The Early Bird gets the Worm

early

I am not an early riser. My body naturally tends to sleeping in and ignoring the arrival of the morning. I wouldn’t say I’m a night owl either. I guess I just like to get enough sleep each night – not go to bed too late but not get up too early either. But when I do throw myself out of bed early it feels so great. I get that feeling that I can seize the day and accomplish so much. It doesn’t mean I necessarily do accomplish any more than usual, but there is something special about the early morning hours of the day.

Today is Friday, just before a long weekend where I live. Some people call it the “mid-winter break” and others would say it’s an excuse for schools and businesses to close and nothing more. The city is always busy ahead of a long weekend, and I decided to have an early start and get my errands accomplished before the rush of the crowds.

Have you ever arrived early at a grocery store, before the crowds? It’s a wondrous place. I did just that this morning, showing up just after 8:00 am. I snagged the best parking spot in the lot, and it was so quiet in the store that I could hear the staff stocking the shelves.  Only a few items were on my list, but the selection of everything I needed was abundant. Top of my list was fresh bread, and my nose guided me to the delightful smell of freshly baked goods.

The baguette was squishy and the bagels were hot and soft. How could I not buy them? Once I had everything I needed I headed to the checkout, which was empty! The lady at the checkout was friendly and relaxed, which would not be the case a few hours later.

I was back home by 9:00 am, groceries unloaded and ready for my next task. I will admit that I slowed down after this, but there is an energy that has flowed through my body all day, knowing that I started the day early.

There are many people who start early every day, by choice or by circumstances. Kudos to those eager beavers who pop up at 5:00 am up to get in a run or visit to the gym before work. That’s not for me.

For a brief time, early in my career, when I worked in radio, I often produced the morning show. Do you listen to the radio when you wake up? If you are listening to the radio at 6 or 7 am, that means a group of people had to be at work much earlier that day to prepare the show and get it on air. That’s what I did for a while.

When I produced morning radio I had to be at work by 4:00 am. Getting out of bed was painful. I know that many people work odd hours, but waking up at that time of day is just not normal. I had to peel my eyes open. Luckily, I lived very close to the radio station and always arrived on time. Our show was on air at 5:30 am and over by 9:00 am. I prepped the show for the next day, and my workday was complete by 10:00 am.

Every day that I worked the morning show, at about 10:00 am, I thought to myself, the early bird really does get the worm. I felt great. Okay, a bit tired, but great. The day was mine, to do whatever I wished (note this was pre-children).

No matter how hard it is to get out of bed, get dressed, prepare myself for the day and get on with that day, I have to remember how good it feels to do it all early. Not too early (I still believe 4:00 am is unnecessary unless you have to), but just ahead of the crowds.

And that squishy baguette and hot bagels. Yum.

Tips to Look After Your Husband

husband

My mother sent me a clipping from a 1950 Home Economics book, a sort of top ten list for women on how to please your husband. In honour of Valentine’s Day, using this list as a guide, I am going to share with you my updated, 2018 version, of this same list. The tips provided to women in this 1950 guide are very serious. The ones I am suggesting, well, not so much.

Have dinner ready

1950: “Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal on time. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospects of a good meal are part of the warm welcome needed.”

2018: On my drive home from work I think about what’s in my fridge and what I can throw together for dinner. Tonight, I wasn’t in the mood to cook, so I made pancakes. I don’t know, or care, whether or not my husband enjoyed dinner.

Prepare yourself

1950: “Take 15 minutes to rest so you will be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh looking. He has just been with a lot of work weary people. Be a little gay and a little more interesting. His boring day may need a lift.”

2018: Our son turns 11 next month. That means I rested about, well, 11 years ago. I put on make-up when I first wake up early in the morning, and by the time we all arrive home at the end of the day I often look like a ragged mess. A stimulating conversation, on a general weekday evening, is a mix of yelling at our children, going over tasks to complete around the house and sometimes a more stimulating discussion about news and politics.

Clear away the clutter 

1950: “Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives, gathering up school books, toys, paper, etc. Then run a dust cloth over the tables. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too.”

