Lament for the Robert’s Arm Public Library

As I’ve mentioned before, I had the good (and bad) luck to grow up in small-town Newfoundland. I don’t know anyone whose childhood was more rural than mine. We had no hospital – one doctor served five different communities and wasn’t always in town. We had no police station. When a cop (always some poor sucker serving time in an isolation posting) would appear anywhere near Robert’s Arm, people would call and warn each other: “cops are down today, don’t do anything stupid”.  The nearest book store was an hour down the highway. We only went there when my mechanic-moonlighter father needed to pick up a car part he’d ordered or when one of us needed to visit the dentist or optometrist. I was a voracious reader. I went through at least two books per week. Even if there was a book store in town, my allowance wouldn’t have covered my reading habit. Enter the public library.

Our library wasn’t big or architecturally arresting, but there was a nice variety of books. Everything from sleazy romances to historical fictions to classics to encyclopedias. I did homework there. I met project groups there. (It was during one of those group sessions that I first had my bra strap snapped by a boy – but that’s not necessarily a tender and glowing recollection.) I went there every couple of weeks to pick through the offerings. I pounced on new books like a starving lion on a lame gazelle. Sometimes, the librarian would save a book for me if she thought I’d like it. I always went to the section for people a few years older than me, and that was ok by the librarian. There was a limit of six borrowed books per visit, but the librarian was always lenient if I just couldn’t leave one of my precious finds behind. Every summer, my family went on a big-ass road trip – my father was a teacher, so we could disappear for up to two months in our motorhome. One of the last things I’d do before leaving town was visit the library for a stack of books to carry me across the continent. The librarian would gently remind me of the six-book limit, and then allow me to borrow a dozen books or more. I loved that place.

I don’t know what it’s like there now, but when I was a child Robert’s Arm wasn’t exactly encouraging when it came to education. In some ways, it was downright discouraging. I got teased for my obsessive reading. I got teased for using big words. (I didn’t know how to pronounce those words, having learned them from books. So I pronounced the P in “psychology”, and pronounced “akin” with emphasis on the A, and pronounced “midget” as two separate syllables. But the seed was planted, however haphazardly.) I got teased for writing poetry. I got teased for achieving good grades, and for being interested in science. I was the kind of kid who chafed at the word limits set by my beleaguered English teachers, and got docked marks a time or two for being unable to resist adding that last paragraph or two. This is one reason I love the concept of blogging. I can write thousands of words and nobody can do a thing about it. I found out, years later, that I suffered mightily from big-fish-in-a-small-pond syndrome, and I’m not as bright as I thought I was – but even my level of academia was an object of envy to be snickered over and snuffed out.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that the Robert’s Arm Public Library, beloved childhood landmark of mine, was a refuge for me when I was young, and had a hefty hand in shaping who I am today. Which is why I’m heartbroken to hear that it’s closing – along with about half of the public libraries on the Rock. I have not been as much of a library user in recent years. And I know that the ubiquitous internet makes knowledge more available to people, and that we’ve got e-books now. But, even in the age of the digital superhighway, I relied on libraries when my children were little. I brought Fiona and Bridget to our local library once per week to choose books to supplement their own voracious reading appetites, and we attended readings, information sessions and a weekly playgroup the local library. They still love the library today, and so does Ryan.

Incidentally, the city of Ottawa has just made a decision about how it’s going to use a stretch of land called LeBreton Flats. Ideas included green space, an urban beach, a Canadensis walk (not sure what that is, but it sounds interesting), a public library, a YMCA, a beer museum and an aquarium – and a quirky-but-possibly-charming offering, an automobile museum. But we’re getting a giant arena, some condos and a whole lot of shopping opportunities – because that’s the bid that city hall likes best. Because we don’t have enough arenas, condos or stores in Ottawa, right? Because we need a new venue where people can make money hand-over-fist on overpriced beer, reheated junk food and NHL merch while fans pay exorbitant prices to see millionaires chase a chunk of black rubber up and down the ice. Bread and circuses have won again. But what shall we feed our minds and hearts?

The gift of changed plans ….

