Mother, wife, working woman, and now, tech support?

May 19, 2010

My husband got an iPhone last week. Lucky him. I’ve wanted one forever, but since my phone is used a lot for sending emails, I have a Blackberry. I find the iPhone too hard to type long messages on. Even short messages really.

But he needed a new phone, so he got an iPhone. And he’s having all kinds of fun playing with it. Which is fine. I’m jealous a bit, but at least we have on in the house. But he expects me to have all the answers about how things work on his phone. And I don’t.

Admittedly, I know more about computers than anyone else in my family. Given that we all have macs, I administer them, I deal with software and hardware, I set up everything, I fix stuff when it’s a mac thing I know. But as hubby’s tech toys get more sophisticated, he expects more tech support from me, which I’m finding a bit much. If he’s on the laptop more, shouldn’t he learn more about it? If it’s his iPhone, shouldn’t he solve his own set up issues?

I thought the new tech toys like the iPhone and iPad were intuitive and a child could work them. Yet here I am still, tech support. Hubby has just told me that when he bought his iPhone the Apple store offered to show him tricks on how to use it, and he said “It’s okay, my wife will show me.”

Great. Another job for me to juggle.


All baseball, all the time

May 17, 2010

I feel like my whole life lately is about baseball. Okay, there’s work in there too, but outside of work, it’s all baseball.

I coach my nine-year-old’s little league team. We are playing (I think I can say “we” as the coach, can’t I?) at a higher level this year, where the kids pitch, they can steal bases, and they practice a lot. In fact, between games and practices, we have baseball 4-5 times a week. Every week. For nine weeks!

And my son is a pretty good ball player, and he’s one of our team’s pitchers. But he needs to work at it, and practice. And that means I’m expected to find extra time at home to practice with him. But I have no extra time these days, mostly because of his baseball schedule!

We took a weekend away recently. It was fun, but not especially relaxing. And where did we go? To Seattle, to watch a Mariners Major League Baseball game.

I’m also trying to organize an outing for a large group of kids and adults. Where to, you ask? Why, to a baseball game to watch the Vancouver Canadians!

At least this week it looks like I have an evening to myself. And how will I spend it? I’ve been asked to sub for an adult team’s softball team. So yup, night off and I’ll be playing — you guessed it — baseball.

Good thing I like baseball.

Can you explain your job so a seven year old can understand?

May 6, 2010

My kids don’t really understand what I do for a living. They know I write, they have some vague understanding that I work with the news people. But they don’t really get what public relations is.

So it was really tough this week when my seven year old’s grade one class called on parents to come talk about their jobs. I kept trying to think of how I would explain it. Could I find a way to describe PR so kids could understand?

Do you understand what PR is? I find many adults have a vague understanding but don’t really know themselves. I teach a course on media relations and even then I feel like it can be hard to define without a lot of examples.

So what did I tell the seven year olds? I asked if any of them have seen a reporter on the news, then asked if they’ve ever seen a reporter interview someone about what’s going on in their organization. Almost all nodded yes, so I told them I was that person being interviewed. They seemed to get that, so I told them I write a lot, and talk a lot. I asked if they like to write. Lots of kids raised their hands. I told them they could be in PR. I asked if any of them liked to talk (my son was first to raise his hand at that!), and then told those that raised their hands that they could be in PR.

When I was a kid, my dad was an engineer, and that’s the only part I understood. My mom “helped people with problems,” which is all I understood about her role as a social worker. I don’t think I really explained the essence of my job to the grade ones, but at least I came up with an explanation they could understand. Could you do any better?

No time to cook? Maybe that’s why we’re in a food crisis

May 3, 2010

You know I lead a busy life. Did you read about the week it took me two days to do the laundry? But cooking dinner is still a must, almost all the time.

I admit, we do our own cheating. We eat out occassionally, maybe once every two weeks. And on the two nights a week my husband is responsible for dinner, he usually picks up something frozen (M&M Meat Shops is his friend) to serve with cut veggies and dip. But I cook. I like cooking, and it’s usually easier and faster to throw together a meal at home than buy something ready made. Yes, ready made meals at home are cheaper than restaurant food, but not even close on the healthy scale, and no where near as good as something I made myself. Plus the more something at the grocery store is ready made, the more it costs than the ingredients themselves.

So I cook. But this article about a grocery trade show had me up in arms. It said that quick, “healthy” (emphasis mine) foods dominate the market.

Cooking is a luxury now,” said Dale Dubberley, president of Vancouver-based Thai Away Food Services Ltd., which offers a “Meals-in-Minutes” line. “People do it for fun, but they don’t do it every day. People don’t have time. Now they can go to the grocery store, get a restaurant-quality meal and have dinner ready in five to 10 minutes, for maybe half the price of eating at a restaurant.”

People cook for fun, but not necessity? What kind of crap is that? And how can we let that get promoted as gospel? No wonder more than half of adults are overweight or obese. No wonder the poor, new immigrants and aboriginal populations of our societies have the least access to secure, healthy food options.

Cooking takes effort, but not tons of time. Save your pennnies for nice nights out at a restaurant, and plan simple, healthy meals to cook all the other times. We can solve the food crisis, one home-cooked healthy meal at a time.

There, I’m done my rant for now. Off to pull together a quick stir fry for dinner.

Poor Gen Y, now you get a taste of what Gen X dealt with in our 20s!

April 29, 2010

The recession is over. Haven’t you heard? The media are sure now that we’re all back to prosperity and we’re out of the woods now. The only wrinkle is that the jobs don’t seem to have returned. And according to an article I read in Macleans Magazine this week (ok, the article ran a few weeks ago, but I’m that far behind on my magazine reading. It’s been a busy month!), the poor Millenials, aka Generation Y, are getting the worst of it.

