Wednesday, April 30, 2014

It's a girl!

Many couples that we know had the "Honey, I think it's time for us to have kids" conversation. We never did. We knew from the beginning that we weren't the parenting kind. That does not mean, however, that we have not had plenty of conversations about bringing life into our home. Only that we talk about bringing furry life into our home.

The issue, however, is that Hubby is a cat person, and I am a dog person. [Insert gasp here] So there was an awful lot of talking, but not a whole lot of agreeing. Here are a couple of sample conversations:

Me: "I grew up with a dog. It sure would be nice if I had one again."

Hubby: "No"

Me: "But you work long hours and I'm here all by myself. I need company!"

Hubby: "You work long hours too."

Me: "Not as long as you!"

Hubby: "That's not really true, is it?"

Me: "But I'll take care of it! You don't even have to do a thing! I'll walk it, and feed it, and pick up after it, and train it!!!"

Hubby: "No."

Me: "My friend just got a wiener dog and he's sooooo cute! Come on! Can we get a wiener dog?"

Hubby: "No."

Me: "Can we get a wiener dog? Can we get a wiener dog? Can we get a wiener dog?"

Hubby: "No. No. No."

Me: "Don't you even love me?"

[long awkward pause]

Hubby [furrowing his brow in deep concentration]: "Yes. But we're not getting a dog."

*****************

Hubby: "Let's get a cat. I grew up with them and I miss having one around."

Me: "Over my dead body."

Hubby: "They're not a lot of work, Jay. Not like that dog idea you are always going on about."

Me: "I hate cats. They're aloof. They lick themselves and then cough up fur balls everywhere. And they track their kitty-litter-soaked paws all over the house. Gross! I'm not having one here."

Hubby: "They're not that bad, Jay."

Me: "Yes. They are. They are assholes. They are just waiting for you to die so that they can eat your organs for breakfast."

Hubby: "What happened to you when you were a kid?"

Me: "Nothing. Why?"

Hubby: "You seem a little aggressive about cats. Why are you okay with the ones that we pet-sit for our friends?"

Me: "Because I know those little assholes are eventually going home."

Hubby: "You're cold, Jay."

Me: "Shhhhh..... I'm trying to watch the football game!"

*************

... and so on, and so on, and so on...

I thought I'd won the conversations would end when I finally convinced Hubby to get a dog, thanks in no small part to the crazy man running around our 'hood hitting women over the head with hammers. And as I watched the ever-deepening bond between Hubby and Fergus, I was sure we both felt that our family was complete. No more conversations about cats! Yay!

Our very first family outing, and the very first picture of Hubby and Fergus together.

Watching t.v. together

Best friends hanging out and playing in the Arboretum

But as it turns out, Mr. Fergus is also a cat person. After pet-sitting a friend's cat for a week (affectionately nicknamed Princess Kitty, but known as Sadie), we discovered that he absolutely loves having a cat around. Particularly this cat. When Sadie left, he pined over her for days and days and days on end, running up and down the stairs as he futilely searched every corner of the house for her, whining and barking the whole time. Which of course, Hubby used against me. Leading to this conversation...

Hubby: "Huh. Will you look at that. It looks like Fergus wants us to get a cat!"

Me: "Shut up."

Hubby: "Are you really going to say no to Fergus? Look at him! He's miserable and lonely. He needs a little friend around."

Me: "Shut up."

Hubby: "Really, Jay. What happened to you?"

Me: "I'm going to punch you in the face."

***********

Things only got worse for me when Sadie came to live with us for a year after her human got an excellent career opportunity in California. The deal was that she would take Sadie back when she returned to Canada. But with each passing day, Hubby became more and more used to having a cat around. And Fergus was more and more thrilled to have a constant companion and playmate (by playmate, I mean something that he could herd up and down the stairs). Even Sadie started to relax into her new setting, getting particularly attached to the F-Bomb, mewling and howling whenever he wasn't around for her to torture.

Soon, we were a mere month away from our friend's return. As the time drew nearer and nearer to sending Sadie home, I started to dread having to give her back. I worried that her departure would lead to a renewed debate about whether or not to get a cat. I worried that Fergus and Hubby would mope around the house for weeks on end. I even worried that Sadie would be a little sad without her big, dumb, high-strung friend around to mercilessly taunt.

Damn it!

And so it was that, over the Christmas holidays, Hubby and I had one more conversation about growing our family.

Me: "I don't know who will be more depressed when she is gone. You or Fergus."

Hubby: "Ahem.... Definitely Fergus."

Me: "I'm not so sure about that. You want to keep her, don't you?"

Hubby: "Ahem... ahem... Well, Fergus wants to keep her. That's for sure."

Me: "And you?"

Hubby: cough, cough, sputter, sputter "Yes."

*********

The next day, Hubby sent our dear friend a note that went something like this:
You love Sadie. And Jay and I love Fergus. I know that we all want to do what is right for our pets. They have become best friends, and I worry that separating them may not be the best thing for them. If you agree, Jay and Fergus and I have a loving home waiting for Sadie.
....

And so now, we have a cat.

I am still firmly in the dog-person camp. And I still get grossed out by her kitty-litter soaked paws. And I make Hubby clean the kitty litter because I refuse to touch it. But even I have to admit that she has weasled her way into a tiny little corner of my heart. The way she comes running to the door alongside Fergus to greet us when we come home. The way she cuddles up to me as I am doing my post-run stretching routine. The way she curls up in my lap when I'm watching t.v. or reading a book.

Fine! I admit it. I like her. And I'm glad that we adopted her into our home. She makes our little family complete.

She may be an asshole. But now she is my asshole.