I have been living on the mainland for nearly fifteen years now – long enough to have been domesticated, or (at least) naturalized. It was my fortune – and misfortune, depending on how you look at it – to have grown up in rural Newfoundland. My friends and I ran wild along the beach and over the hills and through the forest, and we spoke a strange variant of English. We were raised by everybody in town and, consequently, we were watched by dozens of pairs of eyes – yet our parents would have been hard-pressed to say where we were at any given time. Our education was somewhat substandard, due to the perpetual lack of funding and interest by young teachers in travelling to the arse-end of nowhere to work. However, I caught up with everybody else, and every time I tell people where I am from, I get a hearty slap on the back, and am regaled by stories of all the wonderful Newfies they’ve met. And, yes, I’ve been asked a time or two if I know so-and-so from wherever. I never do, but that never deters them.

When you move from the coast of a huge country like Canada to the interior, you encounter many differences. One that stands out to me today is the abundance of snow days in Newfoundland as opposed to the paucity of them here. Oh, sure, we have dirty weather here in Ottawa – an awful lot of it, in fact – but, in all my time here, I can count on one hand the number of times its been declared a snow day for anyone. People battle through sleet, hail, snow and fishtails to get to work, whatever work is. You’d think we were a city of continuously engaged brain surgeons, so great is our dedication to getting to work even if we have to dig our way there. We’re actually civil servants, which means that we probably could take a break in the name of not ending up in a ditch – but we don’t. Back home, though, snow days are scattered generously throughout the calendar. Yesterday was one such day. Yes, yesterday, April 20 – and that’s not all that crazy on the Rock. I have a distant memory of snow falling on my birthday. My birthday is in June.

So, at a time when people in Ottawa were dusting off their golf clubs, reseeding their lawns and hitting pub patios for lunch, many of the people I grew up with were shovelling snow. A wise and witty friend of mine, Marsha, posted this on Facebook:
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I sympathised. My-friend-the-optimist responded that it was already starting to melt – “and we had a relaxing day home yesterday, so it isn’t all bad”. It made me think back to the handful of snow days we’ve had over my time here in Ottawa. On one of them, I learned how to open a pomegranate without making the kitchen look like a murder scene, and we all made a snowman on the lawn. We made him facing our house instead of the street, so we could see him smiling at us through the living room window. On another of them, after we got stuck multiple times on the way home, after Ryan had helped neighbours out and the girls were red-faced and wet from the exertions of the day, I made hot chocolate for everyone. We did something we hardly ever do: all of us sat on the couch together with no fixed time for swinging back into action. Fiona smiled at me, and then said “look, everyone, Mommy’s actually relaxing“. Yes, I was – and it felt good. This is a very rare occurrence for me. Usually, I’m the opposite of relaxed – a whirlwind of tightly wound plans, activities and blunders. The thought of these plans going awry fills me with dread, and frantic thoughts of replacement plans, and all the awful things that will happen if I don’t get to do those things I think I have to do. In reality, though, what a gift: changed plans.

Last spring, Ryan and I went to Vegas with friends of ours for a long weekend of glittery fun – and we had exactly that. Our flight home, though, was a fiasco. It was delayed, so we were moved to a different flight so we wouldn’t miss our connection. The plane we were switched to filled up with smoke before it even left the ground, and we deplaned. We stood in line for over an hour trying to find a place on another flight. We got that, but it would be nearly twelve hours later. We would miss work the next day, our kids would miss school and spend an extra day with their grandparents, I was supposed to have dinner with my cousin and I couldn’t because I would be in the air somewhere between Chicago and Ottawa at that time. The airline shuttled us to an off-the-strip hotel called South Point. It was lovely. The room was clean and comfortable, and the hotel had five different restaurants, a pool, a theatre, a spa, a gift shop. We were given a book of coupons for free drinks and discounts on meals, and all the servers were very friendly. The receptionist looked us up and down when we said we were checking in for only a few hours, and carefully stated that we could have the room for all night. We thanked her, and reiterated our request for an airport shuttle in a few hours’ time. I can only imagine what she imagined. We had a wonderful afternoon there. We’ve talked about going back sometime. We were forced to delay jumping back on the treadmill after our vacation, and we soaked it in – and it was beautiful. Changed plans.

Changed plans used to be an occasion for tight knots in my neck and shoulders, worry over what wasn’t happening, wondering how I was going to make up for whatever had been scuttled, frustration over my lack of control. These days, though, I’ve been making more of an effort to embrace the gift of changed plans. Some of my best memories are times when things didn’t go the way I thought I wanted them to. Unexpected guests, five for dinner instead of four, last-minute invitations, wrong turns, heartfelt confessions, people needing me and me needing them, days off – and days on – it’s all life. I’m blessed in ways I could never have predicted because of missed connections, changed plans and serendipity. I’m learning to lean into – and be thankful for – the curves, and I hope they keep coming.