2018: Clutter is my middle name. At any given time, if anyone (never mind my husband) enters my house you will see many items scattered about – a single toddler sock, various toys, hats, coats, books, paper and dozens of other items. I may own some dust cloths. My house is usually a haven of chaos and disorder.

Prepare the children

1950: “Take a few minutes to wash the children’s hands and face (if they are small), comb their hair and if necessary, change their clothes. They are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part.”

2018: I love this one. Really? I do bathe my children regularly, but around 6:00 pm all three of them look more like Pigpen from the Peanuts cartoons than little treasures. Even if I did tidy up my children, my husband wouldn’t notice.

Minimize all noise

1950: “At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of washer, drier, dishwasher or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet. Be happy to see him. Greet him with a warm smile and be glad to see him.”

2018: When I’m home with my kids all day I’m very glad to see my husband. To hand the wild things over to him. It’s not hard to eliminate certain noises around the house, as I doubt that the washer or vacuum are in use anyway. I can guarantee that at least one child will be screaming, another one will be bothering another one and the third one won’t even notice that someone has arrived in our house.

Some don’ts

1950: “Don’t greet him with problems or complaints. Don’t complain if he’s late for dinner. Count this as minor compared with what he might have gone through that day.”

2018: I build up my list of grievances as I slog through my day and my husband does too. He is rarely on time for anything, so I’m more shocked if he arrives anywhere on time than late.

Make him comfortable

1950: “Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or suggest he lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him. Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soft, soothing and pleasant voice. Allow him to relax – unwind.”

2018: If my husband chooses to relax on a comfortable chair or in bed he had better do so with a couple of rambunctious children. He can make me a drink. His shoes better be off his feet before he steps off the mat at the front door. I don’t know what a low, soft, soothing and pleasant voice is. I’m always loud.

Listen to him

1950: “You may have a few things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first.”

2018: I’m texting with my husband throughout the day. Whether he’s busy or not, he will hear from me. I usually get the first word. And the last.

Make the evening his

1950: “Never complain if he does not take you out to dinner or to other places of entertainment. Instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure, his need to come home and relax.”

2018: I go out once in a while with my girlfriends, I have a theatre subscription with my mother and encourage my husband to go out too. As long as we coordinate our schedules, there’s no problem. And once in a while, if we are organized and find the time, we even go out together.

The goal

1950: “Try to make your home a place of peace and order, where your husband can renew himself body and spirit.”

2018: That’s why there’s yoga.

My life isn’t actually quite that hectic, but ladies, we have come a long way since this piece was published almost 70 years ago. While I believe that women are still (and may always be) responsible for the brunt of the running of the home, with most of us putting in a long hard day at work, our husbands have stepped up and share much more of the load.

I hope these 1950’s tips gave you a good chuckle. I definitely had a few giggles as I read them. Ladies, take care of your man today. And gentlemen, take care of your ladies, every day.

Happy Valentine’s Day!                                                                                                                    

I’m Glad that Children Like to Climb Trees

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My son participated in a couple of snowboard competitions this weekend. Competition is new for him, and I told him to try his best and have fun. Competitive sports can be challenging for children (adults too!), causing undue stress to achieve. Matthew took it all in stride. He pushed himself to try something new, and I think he went out there, on the race course and terrain park, and had a good time. On the drive back to our country house, after a long day of skiing and snowboarding, in the middle of other conversations, Matthew started to talk about climbing trees, and it got me thinking.

What does a snowboard competition have to do with climbing trees, you may ask? Nothing really. But then again, as I think about it, and one thought leads to the next, they have a lot in common.

As parents, we expect so much of our children. We want them to be responsible, mature and to achieve. We push them, sometimes through competitive sports, maybe a bit too hard. It occurred to me that sometimes kids just want to be kids. I don’t know at what point during our lives, maybe it’s a sudden moment or gradual change, when we grow up. What I mean by that is, when does it happen that we don’t want to climb trees anymore?

