Archive | December, 2012

Art love: Frida and Diego

29 Dec Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera shrine at the AGO exhibit

I got down to the Frida and Diego exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario last night. It was a great exhibition. I don’t think anyone paints suffering like Kahlo does. I was struck again how different it is to be in a room with the real paintings. Not just the texture and details; there is something (to get a little flaky) about the energy of being with the same material the artist actually held and breathed over and shaped. For me books and prints are great, but there is a vast leap to the real thing.

I also really liked Lola Alvarez Bravo’s portraits.

I have a thing for women in different time periods who were not afraid to really be themselves: Passionate, hungry, artists. Frida Kahlo focused on herself, her body and her suffering and was still acknowledged at the time as an important artist.  And yet, I don’t remember having discussed her once in high school (in university I didn’t take art, so I will give them a pass).

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera shrine at the AGO exhibit

Frida and Diego are dead (exhibit at the AGO)

One of Kahlo’s later works shows her portrait with a portrait of Rivera on her forehead. The notes said that she was portraying her increasing obsession with him towards the end of her life. I have such mixed feelings about that. In some ways I think the mutually supportive artistic marriage is almost an ideal, for me, support and creativity and love and passion and fire all together. It seems in some ways like theirs was as good as it gets, even with the divorce-remarriage and all.

And yet, another part of my brain thinks she was so young when they met, and that her obsession with him — that our obsessions with our spouses and lovers — is something women in general need to get over. I suppose it’s that second-wave feminist ideal, that a real woman is independent, slightly cynical, and a little removed. And then I had to laugh, because Kahlo was so successful in expressing who she was, taking herself and what was close to her as her focus and bringing it to the fore as quote-unquote legitimate art. Who am I to worry about it? And why can’t you have both?

I’ve been married a long long time and if I were in increasing pain I would probably want the people I love around me.

But I still had to walk away from that painting with Rivera placed in the middle of her forehead like a Buddha eye. It was too raw.

It was not just good art, but a good exhibition, because that was the point: To have Kahlo and Rivera’s art together and use their relationship as the lens.


Judging mothers

26 Dec

I’d intended (and still do) to post some holiday things but I was just listening to Amanda Todd‘s mother, Carol Todd, in an interview on CBC. I thought she was some kind of parenting expert at first; she was talking about talking to your kids while you drive in the car to get ice cream.

I admit that when I heard she was Amanda Todd’s mother, at first I thought maybe the drive to get ice cream story was fabricated. Because of course if a child commits suicide, the mother is to blame. I recognize that this is ridiculous; children actually are able to have all kinds of serious problems and still have perfectly good and decent mothers. And yet, even though I can talk to myself about my biases, and Carol Todd’s message — that her daughter had multiple issues; that she still wants to get Amanda’s message out — seems rational and reasonable to me, there is a piece of me that thinks that she must be covering something up, some essential error in her approach or even her love.

I have lost a baby and I know how isolating that experience was, even when it was clearly not my husband’s and my fault. I cannot imagine how much worse it is, or at least different in the texture, the daily absence of it, to lose an older child. Nor, having had my many sleepless nights of what-ifs, how terrible it would be to not just be the mother, but to be the mother for all of us people listening to the radio on Boxing Day with our kids, whole enough and hale enough, driving us crazy as they run madly about the house trashing their brand new toys, strewing mess around the holiday-clean hallways. I want to let go of my preconceptions and just stand with this moment of radio, a truly brave moment to put your parenting on the national record with your child a successful suicide. If she were here, I think, I would probably see her and not all the ghosts of mothers past and present and then I would sit with her.

And then I would know adds that terrible self that really, really wants it to be her fault. Because if it was her fault, then maybe one day, it will not be mine. Maybe one day my kids will bring their spouses home for Christmas, unscathed — or at least, unscathed enough — by my own failures as a parent.

I judge other mothers not just because I judge myself. In our narcissistic culture I’m not really sure I judge myself enough all the time, actually, all the mommy blogs making Pinterest crafts while relating tales of that time I totally lost in (in this cute way) tee hee. No, I judge them because that is, after all, the air we still breathe.

