Monday, April 30, 2007

Absolutely Must See Video

Today I walked home from work. Shortly after I departed my place of employment, I noticed that traffic had stopped. Suddenly. At the front of the stopped traffic was a pickup truck, followed closely -- so closely I figured it had rear ended the pickup -- was a minivan. I started to walk faster to see what was going on; I'm nosy like that. The driver of the pickup hopped out of his truck quickly and as he started pounding on the window of the minivan I realized it wasn't an accident. It was road rage. He pounded on the window and bellowed and gestured, his curly mop looking decidedly electric. When I realized how enraged he was, I decided to hang back, just in case he had a gun and opened fire. I don't think I would have thought that way before Swee'pea was born, but now I'm a mother, I have a reason to protect myself far more important than a simple instinct for self-preservation. I am a mother now. I can't play fast and loose with my life. Anyways, eventually the guy figured out that the other driver wasn't about to roll his window down and there was a growing line of traffic grumpily stopped behind them, all watching with interest, and he got in his car and drove away.

I picked up the stroller at home and walked to pick up Swee'pea from daycare. I passed a lot of people during this stretch through my neighbourhood. And nobody really made eye contact with me.

Do you look crazy if you walk around with an empty stroller? At least I didn't have a doll in it with creepy eyes rolling back in its head.

Actually one person made eye contact with me. I think it was Hawksley Workman. Yeah, I'm pretty sure it was, but I couldn't quite bring myself to ask... I once sort of interviewed him after a show when I reviewed his 1999 cd for the campus paper.

Speaking of Canadian musicians with falsetto capabilities, look what I found on youtube! It's a video of the Rheostatics' final performance of Record Body Count,which I described as feeling like a huge bush party singalong around a camp fire.

LOVE IT! (Yes, I'm still obsessing about the end of the Rheostatics...)

PS A woman who rarely returns my emails, finally returned an email today. Her closing words? "Hope the baby is good." She's been told Swee'pea's name several times; she just can't remember it. This pisses me off. Is that unfair?

A quick note

I have a new side-gig!

Remember how I said I was gonna do a semi-regular series about native plants? Well, I'm doing it at mommyblogstoronto instead of here.

I figure the structure of doing it on another blog will motivate me to actually write the posts instead of just adding them to the list of a million other posts I'd love to write here. If you feel like it, check it out:

I love that I am starting this new gig just as spring is emerging; the grass is greening and the old friends I planted in seasons past are rising. I am also discovering plants that are familiar, definitely deliberately planted, but I can’t for the life of me remember what they are. I will need to wait until the foliage unveils itself, confident that winter really is gone.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I think I need to offer a few caveats before we get started. Read more...

Sunday, April 29, 2007

I went to a wee bloggy shindig and all I brought you are these lousy pictures

They rolled out the red carpet for us... Look! It's me - upside down.


(That is not a blogger... just a random guy in a suit.)


First time talking about blogging with a glass of wine instead of blogging about blogging with a cuppa: amazing and liberating somehow!

First time I couldn't eat a greasy breakfast once it was set down in front of me.

First evening, night and morning away from Swee'pea.

Today, Swee'pea's first (mini) ice cream cone all to himself.

apr29b 041
(Ice cream + sunny spring afternoon = great hangover cure)

Lessons Learned:

Apparently, my blog makes me look like an ENFP, but in reality I am an ISFJ.

Don't bother trying to combine making pictures with drinking wine, enjoying the conversation of four beautiful, intelligent and articulate women when you have way more to talk about than you have time available. Perhaps, in the same way we can never catch up on the blogosphere, we can never really be finished talking to bloggers.

You know you're having a good time when an hour or two into it you're already sad that it's going to be over soon. Too soon.

Going to bed really really late after hours of engaging and exciting conversation, without actually having consumed much booze, is enough to induce a hangover bad enough to make one wonder if perhaps it's morning sickness of a different sort. (My body has since indicated that I am not pregnant, AND apparently I was premenstrual on Friday.)

Sleeping away from my family causes the most delicious and painful insomniac longing for them. Or maybe it was just the letdown after a great evening comes to an end.

