I had a lot of angst over whether to apply. For one, more stress is the last thing I need right now. And in my recent experience filling in for my current manager over the summer, more stress is guaranteed. For another, being a manager would mean that I’d have to deal with idiots like that executive I wrote about earlier all the time. People like her would become my colleagues. But what did finally convince me to apply was a discussion with one of my team members just hours before the application deadline, a guy who’s had twenty years of managers in my particular organization. He completely understood my reservations, and there was no way in heck he was going to apply. But then, we looked at each other in horror, and wondered what if. What if we got someone who really sucked? Someone like her? Someone even worse than her? We both shuddered. I could live with incompetence, I could live with obliviousness, I could live with benign neglect. But casual cruelty? No. I draw the line. If someone like that won the position and became my direct supervisor, and I hadn’t even tried to provide an alternative? No.

It’s unlikely that I’ll win – I’m qualified, but barely. I’m very young. I have breadth, but not depth, of experience. It’ll depend on who I’m competing against; what kind of person they want. But I don’t really care if I win – in fact, I fear it. But not trying at all? That, I couldn’t bear.

So, indeed, what is this tomorrow I am planting the seeds of today? Who will I turn into? I don’t know, I can’t tell yet – but she sure sounds like someone I’d like to meet. Maybe even vote for.

A good cry does a body good

Today, I am considerably better. This is an inordinate relief. Especially in light of my most recent low, half an hour spent sobbing in the bathtub last night.

Whence this lightening of spirit? What on earth engendered this most welcome change?

Two things, I think.

1) I’ve decided (thirty minutes curled into a fetal position under scalding water is quite the opportunity for reflection) to from here-on apply one question, one fundamental question, to all my decisions. From the mundane to the profound, from monumental to miniscule. “Will this make me feel good?” Not will it make me happy. Not will it be the best decision given the circumstances. But will it make me feel good. Because if it will, then it will be good – it will be the healthy decision, the right one. Similarly to using my economic power to choose to support companies whose policies I agree with, I will use my willpower strategically, to support choices that will result in a healthier me. This means being smart about what movies I choose to watch, what news I choose to expose myself to, what books I choose to read, what clothes I wear, how I spend my time, what people I choose to be with. I am too fragile, too easily burdened by woe and empathy. I simply cannot afford to be cavalier with my emotions – my skin is too thin. Only health, wellness and goodness will do.

2) I’m discovering the power of my voice. I’ve been posting online comments at work for a while, usually on the topic of our workplace culture (which needs a heck of a lot of widely acknowledged improvement). Today, I posted about standards for expected behaviour, and about how sometimes seeing how some people treat each other at work makes me feel ill. I was polite, but firm. I didn’t pull any punches. It is dawning on me that if I don’t say anything – me, with a literature degree and a lifetime of scribbles – no one will. I have the words. Others might not. But that doesn’t make the bad behaviour OK – it just makes it that much more sinister. “Use your words!” we keep telling Bonhomme. He’s at that total three-year-old attitude stage, exploring the powers of intonation, volume, repetition and emotional manipulation. “I didn’t understand that because you were speaking in Whine,” I tell him. I wish I could have said the same to a certain executive of mine, who wanted to clear the air with me today over the completely unprofessional way she treated me during a moment of stress a few weeks back. I understood her point of view today, and I understood it at the time – but that doesn’t mean that she was right. Nor was the way she addressed me – either time. Using your position to bully and intimidate simply doesn’t fly with me. And when I witnessed that kind of intimidation today between colleagues (when it rains, it pours), I was just fuming. And so I wrote that post, and I did not mince words. Because so doing just encourages others to put up and shut up too. So, like my son, I’m learning to use my words. Because they matter. And my words are one thing my depression has never been able to stifle. If anything, the perspective depression gives me makes my words even that much more powerful –  and more important.

So, I am better today. Not perfect – there was another half-hour bathtub experience tonight, minus the tears and the fetal position – but better. I hope the betterness will continue. But I know that if it doesn’t, it won’t silence me. I’m done being silent. And that post about unacceptable behaviour in the workplace? It made me feel damn good.

One Bad Day Too Many

How did we get here – modern moms believing that we have to be everything to everybody?
Where did this come from?
Why is it so intrinsically, deeply – closely – held?

“The mothers in Spain,” my stepmom told me, after walking for two months along its dusty spine on the world-famous Camino de Santiago, “they never smile. The young women do, full of hope and vitality. The older women, the ones with children hanging on, hanging about, the ones with husbands chatting idly in the streets – they don’t. They’ve lost their laughter.”

I know how they lost it. And I worry that I am too.

My Top 10 “Yay Me!” List

You may have noticed that I’m feeling down in the dumps this week. Well, I’ve just come across something that may help me both immediately and in the long term – I read a blog post that suggests writing a list of ten things that I love about myself when I’m at my best. That way, I can use this list when I can’t otherwise see my strengths quite so clearly (being addle-brained, being way too hard on yourself and losing all perspective all usually happen during a depressive phase – at the same time). Without any further ado:

At my best and brightest, I am…

  • Endlessly creative
  • Full of great ideas
  • Funny
  • Someone you notice when walking down the street
  • Considerate
  • A good friend
  • Thought-provoking
  • Open-minded
  • Patient and calm
  • Someone you can count on

I’d hang out with someone like that. Hmm, kind of strange to realize that I do…

“Waiting For The Fridge Repair Man”

“Waiting For The Fridge Repair Man”

“Waiting For The Fridge Repair Man”

Artist: mindofgrace
Title: “Waiting For The Fridge Repair Man”
Materials: Acrylic on canvas paper
Size: 6″h x 12″w
Date: 17 August 2010

Living Via Osmosis

Some days I am simply
flayed,
spread open,
my insides become my skin.
On those (these) days,
every word is a scalpel,
every demand (need) a suction function.
I am an experiment,
displayed,
a fragile ecosystem.
Every action gets a (not equal) reaction.
If only I could be on the outside looking in,
dispassionate,
observing, observant.
I am the primordial muck,
unable to separate any one element from the whole (world).
I am elemental,
filleted,
condensed, reduced,
raw.
I am a permeable membrane.