Sunday, 21 August 2016

A Tragically Hip Good Bye

“There are three things we cry for in life: things that are lost, things that are found, and things that are magnificent.” ~ Douglas Coupland (Girlfriend in a Coma)

It’s the “last” Hip concert ……… I don’t mean that to be facetious, and I actually hope I’m wrong … I HOPE that I have 40 more years of watching Gord and the band play out my Canadian rock poet fantasies, I hope he kicks this cancer shit to the curb and leaves it there …………… but the odds aren’t in his, or my or anyone’s, favour ….. he is leaving us line by line, word by precious word.

When I started watching tonight’s concert I thought I could handle it ………. As a fan from the first album, a spectator to many a tour, and a lucky soul who saw the first concert of THIS tour in Victoria, BC. Tuning in tonight felt like a patriotic book ending of a National experience, a fan’s simple act of reverence. But it was so much more. I wasn’t prepared for what happened tonight. The tearing open of deep wounds. The hemorrhaging of emotions, this might really BE what this really seems like, and they made it look easy enough to not seem like what it is. The behind the scene of their embraces and kisses was so piercingly intimate and genuine that it caught in your chest and let you know the night was going to get pretty honest and pretty raw. They took to the stage with all that grace and intimacy; as family.

“Any given moment – no matter how casual, how ordinary, is poised full of gaping life” ~ Anne Michaels (Fugitive Pieces)

There is a little friction among the found fans and the old fans, the lost fans and the non fans ….. but enough, this is not our path, for our Canadian path – the path that has always defined us – is far more twisted and complicated than that. Our path is one of misstep and overcoming, of individuality and unique weirdness ………. And what could be more Tragically Hip than that? The truth is everyone, old and new fans, true and fickle fans, have tried to pay tribute …….. tried beautifully, and aren’t we better for the trying? Can’t that, at least, we all agree on? The truth is that NOT all Canadians love the Hip, many don’t even like them, and that’s ok …. Honest. The best way to describe why the Hip is still so relevant to all Canadians is their mastery of the Canadian voice, their bent to the crooked, their unique brand of weird …. And as Canadians we seem to adore that. We can’t say why, but we do. You may not like the Hip, but chances are as a Canadian you like love an artist or art form quite like them. We seem to like our artists to show us the beautifully terrible and the terribly beautiful about ourselves and then try to make those ragged pieces fit ….. to me that sums up Canada.

“Yeah. We’re sweet but savage, and I think a lot of Canadians are that way” ~ Bruce McCulloch, KITH

My family travelled to Victoria, BC to see them open this tour. I was so grateful to have been able to take our kids with us and also that they had seen the Hip tour before as well. The Hip was well known for it’s quirky performances: Gord dancing and writhing on stage, songs often taking sharps turns into dark places: tangents and tall tales, and the amazing ability of the musicians to seamlessly keep up with the ever changing landscape of their songs. God those guys can play. So, this tour it really stood out how contained Gord was, how tightly the band played around him (both in proximity and timing), and the strength it was taking to be there (as a band and as a fan). I felt prepared for this CBC televised final concert, because I had already seen one, but I wasn’t. I was a mess the moment they started to play. Sobbing and overwhelmed. By the time they hit Little Bones they had hit their stride but the awful truth of his illness kept shattering the moments of perfect lucidity with waves from a broken brain, like ripples on a still pond and all around helpless to stop it. My brother texted me as he watched and made the insightful comment “I can’t help but wonder what he is thinking … of us. Is he worried? That he will forget the words? He is using the teleprompter because I think the cancer is eating the words away from him.” (He’s a PhD in science but sometimes he can really turn a phrase) I answered back “the brain finds a way, the rest of the show you watch his brain fire up and his body turn to ash. He’s running on will. It’s phenomenal. I wish you could have seen them live before, it was bizarre and wonderful, he danced and played with the audience, he was a poet …. A poet with an amazing group of musicians who joked he was a dancer. Every show was so weird and thought provoking and fun”. But this tour? I’m not sure what we’re watching, we’re bearing witness to something very personal, and it will be different for everybody.

