Fear of F***ing Up

If I were to sum up my fears in one phrase, it’s simply this: the fear of f***ing up.

It’s the burden of every type-A perfectionist. The belief that you can do everything The Right Way. That everything has a single, most efficient way. Every task can be done The Best. Whether it’s starting a project, raising a child, commuting to work, cleaning, writing a book… I’ve always believed I could find the best way to do it.

Which is to say, doing it without f***ing it up.

Oh let’s just stop with the asterix trio, shall we?

The fear of fucking up is so powerful, I think I have transferred it to at least one of my children. And in doing this, have had to confront my own beliefs on learning and growing.

This particular child is cursed with the apparent scholastic death sentence of “does not take risks in learning”. The first time I heard this, I truly did not understand – weren’t we trying to wrestle this kid into line? Make him behave and follow the rules? How can risk be apart of playing by the rules?

What I soon learned was that asking stupid questions, questioning yourself and others around you, seeking information in many different forms, putting your ignorance out there as its own entity to be poked and prodded and reformed  – all of that was risk taking. Asking questions that are uncomfortable and reveal that You Don’t Know It All is a risk!

Gradually I began taking risks and I realized there no one popped out of the shadows to laugh “hahaha! You should TOTALLY KNOW THAT ALREADY, dumbass!”

Ok, sometimes they did – but I soon left those people behind. Because the risk, and the journey of learning was worth it.

I changed careers and am now in one where query, learning, risk-taking and assessment (always assess, never assume!) are valued.

And still, I hold on to that historical fear of fucking up.

Some days I still think “I could have driven a more efficient route, I could have been quicker at that task, I should have KNOWN what they were thinking” … but I’m a lot more forgiving of myself now, because it’s ok to learn and not be perfect all the time.

Today my fear is manifesting in a whole new way: The Bathroom Reno Project.

I moved into this house almost 6 years ago and it had never been renovated. Built in 1966 it’s got its quirks – original stove, oven, fridge – psychedelic wallpaper in one bathroom, ancient tile in another. But the location is perfect and the neighbourhood is lovely.

But the upstairs bathroom has to be renovated. As of a month ago, the hot water tap in the bathtub runs CONSTANTLY. So much so now that there is humidity in the bathroom all the time, dripping down the window and SPENDING MY MONEY ON THE UTILITY BILL!


It was my overly aggressive cleaning that created this little problem. Yep, that’s right.

To make a long story short, it’s not worth just fixing the tap. There are other issues that might as well be fixed at the same time (see: neurotic about being efficient!) including a known leak, a shower that doesn’t work, a crappy 50 year old window, tiles that fell off, and no exhaust vent.

It’s in dire need of a reno.

But oh boy, I don’t want to fuck this up.

I don’t want to be that person that starts a reno, gets stuck, causes a problem and then 6 years later is on an HGTV show saying something like “I always meant to fix it…”

(Wait, I really DO want to be on an HGTV show – if only they came to Calgary instead of staying in Vancouver and Toronto!!)

But I know other people who can do this… I should be able to do this … right??

– Get to know the guys at Lowes
– remember to shut the water or electricity off and not kill myself or flood the place
– hire someone for the window
– consult smarty-pants friends
– Pinterest the crap out of bathroom reno ideas

I can do this, right?


All I have to do is not fuck up.


… always the last one …

I swear I am always the last one in line for the new gadgets and things. I usually find what works and stick with it… and I’m resistant to change (even though I know I should embrace it … but SIGH, it’s just hard!).

I was probably the last person to jump on the iPhone bandwagon and now I’m inseparable from the thing. Between my phone and my Google calendar schedule, I’m a force to be reckoned with. Unstoppable in my organizational skills.

Organizational skills, however, do not translate to having a neat and tidy house.

But this Christmas my mom bought me a present that has been around for years and I’ve just never gotten one … a Roomba. Yeah, I remember when these first came out … little robots that cleaned your floor? Whatever, lazy people.

