It’s (grit teeth) their (clench fists) life

Saturday, June 23, 2007

I got a marriage proposal this week.

It was certainly not a serious one, coming from a female friend, but I got her point.

I was listing the things I was doing in preparation for an upcoming trip out of the province — things like getting most of the boys’ lunches ready, making sure every stitch of clothing is clean, leaving notes throughout the house on what to needs to be done.

She was trying to tell me that I’m doing the Beaver Cleaver’s mom thing, and she’s right.

I’m trying to ensure the fridge is loaded up with easy-to-cook meals and have already colour-coded a Mapquest printout showing the most direct route — in my mind — to the site of the youngest son’s recital this month.

This is not because their dad is incompetent.

On the contrary, he’ll do just fine without me, won’t miss the snoring and will no doubt enjoy a respite for the nightly fight-for-the-blankets I subject him to (he’s the fighter, I’m the hoarder).

Maybe it’s a touch of obsessive-compulsive disorder — although if you saw the house, you’d know it’s more likely I have obsessive-relaxive disorder.

It could be my own deep-set inability to accept that the men of the house can manage great without me.

Or, it may just be that I like things done my way.

Which should have the older children nervous.

Part of this upcoming trip is to spend a week with the three adult children (chronologically speaking) in Ontario.

It’s been a couple of years since I last saw them and, during that time, they’ve experienced those nasty little trip-ups that many hit when starting out on their own.

There have been job searches, lousy-paying jobs, lousy-houred jobs, unexpected household expenses.

They’ve learned that when mom says SAVE YOUR MONEY, it would have been a good idea to do that.

So, on this visit, there are two major priorities: I get to meet the boyfriend who’s been mentioning the word marriage to the daughter (I’m going to define elopement for him), and the girlfriend who moved in with my middle son a few years ago and has yet to speak more than three words on the phone to me.

Apparently, both are somewhat nervous of my arrival, and my children haven’t helped calm their nerves.

They’ve been brutally honest: mom isn’t like most moms.

She’s blunt, she’s not embarrassed to ask anyone anything and she is not shy at expressing her opinions.

At least, that’s how they view me.

Which leaves me with just one question: When did I turn into my mother?

I can remember her visits, where nothing was done the way she would have done it.

I didn’t fold the laundry right. I used too many spices in my cooking and not nearly enough salt. My hair was too long. My younger kids were too loud. Why don’t I plant some roses in the garden?

She pretended to like my husband, but he wasn’t someone she would have chosen for me. He has a beard, he doesn’t wear ties, he golfs — what do I see in him?

I gave up trying to explain it, so wisdom dictates I not even try to get my kids to explain their choices to me.

She never did understand my career choice, and I often heard that I was wasting my talents.

That’s going to be a hard one to avoid myself, since I had such great plans for the kids. And not one of them came to fruition.

There are no doctors, or lawyers, or even plumbers among the three of them.

But that’s okay. I’m gonna fool each of them.

I’m getting off that plane having spent the preceding hours with this mantra: it’s their life. Just like I wanted my mother to understand mine.

It’s a good lesson to learn, even at my age.

Singh no stuffed-shirt city councillor

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

It’s been a rough few weeks for Coun. Arjun Singh, culminating in a pretty strongly worded dressing down by Mayor Terry Lake earlier this week.

It seems Singh the politician wasn’t created from the same cookie cutter as all the other pols who sit around our council table.

He’s taken flack about this from the beginning. He talked too loudly. No one understood him (a comment that bordered on racism, from my perspective).

He asked too many questions.

The criticism hit a higher level when he dared to suggest the unthinkable — we need to institute a plastic tax to reduce the amount of plastics we’re putting into our landfills. Heresy!

Throw in the New York computer technology-democracy conference and his defence of the people behind the Save Public Waterfront campaign and you’ve got a city councillor who is definitely on his own path.

And this is good.

Shortly after his election, when many people were probably still trying to figure out how Singh got elected, I speculated he will eventually become one of the best councillors Kamloops has ever had.

That comment drew a lot of flack from friends, colleagues, people I don’t even know, all wondering if I’d lost my mind.

I haven’t. Herewith, all the reasons why I still think Singh is a great councillor.

He thinks outside the box. Sure, sometimes he’s waaay outside the box, but at least he’s willing to consider new ideas, look at radical approaches and engage others in a dialogue about them. (This would be a great time to point out some communities in North America have adopted a plastax, seeing its wisdom, Kamloops not being among them.)

He’s not afraid to speak out. I’d bet Arjun has said more words at council meetings during his first term than Joe Leong and John De Cicco have in their multiple terms.

He is thoroughly engaged in the community he represents. He has his blog, his council/City Hall related website, even his Facebook page on the Internet welcomes feedback from the rest of us. He shows up at so many public events not to get his picture in the paper but to ask questions, to listen, to learn, to do his job better.