“The first sentence of any novel should be: trust me, this will take time but there is order here, very faint, very human.” ~ Michael Ondaatje (In the Skin of a Lion)

The moments Gord watched the crowd were so undefinable and very raw. This feat that the band has pulled off, this experience they have generously shared with their fans only worked because of the sincerity, authenticity, and incredible vulnerability of the band members and their fans ..... something small and precious and emotional; like a sun warmed piece of ocean glass in your pocket. A mutual gift of gratitude. The band: Paul, Rob, Gord, and Johnny somehow finding the power to will it all into being. I cannot fathom where they found the courage and strength to honour their friend in this way.

“Conversation in it’s true meaning isn’t all wagging the tongue; sometimes it is deeply shared silence.” ~ Robertson Davies (The Rebel Angels)

When Gord did speak it was either to express gratitude or to issue a challenge. He is, at his core, the kind of artist who likes to shine light into dark places, to never let a self satisfied happiness go undisturbed. He expressed deep concern over the state of the Northern peoples and specifically our Metis and First Nations peoples. A parting shot reminding us we still had many wrongs to right. He glowed over Prime Minister Trudeau and implored us to follow him where we need to go on this. For what it’s worth I think Gord is right on both counts: that Trudeau is worthy of the responsibility and that the responsibility is deeply worthy of undertaking. Imperative in fact. I am so glad he did not shy away from this part of himself. That this disease, this tour, this experience has not eroded his character or sense of self. I love people who have a moral compass that points straight and true, a good soul, a conflicted beautiful messy unrelenting messenger. Cancer may be stealing his words, but not his message. And the message he has always delivered has been one of the importance of tearing open old wounds so we may try to heal them properly. To bear witness. To tell stories. To never allow the pleasant to get in the way of the real.

“I didn’t know how to say ‘I’m sorry’ but the big tear that went out of my eye said it for me.” ~ Robert Munsch (From Far Away)

“The two most important phrases in the human language are ‘if only’ and ‘maybe someday’. Our past mistakes and our unrequited longings. The things we regret and the things we yearn for. That’s what makes us who we are.” ~ Will Ferguson (Happiness)

When Gord hit the stage in that amazing silver sparkling suit and they broke into “Something On” the entire band seemed to exhale. The tight breath they all had been holding, and everyone watching had been holding, suddenly exhaled. It was tangible. Joy entered the room. The sorrow and the joy mingled as it had in Victoria a month earlier, a feast of the bitter and the sweet. The joy fuelled the rest of the night and honoured the pleasure they have clearly shared together over the years. There was a quiet strength and dignity to it, a slow powerful beautiful burn. I can’t imagine another band anywhere pulling it off. “Those guys fucking love each other. I hope my kids can have friends they love that much” my brother texted to me. “Yup” ……. Because how often does someone really let you in like that to see? Brave isn’t a big enough word.

The void which would be left by the loss of Gord Downie’s voice if we lose him will be immense. But we can all endeavour to seek out the wealth of other Canadian artists … the keepers of our voice, our Philosophers. Canada is full of people who express the answers in search of our questions, who challenge us, who remind us of who we are and who we could be. In fact, the only thing that saved me from utterly falling apart during the entire CBC broadcast was putting pen to paper, scrawling out words that passed through me, and soothed me. I searched for words of other Canadian artists that resonated for me. I scribbled down thoughts as they unfolded and the lens I watched through changed from one of grief and loss to one of celebration and expression. I hope that people will seek to express and actively find other Canadian artists who make them feel like the Hip. I have shared many quotes throughout this blog from such Canadian writers to inspire you. Please find the words that speak to you about this amazing, complicated country. I think it could be essential.

“You wish you could tell yourself
that this is all too sentimental.
You want to agree with the person
who said, “There’s no salvation
in geography.”
But you can’t
and you’re beginning to suspect
that deep within you,
like a latent gene, is this belief
that we belong somewhere.”
~ Bronwen Wallace, a Poet from Kingston who died of cancer at age 44 (excerpt from ‘Lonely for the Country’)

I’d still like to believe that it won’t be true, that Gord Downie will live through this and continue to front the Tragically Hip for decades. Maybe we can keep him. But this felt like good bye; a knowing, bone deep felt good bye. And it felt so incredibly special that they gave us the time and energy to do it. I wrote a blog about my feelings after the band broke the news of Gord Downie’s illness because I wanted to acknowledge how important they have been to me, even just for myself (the link is below in case you're curious). I knew I would have to write again when the tour was over, just as so many people have done, and express just how grateful I feel to have experienced this. I have loved the Hip from their beginning. I was there and we have grown together; they feature heavily in my soundtrack as it were, and so many Canadians feel the same way. They have an ability to create a song that feels written or performed just for you …. even when in a room, a hall, a stadium, a Nation full of people who feel the same way. Hip fans are all the authors of their own interpretations of Hip songs …… Thank you Gord, Paul, Rob, Gord, and Johnny for being the powerful subtext.