Bloggers' pictures of themselves DO NOT capture the intense and real-life skindeep physical beauty of these women. (Their more holistic beauty, which I've been admiring for months, goes without saying...)

Friday, April 27, 2007

Dark Day

My heart is heavy today. I don’t know if it’s the weight of two days of rain, of our family member’s most recent delusions, or, in light of those delusions, some of the reading I have been doing. My limbs feel heavy and I’m walking slowly, each footfall an effort. My cheeks even feel heavy and it takes considerable effort to smile a half-hearted insincere grimace at people walking by. My brain is slow and scattered, and I’m having a hard time settling into my work. I’m frustrated again.

A man I work with is a philosopher. I’ve never worked with such a person before. Knowing I have a love of words and writing he has started talking to me about a lot of early 20th-century writers and philosophers, who I may or may not have heard of, and may or may not have actually read. I’m embarrassed that I can barely keep my head above the water of his intelligence and breadth of reading.

Maybe it was just because of our family member, but I swear at least 50 percent of the brilliant folks he mentioned ended up completely mad, their rational minds gone forever or never really there in the first place. He asked, do you have imagination or does your imagination have you? I am even sadder than I was before the conversation.

Is our family member’s rational mind really gone forever or is it just temporarily suppressed. Or, even scarier, was it never really there in the first place? Even though I know she’s not rational, it hurts my feelings that I am one of the people she imagines have wronged her, and that she doesn’t want to see me right now.

Last week I picked up a random book from the library called, A Mind Apart: Travels in a Neurodiverse World by Susanne Antonetta. She is a poet and bipolar, and the prose in this book is beautiful and mindbending. She examines consciousness, and differences in consciousness, or neurodiversity. She illustrates the link that has been identified in psychiatric research between creativity and mental illness, the connections and leaps she makes with language. She mentions that she writes books when she is manic, and indeed, there is a manic energy to this book, flitting from anecdote to philosophy of the mind and evolution to eugenics.

She says that given the chance, no parents would choose to give their child(ren) a gene for bipolar disorder or autism, but she argues that our culture would lose a lot if we lost these individuals. More than we can even know, since we can never know what characteristics will become evolutionarily useful. Apparently there is someone who has argued that we must identify and eradicate the genes for these and other neurological disorders before they take over humanity and destroy the earth.

I am beginning to wonder if our family member is bipolar, maybe always has been, but somehow has managed to control it by herself. Until now, when her delusions are becoming upsetting to her, not fantasies of hope to hang onto on an uncertain and stormy sea of difficult circumstances.

I think about the person who shot 32 innocent people a couple of weeks ago, and how he showed evidence of mental illness long before he pulled the gun out. I think about how hard it is to get help for someone who doesn’t want it, doesn’t see the need for it. I wonder when paranoid delusions get dangerous, and whether we would be able to identify that turning point.

Today I googled stuff to do with mental illness. I came across this site, in particular, I landed on this story. Did you know that there are people on death row in the States who are severely, blatantly, beyond all doubt, mentally ill? I think this is a terrible injustice. Just more reason that the death penalty is wrong, in my opinion. Of course, it’s equally wrong to let a mentally ill person languish in jail instead of getting some form of help, ineffective as the help may be.

I must try and drag my thoughts to the sun again, which hopefully will come out tomorrow (Oh no, I’ve got that Annie song in my head again… which seems fitting, because I LOVED Annie when I was a kid. She was one of my cool redhead role models, along with Pippy Longstocking… there now… my thoughts have already lightened up.)

And I have an exciting weekend planned, and they’re calling for sun.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

One for the record books

Last night, Swee'pea slept for eight (8!) straight hours -- in his crib!!

Sadly, I didn't.

He slept from 8 to 4:15 am.

I went to bed at 10, woke up at 2, looked at the clock to see how long Swee'pea had been asleep. Went back to sleep easily.

Woke up again at 3:30, excited that he was STILL asleep. Had a hard time getting back to sleep as I was getting excited that this was the longest stretch yet and maybe he was gonna sleep right through. Started composing a post about him sleeping through the night for the first time ever, got giddy, etc. etc.

