Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Glass Door

This is not about the ubiquitous 'glass ceiling', so you can breathe a sigh of relief -- I've got a feminism diatribe bubbling up inside me that I'll save for another post. This is about information management again, sort of.

Years ago I saw a demo of an in-production collaboration tool much like SharePoint. One of the things that struck me was how each 'site' had two views -- one was public facing and the other view was for those who belonged to the group. They called it a glass-door. You can see what's posted on our door and even look through the glass to see what we are up to, but we're not exposing you to all of the crap WIP material. Sure, you had to write special content for it, but you didn't have to maintain two separate sites. Brilliant.

When I look at our own Intranet site I'm disgusted. We're the flippin' IT group people! There is no information on who we are, what services we provide and how to use them, how to get in touch with us, what training is available, what projects we're working on, what their status is, what systems we support, what our technical environment is, what our priorities or strategic direction is .... I'm starting to get really pissed off as I type this. Bloody hell! DOESN'T ANYBODY THINK IT'S IMPORTANT TO MARKET YOURSELF? I don't understand what the problem is. Technical people can't write? We're stiffled by perfectionism? We really don't know what we do and it changes all the time so we can't put it in writing? Wait -- maybe if we say it out loud, we might have to be accountable for it! JESUS!

I want to sit down and do this myself. Of course it's likely to be received with complete disdain because a) it is not my job b) nobody thinks it's worth doing. I don't want to work for an organization that can't sell itself. "Who are you, what do you do, and (most importantly) what can you do for me?" Everyone should be able to answer those questions in 100 words or less dia- bon!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Why should I click on you?

I've been thinking a lot about the sheer volume of information out there and how it's becoming increasingly important to know something about the information you've found before you make the investment to actually read it.

We're all strapped for time and unless someone I trust tells me that I 'have to' read something, upfront, I want to know:

what it's about
why you think I need to read this
how long it is
what I will learn from it
if it's from a reliable source
how recent it is
where I can find more info on it

Back in the days of paper, your Librarian or Records Manager would help answer these questions. Today, it's not so easy. Thankfully websites provide some context with linking. But in my opinion, auto-tagging and summarizing with technology can only go so far. It has to come from the author. Really, people need to learn how to market their content. I want to start now by writing neat little abstracts that let the reader know why (or why not) they should give up 10 mins of their day to read my stuff. It doesn't have to be long -- just needs to answer the question "Here's why I wrote this in the first place". It's also a great way to bring meaning to my work -- D's own legacy.

How make this idea go viral...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I don't care

Sometimes I look in the mirror and don't recognize the person I've become. It's not a bad thing; it's just that the things I used to care so much about no longer matter to me. I'm not talking about my attitude towards my loved ones or my health -- those are still priority #1. It's about little things like decorating. I used to spend endless hours combing through designer mags and watching HGTV looking for inspiring ideas to make my house a home. Today, I COULDN'T CARE LESS. It is a complete waste of time and money. The house looks fine as it is -- bare.

I have become my mother, *sigh*. I remember being really pissed with my mom for having the same furniture as when she and my dad got married, for refusing to make holes in the wall by hanging art and for leaving the house boring beige. I couldn't understand why she didn't care! Well now I do. It's a rat race. Once you start, you can't stop. You end up with rooms full of furniture that you trip over on a daily basis and shelves full of chotsky's that you have to dust or repair all the time. It also fails to satisfy. The temporary high from a room nicely decorated loses it's appeal within days (yes, it's always about the Power of Now). In fact, if you're like me, it'll even start to piss you off -- why the fuck did I paint this room ORANGE?! It's too BRIGHT dammit! We could have taken a real vacation for what I just spent on new linens, frig! KIDS! STOP CLIMBING ON THAT EXPENSIVE TABLE!! etc, etc.

We all know know people who live for decorating -- they invest hundreds of hours painting elaborate faux finishes, scour antique markets for treasured nick knacks, and sew their own decorative throw pillows and draperies. It's quite impressive and at the same time heart breaking. I just want to shout "None of those things make a happy home lady!" That used to be me. If I could only get back all those hours I spent shopping at Home Sense and planning my designer projects in exchange for quality time spent playing with my kids or even exercising. Those are what matter to me now.

