Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Oil Changes and Attitude Adjustments

I saw this great tweet the other day:


I agree. Those stereotypes are offensive and often untrue. What do you do, then, if you're a woman who is not, in fact, a terribly confident driver or a whiz at long division, sine waves and completing the square? I'm still not the stereotype - I don't weave all over the road, I don't run over things with gay abandon, I don't generally run into things (apart from that one unfortunate incident with the signpost and the back bumper, but my husband was away, I was short on sleep and it wouldn't have cracked off if it wasn't so cold, THE REPAIR MAN SAID IT, shut up). My kids know not to come to me with their math homework, but it's not because I'm too pretty or that I think numbers are dumb - math just doesn't happen to be an area I excel in. Sorry, an area in which I excel (I AM supposed to be not bad at this word business). I just accept, I guess, that I CAN drive and do math (sort of ), I just enjoy other things more.

When I started taking vehicles in for servicing, I was always kind of embarrassed and tense about not really knowing anything. And then one day I thought FUCK it - who cares? I'm paying them to know this stuff FOR me. I think it would be awesome to be a woman and know all about cars. I think it's quite possible that a guy would find it hot if a woman knew a lot about cars. I personally find it a little hot if a woman knows about cars. I'm just not that woman. I don't know how an internal combustion engine works. I don't even know if cars HAVE internal combustion engines, 'internal combustion engine' is just a phrase floating around in my head. I also don't know what a catalytic converter is, or how a Geiger counter works, although some of the women at my World Trivia Night table did (and yeah, it was a little hot).

So now when I need an oil change or something, I show up, I park my car somewhere, I go in and say this is what I'm here for, where should I go? And they tell me exactly where to put the car, and then I sit in a comfortable chair and read or drink tea with Pam until the car is ready, and then I pay them and say thank-you and drive away.

Today I had to go get winter tires put on the Rav 4. Pam was working, so I was all by myself. I drove in the way they told me to, then got out and the woman (who knew a lot about cars) at the service desk asked me if our winter tires were on rims. I didn't know. Then she asked me something else about other parts, and I said look, I know nothing except that my husband said we negotiated the winter tire installation as part of the lease. She said no problem, how about we check the cargo space in your trunk? Now, until last week I had no idea that we HAD such a thing, but thanks to the incident with the FUSB, I at least didn't end up looking at her blankly and then having her have to show me the little pull tab in the trunk that lifts up to reveal the storage space. We opened it up, and she said "oh, what's that plastic bag?" I pulled it out and she said "ma'am, I believe we've found your nuts."

Then we made out on the hood. Okay, no we didn't, but what can I say, I like a woman who knows her way around my cargo space.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Mondays on the Margins: Growing a Rainbow by Lesley Donaldson-Reid

I met Lesley briefly at Blissdom 2013 - I apologized for getting between her and someone taking her picture at the outside party and she hollered at me to get in the picture with her. Afterwards, we became Twitter friends and I started reading her blog, Real Women Drive Stick (so according to Lesley I'm a fake woman, but it's okay, I'm coping). When I learned some of the details of her son's birth, I was sort of struck by the strangeness of the fact that people can endure the most cataclysmic of events and walk around without the effects permanently stamped on their faces.

Lesley is an emergency nurse and special-needs parent, and Blissdom completely lit an author fire under her, leading her to reduce her nursing hours and write and self-publish a book about her son Torran, who was a micro-preemie, born at just 26 weeks and 6 days gestation, due to oligohydramnios, a lack of amniotic fluid. Lesley and her husband Bruce were asked on more than one occasion if they wished to withdraw life support for their son.

I've known two or three people who had babies born prematurely, even extremely prematurely, but I only met them when the children were safely out of the woods, and none of these children's conditions were as grave as Torran's. Lesley's account felt incredibly raw and real and much of it was hard to read - I can't imagine how hard it must have been to live. The number of life-threatening conditions and taxing medical interventions would be heartwrenching if a full-grown adult was involved; imagining it happening to a two-pound baby, tiny and unimaginably thin-skinned and fragile, who should rightfully still be safely tucked in his mother's womb, is horrifying. The tubes he needs to breathe and eat wear away the skin of his face. At one point a doctor says that he needs new sutures in his head, but worries that the tissue is too macerated to even hold them.

Much of Lesley's account feels almost shockingly intimate - confessions of guilt and hopelessness, the inevitable toll taken on her relationship with her husband, and feelings of resentment directed at the rest of the world, particularly people taking home healthy babies. At times when she holds Torran and his oxygen levels drop, it feels like her love is doing actual harm to him. There are also flashes of spiky humour, revolving around the physical indignities of breast-pumping and baby poop, and moments of rare beauty, such as the first time she gets to hold her son, swaddled and then skin to skin, and (this one made me tear up) the moment when she gives a mother's day card to the nurse who has been as ardent an advocate and caregiver for her son as his own parents. I also love her letter at the end of the book, addressed to other preemie parents, with love, empathy and permission to rage and grieve and hope.