Oh, apparently I’m talking to myself …

This thing is awesome! Not only does it do a great job with my main floor (all hardwood or lino), but the kids hear it and jump straight up and start picking things up off the floor to make way for it!

It’s like a magic kid-chore activator!

Even better, it’s the pet version… and since I’m now the cat-lady with three of the little buggers, I’m grateful for its daily furball sweep. I can finally stretch on my floor without standing up as a hairy beast.

It senses stairs, it doesn’t pick up computer or electrical cords (it will tangle in blind cords, though), and it goes under beds…

Death to the Dust Bunnies!!

Do or Do Not … There is no SHOULD

Sorry, Yoda, I am bastardizing your words. Mostly because I totally disagree with your version: Do or Do Not, there is no Try. Of course there’s a try. Everyone should try, I’m sure even young yoda had to try learn to print his name at some point … if a three fingered green, somethingorother even uses a pencil.

I digress.

I despise the would should.

I should go to the gym.

She should go to the gym.

I should do the laundry.

She should do her hair.

I should get going.

She should stop worrying.

It’s a word that says “I know what the right thing to do is, I am just putting it off” or “I know what the right thing to do is, and she’s not doing it”. It’s a word full of judgment and procrastination all in one. And women are particularly good at wielding it as a weapon, either at ourselves or at others.

As I read the article Killing off Supermom this morning (and associated comments) I could only sigh deeply.

Just WHY do we care so much about how others choose to live their lives? And why do we go searching for affirmation that we’re doing it the “right” way? I’m not innocent of this, far from it. I’ve wrung my hands a few times over decisions regarding my kids, but I try very hard to phrase the internal question without any shoulds.

It’s not “should I send my son to a private, expensive school?” … it’s “is there a better alternative for my son, one that will help him be more successful?”

It’s not “should I make my daughter go to soccer when she clearly doesn’t want to”, it’s “ok, what choice are we making today and what am I teaching her with this choice?”

I think one of the reasons there’s a proliferation of women’s magazines and articles and web sites and blogs to debate the shoulds of being a woman (or a mother, or not a mother, or a working mother, or or or or …) is that for some crazy reason, we look to society to tell us what we SHOULD do.

What’s the norm here? What choice can I make right now that looks normal and will make my path easier?

And it’s such a disservice to ourselves and each other.

Asking advice and seeking counsel from others is a great thing. I wish everyone had a BFF or an amazing mom to pepper with questions when the going gets tough. If you don’t, you can search out and cultivate those friendships in your support group of choice: church, the PTA, the community garden association, the gym …

But take ownership of your own life and don’t ask someone what you should do with it!

Instead of “what should I do?”, ask “what is your opinion on this choice I have?”. Just phrasing it differently helps you own the choice. No one is telling you what to do, you are making a choice. Society isn’t telling you what to do, you are choosing for yourself.



How to Drive 101 (For the #Asshats)

This is my regularly scheduled winter driving rant. I hear so much talk about how “the roads are bad” and “the city isn’t plowing enough” and “it’s so dangerous on the roads” … No, people, just no. The roads are the same winter roads and you all have the same cars.

YOU are the problem, asshats.

(If you’re not an asshat, then this doesn’t apply to you.)

For whatever reason, I drive multiple types of vehicles, only one of which is a 4×4 and it’s not the one I drive most. Usually I drive a little 4-door car and GUESS WHAT?! I have yet to slip, slide, hit anyone, go off the road, or cause (or be in) an accident. If you are slipping and sliding around  the main roads…. you are doing it wrong.

Instead, try this:

1. Remove head from ass, now that you are no longer wearing your ass as a hat, you should not be an asshat on the road.

2. LEAVE A GAP. Seriously, an actual gap. Far enough away that more than one car can fit between you and the car in front of you. Yes, MORE THAN ONE. No, not a Smart Car -sized gap, an actual redneck dually sized gap. And don’t give me any crap about “but, Heather, then someone will merge in front of me!” So? This isn’t YOUR road. It’s your car and your body and if someone merges in front of you, then slow up and leave a gap. Repeat. If you keep doing this then you’ll a) get where you need to go, and b) not rear end anyone. See? Your car and your body will be safe. You know what’s super stupid? When someone merges and then you tailgate them because they have somehow offended your personage … the road is not your personal space, sweetheart. Your lap is your personal space … not your bumper. “I’ll show them,” says the asshat *shakes fist*, “look how close I am to you, do you see that I’m mad! Oh I’m hella mad now!” Here’s a tip: a proper signal and lane change is not the same as cutting you off.