Finally fell back to sleep and dreamed that he DID sleep through the night and I was trying to blog about it but wasn't having any luck coming up with an interesting angle --

Woken at 4:15 at Swee'pea's insistence.

He wouldn't settle in his crib and took at least an hour before he settled back to sleep in our bed. Still, it was better than the two hours of violent thrashing and headbutting and harumphing onto my chest in the middle of the night before.

The night before THAT, he woke up a few times but each time we settled him in the crib and he ended up staying in his crib until 5:45 am. Another personal best!!

So, the nightweaning has been going well, I think.

Edited to add: Don't you just love the baby sleep gods' sense of humour? Not 30 seconds after I hit publish, Swee'pea woke up screaming, and is WIDE awake.

Edited an hour later: He's still awake despite about a hundred miles of walking back and forth. And this post sounds much lighter and hopeful than I feel at these times when he just will. not. sleep. These times when I feel my exhaustion so palpably, when I become overwhelmed with the "Why meeee's?" Surely, we've paid our sleep dues in the last 14 months? Surely we deserve a break?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Boogie Man

now hiring

Right back atcha, Denguy


The other morning, I was catching up on bloglines (like we ever can) while Sugar Daddy fed Swee'pea breakfast. I heard him exclaiming about something.

Oh... he's got a HUGE boogie. I. must. get. it.

So Sugar Daddy dug in, and Swee'pea resisted and started to cry a bit and finally:



It's so big it's not even satisfying. It's just gross.


Yesterday I was catching up at Sweet Juniper, and he linked to babylegs a while back. I guess that's where they get Juney's tights, which I have LONG admired. So now I'm trying to figure out how I can dress Swee'pea in those tights. They do have boys with shorts and tights in the pictures, but with summer on the way, have I missed the boat? Do I just have to wait till fall now?

Also, I'm all for bending our baby gender rules, and it seems like it would just be an extension of the tie-dye and leopard print I already dress him in, but I'm second guessing myself now.

What do you think? Adorable? Or better start saving for his therapy?

Monday, April 23, 2007

Flashback (Not) Friday: The Second Last Stand

(Yes, I know it's not Friday... but it's been so long since I had an idea for the series that I don't want to wait...) The Flashback Friday: Feminist Edition will feature a story that has something to do with being or becoming a woman or feminist. This series will continue until I run out of stories. Thanks to Sunshine Scribe for the Flashback Friday idea.

My second last one-night stand felt like a conquest at first. The guy was tall and thin, with long reddish blonde hair, a long, angular nose with a nose ring I think, and a constant, cultivated scruffiness of facial hair. He had been involved for years with an acquaintance of mine, and they still spoke amicably so he couldn't have been all bad. From the moment I first saw him, just returned from the pilgrimage to the pot haven out west that all the cool Ontario kids were doing but which I never quite got around to, I thought he was hot, and way out of my league.

I can picture him pretty clearly, but I can't for the life of me remember his name... it flits away from me like a hummingbird, unwilling to be caught.

I don't know how it came about that we hooked up one warm August night weeks or months later. I remember it was at the Jimmy Jazz, but I don't remember how it came about that we were walking back to his place through the warm night air, our short walk alternately dark and dimly lit by the orange glow of the periodic street lights. I know what my intention was, I knew it then, and I felt pretty pleased with myself for landing such a fine specimen.

His bedroom was big, just inside the front door of one of those grand old Victorian houses with a thousand bedrooms, and he had many roommates who left us alone while they went into the living room. Someone started playing Massive Attack's No Protection, and it played on repeat all night long.

At one point, the guy went to the bathroom or something and when he came back he said there was an orgy going on upstairs. I wasn't sure whether to believe, but he seemed pretty sincere and unruffled about it. That scared me, shocked me. I made sure not to leave the room until morning, afraid of seeing a tangle of naked, writhing bodies, of being unable to identify whose limbs were whose, like so many snakes. Orgies were something that happened in Jilly Cooper novels, not real life. Surely this must be a wicked house.