So where is this coming from? Have I matured, or just given up on life? My family thinks I'm depressed and perhaps they are partly right. But maybe I'm just finally learning how to be me. Endless conversations with my Mommy friends about renovations and decorating projects made me feel like I needed to follow the trend. Now I'm just more comfortable with the status quo. I mean, I haven't given up completely -- I still take pride in a neat and clean house. It's just that the decorating (along with the gourmet cooking) is no longer important. And that's OK.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Steppin' in his shoes

My partner is the dishwasher in our family and I never fully appreciated how many flippin' dishes we dirty until I had to be the dishwasher for two months (he's been doing it 80% of the time for 8 years). In fact, I'm ashamed to say that every time I came downstairs in the morning and saw that the gunk from the night before had not been cleaned out, I would curse his name and give him zero credit for doing the dishes. Rather than say anything, I'd just clean out the gunk (which is right up there with cleaning the toilets and mopping up my kid's barf, as far as disgusting chores go) and choose to be pissed off. I called this 'biting my tongue'. But really, I was just holding a grudge.

So now that I am temporarily the dishwasher, I noticed the other day that I too leave gunk in the sink all night long! It's so easy to forget to clean it out after you've spent an hour in the 'effin kitchen 'tidying up'. And because it was me that left the gunk there in the first place, it no longer bothers me. Amazing how stepping into my partner's shoes was the only way I could learn to stop being a bitch about this and to appreciate what he does around here. I'm very grateful for that. Let's hope there are more learning opportunities in store.

Hard Work

Having recently read the book Outliers which challenges the way we look at success (hard work and opportunity vs talent and luck), I was really struck by the effect of hard work. Apparently 10 000 is the magic number of hours you need to put in before you can be considered an expert. Most people fall way short of practicing anything -- an instrument, sport, computing even. It's got me thinking again about how I view my kid's free time. Right now they are still young -- I want them to play as much as they can and to enjoy the freedom of having zero responsibility. Family time is about doing fun things together, not schlepping them to endless scheduled activities. I want them to be generalists and be exposed to a variety of interests so that they can eventually find their 'thing'. But am I doing them a disservice by not helping them develop their talents sooner?

The book also examined the principals of hard work and discipline. It suggested that countries (typically Asian) that have a longer school year, produce smarter children. I've thought a lot about supplementing my child's learning with my own 'Mommy school' (I did teach my son to read after all) on weekends and during evenings. But then the whining starts and I feel guilty for intruding on their playtime. Plus I trust that our school is making the best use of time with my kids. And then I think about what a waste my own elementary school days were...

I'm beginning to think that this 'Kumon Method' of learning by wrote (for math especially) is the way to go. Math is just one of those things that you've got to practice over and over again in order to build confidence. You hear about it in Asian countries -- kids reciting their times tables and doing pages and pages of the same kinds of problems until it's embedded. My kids are going to hate me for this, but I can't get it out of my head. I don't want them to have the same fear of basic math that I have (you know the sudden urge to leave the room when the cheque arrives and you have to calculate the tip ... can't wait to start using the 'I forgot my glasses' excuse for that one).

At any rate, it's given me a lot to think about -- the value of hard work. Yeah, it's right up there with teaching my kids love and respect. I need to do something about this.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Information Management is Dead

I'm starting to read more and more about the death of my profession as an IM Specialist and rather than refute it or bury my head in the sand, I couldn't agree more.

I often get stuck on explaining just what IM is.  So I revert to a tired slogan for lack of anything else more concise -- 'it's about being able to make sure that the right information is available at the right time in the right format and at the right cost'. In the old days of paper, you relied on Records Managers to describe, organize, search and retrieve your records. But once digitial information arrived, the RM became obsolete. End users managed their own files at their desktop and the rigor of classifying and culling information was thrown by the way side, which is why shared drives are basically dumping grounds of poorly described, duplicate, and obsolete information. Enter the IM Specialist -- someone with the same organizational and analytical skills as the Records Manager, but who is comfortable with technology and can advise on how to navigate your digital nightmare using best practices (which are so pathetically obvious, it's hard to believe that someone actually pays me to do this). You don't know what to name your file? -- How about just calling it what it is? You don't know what information to delete in your email? Try most of what's in your inbox for starters.

One of the big responsibilities of the IM Specialist is to develop a 'Retention Schedule' which is supposed to be a mission critical document that says -- "this is what we keep information on and this is how long we keep it for". So if the company gets sued and can't come up with the documents or emails, they simply point to their approved Retention Schedule and say "too bad so sad, the information was deleted and this here Retention Schedule covers our asses". I won't bore you with how we come up with this magical schedule. In fact all I've done in my six years in this field is talk about it. We have yet to actually DO IT.

