Sarah, loosely defined.

All week, I’ve been agonizing over writing a bio. Everything I’ve read recommends starting a bio with your name and what you do – as in “Sarah is a ______.” I gots nothing. What the heck am I? The only single word that describes me is “mother” and not only is that not totally relevant to the bio I’m trying to write, it doesn’t reflect what I have to offer.picture270

So, where does that leave me?

I’ve never really had a professional title – a single word to sum up my education and experience – like teacher, or doctor, or accountant. “What do you do?” has always been met with an awkward silence.

For years, I was a trainer. I stood in front of rooms full of people and taught content that, in many cases, I had researched and developed. That doesn’t make me a teacher, though. Not in a traditional sense.

I’ve grown into the title of writer. It is what I do – what I love to do and, in some capacity, how I’ve been making a living for five years. Can I can claim the title “writer” if I am not published? What do I need to do to call myself a writer? I’m not sure.

I also love editing. Though the only editing I’ve done in recent years has been of my own work, I did edit a book once. It was a book published by a place I used to work. It had chapters for which I wrote introductions and conclusions, and each chapter contained interviews that I transcribed and edited. Aside from proofreading and cover art, the entire thing was me – even the interview skills training that led up to the interview sessions. Does that make me an editor? I don’t think so.

An interesting thing happened tonight; I got a call asking if I could deliver a lecture at a local university (on two days’ notice). The thought of delivering a lecture was equal parts exhilarating and terrifying. While I was waiting for more details, my mind raced – I imagined myself in that lecture hall and I was ready to stand up there on a moment’s notice and see where it took me. Unfortunately, the opportunity fell through before I had a chance to pick out an outfit. I was really disappointed and it got me thinking about what I want to be doing and what I am qualified to say I am.

You can see my dilemma. Maybe I’m a jack of all trades and a master of none. Too bad I can’t put that in my bio: Sarah is a jack of all trades and a master of none. She is a teacher, but not in the traditional sense; a writer, loosely defined; and she edited that one book that one time. Sarah lives in the Toronto suburbs with her husband (also loosely defined) and their two children.

Send it to print! We have a winner!

Not so much…

 

 

My Online Presence: A Carefully Crafted Illusion.

An interesting thing has happened over the 20 years that I’ve been living online and interacting with strangers behind keyboards (most of whom were anonymous until about 8 years ago). I’d like to call it judgment, but that doesn’t seem strong enough; people regularly get eviscerated for saying something online that doesn’t fall in line with what other people believe to be right or good.

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Not long ago, I tweeted this while someone who follows me was tweeting about cancer. Her response to my tweet was along the lines of: Aren’t you lucky that that’s all you have to worry about. Your coffee spilled. What a tragedy. At the time, I made light of it because 1) that’s what I do 2) she was obviously going through something.

But, here’s the thing: just because I’m lamenting over spilled coffee, or sharing a funny anecdote about my kids, doesn’t mean my life is all rainbows and butterflies. Is cancer a reality in my life right now? Yes. Am I dealing with the health issues of loved ones? Yes. My kids, included. I struggle and I stress and I feel sad and lonely and angry and frustrated – sometimes all in the same moment. Sometimes, for many moments. Too many moments.

Who I am in public is all me, but it’s not all of me. It reflects me, but it doesn’t encompass who I am.

There is a lot that I don’t share online, for a variety of reasons. Years ago, I decided that I want my online presence to be positive – I want it be supportive and funny and, if possible, thought-provoking. I want it to be something I do to escape the trials of my life. It reflects the best of my life and I’m alright with that. You might call that inauthentic. I call it self-preservation.

I enjoy a good online discussion, which is why I post articles, videos and images that might generate those discussions on Facebook, where people know me. There was a time when I’d invite myself into such debates in public forums, like Twitter, and engage trolls, but I discovered that all it did was bring me down and affect my mood. I don’t believe it’s ever been terribly effective, anyway; to my knowledge, I have never changed the mind of an argumentative stranger behind a keyboard. I save that for people in my physical space – people I see face-to-face, strangers and loved ones alike.

Don’t assume that just because people aren’t talking about something online that they aren’t living it, thinking about it, or talking about it offline. People are living their lives and only sharing aspects of it – they participate in debates to the extent to which they are comfortable, or not at all. And that is alright. The people who aren’t talking about certain things may be the ones who are actually affected the most.

What aspects of your life do you share online?
Are you more likely to vent online or create the illusion of rainbows and butterflies?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, Superman is Black.

Q: “Yay! The black guy is in this episode!”
Me: “Why does that make you so happy?”
Q: “Because he’s black like Daddy. Most guys on TV are white.”

Welcome to Q’s life. At five years old, he’s not only aware of racial differences, but how much and how often those differences are represented in the shows he watches, the books he reads, and the superheroes he looks up to. He is quick to gleefully point out a black character – even if the character isn’t his favourite, he’s happy to have black people visible and included. It’s apparent that he takes note of the lack of representation, but it’s hard to know how he processes it. I only get glimpses.

Q: “Mommy, why are most superheroes white?”
Me: “Why do you think that is?”
Q: “I think it’s because white people draw them.”