Apparently, Marsha has learned to embrace changed plans, too. Check out what she did with her out-of-the-blue day off:

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Some shockin’ good, me ducky! Fist bump from afar ….

A BC woman has proven that near-death experiences do not always change people for the better.

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Picture this …. You went to the hospital because you couldn’t breathe. A nurse at the hospital has dedicated his entire education, concentration, and effort to help you breathe again. What is your first thought when the oxygen that allows you to have thoughts rushes into your brain? I’m here! I’M STILL HERE! Thank you, God! Thank you, universe! Thank you, nurse! I’ve been given a second chance. Or something like that. Unless you’re Marie Molloy. If you’re Marie Molloy, you focus on the nurse’s tattoo, shudder with distaste, and resolve to complain about it as soon as your face is free of the breathing mask that is interfering with your ability to give voice to your discontent.

Yes, this actually happened. Molloy suffers from rheumatoid arthritis in her larynx and an abnormally small airway. Her condition was worsened by the effects of an unrelated operation. Struggling for breath, she ended up in the emergency department of the Vernon Jubilee Hospital. A nurse attached a breathing mask to her, and administered a sedative. This was when Molloy spotted the skull tattoo she says gave her nightmares for two weeks.

Molloy claims that seeing a skull tattoo when she was facing possible death was “offensive”. It inspired nasty dreams about “outlaw bikers”. Molloy follows up with some very impressive logic: “If I saw a gang of bikers that had full-on tattoos and were mean-looking and were noisy and had club symbols on their jackets, I’d be afraid of them.” Skull tattoo – skull – club symbol – biker – gangster – biker gang – what if I saw all that? Well, if they were mean-looking and noisy, I’d be afraid of them. Well, that makes perfect sense. That’s why she’s so upset. Kind of like when I see a squirrel. Squirrels gather nuts, which fall from trees, which have been used for hangings. If I saw someone being hanged, well, that would scare me. Argh! Is that a squirrel on that jar of peanut butter? What kind of careless asshole would just leave this jar on the kitchen counter, where anyone can see it?

This kind of thinking can be applied to many hospital employees. Perhaps people with scars should not work in hospitals, or pale people, or large, muscular people, or anyone who bears a resemblance to any villain featured in any children’s movie.

Molloy says she appreciates tattoos as an art form – but, we are to assume, only the ones she likes. If, for example, the nurse’s tattoo featured a kitten or a flower or Molloy’s own face, things would have been fine. But that’s not how the world works. She doesn’t get to tell other people what they can or can’t wear, including ink, based on what lights up the happy spots in her brain. Furthermore, a hospital is not a Pinterest page, it’s a place where professional life-savers and care-givers save lives and give care. The employees are there to perform these very important functions in a fast-paced, often stressful environment. They are not part of the ambiance or decor, and they’re not trying to craft a precious memory for anyone.

In my experience, skulls can be unintentionally encountered in many places. Doctor’s offices. X-ray images. Book stores. Toy stores. Art galleries. Cartoons. Movies. Anatomy textbooks. Cleaning supply labels. Motorcycles, and the people who ride them – those horrible bikers with their “full-on” tattoos and noisy, noisy noisiness, are all over the place. What on earth is Molloy going to do for the rest of her life? The nightmares may never stop!

Or she could gather some perspective and move on – possibly even thank the nurse who helped her breathe again. She’s been given a new lease on life, and apparently she’s decided to use it to be an ungrateful whiner. The hospital administration, laudably, has refused to change – or even examine -its rules regarding body art. They’ve got more important things to do, and – unlike Molloy – they know it.

 

Walk by faith, wherever your faith lies.

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I love Maclean’s magazine. I’ve been a subscriber for years. A flip through any issue yields a number of interesting, well-written pieces on a wide range of topics. Recently, an article appeared in Maclean’s called “Did Jesus really exist?” The article was centred around the work of Bart Ehrman, a New Testament scholar. I read it, wondering if there might be anything new on the subject. There wasn’t. Alot was said about the concepts of false memory, social memory, and the fact that tales grow in the telling. The children’s party game of telephone was mentioned to illustrate how a message can change each time it is repeated. Apparently, there are some dates that don’t line up, and there is some confusion over whether Jesus’ death warrant was signed by Pontius Pilate or King Herod. Some of the gospel accounts differ on a few details, or focus on different parts of Jesus’ life. The apostle Paul’s lack of interest in the life of Jesus is mentioned to support the idea that he never really existed. There is a possibility that some of the documents supporting Jesus’ existence were forged by zealous early Christians.

