Thursday, 28 June 2007

The Five Days from Hell, Revisited

Last weekend I ran two fundraisers, a booth at a local fair and a Strawberry Supper at my local hall. I also had two sets of house guests and the Health Centre's Annual General Meeting on Tuesday. Whew!

It doesn't seem as if it has been a week since I posted the Thirteen Things list -- Saturday through Tuesday passed in a blur. Friday I collected three flats and eight quart baskets of strawberries (picked by volunteers, thanks be!) and got signs and rosters ready for Sunday. I spent Saturday selling books and fruit kabobs from the Health Centre booth, picked up my cousin, our house guest, from the train, packed up the booth, fed and entertained her, remade the aspic which had not jelled and muttered imprecations. Sunday was Strawberry Supper day. I hauled the food and my poor cousin off to the Hall at an unreasonalby early hour and we cleaned strawberries all morning. Solo, because my roster got messed up, and I had to send one of my stalwart workers off to get the bread, which I had forgotten.

At noon the workers started swarming in and we were almost ready when the bus tour arrived, twenty minutes early. When they came in, the people waiting to eat followed them and we started flinging the food out. We had a steady stream of diners for the first hour, a bit of a break and another busy period. At the end of this second rush we realized that we were getting low on berries, went looking for the last big bowl and found, to my horror, that the rapidly emptying one in the dining area was the last one. Oh, rats! Oh dear! The last twenty diners had to be content with cake and melon. I was mortified, as our Hall has the reputation of never running out of food. No one asked for their money back, than goodness. We had planned for 200 people and we got 190, approximately. But we let people serve their own strawberries and that was a mistake. Next time I will put a guard on the berry bowls.

My cleanup crew did me proud and I staggered home to entertain my cousin. I put her on the train Monday morning, shopped for my groceries on the way home and frantically redid the guest room linens. I was almost ready when the second set of house guests arrived. Cathy was good enough to help me get the materials ready for the AGM, and we had fun with that.

Tuesday morning we packed up and took off, towing our brand new boat, for the Rideau Canal system, as the purpose of Gary and Cathy's visit was to be shown the nearest section of the system -- the Rideau Lake chain. We keep the boat here and launch it from one of the locks. We did that, piled our lunch and gear aboard, and prepared to go. There was water in the stern, however, which puzzled us. A passing boat's driver asked us if we needed a plug, but JG was convinced he had put it in. We went out toward the lake but when JG tried to speed up, the boat would not go up on the step and it was wallowing a lot. Cathy pointed out that the water was now above her ankles. We turned on the bilge pump and water started pouring out.

We quickly motored back to the quay, JG backed the trailer into the slip and we pulled the boat up the ramp, fearing that we had a split weld or some other catastrophe. Water poured out of the drain hole. There are two identical drain holes. One drains the live well and the other is the hull drain. The plug was in the live well drain. While we were relieved that the boat was sound, JG was more than a little bit embarrassed.

As all this had taken some time, our trip from lower Rideau Lake up to Westport was somewhat shortened and we ended up by having to speed for home, as I had to pick up flowers, get dressed in my best and be at the pre AGM meeting by 5:30. I arrived at 5:31, just in time to hear the Chair complaining that there was no quorum. 'Your quorum is running down the hall', someone remarked. I didn't get much supper.

We had the AGM, I gave my speeches. I think. By this time I was a bit stunned. I got elected Chair for the 07/08 year, and I crawled home by about 9:30 to find the crew assembled on the screen porch sipping cold drinks and counting fireflies. Yesterday we went for brunch to a local pancake house and our guests left from there to go home. By the time we got home, I was a complete zombie. I counted the money from the Supper and this morning, when JG recounted it, he found a lot of errors. However, we still have a really good take, in spite of my mistaking loonies for twonies, and I think the workers will be pleased. We are 4/5ths of the way to our goal of $500,000, having begun the campaign in September '06 and I don't think that's too bad.