Before the big renovation and addition that our family undertook at the country house last year, there was a huge evergreen tree beside the house. It had big branches and had grown over the years in a slightly abnormal manner. it was a magnet for all children to climb. As adults, we considered the idea of climbing this strange-looking tree out of the question. How many times did my father yell at Matthew to stop climbing that tree?

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This is my mother, circa 1991, just after this famous tree was planted.
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My three children in front of the same tree, 26 years later, days before the tree was cut down to make way for the addition.

But a kid is a kid, and most kids like to climb trees. And jungle gyms, And furniture. Sometimes they climb on their parents, or poles or fences. As adults, we scorn this behaviour and sometimes look on and scream in horror. But didn’t we do this too when we were children?

I don’t ski all that fast, and when I look at the jumps in the terrain park I feel like I may have a stroke if I even attempt them. But when I was ten years old I wanted to learn how to go fast and to fly high in the air anytime I saw a jump on the ski hill. I climbed the three giant trees with my brother and sister in our front yard, usually because the adults told me not to.

I did cartwheels across my backyard and kept practicing until I could really do the splits with my legs. My brother and I played baseball and hockey in the middle of my street, and I always thought it was cool to ride my bike with no hands.

The best activity at a restaurant was taking an empty glass and filling it with various liquids and condiments within reach. Have you ever tried orange-coke-ketchup-mustard-soy sauce-salt-pepper drink? My aunt says it’s tasty!

Snowboarding at top speed, doing a 180 degree turn over a jump, and climbing trees have a lot in common. They are what kids love to do. And I love that kids, especially my kids, love to do them. I don’t know when the day will come that my son will slow down and slide through a jump on his snowboard or stare at the beauty of a tree instead of climbing it, but I hope it doesn’t happen anytime soon.

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Matthew flying down the hill at his competition this weekend

**Quick note: the airborne child you see in the feature photo at the top of the story is my nephew, Max. He really loves to fly!

Writing is my Escape

My parents always told me to not make any decisions or take action when I’m angry. In that moment when I feel outraged my emotions are not in check, and it’s probably best if I calm myself down, relax, take some time, then reflect later on what made me angry. I had one of those moments on Thursday, and sitting here at my computer, just writing, is soothing and calming. I am not going to act or make decisions, I’m just going to write.

I created this blog, Kinetic Motions, primarily for me. Some people write in a diary and other people bottle up their emotions and thoughts and keep them inside. I can’t do that. I don’t like to hide my feelings, and my stress is alleviated by sharing how I feel about almost everything. This blog is my vehicle to relieve anxiety when I have it (I believe we all have some, sometimes). When I am overwhelmed, I write. I think. I share.

I write about many light topics, like my love of sports, my passion for travel or random thoughts like what people do on an elevator or how many times I move my milk until it arrives in my fridge. I write about my family, how we are bed hoppers or that my toddler is an adorable little menace. The role of women in society is something I care deeply about, the challenges working mothers have to balance – or maybe integrate – work and home.

I have also tackled mental health, though I haven’t looked at this topic too deeply. While I don’t personally suffer from a chronic mental health disorder, I will admit that at times I am not mentally healthy. Certain situations or life events at times make me anxious. When there are stresses in my life that I can’t control I am sometimes brought to tears. As I write this post, on Thursday evening, there are tears rolling down my cheeks.

I am not writing this looking for sympathy. I believe the emotions I am writing about are felt by millions of people around the world. When life hands you lemons…. Sometimes you just need to cry. Sometimes it is just too much, and you need to find a way to release it all. For me, writing is my release.

While I am not someone who keeps emotions bottled up, I am at times a private person.  Like many women, I carry a lot on my shoulders. I have always been the person, from early on in my life, who could handle anything. People looked to me as a trusted friend, a reliable employee and dependable relative. I am proud of that and hope that people will continue to look to me when they are in need – of advice, help or a shoulder to cry on.

Over the past few weeks I have learned that I can’t do it all. My family is going through some transitions, and while I know that in time our life will stabilize and everything will be okay, right now life is stressful. We are all healthy and we are lucky to have the most wonderful and supportive extended family and close friends around us.

While my husband, David, and I, are not defined by our careers, we are both focused on what we have achieved and what we can accomplish next. I have gone on a journey over the last year and am finding my way, thanks to many people who have given me tremendous guidance.

