The Top 9 Reasons Why This Post Will Delight You

Everyone has a list. Made famous by Late Night talk shows and grocery store magazines. There are lists for any conceivable, quantifiable opinion and personal taste out there.  A great many of these lists are full of the kind of information you would expect from quality magazines such as Basket Full of Kittens Digest or Chatelaine.

Top 10 Signs Your Lunchmeat is a Sagittarius.

The Top 15 Terrifying Big Brand Mascots That Will Haunt Your Dreams and Plague Your Waking Hours With Their Giant Heads.

How to Predict Your Marital Success Based On Your Lip Balm Preferences.

Grocery store line-ups and gynecologist appointments are my personal favorite places to peruse a sampling of both current and shockingly old magazines to really get a feel for the state of humanity through their hastily compiled, sensationalist lists. Nothing breaks the ice like some casual banter about 10 Reasons Why Sharks Will Always Win In A Fight Against A Lion while your feet are in the stirrups on your OBGYN’s table.  

The table in her office, not her dining room table at home. 

I’m pretty casual about body after giving birth to 2 kids, but that might actually be where I draw the line. I have yet to confirm this but it’s probably a safe assumption.

Where DID you get your dining room chairs?

Moving along…

The actual reason this type of list exists is likely rooted in our increasing need for information, but not actual information that should probably be verified before being spread throughout Facebook in posts forwarded from friends of friends. Magazine lists should be consumed more like the culmination of sound bites from your great Aunt, which she has filtered through both her love of gossip and day drinking.

“You won’t get pregnant the first time”

“My friend ate a chocolate bar from the Dollar Store and hasn’t had peripheral vision since.”

None of this is actual information as much as it is entertainment and dangerous advice gleaned from a weekly senior’s speed-walking meeting in the mall.   A magazine list of amazing facts and little-known statistics is a quick fix for our immediate gratification brains.  My own immediate gratification brain sorts these fact-ish nuggets into the appropriate folder where trivia and my current postal code are kept; waaay in the back so it can only be recalled when I am actually trying to remember where I parked.  To try to get away from feeding our collective minds with even more instant delight, I have compiled what I see as a definitive list of actual learning moments and observations, none of which I learned through day drinking.

Number 1:  Your mother is probably right.

I could start by saying your mother didn’t get to be a mom simply by accident, but it is safe to assume that upwards of 80% of us were spontaneous children. And yes, I know where babies come from.  I understand that they are not spontaneously created, like parking spots or the latest iPhone incarnations. I am suggesting there is a pretty good chance your mother is a mom by at least a little bit of accident.  However, they become mothers by choice.  It’s the mother-by-choice decision that places them in the category of probably being right about something.  

SWEET CHRISTMAS WHAT DID YOU EAT??

Parents of any gender can choose to simply have kids or to have kids they are engaged with, but I’ll focus for now on the mothers as I have been hearing how incorrect my dad is about so many things for so long from my own mother, that it’s just part of my narrative about him.  Sorry dad.  

Mothers know stuff. They know how to do things, how to say things, and how to repair things.  I’m not saying they also do not screw things up, break things, and have no idea how to do things.  I’m just saying they know stuff.  Listen to your mothers now and in 5 years you will see she was probably right.  

One of the biggest advice nuggets I appreciated from my own mother years after she shared it with me was that I should never be with a man who didn’t appreciate his own mother.  A number of years after the fact and a few sketchy relationships later, I understand what she meant.  Men, if you are reading this, take this as a call to be good to your mothers.  It will work out for you later. Trust me.

Number 2:  There are no bad dogs, only bad people.

This one is an eternal frustration for me.  I see dogs vilified in the news too often and wonder how it is that the owners are not more accountable for their actions.  My dog Ruby (bless her soul) was a rescue from a remote northern community.  When she came to me she was afraid of plastic bags, flames, and baseball hats.  She would lunge and snarl at people riding towards her on bikes and motorcycles and charged our fence once or twice towards children holding baseball bats or umbrellas.  I think it is safe to assume she was not aggressive and defensive because she felt that major league baseball really let her down since the performance enhancement scandals of the mid-2000’s or that umbrellas were a capitalist sham. She was aggressive because at some time in her life before me, she was chased, taunted or beaten with something that looked like a normal, inoccuous item.