As much as I am complaining, it was all a lot of fun. Once we figured out what was wrong with our brand new boat.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen things I have to do tomorrow.

1.) Get up far earlier than I want to -- I'm a night person.

2.) Supervise a gang of teenagers picking strawberries for a fundraising supper I am helping with.

3.) Make two big cakes, ditto.

4.) Make jellied aspic, ditto.

5.) Clean, cut up and sort fruit for fruit kabobs, ditto.

6.) Make signs, ditto.

7.) Go to the bank and get a float, ditto.

8.) Put up the stand for another event at which I am doing a fundraising activity.

9.) Clean the house and prepare for house guests for the weekend.

10.) Do enough laundry to have clean underwear through this house guest's visit, plus another set expected on Tuesday.

11.) Print off a set of Length of Service certificates for a meeting next week.

12.) Clean up my rats' nest of an office so as not to offend the guests once I have done the certificates.

13.) Plan menus for the next six days and make sure I have enough food to feed two sets of guests -- this involves reading the rather limited diet sheet for one of them and planning around it.

One thing I am not going to do tomorrow.

Anything else.


I don't enjoy fundraising. I wonder why.

Monday, 18 June 2007


I read a post about poop a couple of days ago. Mommy found her little guy waving his legs in the air, with his diaper off and a really big log of poop lying beside him. I *really* wish that I could remember where I read it. (Help, anyone?) I laughed so hard I cried. And half of what I was laughing at was a memory of my own experience with toddlers and turds.

My elder daughter wasn't easy to toilet train. We got the pee organized at about the average time, but she didn't seem to be able to grasp the concept of sitting on the pot until she pooped. She wasn't particularly regular, she didn't seem to have any feeling that it was about to happen, and there were lots more interesting things to do. The whole process became an issue. She wanted underpants thank you, no more diapers for her! Only, big girl pants do not catch poop. I was reduced to dressing the top of her and leaving pants, socks and shoes off until she did go. Then she had a hissy fit, we cleaned her up and she got dressed the rest of the way. Neither of us was too happy, to say the least.

One morning I was marking essays at the kitchen table, which had a small two piece lavatory off it. The girls were safely enthralled by Mr Dressup, and I was ripping apart some kid's take on King Lear (or whatever) when a small procession appeared in the kitchen doorway heading toward the toilet. At its head was the ED, carrying a large hard log of poop in her cupped hands. Behind her came the YD, toddling along with her big sister's pants held out in front of her. And last came the dog, sniffing hopefully, with tail wagging. The parade disappeared into the bathroom and sounds of splashing and flushing ensued.

I just sat there. Bemused. I might have said 'Remember to wash your hands' in a quavering voice. And then I lost it. I just sat and laughed. I don't think the underpants went down the toilet. That time. I hope they did wash their hands.

At the time it happened, I would not have told anyone the story. Bad Mothering! Unsanitary! And I haven't told the story.

Until now.

I love this place where you can talk and laugh about stuff like this. Over at BlogRhet, we're talking about empowerment. And for me, this is a part of it.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Parenting Styles


I read a post from The Process of Becoming Dr. Jenny G in which she discusses her way of parenting and comments she has had that imply she does 'too much' and is letting her relationship with her husband and her time for herself go while she baby tends (to excess). I did not think it appropriate to put this huge lump of discussion into her comments, so I'm posting what is, in effect, an answer to her question (Do you find my parenting style self-sacrificing to the point of bizarre?)

It's a subject that I've thought about a lot, both while I was baby wrangling and for many years afterward, observing my friends and my nieces and then my daughter deal with their babies. The thing about overdoing it is not confined to baby tending, either. When my mother was dying, demented and in pain, the kindly folk in the hospital placement department kept urging me to take a step back, to take time for myself, to remember that I had other family who needed me, yada yada. In a way it was my 'parenting' that they were critiquing, as my poor mother was about two years old mentally at that time. She needed to see me beside her so that she could feel safe and so I was sleeping on the floor beside her bed with a lamp shining on me. Pretty equivalent to co-sleeping and not letting them cry it out.