David is at the start of his journey, since the company for which he worked for almost five years has gone bankrupt and no longer exists. He is facing a daily up and down emotional roller coaster, and naturally this affects our whole family. There are days when he has an inspirational meeting with someone and is excited about the path he has chosen. Then there are days that his anxiety gets the better of him, and he questions his career choices and his professional experience.

Thursday was one of those anxious days. He had an interview that didn’t go too well and a meeting with someone who didn’t offer him any real inspirational value.  When he came home an emotional wreck Thursday afternoon, my anger boiled over. I couldn’t handle his anxiety-riddled mental state and what it was doing to me and my family.

So, I remembered what my parents told me: when I am angry, when I am overly stressed and unable to behave rationally, walk away. Calm down. And I as do now, just write. Everything will be okay. For me, and I know for David too.

PyeongChang 2018 has Arrived

pyeongchang

The 2018 Winter Olympics are here, well almost. As I write this, the opening ceremonies, in PyeongChang, South Korea, are hours away. Thousands of athletes, coaches, trainers, journalists, volunteers and spectators from around the world have arrived in this northeastern, mountainous community on the Korean peninsula. And as I see on the official website for these Olympic games, formal training events have already happened for certain sports, such as Biathlon, Luge and Ski Jumping (I love watching ski jumping, or experimenting with it on my Wii, but you won’t catch me trying it for real!).

The Winter Olympics is a key event on my sports calendar, something I look forward to every four years. I become a terrible TV junkie and become addicted to sports like bobsleigh and short track speed skating that I basically ignore in the years between the Olympics. Somehow watching a person flying down an ice-covered track is only exciting to me when it’s in the context of this massive multi-sport international event. And I doubt that PyeongChang will disappoint.

With the 14-hour time difference between PyeongChang and Toronto, at times it will be a challenge to watch all my beloved Olympic sports live. But I will try. First up are the opening ceremonies, which are scheduled to begin Friday evening in PyeongChang, or, if you do the math, early morning in Toronto. Canadian networks start their live opening ceremonies coverage at about 5:30 am Friday morning, February 9th.  I will set my alarm so that I can watch it all unfold, live. I most probably will be warm and cozy in my bed and watch in a semi-conscious state, but I won’t miss it.

One advantage of the Olympics happening in PyeongChang, half a world away and 14 hours ahead, is that the live events don’t interfere with my day, for the most part. I don’t have to sneak away while at work and check results. On the other hand, if competitions like the Men’s Alpine Combined Slalom event only starts at 1:00 am my time, I may not get much sleep over the next couple of weeks.

While I am an Olympics junkie, I will admit that there are some sports I just can’t don’t have the patience to watch. I respect all athletes who compete and train for these high calibre events, but no matter how hard I try, I just can’t catch on. Some examples:

Biathlon

To put it simply, this is two sports (hence “bi” in the title) combined, in which a person straps on a pair of cross-country skis, follows a set course, and at certain points, the athlete shoots a gun at a target. The more targets the athlete misses, the more loops around the set course that person must make. While I am sure it takes great skill to be an expert at two events at the same time, I just don’t see the attraction to it.

Curling

I am Canadian, and I don’t like to watch curling. This event involves throwing a rock on ice, hoping to get the rock into a specified zone and knock the opponent’s rocks out. I just don’t see the joy in watching it. Many people around the world, particularly in Northern communities, like to participate in curling. At its most amateur levels, all you really need is some ice and rocks, which are easy to find in Canada in the winter. At the competitive level, you need a beautifully smooth ice surface, and the rocks aren’t really rocks.

Skeleton

This one I have trouble watching simply because it gives me nightmares. Would you want to put on a skin-tight body suit, lie face-down on a board, then fly down a frozen path head first, at high speed? There are many people who seem to enjoy doing this, and I just can’t understand why. This sport made its debut back in St. Moritz in 1928 and again in 1948, and it’s been a permanent part of the Winter Olympics since 2002.