When my almost-2-year-old went to daycare, the first few weeks he cried daily. And often, he cried for his father. We have been pretty equal parents since his birth, particularly since he was our second, although I had the breasts and the maternity leave to be home with him 52 weeks, carting him around in the Moby to pick up his brother and so I’m not really sure that was that equal and…why? Why after all that (and 6 months of a nanny) would he cry for his father? Why? The staff would laugh and remark that all the other kids cried for their mummies.

But my little guy cried for his daddy because he’s just like that. And it is 2012, for fuck’s sake.

And no one could believe it. That’s the air we all breathe, as parents and judgmental strangers on the Internet. Kids should miss their mothers. And mothers should make things right for their kids.

Working mom blues: Sick day tips

17 Dec

My younger son, aged almost-2, is sick today, the kind where at 2 am you know you’ll be lucky to get off with a mere doctor’s visit: High fever, fast breathing, sick look, sick breath, listless. My spidey-sense diagnosis is that he has bronchitis or pneumonia, and I am kicking myself because Sunday morning I heard his cough and though “huh, maybe we should get that listened to,” but he was running around merrily so I ignored it, which meant that this Monday morning it was no longer optional to go see if antibiotics are necessary.

(He is on my lap. We have an appointment for noon-ish.)

I called in sick. In the past, I’ve tried to juggle everything by working from home, and sometimes that works (or doesn’t, but you try anyway) and is necessary. Today though, it was not. So I just took the whole day. I tend to feel better about myself when I do one thing well rather than two things half-assed.

It still terrifies me every time, even though I also have a 7 year old and have been through not just a few rounds of childhood illness but also appendicitis, and bedrest with my younger’s pregnancy. There is never any actual question that if my kids really, really need me, work comes second.

The trouble is sorting out what “really, really need” means and how many times that can happen before I need to be cutting out my lattes to save for a period of unemployment. (I must note, this has never actually happened to me. But I seem to think it will, every time.)

Here are my best tips:

1. Plan ahead
I mean at work. I can be remarkably bad at this, but the best insurance against terrible things is, if you are in a job where you can manage your time at all, be up on your work with clear to-do lists, backup plans, and most of all: Deliver things early whenever you can. If your reputation is that you get things done on time, the odd day of crazy should be okay.

Another good way to plan ahead is to have some savings in the bank. It should not come down to it, but knowing that you do can reduce a lot of stress.

2. Plan contingency care, or work with your partner
My son is in group daycare, and my backup plan for sick little ones is my spouse. He works from home a fair amount and often has flextime, and so between us we can usually work something out. It helps that I am not a brain surgeon.

It would be much better to have a backup sitter, or a family member willing to take a sick baby. I thought I had this with my older son and discovered that in practice, family members don’t want to get sick and occasion sitters are often not available. I could throw a lot of money at the problem too, although I don’t have a lot to throw.

I find the worst days the ones where the kid is getting better, but isn’t quite well enough to go back to daycare. This is where my backup care can actually work though, because I can predict in advance when the 36-48 hour mark for antibiotics will fall and get people on board.

3. Bring your kids to work when they are well
I bring my kids to work as briefly as possible (the same family members who don’t do sick care will do this for me) at least once a year when they are well. I dress them really cutely, pick the time carefully and, with my older child, bribe him into his best behaviour. People are much more flexible when they can picture your little guy as a real person rather than an excuse.

4. Pick up slack for others
Although it does cut into my precious time with my children (I am rolling my eyes at that phrase as much as I kind of agree with the sentiment), I try to visibly show up for extra work from time to time, and to cover for colleagues who are sick or having family issues. Because that’s only fair.

5. Email as soon as your child is sick
2:37 am email is much more impressive than 8:45 am mail. Also, work at night (if you are in a job where this is appropriate) and email then. However, that said —

6. Be confident once you stay home
I’ve noticed that executives do not apologize, at least not in a supplicating way, when they reschedule meetings. If you are valuable to your organization, and you should be if you have been putting your effort in, behave that way. If you get fired, you get fired: Unless you are in a very weird situation (which is possible, just not likely), it will not be because you failed to feel bad enough about your choices.

7. Be thankful
Yes, after you’ve been up all night 3 nights in a row and have just barely managed to hand your child over to someone else and you are kind of in that grumpy “my baby is well enough but not well enough, and now I am getting it” state, it is hard to be thankful and gracious. But mentioning to your boss that you really appreciate that you were able to be there for your child and that you will be picking up the work; bringing your coworkers a picture drawn by your 5 year old and mentioning how grateful you are that they were able to send that report on is just plain good manners.

