fame and shame · whine and cheese

Day 466: How does this make sense?

A prominent association of children’s authors and illustrators recently put out a statement condemning the rise in Antisemitic hate speech and violence. The statement was, I thought, very well written. It contained a link to this article about how Antisemitism forms the core of White Supremacist ideology. Below is a screenshot of the statement, or you can find it here.

Isn’t that nice? Well, it was, while it lasted. But then SCBWI came out with an apology and stated that their Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer, who was responsible for the original statement, is resigning over this issue.

I am both baffled and floored by this turn of events. It feels like an “all lives matter” moment, doesn’t it? I keep trying to find more background information, to find the missing piece of the puzzle that will make me say, “Aha. That explains everything.”

The best I’ve been able to find out is that after the post denouncing Antisemitism went public, one author asked when SCBWI would denounce Islamophobia, and subjected the organization’s social media to a barrage of anti-Israel and Antisemitic posts. She was blocked and all her posts deleted. There were harassment accusations both ways.

The organization’s apology did say, “WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU” in big shouting all caps, so I decided to write to them. This is what I said:

I am writing today to express my shock and dismay about your recent apology following SCBWI’s statement against Antisemitism.

Perhaps there has been some kind of misunderstanding; but to me and many others it looks like, faced with pressure from a Palestinian Muslim author and their supporters, you apologized for saying that Antisemitism is wrong.

This is an “all lives matter” moment: as with Anti-Black racism, it is acceptable to stand behind one group without having to acknowledge and list the many other groups who are also marginalized, which you apparently know because you failed to affirm your stance against Antisemitism in your apology.

It was spineless of you to not to stand by your Inclusion Officer’s decision as she tried to prevent the turning of a condemnation of Antisemitism into a platform for Antisemitism, which—if you even skim the complainant’s tweets—you will no doubt see.

If I were a member of your organization, your apology would make me feel neither included nor safe.

I urge you to clarify that you were apologizing not for condemning Antisemitism, but for your handling of the subsequent complaints. Acknowledge the pain your actions have caused your Jewish members who now feel unrepresented, silenced, and marginalized. Reiterate that you stand firm against Antisemitism, as you do against all forms of hate.

There is definitely a part of me that thinks I should keep my big mouth shut, delete this blog post so it can’t attract haters, not send that email. But if we all keep our big mouths shut our silence is interpreted as agreement; I can’t remain silent.

Camping it up · fame and shame · Kids · The COVID files · whine and cheese

Day 465: Maybe it’s Time.

I’m thinking maybe it’s time to go back to the supermarket.

Since we came back from the cottage last October, we’ve been using Click and Collect and Instacart to get our groceries, meaning that I haven’t been inside a supermarket in a very, very long time. I’d be happy to continue that trend if it weren’t for how annoyed I get at the Instacart shoppers for not knowing the store like I do.

I ordered some kosher marshmallows (because regular marshmallows usually have gelatin which is either derived from pigs or horses.) Instead of the ones I ordered, I got these rainbow-coloured—non-kosher—jumbo marshmallows. I’m pretty sure the Instacart shopper didn’t even think to ask someone whether the kosher marshmallows might be somewhere else (hot tip—they’re in the kosher aisle.) Part of me is thinking How would they know? while the other part thinks that if they offer the product on the website, their shoppers need to know where to find it. Is it really that hard?

I don’t actually enjoy grocery shopping, though. Maybe if I lower my standards—and indicate “no substitutions”—I could still be happy with Instacart or Click and Collect. It saves me at least three hours a week.

I was feeling stressed today (no reason, really) so I did some pointless crafting with K. I bought the kids lockable toolboxes to keep their personal items in at camp, but they all looked the same—ugly. My first instinct was to spray paint them, but it’s so humid and hot out that I’m not convinced the paint would cure (and there is no way I can handle spray paint fumes inside the house.)

What’s better and campier than spray paint? Duck Tape! I spent far too much time getting it just right, but the results were gratifying. I’ll share the before-and-after pics once K has sent them from her phone.