I don’t have a favourite sport or event, but I am looking forward to a few specific races which include participants from my family’s ski club, Alpine.  Roni Remme will be competing in Ladies Alpine events and Derek Livingston, who is part of the Canadian Men’s Snowboard Halfpipe team, is there too.

I am looking forward to watching, discussing, analyzing and sharing my thoughts about the Olympics over the next couple of weeks. As the world’s attention focuses on PyeongChang, I am sending my best wishes to all the athletes (especially Roni and Derek!), and I hope the 2018 Winter Olympics is fair, fun and memorable.

I Watch the Super Bowl for the Food and Commercials

super bowl

I made pizza for my daughters last night and buffalo chicken wings for my son. I also chopped up a bunch of vegetables and prepared a zesty and creamy and yet non-dairy ranch dipping sauce. The TV popped on at 5:59 pm and we watched sports. Sounds like a typical Sunday night in my house, with different people eating different food and sports on TV. But it wasn’t just any Sunday – it was the Super Bowl.

Like I wrote back in November after the Grey Cup, I am not much of a football fan. I love sports but have never fully grasped the concept of North American football – a bunch of grown men running up and down a field, throwing a ball and smashing each other to the ground. I know there are hundreds of more rules in baseball, but no matter how hard I try, I just can’t fully understand football (the Canadian or American version). It’s not that complicated, I know, but it’s just not for me.

Unless it’s Super Bowl Sunday.

I will openly admit, that for the most part, I love to watch the game to catch the commercials, the half-time show and to eat some traditional and fun football food. As my son’s interest in sports has developed, this event is definitely a must-watch on our calendar. Matthew even knows who many of the players are, many of the rules and the kinds of plays the athletes make. I follow the score and look up when there’s a great run, catch or turnover, but for the most part I’m barely aware of the game until play is called and the network goes to a break. With commercials, of course.

Put your hand up if you yell at the TV sometimes when you are watching a live show or you quickly press fast forward when watching something you recorded earlier. In 2018, we try our best to avoid commercials when we can and become infuriated when we are forced to watch them. But not during the Super Bowl.

Now that Canadians can watch the commercials live on the US networks during the game, Super Bowl is really fun. While most of the commercials aren’t exactly earth shattering, many of them do give me a good chuckle. We decided that this year or favourite was not a beer company, or for a new luxury car or soda pop, but Tide. Ya, the laundry detergent people:

 

Now back to the food. Last year, on Sunday, February 5, 2017 to be exact,  my family of five and I were driving back from our usual weekend of skiing at the cottage. I announced that it was Super Bowl that night, and I suddenly had a craving for chicken wings. So did everyone else in the car (okay maybe not the baby who was 8 months old at the time though already a good eater). I explained the popularity of the common chicken wing to my family, and we decided we just had to have them.

So, in the car we devised a plan to stop at a grocery store in the city to pick up the ingredients to prepare our chicken wings. This is not necessarily an easy task as we are kosher (to be explained further in a future post). I had to find a store in Toronto that had kosher chicken wings in stock, on Super Bowl Sunday. It took a few stops, but I found them. We feasted on chicken wings that night, watched some of the game (including the incredible New England Patriots’ comeback) and decided we had to do this again next year.

I was more organized this year and actually bought the chicken wings in advance as well as all the ingredients I needed to prepare our festive meal. My daughter threw me the loop in the car when she demanded pizza, but because of the fact that I am a mostly organized mother, I always have pizza ingredients on hand.

We arrived home from the cottage yesterday at 5:55 pm, and my TV was on by 5:59. The girls had their hot and freshly prepared pizza by 6:15, and the chicken wings were cooking for the rest of us (in my Instant Pot, of course!) before kick-off a few minutes later.

I am not a football expert, but I know that it was a great game. The score was close, there were some incredible plays and tense moments. The commercials were entertaining, and my chicken wings…. Yummy. The baby dipped her whole fist into the ranch dressing and enjoyed licking it off her hands, and Matthew finally learned how to properly eat a chicken wing.

And the Philadelphia Eagles beat the mighty New England Patriots and won their first ever Super Bowl. Congratulations to them!