Let's get friendship right
Get life day to day
In the forget yer skates dream
Full of countervailing woes
In diverse as ever scenes
Proceeding on a need to know
In a face so full of meaning
As to almost make it glow
For a good life
We just might have to weaken
And find somewhere to go
Go somewhere we're needed
Find somewhere to grow
Go somewhere we're needed
~ The Tragically Hip (excerpt from ‘It’s a good life if you don’t weaken’)

In the end it was just Gord on stage as he simply stated “Goodbye everybody. Have a nice life.” And no one doubted the sincerity of that. It was just so fucking Canadian.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Bras. Lowering your standards to raise your spirits ... and girls.

So I realize I talk about my boobs with nauseating regularity ....... but at this point in our online relationship you may need to accept that it's not going to stop and embrace it. For me, my breast awareness mirrors my awareness and feelings about myself ....... both took a long time for me to accept, both suffered from self inflicted impossibly high expectations, both have gone south fast as I have gotten older. Pfffft. Also, I am at times both a figurative and literal BOOB.
And so I, as you all well know, have a drawer bursting with bras which make me ...... unhappy. They poke, deflate, bubble boob, cone boob, dangle boob, back boob, side boob, drop boob, uni boob, NW SE boob (I'll give you a minute on that one ......), and generally, literally and figuratively, 'let the girls down'. Sigh.
None of this is an excuse, but simply an explanation. I went to a store I will call Vancouver Hush-Hush and bought a $50 bra for the girls ... and the girls are happy-ish. Look, I WANTED to send a clear 'vote with your dollar' message that I will not support a company that makes lingerie for 8 year olds. I WANTED to hold my ground and not support a company that says it embodies the modern self actualized sexual strong woman but then creates advertising layouts which look suspiciously like the brain child of Charlie Sheen and his porn family, and runway events that appear choreographed by Hugh Hefner himself. Pfffft. I WANTED to buy into the notion that price equates quality and you get what you pay for. However, I went in and a lovely, shapely girl named 'Clinique Happy' (no, not really, she was named after a different fragrance but I'm protecting her identity) fitted me into a version of the same model of bra that has been my when-I'm-feeling-bad-about-myself-go-to for about 6 years. Of course, I had to exchange it the next day as the band width she talked me into was definitely too big and was sliding up my back (which means doooown my front) and I knew that would be the case but I was trying to be "nice" and then festered about it all night until I went back and exchanged it. She was nice about it. The girls are just happier being in the locked north and upright position with their friends the back boobs than they are heading south and dangling. Just saying.
To anyone who bore with me through this, my 8 millionth diatribe about boobies, the lesson is that sometimes you have to go with what makes you happy, sometimes you have to eschew conventional wisdom and embrace the fact that a cheaper item can and will out perform a self declared superior one, sometimes you can try to hold some semblance of moral high ground by participating in the real world and the parts of it you don't like by engaging in meaningful dialogue about the changes you want to see without actually abstaining from the industry you want to change (like a vegetarian who eats bacon). A good bra is important ladies, every girl with boobs knows it. All those bra-burning feminists of the 70s have come clean ...... few, if any, actual bras were ever burned. It turns out it was one of those seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time ideas that fizzled because A. it was a largely symbolic gesture by a woman who didn't really need her bra and threw it in the trash can at the Miss America pageant protest B. they couldn't get the flame retardant poly blend material lit before the police showed up to stop them and C.from that point on every boobied woman at a rally said "hell NO, I NEED this bra".
So that's my latest story in my continuing bra saga. I'm still not "there". I am still conflicted. I am still battling "squish points". I am still cheap as heck. But today I'm feeling ok about myself .... well, ok-ish, because I feel like the girls will be supported and look alright and because I expressed myself, and in any self awareness journey that's a start.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Dear Auto Mechanic

In Canada, women first exercised their right to vote in a federal election in 1921. That is in 1921 if they were white women; Canadians of Asian and east Asian decent could not vote until after WW2, and First Nations women could not vote until the 60s …. The 1960s. Tangled in this journey are a mishmash of Provincial rulings (as late as the 1940s in Quebec) and a confounding journey for women to actually run for office instead of merely vote for which man would hold it. And the journey continues from the fight to be legally recognized as persons, own property, run for and hold office, through the ongoing struggles to gain the right to have control over her own body, obtain and keep any job in any field and be treated with respect and as credible. We struggle with the ever elusive wage parity issue and we struggle to find and define the feminist approach to motherhood in all it’s ways of being. Women struggle on.