N’s birthday is this Wednesday. Because the kids have to be in quarantine for the two weeks before camp starts (all the campers have been asked to do so,) we can’t have his friends over for a party. If I’ve gone overboard with the cake and ice cream and cones and sundae toppings, it’s no more overboard than I went for everyone else’s pandemic birthdays. I just want his birthday to not suck. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

blogging · education · fame and shame · Homeschool · Jewy goodness · lists · waxing philosophical

Day 455: Not as bad as you think.

I hear a lot of bad things about social media—probably you do, too. And there are a lot of downsides: comparing your imperfect life to someone’s touched-up selfie, getting angry because “someone is wrong on the internet!”, seeing humanity turn ugly behind the anonymity the internet affords. There are definitely days when I think I’d be better off without Facebook.

Duty Calls
You can find an image description here.

On the other hand, Facebook has some very good points:

  1. It’s my proverbial front porch. I sit there in the evening and catch up with the people I know. I get to hear about all the mundane things, all the frustrations, all the celebrations—just like I would if we lived in a close-knit neighbourhood and sat on the front porch every evening, chatting with each other.
  2. It can be a great resource. Both Mr. December and I are members of a few homeschooling groups on Facebook. Through those groups we’ve discovered some of our favourite curricula and courses. We’ve also been able to get a sense of what homeschooling looks like for many different families. I’m also a member of a neighbourhood group, from which I learn about traffic issues, why our city councillor sucks, and who’s giving away free stuff.
  3. It reminds me about birthdays. If I wished you happy birthday this year (or any year, really,) you can thank Facebook for that. Every day it pops up and tells me whose birthday it is. It even lets me post a birthday message directly from the notification. I do realize that some people do this with their own calendar—digital or paper—but Facebook makes it so easy for me.
  4. Some people do use it for the betterment of us all.

Point number four is the one that gives me hope for our society. I’ve recently joined a group dedicated to being a space where people can ask good-faith questions about all kinds of social issues and receive honest, thoughtful answers rather than scorn and derision.

(If you don’t get why a question would be met with scorn or derision, think of someone asking about transgender issues and being labelled a TERF because of that honest question. It happens all the time, and it’s ugly.)

I have learned so much from this group. People have taken the time to post complex answers to questions about racism, gender issues, disabilities, etiquette… it’s an excellent read and very eye-opening, as the group members come from all over the world and from all walks of life. I’m enjoying it immensely. Even more incredible than what I’ve learned from that group is the simple fact that so many people want to ask questions, learn, and improve the way they relate to people who are unlike them.

I have similar feelings about the group where non-Jews can ask questions about Judaism and Jews answer them. I’m fascinated by the things non-Jewish people don’t know about us; from the big stuff, like the fact that we don’t revere Mary, mother of Jesus, to the minutiae of why inviting a Shabbat-observant friend to a wedding on Saturday is more complicated than just making sure they have accommodations within walking distance of the venue. I also enjoy being able to answer people’s questions and see their responses when they’ve read all of the answers.

People are learning, reaching out, connecting, and supporting each other in ways that would never have been possible without the internet (and social media in particular.) To me, that almost makes up for how social media also makes it easy for people to foment hatred, recruit people to radical organizations, and spread misinformation. Almost. Maybe if enough of us participate in groups like the ones I’ve been part of, education and enlightenment will replace the ignorance and hate.

I hope so.

DIY · Early morning musings · fame and shame · Keepin' it real · Sartorial stuff · whine and cheese

Day 446: In which I surrender to the sun.

Look, I’m not giving up, I’m…

Okay, fine. I’m giving up.

I no longer believe that the curtains in our bedroom are going to be able to keep it dark enough in the face of direct sunlight in the mornings. Right now it’s dark enough only because most of the windows are blocked off with cardboard (it looks really classy from outside, I tell you.) That’s not a long-term solution, not for me at least. Mr. December would just as soon paint all the window glass black and call it a day.

