Ladies, Go See Ghostbusters and Take Your Daughters

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Ghostbusters

I live in a house full of nerdy men which means over the years I’ve had quite the education in all things superhero, science fiction, and fantasy. It wasn’t something I was exposed to growing up since my mum thought science fiction was stupid – I think that’s a direct quote – and my dad never seemed to watch anything but news, boxing, and Police Academy movies.

As I’ve raised my boys I have begun to realize that maybe there was a nerd inside me all along just waiting to get out. Wonder Woman? LOVED HER!! We would run around the school yard mimicking Linda Carter’s moves with her magic bracelets and lasso. Star Trek? Who didn’t grow up watching it in reruns every single day and crushing a bit on Captain Kirk?

Then, in my teens, there was Ghostbusters. I didn’t really think of it as a nerd movie at the time. It was a huge summer blockbuster and everybody went to see it. There were special effects and familiar actors and a funny premise. And truthfully, I had no idea that it had become an iconic nerd film where people went to conventions dressed up and made their own proton packs.

My kids saw the original Ghostbusters about 4 years ago and Monkey went on a big kick with it, even insisting on a homemade costume for Halloween a few years ago. I’m not really sure I saw the appeal of the movie… until now. Because when you replace the snarky, chain-smoking balding guys with strong, funny, competent women, magic happens.

I was fully expecting to be mildly disappointed by the movie. Remakes are always sketchy and the reviews had been so mixed. I wasn’t expecting to come out of it excited and eagerly anticipating a sequel but that’s exactly what happened, and here’s why:

Ghostbusters licking gunGhostbusters gives us the imperfect female superheroes so many of us have been craving. They’re tall and short and thin and curvy, they wear glasses, and don’t fit in. They have unique ideas and interests that are frowned upon by those around them but they persevere. Their uniform is a baggy jumpsuit, not skin hugging spandex. They are genius level smart and bitingly funny and a bit crazy. They are tough, determined, and loyal to each other. They take on evil and absolutely kick its ass. What on earth is there not to love?

They are the kind of female superheroes that I wish I could have grown up with. The kind of female superheroes I wish my boys could grow up with. Instead, I grew up with spandex and low-cut tops, big boobs and high-heeled boots and secondary characters. Guess what? Not much has changed.

Nerd culture is still a man’s domain, although that is slowly changing. The nerds in my life are feminists, because I would have nothing to do with them if they weren’t, but there’s still a lot of misogyny out there in nerd land. And if you have any doubts, the Washington Post just published a break-down of the reviews for Ghostbusters.

 

“A closer look revealed men rated the film, on average, a 3.6 out of 10. Women, on the other hand, rated it 7.7 out of 10. Additionally, nearly five times as many men had rated the movie — 7,547 men as opposed to 1,564 women.”

Those numbers are enough to piss me off. What is it that men aren’t liking about the movie? Are they so completely unused to seeing female heroes unless they look like Katniss or Black Widow that they just can’t wrap their heads around realistic looking women getting the job done? And what a sad reflection is that on how our society views women?

So ladies, go see Ghostbusters. Do it for the little girl in you who never got a chance to see a hero on the screen who looked like you or liked science like you did or wasn’t afraid of goo and dirt. And take the girls in your life so they can experience it too.

 

How Big Did You THINK It Was Gonna Be?

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For those of you who haven’t read any of my previous blog posts, you may not know that when I’m not being a mum or trying to be fabulous, or (recently) tracing my family tree, I run an adult toy website. Yes, my life is varied and strange.

Before you go getting ideas in your heads about all kinds of sordid stuff, it’s really a very classy site and the idea is that we need to reduce the stigma and shame about needing or wanting a little bit of help (or more fun!) in the bedroom. We sell kegel exercisers that help women get their lady parts back in working order after having kids, and lovely lotions and lubes to ease the way between couples. There are wonderful products that truly help women suffering from low libido or inability to orgasm, and that can help men with erectile difficulties. I love to educate people about all the possibilities out there. But, where there are sex toys, there is inevitably going to be some giggles too. I both love and dread those scenarios.

One of the things I quickly learned in the adult toy business is that a lot of toys are made waaay bigger than the average male anatomy. There are size queens and kings out there who like a bit of a challenge. And that’s great – for them. Then there are those folks who just don’t seem to understand what they’re getting into. I don’t know if it’s a case of “it seemed like a good idea at the time” or if they truly have no concept of how to measure stuff. Because all of the toys come with very specific and detailed measurements – for good reason.