If that is how he makes sense of it, what does that mean to him at a deeper level? That last statement “I think it’s because white people draw them.” speaks volumes about how he thinks the world is ordered – superheroes are white because white people draw superheroes. He’s not wrong. Does he ascribe value to that? Does he infer that because most superheroes are white and most guys on TV are white, that white people are better? More important? More worthy of being seen and represented? That remains to be seen. He has asked us if black people are bad, so he is thinking about it.

Today, Q proudly presented his Lego Superman to us. “I put a black head on him. Now, Superman is black.”

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As much as some would like to believe otherwise, kids see race and they take note about how much and how often different people are represented. Q is trying to make sense of it all – and even change it in his own little world. He deserves better. All kids do.

If the lack of diversity in media is obvious to a five year old, so why are we so reluctant to acknowledge it and do something about it?

February is Black History Month. Here are some Canadian resources.

 

Our Couch got Bedazzled… and not in a good way (if there is a good way).

Think you can’t ruin a couch simply by sitting on it? Think again.

This is our leather couch.

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This is our leather couch on bedazzled jeans. Mr. T’s bedazzled jeans, to be precise.

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That’s right, folks – this couch survived two babies, two toddlers, countless spills, and the odd potty accident, but it was ultimately brought down by ass rhinestones. Mr. T’s fashion sense killed our couch.

To his credit (and because it was his fault), Mr. T got a leather repair kit to try and fix it. Although he applied it properly, it didn’t hold, which probably had nothing to do with the fact that he continued to grace it with his rhinestones. When the leather repair kit failed, he “fixed” it with clear packing tape – because silver duct tape would have looked tacky (good thing packing tape doesn’t scream shoddy). Though effective, the packing tape application lasted only a few days. Because toddlers. We re-applied. And re-applied. And re-applied.

Eventually, we gave up and just started covering it with a blanket when people came over, which worked until the day Mr. T’s bedazzled self sat on the arm.

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Thankfully, in mere days, my living room will be graced with a new couch. If I have my way, as it comes in the door, the ass rhinestones will be on their way out.

This post is brought to you by my infinite patience and ability to find humour in this saga – at least publicly.

10 Things I Did in my 20s that I Should Have Never Stopped Doing

My 20s were good to me; I had jobs that I loved and amazing friends. I dated a lot and had my heart broken a few times. I was fearless and fiercely independent. I was also miserable and incredibly lonely. While I’m happier in my 30s, there are some things that I did in my 20s that I should have never stopped doing.

In my 20s:

1. I Walked Everywhere
I used to walk everywhere. Even though I had a car, I’d bundle myself up in the dead of winter and walk 20 minutes to see a movie. Now, I’m tempted to drive to the mailbox. I don’t, but I’m tempted.Picture 116

2. I Did My Hair and Makeup
In my 20s, I loved to experiment with my hair and make-up. I’d do it just for fun, even if I wasn’t going to leave my apartment. Now, I’m lucky if I smear some mascara on before I go out in public.

3. I Didn’t Watch TV
Before Mr. T came into my life, I didn’t watch TV. I rented DVDs and saved the “extra features” for dinner time. Now, my PVR is set to record almost 20 hours a week – just for me.

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4. I Lived with Less. Much Less.  
There was a point in my life when I could pack all my worldly possessions into my car. For a couple of years, my furniture consisted of an air mattress, two TV tables, a card table, and a borrowed couch. That was it… and it was awesome.

5. I Didn’t Own a Credit Card
That’s right. I didn’t have a credit card until I was 28 when I got a job that required hotel stays. I only spent what I had and didn’t owe anyone anything until I had a car payment.

6. I Went to the Gym
I have a gym membership now, but I don’t go with any notable regularity. I don’t go anywhere near as often as I did 10 years ago.

7. I Danced Often
During my 20s, I cut a rug every chance I got. I even got dressed up and went to clubs by myself just so I could dance.

8. I Did Jigsaw Puzzles.
I love puzzles and I used to sit for hours doing them. I was given one five years ago and it’s still wrapped in plastic.

9. I Accessorized
I have always loved earrings and in my 20s, I wore them every day; I was especially fond of big, dangly ones. I also had a nice collection of bracelets, necklaces, and rings. Now, you’d be lucky to catch me with one ring on.

10. I read books.  
I used to read all the time – novels, non-fiction, anything I could get my hands on. Now, I even can’t remember the last book I actually finished, though I have many on my shelf waiting to be cracked open.

It’s no wonder I don’t look like I did 10 years ago! In my 20s, I worked at it and my current level of physical activity is virtually non-existent by comparison. I know I have kids now and they make some of those things harder to do – like doing jigsaw puzzles or wearing dangly earrings. The truth is, though, they aren’t the reason I stopped doing most of these things. There is no good reason. As I look at this list, I realize that I can start doing all these things again. Maybe I won’t be able to fit all my worldly possessions into a car, but I can stand to purge some stuff. I might not get to the clubs nowadays, but there is nothing stopping me from breakin’ it down in the kitchen.

I don’t tend to live in the past or long for what was; I’d never want to go back, but there is something to be said for revisiting and taking stock of what has changed – and why.