3. Every gap is not a merging opportunity. Seriously – merging over so you can get half of a car length further along in your drive is stupid. You will save almost NO TIME in your drive. You might save 7.3 seconds in your commute, which you’ll waste sitting in your car listening to the end of that song/news report/weather report before you shut the car off, or picking up the shoes your kid kicked off during the drive…  This is DRIVING and not CHECKERS, people. Every damn rear-ender has the same story: I was trying to merge over and didn’t have enough of a gap in front of me so when the car in front stopped, I hit it.

4. Do we really need to talk about texting and using your phone? Apparently we do. I’m astounded people do this in the summer, nevermind in winter conditions. Here in Alberta, we are HANDS FREE … if your phone is in your hands, your hands are not free. Do you see how that works? For $20 you can get a set of headphones with a mic and use your phone that way if you have to. No one wants to die sending a text like K u want a dbl dbl?

5. Spend good money on tires. This is easy. No, I’m not a believer in snow tires. I have never bought them (though I bought my old ’97 Yukon with winter tires already on it) and they don’t make that much of a difference. What does make a difference is GOOD tires with some TREAD left on them and proper driving techniques. See above.

That’s really all you need. Maybe some extra weight in your car (sandbags) and not driving a stupid Miata in Alberta in the winter. I mean, there are some cars that are just not appropriate. Usually they are expensive cars with stupid tires and even stupider drivers.

(Stupider is as much a word as asshat, so hush.)

If you do just one of these suggestions … please make it #2. Leave a gap, people. So easy.

The Noise of Silence

You know when you want to say something. But no matter how you try, it doesn’t come out right? That’s what’s happening here folks.

I want to say so many things, but as I start to feed the thoughts in one corner of my mind, another gaggle of Very Important Things To Say rushes over and asserts itself.

Soon I’m neglecting the first set of words.

Then there’s a third group. And a fourth.

So everything competes for my attention.

And nothing is being said.

Father’s Day Fallacies

My daughter could not wait to give her handmade gift to my husband yesterday. She was SO excited because she had made it herself at school and it was awesome and she has all sorts of ways in which he could use it. I was curious to see it because she seemed much more excited about it than my Mother’s Day gift. Ahem.

I got a preview.

Don't look at me like that, one-eyed snake ... undressing me with your ... eye.

Don’t look at me like that, one-eyed snake … undressing me with your … eye.

Look, mommy! It’s a One-Eyed Snake!

Why yes, yes it is … being the child that I am, I could not wait to immortalize this future punny wedding day commentary moment and instagram the heck out of it. But, like all one-eyed snakes, this was the gift that just kept on givin’ …

There was a card attached.

Like most Grade One handmade cards, it had some fill in the blank spots where the kids wrote in sounded-out words in their own hand. Heavy on the capital letters, light on vowels, you know the ones.

My daddy is good at my brad. (Braid, and no he’s not, it looks like a dreadlock and is just as hard to comb out the next day.)

My daddy’s favourite thing is to go capng (Camping? Uh, your father has hated camping since he was forced to camp in the army … for weeks … and has never gone camping with us.)

My daddy likes to eat piza. (Pizza, this is correct. Frozen pizza, never more than $5 a pizza … none of that ‘expensive’ pizza.)

I like to go campg with my daddy. (Again with the camping … but extra bonus points for you, my child, because mommy is currently working on getting daddy to buy a camper!)