For a while there, I would cringe whenever we would get an order for something that was… shall we say, substantial. Why? Because we also had a run on people who eagerly opened up their packages, delivered to their door by the unsuspecting postman, and then proceeded to freak out. Then they would email or call me and freak out and ask for a return or exchange for something more manageable. (Hopefully it will come as a relief to you all out there that returns are not an accepted policy in the online adult toy store industry.)

I  hate being the bad guy. I really do. But seriously, if the very TITLE of the product includes the words 12 inches, how big did you think it was gonna be? Because, let me tell you, 12 inches is the length of my forearm – and I’m a tall gall at 5’8″. And don’t even get me started on circumference because we’re talking pop cans – or bigger. I actually got a sample to use as an educational demo so that I can help people realize what they’re getting into and I love opening up my samples cupboard where it sits, still in the box, and showing my friends. Their jaws drop in collective wonder and then they laugh. Because really, it could be used as an effective weapon against burglars. I could either knock them unconscious or they would flee in terror at the mere sight of it.

I wonder if these customers have just lost perspective from watching too much bad porn or if they need to retake grade three math. Or is it kind of like how big boobs seem like a good idea until you’re faced with actually having them attached to your own body, weighing you down and making your back ache.

Whatever the cause of these misunderstandings I am trying to save others from the same fate by adding a size guide to each product page in the hopes that others will not suffer the same fate.  And for those who got exactly what they were hoping for, I tip my hat to you while at the same time cringing and crossing my legs.

 

Who Am I Really? My Ancestry Journey

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Since my mum died, I’ve had so many times where I’ve wondered something about our family history and then came to the gut wrenching realization that I really have nobody to ask. Before she died, my mum was struck by idea that she was the last of her generation who really had a lot of the old information, so she pulled out a pink school notebook and started to jot down some notes. I was thrilled. After all, I’ve always had an interest in genealogy and loved when my great-grandma would tell stories about our relatives. They were probably all a complete crock, but it was still fun and it triggered in me a deep desire to find out what the truth was.

Then a couple of weeks ago I decided to purge a bunch of papers from the house because if I didn’t do it, we would be living on a pile of old bills and school notices and I don’t want to end up on an episode of the show hoarders. I had a panic when the pink school notebook wasn’t where I thought I had carefully stored it (ie. stuffed in a drawer with a bunch of other “important” papers). I swore to myself that if I found it, I would get the ball rolling on the whole ancestry thing.

Cut to the next morning and I realized that I had indeed put the notebook in a safe place – filed in a drawer of my filing cabinet in an unmarked folder. I really have to stop convincing myself that I don’t have to write shit down and that I’ll just remember it. Seriously.

I opened the book and was immediately depressed. No dates. No places. Just lists of names and practically no information at all on my dad’s side. This may be more difficult than I originally thought.

So, off I go to Ancestry.ca and within 5 minutes realize that I’m going to have to fork out the huge fee for an international membership. Toronto being the hub of immigration that it is, people are sometimes surprised when I explain that my maternal grandparents were both born here but let me tell you, in the genealogy world, that’s like a drop in a bucket. So, off to England I had to go. But not at all for the reasons that I expected.

Turns out the first leads I got were all on my dad’s side. Huh. Wasn’t expecting that. We never had a good relationship. He was an alcoholic who only really stopped drinking after my sister and I were out of the house. His father was quite old when my dad was born and his mother, who lived with us when I was little, was not a very nice person by all accounts. Still, the severely dysfunctional side seemed to be winning out so off I went.

Three days and 480 years later it’s safe to say that I’m a bit stunned. Who knew my dad’s family had such strong genes? I’m finding folks from the 1700s who still lived into their 70s and 80s. Seriously? The paternal side of his family has some truly scary staying power but now I’m itching to follow his mother’s line because there is one question I need answered. The nose. I don’t have it but my dad and my sister both do. It is a strong nose and, along with his pitch black hair, not a very Scottish look. It comes from my grandma on that side but all I know is that she was Scottish. Like, sang me songs in Gaelic when I was little, still had a brogue until the day she died Scottish. Methinks there’s an interesting tale to tell somewhere down the line.

Now I’m waiting on my sister to dig up the old records which are all stowed at her place. I’m hoping it will give me some hints and I can get a move on with other branches of the tree. I’m afraid I’m addicted but since I already finished the entire new season of Orange is the New Black, there’s nothing else to feed my crazy obsessive side, so it’s all good. I’ll let you know what I find out if it’s anything worth telling. All I know at this point is that I come from a line of apparently incredibly fertile farming folk in Norfolk, England. Boring but still kinda cool.