Welcome home, Sadie. And thanks, JJ, for making it all possible.

Sadie has become the real boss. She gets the dog bed, the dog hides under the table.


Unless she is in a good mood. Then she will share.

I run with Fergus. But I do my post-run stretching with Sadie

A family moment - Sadie cuddled on my lap and Fergus at my feet

Hubby and his herd hanging out watching t.v.

A rare quiet moment - Sadie hunkered down for a nap. She is actually pretty cute when she sleeps.

Taking a break from chasing and swatting at each other. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Generation Y is the new Generation X

A couple weeks ago, a friend of mine shared this video on her Facebook page - Kevin Bacon explaining the 80s to Millennials:


Of course, I had to watch the video. Because like all almost-40 women I know, I love Kevin Bacon. That is because like all almost-40 women I know, I grew up in the 80s. Ahhh Footloose. What girl didn't want to dance with Ren McCormack? Am I right, ladies?

Being a child of the 80s makes me more than just a Kevin Bacon fan. It makes me a member of Generation X. Which is why this video was particularly amusing. Not only did I rock the parachute pants (watch the video), but I often feel like an out-of-date Gen-Xer who appears irrelevant to the new crew of bold, tech-savvy, short-attention-spanned Generation Y. I mean, I only just figured out Twitter in the past six months!

At no time did I feel the difference between our generations so acutely as I did last weekend, when I returned to my alma mater - the University of Ottawa - as a guest judge for a 4th-year Public Administration case competition. My job was to play the role of a Minister being briefed on a matter requiring an urgent decision, while group after group of students disguised as public servants led me through a just-the-facts briefing. A policy geek's dream weekend!

Now as an alumnus of the U of O, I return to campus often enough. But every single time that I do, I am struck by the same thought: "Wow, these kids are just getting younger and younger every year."

Of course, they aren't getting younger. I am getting older. A fact which became all to clear when I introduced myself to this particular cohort as a proud alumnus of the University who started 20 years ago, prompting one girl to yell out, "Wow! I was only 1!"

Ouch!

Let me tell you. A whole lot has changed since she was 1 and I was... um... older than that. First of all, this was my computer:

Photo credit: http://www.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/pc/

It took up an awful lot of room on my desk, it crashed all the time, and it took forever to process a simple command like "save". And it wasn't even connected to the Internet. That's because the Internet was still so new in the early 90s as to render it relatively useless for anything other than email. And if I wanted to use it to check my email account, I had to go to the computer lab, an occurrence so infrequent because no one was really using email back then. We talked to each other over the phone. And by phone, I mean a land line. Or we just hung around the campus bar waiting for each other to inevitably skip class and show up.

Because the Internet was still in its pre-Google and pre-Wikipedia days, we used the library for research. I spent hour after hour combing through microfiche and journal articles. I threw my back out every two weeks from stuffing 20 hardcover history books into my backpack so that I could write my research papers. Information was never at my fingertips. It was at least a five-minute walk away.

And this is what passed for classroom technology:

Photo credit: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transparency_(projection)

That's right. A transparency projector. The professor would photocopy lecture notes onto a transparency and project them onto the wall at the front of the class for us to copy down - with a paper and pen in a notebook - during the lecture. My more "technologically savvy" calculus professor (part of my very short-lived attempt to secure a math minor) would bring clear transparencies, and write on them in "real-time" with coloured markers during the lectures. Pretty big step up from the chalkboards of high school!

Compare that to what I saw last Saturday when I walked into an undergrad classroom for the first time in almost two decades:

  • There was not one note-book, not one pen, not one paper. Save the pieces of paper that I was using to take notes so that I could evaluate the presentations.
  • Every single student had a laptop or a tablet with a keyboard. So did the professor.
  • Students used their laptops to build PowerPoint or Prezi presentations. They then hooked up their laptops to the class projector in under 30 seconds, without the help of a tech guy. 
  • There was a class projector. And it is always in the classroom. It's not special ordered from AV services for a once-in-a-while special need. It's the tool of choice for lectures.
  • During breaks, students were projecting their favourite YouTube videos, most of which seemed to be Lady Gaga videos.
  • Between presentations, when students weren't using the projector to present, they were using it to scroll through live tweets of the event, for which they created their own hashtag. And it wasn't even distracting for them to read through the tweets and listen to the feedback they were getting from the judges. Cause they are damn good at multi-tasking, those Millennials!
It all kind of blew me away. And made me feel old all over again.

It also made me think a lot about these Millennials, and the impact that they are having on public policy and public dialogue. They are often accused of being lazy, spoiled, self-serving, uncommitted, and apathetic. They don't vote. They don't trust their institutions of government. They question everything. And they don't contribute to public dialogue.

But I don't think that's true, especially now that I've spent a day with 50-or-so aspiring policy wonks. I think they are trying to find better ways to contribute to public dialogue than the traditional channels to which government clings. I think they are trying to raise legitimate questions, not because they dislike authority, but because they want to affect change. I think they are making use of social networks and forging more connections than any generation before them so that they can advance their aspirations and beliefs. And I think that they have found their identity in being able to use today's technologies and networks to solve complex social problems, and can't really understand why the rest of us aren't jumping on board.

I left that classroom feeling rather inspired. Public policy is alive and well among this younger generation. They just talk about it in different ways and on different channels. They want to find solutions to complex social problems, but they want to do it using different skills and tools than those we know and understand. And they want to forge new partnerships and new connections to help them make the world a better place.

I'm feeling pretty hopeful about the future of the public service. I hope they invite me back next year so that I can keep learning from this impressive group of Millennials.