Corporate risk doesn't really resonate with end users, so I usually sell it with Search. If you keep everything, including the crap, it'll be harder to find the good shit, right? (of course I attenuate at work, just not in my blog). This is usually sellable because we all know how shitty desktop searching is -- if I search for 'information management', I'll get everything with the words 'information', 'management' or even fucking 'ment' in it. But thanks to advances in technology, namely Google, why delete anything? There is no master Retention Schedule for the Internet, baby! If you have a kick-ass search tool, the good stuff will float to the top and the crap info will remain out of sight. The only time we need to actually delete anything is if there's legislation that stipulates that you have to get rid of something after a specific time period. And really, there's NOT a lot of these out there.

So here I am once again working on 'the Retention Schedule', only I don't believe in it anymore. It's a bloody waste of time to go around asking people what information has value to them. If someone asked you this, wouldn't you think "everything I write has value, you dolt!". And then I have to ask: "How long do you need to keep it for" ... To which they reply: "Why not forever, isn't storage cheap? I can pick up a 1 TB removable drive for $40 at Staples, so don't tell me it's costly for you to store my files. Go tinker with some server in a closet and stop wasting my time, you idiot. Jeesh. How much do they pay those CSes, again?"

So between this and my rant about the uselessness of organizing and classifying information, my profession is already dead. Time for a career change. What though?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sorry doesn't cut it

*Sigh* I'm tired of apologizing. He's tired of hearing it. Sorry means you're going to change. Thankfully our partners give us many chances. But does that just give us a license to screw up? I know that I'll be forgiven so what motivation is there to really try? Well, even when my apologies are accepted, damage has still been done. A new tiny brick in the wall of resentment has been laid. Enough tiny bricks and ....

I remember when I was single, I tried a lot harder to get along with my boyfriends -- probably out of fear that they would leave me (yes, that is pathetic, but we were all stupid in our 20s). That's the thing about marriage, especially when you have such a loyal and devoted partner. He's not going anywhere, so technically I can treat him like dirt, if I want to. It's no wonder married folks are typically miserable.

Do I need to go back to dating my partner in order for us to regain the respect for each other that once was? I am rarely at the receiving end of an apology (that says a lot, yikes). Luckily, the magic of "I'm sorry" still melts the resentment and wipes his slate clean. In fact that is true of most of my good friends and family. So I guess I'll keep churning out the apologies until one day my partner says "save it, I've heard it before, how is this time different?". Whoa ... just typing that makes me shudder.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

It's an 'Ethnic Thing'

I read the most fascinating commentary on how culture shapes our tendencies, pre-conceptions, reactions, communication style, etc. At the risk of sounding completely naive here, cross-cultural psychology is it's own field supported by tons of research. Of course, it's a given that you have to preempt any kind of discussion on culture with a big fat disclaimer -- stereotypes are dangerous, the individual is more than the culture of his ancestors, yadda, yadda, yadda.

It was just so refreshing to read about it in the book Outliers. 'Hofstede's Dimensions' in particular caught my interest. These measure how cultures differ on things such as 'individualism-collectivism' (how much a culture expects individuals to look after themselves), 'uncertainty avoidance' (how well a culture tolerates ambiguity), 'power distance index' (belief that power is distributed equally/unequally), 'long term orientation' (belief in perseverance over time). Why didn't I know about this when I was in university?

I can't help but personalize this by thinking of my own culture, which is a mix of western, asian, mediterranean, aboriginal. Even though I was raised plain 'ol 'Canadian', my parent's ancestry had a prominent effect on our lives. My Mom was raised British Asian in Africa. A staunch Catholic, fiercely loyal to the crown and anything English. It's a strange mix of cultures -- high loyalty and obligation to extended family and tradition yet a belief typical Indianisms such as karma, 'saving face' and 'the evil eye'.

And then there's my Dad. You'd think he was a Yankee -- brutally blunt, insensitive, not the least bit perceptive. My old man is a bull in a china shop and sadly, I'm a chip off the 'ol block. I'm not adept to reading body language or subtle language nuances in order to understand what is really being said. In fact, I dislike verbal language altogether. Sometimes I get so flustered when being formally spoken to, that I just want to yell "I don't understand what you're asking of me -- please spare me and just put it in writing!"