She was not a bad dog. Not even close.  Her badness with me was limited to her unimpressed sigh when I would turn the bedroom light on at 6am, or for her flatulence so caustic it could peel paint.  Bad people made sure her only response was to be aggressive out of her sense of self-preservation.  Some might see it as a shame to train the beast out of the beast and this is why they don’t attend to their social needs.  Others might say they want a vicious beast to protect their family and possessions, yet most are probably just too ignorant to train, thus love, their beasts into being good members of society as well as loyal protectors. Maybe this links into my first point – anyone can be a mom, but you choose to be a mother.   You can also choose between being a dog owner or a dog lover.  If you cannot commit to be a functional dog parent, please get a fish or a sock puppet.

Number 3:  Be your own ride.

Many years ago when I was but a bartender with an undiagnosed anxiety disorder and no car, I used to have to either take the bus or get a ride with a friend when I went out. Couple this lack of a dependable ride with the misunderstood anxiety symptoms that I assumed had to be either an unplanned pregnancy, cholera, or swimmers itch, and you have the makings of an imminent melt down at all times while I waited on other people timelines. 

One New Year’s Eve in particular I spent hiding in the bathroom at a house party where I knew 2 people.  One of them was my ride and she was in deep conversation with the other person I knew. The feeling of having to be on her timeline and leave when she wanted to leave changed how I travelled from that day. I had not felt the urgency of a car until I realized how much I disliked being held hostage at the whim of another. 

Be your own ride is more a nod towards not being beholden to anyone.  Do your own thing. Create your own terms. Make your own present and future without relying on anyone else to make it happen for you.  Today, I drive alone to most events where it would make sense to carpool, only because I cannot be trusted to make it through the whole event and can’t spend one more night hiding in a bathroom.  The reason I give to others for taking my own car by myself is that I belt out show tunes at the top of my lungs in the car and refuse to wear pants while doing so.  I drive alone now. Every time.  

Number 4:  If it feels weird, it’s probably weird, so don’t do it.

Let’s hear it for gut feelings and intuition!  Woot woot! 

When we are young, I think we feel more in our gut in unfamiliar situations, but then we are told not to be afraid, or shy, or nervous.  We are told to ignore our gut feelings and soldier on through uncomfortable situations.  I’m sure there is some validity to this thinking, as kids are not worldly beings with a good choices history to rely on for guidance.  Kids are barely able to remember to bring their lunch kits home before the contents turn into The Soup of Decay, so how can they possibly understand the subtlety of the gut feeling?  When we are adults, we stop listening to our gut feelings, favouring instead the desire for inclusion and harmony.  Walk down a dark street alone, go for coffee with the curiously attentive guy from your office, having drinks with the girls that a table full of frat guys keeps buying for you.  

None of these things are intrinsically bad, but if your gut gives you the warning shot across the bow that there might be trouble brewing, you should listen, or at least acknowledge it.  I could have staved off at least one horrible relationship and my first tattoo had I honoured my gut feelings.  On the other hand, your gut is also trained to make stuff up, like that time I thought my new dentist would not work out because he has red hair.  That wasn’t my gut speaking. That was me being an asshole. A very unfounded asshole since I have grown to love my dentist, red hair and all. Look at how I’ve grown as a person!

Number 5:  Pack in, pack out.

A good camper will understand and adhere to this concept. A great camper should also understand that bears are not just “misunderstood puppies”, and given the chance, squirrels WILL steal your wallet and order Skip-The-Dishes with your credit card.   The best campers, however, know that they are to leave the camp site and surrounding nature the same, if not in better condition, than they found it. Nature is there for us to enjoy, not to scatter with Slim Jim wrappers and empty Gatorade bottles.  

Where this rule is stressed to campers throughout their camping experience, people in everyday life are not held as fast to this rule.  I know this through my shared human experience with public washrooms, rental cars, and bowling shoes.  An endless, and surprisingly high number of shit-painted toilet bowls, hidden condoms and toenail clippings has proven to me that humans, left unchecked, will often not leave anything better than they found it. 

The larger metaphorical interpretation of this idea could be applied to human relationships as well. If we can agree to stop leaving people in worse shape than when they came into a relationship, I think we can make motions towards creating fewer messed up people for the next person to discover.  I would not want to walk into the bathroom at Starbucks and have to deal with someone else’s mess myself, yet people leave trails of damage on partners and children, who then in turn become someone else’s Starbucks bathroom.  And sadly, a reluctant barista will never clean them up on your behalf.  That’s now your mess to deal with.  

So stop shitting all over metaphorical and actual toilet bowls, and if you can’t be good to your surroundings or to one another, or at least try to be LESS shitty. 

What’s in a Name?

“Meat to aisle 6. Meat to aisle 6 please.”