Basically, the same things people have been saying for years – and the same things people could say about many famous ancient figures. Ramses, Homer, Confucius, Plato, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Genghis Kahn, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Marco Polo, Christopher Columbus, William Shakespeare …. How do we really know any of them existed? If they did, how do we know they really did what we think they did? Oral memory is sketchy. Forgeries are possible. Not all historians agree on what happened and when. Shall we use this to drum them out of the annals of history, or will we keep telling stories about them? Does every detail matter? A human being is not simply a superbly designed machine. There is head – and there is heart. There is more to this life than what we can see.

We struggle to quantify and prove what is important, and we demand evidence of everything – but it’s never been so easy to forge everything. Photographic evidence isn’t even reliable anymore, thanks to technology that can seamlessly blend images and change any detail of any picture – and filters that convincingly mimic many different time periods. Statistics show that more and more of us see ourselves as secular and cynical. Yet, we live in an era in which we are increasingly walking by faith and praying for miracles – whether we know it or not. We’re a global village, and the next pandemic or terrorist attack is always just around the corner. Some very unstable people have access to weapons that could destroy us all if they ever decide to use them. Our planet is heating up and drying out. Many of us are plagued by anxiety, and feel like we’re not safe anywhere. Yet we make a daily decision to walk out the door into uncertainty. We keep making art and poetry and music and plans for the future – and babies.

Why? Because we are believers even when we don’t know what we believe in. Because we have decided to keep walking, however dark the path ahead. At the core of all of us, though it may not be acknowledged or even recognised, there is faith. Faith in science, faith in humanity, faith in ourselves, faith in love – and, for some of us, faith in Jesus. Did he exist? Does he, as Christian tradition teaches, still exist? I’m not going to try to prove anything or persuade anyone. I’m just going to give my opinion. Partly because this is a subject dear to my heart, and partly because I just love giving everyone my two cents to everyone on everything all the time. I have chosen to believe he does exist. I feel his presence whenever I talk to him. I see his face in the faces of everyone I love. I see his hands in the kindness people show each other in times of trouble – in Mister Rogers’ oft-referenced helpers. I hear his voice urging me to push through my fear and keep going, to share what I have, to reach out to others who need a friend, to show love to people who have none for me. I use the stories of Jesus to guide me when my faith is low or I don’t know what to do. When I’m disappointed in myself, I remember that he knows me well and loves me anyway, and that his grace is freely given to me every day in the form of second, third, tenth chances – and I forgive myself because he does. Whatever does that for you, whatever gets you though the frightening, beautiful mess of being alive, hold onto it. You don’t need proof that it exists, and you don’t need experts to agree with you. People can speculate all they like on whether he’s real – he’s real to me, my faith in him compels me forward no matter what I have to walk through, and that’s enough for me. Happy Easter, whatever you believe!

Cause of death: Stupidity

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Last week, on my way home from dropping Ryan off at work, and Fiona and Bridget off at school, a car seemingly appeared out of nowhere and loomed in my rear window. I nervously increased my speed to make some space between us. This was unnecessary, as the car proceeded to shoot sideways into the right lane and roar past me. I like a good gander at a lunatic as much as the next person, so I glanced to my right. The driver was – of course – blabbering away on his cell. Not cupped close to his head surreptitiously, either, but shamelessly brandished about a foot away from his mouth like a bloody microphone. I watched in helpless horror as he ran a red light (nearly taking out a pedestrian) and faded from sight. If he dies driving that way – or, worse, kills someone else – the cause of death will have to be listed as “stupidity”. No matter what measures are introduced, and there have been many, some people still insist on chatting on their hand-held device while driving. Here in Ontario, the minimum fine is $400, and three demerit points are applied to your driving record. But that guy – and others I see daily – still want to yack and drive. For an extra dollop of stupid, there are people who text and drive. At least during a phone call your eyes are still on the road …. You can always tell who’s texting while driving because they are slow to react to everything and their eyes are fixed firmly on their lap.

