My Horror Dilemma

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I love Halloween, because dressing up is fun, of course.  But more importantly, I really, really love horror movies.  The problem I have is that my husband is *not* a fan of such things.  Too scary.  Plummeting down a mountain on a bicycle?  Not scary.  The trailer for Paranormal Activity II?  TOO SCARY.

The real issue here is that I can’t watch them when he’s around.  But when he’s away and I have the house (and DVD player) to myself, well, that is bad news.  My imagination runs away with me.  I don’t sleep.  I imagine ominous figures looming outside my sliding glass doors.  I hear bumps in the basement.  Did I leave that closet door slightly ajar?  Eeek.

And all this horror-movie-induced paranoia of mine is actually making the situation worse.  I have so many cinematically-based fears that I’ve reinforced his belief that scary movies are not a good idea.

Here is a partial list:

-basements (obviously)

-attics (of course)

-old-timey wheelchairs

-music boxes

-stick figures

-microfiche

-pale, serious children

That is only a small sample.  It would be longer if I included books (I could barely function after reading Zodiac).

It’s probably a good thing that Pete is preventing me from exposing myself to these things.  If only he could have stopped me from reading these:

http://thehairpin.com/2012/10/wikipedia-entries-to-read-in-the-dark

Happy Halloween!

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Two Tired Parents Go to a Lecture

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Last night, Pete and I went to a lecture at the Craigleith Ski Club.  It was organized by the Georgian Triangle Lifelong Learning Institute.  The GTLLI offers courses to members (mostly retirees) wanting to expand their horizons, but once a year, they put on a special event like this one.  In 2011, when I was pregnant with C, we went to a lecture by former Canadian ambassador to the UN Paul Heinbecker (who was one of my professors in grad school) and we were, by far, the youngest people there.  Still, it was a fantastic lecture and there were very delicious snacks afterwards.

We were excited to get tickets to this year’s event.  This time, we were not the youngest people there (damn you, hip twenty-something couple!) but we felt like we might be the exhaustedest (not a real word).  You might argue that octogenarians are likely more tired than even the most frazzled new parents, but we were the first people rushing out of the ski club so that we could be in bed by 9:15.  So, I stand by my statement.

Last night’s lecture was by CBC journalist Brian Stewart, who was a foreign correspondent for decades and is perhaps best known for his coverage of the Ethiopian famine.  His CBC crew introduced the world to Birhan Woldu, the little girl who would become the face of the famine.

Birhan Woldu in 1984; Brian Stewart; Birhan Woldu in 2004.
Photos via Make Poverty History

Stewart’s lecture, Hope Out of Ruins: Human Endurance in an Age of Crises, was an optimistic take on the state of the world.  Stewart believes that despite what the media would have us believe, there has never been a period in human history with more stability, tolerance and peace than this one.  Coming from a man who has covered some of the most devastating catastrophes of the last several decades, it was an uplifting message.  Stewart was careful, however, to warn that our 24/7 news cycle and short attention spans are compromising our ability to understand our world.

For instance, we are more likely to think that crime rates are rising in this country, when they are, in fact, falling.  When the news media cover violent crimes, they don’t point out that such crimes are rare.  The fact that they are rare is the reason why they are being featured on the news in the first place.  An event is considered “newsworthy” when it is extraordinary.  I used to use this famous example when teaching my policing students about crime rates: if 1 airplane out of 10,000 leaving a particular airport crashes, the headline will not be “9,999 planes land safely.”  This is by no means a critique of the news media, it simply illustrates that we see the noteworthy, extraordinary events on the news.  The problem with this is that we become so accustomed to seeing these events nightly that we begin to think that they are a lot more commonplace than they are.  By every measure currently in use, crime rates have been steadily falling in Canada for several years.  Yet the high-profile shootings in Toronto and the horrific case of alleged murderer Luka Rocco Magnotta lead the public to believe we’re living in a more violent time.

Brian Stewart pointed out that we are facing a dilemma.  We are living in a relatively stable, peaceful time, but we are more pessimistic and cynical because of our constant exposure to negative media coverage of current events.

Stewart mentioned dozens of encouraging developments, the fact that dictatorships have fallen across most of Europe and much of South America, that all but one African country hold elections, and that human rights are increasingly respected while our tolerance for war has markedly diminished.  What to do about this cynicism was left for us to ponder.

It was a great evening; an intellectually stimulating date night.  And we were in bed by 9:30.

An Evening with Linden MacIntyre

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I was lucky enough to attend An Evening with Linden MacIntyre in Meaford, Ontario earlier this month.  This was a fundraiser for the local library and was held at the beautifully restored Meaford Hall.  I was obviously excited about this because I had an evening to myself that involved wine and cheesecake on a stick (!) and stimulating adult conversation.  I’m also a fan of Linden MacIntyre’s work.  In case you aren’t familiar with him, Linden MacIntyre is a CBC journalist and Giller-prize winning author.  I absolutely loved his book The Bishop’s Man and recommended it to my sister, who also raved about it.  It’s thought-provoking and understated.  And in a book tackling the difficult subject of the Catholic Church and sexual abuse, it doesn’t take the easy way out.  It’s fantastic.

