Friday, August 29, 2014

Social Pressure

This past Monday was my first day back to work after vacation. I came in prepared for an overflowing inbox, an extra heavy work load as we come upon our fiscal year end and the final implementation date of major project that has been ongoing for more than 6 months. I was not prepared for a week of anxiety and sleepless nights. High pressure deadlines, long days and new assignments do not bother me, or keep me up at night. The problem this week? The ALS ice bucket challenge was making its way through the office.

Unless you live under a rock, you have likely heard of this challenge. Everyone from Kermit the Frog to Sir Patrick Stuart have posted their videos on line. There have been funny videos, cases of people getting hurt and even little kids telling off their mothers for dumping water on their head.

Dousing your friends and family with ice cold water is creating a media storm around North America, raising awareness for ALS. The ‪#IceBucketChallenge‬, inspired by Boston College baseball player Pete Frates, who is living with ALS, has placed the challenge to anyone who wants to get involved.   From the ALS website.
The Canadian ALS society has received more than $10 Million in donations with this campaign. And beyond the monetary donations, these challenges have raised awareness of a disease, that while not unheard of, was certainly not at the forefront of media attention like cancer, stroke or heart disease.

This all great stuff. So why was it causing me anxiety and sleepless nights? I had friends, family and co-workers all taking the challenge, having fun, posting videos on line and challenging each other to get involved. It seemed inevitable that someone would challenge me. And that is what kept me up at night.

You see, while I think it’s a great cause and I’m glad for all the publicity that it’s garnering, I do not want to participate.

I have reasons that I don’t want to participate, reasons that I don’t feel that I need to share with everyone or use to justify my choice.

But social pressure is strong.
  • EVERYONE is doing it! Why won’t you?
  • Why don’t you want to support his great cause?
  • What do you have against the ALS society?
  • Come on!!! Don’t be such a spoil sport.
  • You’re such a party-pooper.
  • Suck it up and just do it!

These were the thoughts swirling through my head as I fell asleep each night.

My concerns were also based on WHO might nominate me . What if my boss challenged our whole team and I was the only one who didn’t join in? How do I say no to something that is being touted as a “work” team building activity? Some people have shared stories about their family members who suffer from this debilitating disease. What if they challenge me? My answer will be “I’m sorry for their suffering, but I won’t be participating.” How will that person feel towards me after that? Will it cause a riff in our relationship?

I let my thoughts and fears get the better of me.

I did end up being challenged by someone from work. Unfortunately my name got sent out in an email announcing that I had been challenged and that a group of us would be doing the challenge the next day. I couldn’t just quietly say “No thank you” to the person who had put my name forward and leave it at that. Suddenly everyone was aware and I had to tell more people that I had hoped, that I would not be participating.

Luckily the social pressure hasn’t been as bad as I had built it up to be in my head. There were still a few “Awww come on... why won’t you do it?” or “But you were nominated, you have to do it now” comments and funny looks when I said that I wouldn’t be outside at 2:00 with everyone else. But overall I haven’t felt too pressured or singled out for my choice. It turns out that there were a couple of other folks in the office suffering from the same fears and anxieties. We've banded together and are supporting each other should someone come along and want to cajole one of us for not participating.

What are your thoughts on this type of social challenge?  Did you participate, or did you decline if you were challenged?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Family
















I cherished every moment I got to spend with my Grandma and every moment I got to see Liam with his Great-Grandma.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Unplugged

Tomorrow afternoon, Liam and I will be leaving on a jet plane (and yes, we do know when we'll be back again!) for vacation at my Mom's.

My mom still lives in the house that I grew up in.  There have been very few changes to the house since I lived there.  The biggest change, is that my mom now has a satellite dish and has access to hundreds of tv channels.  When I lived there we got 4, maybe 5 channels if the weather was just right.

The one thing that my mother still does not have however, is internet access.  She has no desire to have a computer, no matter how often I try to sell her on their awesomeness.  She could see her only grandson while she talks to him!  I could send her pictures EVERY DAY!  Email, games, time-wasters galore!  Nope, she's not buying it.

So Liam and I will be unplugging.