Here's an small example of cultural differences in my family that happened years ago when my Uncle Sal first arrived in Canada. He had come over for coffee -- here's what happened when my Mom left the room for a few minutes:

Dad: Here, help yourself to some cookies
Uncle Sal: Oh, um, that's very kind of you, but um, no thank you.
Dad: Are you sure? Ok, suit yourself.

My Mom returned and was appalled to see my Dad chowing down while my uncle sat silently with nothing on his plate. She later told my Dad off for being rude (actually back in those days my Mom would've never done such a thing; it took another 15 years before she finally woke up and decided to cease being a doormat, but I digress). When by Dad recounted what had happened, my mother told him that the conversation should've gone something like this:

Dad: Please, have some of these cookies.
Uncle Sal: Oh, um, that's very kind of you, but um, no thank you.
Dad: I insist, they are quite good.
Uncle Sal: Oh, no I couldn't.
Dad: Please, you must try them. Sarah made them especially for you. Here, let me put them on your plate.
Uncle Sal: Well, ok, if you insist. Thank you very much.

Granted, my Dad is not schooled in social graces. However, I don't think he was *that* rude really. One thing's for sure, there is no way in hell he would ever accommodate another culture by attenuating his words. "Spit it out" is his motto. And that's how he raised us -- to speak up and tell it like it is. Only, I'm finally learning that brutal honesty can hurt and that relationships matter more than telling people what you think. In fact it's better to just keep criticism to yourself. Jeesh, this post is supposed to be about cultural differences and I've gone and turned it into yet another one of my self-help spiels.

I'm grateful that I finally picked up Outliers. Cross-cultural psychology is fascinating. Maybe Gladwell is right after all when he suggests that "who we are cannot be separated from where we are from?"

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Just looking at this recent posting on Gentle Discipline and I realize that a lot of my parenting woes stem from a lack of creativity. I'm feeling this in other areas of my life too, namely at work. I need new ways to solve the same old problems. Give me a creativity boost please! I miss not having a muse nearby.

It's easy to let creativity slip away when you're so focused on the routine of mundane chores. Luckily there are little ways I can inject some creativity back into my life. Here are some ideas off the top of my head:

Read - something poetic and inspiring ... not just the relationship, parenting and pop-culture easy reads I gravitate towards

Draw - my son is showing a keen interest in drawing cartoons and I think it'd be fun if we drew together; I know that I suck, but what the hell?

Photography - I don't have the eye for taking my own, but appreciate it fully. I could gaze at beautiful photos all day; they move me to no end.

Dance - time to get off the couch and feel the music with my kids; health benefits are bonus!

Piano - I'll start with 10 mins a day and accept that initially it will be painful to endure, but I might start to enjoy it again

Cooking - why not invent a new dessert? I'd like to try mixing sweet and savory (e.g. chocolate + salt); it'll be fun and tasty.

Sex - I'll spare everyone the details, but my mind has been wandering lately and I think it's time I put some of my ideas into practice

Alright, now that I have a plan to be more creative (how flippin' ridiculous does that sound), I can feel it already starting to happen.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Adventures in Gentle Discipline

It's the parenting philosophy my partner and I *try* to follow. Teach them love and respect by loving and respecting them. Self-discipline, empathy, independence will naturally follow. No tricks -- bribes, threats, punishments.

On paper it sounds beautiful. Who doesn't want to connect with their child, see the world through their eyes and know precisely how to fulfil their needs? Frig, that also sounds like the perfect marriage. Since neither of us have been parented this way ourselves, it feels wholly unnatural. Yet, we both feel strongly that it's best for our kids to be the best people we can be for them.

In practice, I'm not one for following general platitudes. Just tell me what I need to do: Situation A, Reaction A. However this style of parenting is not formulaic. If you focus on their needs and have love in your heart, then everything *should* work out. As we start down this road for a 3rd time with our toddler, you'd think I could remember what worked. Warning, this is a long list and really just another of my posts that is more a reminder to myself then anything. So here goes -- my refresher (from a Mothering Magazine article):
Measures you can take to prevent a battle of wills :

1. demonstrate how you want your child to behave
It's easy to forget that my toddler does not understand the rules when I communicate them in the same way as I do with my older children. Sometimes I've got to GET OFF MY BUTT and just show him what I want. For example, if he pulls the cat's tail, I show him how to be gentle, rather than relying on words alone.

2. provide a period of preparation
Sometimes we role play appropriate behaviour. For example, if we're expecting company, I tell them how I expect him to behave. I've found that when I take time to prepare them about a difficult situation, there are fewer battles when we're in the moment.