At the beginning of this whole saga, I could have just bought a few blackout roller shades and added some curtain panels on top to take care of those pesky lines of light around the edges. But no, I had to have something that looked good because our house was so cool. Roller shades were just so… blah. Not attractive at all.

That’s why I’m almost ashamed to admit this, but here goes:

I just bought blackout roller shades to install in our bedroom, behind the curtains, to help block out more of the light.

Yep, exactly the kind of shades I didn’t want to install in the first place.

See why I say I’m giving up?

In other sun-related news, summer is unofficially here—and with it, the first sunburn of the season. I hope my body at least managed to finally make some of its own Vitamin D. If I needed to draw a self-portrait in crayon or marker, I’d be able to use the one marked “berry red sunburn” instead of my usual (boring) “peaches and cream-would-do-wonders-for-that-redness-on-your-pale-face-you-know.”

Don’t worry, though, it only has to happen once for me to just wear a sunshirt if I’m going outside for the rest of the summer. Just like with returning library books, I’m too absent-minded to be trusted to put sunscreen on consistently.

If anybody needs me, I’ll be swimming in Aloe Vera gel.

bikes planes and automobiles · DIY · fame and shame · family fun · Homeschool · Kids · well *I* think it's funny...

Day 444: How we Roll

“Honey, I’m trying to write this blog post, but my writing is just flat.

“Is that your opening joke?” Mr. December asked.

“What? No—oh. I see. No, it wasn’t. But maybe I spoke too soon? It shouldn’t be too hard to change gears.”

He mimed a rimshot.

“Okay, fine,” I murmured. “I’ve made a start. Might as well roll with it.”

A few weeks ago the chain on E’s bike started coming off the gears. Then R complained that the hardest gear on her bike was feeling an awful lot like the easiest. I can manage small bike repairs, but I had neither the skills nor the time to take on the task, nor the tune-ups that all of our bikes desperately needed.

I went online and looked up a mobile bike repair guy whom we’d met a couple of years ago at the Wychwood Barns market. The website had a simple online service request form; I filled it out and waited.

I soon had a message saying that Matteo (of Matteo’s Bike Repair) was booked up for the next few months, but Percy had space on his schedule for us. I had met Matteo in person but had no idea who this Percy guy was. Was he any good? When I contacted Matteo I felt like I was dealing with a known quantity; Percy was a mystery.

As it turned out, Percy was exactly who we needed. A former homeschooled kid himself, he took the time to explain to the kids not just how the different parts of a bike work, but the science behind it all. He was endlessly patient and good-humoured—even in the face of N’s standard two-dozen-or-so interruptions. And he immediately said “Yes!” when I offered popsicles. I do like an adult who appreciates popsicles.

By any standard, this was a successful class and a fabulous homeschool day. All four kids learned how to lubricate their bike chains, adjust the brakes, and pump up the tires. R got some hands-on experience in tightening her gearshift cable and removing and reinstalling the pedals. And we now know an awesome bike repair guy, just in case any of our Toronto friends ever need one.

fame and shame · Sartorial stuff

Day 388: Close Encounters with Customer Service

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m trying to wean myself off Amazon and instead support local businesses and ethically made products instead. The thing is, Amazon has really perfected the logistics—the correct stuff arrives the next day, and returns take a few small clicks and a walk to the mailbox. In contrast, the local businesses have taken a bit more time to deliver, and returns have required a bit more effort. One place even sent me two of a completely different item than the one I’d ordered. All of this, and they’re more expensive than Amazon by far. But can you really put a price on treating your workers fairly? Well, yeah. And this is it.

On the upside, any interactions I’ve had with customer service at these businesses have been very positive. Here are three of my favourites.

Dear Encircled,
I love the dressy leggings I bought from you, but I’ve washed them once (cold water, gentle wash) and the stitching is coming undone on the inner thigh. I’ve attached a picture. Is this a quality control issue?