There were Three in the Bed

bed

It has been a busy week, for me, my family and the world around me in general. As I wrote last year, when I first created this blog, life is busy. I always seem to be in motion, trying to balance the many demands in my life. Here is a place that I can think, reflect, discuss, debate, and just write. When I feel like I am so busy that I don’t have time for this blog, I remind myself that I have to make time for this new passion of mine. I feel lucky every day that I found this avenue to share my thoughts. So, share my thoughts is what I will do today. Not deep thoughts, just some musings about the sleeping habits of the people in my household and the bed hopping that happens every night.

When my first child was born, over ten years ago, I went to great pains to find the perfect crib. It had to be safe yet stylish. It had to be functional and a bit fab. The baby furniture was delivered and set up just in time for baby Matthew to arrive home from the hospital. I carefully placed my three-day-old son into his new crib, and he screamed. He hated it. My newborn knew what he liked: my bed.

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early cuddles with Daddy for Matthew

I am not going to debate the merits of co-sleeping, sleep training, cribs or beds. I just know what I know – and I know that all three of my children preferred, from the first day of their lives, through today, to cuddle up tight with me, in my bed. Whether it’s good for them (or me!) or not, is not the issue. They like my bed, or someone else’s bed. But not their own, and especially not a crib.

We tried hard to convince baby Matthew to like his crib. By eleven months old he would stand and lean on the railing and scream. I will admit that part of my brilliant child’s challenge was that he could stand but couldn’t figure out how to sit down. But I knew he wanted out.

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Even with his cousin, Matthew hated to go near his crib.

Julia was a bit smarter, and when she was fifteen months old she figured out how to climb up the crib’s railing and jump out. She was a bit of an escape artist and was pleased that she figured out how to get out of the crib and high tail it to my bed. Julia was a bed-hopper from a very young age.

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Newborn Julia quickly discovered where she wanted to sleep.
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It didn’t take long for Julia to discover Matthew’s bed
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Sharing doesn’t necessarily mean sleeping
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Julia discovered the joys of a crib at age 6, when Nessa was born.

Nessa is my strong-minded and yet also lazy and stubborn baby. I feel like she knew how to say no days after she was born. She was determined to hate her crib, the same one that her brother and sister used, from the first time she saw it. Just say the word crib near Nessa and she shakes her head no. Nessa knows what she wants: my bed.

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Nessa knew early on how much she loved a cuddle in my bed with her big sister

They all want my bed, or maybe any bed that’s not their own. Bed-hopping each night is an art in my house. Rarely do any of us wake up in the morning in the same bed we started in the night before. Every combination of people moves around and settles in beds around our house every day.

I am thankful that my children love each other and like to snuggle up together. When they refuse to go to bed it’s often easiest to put them into one bed, cuddled up close, and hope that they put each other to sleep. It usually works. They wander around the house and find other beds as the night wears on, but I think they enjoy their time together in one bed.

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These two still like to cuddle up close at night

As I write this, it’s late on Wednesday night and everyone is asleep in my house. Nessa is passed out in Matthew’s bed, which she took over as her own  (she won’t even look at her crib). Matthew is asleep in my bed, with some sporting event blaring on the TV. Julia is actually asleep in her own bed, but that won’t last long. In a few hours, they will all travel to a different location around the house. Sometimes my house is like Union Station in the middle of the night, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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This is how I found them a few months ago when they put each other to bed

What I Learned about the Coffeehouse

coffeehouse

My family did not engage in any particularly interesting conversations during our car rides this weekend to and from the country house. At times people said a few lively things, but overall, we just passed from topic to topic. I did toss out a few mentions of stories from a book I am reading, which is the direction I am going to go for today’s post. In a recent chapter of my book, which is a historical fiction about the city of London, England, I learned all about the significance of the coffeehouse.

With great confidence, I would say that the majority of the population in Canada (and probably England too) has visited a modern-day coffeehouse, like Starbucks, Second Cup or Tim Horton’s. It sometimes seems to me that there is at least one establishment every few blocks in the city where I live. The coffeehouse, whether it’s an independent business, a franchise or a chain, plays an important role in the community. It is most definitely a gathering place, where people meet to catch up, relax or work.