And so it seems in this modern time when we’ve come so far and yet have so far to go that we should not ever give our power away; never stumble and fail to rise ………. Yet every fucking time I go into a service bay it happens. Pfffft.

Taking my car into a service bay has become a ‘thing’ for me. A place where I feel an overwhelming sense of female inferiority being projected upon me, even if it is only imagined. I KNOW most men who work in the car service industry aren’t misogynists, I am well aware that there are many women who share their profession and rock it, and I am perfectly conscious of the fact that I could go out and learn about the modern combustion engine so I could confidently discuss the maintenance and repair needs of my vehicle. But I don’t want to have to become a mechanic to be able to talk to a mechanic. What I want is to go into a service bay and NOT feel like they think I’m stupid. Just once I want to drive in and not see a thought bubble above the technician’s head reading “how do you operate the pedals without your vagina getting in the way?” Just once I want to ask a question about my car’s treatment plan without the service adviser's eyes saying “if you weren’t so female, you’d understand.” Just once I want to go into a car care experience without feeling like, one way or another, I’m going to get screwed.

Everybody holds expert knowledge about something. Some of us can explain the space time continuum or how to make a Yorkshire pudding that stays leavened, or how to cure a sheep of foot rot. Some of us have traveled the globe and know the best way to open-jaw your way around Europe. Some of us can perform an Aortic transplant. Some of us can identify which Jane Austen novel is which by the first line. Some of us can dance. Some of us can fold 3 loads of laundry while doing Kegels. Some of us can drive a bus. Some of us can execute a Party for 18 preschoolers and keep smiling. Some of us can make Zelda a legend. Some of us can land a 747. Some of us can grow zucchini. And some of us can fix cars. But it only seems to be the ones who fix cars who make me want to tie down my boobies and don a fake mustache in order to feel like they aren’t upselling me service and holding my vehicle for ransom. When I go to the Gynecologist I may not know many of the words they are using to describe my physical parts, but I still feel like the expert in the room when it comes to my own mammaries and genitals. When I go to the mechanic I just feel like a tit as he has his head up under my skirt. Pfffffffffft.

In truth I struggle to think of an industry I have less trust in than auto mechanics. It’s ingrained into the culture of it. There are just too many stories out there of rip offs, coercion, unnecessary work, shoddy work, misdiagnosis, etc. I know there are MANY good and honourable auto mechanics; I myself have experienced them, but we ALL have an experience or two that festers deep. Combine that with the entire auto industries’ lighted mirror in the passenger seat approach to their female consumers and we have a recipe for a relationship built on wariness and animosity …… at least for this girl sitting in the driver’s seat pulling into the service bay.  So Auto Repair industry please be aware that I know that you don’t WANT me to feel like this, and know that I acknowledge that a lot of this is my demon to wrestle with so to speak. But I carry a huge amount of angst when it comes to feeling respected, valued, and trusting while you are under the hood of my beloved minivan. I carry a huge debt of gratitude to the woman warriors who have fought and won so much for me to be where I am and I feel like I am letting them down as I am gripped by terror in your shop. Be aware that our relationship could use some mending. Be aware that there are a lot of us drivers-with-vaginas who feel the same way.