Dear Decemberbaby,
That is certainly a quality control issue! I’m so sorry this happened. I’m sending you a shipping label so you can return the leggings to us—we’ll take a look at them to see what went wrong in production. I can either send you a replacement pair or refund your money. Which do you prefer?
Encircled Customer Care

Dear Encircled,
I’d love a replacement pair. These leggings are the best leggings I’ve ever worn!

Hi KnixTeen,
I bought a pair of underwear from you, ordering the correct size according to your sizing/measurement chart. They’re super soft and comfy, but they keep slipping down. Is this an issue of size? Or is there a different cut or style that might stay up better?

Hi Decemberbaby,
Sounds like those are definitely too big for you. Since this is your first purchase from us, I’d like to send you a new pair in the next size down. We can’t take back the original pair due to health regulations, but we ask you to please wash them and then either donate them or pass them on to someone who can use them.
Thanks for your business,
Knixteen Customer Service

“Reflections, how can I help you?”

“Hi, I just received an order from you today. The invoice is correct, but the items in the box do not match the invoice.”

“Can I have your invoice number, please?”

I recited the number.

“I see you ordered a stuffed animal. What did you receive instead?”

“Two tote bags filled with miniature stuffed animals and hardcover books.”

“Okay, I know which ones you’re talking about… I’m going to go ahead right now and ship you what you originally ordered, but my boss isn’t here right now, so I don’t know whether he’s going to want to have you ship it back to us. We’ll be in touch about the return label.”

I know, I know. The first and last examples are simply corrections of mistakes made by the vendors in the first place, but they were so nice about it. As for the middle one… who says, “Yeah, you bought the wrong size, so we’re just going to send you a free pair of the right size.”? Well, these guys do.

blogging · DIY · fame and shame · Sartorial stuff · The COVID files

Day 354: Where the Pockets Are

Interesting bit of trivia about yesterday’s post: the “rule” that inspired me to write about my rules didn’t even make it into the post because I forgot all about it. I was reminded tonight as we cleared the dinner table. Rule: every piece of cutlery that comes off the table, used or not, goes in the dishwasher—you never know who has licked what. That’s not really a concern anymore, though.

For someone who doesn’t really like fashion, I seem to spend a lot of time thinking about clothing. I’m pleased to report that I took in my dress from eShakti, and it now looks “much better” according to Mr. December. I have two pairs of pants with proper pockets that I need to take in, and I’m waiting for one more dress before I decide what all I need to return to Scott-e-Vest. You’ve been waiting patiently, though, so I wanted to update you on what clothes I’ve found, from where, and how big the pockets are.

Women’s Everyday Go To Pants from Columbia.com

My first purchase was “Women’s Everyday Go To Pants” from Columbia. I ordered two sizes so I could try them on and send one back. The Large looked great on my legs but gave me terrible muffin top. The XL fit my waist and hips perfectly but looked like parachute pants on my legs. But they have nice deep pockets including a zippered one large enough for my phone, so I’m going to keep the XL and take in the legs.

Margeaux Cargeaux Everyday pants from Scott-e-Vest

A friend tipped me off to Scott E Vest. They make clothes with so many pockets you could probably pack for a long weekend in the vests alone. As you browse the items, they tell you how many pockets there are in each design; I think they top out around 47 pockets. Anyhow, I ordered a fleece vest, a pair of nice-looking pants (the “Margaux Cargeaux”), and a shirt. The vest fits well, but I might exchange it for a different colour; the pants have the same problem as the XL Columbia pants—the legs are too wide; the shirt was a nice idea, but it’s white and the fabric is kind of transparent (I’d only wear it over a camisole.) The shirt was final sale, so I’ll have to keep it; the pants are keepers and I’ll just have to take in the legs; and after the dress I ordered from Scott e Vest arrives and I know whether I’m keeping it, I might exchange the black fleece vest for a nice bright red one.