My daddy has taught me to manr. (Manners, my daddy taught me manners … I’m not sure where this came from … but I taught her the uppercut, he can teach her to say sorry after …)

I wonder if the other parents in class were left scratching their heads at the answers on their cards – possibly one kid at the table mentioned camping and everyone else was all “yeah, totally, I love camping” … and because kids are selfish little gits, they all answered that instead of considering real answers.

I’m kidding, of course. The card was precious. It doesn’t actually matter if she goes camping with her dad or that he hates camping – he will go with her when we go (in our new-to-us trailer, I hope) because that’s what good dads do. They figure out what their kids like, and they meet them there. None of this “I like FOOTBALL and therefore to communicate with me, you must like FOOTBALL, too.”

It’s easier of course with daddies and daughters – they are less likely to speak the same language and like the same things. So as much as the card is a bit of a stretch – so is the fact that my husband has pretended to like to hear all about the stuffie tea party going on in the bedroom and the particular colour of nail polish that my daughter would like.

And by the time my daughter realizes that, she’ll probably have kids of her own.

And that’s the truth.

I don’t want to judge, but …

… if you’re working out in a lumberjack shirt …

… if you’re working out with a toothpick in your mouth …

… if you spend TEN MINUTES on your phone, taking up a weight bench …

… if you spend an hour on the treadmill on your phone …

… if you are obviously suffering from the plague and are here infecting the rest of us …


… I’m going to judge you.

Best Mad Face. EVER.  MUAH.  I kiss that face.

Best Mad Face. EVER.
I kiss that face.

Meningitis – Do you know the signs?

I can remember this moment viscerally. Curled up on a hospital bed, shivering mightily against the chill with a 104+ degree fever while a doctor tells me to “keep still, round your back more, keep still” so he can insert a long needle in my back and withdraw some spinal fluid.

He seemed to ping-pong off several nerves on his way in, but he got what he needed and came back a couple hours later to declare that whatever I had, it wasn’t meningitis.

Of course it still meant two weeks in the Alberta Children’s’ Hospital, multiple IV pokes (got me over that fear quite quickly!) and rounds of antibiotics to clear out a toxic blood infection that could have killed me.

But it wasn’t meningitis. At the time, I don’t know if there was a vaccine for meningitis. I did know that two or three days prior to my presentation at the ER, a young woman had been seen and sent home … and consequently died on her couch from a form of meningitis. So they were all over me like kids on a cookie to ask me elevently hundred times if my neck was stiff or I was sensitive to light.

Meningitis is one of those rare, but nasty diseases that hits the healthy and unhealthy alike. There’s no “building up a natural immunity” to meningitis like many of us prefer to do. Even when I’ve researched skipping or delaying vaccinations for myself or my kids, they were for those ‘other’ diseases (flu, chicken pox) that seemed more likely to be annoyances rather than life threatening events.

(I don’t delay or skip for myself at all now – because I work in health care and am exposed all the time to many of those diseases I’m vaccinated against: TB, Hepatitis, measles, etc…)

Meningitis falls, for me, in the category of necessary vaccines for myself and my kids – like, if they suddenly found a vaccine for HIV/AIDS, that’s where I’d file that one as well, under Deadly But With A Vaccine For It. For me and my family, the risks of vaccination are acceptable when we consider the benefits of the same.

But that’s not what I’m blogging about. I respect the choices of people who choose not to vaccinate because I know there are many, many reasons – in fact one reason I vaccinate myself and my kids is that I know there are people in my community who are unable to receive vaccinations and I want to help protect them as well.

I digress.

April 24th was World Meningitis Day and I hosted a roundtable discussion with some local, and awesome, Calgary writers and bloggers that focused on bacterial meningitis. Our presenting speaker was Dr Taj Jadavji, (MD, FRCPC, FAAP, U of C Professor, Department of Microbiology, Immunology & Infectious Diseases) a doctor at the Alberta Children’s Hospital.

I was surprised at some of the things I learned:

–          Ages that meningitis is most likely to be seen: under 5, 15-19 year olds, and college kids. Ask yourself why … yeah, they exchange a lot of spit. And where does the meningitis bacteria set up shop? In the mouth/throat … perfect for when you want to share your soother or suck face with your newest love interest.