3. make small concessions
These go a long way if done sparingly. For example, "I'll let you skip reading tonight because you are so tired". It's easy to be reluctant to give a little for fear of coming off weak. I can think of many times I've shot my partner dirty looks when I've heard him making concessions. But then I remind myself that there's nothing wrong with changing your mind and that 'peace' is what we're striving for.

4. look for underlying needs
I often forget that kids are generally impatient and need to explore. When faced with a situation where I know they'll be bored and cranky, I should look for ways to help them cope (such as giving them something to play with while waiting in line) or try to avoid the situation altogether. Losing my cool and yelling at them for being kids is what usually happens.

Easy techniques for when you are 'in the moment' and need to find a way out of the mess :

5. give information and reasons
For example, if my child draws on the wall, I explain why we colour on paper only. This works! Problem is my kids are so accustomed to having reasons for everything that when I am tired and rushed and don't have a reason other than "because I said so". they refuse to comply -- "give me a reason Mommy". Chances are, if I don't really have a reason, then it's probably just my hang-up and I should let it go. What does Barbara Coloroso say? Is it dangerous, immoral, illegal? If not, then what's the harm?

6. give choices rather than commands
This one is my favourite -- "Do you want to brush your teeth before or after putting your PJs on?" I know, it's not much of a choice. It's also super easy for me to remember because I hate being told what to do. Problem is, the kids want choices for everything and it can be maddening when there is only one choice. "This is not a restaurant" is also one of my favourite expressions -- "eat it or go hungry" isn't much of a choice either, but it's life.

7. make a deal, negotiate
My kids are highly skilled negotiators thanks to our over-use of this strategy. Of course the minute dinner hits the table, my 4-year-old now asks "How many more bites?"

8. change the environment
Things digress quickly when I hold fast to my position rather than thinking outside the box and looking for a win-win. For example, this article suggests that if your child repeatedly takes CDs off the shelf, move them somewhere else out of reach. Problem solved.

9. redirect
My instinct is to say 'no' to my kids. But then I have to deal with their disappointment. Sometimes I'm just too tired to listen to the whining, so I spoil them by giving in. What's obviously better is to (here we go again) seek a win-win. For example, this article suggests that if you don't want them to build a fort in the living room, don't just say no, show them where they CAN build one.

10. let natural consequences occur (when appropriate)
I LOVE natural consequences because I don't have to say a damn thing. For example, when my child doesn't hang up her bathing suit and towel, she may find them still wet the next day. Experience is their best teacher.

Touchy-Feely tactics (not my specialty)

11. acknowledge, accept and listen to feelings
I've blogged about this before -- my empathy skills still have a WAYS to go. I'm quick to wipe away the tears and tell them to suck it up. But that does not teach them to deal with their emotions. Nor does it send the message that they matter. To feel loved, is to feel understood. I'm learning to become a better detective too, by looking for the underlying feelings. For example, if my child hits her baby brother, I should encourage her to express her anger in other ways (she many need to cry or rage).

12. hold your child
This one makes me smile because back when we were dating, my partner used to wrap his arms around me in a straight-jacket-type hold whenever I'd lose it. It always diffused my anger and helped me realize that I was over-reacting. When it comes to my kids, holding them is often the last thing I feel like doing when they are behaving like monsters. However, as this article says, "it allows them to channel their pent-up feelings into healing tears."

13. remove child from the situation and stay with her
We try to do 'time-ins' rather than 'time-outs' because we've found that isolating our children just makes things worse for everyone. Of course it can also be a way for them to get attention -- I certainly don't want to reward bad behaviour. I've found that it works best when we don't make it pleasant for them. This article suggests to "use the time for listening, sharing feelings, holding and conflict-resolution."

14. do it together, be playful
Gotta hand it to my partner on this one, he is the King of Kid Fun. I still marvel at the ways he uses his goofy sense of play and humour to get the kids to cooperate. It can be as easy as taking turns brushing each other's teeth. I know I have it in me too (somewhere?). Can be tricky to find my creativity when I am so focused on the result.

15. defuse the situation with laughter
My partner recently commented that I'm too serious and rarely smile. *sigh* It's not because I'm unhappy -- life is good. I just find that I have to be serious with the kids if I want to be taken seriously. However 'good cop' can be just as effective. For example, "if your child is mad at you, this article suggests inviting them to express their anger in a playful pillow fight with you. Play your part by surrendering dramatically. Laughter helps resolve anger and feelings of powerlessness." I'm making a strong mental note of this one. After all, I should ENJOY my kids while they're still young.