And he’s certainly not afraid to challenge the statements of others on council. In fact, that’s what led to his criticism from Lake, who appears to have been in a testy mood already at the last council meeting. The mayor berated Nancy Bepple, one of the pair behind a movement to rezone a parking lot next to the Interior Savings Centre back to park zoning, accusing them of scare tactics.

Seems a bit harsh and certainly uncalled for. Anyone who has read their petition (which, by the way, has more than 2,000 signatures on it, or who has read their website knows that they are being proactive, trying to address a potential situation, rather than reacting after it happens.

That’s smart. There’s too much of this “council makes a decision, people don’t like it, they gather to fight it but gee, too bad, because it’s already got forward momentum.”

Beyond that, the gall Lake showed in criticizing Bepple for exercising two fundamental human rights — to protest and to speak — is, well, revealing, I would say.

Singh spoke positively about Bepple’s work. I’m betting that didn’t please Lake because later, when Singh started to discuss the recent sweep and arrests of prostitutes on the North Shore, he was criticized again, this time because he hasn’t completely read some report about policing.

That wasn’t the point. Singh was suggesting adding someone from the city’s social planning council to the police commission — which is a good idea.

It’s fine to say that Lake and councillors Pat Wallace, Jim Harker, who sit on the police Committee, have social consciences. There’s no doubting they do.

But it’s the members of the social planning council who are solely looking at that tattered safety net, who are helping to address the gaps and take advantages of the assets, who understand the kind of problems the recent rouse of prostitutes has caused. That kind of a voice should be heard by the policing side of our community.

It was a good idea Singh floated out there. It may not be something a cookie-cutter politician would say, but that’s good.

Keep on talking, Arjun. Some of us are listening.

The writing’s on the ‘wall’ — sort of, I think

Friday, June 1, 2007

So this is what it feels like to write on a wall.

It’s addictive. I want to stop but I need to keep doing it, all thanks my friend Angela, in Calgary, who suckered me into joining

And I hate her for it because, try as I might, I can’t ignore the darn site.

Yup, I snuck on it this morning to see if anyone had written a message on my wall, which I gather is the terminology the programmers use when they mean “send a message.”

Guess it’s trendier to call it a “wall.”

Anyhow, there it was, a shout-out (I’ve learned that word recently, too) from Dustin Fuhs, a friend who moved to the Coast and sort of vanished off my radar.

This was neat. I had to reply.

Of course, I had really nothing to say to Dustin other than “Hi, how are you?” and “What’s up?”, but that was enough.

Got an invitation from Coun. Arjun Singh to become one of his Facebook “friends” and I jumped at it, too.

Then I had to check out all of his other “friends,” and wasted some time trying to figure out who they are and why they know Arjun.

And I readily agreed to a couple of other Facebook “be my friend” requests. Didn’t even hesitate — just clicked the link and went for it.

The addiction has gone even further, though.

I actually flipped through 500 Facebook members who went to my high school.

I didn’t know any of them because it seems the young’uns are jumping on this bandwagon a lot faster than us old folks.

But, this is how this 50-something mother of five has been spending time recently — and no, boss, not all of it was on office time.

But some was because I had to do research for this column, of course.

That research turned up some fascinating information.

Facebook isn’t just a website.

It’s a cultural phenomenon that is shifting society.

It’s changing the way we communicate and adding an entirely new educational discipline, the study of computing with “real-life applications.”

A professor at Cornell University said computing has become social, and that aspect needs to be the focus of study.

He must know what he’s talking about because he’s heading a multi-year research project, Getting Connected: Social Science in the Age of Networks, that was given $2 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and another $60,000 from Microsoft.

All to study how we “socialize” through out computers.

A professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology got $150,000 from the NSF to create a course in social media.

Her students will be studying blogs and wikis (which I have just learned are websites that allow visitors to add, remove, and edit content. Not sure how they differ from a blog, but apparently they do).

Even the Washington Post is a Facebook fan, adding it to its own website with an eye to helping people become more engaged in politics.

So, of course, the people behind this site, who probably were just computer geeks like many others of their age, are sitting on a billion-dollar gold mine which they haven’t bothered to sell yet.

It’s scary to think what they might get when they do decide to retire from the business.

Kind of makes me glad that my oldest son took a job over my objections and is now a techie for Hewlett Packard learning html, java and a lot of other stuff I don’t understand.

Our conversations now go like this:

“How’s work?”

Followed by a lot of wows, ohs, unhunhs and absolutely nothing that indicates how confused I am by it all.

Gotta be nice to that kid.

He may be my pension plan in coming years.

In fact, probably should invite him to be one of my Facebook friends.

Right now.