Fun facts:
A woman named Mary Anderson invented the windshield wiper in 1902.
In 1916 the Girl Scouts introduced the 'Automobiling' badge ...  BEFORE women won the National vote.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Gord Downie and Life and Grief

Mark just messaged me with this news. This one got me. So often we hear sad news about a celebrity and it touches us, because we have "memories" of their movies/songs/concerts/art/moves/goals/etc. But it's not real. We don't/didn't know them. They don't/didn't know us. It's good we feel a little sad because it shows their accomplishments touched us, and it shows we have empathy. But then we move on. It's not our place to 'grieve' with that real life person or their friends and family. They grieve the person .... we're only grieving the ghost/the mirage/the image.
But within that, there is always a caveat isn't there? For everyone there is some exception. Gord Downie is my exception. This feels like family. His songs are woven into the underbelly of every part of my growing up (a process that spans from those early recollections of awakening from childhood right up until now and continues still .... I'm not sure I'll ever feel like a grown up). The Hip's songs colour such a huge number of my memories. First jobs, the taste on my tongue of dirt and sunshine working in the yard, my first kiss, my first broken heart, growing in and out of friendships, painting rooms (so much painting rooms), home repair projects, the slow slip of time on perfectly free afternoons, long long road trips, falling in love, then falling in love for real. I hear their songs when I recall the scent of my new babies, how I sang Hip songs to them because I was too tired to remember any lullabies, and how right that felt. I remember falling asleep for the first time in the arms of a man, listening to the Hip ...... his favourite Hip album was Up to here, mine was Road Apples ..... he married me anyways.
So this news of Gord Downie is exceptional in it's sadness for me. I am so sad for me and I am so sad for him. He is an artist that continually created poems and music that felt authentic, and sincere. He made art he got ...... and he and the band didn't seem to give a shit if anyone else did. But it didn't feel like they were defiant about that, simply naked .... laid bare. It either spoke to you or it didn't. Most of the time I got it. There is a deeply Canadian feel to his lyrics, something intangible but undeniable, whatever the 'Canadian' voice is they found it. His songs felt like stories, tales of how to be strong and how to break open to let the good stuff out.
I send my heartfelt condolences to Gord Downie, to his family, to the Hip, to his friends, to his fans. I know sad hard days lie ahead for them. I know he doesn't know me, but his music does, so I'm going to hold a little of this grief back for me.

Following the Victoria, BC concert. I posted this about the experience: So it's Friday, and we are with our children watching the hip. Gord ascended to the stage resplendent in a shimmering fushia suit .... and sang, Boots or Hearts, barely audibly above the crowd ..... who hit every note and screamed every word. It took my breathe away. 
The crowd is giddy on joy and sorrow. Happy Friday. Go feast upon the bitter and the sweet. GO!

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Please. Go Public. Fund Public.

According to my ‘magic Google machine’ Alberta was providing at least some level of publicly funded, publicly provided Education in every jurisdiction in the province by 1905. The fight to create a public education system in Alberta, and throughout Canada, was not accidental nor easy. It was a deliberate attempt to create a system which supported equality, promoted democratic principals, and attempted to sow the seeds of a civil pluralistic society. It had many detractors, and there are so very many ways it has fallen short. It was a noble idea which for decades still practiced exclusion. Just a few of the sadly notable examples are exclusion of Chinese Canadians, and exclusion of our own First Peoples. We’ve lost our way time and time again, but as we push wider the circle of inclusion, as we invite more and more in, we grow closer to the ideal …….. we get closer to living up to the incredible potential of what a great public system of education can be. But we’re still fighting this ghost of exclusion, and in the case of private schools, we’re still paying for it. It’s time for that to stop.

See, a Private Members Motion (504) stands before the Provincial legislature calling on the current government to “affirm its support for private and charter schools.” And the cost of doing so, it appears, is at least 200 million dollars a year. 200 million to further this idea of exclusion. 200 million for Private schools who hand pick their students, and can reject any student who they don’t feel make the cut. 200 million to allow them to select only students who are very unlikely to ever fail, and then pat themselves on the back when those students succeed. 200 million for segregated schools. I think it’s time to use that money on the system that does it’s best to take them all as they come and sees no child as more worthy than another. I’m disappointed that we’re still fighting over whether or not that is an ideal worth fighting for.

I understand that some private schools are attempting to fill gaps in dealing with certain special needs. I still think we can fight harder to improve how those needs are met within the public system. Inclusive education is a mountain to climb, but we’ll climb it in much better company together. Let’s not lose sight of that.