16. do mutual conflict-resolution
I've blogged about problem-solving before. Good in theory (discuss ongoing conflicts, state your own needs, ask for their help in finding solutions, determine rules together), not so easy to put into practice, but we're getting there.

Things you can do for yourself to help ease the pain :

17. communicate your own feelings
Thankfully, I'm pretty good at communicating my needs. For example, "I get so tired of cleaning up crumbs in the family room." It helps build their empathy skills and at the same time alleviates some of my own stress.

18. revise your expectations
I have to remind myself that children have intense feelings and needs, and are naturally loud, curious, messy, willful, impatient, demanding, creative, forgetful, fearful, self-centered and full of energy. Try to accept them as they are D!

19. take a parental time-out
Probably the number one reason I need to go running. Nothing better than a break to regain your sense of composure and good judgement.

Monday, September 13, 2010


I've always had a strange curiosity about divorce mainly because I grew up in a typical nuclear family in the 80s when divorce was in vogue. I would fantasize that my Mom and my BF's Mom were Kate and Allie (I of course got to be Emma, the cuter daughter). We were hip, carefree and unstoppable. I was angry that my parents chose to stay in their miserable marriage instead of liberating themselves with a divorce!

Now that I'm in my 30s, my friends are starting to divorce. I'm not close enough to them to feel what they are going through -- they've kept it private for the most part and are sporting brave faces. Of course I'm dying of curiosity. Is it really as tragic as people say? Do they continue to fight because they are still in love? Why on earth do they re-marry? I don't mean to sound trite -- these are my friend's lives after all. I'm sure the pain, mistrust, loneliness, stigma, hopelessness, poverty .... it's not sounding particularly romantic anymore ... is very real.

I was at a party recently with a divorced couple. I don't know them well enough to know the history behind their separation. All I know is that they hate each other's guts. The tension was unbearable. When I heard them bicker, I wondered if the fighting was worse when they were married -- don't people divorce to put an end to the fighting? I know, it's not that easy. The hurt and resentment go deep and take years to get over and even then most people just get used to hating their ex.

But then there's another friend who divorced one of the most amazing men I know. Their amicable split is unbelievable. They parted because they had become too comfortable in their relationship. According to her, she felt like they were old roommates. She refused to settle for less than passion, so they split up. They left their home in tact for their children's sake and for the first six months after the separation they took turns living in the house on alternate weeks. They remain close friends even after she's moved on to a new relationship. She says that she's never been happier and that her children are thriving?! It completely flies in the face of all that I've seen and yet if it is true, I commend them for standing by their principals and making it work for their kid's sake. But then again, maybe it's amicable because he's still in love with her and is secretly hoping she'll come back? K, the soap-opera in me is getting carried away. My friend left a marriage after 12 years because she had settled into that comfortable married stage. Isn't that what's supposed to happen? I'd love it if the sparks lasted forever. And I've heard that for a minuscule part of the population, it does. But for the rest of us, it dies. And it's sad. And it makes me wonder is this all there is?

I was particularly intrigued with the CBC Show, Asunder, a riveting documentary that explored many facets of divorce and exposed the true raw emotions of all those who are affected by it. Even the happiest divorce is still sad, especially for the kids. One of my best friends is a child of divorced parents and I've learned quite a lot from listening to the stories of being stuck in the middle, living with their bitterness, having to grow-up too soon, and so on...

Then again, I know firsthand that children need to witness a loving relationship so that they will be capable of healthy relationships of their own. Staying together for the kid's sake, when there is little love or respect left is not a only a cop out, but a huge abdication of parental responsibility.

When I re-read this post, it sounds like I'm heading for divorce myself. I won't lie, marriage is not what I thought it would be. I guess the good news is that now that I've let go of my disappointment, I can more fully appreciate what we have. Forget the magic, the tingle, the stomach flip-flops. It's bupkiss. We're a team and we have a big job to do and we need each other to do it right.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Women are like waves

I'm paying a lot more attention to my mood meter these days. Are there more good days than bad? Do the things that usually bring me happiness still make me happy? When was the last time I laughed? It's a good idea to take note of the highs and lows. So far, I think there are more good days than bad. I won't blog about Aunt Flo, but I'm starting to finally chart all of this so that I can better anticipate my moods -- I underestimate the role that hormones play. I know it's geeky to do, but probably not uncommon -- I recall an old colleague once having a PMS calendar to keep track of his co-workers moods!