The store’s intercom system crackled over the din of the early afternoon shoppers. My basket groaned under the weight of the mistake of a premature stop in the dairy aisle for milk. As I walked from aisle to aisle shopping for my remaining items; mayonnaise, rubber gloves and discounted bananas, I walked past aisle 6. There stood a man with a broom, sweeping up what appeared to possibly be the contents of a bag of rice that looked like it had torn open. I know it was rice because I had recently been down aisle 6, fighting off the aggressive advances of one of those angry, gangland-style wasps that try to rule through intimidation. There may have been an altercation. I may have used a bag of rice as a shield, then a weapon.

As I walked past the man with the broom, both to re-visit the scene of the crime thus removing myself from looking guilty and to also see if I could determine if I spat out my gum in the struggle or simply swallowed it. I looked up at the man as I paused across the aisle from him and watched his slow rhythmic sweeping of 72,000 grains of rice. I cast my sneaky side-eyed gaze towards his nametag and was instantly caught off guard.
Hello, my name is Meat. How can I help you today?

In hindsight, it was probably like Matt, or Mike, or Mark, and they were probably calling the guy from the meat department to come to sweep up the damage left on the coliseum floor. My little tet-a-tet with the wasp may have left me disoriented and sweaty, resulting in poor vision and clammy hands. I walked away and left Meat, or Mark, to his business of cleaning up my insanity but I could not stop thinking about the names we are given and what they do to us in our lives. How did a guy probably not named Meat end up working in a grocery store and not in a financial or event planning capacity? Why was Meat sweeping the floors and I was fighting wasps?

What an unusual name…is it European?

My name was a complicated one to grow up with. Kirby is not a name commonly found in nature or 1970’s playgrounds. Until I was old enough to understand that my name was unique, I always kind of thought my name was pronounced with a high questioning inflection at the end of it, because people would always repeat it back to me like that. Kirby? I used to introduce myself with that same up-speak inflection when I was young, leading many to assume I had made up a name on the spot because I was on the run from the law.

My name was complicated further throughout my elementary school years when other kids would align my name with that of a car from 1969 Disney hit, Herby The Love Bug. I was Kirby The Love Bug. Used innocuously enough in middle school, the association took a dark turn in junior high through hilariously pairing my name with Herpes the Love Bug because herpes was the obvious evolution of ‘cooties’ and we had all just passed the developmental milestone into more risqué words. That one was fun to hear during the acne and bad haircut years.

At its worst in Grade 10 or 11, some genius figured out there was a brand of vacuums named after me. The ‘Kirby sucks’, or the more salacious hormone fuelled ‘Kirby could suck the chrome off a 57’ Chevy’ jokes happened often and I began truly hating my name and kind of my parents for naming me after an infected Disney vacuum. In an endearing twist, however, my grandmother owned a Kirby vacuum that no longer sucked, and she refused to throw it out because she felt like a traitor. She was a wonderful woman with a shockingly limited understanding of how those things are possibly related, but her solidarity was notable and appreciated.

As an adult, I have finally grown into appreciating my name, possibly because other adults are rarely as cruel as 15-year-olds, unless of course they are Republicans, or associated with the toddler beauty pageant scene. In adulthood, I have learned to embrace that which makes me stand out in a sea of Ashley’s and Kimberly’s. It is not unusual for me to be the only one of me in a room. My name is also more often remembered than other names, as there is a good chance I am the only one they may have ever met. At one point around the mid-2000s, I knew five Jason’s and three Diane’s. All of them wonderful people, but all required an additional moniker attached to their name to differentiate them from the others. Missing tooth Jason, Dance-boy Jason, Jason with the ferret, Jason of the North, Jason who owes me $20, and my favourite Jason of them all, White-boy Jason. My awesome singularity, however, has its own set of drawbacks that should not be taken lightly.

I have never owned a pencil, coffee mug or key chain with my name on it, although this has also drastically cut down on the birthday-gift-bought-at-a-gas-station that all of you common named folks surely contend with. My name is also routinely misspelled, as people have little frame of reference to build on; Kurbie, Kerbie, and Curby have all graced inter-office mail envelopes and hairdresser appointment books at one time or another. This blatant refusal to spend even half a second to consider proper spelling just solidifies my fears that society is screwed. If it’s not easy, I’m not wasting time trying to figure it out. It’s not like my name starts with a silent PN or has a silent T at the end, unlike my middle name, Pnatashat (pronounced Natasha, yet on first glance appears to be Asshat.  That’s actually my brother’s middle name.)

When I had children, choosing names for them was a pretty big priority. Not only because the Canada Revenue Agency feel they have some stake in your new human, but because the right name is crucial. I have long thought that a name guides you into who you become. Those of us with curious names were given those names by our curious parents. Sometimes though, those curious parents are also just jokesters who name you after fruit or major highways because they’re trying to appear clever.