GASP... the withdrawal has already started and I still have the computer, 2 laptops, an iPod touch and my Blackberry all within reach.

Liam is having similar issues.

We will survive.  And it will be good for us.  My mom has 25 acres of forest for her back yard with a cabin and a pond.  There will be trees to climb, snakes and frogs to catch, bats to watch swoop out of the barn at sunset.  We have lots of fun touristy stuff to do and family and friends to visit.

So while it will seem strange to not share every detail as it happens with everyone in the world, I'll get over it.  I'll focus on enjoying the moment and being part of it.  And I promise to upload eleventy-zillion pictures when we get home.


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Teaching English

There is a small convenience store at our local mall that we frequent quite regularly. It's run by a Korean family that up until recently we only shared a passing acquaintance with.  That all changed one day when the husband mentioned to Hilary that he was trying to improve his English, but found it hard because, while he can read English, some of the words are not easily found in an English-Korean dictionary, and he's never sure on how to pronounce things.

Hilary came home and hatched a plan to help him out.  We love listening to audio books, so she figured, what better way to help learn English then to listen to an unabridged audio book while following along with the hard copy.   We even had a little iPod shuffle that didn't sell at our last yard sale that we could download a copy of one of our books onto.

The only problem was that the best book choice that we had in both unabridged audio and hard copy was Twilight.  We also have all the Harry Potter's, but if someone was going to use this to learn English, we figured they didn't need made up words like Quidditch, Daigon Alley or Avada Kedavra.  So Twilight it was.

While not exactly the best subject to keep a 50 year old Korean man interested, he has persevered with it and almost seems to be enjoying it.   Every few days either Hilary or I will go in and sit behind the counter with him and help him out with any words or phrases that have stumped both him and his translator apps.   He bought his own copy of the book because he didn't want to mark up ours and he underlines anything he doesn't understand and makes notes in Korean in the margins once he has the definition or explanation of a word.

Having read Twilight several times myself, I would have characterized it as having fairly simple and easy language to understand.  I realize now that I thought that because I'm a native English speaker/reader.  To someone who is new to the language, there are a lot of colloquial sayings and downright slang that can easily trip you up.  I'm sure we are very comical looking when we are trying to pantomime the description of a word while crammed into the tight space behind the cash register.

Some recent things that we've struggled to explain:

  • If someone can drive UP to Forks or DOWN to California, why can you only show UP for work but not show DOWN?
  • What is the difference between "every day I....." and "every single day I......"?
  • Ditching school has nothing to do with actual ditches. And why is ditching healthy?
  • Explaining "hand-eye coordination" nearly had us knocking over displays of gum.
  • Trying to  explain "kicked up a tantrum" without using the word fuss, because how do you explain what a FUSS is?
  • What exactly is an understatement?
  • Trying to explain to someone who has no cultural reference to Spiderman, what a radioactive spider has to do with anything.

This teaching relationship also works both ways.  Both the husband and wife will quiz me on the Korean terms and numbers that I need to learn for Tae Kwon Do.

Win-Win!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A letter I can't send

Growing up, I idolized you.  Even though our official relationship is uncle and niece, the fact that you are only 10 years older than me made us more like cousins, or sometimes you even seemed like my older brother.  When I was little, you were the big kid that I could follow around.  When I was a teenager, you were the cool 20 something year old, living on his own, and as I entered adulthood, you were someone to talk to who had been there and done that.

We spent every holiday and family birthday together.  Every meal that I remember eating at Grandma and Grandpa's house has you sitting beside me.  I tasted caviar for the first time when you graduated from college (and promptly threw it up because you had been slipping me champagne all afternoon and had gotten me drunk).

You took me to Gay bars in Toronto long before I came out.  You were the first family member that I came out to.  I knew you would be fine with it, after all, you had already walked down that same path years before.  I watched you mourn your friends and lovers during the Aids epidemic and I feared for your health and safety.

When I first moved to Halifax, ours was the one relationship that I knew I would miss the most.  We kept in touch at first, by phone and email.  But then something started changing.  You started changing.  While it had never been a secret that you disliked my father, you become more and more vocal about it and you started including my mother in your diatribes.  That was around the time that my own shaky relationship with my Mom was starting to mend, so I found this hard to handle.