 

 

Enter the Tweens

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My little Monkey is not so little anymore. He turned 11 this week and is proudly announcing to all who will listed that he is now a tween. To be honest, the tween attitude started about 6 months ago, but I’m not telling him that.

Mini Me is 14 now and he outgrew me about 4 months ago, which is not that insignificant since I’m 5’8″ when I stand up straight. His teen years came with hours locked in his room and deep sighs when we ask him to do anything. They also came with a stubborn refusal to wear anything but sweat pants and t-shirts or to do anything with his hair. That I can live with. The lack of showering on the other hand… His friends are all the same so I just shrug and roll with it.

Monkey is going to be a very different kind of teen, I can tell already. The last week I have been enlisted every morning to put a bright green streak through the front of his hair – which, I may add, hasn’t been cut in about 5 months. He’s going to be one of those scraggly haired kids who experiments with crazy dye jobs and develops a distinct and unique sense of fashion. He also still loves to bathe so I’m calling that a win.

As different as they both are, I love this time in my parenting career. I see my friends with really young kids and I do not feel at all wistful. I love being able to pick up and just go anywhere with them. I love that they have the freedom to make their own arrangements with their friends and that my house is becoming the hang out hub. I laugh with the cashier at the grocery store about the amount of milk and number of chip bags in my cart. I can just shrug and say “teens” and they laugh knowingly.

They have important opinions now and we can talk about the world. Mini Me brings home ideas that they discuss in class – much deeper stuff than we were dealing with in grade 8, let me tell you. Racism, slavery, misogyny, homophobia. I love to see his brain wrap around ideas of social justice and acceptance in a deeper, more philosophical way than when he was younger. He sees the shades of grey now and it’s inspiring.

Monkey has just joined the Anti-Trump Alliance at school. Not an official organization, of course, but a little society created by two of the Muslim students in the school yard where apparently they talk about the evils of the Orange Menace. I guess with about a 50% Muslim school population, and a good majority of the rest coming from pretty left leaning households, the Trump issue comes up a lot. Monkey fulfilled his membership pledge by naming 10 things he didn’t like about Trump – in writing – and them generously designed their club logo. I am loving it.

My biggest regret about these years? How quickly they seem to go by. I know that everybody tells young parents that the baby years seem endless but that they really go by in the blink of an eye. No way. Those baby years WERE endless. I still have back problems from dragging my boys around and not for one minute do I lament about changing another diaper. It seemed like I had young kids for AGES with all their tantrums and toys everywhere and no sleep.

But these years, with all their independence and interesting thoughts and doing chores and easy outings – these years are flying by. And maybe it’s because I realize that we are in the final stretch. Mini Me starts high school in the fall and that’s only 4 years away from University and potentially moving out. Monkey only has one year left in the school that has been a second home this family for so very long.

Realistically, I know that they probably won’t be gone when they finish high school. Living in Toronto and taking into account the number of amazing colleges and universities here,  the chances of them doing post-secondary here are huge. But they MIGHT move away. And they may never move back. When I think of that, my gut clenches. Forget babies. Can’t they just stay tweens and teens forever?

The Nerdiest Time of the Year

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Fan Expo has once again come to Toronto. If you wander around downtown near the convention centre, you are going to see scads of people dressed as super heroes, science fiction characters, and Doctor Who (because he deserves a category all on his own.). Muppet and Monkey went off this morning with a skip in their step. Mini Me, true introvert that he is, didn’t want to face the crowds. That may change when he earns more appreciation for the girls in skin-tight Harley Quinn outfits. But, I digress.

In our house, we lovingly embrace the words nerd and geek. Muppet is a geek of long-standing – a true blooded Dungeons and Dragons playing, science fiction reading nerd who somehow convinced me to hang a mounted movie poster of the Matrix above our living room couch in our first apartment. It has now been relegated to the basement man cave along with the video games and Nightmare Before Christmas collectibles.

How did I, a woman who always swore she couldn’t stand science fiction, get tangled up in this geeky web? Turns out I was wrong. Wrong wrong wrong.

I grew up on the original Star Trek series and I loved it. I think I had a little girl crush on Captain Kirk. When Muppet and I were first dating, we watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer together and I was hooked. The pretty girl chasing the monsters for a change? Sign me up! Then came Doctor Who and Christopher Eccleston and Rose and… Well, that was that. I earned my nerd membership later in life than many, but the Dalek sitting on my desk as i write this speaks volumes.

The kids were exposed to all things nerdy pretty much from the womb. Muppet read Lord of the Rings to Mini Me while he kicked away happily inside me. His first toys were Star Wars action figures. Monkey’s favourite stuffed animal as a baby was a promo toy from a video game.