This irritates me, and reminds me of the darkly entertaining Darwin Awards. Basically, these are tongue-in-cheek awards posthumously presented to people who’ve managed to remove themselves from the gene pool in breathtakingly stupid ways. And there are alot of stupid ways to die. Walking and texting …. right into oncoming traffic and open manholes, right off bridges and cliffs. There is now a Wikipedia page dedicated to people who are injured or die while taking selfies. Apparently, last year, more people were killed by selfie attempts than shark attacks. Selfies with guns, selfies on train tracks, selfies perched perilously on cliffs during storms …. People are trampled to death in pursuit of cheap electronics on Black Friday. Every year during the Stoning of the Devil in Mina, people are stoned, too – and crushed. According to the Washington Post, tens of thousands of people are killed by guns in America every year, whether accidentally or intentionally. Yet many Americans loudly and proudly defend their right to own and use any number of any type of guns. Not just the loopy ones no one listens to, either …. This is the Christmas greeting sent out by Michele Fiore, Republican and elected member of the Nevada Assembly:

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Merry ducking Christmas, everyone! (See what I did there? Fine. I made myself laugh, anyway.)

In 2015, two people were shot by toddlers. Yes, toddlers. Thirteen toddlers killed themselves, and more injured themselves or others. I guess gun-lovers love their guns so much they don’t ever want to put them away (or even employ the safety catch). In fact, the story that inspired today’s BethBlog rant is about a woman shot by her four-year-old son. In a karmic twist, Jamie Gilt is a high-profile pro-gun activist who has already introduced her son to target shooting with a .22. Two days ago, she was driving with two things in the back seat: her son and a loaded .45 semi-automatic. The boy picked up the gun, aimed at his mother and shot her in the back through the driver’s seat. It looks like she’ll live, and her son (thankfully) was unharmed. Less than a month ago, Gilt posted the following on her Facebook page:

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I guess now she needs to consider whether she needs an extra gun to protect herself from the child she is protecting with her gun.

A peek at the top causes of death in Canada in recent years reveals that we’re really good at killing ourselves slowly, too. Heart disease, stroke, respiratory illnesses, accidents and diabetes are numbers 2 through 6 (respectively). Yet people still keep eating like a fat man in a circus. People still smoke like chimneys and drink like fish. We know that we should wear seatbelts and helmets, that we should look before we cross, that we should leave space between ourselves and the car in front of us …. but how many of us do that every time? We have vaccines, but not all of us use them. Some people operate daycares that are only for the unvaccinated. Or, as I call them, petri dishes with no lids. Years of people using antibiotics incorrectly has resulted in a number of resistant strains of bacteria – superbugs. A surprising number of travellers ignore advisories and happily jaunt off to hotspots, then come home in enclosed spaces with recycled air to ignore quarantine recommendations. Some of us put our faith in quack medicine rather than science, sometimes with tragic results. For example, Alberta couple David and Collet Stephan are currently on trial for allowing their toddler son to die of meningitis rather than seek medical care for him (of course, they didn’t have him vaccinated, because vaccines do not grow on trees or fall from the sky in rain drops. Amazingly enough, water with maple syrup, juice with frozen berries and finally a mixture of apple cider vinegar, horse radish root, hot peppers, mashed onion, garlic and ginger root did nothing to improve his condition. They called an ambulance only after little Ezekiel stopped breathing. These idiots have three other children. Let’s hope they never suffer from more than a common cold, lest they become victims of stupidity-by-proxy, too. Most of us continue to buy huge quantities of mass-produced junk that is bleeding the planet dry of everything we need to live. We’ve been talking about the depletion of earth’s clean, drinkable water for decades; yet, selfish assholes still keep pouring it down the drain for the love of clean decks and cars, and green grass.

There really isn’t anything special about those shirts that say “I’m with stupid”. Because, these days, we’re all with stupid. It’s really just a matter of what kind of stupid is going to be listed on our death certificate ….

Disclaimer: No, I am not perfect. Sometimes I am very stupid, myself. I just hope it doesn’t kill me because then people will throw this blog post all over the internet and the headlines will say “blogger blogged about stupidity then died of it”. Then again, who can resist a shot at being famous? Hmmm ….

 

When you’ve got two girls ….

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From the moment we found out Fiona was on her way, Ryan was gunning for a girl. He wanted a girl so much that he had no idea what he would do if the baby turned out to be a boy. I kind of wanted a boy, but I’m pretty sure the pink outcome was meant to be. All the self-styled clairvoyants who come out of the woodwork when a woman has a baby belly predicted that it would be a girl. When we thought about names, we came up with about a dozen for a girl – and only three for a boy. When she screamed her way out of me, Ryan was allowed to announce the sex, and did so with a line that still makes me laugh – “it’s a girl …. I think”. As soon as he said that, before the nurse placed her in my arms, I knew I wouldn’t have traded her for any number of boys. I still wouldn’t.