Think back to the kids you went to school with. Now think of the kid with the weird name. What are they doing these days? The parents who named their kids after constellations or fonts are the parents who now are either proud of their son or daughter’s very unique contribution to the world, or the parent who yells down to their basement to tell them their laundry is ready. It’s a little more than coincidental that your accountant is rarely named Aquarius or Times New Roman. Those are the kids who are making concept art and living at home when they are 30 because art is hard and no one understands them. Serve up a nice David or Laura behind that desk and I’m handing over my T4’s and questionable tax write-offs like there’s no tomorrow. Before the judgments begin to fall upon me and what might be seen as name profiling, let me explain how the weird names make a difference in the world.

Kids with outstanding names are maybe more likely to come from risk-taking, out of the box thinking parents. Parents who are not themselves accountants or office drones are perhaps less likely to name their child something sensible. These parents are experiential, live-in-the-moment people who feel the need to express themselves through creative means. This is certainly not a slam on parents who name their kids sensible names, because the world would not function without science and math and data, but we also need art and music and kids who live at home well past the acceptable number of years. Every Maximus, Sunny, Atticus or January that I am aware of does not work in an office. They are photographers, comedians, set builders and musicians. When their parents tagged them, they were making life in an average school system challenging, but at the same time nurturing the name into its unique glory by being an interesting place to grow up.

But, with a name that suits my sense of adventure, I say go forth, new generations, and name your kids what you feel will best reflect their personalities in 20 to 30 years!  I am strangely excited for Ms. Glenjamina Erstwhile Jefferson to give the OK to her assistant, Percolator Maximerm, to make a note on my file to strain my applesauce twice. I don’t care for the lumps.

What a winky.

Last week I was an outlier in a conversation about kids and what they were like when they were younger, versus the monsters they are as teens. It was agreed that they were not indeed monsters, but the knowing parental wink that closed the topic was proof enough that we all know the truth.

One of the parents told a story and used the word “bathing suit area” to talk about body changes in her kids. Kids, meaning her teen children. What?

I am known for many things. My love of birds, my deep distrust of clowns, and my collection of clown figurines, because if you can trap their souls in a doll they can never hurt you. I am also pretty sure I am known for my candor. I love a good honest moment between people. I believe that the bathing suit area parent had just not chosen a good plan for child-rearing, thus her odd direction in wording.

When I was young and knee-deep in children, I had to start making a game plan for what my style of parenting was going to look like. Choosing this is a little like choosing a decorating theme for your house that is supposed to last forever. Once you have chosen a theme, unlike that avocado green fridge or oak cabinets, you cannot just leave it curbside and get a new one.  Once you are a sweet earth mother who uses her inside voice all the time, it is difficult to change into a shouty ogre.  Unless of course you have been pushed into temporary ogreism by deciding that today is the day you let your toddler dress on their own when you have to leave the house in 15 minutes.  That’s all on you then.

The inability to change parenting themes midstream is also based in the idea that children need to listen to and respect you.  If your agenda is all over the map, they will never know which version they are supposed to listen to.  Are my shoes OK on the couch but not on the dining room table? I can eat in the car, but cannot open the bag of crickets for my iguana in your bedroom?  They will see you for the hot mess you are and act accordingly if you don’t have a theme and a solid plan.  

The right parenting theme is the only time other than children’s birthday parties and your second wedding when the right theme will be so vital.  Interestingly, wasp nest piñata is apparently the wrong theme for both of those occasions, only because I didn’t explain it properly and had not taken the time to print up appropriate waivers.

My choice of theme was open and honest.  There is an assumption that all parents will be honest, but when faced with questions about various magical pick up and delivery beings coming in and out of your house to collect teeth or leave chocolate, most parents cannot claim full transperancy.  I however have never lied to my children about those things.  As long as they didn’t ask, I played along.  When they questioned the legitimacy of any of it I was more than happy to come clean, quite frankly relieved to not have to carry on the pretense for another day. A fat man in a suit breaking into your home.  Come on. That could only sound plausible if you assume the man in question worked for the bank or had a camera crew from a home makeover show with him.  The tooth fairy reveal mostly just cleared up a lot of guilt on my part for having to go through their piggy banks for money because I couldn’t break a twenty.

My honesty is also more of a nod to a lifelong curiosity I have for everything.  I will lose hours to thinking about why a group of crows is referred to as a murder, while a group of lions is a pride.  I’m not an expert on this subject, but the chances of you being murdered by lions has got to be at least 75% higher than being murdered by crows. Don’t get me wrong, crows are total sociopaths who will swoop down and steal food from a baby, but a lion will eat the baby and look for a sibbling.