Now that Mini Me is 13, he joins his dad and all of his friends for their Nerd Nights – role playing games that are taken very seriously and played while consuming Twizzlers and Cream Soda (blech!). It gives them something to bond over and all of Muppet’s friends welcomed into their fold with patience and love. Monkey is not there yet, but as a kid with ADHD, the patience it takes for the games just escapes him by about 7pm. He will get there, though.

Being a nerd is different now than it was when I was younger. Nerds fully let their flags fly and the internet means you can always find somebody who shares your likes/obsessions/hobbies. You don’t have to feel alone. Better yet, there are more nerd girls than ever before. Nerd love is possible. I’ve seen it.

I may have been a late-comer to this whole nerdy geeky world, but I couldn’t be happier to be a part of it now. Nerds and geeks are some of the most kindhearted, accepting, open-minded people you could ever meet and there are much worse things that I would hope for my kids than to be a part of that world.

A Love Letter To Canadian Health Care

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I’ve probably had more experience with the Canadian health care system in the last year than I would ever have liked  but as I’m sitting here this morning, one coffee in and only 4 hours of sleep behind me, I can’t help but feel an enormous amount of gratitude for where I live at this point in my life.

I had 2 babies, both in hospital, one with an obstetrician and one with a midwife. I got home visits afterwards and all the best possible care. It cost me $0.

My mum had massive cancer surgery, an ICU hospital stay, home care, an oxygen tank, a wheelchair, countless doctors appointments, an at-home palliative team… and it cost us $0.

My father-in-law had 2 trips to the emergency room and was in the hospital 4 weeks before being transferred to a beautiful palliative care hospital. Unfortunately he also fell and broke his hip, needing surgery and recovery. He paid $0.

I know we all like to complain about our health care system and I do know that access to services is so very different depending on where you live. I am lucky to live in Toronto where the world’s best hospitals and specialists are at my finger tips. I am well aware that people in more remote areas just can’t get the same level of care.

So when I started having vision problems that led to an eventual MRI appointment, I joked that 4:30 on a Sunday afternoon was the perfect time to lay still and relax for a while. And when I got there and found out the machine was out of service, I took a deep breath and did what anybody should do on a Sunday afternoon in downtown Toronto – I went shopping.

And when the appointment got booked for 1am? Okay, I did bitch a little bit but laying there in this tremendously expensive machine being run by this guy who was being so very nice even at 2am? I was incredibly grateful.

As I’m getting older and my need for our health care system will no doubt increase I hope that I can keep this kind of perspective. Getting home at 3am and being tired today is a small price to pay for the kind of testing that would set an American back thousands of dollars. So, I am just going to make myself another coffee and drink it gratefully.

Not So Little Anymore

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My Monkey turned 10 in May and with that came the realization that I’m not the mum of young kids anymore… and I love it. It’s a different stage in my life and my family’s life and I have to say that I am rocking it so far.

With Mini Me being 13, there is a whole different level of responsibility he has taken on. He’s off right now walking his brother to the local pool for swimming lessons where he will wait around for the half hour and then walk him back. I don’t have to go. I am, in fact, sitting in my PJs having a coffee and writing instead. What? It’s pure luxury.

Of course, I’m paying Mini Me to do it but it’s worth every penny. He wants his own computer. I want quiet mornings for the 9 days the class goes on. It’s a win win.

I think Muppet and I have come to the realization of this new stage in life slowly. Sure, Monkey has been walking himself home from for a while now and yes, Mini Me is in grade 7, but sometimes it’s difficult to see what’s right in front of you.

We started slowly with leaving them home while we went shopping. Nobody wanted to come with us, so we wandered off on our own. There was a stop at Starbucks and a leisurely stroll through Home Depot. Exciting, I know.

Then came a date night. Sure, we were home before bedtime but we went to a restaurant, had a nice meal, and then even snuck off for gelato afterwards. Monkey chastised us when we got home for being out so late (9:30pm) but it was totally worth it.

As we were strolling along between dinner and desert, we ran into 3 families who were out with their kids and they all joked about out child-free state but I could see that look of longing in their eyes. We just smiled and kept walking, hand in hand.

When I meet new people and they ask if I have kids, I no longer hear the “oh, they’re still little” or “you must have your hands full” refrains. Now I get the sympathetic head shake for parenting teens and tweens.

I know that I’m probably in a golden time before Mini Me actively starts pursuing girls and where Monkey is still a mixture of childish and surprisingly mature. Nobody is dating or yelling “I hate you” yet. They’re happy for us to go off on our own as long as we still have some family game or movie nights and dinner is still on the table. But, you know what, I’m loving every minute of it.