My cousin told me a while ago about the leggings she wears all the time. They have pockets, you see. But they’re only sold on Amazon, and after talking to the owner of a store that has been negatively impacted by what can probably be called Amazon’s predatory practices, I’m even more firmly resolved not to buy from Amazon anymore unless there’s truly no other option. So I went hunting for leggings and stumbled on Encircled and their Dressy Legging. I’m wearing them right now and all I can say is… my leggings have pockets! Pockets that hold my phone! Huzzah! Encircled products are made entirely in Canada: they actually make the knit fabric and then manufacture the clothes in Toronto. As such they’re not cheap, but at least I know that whoever made my leggings was paid a living wage to do it.

So far that’s it for my pocket-hunting shopping spree. You already know about eShakti and the dress I had made to measure. If I had to choose one company to use again it would likely be eShakti, if only for the fact that apparently I’m proportioned oddly for normal pants, so made-to-measure makes the most sense for me.

On another subject, we’re less than two weeks away from Day 365, A.K.A. the anniversary of the day the world turned upside down. I’m wondering whether it’s weird to mark the occasion. If you had to have a “one year of lockdowns” party, what would it involve? Sweatpants and wine? Binge-watching an entire Netflix series? Or maybe just reposting blog posts from Day One to see how far we’ve come?

fame and shame · Jewy goodness · Keepin' it real · whine and cheese

Day 339: No good deed goes unpunished?

Remember my rant about not wanting to use Amazon but being fed up with the subpar online shopping experience with Canadian companies? And remember how I called out Canadian Tire specifically?

(I hope you remember. It was just last week.)

It just got worse: apparently Canadian Tire now owns Party City. The once-functional Party City website has migrated to the same system used by all Canadian Tire companies.

I was trying to find somewhere to buy packaging for our mishloach manot and I hit on Party City, which is nearby and offers curbside pickup. I even knew exactly what I wanted and put it into my cart quickly and went to check out. The page started loading… and kept loading… loading… loading…

I barbecued our dinner, ate with everyone, cleaned up, and came back to the computer. Still loading…

Maybe I should hit refresh, I thought. Maybe it timed out and if I reload the whole thing it’ll work?

Nope. Dream on.

I even tried using an incognito browser window, just in case there was some problem with cookies or some other kind of cached information (almost sounds like I know what that means, doesn’t it?). I got this:

Image description: screenshot of the Party City website. There’s a pop-up window that reads, “Sorry, there is a problem. We are currently experiencing system difficulties and cannot process your request at this time. We are working hard to resolve the issue. Please try again later.”

If this was the first such issue I’d had with this platform, I’d shrug and try again tomorrow. But I’ve had this kind of problem many times with Canadian Tire. Do they not know that their system is terrible? Or do they just not care? Plenty of other companies seem to have reasonable e-commerce systems, so what’s the problem here?

Amazon’s terrible ethics and business practices are worse, in the long run, than a frustrating online shopping experience, so I’ll probably keep trying to buy this stuff from Party City even though I’ve already wasted at least half an hour on what should have been a five-minute transaction at most. It sure feels like no good deed goes unpunished, doesn’t it?

fame and shame · Homeschool

Day 219: Time-saving Tech

I’m not sure if I should be happy or unhappy about my new printer. On the one hand, it saves me so much time and frustration! On the other hand, I get less exercise than I did with my old printer. I think I’m still inclined to view Freddie as a positive addition to our household, though.

Oh, excuse me. I forgot all about introductions. Everyone, meet Freddie, my new printer. Last name is Mercury, because he’s so fast (like quicksilver, get it?)

Aaaand he’s sticking his tongue out at you. Try not to take it personally.

As I was about to tell you, using my old printer to print a double-sided document was a rather involved process prone to user error (read: wasted ink and paper.) I had to do the following:

  1. Click “print” and select “odd pages only.”
  2. Run downstairs to the printer to gather the one-sided pages, put them into a neat pile, and load them into the paper tray (and woe betide you if you load them the wrong way around.)
  3. Go upstairs and click “print even pages only.”
  4. Go back downstairs and watch for any errors.
  5. See that the printer seems to have grabbed two pages at once. Now the double-sidedness is all messed up.
  6. Frantically tap the “cancel” button on the printer in a bid to save as many error-free pages as possible.
  7. Start again from step 1.
  8. Cry or scream. Your choice.

