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.


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.

Current status: No pants, BBQ sauce on keyboard.

I work from home right now.  When I tell people this, it is received with equal parts contempt, disbelief and patronizing smiles.  This is just the way it worked out for me at this moment in my life.  Another moment in my life might look like me woking at Build-A-Bear full time, creating Franken-bears for terrified children, but at this moment right now is working at home.

To maintain some semblance of consistency in my days, I try to stick to an itinerary.  Not the kind of itinerary with the subject line indicating it had been sent by a competent secretary after having been planned through a reputable corporate travel agent.
Re: Trip itinerary – Prague – Depart 03/18/2017 – Return 03/29/2017 *arrive 2 hours prior to departure times*

My itinerary is more like the email from that uncle who brings a bag of oranges to a baby shower, and insists he cured his gingivitis with Coke Zero and nicotine gum.

Truly, there is a lot going on in that second email, and when I have the time, I will address it all.  Meanwhile, we can talk about how my day-to-day plan is a little more ‘freestyle’ than ‘actually planned’

When the children are here, my day starts by getting out of bed minutes before they have to leave for school, then yelling about their horrible time management until they have all run from the house.  Once they are gone I will build my first coffee and asses the day before me by ranking and redistributing all of my options.  My system relies heavily on notes from the previous day which highlight my efforts and where I left off.  In theory, these notes should provide an evolving timeline of momentum and progress.  Reality is not as optimistic however, and I am left on a daily basis with the same notes written in an honest intent that tomorrow will be different.  Tomorrow is the same note in different handwriting.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Working from home is a luxury which is completely wasted on me some days.  In my own defence however, you don’t really want this kind of employee in your office either, so I’m doing you al a favour by not taking up your precious time or offending your public sensibilities with my lack of bottoms.