Friday, August 29, 2014

Social Pressure

This past Monday was my first day back to work after vacation. I came in prepared for an overflowing inbox, an extra heavy work load as we come upon our fiscal year end and the final implementation date of major project that has been ongoing for more than 6 months. I was not prepared for a week of anxiety and sleepless nights. High pressure deadlines, long days and new assignments do not bother me, or keep me up at night. The problem this week? The ALS ice bucket challenge was making its way through the office.

Unless you live under a rock, you have likely heard of this challenge. Everyone from Kermit the Frog to Sir Patrick Stuart have posted their videos on line. There have been funny videos, cases of people getting hurt and even little kids telling off their mothers for dumping water on their head.

Dousing your friends and family with ice cold water is creating a media storm around North America, raising awareness for ALS. The ‪#IceBucketChallenge‬, inspired by Boston College baseball player Pete Frates, who is living with ALS, has placed the challenge to anyone who wants to get involved.   From the ALS website.
The Canadian ALS society has received more than $10 Million in donations with this campaign. And beyond the monetary donations, these challenges have raised awareness of a disease, that while not unheard of, was certainly not at the forefront of media attention like cancer, stroke or heart disease.

This all great stuff. So why was it causing me anxiety and sleepless nights? I had friends, family and co-workers all taking the challenge, having fun, posting videos on line and challenging each other to get involved. It seemed inevitable that someone would challenge me. And that is what kept me up at night.

You see, while I think it’s a great cause and I’m glad for all the publicity that it’s garnering, I do not want to participate.

I have reasons that I don’t want to participate, reasons that I don’t feel that I need to share with everyone or use to justify my choice.

But social pressure is strong.
  • EVERYONE is doing it! Why won’t you?
  • Why don’t you want to support his great cause?
  • What do you have against the ALS society?
  • Come on!!! Don’t be such a spoil sport.
  • You’re such a party-pooper.
  • Suck it up and just do it!

These were the thoughts swirling through my head as I fell asleep each night.

My concerns were also based on WHO might nominate me . What if my boss challenged our whole team and I was the only one who didn’t join in? How do I say no to something that is being touted as a “work” team building activity? Some people have shared stories about their family members who suffer from this debilitating disease. What if they challenge me? My answer will be “I’m sorry for their suffering, but I won’t be participating.” How will that person feel towards me after that? Will it cause a riff in our relationship?

I let my thoughts and fears get the better of me.

I did end up being challenged by someone from work. Unfortunately my name got sent out in an email announcing that I had been challenged and that a group of us would be doing the challenge the next day. I couldn’t just quietly say “No thank you” to the person who had put my name forward and leave it at that. Suddenly everyone was aware and I had to tell more people that I had hoped, that I would not be participating.

Luckily the social pressure hasn’t been as bad as I had built it up to be in my head. There were still a few “Awww come on... why won’t you do it?” or “But you were nominated, you have to do it now” comments and funny looks when I said that I wouldn’t be outside at 2:00 with everyone else. But overall I haven’t felt too pressured or singled out for my choice. It turns out that there were a couple of other folks in the office suffering from the same fears and anxieties. We've banded together and are supporting each other should someone come along and want to cajole one of us for not participating.

What are your thoughts on this type of social challenge?  Did you participate, or did you decline if you were challenged?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


I cherished every moment I got to spend with my Grandma and every moment I got to see Liam with his Great-Grandma.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Tomorrow afternoon, Liam and I will be leaving on a jet plane (and yes, we do know when we'll be back again!) for vacation at my Mom's.

My mom still lives in the house that I grew up in.  There have been very few changes to the house since I lived there.  The biggest change, is that my mom now has a satellite dish and has access to hundreds of tv channels.  When I lived there we got 4, maybe 5 channels if the weather was just right.

The one thing that my mother still does not have however, is internet access.  She has no desire to have a computer, no matter how often I try to sell her on their awesomeness.  She could see her only grandson while she talks to him!  I could send her pictures EVERY DAY!  Email, games, time-wasters galore!  Nope, she's not buying it.

So Liam and I will be unplugging.

GASP... the withdrawal has already started and I still have the computer, 2 laptops, an iPod touch and my Blackberry all within reach.

Liam is having similar issues.

We will survive.  And it will be good for us.  My mom has 25 acres of forest for her back yard with a cabin and a pond.  There will be trees to climb, snakes and frogs to catch, bats to watch swoop out of the barn at sunset.  We have lots of fun touristy stuff to do and family and friends to visit.

So while it will seem strange to not share every detail as it happens with everyone in the world, I'll get over it.  I'll focus on enjoying the moment and being part of it.  And I promise to upload eleventy-zillion pictures when we get home.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Teaching English

There is a small convenience store at our local mall that we frequent quite regularly. It's run by a Korean family that up until recently we only shared a passing acquaintance with.  That all changed one day when the husband mentioned to Hilary that he was trying to improve his English, but found it hard because, while he can read English, some of the words are not easily found in an English-Korean dictionary, and he's never sure on how to pronounce things.

Hilary came home and hatched a plan to help him out.  We love listening to audio books, so she figured, what better way to help learn English then to listen to an unabridged audio book while following along with the hard copy.   We even had a little iPod shuffle that didn't sell at our last yard sale that we could download a copy of one of our books onto.

The only problem was that the best book choice that we had in both unabridged audio and hard copy was Twilight.  We also have all the Harry Potter's, but if someone was going to use this to learn English, we figured they didn't need made up words like Quidditch, Daigon Alley or Avada Kedavra.  So Twilight it was.

While not exactly the best subject to keep a 50 year old Korean man interested, he has persevered with it and almost seems to be enjoying it.   Every few days either Hilary or I will go in and sit behind the counter with him and help him out with any words or phrases that have stumped both him and his translator apps.   He bought his own copy of the book because he didn't want to mark up ours and he underlines anything he doesn't understand and makes notes in Korean in the margins once he has the definition or explanation of a word.

Having read Twilight several times myself, I would have characterized it as having fairly simple and easy language to understand.  I realize now that I thought that because I'm a native English speaker/reader.  To someone who is new to the language, there are a lot of colloquial sayings and downright slang that can easily trip you up.  I'm sure we are very comical looking when we are trying to pantomime the description of a word while crammed into the tight space behind the cash register.

Some recent things that we've struggled to explain:

  • If someone can drive UP to Forks or DOWN to California, why can you only show UP for work but not show DOWN?
  • What is the difference between "every day I....." and "every single day I......"?
  • Ditching school has nothing to do with actual ditches. And why is ditching healthy?
  • Explaining "hand-eye coordination" nearly had us knocking over displays of gum.
  • Trying to  explain "kicked up a tantrum" without using the word fuss, because how do you explain what a FUSS is?
  • What exactly is an understatement?
  • Trying to explain to someone who has no cultural reference to Spiderman, what a radioactive spider has to do with anything.

This teaching relationship also works both ways.  Both the husband and wife will quiz me on the Korean terms and numbers that I need to learn for Tae Kwon Do.