8. Pass it on
Are you a boss who is results-oriented or are you getting into the facetime game? If you have staff with kids, parents, dogs or other responsibilities who are having a genuinely tough time, even if it’s that year everyone gets the flu 10 times, work with them.

9. UnionizeOkay, I am not really sure I believe this. But I am in media, and I did not become a teacher. Sometimes I find myself fantasizing about what it would be like to be a unionized teacher rather than in  a field where people are getting laid off every day. And I also realize that when I send my elder son to school with a cough, the look I get from the teacher is coming from someone guaranteed not to get fired for using her sick time, where I get 5 days a year of sick leave all-in and it doesn’t matter, if a story does not appear at the right time regardless my job is on the line. (That said, I can go for a 20 minute walk to clear my head where a teaching teacher is stuck in the classroom. Balance.)

Still, I do not just wonder, but worry about what it is doing to all of us that most of us can get fired for something as simple as having to deal with the very short-term problem of a child with a fever. Kids get sick. Aging parents get sick. People get sick.

I get that it is really difficult when staff have these issues, but why again is it that women end up choosing to quit entire careers because their kid had 4 childhood illnesses in one calendar year and they ended up feeling like crap and dreading their performance reviews? No, it’s not work’s fault that they chose to have children and yet…and yet.

How to manage your social media profile (an introduction)

15 Dec

(Also an abject lesson)

So, I work for a lifestyle website during the day. And I spend a lot of time wishing that I could say something like this, or show my readers things I cannot (for this second link: Barbie Hoarder Dreamhouse!) Even under my real name, because these days, employers do Google you before they hire you.

Employers care about your social media profile
Can you believe this shit? We live in a world where your employer is going to Google your name and find your drunk pictures from university and that your aunt likes every. fucking. post you make on Facebook and the banal Instagrams you took that day you had a beer at lunch and suddenly all the street graffiti seemed like it was part of the cosmic adventure, man. And then they will decide whether your Klout score is worth your apparent alcoholic (or hippie) tendencies.

It seems to me that in medieval times it was the Church that sought to police the serf’s every thoughts. As long as they were worried about whether they might be found to be witches or sent to hell for coveting their neighbour’s wives, and reassuring themselves that really, God would let them through the gates of all glory, they weren’t too obsessed about the fact that they were starving to death while the bishops fed the fruits of their labour to local whores. (Where the fuck do you think these phrases come from?)

But now, it’s ourselves.

We are our own spin machines; our own PR. Yesterday I actually found myself wishes I had better dishes so that I could decorate one cupcake perfectly and put it on Pinterest — my god! This is why I learned to read and write and write essays about dramatic irony and do trigonometry and cook and love my children and work hard to buy housing, kitchen appliances and gas, so that I could create that one perfect cupcake! And people might share it and enhance my Klout score! — and here’s the thing.

Here’s the thing! I don’t even like to decorate cupcakes! I just kind of wanted to look like the kind of person who does!

The whole thing reminds me of a comedy sketch where a comic goes on about people being upset that they can’t use wifi on a plane. And they’re on a plane! In the air! Holy fuck!

The Internet is like that, if you ask me. Here we are with this amazing technology that did not exist at all while I was growing up (in fact, our phones connected to the wall while we were speaking on them) and what are a lot of us (me too) using it for? To buy shirts at Old Navy.


Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But then, you see, I worry. If I say I like Old Navy have I just priced myself out of an executive position? Am I no longer hipster social media guru material?

In 1995 did I have to worry whether I was cool enough for my quite ordinary job?

Enrich your social media profile like this, or the love that dares not speak its name
So this is  the genesis of this blog: To share things I love, to write the stories women’s lifestyle website editors wish they could, and to basically have way too good a time for the cusp of the post-capitalist era.

To be as real as I can, given that I also have a Twitter account.

Social media advice
And oh yes: The love advice part. What can I say? I have been married 18 years. But it is way more complicated than that, because even though I promise you that I am (for real) utterly in love with my husband, and my Internet Boyfriend, I also have crushes and affairs all the time. Besides, on the Internet everyone’s an expert.