Silly me, I thought those hit the worst were the out-of-work middle agers who lost their secure jobs when they most needed to pay the mortgage, daycare bills and feed their families. But nope, I was wrong. It’s the poor university grad who has to take on some crap job that they are overqualified for because the perfect work experience isn’t dropping into their laps. And I quote:

When Amanda, who asked that Maclean’s not use her last name, got her undergraduate degree in math last June, she wanted to get a job as an analyst. But after four months of unemployment, she took an entry-level position at a Toronto IT firm. While her friends who graduated with similar credentials just a few years earlier started out making about $40,000, she’s earning $30,000.

In fact, most young people entering the job market now are making less than peers who found jobs two or three years ago.

Aww, poor babies. But it sounds a lot like how my entire generation felt coming on the heels of the baby boomer generation. And I think we had it worse, because this recession is just a set back for Gen Y, not a permanent state of affairs like the ones I lived through. I quote again:

Whereas the recession in the early ’80s replaced full-time jobs with part-time jobs, and the one in the ’90s replaced traditional employment with self-employment, this downturn seems to be replacing permanent jobs with temporary jobs.

Um, sorry, but that was exactly what happened to my generation when we left school. There were almost no career jobs. We were all underemployed. And permanent jobs were out of the question. We were lucky to find temporary or contract work. Heck, I built a career out of temporary and contract work..

Why is it tragic that these over-coddled kids have to work their way up and into a career? We did it and most of us are just fine. And back in my day, living with my parents past my early 20s was entirely unthinkable. I worked as a secretary, copy writer, whatever it took, while paying rent and buying food all by myself. Why can’t they do the same?

Post-script: I just re-read this and I think I’m maybe too hard on Gen Y. It’s not their fault the demographics worked in their favour, giving them, up until this recession, anything they wanted in the work world. It’s their parents’ fault. 🙂

A 1980s movie classic — The Karate Kid — inspires the next generation

April 27, 2010

My 7-year-old has recently started taking Taekwondo lessons. He’s very excited about them. So are we. We are really hoping that what the other parents have told us, that martial arts forces kids with a tendency to goof around and not listen to instruction, to be better learners. We also hope that the class’ lessons about respect for your teachers and your parents might have some spill-over into our home life. It’s been a few weeks so far, and while he’s still excited about Taekwondo, I’m still waiting for that spill-over.

Anyhow, when martial arts entered our home, I made a joke about “wax on, wax off.” I know you know what I mean by that. But the boys didn’t. So I decided my kids needed to see the original Karate Kid, the film that really launched skinny minny Ralph Macchio into our hearts, the 1984 original Karate Kid. So I rented it.

On the way to the video store, I told my son that every adult past a certain age would know what I meant by “wax on, wax off.” He didn’t believe me, so I stopped three random strangers — one in his 30s, one in her 40s, and one in her 60s, and all knew what it meant. At the video store, my son asked the 20-something clerk if he knew what it meant. He didn’t (but the other clerk, same age-ish, who overheard, did know).

The kids and I watched the film last weekend, and I gotta say it didn’t quite live up to my memories of it. The plot seemed a bit thin, and the end went too fast, from (spoiler alert, if you’re 20-something and have never seen the movie, I am about to give away the ending!) overcoming his injury to win the final round at the karate tournament, then the mean boy handing him the trophy and saying that he’s all right after all. But I still loved seeing it. (And thanks to Youtube, I found these clips to include in my blog post. Cool, huh?)

And my kids loved the film too. They immediately ran around doing karate moves everywhere (until a few minutes later when one got kicked in the eye by accident. Occupational hazard in a home with two boys). And now they’re walking around doing the “wax on, wax off” thing themselves all the time.

Show this film to your kids before the remake comes out. In fact, I recommend this strategy for most of the films we loved that are being remade. When was the last time you saw Escape to Witch Mountain?

Baby boomers continue to dominate even into old age

April 26, 2010

As a kid, I grew up aware of the giant generation ahead of me, the one who set the world on fire, who changed the rights of women and minorities. As a young adult, I was aware of the giant generation ahead of me in the workplace, who took up all the jobs, caused the recession of the 80s, and kept me from establishing a solid career, or at least from finding a solid, permanent-seeming job.

As a young mother, I was aware of the giant generation ahead of me that paved some roads for working mothers but left many unpaved. Where is the national daycare policy they promised? Where is the work-life balance they promised? And as a working person, I am certainly aware of the lack of a real social safety net they are leaving for my old age. I have no expectations of social security or old age pensions, something the boomers will enjoy, because their giant generation will bankrupt those government programs.

I know I’m sounding bitter. I am bitter. I’ve been bitter all my life about the boomers, but that’s a feature of my generation, the disaffected Gen X. But recently I read a great op-ed article that was so much more eloquent about the boomers’ self-absorption and how it over-dominates public policy discussions.

In a piece titled Beyond Boomercentrism, Paul Kershaw argues that Canada puts too much focus on boomers and not enough on the young. Our government is all caught up in pension reform that daycare policies and early childhood educational standards are lost. He says:

…We must move beyond the boomercentrism that guides our priority-setting to invest in the smart family policy parents require now, and that children deserve.

And I was reminded of this piece this past week when I read another article about the movie business, something I know a bit about. It was all about how theatre owners need to prepare for the aging demographic.

What will happen when the boomers are all gone, or are no longer much of a consumer force to be reckoned with? Governments and corporations need to retool for other generational priorities soon, not just to please Gen X and Y (and Z), but to be ready for post-boomer days before it’s too late.

I may be bitter, but I think I’m right.