I was a pretty clueless mother with my firstborn. The only babies I had observed being brought up were my cousins and my mother and her sisters believed in doing it by the book and they advocated scheduled feeding right from the start -- in fact, scheduled everything right from the start, (this is still with us) and letting the baby cry it out in her crib so that she would learn to sleep alone. And I did do some of that, in spite of my gut feeling that it was not working. I remember pacing the floor with a yowling newborn, watching the clock. Luckily the Elder Daughter was a champion sleeper, going six or seven hours at night right from the first, or I would probably have gone right over the edge. Did it buy me time for myself? Not hardly.

When I had Younger Daughter fifteen months later, I had learned enough to grab on to a new program at the hospital called 'Rooming In' where you kept the baby with you instead of having her delivered from the nursery at four hour intervals. I got a baby sling and then a carrier and she went with me everywhere. She did not do naps, but she was also a champion night sleeper once I managed to persuade her that her long sleep should take place at night. I spent a lot of time nursing her with her sister sitting on my lap at the same time and being read to. It worked a lot better.

Parenting by the clock is not, I think, 'less work' that your way of doing things (babywear/breastfeed/co-sleep/comfort them when sick at night/nurse at night/play with them all day/ and so on). I can't imagine not listening for an infant to wake up. A toddler in a playpen, left to get on with amusing herself, can generate a deafening level of noise when she gets bored. A free range toddler is scary as hell -- when the noise stops, a sensible parent had better find out why. ('no, no, sweetie, do not chew on the light cord!) Easier to play with them. There is no way to get 'more time for yourself' in the first few years other than to leave the kid with someone else. Bless the man, but I would be astounded to learn that Rafael had ever tried these strategies you and he discussed. (letting them "learn to self-soothe" when they are sick or whatever and that I would, then, have more "time for myself" and the kids would still be fine.)

I did carve out time 'for myself'. Daddy babysat and I did course work at the neighbouring university. The ED, age 5 months, howled when I left for the first few lectures and sulked at me when I got back. She got over it. They both got deposited with grandparents and babysitters and friends so that their father and I could go out on a date. They slept in their cribs. If they were sick and miserable, I sat by the crib or rocked them in the nursery rocker. When they both took naps (non negotiable, although the YD had to be literally held in place until she conked out) I napped with them. I ran out of milk for the ED at the six month mark (feeding with solids by the clock does not help the milk supply) and so she and her bottles could be left with her aunt while Daddy and I went on a short holiday. And, as your husband says, they were fine.

I have gone into all this detail to demonstrate that I do not think the 'babywear etc.' parenting style is either 'too self sacrificing' or 'bizarre'. 'Bizarre' is crawling around on the floor after the kid, bowl and spoon in hand begging the little tyrant to have 'just one more bite'; bringing her toy after toy as she rejects the first few offered; refusing to let anyone else take over for a few hours because she may get upset; padding every hard surface in the house as she learns to walk. These kids are not 'fine', and when they are catered to like this they may become impossibly demanding as they get older.

My husband and I could have been called selfish about the way we dealt with our kids when they got older. We had a life style and their activities had to fit into it. Their lessons and clubs and activities had to be fit into the week because every weekend we left the city for a weekend (winterized) cabin 'in the bush', with no TV. They had a boat that we let them use themselves. They had several hundred acres on which to roam. Evenings were devoted to activities like books and board games and cooking experiments. Since they have grown up, they have said that they learned to value the two days of peace and family time. And I think they have turned out pretty well.

Monday, 11 June 2007

The Hand that Hits the Keyboard

Her Bad Mother asked all of us involved in BlogRhet to answer the following: How does (or DOES) blogging empower women? (Possible variations - has it, or how has it, empowered you? Is blogging a radical act?) Doesn't have to be specific to mom-bloggers, but should be specific to *women.* The MommyBlogs Toronto site is holding a contest regarding these questions -- winner to receive a package to Blogher. I'm not going, alas.


Writing something down is empowering. All through history, from the time that writing was regarded as the mysterious power of magical seers, the act of setting down an action or a thought has given the written word great power. The writing of chronicles, in specific, has been used by scrupulous men to record the deeds of states and heroes. By unscrupulous men, such chronicles have revised history, advanced the world view, ethics and religion of the writer and formed the opinions of the 'unlettered'. The 'Articles' that founded the protestant religion were posted on a church door. Spoken words of power, such as those in Shakespeare's plays, have entered and enriched the language in which they were written, but only when written do they endure.
I postulate that the antecedent of the blog is not really the diary, but rather a chronicle, the earliest form of which, kept by monks, has enormously influenced later events. The chronicles that survive their authors are referred to over and over again, analyzed and used both critically and uncritically to teach young people. When the printing press brought preserved text within the reach of many people, newsletters circulated in coffee shops in England and Europe gave middle class men access to the governments of their world. And with that access came the rise of democratic change. These observations are oversimplified, but I think they are sound.



When you look at the enduring early novels, you see the author using a form of chronicle, the direct address to the reader, to engage interest. "Reader, I married him," says Jane Eyre. The novel purports to be written in the words of the heroine, recollected after the fact. A great many chronicles/diaries that have survived from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries also show evidence of being written with an audience in mind. Some of them have been published as books, in fact, of advice of a father to his son, of the change of a government and religious outlook, or simply of a life vivaciously lived. Whom was Samuel Pepys writing for, if not for posterity. And how posterity values him, warts and all.

A blog seems to me to be a blend of a newsletter, a chronicle and a self conscious diary. I often find myself thinking of Lucy Maud Montgomery's diaries, a work over which she took obsessive care and frequently edited. How she would have valued a delete button -- so much easier to hide emendation that way than by taking a razor blade to remove pages. I think of LMM as the first woman blogger, because of the self consciousness and because of the subject matter. She wrote about her children, her work, her home and herself, just as we do. Her popularity was always in her mind, I believe, as she wrote because she knew that her fame would preserve the diaries and many women would read them. And mostly, I think, she was candid. Edited, but the voice and the emotions are real.

This aspect, the reality of the subject matter, the singular voice of the woman writer recording and observing and editing the events of her life, is what gives the blog its power. I want to read about you and I want you to read about me. The act of exchanging thoughts and comments on events and feelings and beliefs is the generating element that links all of us who write and illustrate our chronicles. And in the linkage lies power. The format of the blog, allowing graphics and photographs and providing a place for immediate response is a very powerful tool, and the reciprocal nature of the genre makes building a community at once simple and complex.

When I was a young mother I had a small version of this community -- my husband was a PhD student at a large university, one among several dozen in the Engineering school. Many of his fellow students were the same age and at the same stage of life and among the wives there were a double handful of us who were SAHMs from very similar backgrounds. We phoned each other daily, met as often as possible and made ourselves into a mutual aid society. It was good and supportive, but it was not immediate and not as link friendly. (What we needed was telephone conferencing.) I think that of all of us from that group I was the only one who wrote to my family (my mother and my aunt) in detail and regularly. It was a chronicle of my life, and the children's growth, that they needed and responded to. So it was somewhat blog like, but the response time was much longer.

Immediacy is one of the keys to the power of the blogger's world. That and linkage are the two aspects of blogs that are new and now. The reasons that the blogs are written are many but I have been collecting the BlogRhet meme responses and I am starting to work out some categories. There are women who primarily began to write to provide a chronicle of their lives for far-flung relatives and friends. Many cite reasons to do with mental health ranging from an outlet and refreshment from stress, through depression, post partum and otherwise to simple loneliness. Other women were motivated by a desire to write, either for themselves or to provide a record for future generations. Some are not clear themselves -- the water looked inviting to them, they jumped in and found themselves swimming. All the respondents, however, talk about how the immediacy and the sense of community have encouraged them to continue.

And a lot of us are continuing. Our voices are becoming legion. The variations in what we do with our blogs are less important than the simple fact that the numbers are increasing. I am sure there is disenchantment and women who just can't find the time to write and read enough to stay connected. But the majority are finding the time -- less than they want but it is important enough to keep on with, even at the end of a frantically busy and stressful day. And I can only surmise that what keeps us coming back is the sense of community, of empowerment, of being part of a many voiced, many eyed collective where we all can know something of one another and rely on one another. Not in a small and ephemeral group but as parts of a continuing whole.
I am saying that the whole has power. Like the chronicling monks, keeping their solitary candles of scholarship alive in the dark of the chaotic centuries, this multi voiced record we are keeping may take a long time to be useful. Or not. I am not an historian -- but there are some of us who are. I am not a psychologist or statistician or sociologist. But there are some of us who are. I am posting these observations in the knowledge that, unlike the monk chroniclers, other minds than mine, with different and probably better skills, will have immediate access to what I am writing and can use it, correct it and comment on it so that the discussion becomes more refined. I think it is too soon to wonder what will we do with this power we are generating. But it is not too soon to look at what kind of community we are building. And never to soon to foster it.
I think that we are joining voices - and writing history as it's never really been written before.
June 11 Edit. TBM added this comment, but it is a much better conclusion than mine so I have incorporated it.

Driving


I'm just back from another trip to see the MIL. We try to do frequent short visits. This trip I did some planting and garden tidying -- things that had been bothering her but that she didn't have the energy to attempt. She is also not driving, after the heart attack; this is the safest thing but she always has run her own errands on her own schedule and waiting to be taken is driving her nuts. She's really good for ninety and a few weeks past a major heart event, but…she's ninety and forgetful and wobbly and fretful. The son and daughter who live close by are bearing the brunt of this, while JG and I visit and worry. Not fun.

We do the drive down Highway 7, south to the 401 on Highway 37, 401 to 407 to QE and along it. I've been doing this drive for 45 years. I remember the overpass of the Welland Canal at St Catherines being built. Hundreds of trips over this route. I still enjoy it -- watching the seasons, following the series of beaver dams on 7, noting new houses on the Tweed section, seeing the season advance as we drive south and west, looking at the vines and orchards of the Niagara region. Checking out which businesses are still there and which are new or closed.

The most enjoyable bit is still quite new. When you drive along the 407 east to west there is a spot close to the eastern end where you look down and out across the whole of Toronto and you can see the downtown skyscrapers and the CN tower. Most times it's hazy, sometimes jewel clear, always a surprise that you can see so far. Going toward Toronto on the QE you can also see the downtown and CN tower from the Skyway and you get another view across the lake when the QE runs close along the shore at Jordan Station.

Yesterday the St Catherines view was hazy -- water vapour over the lake, I think. The downtown came out in silhouette and the CN tower was all obscured except the bulgy bit, which showed as a lighter curve where the sun was hitting it. The view at Jordan Station was much clearer, because of the lesser distance. The lake horizon was a defined dark blue line and there were sailboats out. Again, the Toronto towers were a silhouette, but a much more defined one. Just beautiful, with the water sparkling and the little boats dancing around. I don't know why this pleases me so much, but if it is grey and raining that part of the trip seems long and boring.

I've always wanted to try and get a photo, but you don't stop on the QE, especially on the skyway, so I guess I will have to treasure the pictures in my mind.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

An Unjust World

This photo is titled 'People that Really Matter'. The shot comes from one of the aid programs for Aids Orphans, this one from Lesotho.

Under the Mad Hat and One Plus Two are doing a Just Post campaign to raise money for children like this. Lawyer Mama has put up a post about this to-day also.
Please drop over and read it -- it is most eloquent and says it all. I'm in and I hope you can be also.

This thing about Robin...keeps bob, bob, bobbin' along

Under the Mad Hat put this comment on my Monday Mission post about the robins.

We have a robin's nest over the porch light on our back deck. Sunday morning the baby robin was hatched. I've been trying to figure out how to blog the story and here you've gone and scooped me. I should've known that there was gold in travel writing.

I was inspired to consult with one of my resident robins and found that she wished to send Mad's robin a letter. Mad said I should post it, and as she is one of my heroines, her word is my command. (And if you know the song my title is quoted from, I would like to discuss arthritis remedies and good rinses for white hair with you.)

Top of the Hydro Mast
G Estate
North of Perth, ON
Tuesday, June 5th, 2007

Mrs Rachel Robin
Over the Porch Light
Mad Hat House
Maritimes, ON

Sent c/o The Mad Hatter

Dear Rachel,
I am sure this has to be you, and after Mrs.G told me about you, I just had to send you a note.

I have three darling fledglings this year, Robert, Rupert and Rudyard. Robert is a bit clumsy and may have to take remedial flying this summer, but Rupert and Ruddy are fine big boys and look to have inherited their father's splendid voice, or so their determined chirping would have me think.

I hear you have only one baby this year -- well, dear, we can't all lay a full clutch all the time. And I am sure your little one will do you proud.

The weather here has been abominable -- rain, rain and more rain. My feathers are giving me trouble as always in this weather. Luckily the web worms are very numerous so that feeding my crew has not been too onerous and I have been able to put in a bit of preening.

I am worried, though, about my residence here. When we arrived this spring, all traces of last year's nest (and it was a lovely big one) were gone. And I see Mrs G eyeing this one with a determined glint in her eye. She is hard to deal with, why cousin Rebecca couldn't build on the porch light this year because the wretched woman tied tinfoil to the top of it. Tsk. So unmannerly. I am glad your proprietress is more lenient.

Well dear, I must close. The little ones are demanding more worms. Best wishes, and I hope we will meet at Lake Cleveland this fall as usual. I want to hear all about your maritime adventure.

Ever your friend,

Roberta

Monday, 4 June 2007

Monday Mission - Travel Guide



Spring and Summer in Eastern Ontario - Ten Best Locations

The G Estate

Location

Arriving from Florida via Point Pelee, this portion of Ontario can be accessed by following the lakeshore, the Niagara River, Lake Ontario north shore and the Rideau Canal System. Follow the Tay River to Perth, pick up the Mississippi and then the Clyde and fly west and south from the junction of the east and west forks of this river.

Amenities

This estate has four acres of mowed grass, with a centre of bedrock protrusion that makes a fine vantage point in the early morning and evening. A fine selection of hardwoods surrounds the open area, with red and sugar maple predominating. The owners fertilize and care for the grass; in fact we are told that this spring JG is topdressing the portion of lawn in front of the house. Please be advised that latecomers may find the best trees taken early and overflow accommodation is not to everyone's taste, so arrive early if possible. Nest building on the light fixtures, regrettably, is not allowed.

A garden bench and concrete turtle provide fine daytime perches, and the house is surrounded by fair sized trees, excellent locations for lawn surveillance. The estate has no cats, but the occasional red shinned hawk skimming through is a real danger. Fortunately, the hawks seem to favour the location of the bird feeders, and the smaller lawns are always quite safe.

Shopping

The owners tend to leave string and other detritus from gardening in easily accessed locations. The occasional piece of tinsel from the Christmas tree may also be available. Longer grass on the edge of the mowed portion is abundant and there is a pond area adjacent which provides excellent mud. Deer hair is also found in some locations.

Dining

Excellent bug hunting and fair to adequate worming is available throughout the site. The top dressed section provides a gourmet worm experience, but its proximity to the bird feeders makes hawk vigilance a priority. The adjacent woodland is heavily infested with forest tent caterpillars in most years; this delicacy cannot be overrated. Unfortunately the owners destroy webworms, however, so robins in search of this treat will have to venture farther afield.

Entertainment

Red breasted Grosbeak performances are available regularly as are American goldfinch choruses. Dragonfly ballet in the afternoons centres on the rock protrusion. Comedy turns are provided by the owners of the estate during blackfly season.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

Lilac Watch, with butterflies

We have a Japanese lilac beside the kitchen door. It blooms later than the ordinary lilacs and has smaller blooms but a lovely scent. This afternoon it was covered with bees and wasps of many varieties and both regal and common swallowtail butterflies. I stood on the kitchen porch, dodging drunken bees, and took these pictures.
This is a Common Yellow Swallowtail.


This is a Viceroy or a Regal -- I haven't got a good shot of the tail to tell which. Most likely a Viceroy, however, as it is too early here for the milkweed butterflies.


I took these on 'fine' with a Coolpix 8700, on auto, cropped the result and equalized the light using Corel's PhotoPaint. The Swallowtail is not as bright as it should be as the light kept changing on me.

This should have been the 'Travel writeup' Monday Mission. I am ducking out tonight, but hope to get it up on Tuesday.

Friday, 1 June 2007

Sounding off. Again.


I've been thinking about volunteers all day to-day, mainly because the organization I work with gives out an award each spring to people who help to make the community a better place to live. I had a list in front of me of people who have all dedicated many hours and impressive skills to a variety of organizations and programs. It was an amazing record. Women who run food programs in the local schools, a visiting service at a local nursing home, the local Community Justice Program, a transition program for low achieving teens entering the work force, a youth support program -- and on and on.

But as we worked on the list and rated these marvelous people, I was looking at the committee members and it struck me that they are equally amazing. They are all working mothers with children ranging from pre-school to university. They hold down demanding jobs -- one is a minister, one runs a doctor's office, one has two half time positions and contributes enough that she seems to be full time in each of them. The office manager has a teenaged Down's Syndrome son. The minister has three children, two at school and one preschooler and is going back to school herself in the fall. The double job holder works a farm with her husband, has two teenagers and manages to leave the smallest footprint on the planet of anyone I know, a time consuming endeavour that takes a lot of research and extra work.

What is so striking and so heart warming about this is the cheerful enthusiasm with which they settle down to yet one more demanding task. When you've got ten good candidates and two awards to give, sorting the better from the good and the best from the better is a stinker of a job. And this group does it with grace and laughter and the decisions they make are fair and reasoned. It's time consuming to do it well. One woman has to get back to her office by noon. Another has an afternoon meeting coming up. The third is always running under time constraints. But they give the process all the time needed to do the thing properly, without hassle or glances at watches or fuss.

I love working with women like this. In my many, many years of experience with committees and boards, I have never found a group of men with equal qualifications and demands on their time who can do this. Who can just get on with things without fuss or posturing and have fun while doing it. Men seem to have to display their credentials, argue about method and ways and means, stake out their territory like robins having spring singing contests, puff up, flare their tails and gobble like turkey cocks. Is it testosterone poisoning?

I think of Question Period in our Parliament and I just want to cringe. A lot of the women in the House seem to have adopted the male stridency and factionalism. Sheila Copps, for instance, was embarrassing in her hounding of the Opposition benches. I like a good debate but when courtesy and common sense are absent, it isn't a debate at all. It's chaos. Men's rules and men rule. I really think that the reason there aren't more women in provincial and federal politics is that they can't abide the nonsense. So they get on with the job in their own way, which is making sure all the notionally small things get done, and our world keeps turning.
I sometimes imagine that I can see the turkey hens look at one another when the male starts to strut, role their eyes and get on with looking for tasty bugs. And I don't blame them at all.