Growing a Rainbow is available through the website Growing a Rainbow, and a portion of the proceeds will support the Canadian Premature Babies Foundation.

Torran came home five months after his birth, and is now a monster-hunting six-year-old who likes roller coasters and Mike Wazowski (I heartily approve). He is not without his challenges.

Some time between my first Blissdom and my second, I read Lesley's story Line of Sacrifice. I thought it was an amazing rendering of a mother's selfless love for a child. I feel like I know more now about why Lesley understands that so well.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Day 23

I don't feel good. I woke up yesterday with seized neck and upper back muscles. So I took some painkillers and then I felt nauseous. Today my back is a little better but I'm still kind of nauseous, and I'm afraid to take anything for my back OR for the nausea. And now I feel like the week-end has slipped away in this haze of pain and sickness and I didn't leave the house and I'm sort of sad and worried and icky.

On Friday the kids had a P.D. Day and Angus went to a movie with two baseball friends. He called at around four and asked if I would pick them up and drive them all home. I could have told them to take the bus. But I wasn't doing anything especially important, and my dad would have done it for me at the same age. The two other boys are funny and quick-witted, and Matt calls them Team Shit-Disturbers but I find them sweet. They both thanked me multiple times for the ride and one said "it's so sad now how it gets dark so early", and I wanted to clasp him to me and weep empathetically into his hair.

I finished Dreams of Gods and Monsters - well, first I started, and then realized I had to reread the first two books, which I don't always do although I almost always wish I had (unless I waited until the whole series was published to start). And mercifully the first two were instantly available as ebooks from the library. So I read them, and then I restarted the third, and then I finished it, and it was wonderful. Although I'm kind of sad that it's over.

I also remembered that I had stopped watching The Big C halfway through Season 3, and started watching again, and I still love it, but now it's almost over, and it's a show about cancer, so over really means over. Perhaps not the wisest viewing choice for this time of year.

It turns out that most of my book club was at World Trivia Night, which reminded me that I have book club on Wednesday and had totally forgotten to locate and read the book AGAIN. So I bought it on my Kindle. It's short and I will be able to finish it by Wednesday. I hate it. It's silly, shallow with pretensions of profundity, adolescent, tries to use sex and bodily functions as shocking devices which just seems pathetic, and generally it's the worst published thing I've read in a long, long time. At least it doesn't make me sad. My comments so far are: "Jesus Christ"; "Because you're an asshole"; "Um, no."; "Jesus Christ again."; "JESUS FUCKING CHRIST." Should make for a spirited discussion.

Last night I was reading in my chair and Eve was reading in my bed. I started nodding off. It was eight-thirty. I knew I should get up and do something or I would fall asleep and then screw my night's sleep up even more colossally than it's usually screwed. Instead I crawled under the covers beside Eve and closed my eyes while she stroked my hair and played me a lullaby of quietly turning pages.

I've spent worse Saturday nights.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Sense of Insignificance

Standing under the stars.... bowing to the weight of great literature.....

Nah. World Trivia Night. "Pieces of information of little importance or value." Except when you're trying to remember enough of them to be able to tell fifty other tables to SUCK IT. Or justify your seat at the table, and immoderate candy consumption.

Imagine my shock and horror at realizing that there was NO LITERATURE CATEGORY this year. In fact, the one question that I knew that no one else did was the next three words (the category was The Next Three Words) in Iggy Azalea's Fancy, and THAT was because I'd googled them for Eve and Marielle on the rooftop patio at East Side Mario's after drama camp. I had to wake Eve up and tell her when I got home.

I also got the Robbie Burns question, thanks to my friend Dave who has a Robbie Burns party every January, complete with the Address to the Haggis, and the Lascaux Caves question, thanks to a mean lesbian French professor in grad school (I wouldn't mention the lesbian part except she was particularly withering about the love affair in one of the books we read and how it all seemed to center around the man's "énorme pénis"), but I think we were already covered on those. Still, as long as I get one, I'm happy.

The final category was particularly creative and challenging, as usual. It was called "Questions Faciles" (Easy Questions), and they were, but they were in other languages - Finnish, Norwegian, Lebanese and Esperanto, among others. We did okay - I'm still not sure how the hell anyone in the room knew that "pääkaupunki" meant "capital", but one girl at our table went into a mysterious trance state and somehow got the answer "Paul Anka" from a garbled Lebanese phrase in which the only discernible words were 'Ottawa' and 'Diana', so I'm willing to accept that I am a veritable single-celled organism in the stages of trivia evolution. 