The coffeehouse sells a variety of consumables, but at its core it sells coffee. I have personally observed (though I have a feeling that I’m not alone) that over the past decade the number of such establishments has grown exponentially, and they play a significant role in our culture and society.

Is this a new phenomenon, something that can be remembered as a key moment in the 21st century?

Absolutely not.

My book covers a two-thousand-year history of London, and I recently read the chapter that focused on the second half of the 17th century. The face of London changed dramatically during this time, as it became a monarchy again, faced a massive plague and then a fire, which destroyed much of the city. These were all significant events during the late 17th century, and the book carefully documented all this, with its fictional characters.

And in the middle of this chapter, after the plague and fire, it mentions, in passing, the plethora of choices one of the main characters has about which coffeehouse to visit on a given day. He ends up at Lloyd’s, where he could sip coffee (“which was usually served black, though usually with sugar”) all day.

The author writes, “Of all the many conveniences of the new city since the fire, none had pleased Meredith more than the institution of the coffee house. There seemed to be a new one every month…” He goes on to say that these coffeehouses were open all day and served a variety of food and drink. They were meeting places, and certain establishments attracted a particular kind of person.

Lloyd’s for example, attracted merchants associated with shipping, and it was a well-known gathering spot for men to discuss their business.

I’m not going to go into the details of the direction that coffee houses like Lloyd’s eventually went (think about the insurance industry). I just find it fascinating that over 300 years ago London experienced a coffeehouse craze not unlike the one we have today. How many of you have met a potential employer at Starbucks? Did you sign a contract for a business transaction at your local Tim Hortons? Did you catch up with a former colleague over a latte at Second Cup?

We often say that history repeats itself, and in the case of the coffeehouse, that’s definitely the case.

Has the MeToo Movement Gone too Far?

I know the title of today’s blog post may get some of you angry. But this is how I feel. And before you yell and scream at me, men and women alike, allow me to explain why I ask this question today about MeToo and how I struggled to sleep last night as it’s all I could think about.

I will say it again that I have not been the victim of sexual harassment or abuse. Whatever the reason may be, I am a fortunate woman that I have had only positive interactions with men throughout my life. In fact, the majority of my mentors throughout my career and the people I have looked up to most in life have been men.

The MeToo movement was necessary. Women have been abused and harassed for too long, and it was about time that our society woke up and heard their voices. Whether it was dozens of young gymnasts assaulted by their coach or aspiring actresses who faced harassment from men in powerful positions, our world is a better place now that we are speaking publicly about inappropriate sexual behaviour.

But now I ask my question: has the MeToo movement gone too far?

Canadian society is based on a culture in Britain that evolved over hundreds of years. During the Dark Ages and Middle Ages there was no concept of justice, fairness and equality. For the most part, if an individual was accused of misconduct or a crime, he or she was considered guilty before proven innocent. During the European Reformation of the 16th and 17th centuries life began to change.

Over a period of time, and it didn’t happen overnight, British, and its North American colonies that became the United States and Canada, society worked hard to change into one that focused on innocent until proven guilty. Just because someone is accused of misconduct or a crime does not necessarily mean that he or she committed it.

Now I know that this specifically refers to our judicial system. Everyone is given their day in court to defend themselves. However, this is quite different from the court of public opinion. Just being accused of a wrongdoing can ruin a person’s life. There are countless examples, even in the 20th and 21st centuries, of people being accused of the most heinous crimes, going to jail and being found innocent later or being found innocent from the outset. These innocent individuals’ lives are ruined. There is no going back.

With respect to sexual misconduct, harassment and abuse, the majority of women in our society have historically been scared to come forward. There was a stigma attached to a woman who accused a man of sexual misconduct. Never mind that it could rarely be proven “beyond reasonable doubt” in court, society often looked down on that woman, making her feel like she did something wrong.

I believe that changed in 2017, with the evolution of the MeToo movement. Women were not being stigmatized for speaking out, rather they were being hailed as heroes. Their communities supported them and assured them that they would do whatever was necessary to bring these men to justice. And that was what our society needed.

