Friday, March 23, 2012


I've been naughty lately. Soooo naughty. Alllll night long.
To look at me you might never know, but for a certain je ne sais quoi in my smile...

Yup, I've been grinding my teeth. Hey, who knew.

Hey, my dentist did. So, super anti-climactic story short, I am now the proud (?) owner-operator of a night guard.

Thooooo thexthy.

The kids couldn't stop laughing. No matter what you say or how sternly you say it, with a night guard in it's a fact of nature that you're going to sound like Daffy Duck, spraying spittle and all. Which is probably why they don't call it an "evening guard" or a "late-afternoon guard": you need to be 100% coherent at those prime yelling-at-your-kids times of day or they're just not going to take you seriously.

Night guards also have a super hawt bonus feature where your face doesn't quite close all the way so you wind up drooling on yourself slightly. Like, Saint Bernard slightly. But since I'm an optimist I'm always looking out for the positive angle:

"Hey thweety, doeth thith thing make me look younger?"

"Do you mean the night guard or the bib, Mom?"

"The night guard, thmart ath. And it'th not a bib, it'th a thcarf."

"Oh, sorry, it just looks a lot like a tea towel."

"An abthorbent thcarf then. Gawd, it'th all about themanticth with you lately, ithn't it? Now quit hathling me and anther the quethchun."

"Uhhh, no. You look mostly the same but kindof a little, like, weirder or something. Why do you ask?"


Monday, March 19, 2012

Chicken Soup

For the Environmental Consultant's Soul

By working faithfully eight hours a day, you may get to be a boss and work twelve hours a day.
Robert Frost

It was a clear spring day in 2012, full of the kind of hope and promise only a spring day can hold. But even though spring was Pam's* favourite season, she hardly noticed what a beautiful morning it was. All Pam could think about was work.

Pam had been involved in an all-engrossing project for months. She had harboured hope for it when it was only a twinkling in a client's eye; nursed it through the tricky cost estimate stage; celebrated with pink cigars when she was awarded the proposal. That was when the the first warning signs had cropped up: "But they told me specifically not to put that in the scope, how is the budget going to cope with that change?"

Things had gone steadily downhill from there. The client seemed to be withholding several crucial pieces of information, while rapidly and randomly changing others. The timelines were practically tripping over one another. Pam wasn't allowed to make half the calls she needed to make, and the ones she was weren't being answered.

In short, Pam was overworked, overwhelmed and over budget, and that wasn't even the worst of it. What bothered Pam the most was the direction this whole project was taking. What she had initially believed was an exciting and important project appeared on further scrutiny to be a boondoggle at best, and a deleterious debacle at worst.

"What is the point of all this?" thought Pam. "Am I really going to spend the rest of my career facilitating more holes in the ground? Where is the positive impact I once dreamed of making in the world?"

It wasn't long before Pam was having a full-blown crisis of conscience. She began spending her lunch breaks perusing job ads, but she had a mortgage to pay and it seemed as if all those soul-satisfying positions just didn't feature paycheques that could support her lifestyle. How would the children ever be able to go to private kindergarten if she left her job now? Pam's golden handcuffs grew a little tighter each day.

Dissatisfied and disillusioned, but with no discernible way out of the pickle she was in, Pam continued her work on the project. When final deadlines began rapidly approaching, she started working weekends as well. This is where we first encountered Pam, unhappily braving crappy weekend transit schedules to make her way to an office she resented, to work on a project she no longer believed in, on a beautiful spring day that she barely noticed.

Pam was cranking through the final details of the project when she discovered something that stopped her dead in her work. "No," thought Pam, "it can't be..."

She ran through the evaluation process again, and then, with growing excitement, once more just to be certain. "It is true! It is!" cried Pam. "And all this time I've been so worried, for nothing!"

In that single, simple moment it was as if Pam had found a new lease on life. All her doubts about the purpose and meaning of her work, all her questions about the moral and ethical value of her projects were laid to rest. What Pam had discovered was this:

The project would have no significant cumulative effects.

Pam was so very surprised. It looked as if the kids could go to private kindergarten after all! Pam treated herself a new designer dress to celebrate.

* Names have been changed to protect privacy.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Influencing the Weak-Minded

Is it wrong of me to use the Jedi mind trick on my own kids?