–          Here in Alberta (and also in Quebec) the health system will be introducing a multi-strain vaccine in grade 9 that covers meningococcal meningitis strains A,C,Y, W-135 … but there’s not yet one for strain B, and that’s the one that currently kills the most people. There’s one on the horizon though … yay!

–          Dr Jadavji used to see about 500 cases per year prior to the introduction of the vaccine, now everyone he teaches now has to rely on textbooks because they may see 5 cases per year, 1/10 of those will die.

–           Some of the long-term side effects of meningitis for the 90% who survive it are: hearing loss, limb loss, seizure disorders, neurological deficits.

–          There’s no blood test to see if you are immune or have antibodies against meningitis. The only way to tell is via spinal fluid. See paragraph 1. :(

And some things confirmed what I already knew to be true (perhaps I should have lead with this because THIS is exactly the information I wanted to get out to other parents):

–          Some of the best information is found on unbiased, fact-based websites such as the Meningitis Research Foundation of Canada or the Public Health Agency of Canada

–          Although the start of meningitis mimics the flu, it progresses very rapidly, (as in, deadly within 48 hours)

–          Symptoms in Babies and Toddlers include:

  • Fever combined with cold hands and feet
  • Refusing food when normally hungry
  • Vomiting
  • Fretful, does not want to be picked up or held
  • Pale, blotchy skin
  • Blank, staring expression
  • Drowsy, difficult to wake
  • Stiff neck and arched back
  • High pitched cry

–          Symptoms in Children and Adult include:

  • Vomiting
  • Fever with cold hands and feet
  • Headache, especially combined with stiff neck
  • Joint stiffness and muscle pain
  • Dislike bright lights, noise
  • Drowsy, difficult to wake
  • Confusion or delirium

–          Some people may have seizures or convulsions or fall into a coma.  Almost all children who have septicaemia (meningitis can lead to septicaemia) will have a skin rash that begins as red spots and spreads rapidly

I know that when I was a sick 14 year old, I had many of these symptoms, so it’s no wonder that they suspected meningitis. I was babbling like a toddler and having some really unpleasant symptoms I’ll save you from describing … and in the end it was also a form of a bacterial blood infection – just not from meningitis.

And there’s nothing like a near death experience to make you passionate about informing others about similar kind of events.

One blogger asked: But how am I supposed to know the difference? How do I know that this is more than just the flu?

I was encouraged by the doctor’s response: moms know their kids, you need to advocate for your kids and you will know when something else is up. That this is not a normal flu.

Keep pushing and keep asking questions, all the time, not just when your kid is sick, but ask questions before you vaccinate, ask questions of your family doctor or pediatrician (not all of us have one of those!).

Knowledge is power. And a mom’s instincts are powerful, too.


I was compensated for my time hosting the roundtable discussion between the physician and a group of Calgary bloggers. There was a rep from a PR firm in attendance. There was not a “drug rep” in attendance … or “big pharma” if you’re so inclined to throw around those types of terms. My opinions are my own. My stories are my own. No one told me what to write. :)

Dear Don Cherry

I have words for you sir.

But I like your clothes.

Hockey Lessons by Heather

In the distance I can see the end of hockey season. It’s a little blurry because, par for the course, it makes me cry.

(How is that for slipping in a mixed metaphor for ya?)

I get a bit over-involved in hockey season now that my son plays (and loves) the sport, I manage his team, and I’m a trainer for a hockey team. (Trainer is such a dumb word, I don’t train them for anything … other than maybe to remember my name instead of saying “Trainer! Trainer!”)

Trainer! Trainer!

Trainer! Trainer!