But has that gone too far? While I don’t doubt that many of these allegations are true, what about the ones that are not? But whether these allegations are real or not, the court of public opinion has deemed that the accused man is guilty every time. He is not being given the chance to defend himself. His life as he knew it is over. He may be guilty, no doubt, but what if he is innocent? What if a woman brings forward allegations against him that are fabricated?

This is exactly what has happened over the last 24 hours in the province of Ontario. I am referring to the allegations brought forward by two women against the now former leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative party, Patrick Brown. Everything I know about this story I got from the media. He is accused of sexual misconduct going back about ten years ago, and whether these allegations are true or not, his career and life as he knew it are over.

Because of the court of public opinion, no one wants to be aligned with him at all anymore. His closest advisors abandoned him. His political party, one that he led in the province of Ontario, wants nothing to do with him. He is tainted goods now. Whether he conducted himself in an inappropriate manner or not is irrelevant. He has been accused, and that’s enough for his political life to be over.

I believe that is unacceptable. Our forefathers worked so hard to create a just and fair society, and I fear that we are now going backwards. I am urging caution and thoughtfulness. Sexual harassment and abuse are unacceptable, and women should feel confident in speaking up and speaking out. I know there is no easy balance and it may be a rough road moving forward. But if indeed we live in a just and fair society, I know we can find a way.

It’s not just about the Score

score

When you play a game or a sport the person with the higher score at the end of it all is the winner. Or at least most of the time, as I guess the goal in golf is to achieve the lowest score. A game, at its core, is about winning and losing. It’s about the competition and one person or team beating the other. But I think that’s too simplistic as I believe with sports, in particular, it’s not just about the score.

For the purpose of this blog post, I am going to focus on sports. I am a big fan of many kinds of sports, both the individual and team versions. I have participated in countless games over my 40 plus years, and anyone that knows me well knows that I am not the competitive type. From baseball and hockey to skating and skiing, they are all a big part of my life.

When it comes to team sports, I will admit I usually participate from the comfort of my couch, as I watch on TV. Whether it be Major League Baseball or the National Basketball Association, as I watch the most elite athletes participate in the sport they love, I have to hope that they do this for more than just winning.

I don’t minimize the adrenaline rush that an athlete must feel when he raises the Stanley Cup above his head. His team scored more goals than the opponents did, and his team won. But getting to the championship game brings together so many factors.

Something I love about sports is the drive and determination needed to succeed. Whether the athlete is a 6-year-old child, a teenager, young adult or senior citizen, sports are about physical and mental strength and tremendous resolve. And I must note that success is not necessarily measured by coming out the winner, with the higher score.

Success can be about a team coming together and bonding as a group, maybe making new friends. Or it can be about learning a new skill or a start on the path to living a healthier life. Or even if at the end of the day your team had the lower score, maybe you as an individual, finished the day with a personal best.

Then there’s individual sports, in which I participate in more actively. Many individual sports, like skiing, swimming, skating or gymnastics, can be competitive if you follow that track, or it can also have no elements of judging and a score.

For example, my son, Matthew, loves to snowboard. He is a natural athlete and is seemingly comfortable with every sport he plays. Matthew picked up snowboarding a few years ago, and within a few weeks was flying down the hill. He went from beginner to advanced in a matter of just a couple of years. He joined the Development Team at our ski club this year. And he made this choice not because he hopes to be an Olympic athlete but because he wants to gain skills and spend time with friends.

Matthew is participating in a few snowboard competitions this winter, and I know that for him his score doesn’t matter. He wants to learn to ride faster, do a few tricks in the terrain park and enjoy the camaraderie of being part of a team.

Of course, sometimes it is just about the score. I want my Blue Jays to win a World Series again sometime, and I don’t doubt that the thousands of fans in Toronto who are part of “Leafs Nation” have had enough of the 50-year draught without a Stanley Cup.  You need to win more games than your competition to raise the Cup above your head. The quickest way to do that – score more goals, give up fewer goals and win as many games as you can.