'Mom! Mooooommmmm! Come play race cars wif me.'
You don't need me to play race cars with you.
'Mom, where are you?'
This is not the parent you're looking for.
'Mom, why are you hiding in your bed?'
I can go about my napping.
'Awesome! I'm coming in to play fort wif you!'
'Mom, that's a bad word.'

Not that it ever frigging works, mind you.

I am fully convinced of the Awesome Untapped Potential of the Mind. Trouble is, that "untapped" (or, in this case, un-desired-results-producing) business makes it tough to maintain my conviction sometimes. It's not that I'm lacking motivation in my efforts, though - for example, there have been a few** "select" situations over the years when I've been really desperate to make some small interloper or another go away, but I always figured it didn't work those times because my attention had been diverted to somewhat more compelling anatomical regions, ergo my brain was clearly not operating at its Jedi best.

And today, well, I think it's pretty reasonable to chalk today's failure up to my being half asleep. Full Jedi mastery is always easier when I'm not in my afternoon slump.

There's a slightly trickier alternative theory as well: it may be that the Jedi mind trick only works in the expected way on adults. Kids, on the other hand, will always do exactly the opposite of whatever it is you actually want them to do - except when they don't, which further complicates things - so in order to effectively manage their behaviour through mind control techniques one may have to employ the less well-known art of Jedi reverse psychology:

'Mom! Mooooommmmm! Come play race cars wif me.'
I am the best person to play race cars with you.
'Mom, where are you?'
You don't want to play race cars with your sister.
'Mom, why are you hiding in the basement?'
Race cars are less fun by yourself.
'Awesome! Let's play ball hockey! I'll get the hockey sticks!'
'Mom, that's a bad word.'

Or maybe I just haven't got the little hand wave down right.

** Possibly more than a few. You know how it is.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The B's Knees

Many aspects of being a university student with a small child at home weren't easy. Aside from some obvious student-parent issues - for instance, How to Feed a Family on Twelve Cents a Day - I generally found myself with an issue that perhaps doesn't quite fit the student mold as it's commonly viewed: namely, I had far more brainpower available than time. Therefore, in order to maximize overall results (i.e., GPA), my brainpower needed to be harnessed in the most effective manner possible given the allotted time.

Unfortunately, my brain is a lazy slug that plays nasty tricks like setting my body off cleaning the bathroom then taking a rest itself. I figure the equation looks something like this:

GPA = (b/t) - P

Where b = brainpower, t = time and P = my propensity for endless procrastination via household cleaning.

So I made two things: one, a schedule ('You can wash the floor for ONE HOUR and then you HAVE to study, got it?'); and two, an Excel spreadsheet. I used the schedule to relentlessly nag my brain into action, and the spreadsheet to calculate the precise minimum amount of effort required to achieve a 4.0 in any given course, which assisted me in prioritizing all the nagging I had to do to myself.

Sure, there were bumps along the way - Physics springs to mind - but it was actually a pretty good little system and once I had that parchment With Distinction in hand I felt pretty darn smug for having cracked one of the great mysteries of studenthood.

A few years later I have come to understand that no one - not one single person, entity, potential employer, no one - gives a shit about my GPA. They never have, they never will. It just doesn't matter. The only person who ever cared about it one iota... was me.  I would have been well served to set my sights on a B average and get some more sleep.

This past weekend, I took Small Fry to the dentist for a check up. "Oooh!" they said. "Aaaah!" "You know," said the dental hygienist, "I don't think I have ever written this on a file before, but I am definitely writing it this time: Excellent home care!"

Do you hear that, people? Excellent home care. Excellent. I excelled at prying those miserable little jaws open every night for the past four years, risking life and limb patience and digits to floss and brush those minuscule, razor sharp chompers, and finally - finally! - my time for recognition had come. I swiftly touched up my makeup and unfolded my prepared speech.

Interestingly, despite my high GPA - which could theoretically be used as a proximal measure of (at least!) a keen ability to cram information into my brain in a reasonably thorough and retrievable way - it seems I just never learn. Because, guess what? No one - not one single person, entity, potential employer, no one - gives a shit about whether there exists in a filing cabinet somewhere in Calgary's northwest a note that my child received "excellent" daily hygienic care on his deciduous teeth. Once again, the only person who ever cared about it was me.  And, once again, I would have (in fact probably the whole household would have) been well served by me setting my sights on "pretty good" and enjoying life a little more.