I understand that some private schools are attempting to meet the needs of various cultural or religious viewpoints. I believe wholeheartedly that families and churches can teach their own beliefs but that the goal of public education must remain secular. 4 years ago I wrote another blog (sort of) on this subject and I said “school boards walk the razors edge between allowing every child to come replete with their own beliefs, and keeping those beliefs from colliding in destructive discourse, resentment, and conflict”. I also said “In my opinion, Public school should be mandatory and must remain secular. There is a greater good that is served by us all learning to get along. Allowing groups to break away and learn in these little unchallenged homogenous groups does not teach the skills required to get along with everyone in the future. If you’ve learned to be together in school then you will have discovered all the ways that you are the same, instead of focusing on all the ways you are different. Let’s call it ‘competency in togetherness’ and it does not need to mean that you give up your beliefs”. I’m not sure I can say it any better than this now; we either believe we can learn and live together or we don’t. I believe we can and must. I’d like to put 200 million on that please. Let it ride.

I understand that many private schools attract parents through fear. Many families, particularly those new to Canada, are manipulated and frightened into believing that Public education is lacking, inferior, and insufficient. Instead of taking the time to understand that an education is more than marks and test scores and rankings posted by think tanks that think they can sum up a school by looking at marks on a page. It’s time to fight back against the fear. It’s time to proclaim loudly that each of these kids is a diamond in the rough and the greater goal of Public education is to prepare them for a future that is yet unwritten in a land of every people in a bold wonderful experiment that we don’t yet know will work. Just a few days ago I wrote a related blog and said “Our school system here in Canada isn't perfect. Never has been, never will be. But it's based on this beautiful and noble idea that if we give every child the same well rounded knowledge and experience then they will come out the other side happy, and knowing enough to know a little about everything and a lot about who they are. It's a dream ....... a goal ......... an important solution to this problem of balancing a future full of open doors with a slow enough pace to enjoy and appreciate what's behind each one. We know a school aged child's mind won't be ready to see that, so maybe the gift is teaching them nothing more than to be curious enough to open lots of doors and wise enough to figure out the ones to walk through”. Again I believe any Canadian (new or old) has already doubled down on the crazy idea that this wonderful mess we’ve made will work. Let’s not let people opt out of Public Education out of fear it won’t.

Lastly, I understand that some people simply, sadly, view themselves as superior (or at least somehow more deserving?). And they want to be able to pay their way into something they consider “better” …… and ultimately they have the wealth to back that belief up. I wish they didn’t feel that way. I don’t think they’re better than me, or you, or my kid, or yours ……… the whole notion doesn’t gel with any of my close held beliefs on equality, but I probably can’t change people like them. Probably not. Sigh. But I can ask that we stop helping them to the tune of 200 million dollars. Just saying.

Look, I know all about privilege. I am so darn privileged it’s not even funny. I am educated. I am healthy. I have 2 gorgeous children who, aside from being weird like me, have no major challenges to learning. My children never worry about where their next meal or their clean clothes will come from. They arrive each day at school fed, clean, well-rested, and with the things they need to learn. I live in one of Edmonton’s most expensive areas. But it is also an area with a large tract of CHRC community housing. This means my kid’s elementary school is likely Edmonton’s school with the widest socioeconomic spread, and an incredibly diverse population. My family chose to go there, in part, because of that not in spite of it. Because we don’t believe in segregation. Because we believe in equality and the principles behind it. Because we believe everyone has something to offer, everyone has something to learn, and that happens best in a diverse setting. Because we believe they are all diamonds. Because it's just a really great place to be. It’s hard and I know the school struggles under the weight of its diverse challenges at times; somehow they make it look easy …….. but I know it isn’t. The school community there rallies around these diverse needs and differences and helps where it can. It’s really so very beautiful …… and so much more than the sum of its marks or it’s grades (though they are actually very good) or it’s ranking on that piece of paper from some right-wing think tank who has never bothered to come visit. And despite it all I know it will still launch many, many children (from all socioeconomic levels) who will take the world by the tail, and furthermore I believe they will be well-rounded and have a great perspective on life. So why do we need to let people ‘opt out’ of that? And why do we need to spend at least 200 million a year to help them opt out?