Then the lies and secrets slowly started.  You would tell me something that you swore no one else knew, but then I would hear a different version from someone else.  And after you got caught in a couple of these, you stopped calling me all together, blaming me for your lies and accusing me of betraying you.

I mourned the loss of our relationship then.  I knew that my son would never know you as a member of his family.  It hurt, but I learned to move on.  I would still ask after you when I spoke to family, happy to hear that you were well, as I never wished you any ill will.

Then things got worse.

I don't know what caused you to do the things you have done.  Perhaps you are in a bad financial situation that you see no way out of.  Not much else can explain why you would coerce your elderly mother who suffers from Alzheimer's into changing her will, cutting out my mother, and giving yourself a bigger share.  While I don't condone this in any way, I can at least see how money may have motivated this.  The other things you have done have no explanation other then you simply being an evil and cruel person.

I have heard the voice mails you have left my mother in the middle of the night.  I have been known to swear like a sailor at times, but the words you used and the names you called your own sister left me slack jawed.  You really know how to hit a person where it hurts, with awful references to my father, who had recently passed away.  You even went for the low blow of bringing up my mother's infertility.   I'm glad Mom had the courage to go to the police and register a formal complaint of harassment against you.  Having them show up at your apartment on your birthday seems to be the only thing that has stopped you from continuing this horrific habit.

But it didn't stop you from continuing your cruel attacks on your own mother.

Once you were the Mama's boy who called your mother everyday, checking in on her, sharing the details of your life.  She looked forward to those calls, telling everyone that you cared about her so much that you took time out every single day to make sure she was okay.  It's now been more then two years since you've called her and she doesn't understand why.

Reporting her for animal cruelty to the SPCA. She loved her cats and took such good care of them.  Luckily the dementia kept her from truly understanding what she had been accused of.  The woman from the SPCA only had to take one look at them to realize that she had been set on a wild goose chase.

Calling in a social worker saying that your mother was being neglected and forcing your 90 year old mother to go through that type of investigation when her Alzheimer's already makes life so confusing for her.

Feeding her lies about my mother, digging a chasm of mistrust that has taken my mother 2 years to over come and that may never be completely healed due to Grandma's mental deterioration.

The tales of your antics have lessened of late.  I don't know if these means you have decided to stop completely and let your mother live out the rest of her life in peace or if it's just a matter of waiting for something to trigger you before you start up again.

I often wonder what I would do or say to you if I were to run into you on the street.  Fortunately the odds of that happening are very slim given that I live in Nova Scotia and you are still in Toronto.  I wonder too if you will show your face at Grandma's funeral when that sad day comes to pass.  Would you dare?  Or do you believe yourself to be so right, so above contempt that you don't think you have done any wrong?

I will always mourn the loss of the person you once were, but I do not mourn for the person you have become.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Anatomy of a birthday party


What happens when you get four 11-12 year old boys together for a 3 hour birthday party?

  • One kid will get dropped off early, before you are set up and ready to go
  • One kid will be late, causing a delay in activities and making the other kids squirrelly
  • One kid will get hurt within 5 minutes of arriving, and will then whine about it till they leave
  • One kid will not listen to any direction you give them
  • One kid will be mean to at least one other kid
  • One kid will refuse to participate in anything
  • Four kids will cry "we're bored" half way through
  • One kid will be mouthy
  • One kid will be polite
  • One kid will not like any of the snacks you offer
  • One kid will plant them-self at the snack table and scarf down everything in sight
  • One kid will use inappropriate language
  • One kid will constantly bring up inappropriate topics, like flavoured tampons (I didn't ask)
  • One kid will keep coming in the house, even though they've been told to stay outside (they are wet)
  • One kid will keep holding the screen door wide open, even though they can see the cat plotting its escape
  • One kid will be picked up late
  • One Mother will enjoy quiet time at the mall while the party is going on
  • One Mother will enjoy quiet time with an alcoholic beverage after they all leave
What do your children's birthday parties look like?