Flash forward to my second pregnancy – Ryan and I both wanted Thing 2 to be a girl. We had been living with a baby girl for over a year, and we couldn’t think of anything better. (Well, aside from sleeping in or drinking coffee while it was still hot – but that horse had bolted, and closing the gate was no longer an option anyway.) Other people really wanted the second baby to be a boy. Some people said “that way, you’ll have one of each”. As if children are collectables. Others said “oh, well, this one has to be a boy – for Ryan”. Ryan, who wanted a girl even more this time around, because he actually knew what he was wishing for. As if a man’s life is not complete unless he’s left behind an anatomically correct copy of himself. In any case, when Bridget was yanked out of me (a breech baby who refused to turn, born at a hospital where there was only one doctor with any experience in natural breech births – yes, please, I’ll take that scheduled c-section), and we saw that we had another girl on our hands, we both had tears of joy in our eyes. Another girl! A sister for Fiona! What a blessing Bridget was (and is).

Of course, Bridget was about a week old when a few people asked us if we were going to try for a boy. And is it just me, or is that a really icky question? “Yes, I know you’ve just spent the better part of a year pregnant and delivered a healthy baby girl just days ago and you’re probably super-stoked about that, but are you going to have unprotected sex again anytime soon in the hopes of conceiving a human with a penis?” Anyway. In the eight years that we have been a family of four that includes two girls, I have learned that there are some things you never have enough of when you live that way.

1. Ear plugs. Though they are close, Fiona and Bridget have their share of conflict. When they cross swords, it’s loud and high-pitched. I often tell people that they make noises only dogs or dolphins could interpret when they’re upset with each other. They don’t pound each other like my brother and I used to do. They use emotional weapons. They natter and chip away at each other. They fling accusations and cruel jabs around like confetti at the saddest, most annoying party you’ve ever been to. They mutter things under their breath, then refuse to repeat them while the offended party demands double-digit times to hear whatever was muttered. They know exactly where all the buttons are and how to push them. Whatever you do, though, do not get involved. You will regret it. You’ll come along, wanting to be a hero, with your casual “hey, now, what’s all this” – and they will steal all the air in the room and paste you to the wall with their rapid-fire account of what really happened, interrupting and shrieking atop each other until your eyes cross and you’re tempted to feign death to make it stop. For double the noise, let them have one of their friends over. Then they start to resemble a siren as they chase each other from room to room. Also, there is all that talking. Girls talk and talk and talk, with nary a concession to punctuation or even the need to breathe, and every single thing they say is utterly fascinating to them and therefore you must stop everything and soak it in. For as long as it takes. Come to think of it, I never stopped doing that. Must add ear plugs for Ryan to the shopping list ….

2. Tissues. In any given group of girls, at any time of the day or night, someone is guaranteed to be crying. They are so sensitive and dramatic that a single look can contain a paragraph of the unspoken, all of it to be taken personally. Don’t like the game everyone’s playing? Cry. Two people are talking and giggling? It’s totes about you. Cry. Your friend’s crush likes her and yours doesn’t know you exist? Cry. Other girls have a plan and you havn’t been included (yet)? The teacher cleared her throat and it was so directed at you? There’s a YouTube video featuring orphaned kittens? Your hair won’t go the way you want it to? You don’t like any of your shirts? It’s Thursday and you wanted it to be Friday (yes, this actually happened in our house recently)? Cry, cry, cry. (Like that bit of Johnny? Me, too.) “My green shirt is …. well, it’s just too …. green. I don’t think it was this green last time I wore it. It was my favourite shirt, too. I’ll never get another shirt like this, not ever. I hate this shirt. I hate all my shirts.” Pass the tissues.

3. Glitter. They put that shit on everything. Artwork, hair, skin, nails, siblings, pets. You can get it in a spray can. Imagine the fallout …. I don’t have to imagine because we had that once, and the results still shimmer and wink at me from our walls and ceiling. Glitter is like an infectious disease that is resistant to all medicines – once you’ve got it, you’re a carrier for life. Our house has not been glitter-free since Fiona was a toddler. Next time you’re at my house, ask me to show you where the glitter is. Currently, there’s some on the upstairs bathroom floor because Bridget spilled a container of it while trying to put it on her lips. There’s also a more-or-less permanent dusting of it on the laundry room floor because they have clothes with built-in glitter that rubs off in the washer and dryer. Consequently, I have glitter on my clothes. The rugs in their bedrooms have received a generous dusting, as has the carpet in the basement. And yet if you ask them what craft supply they need most, about three-quarters of the time they’ll say glitter. Or glitter paint. Or glitter glue. Sometimes I feel like I live inside a disco ball. Sparkle, sparkle!