Saturday, 16 April 2016

10 Things You discover by going to your first ever Iron Maiden concert at 43 years of age

1. When your very excited husband gives your very excited boys tickets to Iron Maiden for Christmas you should try harder to seem more excited. 
2. When an Iron Maiden concert is still 3 months away, your 10 year old child will start operatically performing renditions of ‘Aces High’ every damn day in the Bathroom and it is important NOT to laugh when he can see you.
3. While anticipating a momentous experience at his first Iron Maiden concert, your 13 year old will load his MP3 player with Iron Maiden songs and listen each day while on the bus, and each evening while reading. He will commit to this studious work in a way that, if applied to his academic studies, would get him into med school. 
4. In the week leading up to your first Iron Maiden concert your husband will call or text you randomly from work to see if you are “going to wear your white wrap around fly jeans to the concert”. You will snicker at the thought because A. Your white jeans weren’t wrap around fly, they were Fancy Ass, duh. B. The idea is so ludicrous. And C. there is no way they would fit even if you still had them …… but he still kinda sees you the same. It’s sweet.
5. On the day of the concert you may be feeling dread. You will try to hide it but your husband will see. He will be sad. He will say “I know, it’s like the Ballet for me.” You will say “Does that mean you will go to a Ballet with me?” He will flatly say “Hell, no.”
6. You will remember that you were an eclectic teen. That while most girls you knew where listening to boy bands, you were listening to punk, folk, alternative, old rock, and a bit of hard rock ……….. not Iron Maiden hard rock, mind you. Hair metal hard rock. But surely you could adapt for a great live experience? You will feel more confident as the day goes on.
7. Leaving for the show your husband will look at you and say “are you really wearing that scarf to the concert?” You will momentarily rethink your leggings, scarf, cardigan ensemble and then switch your nice scarf for a crappier one because you know someone will spill beer on it. You will catch a glimpse of your self in a mirror and think ‘frick, I look like such an old Mom’ ….. and then think ‘perfect’. Iron Maiden is a old band, there will be lots of old broads there.
8. Upon arriving at the concert you will realize that you seriously misjudged the uniform. It’s ok, you’re good with that. But a shocking number of women WERE able to find their 1990s Fancy Asses and are rocking them (although most are black and not white ….. those girls were clearly more hard rock than me) and, let me tell ya, those are some well made pants because they are containing 20 extra years of Mom mileage and still holding. It makes for a very interesting look actually. You will be thankful you chose to look in the mirror before heading out. You will make note that when a woman squeezes her post babies 40-some year old body into her pre babies 20-some year old skinny jeans it creates a whole new size and shape of human on the top half of her body. You will gain a new appreciation for black leather, pleather, skinny jeans, and elastic of all kinds ………. For the sheer amount of humanity, they are containing tonight is astounding.
9. You will also note that the show is indeed very multi generational. A good sign you think. And it is, for the most part. But you will still feel old. The youth at the concert are very tattooed and very pierced, and although you usually consider yourself very supportive of self expression you find yourself feeling bad for their Mothers and wondering how much the plastic surgery is going to cost when they grow up enough to realize what a very, very bad idea some of this was. You are also asking yourself if you would feel comfortable if your future Gynecologist had a neck tattoo. The answer makes you feel much closer to your Mother’s age than these kid’s age ….. yep, you feel older.
10. You will find the concert enjoyable. These guys can still really perform and play. You will find that you enjoyed watching your boys and hubs so happy. You will find you enjoyed the show…………. And that you decided you will almost certainly be taking your hubs to the Ballet next season.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

The gift of a nearly perfect, delightfully average, happy child.