I also missed a very obvious turn on the way there and somehow left too late and got stuck in a lineup at the parking gate and almost turned around and went home before I even got there. But at least my daughter wasn't on a week-end sleepover with undiagnosed pneumonia this time. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Last Book Fair Post - Promise

You know how it can be really hard to do simple tasks when someone is watching you? Twice yesterday I had to look through the picture book racks for a Splat the Cat or Hot Rod Hamster book with a little boy shouting NO, NOT Hot Rod Hamster Wacky Whatever Race, Hot Rod Hamster MONSTER TRUCK MANIA, or NO, NOT Splat the Cat What was That, Splat the Cat MAKES DAD GLAD. Why, I whimpered, why on earth don't we keep all the Splat the Fucking Cat books together? Because some are picture books and some are Early Reader books (taller, skinnier, pre-chapter books) was the sensible answer, but when you have little Charlie breathing down your neck it doesn't help that much.

And the math. I am perfectly able to perform simple arithmetic, EXCEPT when someone is standing on the other side of the counter watching me. Then my brain suddenly comes to a hard stop while trying to make 10.00 and 7.00 and 8.00 and 11.50 come out to a reasonable sum. It doesn't help when a student's father starts shouting out numbers when I finally resort to the calculator - WRONG numbers, may I add. I should have just LET him overcharge himself by six dollars.

Eve, my sixth-grade daughter, was better at giving change than the ninth-grade volunteer we had. She gets that from her dad.

The parent volunteers decided we would keep the book fair open straight through from school dismissal until the end of parent-teacher interviews, letting the librarian go home for dinner and to walk her dogs. So when a student came in asking for an exchange or return, we had to make an executive decision. Sometimes it was easy - the kid wanted to exchange a Minecraft Combat Handbook for a Minecraft Construction Handbook. The one he wanted was a dollar more than the one he had. I told him to take it and bring back a dollar when he could. He did, which I was ridiculously pleased by. Then a girl came in with a poster she wanted to return. I was in the back room and Eve was at the cash. I watched, ready to step in if needed. The girl said "can I return this poster?" Eve asked why. The girl said "I was in a hurry and I didn't really read it." I couldn't see Eve's face, but I imagine her expression was as blisteringly incredulous as her tone when she said "Didn't READ it? It's a POSTER." The girl took her poster and left.

Eve was also the one to notice a bit of a disconnect between this girl's chipper expression


and the subject matter on the screens.





Read to connect to what, exactly? Serial killers? Odd choice, we think. Odd.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Day 20

Eve and I are home from the book fair and tired. We had an interview with her teacher who I already loved. She said Eve obviously doesn't face any academic difficulties, so she thinks they should focus on preparing for middle school and high school by working on the challenges of things like group work dynamics and subjects that Eve finds less engaging, like geography (poor kid has a little dead spot in her brain just like mine, where mapping skills should be). Then she said Eve was awesome, which, duh, but always nice to hear.

Then we went back to the book fair. It was crazy busy and crowded and I had to go out in the hallway every time somebody used debit or credit again and fighting through the throngs of people wearing winter coats made me claustrophobic and panicky,  but most people were awesome and we made a metric fuckton of money for the school library and by the end of the evening everything was hilarious and math stopped working in the library for a few minutes around seven o'clock and we thought about asking the principal if next year we could pipe oxygen into the library during the book fair like they do in Vegas. Then there was a lull and I walked around finding picture books and making them seem dirty (which wasn't that hard, really - There was an old woman who swallowed a stick? Oh what a trick, to swallow a stick? Seriously? Okay, she swallowed the stick to hit the puck, but come ON.) Then we played with the pom-pom pens that we had hidden behind the desk because the students kept whacking each other in the face with them. You click a little button that makes the pom-pom fly off, and it WAS oddly satisfying. 

Then we went to McDonald's and ran into some people who had been at the book fair, which made the night feel very small townish, in a good way. Then we came home and watched Bones. It started with a scene in a playground, and Eve said "oh, great. A bunch of kids are about to find a gross dead body. Why do we always watch this show while we're eating?"

Then she said something about dogs and I remembered that I had to show her this, which made me fall off my chair laughing earlier today. When she stopped laughing she said "WHY did she even sign him UP?" As a special bonus, we read the headline in the sidebar which said "Polish playground bans Pooh because 'it doesn't wear underpants'". 

And now I have to get ready for bed because Eve asked me if I would read the Bad Kitty Christmas book she got at the book fair to her just for fun. And I said I would. Because it does sound like fun.