4. Storage space. Glitter is just the beginning. Fiona and Bridget have multiple lotions and perfumes. They have about fifty pairs of earrings, and multiple necklaces and bracelets to match. They’ve got bath stuff and hair stuff and face stuff and nail stuff – 24 different shades of nail polish, to be exact. (And before you conclude that Ryan and I are raising shopaholic princesses who spend a good chunk of their time and all of their money in pursuit of retail therapy, please note that not a single bottle of nail polish was purchased by either of them. They are two of just three grandchildren on either side of the family (and their baby cousin, Scarlett, is still too young to do anything with cosmetics aside from eating them). They have fashionable aunties. Nail polish is a popular item in loot bags, and they go to alot of birthday parties. Doesn’t take long to get to double-digits bottles.) Along with nail polish, they each have nearly a dozen lip glosses. They’ve got several pairs of shoes and boots each, and a pile of hats, scarves and belts. My stuff is crowded out, smothered, consumed by their stuff. They’ve got a menagerie of stuffies. They keep everything because everything is so special. More tissues, please. They have valentines they received in kindergarten from children they wouldn’t know from a hole in the ground anymore. They have sparkly rocks and pinecones and lucky buttons – and, thanks to Ryan and their Uncle D, a growing collection of beer caps. They have over a dozen Barbies and Monster High Dolls, and all the things that go with them. Their bookshelves are literally overflowing with books they might never read again but they have to keep them because ….

5. Hair junk. Between Fiona and Bridget (and me, of course), there’s alot of hair in this house. Hair clogs up our vacuum cleaner. It clings to the furniture. It lands in our food. Tumbleweeds of old hair blow by when we open a window. It needs to be contained. This isn’t easy when styles change regularly, and you’re dealing with 8-and-10-year-old girls who change even more often than styles. Headbands, bandanas, scrunchies, bun donuts, butterfly clips, barrettes and bobby pins must all be available in every possible size and colour to answer to any hair situation at all times. We have brushes, combs and rakes. We’ve also got hairspray (in plain, blue, pink and – natch – glitter), and we’ve got hair wax for the newly-embraced-at-our-place side bang. We’ve got mousse, and curl-lock, too. There’s colour cream in purple and green, and hair chalk in ten different shades. At the end of it all, we’ve got de-tangler. You might need that if you’ve used even a fraction of our cornucopia of hair junk.

6. Nail polish remover. As mentioned above, we’ve got two dozen bottles of nail polish. In addition to that, we have nail stickers and – of course – nail glitter. Bridget paints her nails every two or three days. On a related note, she smudges her freshly painted nails on everything every two or three days. In a striking coincidence, she uses copious amounts of nail polish remover – you guessed it – every two or three days. Because she is trying to be delicate with her still-sticky nails, she handles the nail polish remover gingerly – and the lack of a firm grip results in frequent spills. She uses whatever remains in the bottle to clean up the smudges. I buy an econo-sized bottle of nail polish remover about once per month. I’m high from the smell of it about five days out of every seven. Fiona never really cared for painting her nails until about a week ago. Now she has lovely midnight blue nails, and she likes them that way. I may soon need a nail polish remover pipe run into my house, topped up every couple of months by a truck, like we used to do with oil for our furnace.

7. Self-confidence (at least, if you are their mother). For one thing, daughters are blunt. You are an extension of them, a piece of their life cycle. They see you as both their example and their cautionary tale. I knew that it was time to start working out again when they told me my ass wobbled when I walked. I know when my hairstyle or outfit isn’t working for me, because they let me know. They ask me when I’m going to paint my nails again because the old polish is chipped. One morning, Bridget fearfully asked if I was going to wear that when I picked them up from school the following afternoon. I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, nothing wrong with that, but my hair was in a messy bun and I wasn’t wearing earrings – it just wouldn’t do. On the other hand, they still say things like “she was pretty, Mommy, but not as pretty as you” and “I hope I look just like you when I grow up” and “I love your style”. I guess I do have my moments …. The main reason, though, that you need self-confidence if you are the mother of daughters is that they are so perfect. Their eyes are clear and bright, their smile is doll-like in its perfection, their hair has highlights that every woman over the age of 19 has to squeeze out of a bottle and apply every four to six weeks. They havn’t mangled their eyebrows yet, like we all somehow end up doing in spite of the warnings of our mothers. Their skin is flawless and golden, stretched tight over their muscles and bones as smooth as a clear sky. They are all legs and arms and ponytails. I’ve got crow’s feet and laugh lines and grey hair. I’ve got a jiggle in my wiggle that’s probably never going away, and I wear the indentations of my pillow and pyjamas for a good hour after I wake up. Their sun is rising; mine is inching toward the horizon.