It's spring break and I spent a near perfect day with 6 near perfect children in near perfect weather listening to near perfect moments of silliness and insight and giggles and inquiry and problem solving and bravado and warmth and ...... and ...... near perfect kids being nearly perfect.
Because perfect children, just like perfect moments don't exist ..... and in the mythical Unicorn-like moments they do? They are very very boring.
Perfect, like many things, doesn't exist and shouldn't exist.
One of the many troubles of being attached to an anxious mind and a very soft heart is how frequently that mind is set a spinning and how easily that heart is broken. And tonight, a stranger broke my heart and tore apart the near perfect serenity of my almost perfect day. She, innocently and with honest sincerity, posted a call for advice on her "gifted child". This Mom, I'm sure full of angst and earnestly wanting to do the best as a Mother, had her 6 year old child privately tested and lo! her child is "gifted" .... 99th percentile of something or other in the smarts department and juuuuuust a hint of ADHD..............
O-O <------------ this is my face. This is my WTF face. This is the face I make right before I COMPLETELY lose my shit. It's the face I'm making right now. But before I begin said loss of shit, I MUST say "I don't know what to do about this!!!" I feel awful for today's parents being scared into being scared that they must have a 6 year old evaluated and tested and ranked, and I feel awful for the enormous pressure being put on children to be a very perfect at everything and sit still while doing it or else people think they have ADHD .............. because I gotta tell you, 'gifted with a hint of ADHD' sounds like every 6 year old I have EVER met. At that age, hopefully, every child is a cerebral synaptic tornado of learning and growth and terrible at sitting still. A 6 year old's whole job is to be a terribly restless, brilliantly absorptive, and sensationally global in every thought, sense, and emotion. They are perhaps all "gifted" but due to their being 6, should we really even begin to try and guess that? At 6 they are, after all, just a doughy, sticky, curious ball of potential ....... and their destiny unwritten. Their future is wide open and I would never want to hang such a weighty label on a person so small. It seems to me one must wait a very long time and measure all the experience, knowledge, love, friendship, creation, triumph, loss, breadth, and depth a lifetime can offer before one can sum up their "gifts". It just seems to me, at 6, they're not anything. Not yet. Why must they be ANYTHING just yet?
I must say again "I don't know what to do about this". I don't know about a world so determined to rank children. To set them on a ladder and push them up the rungs before they're ready, to throw them into the tepid pot of water before it starts to boil .......... so they never think to jump out*. I don't know what to do about a world that expects so much achievement from children but doesn't even bother to think about expecting happiness, or balance, or fulfillment? I don't know what to do about a world that demands children learn early how to achieve but not how to live.
When you first held your child, you exhaled a long held breath and whispered a thanks to the Universe for delivering this child into your arms. Healthy. Breathing. Yours. And in those first moments, did you picture a future in which that child would be graded, ranked, evaluated, pushed, and ultimately celebrated as successful ..... or what? At what point is that measure of perfect success or achievement realized? Or did you simply breathe in a sweet puff of that baby's exhale from that near perfect being and wish him or her a near perfect life ... long, and peaceful, and happy?
Ah. Yes, you remember now .......... don't you?
Please resist the urge to compare, rank, evaluate, or even unravel the mysteries of the gifts your child holds inside them. Please. Unless your child is having a specific challenge, don't push. If there are areas of their development they are struggling with, help them of course. But don't make it a habit to push a child in directions they are ALREADY going. If they are bright, then they will be bright without you piling on advanced programming and accelerated syllabi. Educate yourself on appropriate developmental milestones for not just their intellectual growth but for their social/emotional well being, fine motor, gross motor, ways of knowing, and resilience. Consider them all important. You will probably discover it's more important for a 6 year to be able to make and keep a friend than to make the perfect letter 'e'. Worry less about the stuff they could 'potentially learn early' and more about all the many things they might fall behind on, or miss out on, or worse of all fail to take pleasure from if they aren't given the chance to try.
Our school system here in Canada isn't perfect. Never has been, never will be. But it's based on this beautiful and noble idea that if we give every child the same well rounded knowledge and experience then they will come out the other side happy, and knowing enough to know a little about everything and a lot about who they are. It's a dream ....... a goal ......... an important solution to this problem of balancing a future full of open doors with a slow enough pace to enjoy and appreciate what's behind each one. We know a school aged child's mind won't be ready to see that, so maybe the gift is teaching them nothing more than to be curious enough to open lots of doors and wise enough to figure out the ones to walk through. Send them to school. Just school. Let them fail and pass, let them make friends and lose them, let them take piano and quit piano, let them get bored and then curious, let them lead and get lost, let them teach what they know and struggle to learn what they don't. You can't expect to find a school or program which will perfectly fit your child any more than your child will ever perfectly fit a school or program ....... kids are each too unique for that. Don't worry about the gifts you're supposed to know they have, you can't know what they don't yet. So instead try your best to give them the gifts like curiosity, resilience, appreciation, honour, friendship, engagement, contentment, and happiness. Don't worry, you won't be perfect at it. Parenting is really hard. I mess up daily. I make a huge regrettable mistake weekly at least. I hope there is a gift in that too. We keep going. Our goal is 'delightfully and happily average' and hopefully they will be perfect at that.

"All kids are gifted; some just open their packages earlier than others." ~ Michael Carr

"I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious." ` Albert Einstein 

*Refers to this: