She sat on the chair in her grad student apartment and she told me about the lecture on Marx and laws she was going to give. I took a picture, although she doesn’t realize it. I was struck by magic of a rare and spectacular sort.

In 2011 I coached her debate team over Skype and I read Marx to them. Specifically the bit about the alienation of labour.  We had a late night conversation on Saturday and I told her the truth. She will far eclipse me. She will research and she will publish and she will lecture. I will see her cross three different university stages, I will see her get a PhD and one day I will sit in a classroom and I will watch her teach university students.

I will never be famous. At 39, I’m ok with that. This morning, while she went off to class, I made her bed, made soup out of the left over thanksgiving turkey, swept the floor, answered some work emails, worked a bit on my thesis and I’ll head down to campus to meet her for lunch.

I told her something else on Saturday. That all I wanted was to take a small part of my world and make it better. To know that part of me lived on. I love Marx. Oh, I don’t agree with him, but the idea that we give our best selves, our most truly human selves in our labour and we are alienated from that when we sell it? There’s a truth in that. She’s turned the idea of consent and contracts into an entire thesis.

I do not plan on leaving this world for a very long time. I have things to do, mayhap more coaching to give. I’d like to teach her to make soup.

But this weekend, in the middle of the production of producing a full thanksgiving meal in the world’s smallest kitchen, with the world’s dullest knives (I sharpened them on the bottom of coffee mugs), while flavouring the carrots with OJ and taco seasoning, I saw magic.

Posted in Feats of Wonder, Life After Children, the nieces and nephews | 2 Comments

There’s a Girl

I was standing in line at the hardware store. It turns out that I didn’t have any construction adhesive and was a bit short on 1/4round and trim will go better when you have some. The people in front of me had 3/4 inch plywood and 5 2x4s. The cashier was trying to charge them for 5/8, which would be great because it is cheaper, but was also wrong. I suppose it’s only 1/8th of an inch, but it is noticeable.

I looked over, as the cashier was arguing and said that no it was 3/4 inch and pulled a measuring tape out of my purse (I needed it to buy the 1/4 round).

The older gentleman smiled and said “Now there’s a girl who knows her dimensions”.

This weekend I installed trim in my back entrance: around the windows, the door laid baseboard and quarter round, used up some decorative trim to go around the ceiling.

I hate assembling Ikea furniture so very much that I hauled out 2 saws, a sander, the cordless drill and the brad nailer to use up some spare lumber from the garage to build a bench, which I painted white.

When I was still married, I held the nails, the dumb end of the tape measure, did the painting and decorating. I didn’t build stuff. To be fair, it wasn’t because Owen didn’t let me. He was often hyper critical, but he absolutely didn’t ever stand in my way. I had no need to build things, he was so much better at it and I was never going to measure up anyway.

The nice thing about being alone is your realize how much you’ve passively learned over the years. I had to google how to use the brad nailer.  The caulking gun and I nearly came to blows, but in the end, I’ve done a passable job on the trim.

More than that, I really enjoyed it. I planned it out start to finish, bought the supplies, did all the measurements, glued and hammered and screwed things. I enjoyed figuring out how to make things work. The bench fills me with a tremendous sense of accomplishment. The corners on the window aren’t quite right, even with caulk. It was an amateur job.  I still got it done. All on my own.

That’s an amazing feeling. I’ve learned my dimensions.

Posted in Divorce, Home Reno's Aren't for Weaklings | 3 Comments

Not Listening, Not Debating

3 months ago a director in my organization made a lewd remark about my attire. I ought not to have to justify what I was wearing, but I assure you, it was appropriate to the situation. He was senior enough that I couldn’t call him out, so I just glared at him and moved on.

Two weeks later my boss came to my desk and told me to apologize for glaring. It doesn’t matter that I was right, just that senior director puts together the list for promotion and I wanted to be on it.

I apologized.

Yesterday morning, 30% of Google’s workforce got up, got dressed and went into various offices knowing that a non trivial portion of their male colleagues think that they are biologically unsuited to writing code because they have 2 X chromosomes. A man started this debate, ostensibly because he was worried about diversity.

Science has proved that women as an entire sex aren’t inherently better at communication or worse at coding. Logic proves that figuring out what makes a coder good is nowhere near granular enough to attribute it to sex. Project management best practices say that everyone collaborating makes for better projects.

We are supposed to smile tolerantly while a man uses bad science, crap logic and poor working practices to suggest that diversity is a problem. We are supposed to listen patiently and nod understandingly while men talk about what to do about the problem.

The problem that is us.

They are debating the rights of a person with 2 X chromosomes solely because they have two X chromosomes. Their right to lead projects. Their right to manage staff. We aren’t debating if a women is competent, we are debating whether or not someone with 2 X chromosomes can be competent.

They are debating my right to make a living.

They are debating my right to exist in a technical space.

When I object to the manifesto someone is going to call me shrill. They are going to call me a bitch.  Someone is going to come along and tell me to work harder and prove them wrong.

Fine. I was the youngest principal by almost decade in my former job. A nationally recognized expert in my field. A mentor to junior consultants. I’m published in professional journals. I speak at conferences.

And we are still arguing if I’m good enough to do my job, what with the 2 X chromosomes. I’m still supposed to debate this.

The entire manifesto is a bundle of crazy held together with duct tape and anger. There’s nothing to debate. It’s not argument, it’s bullshit. I don’t debate bullshit. You are god damned right I’m not going to listen to you.

Posted in Feminism | 4 Comments

Slowly . . . Accidentally


I’m slowly learning about myself.

It’s not deliberate or calculated.

It’s a series of accidental observations.

It turns out that I like doing yard work. I surprise myself at how orderly I am. I like the process of yard work and tidying.

These things I did while married because that was I figured a wife should do – no one cares now. I only have to please myself.

I eat dark chocolate and drink red wine. I like the combination. I don’t like apples. I eat more vegetables and haven’t bought apples in months.

I don’t know how to ask a romantic partner for emotional support. It’s a skill I lack. I can ask my friends, but not someone I’m dating.

I’m working on that.

Posted in Divorce | 1 Comment


I took Anthropology on a lark because it started at 10 am. It was the first time that I realized my idea of what being a woman meant was so bounded by my time, by background and my geography.

Political economy presupposes private property. I sell my labour, the most human part of me, and it confronts me as an alien thing. Capitalism requires a separation of man and nature but never really defends private property or separation. I think of Marx when I contemplate my privilege.

And beauty. The calculus equation proving that a limit can never be reached. The prof said it was beautiful. It is you know, the idea that you get closer and closer to something, but never reach it.

The professor who was bored so he sold all of his belongings. The stats prof who did weird vegetable Fridays. The prof who taught Aristotle at the pub. Listen to the madmen and learn from the eccentrics. There’s nothing to be gained within the comfort of an echo chamber.

I wanted my MBA to be hard. I wanted it to stretch me to the point of almost breaking. I wanted the moments where the world was vast and I was small but burning with passion.

I’ve written papers. Mostly good, a few bad. I can tell you how to calculate the weighted average cost of capital, how to market a new product and how to account for the costs of goods sold. I can discuss Porter’s five forces and Kotter’s seven steps to change management. I can cite things in APA.

I have a semester left, plus my thesis. One last residency. I’ll have done the work of an MBA.

Last night, I realized. It’s not hard. It’s never going to be hard. In my admission letter I talked about my thirst for knowledge. My endless curiosity.  I wanted to think deeply, to hold contradictory ideas in my head.

I wanted to cross that stage in those robes and I wanted to feel like I earned it. I wanted to know that I worked for it. I wanted to have overcome, been changed and transformed.

I wanted it to mean something.

I wanted alchemy not academics.

Posted in Grad Student | 1 Comment

In the Middle

Yesterday was a bad day.

I cloaked it in gallows humour, jokes about not having time to die. An innocent email to the MS nurse (I have 21 bruises on my legs and arms. I don’t know where they are coming from. Should I be worried?). An email, a text, a phone call. The MS Nurse told me to go to emergency. Immediately.

To be fair, I did at least look at my calendar before I said no. I also looked at the symptoms and the treatment for ITP. Actually, I did that before I ever started the drug.

Here’s the thing. If I had a clotting disorder from my new MS medication, there isn’t a ton to be done. They’ll try the appropriate treatments and either I will respond or I will develop an inter cranial bleed and I will die. I’ve realized most of my MS drugs are like this. If all you get is nausea, you really haven’t gotten any side effects. It’s the permanent impairment and disability. Or the fact you die.

For a few hours, as a variety of medical professionals tried to assess how bad the situation was and what should be done, I carried on working.

And thought about what it might mean to die.

In the middle of a Monday. In the middle of an MBA. In the middle of a project. In the middle of a marginally good book.

In the middle of a life.


I am unlikely to die. There is potentially some concern, but it’s not life threatening. Right now it’s a watch and see. Hopefully I don’t develop full blown immune thrombocytopenia purpura.

Posted in MS Gets on Your Nerves | 4 Comments

Hers, In Mine

I am on a new medication and it gives me a dry mouth. My solution is to keep a ziploc baggie of scotch mints in my purse.

They sit next to the package of kleenex.

Which makes me my mother.

Last Saturday I saw my hairdresser. Who has been seeing me since I was 6. We both had heart failure that I was turning 40 soon enough. She reminded me. I have good genes. I will age well enough.

On my dresser sits a picture of my hand holding hers, as she died. I marvel at how alike our hands are. Short and stubby fingers. Strong hands. I think of her as I do certain things. Send thank you cards. Set the table. Dress nicely wherever I go. As I made reference to “wearing my grubs” to go and help a friend with some painting.

I thought of this, not unhappily, as I sat on a bench next to the man my mother was dating when she died, arguing politics.

Sometimes, in the right light, when I am tired, I will see the lines in her face, in mine. Sometimes, when I am arguing about politics, I will hear her voice, in mine.

She would have been 70 last week.

I miss her.

Posted in The language of families | 2 Comments

setting the attractions of my good parts aside I have no other charm

I have faults. I’m, uh… easily mesmerized by people who use multi-syllabled words and, um, men who can discuss Tolstoy. Diane Lockhart, Good Wife. 

Maybe you have been somewhere and you observed a couple on a date. You have recognized it is going badly. He’s having a great time and she’s wishing she could be having a pap smear.

While in line for the women’s washroom, wishing the line were ever so much longer, I realized that I was that woman.

Worse still, I did this to myself.

I can’t tell on first dates. I can usually tell by the second date.  The date tonight was supposed to be a second date, but there was an unplanned sushi date on Thursday. I knew at the end of Thursday’s date that he was a non starter.

The plans were made, the tickets had been bought. It seemed kindest to just go and end things with a nice text on Monday.

So, he had a great time. I was thankful that you can’t talk during a play. I’m sitting in my backyard, drinking wine.

When I left Owen, I did so knowing that I would be happier alone. I knew how painfully lonely I could be while still married. It wasn’t that I didn’t expect to be lonely while single, it was that it would at least be a more understandable sort of lonely.

I am, therefore, a bit of a snob. I don’t care if you haven’t ever seen Shakespeare. There’s tons of stuff that I haven’t seen. Admit it. Or be silent. You give yourself away when you call Romeo and Juliet a Comedy.

Maybe I find a guy who uses multi-syllabled words and can discuss Shakespeare. It isn’t this guy.

Posted in Dating Causes Indigestion | 4 Comments

In the Window (Staring Back at Me)

A few months ago I drove past the thrift store near my house and my wedding dress was on the mannequin in the window.

I suppose this wasn’t a surprise. I had donated it some months previously. I held on to the dress for more than 15 years, porting it from place to place. I wasn’t ever going to wear it again and after I tried it on (having lost enough weight it fit again), I donated it along with some other odds and ends. There was no point in keeping it.

It was, well I suppose it was a bit odd, to drive past and see your wedding dress, the one that you wore to get married to a guy you aren’t married to anymore. It wasn’t upsetting or painful.  It’s the sort of odd that english, with all it’s words, doesn’t quite capture. I thought about blogging about it, but honestly, what could I say? It was just odd.

All of that is connected to this – today is, or I guess is not, my 16th wedding anniversary. I’m still technically married to Owen, so I guess it’s still a wedding anniversary. Except, well, you know. It’s mostly not.

And today is a bit like the wedding dress. I’m not sad. Maybe you might think I should be, and I guess you could think that. I mean, I would understand why you might think I should be sad, but I’m not. I tried really hard to stay married to Owen and it just wasn’t going to work out. So not sad. Not wounded, not forlorn, mournful, lugubrious, gloomy, downhearted, woebegone.

But not joyful.

I am pensive.

It was a long time we were together. So I thought I would at least tell you. 16 years ago today, at the ripe old age of 22, I married the love of my life. I thought we would be together for ever.

Instead, through a window, I’m staring at the reflections of memories. What was, what I thought would be.

I thought I would tell you what I was staring at today.

Posted in Divorce, irrelevant reverence, Learning Life | 2 Comments

Ceterus Paribus

20 years ago September I was sitting in a very large lecture theatre, learning about the laws of supply and demand.

The law of demand says Ceterus Paribus, when price increases we consume less of a thing, but if our income increases, we consume more of (almost) everything.

This is reasonably true. I buy more coffee. I buy more clothing, I buy shoes. (Well, I always bough shoes). Indeed, I actually buy groceries. I make more than I did 20 years ago,  and I consume more too.

In what passes for encouragement by economics lecturers, they tell you about Giffen Goods. Giffen goods are the reverse. As income increases, you consume less of these goods. University lecturers always use ichiban noodles to illustrate this – once you leave university you don’t eat ichiban anymore. I suppose this is so – although a friend did buy me some when I was accepted to Grad School.

Ceterus Paribus – all other things held equal – these laws hold. They have not changed.

On Friday night  I ate my sushi. I wore jeans and Birks and a t shirt. I am, again, single. I still have pets. I made notes on the laws of supply and demand.

Ceterus Paribus.

There’s comfort in that.

Posted in Divorce, Grad Student | 1 Comment