Here’s the same task when using Freddie:

  1. Click “print” and select “double sided.”
  2. Go downstairs to collect my perfectly printed document, already in the correct order and ready to be hole-punched and put into the binder.

See how much better that is?

Also exciting is that Freddie has two paper trays, which means that I no longer have to take out regular paper to put in cardstock when I’m printing Montessori materials for E. That used to necessitate a run downstairs to the printer before hitting “print”—a workout I no longer have to do. The really big win here is that I won’t end up forgetting to switch back to regular paper before printing a multi-page document that winds up being printed on cardstock, too thick to staple together. As long as I select “alternate tray” before clicking “print,” my materials come out on cardstock. Anybody printing even a moment after me will still have their document printed on regular paper.

Look at me, all productive and stuff! It’s all because of those earbuds.

Freddie is not the only tech that has improved my productivity, though. My new earbuds have memory foam earpieces, kind of like those foam earplugs you can buy in bulk. With my earbuds in and some instrumental music playing through them, I can ignore everyone around me and actually focus on my work. This morning I listened to classical music for an hour while I submitted health insurance claims, paid bills, and made lists for tomorrow’s PD day. That would not have happened if my brain had needed to filter out all the ambient sounds my family makes.

What am I doing with the new-found leisure time my tech has afforded me? Why, curling up with another device, of course. I finally bit the bullet and bought another Kobo so that I can read on it, too. Now I just need one of those bath caddy trays and I’ll be able to lounge in the tub with my waterproof e-book, sip some tea, and, for one blissful hour, ignore my children.

DIY · fame and shame · Just the two of us · Keepin' it real · well *I* think it's funny...

Day 154: We Broke the Bed.

This morning when I woke up, I rolled towards Mr. December. That’s not odd in and of itself, but I hadn’t intended to roll that way — there was a huge depression in our mattress. When we finally made it out of the mattress (gravity is not your friend when you’re in a valley, it seems) we took it off the bed and saw this:

Looks like we broke the bed.

(Cue raunchy jokes here. Go ahead, I’ll wait.)

It absolutely should not have broken. We bought it new less than two years ago and have only ever used it for its intended purposes. On closer examination, however, I noticed that IKEA saved money by using finger-jointed pine slats instead of solid wood. Sure enough, the boards were broken neatly right at the finger joints. Not smart, IKEA. Not smart.

I tried to leave a review on their website to alert IKEA to this problem, but one technical glitch after another meant that their website categorically refused to accept my review. I wonder if that’s a bug, or a feature?

Anyhow, we clearly had to fix it today… which was fun, actually, because fixing it meant buying new boards, which meant going to Lowe’s, which is my happy place. And I biked, which is my favourite form of transportation. I hopped on the bakfiets with E, who wanted to come along for the ride, and we headed out along the trail (there’s a trail that starts a few blocks away and goes straight to Lowe’s without crossing any major streets.)

I can’t believe I didn’t take a picture of the lumber and E sharing space in the bike. But I did snap this quick and blurry photo of her riding on the cart at Lowe’s, after we had the boards cut. She was very helpful, actually — if she wants an apprenticeship, she’s hired.

Back at home, it was a pretty quick fix. I removed the old slats (keeping two of them, one for each end) and laid the new, wide, solid wood ones on the rails. To keep them in place and distribute the force more evenly I created floating joists by screwing the boards to a 2×2 that ran up the length of the bed. I left the ends of the floating joist a bit long, so that they slipped under the bed frame, and added an extra floating joist around the middle of the bed (a.k.a. the “bouncy zone”) for extra strength.

Here are a few closeups of the newly repaired mattress support:

I think this repair is solid enough to withstand any and all “intended uses.” And now that my bed is ready for me, I’m going to get reacquainted with it. Good night!