BRING ME YOUR BABIES!

My parents nurtured this curiosity when I was young by giving me encyclopedic, fact filled books and inscribe them with uplifting, beautiful sentiments like “for our daughter who just needs to know!”  Those sentiments could have been replaced in my later teen years with “For the un-cool girl who stays home and reads” or “For our young lady we can only assume will be single for some time”.  Those dedications would have been accurate as well.  

So this pairing of curiosity and parenting resulted in my being open and truthful about most everything, but you know there will be exceptions.  What I ate for lunch while they were at school and if I have candy stashed in the house.  I will not be honest about that for reasons of national security.  If we told every child about every food stash and solo ice cream experience we had, there would be anarchy in the streets.  Children would riot, families would crumble, and the fabric of society would be torn into wet-nap sized shreds.  I lie because I’m patriotic and love my country.  

Even with this flag-waiving act of snack hoarding, there are also a few things I absolutely refuse to lie about.  I will be honest to an oftentimes-uncomfortable extent regarding my current mood, if I’m hungry, and human anatomy.  Never one to smile and say I love talking with my husband’s ex-wife or pass on a tray of appetizers, I have also never been one to use the cute made up names parents think they are using to protect their kids from their own bodies.   I have never had body conversations about winkies, pee-pees, wee-wees, noodles, tooshies, hoo-hoos, or beans and weens. I simultaneously love the power words give you and reject the power we give words.  We were a house of full on Grey’s anatomy actual words for body parts. Why not?  I’ve never gone to a mechanic because my vroom vroom didn’t work. 

A proud example of this happened when my boys were 4 and 2. We were driving to their daycare in the morning and I was asking what they were excited about for the day.  My 4 year old told me he was excited about cupcakes (that’s my boy…) because they were having a goodbye party for Julie because the baby was coming out of her tummy soon.  I wrinkled my nose and looked at my son in the rearview mirror. 

“Actually, babies come out of your womb which is also called a uterus”

I then continued with 

“For a baby to get into your tummy, Julie would have had to have eaten the baby.  I don’t think Julie ate a baby…”

He laughed at the idea of that and agreed.  Julie was likely not a baby eater, and if she was she was the nicest baby eater we had ever met.

I asked both of them to lift up their shirts and show me their belly buttons.  In the name of good science I added,

“You have a belly button because that was where the cord attached you to me in my womb.  I fed you through that!”

A round of questions followed about if he could talk to me through it and what his favorite food was when he was in my womb. It was chocolate milk.  Litres and litres of chocolate milk.

When I picked the boys up after work that day I was met by one of the daycare staff who wanted to tell me about the boy’s day.  I guess the farewell party had started and the staff asked in their best game show voice if they knew what they were celebrating today. A clump of Kindergarten wisdom filled the room with random shout outs like Buzz Lightyear! Tuesday! I have to pee! Cupcakes! The childcare worker quieted the contestants and said,

“Today we are wishing Julie good luck when the baby comes out of her tummy!”

The kid who had to pee looked disappointed, but would be OK because the cupcake boy beside him was distracting him with full froth mode at the anticipation of icing.

My son, God love him, rose from his cross-legged row of vibrating youngsters, raised his finger as if to command the room’s attention and said in what I imagined to be a somewhat admonishing voice,

“Actually, the baby is in her uterus, not her tummy. She didn’t eat the baby, so it wouldn’t be in her tummy”

Knowing my son, the tone he used strongly implied the word ‘idiots’ at the end, but he was still too kind at 4.  That level of smug assholery would not be fully upon us until he turned 14.

For what I can only assume was purely for dramatic effect, he lifted up his shirt, showed the room Exhibit A, his belly button, then sat down like a pompous defense lawyer after a slam-dunk closing argument.  I rest my case, Idiots.

I am told the room was quiet for a moment while children and adults together processed this new information and re-evaluated their need to urinate.  The game show barker clapped and in her everybody-gets-a-carOprah voice announced,

“Yes!  Now who wants a cupcake?”  

And with that, the great uterus exposé dissolved into a sea of icing glazed fingers and crumpled cupcake liners.

She laughed while she told me the story and I was proud of my son for his quick, educated response to misinformation.  The educator was temporarily concerned that other children would take this non-consent form-based information home and ask questions. It might make for uncomfortable conversations. Good for them, I thought. I suppose I’m sorry that my kid was a bit of a winky in getting that started for you, but mostly I’m not.