Mars and Venus talks about how women are like waves. When our love tanks are full and we feel good about ourselves, we have plenty of love to give and we are more accepting and forgiving. We reach a peak and then out of no where, start to descend. It's not until we hit rock bottom that we can rise up and return to our normal loving selves. If we've suppressed negative feelings or denied ourselves in order to be more loving on the upswing, the negativity will come back ten fold on the down swing. I instinctively don't like how bleak this sounds nor do I appreciate how it generalizes all women. However, there may be some truth to this wave concept. The book goes on to say that men are often baffled by the lows, especially when circumstances haven't really changed. It recommends that women need even more love and support at these times -- they need to talk about their problems and feel like that are heard and understood in order to feel better. Yes, behind every good woman is a good man. Here it is again -- I can't help but think of a couple of my single friends who would thrive if they just had the love and support they so desperately need. Part of me even feels I should be the one to give it to them :P.

I think my partner is finally starting to get it! He used to start in on me --"I can't understand why you are so upset?" "You are really over-reacting" "Why do you let that bother you so much". It's words like these that make us grateful for having our mothers, sisters and girlfriends for support. Thankfully he's learning how to step in and be my shoulder to cry on. No judgement, no advice, just empathy.

Monday, September 6, 2010


Yesterday morning I turned down a glorious Cora's breakfast for the second time in three weeks and MAN, I still feel sorry for myself. I used to love eating out -- someone eles's cooking is always better than my own, and I'm not a bad cook! Of course that's because restaurants really pile on the fat and salt, which I can't bring myself to do at home. So who are all those skinny ppl dining out? Are they closet bulimics? Do they hit the gym for two hours afterwards? Surely they can't all be blessed with high metabolism?

I've *TRIED* to order from the healthy options -- Cora's does sell yogurt, fruit, plain toast after all. But COME ON! When everyone else around me is basking in buttery syrupy heaven, how can I stay strong? My Mom says that I have to accept that there are some foods I will never eat again. I remember a colleague who used to eat a tuna sandwich and orange for lunch, EVERY SINGLE DAY. She said that it was the only way she could stay thin -- she didn't have to worry about what was going to keep her lean, she had already figured it out and just stuck to the list. I know this will not work for me. I crave variety and bore easily.

Like the alcoholic who can't keep booze in the cupboard, I too cannot be near bad food. I polished off an entire large bag of decadent cc cookies last week. Initially bought for my partner and the kids, my partner didn't even realize they were in the house. When I tried to get him to eat them so that I wouldn't be able too, he said he "was full". WTF? "There's always room for dessert"is my motto.

Emotional eating is the culprit. I don't eat because I am hungry. I eat when I am stressed, sad, upset, depressed. Like right now -- so much change in my life and I am having a hard time coping. I also reward myself with dessert -- any excuse will do really.

If I want to conquer my eating problem, I'm going to have to dig deep to the source of my emotional pain, UGH... or at least find a different coping mechanism? K -- I did the impossible and changed my exercise habits, I can beat my poor eating habits too. Negative self talk will never help me achieve my goal. This demon is going down! BOOYEAH!!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Problem Solving

I used to think this 'problem solving' was so lame and that parents who let their kids discipline themselves were giving up their authority. My, how I've changed my tune. It's called independent thinking D -- learning to solve your own problems rather than relying on someone else to tell you what to do. Yes, I am almost 40 and still haven't completely mastered it myself!

Here's how How To Talk So Kids will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk suggests going about it:

1. Talk about the child's feelings and needs
2. Talk about your feelings and needs
3. Brainstorm together to find a mutually agreeable solution
4. Write down all the ideas, without evaluating
5. Decide which suggestions you like, don't like and which you plan to follow through on.

We're not so formal in our approach at home. Writing things down? Evaluating them? Of course, I do this at work all the time -- but not because I am truly evaluating alternatives, but because I am trying to justify my gut-instinct decision :-) So will this problem solving approach work at home if I am not really sincere? My kids will see through that. Maybe it's worth a shot, especially since we're approaching the school-age years.