MacIntyre began by reading from his new novel, Why Men Lie.  He then sat down with the evening’s host for a discussion of his novels and his career as a journalist.  He talked about his own childhood in Cape Breton and how that informed his writing.  He discussed some of his assignments as a journalist and how those experiences affected him.  He has written about some of the more haunting experiences in his novels in order to exorcise them from his life.  There is a character in his new novel who is based on a real death-row inmate MacIntyre interviewed before his execution.  He was a Canadian convicted of murder in Texas, and agreed to speak with MacIntyre after rejecting all other offers.  According to MacIntyre, the inmate asked why he should speak with him, and MacIntyre replied “Because they don’t want you to.  They want to control what is said about you.  They want to show a twenty-year-old mugshot of you on the news and have that be the end of it.”  And so the inmate agreed to tell his story.  MacIntyre claims that his conversations with that inmate so affected him that he couldn’t quite capture that in his journalism.  And in writing about him, MacIntyre claims that he was able to let go of a man who had haunted him for many years.

After MacIntyre’s interview was over, I high-tailed it to the reception area so that I could have the chance to meet him and still get home at a reasonable time.  I was third in line to have my copy of The Bishop’s Man signed.  Linden MacIntyre signed my book and then I told him that it was an honour to meet him, that I had loved The Bishop’s Man and that I showed Fifth Estate documentaries in my criminology courses to my policing students (before I had C, I used to teach college- and university-level courses for a policing program).  I used to show them his documentary about Steven Truscott, a 14-year-old boy who was wrongly convicted of murder in Ontario in the 1950s.  Linden MacIntyre told me that he thought it was so important to expose people, and particularly policing students, to stories of the wrongly convicted.  He then offered to send me one of his non-fiction books, Who Killed Ty Conn?  He was gracious and charming and I was thrilled to meet him.

Pete wasn’t able to come with me that night, because we weren’t able to find a babysitter, but next Tuesday we’re going to a lecture by Brian Stewart of CBC news on media sensationalism and we’re both pretty excited for that.  Learning!

Being a Mother is Hard. Let’s Not Make it Harder: A Birthday Rant

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My sister wrote a comment a few weeks ago in response to one of my recipe posts.  I just had to re-post it, because it’s spot-on.  A bit rambly, a bit ranty, but spot-on.  And she was entitled to rant that day, because it was her birthday.

I love The Office and I will use any excuse to post Dwight’s birthday sign.

To provide some context, I had been telling her about how much I had been struggling to find some balance in my life.  I’m raising a toddler, trying to keep a house clean, to cook homemade meals every night, to have quality time with my husband, to keep in touch with friends and family, to read books and exercise and practice my banjo and pay attention to politics (isn’t Rob Anders a dickhead?).  I can never manage to keep up with everything at once, and that often frustrates me.   She wrote me this great, insightful comment and it came at the perfect time.  She’s smart, that sister of mine.

Here it is:

I’m very impressed with all your home cooking and baking.  It makes me think, though, about the pressures that we put on ourselves as women.  Just a few generations ago women worked unbelievably hard to do physically demanding, never ending cleaning and cooking…and child care and clothes making and farm work and volunteer work and care for elders and church duties and some piece work or other work to bring in extra income.  As soon as modern equipment made that work a little easier, the cult of domesticity took hold and expectations soared, so the work load, and the guilt just shifted.  Then women took on work outside the home, which is fantastic in many ways, but then the “double shift” started.  Convenience foods became more common, not surprisingly.  But of course, whenever things get a little easier, the expectations increase again.  I am finding that many of my women friends are feeling the pressure to add even more time and effort to their daily work schedule to make home cooked everything.  It doesn’t matter if this is added to a work day outside the home or a work day at home with kids (and quite frankly I find it easier in many ways now that I’m at paid employment during the day rather than home every day).  I feel some guilt and embarrassment when I rely on convenience foods (not fast food but pre-made lasagnas and the like).  I’m very much in favour of better, home cooked food.  It’s appalling how many chemicals and salt and sugar are used in commercially prepared foods.  Still, it’s frustrating that each time things get a little easier for women, somehow the expectations on us increase and our work is just as time consuming and our “failures” just as guilt inducing.  Who places these expectations on us?  How can we get out from under these expectations and feelings of responsibility?  Both my husband and I work full time.  I know he doesn’t feel any sort of guilt or shame when our house is messy and has not even considered that home cooked is better let alone felt the pressure to work even harder to ensure we eat home cooked.  So, be it resolved that we should eat home cooked and let something else slide, like perfectly decorated and perfectly tidy houses.  We should definitely give up the appearance that all of this is effortless.

I know this isn’t my blog, but it’s my birthday and this is my rant.

She’s right.  I’ve been putting a tremendous amount of pressure on myself to be perfect at all of this, and it’s not necessary.  In fact, it’s counterproductive.  I was mulling this over today when a friend posted a link to an article about how difficult it can be to be a mother in our culture.  It’s a great read.

So instead of rushing around sweeping and mopping and scrubbing for the rest of C’s nap, I’m going to loaf and have some tea.  And when she wakes up, I’ll be a much happier mom for it.

Excuses, Excuses

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I’ve been having difficulty keeping up my blogging lately, for a variety of reasons.  Here’s a quick list:

1) Toddlers are BUSY.  It’s getting harder to find free moments when C is up and about.

2) I never have time for everything, and right now the two things that are suffering are blogging and banjo-playing.  I’m not happy about it, but I have to prioritize.

3) I’m following through on my goal of volunteering my time with a community organization that I think does really good work.  That’s definitely time well spent.

I’m hoping to keep things up and running here, despite the time-crunch.  Tomorrow night I’m going to a lecture and book signing by Linden MacIntyre of the Fifth Estate.  I read his Giller Prize-winning book, The Bishop’s Man, while I was pregnant with C and I loved it.  I’ll be sure to report back…someday.