I imagine there’s alot more Ryan and I need that I havn’t thought of, and things I don’t know we’ll need as they grow up. I look forward to hearing from other parents of multiple girls, and learning as I go. Don’t make the stories too sappy, though. We’re perilously low on tissues here. We’re one botched craft or serving of asparagus away from running out.

It’s Friday! Here, have some music ….

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So, I’ve been meaning to post this for a while …. First, I had some thoughts on the Jian Ghomeshi trial that I had to share. (Because I have to share all the things.) Then, I thought I might post it after the Grammys because it’s topical. However, there was the office, chores, a massive snowstorm. My beloved Aunt Audrey and Uncle Gus flew in for a few hours. Fiona and Bridget brought home their report cards. Report cards used to involve a brief parental perusal of a few letters and numbers, and maybe four or five lines about how the kid has potential if only they’d sit still and listen. Or maybe those were just my report cards. Now, report cards contain not only letters and numbers, but a paragraph about your child’s performance in each subject – even religion and art. You have to read the whole darn thing, then submit a comment regarding what you feel has improved since the last evaluation and what you’re going to help your child with based on the current one. Your child has to answer the same questions about themselves (both kids, every year: “I will try to improve in math”). And the school always gives you one whole evening to do all this thinking, processing and responding. How generous of them. Anyway, moving on …. This is about music, not minutiae! I’ll stop blabbering now and sock it to you: Beth’s top 40 songs of 2015! (Like I did last year, I’ve provided links to all the songs for your listening pleasure or derision.)

40. Crushin’ It – Brad Paisley

39. Carry On – Coeur de pirate

38. Break Up With Him – Old Dominion

37. Cecilia and the Satellite – Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness

36.  Hollow Moon (Bad Wolf) – AWOLNATION

35.  Little Red Wagon – Miranda Lambert

34.  Honey I’m Good – Andy Grammar

33.  The Hills – The Weeknd

32.  Ain’t Worth The Whiskey – Cole Swindell

31. Focus – Ariana Grande

30.  Take Your Time – Sam Hunt

29.  Nobody Love – Tori Kelly

28.  What Kind of Man – Florence + The Machine

27.  Modern Love – Mother Mother

26.  Fight Song – Rachel Platten

25.  Fire and Gold – Bea Miller

24.  Good for You – Selena Gomez

23.  Jackpot – Jocelyn Alice

22.  Heartbeat Song – Kelly Clarkson

21.  Electric Love –  BØRNS

20.  Jealous – Nick Jonas

19.  Tear in My Heart – twenty one pilots

18.  Photograph – Ed Sheeran

17.  Chains – Nick Jonas

16.  Monkey Tree – Mother Mother

15.  Cigarette Daydreams – Cage the Elephant

14.  Can’t Feel My Face – The Weeknd

13.  Could Have Been Me – The Struts

12.  Night Changes – One Direction

11.  Want to Want Me – Jason Derulo

10.  Ex’s & Oh’s – Elle King

9.  Dear Future Husband – Meghan Trainor

8.  Clothes Off – Ria Mae

7.  Stressed Out – twenty one pilots

6.  Confident – Demi Lovato

5.  Fly – Maddie & Tae

4. Downtown –  Macklemore and Ryan Lewis featuring Eric Nally, Melle Mel, Kool Moe Dee, and Grandmaster Caz

3.  Hey Mama –  David Guetta feat. Nicki Minaj, Bebe Rexha, and Afrojack

2.  S.O.B. –  Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats

And, in first place, a song I loved and identified with from the first time I heard it:

FourFiveSeconds –  Rihanna, Kanye West, and Paul McCartney

(Yes, there’s a whole lot of pop going on – and a slice of country schmaltz. But you knew it would be like that …. It’s Beth’s music, after all! Thanks for listening.)