But every year I realize, being involved (or, FINE, over-involved) in hockey teaches me new things. And I don’t just mean rules – because I can’t remember all the rules anyway …

  1. There will always be people who don’t want to volunteer, no matter how much you ask, how much it is obvious that help is required. And that’s ok, because I choose to assume they are helping out somewhere else in some other venue, some other sport. They show up, they get their kid in a sport and maybe that’s all they can do. It’s better than nothing.
  2. There will always be people who step up to volunteer, let them have some space – do not over-manage volunteers. I’m a “tell me what to do or how to do it, but not both” type of person … I hope.
  3. Never, ever, promise a kid something that you don’t follow through on. But also … maybe don’t put a deadline on that promise … so, uh, that tequila and beer I promised to that line if they scored 4 goals in the 3rd period? Um, that’s gonna have to wait until you are 18.
  4. Hockey will never make your kid a better kid … hockey doesn’t create character, it reveals it. If your kid is already a sulky kid who thinks of himself more than others, that’s the kind of kid he will be on the bench. If he is already a kid who is positive and encouraging, that’s the kid he will be on the bench. Don’t give up on either of these kids. The sulky one and the positive one both need your love and affection.
  5. If your kid plays better when you aren’t at the game – especially when they are really good at the game already and prone to making mistakes under pressure … it’s time to ask yourself how much pressure you are putting on your kid. Have you spent more time yelling in the stands than skating with them (with your mouth shut) at the ODR? Yeah … thought so.
  6. You don’t actually need to be an expert in hockey to be a helpful, effective parent/manager/trainer. I’m constantly asking “what was that for, why was that a penalty, what does that mean??” and no one has kicked me out yet … oh there has been eye rolling – mostly from teenagers – but I maintain that admitting you are confused or do not understand is the most honest thing you can do … and I’ll keep doing it.
  7. Appropriateness varies on location. There are comments that happen in a dressing room or on a bus that I overhear that would SHOCK people. I am not there to criticize or parent or judge – unless it’s something that absolutely requires intervention – I am a support person. It’s a thousand times better for a player to have an unshakable  supportive, non-judgmental person around than it is to have another parent in the room. It’s appropriate to let these comments slide sometimes. Most times. It’s never appropriate to throw a granola bar at anyone’s butt. Especially mine. End of story.
  8. I cry a lot. This isn’t a lesson so much as it is the final realization that, well, I cry a lot and I like me that way. I cry when I’m mad and sad and happy and screw you if you think that’s stupid.
  9. Let the coach coach. For the love of all that is Holy, let the freaking coach coach … If you want to coach so badly that you feel the need to add your two cents at the dinner table, then step up and coach. Players do not need extra coaches, they need extra positive influences.
  10. Speaking positively is powerful. Most players know exactly what they did wrong – you don’t need to tell them. First, they are already telling themselves … Second, their teammates are telling them … Third, the coach is telling them. Why do you need to say anything? Try, just for one game, to only say positive things. It is harder than you think and you may even surprise yourself over the negativity that wants to come out of your mouth.
  11. If you are a coach, manager, trainer or volunteer to tie up laces in the dressing room … try be a reason that player wants to come to the rink. I have no idea if I’m a success in this area – but I know that I don’t bring my baggage and crap to the rink. I’m not there for me, I’m there for the team. If I can’t do that … I need to stay home.
  12. Don’t yell at the ref, don’t throw things at the ref, don’t swear at the ref, don’t even roll your eyes at the ref. Even if he really is incompetent and a total d-bag who thinks you are an idiot.
  13. This one is very simple: be proud of your players regardless of the score. It’s simple for me: can I do what they do? No, I can’t … every time I put on skates I think “how the hell do they do this??” and I’ve even heard coaches say “when you think of it … playing hockey like this is kind of a miracle” … They are doing GREAT and you should be proud. Most parents I hear criticizing players think they could play a whole game, but I really doubt they could. And even if they could, they’d be the most miserable teammates on the bench. Critical people are always going to be critical. Don’t be one of those people.
  14. Don’t let your teenage boys own a Speedo unless they are on the freaking swim team. Holy crap, people, I don’t need to see that shit. And your teenage daughter does not need to wear lingerie. Think about it. WHY DO THEY NEED IT?
  15. If this year taught me one thing, it was to never say “I don’t think it’s broken”.

The season isn’t even over yet … there’s still a lot of learning left to be done :)