One thing that's helping all of us at home is ending the Blame Game. I didn't realize how much we did it until I stopped to listen -- "you never ...". Now when one of us starts in that way, we just ask each other to tell us what they feel without blaming someone else and emphasize that we're trying to focus on a solution for the future rather than blaming anyone. That doesn't mean that you're not allowed to express your disappointment towards someone else, it's just more likely to be constructive if phrased as a good 'ol "I statement". "You never ..." or "Why do you ..." always invoke defensiveness.

I think I'm ready to tackle problem solving. Right now we tell the kids to work out their own problems, but I don't think they really know what it means, so they go back to hitting each other until they're both crying. Problem solving might be the way to go.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The art of dating

I had the most interesting conversation about dating today with a guy who is a self-proclaimed eternal bachelor. He educated me on his dating rules -- a certain protocol he's developed over the years that guarantees success. Success being 'picking up women', that is.

1. never wait more than 3 seconds to approach a woman after you've noticed her; waiting means your confidence will wain which will botch up the pick-up

2. never spend time with a woman in one setting; if you spend an hour in a bar together, it will feel like you spent an hour together but if you go to three places on your date, it will feel like you've spent a lifetime together

2. it takes 7 hours of face time with a woman before things can start to heat up; you can get it down to 4 if you change geographic locations (see above)

3. never ask for a girls name; wait for her to give you her name which establishes a "sign of interest."

4. it takes 3 "signs of interests" before she is ready to be kissed; other signs would be things like her holding a touch a bit longer than normal or sitting close to you, etc.

5. never approach a woman with a compliment -- is a dead conversation starter

6. if a woman physically moves away from you (e.g. leans back), you must do the same, otherwise it will look like you are pursuing her

7. if it appears that she's enjoying your company and you are making her happy, pull away so that she'll want more of what she likes

...okay these are obvious for the most part, it was just shocking to hear someone talk about them all at once. Dating is a dance and at times I really miss it. But then when I heard my colleague talked about #7 I could feel myself burning up inside. GAMES!!! The absolute worse part of dating. I am so grateful that I don't have to succumb to the deceit of game playing -- fucking with someone else's emotions to make yourself more desirable. Jeesh, just thinking about it makes me cringe. But then again, who doesn't play games in relationships (including marriage)?

Games asside, it was still an interesting conversation to have. All of my friends are married, so it's nice to get a different perspective. This guy appears to really enjoy being single which is something I wish I would've appreciated being when I was single.

More on roles

Thinking about roles again. My partner and I are getting better with not labeling our kids, but it's not easy to let go of our sterotypes. If we can master this at home, just think how it will change our perception and relationship with the rest of the world. It's worth putting effort into.

Here are some tips on how to free children from playing roles (brought to you from the amazing How To Talk So Kids will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk

1. Look for opportunities to show the child a new picture of himself or herself (e.g. For the child who is always accused of being so careless, "You've had that toy since you were three and it almost looks like new.").

2. Put children in situations where they can see themselves differently(e.g. For the child who is called selfish, "Sarah, would you serve everyone their dessert?").

3. Let children overhear you say something positive about them (e.g. For the 'overly-sensitive' child, "He held his arm steady even though the shot hurt.").

4. Model the behaviour you'd like to see (No kidding!).

5. Be a storehouse for your child's special moments (e.g."I remember the time you ...").

6. When the child acts according to the old label, state your feelings and/or your expectations. (e.g. "I don't like that. Despite your strong feelings, I expect sportsmanship from you.")

These make perfect sense. Like everything else, I've got to figure out a way to put them into practice....

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Superior, Inferior or Equal

I had the most inspiring conversation tonight with a friend who's gone through a complete spiritual awakening. It was so nice to hear from someone who's living all of the changes I want for my life. It really gave me hope that change is possible, if you keep working at it. She said that she is no longer judgemental and can see negative behaviour in others as coming from a hurt place.  She's able to separate the behaviour from the person rather than just react negatively to the behaviour. I loved hearing her say that she has confidence that she can use these tools to be a more loving and accepting parent, partner, friend, co-worker. Pure awesomeness.

I wish that we had more time to talk about this, but one little tid bit that she gave me really struck a chord -- asking myself how I view others -- as my superior, equal or inferior? She said that often we flip between superior and inferior. Her example is that we might look at our boss and feel doomed that we will never be as knowledgeable or successful as them in one instant and then turn around and think they are a complete asshole in the next. And I can see how examining how I think of myself in relation to others is valuable in improving my relationships and keeping me centred. This is great stuff and I am so grateful that I got to learn this tonight.