I don't remember details of my exit in the morning; likely there were the usual “see you around” comments or charades of exchanging phone numbers with no intentions of ever dialing them. I think I felt some haste to get out of there.

Nevertheless, I felt like I had just made a successful conquest. So what if the sex totally sucked, if he was a lousy lay? A total hottie had wanted me. But as I walked the lonely Sunday morning streets home under a moist grey sky, I realized that my memory was darkened like the room it had taken place in, muddied and obscured by way too much drink. Details began to emerge, like approaching cars on a foggy road, becoming clearer by the moment.

He'd used an awful lot of Astroglide instead of like, um, having any interest in me. He'd taken the condom off partway through. And although he'd put one on again at my request, he took it off AGAIN. I'd been really really drunk; so drunk I don't think I could really move after a while. I think I might have even fallen asleep before he was finished. As I walked, I began to feel violated, to feel angry that he'd endangered my life, my health, for his own pleasure; angry that he'd been so indifferent to my experience.

I also felt responsible and stupid. I'd freely chosen to suck back the uncountable number of pints I'd had that night. I'd gone to his place with my eyes wide open. I mostly just chalked it up to a bad experience.

Over the next couple of months, though, that experience started to gross me out. I did have one more one-night stand, which was a much more pleasant, fun experience, but it was really that August incident that eventually pushed me to the realization that these casual encounters were not doing much for me, that I didn't really want to conduct myself that way anymore.

I never thought I would ever blog about that night. It came up in my mind pretty much as soon as I decided to write Flashback Friday: Feminist Editions, but I discarded it. For one thing, it would require sharing more details than I'd like to.

The other night a friend mentioned that every woman he knows has a creepy story about a man, or a bad sexual experience, a date rape. Every woman he knows. And it makes him worry for his 14-year-old daughter.

I thought about the man I saw by the trees late one night when I walked to the all-night convenience store, the man who I thought was just peeing but who was shaking off the last drop a little too enthusiastically. I thought of the man who sort of stalked me for a while and how the police didn't or couldn't really help. I thought of my old employer when I was only a few years older than my friend's daughter. And then I thought of my own sexual assault, the one I've just described.

I don't feel like a rape victim. I consented to the sex; I just didn't consent to the shittiness of it or the removal of the condom. I didn't suffer psychological pain afterwards. I wouldn't want to minimize the wounds of real rape victims by placing myself among them. But I was violated, and I think I consider it a sexual assault.

The other night, I realized that I didn't want to blog about this experience because of a squirmy feeling of shame in my belly. The experience makes me feel dirty. I'd swallowed this shame with my own complicity, and it has just been curled up inside me for all these years, like a sleeping poisonous worm.

Do I want Swee'pea to know about this some day? Do I want my dad to know about this? (And isn't it interesting that I am most concerned about the opinions of the men in my life? And now that I've noticed that bias, I must revise the question. Do I want my child[ren] to know about this someday? My parents? Possible coworkers?) Not really. But do I want to participate in my own silencing? In a global silence of shame?

As I write this, I have been wondering if I really want to hit publish. I've been wondering if perhaps I should make sure it's ok with Sugar Daddy for me to post this. Maybe I could publish it at HBM's basement. Like Sugar Daddy has an interest in letting this story out into the public domain. Like my sexual history has some bearing on his reputation, his honour?

I think he would be ok with this, and I'm not going to ask his permission.

I am going to own this story, this part of my learning, of my becoming. And I will not be ashamed anymore.

Anyone care to join me in the unsilencing?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Check it out!

I have new digs! Sugar Daddy did all the design stuff, including the faux graffiti; I just took the picture. I can't remember if I posted that picture here before, but I snapped it in Joburg when Sugar Daddy's Auntie J indulged my love of urban decay and took me around parts of the city where I could shoot it without risking being mugged.

I have a thing for balconies with laundry hanging on them; not sure if you've noticed. Along with a thing for vespas and motorcycles and crumbly bricks and -- ok, I'll stop. Anyways, I saw the balcony and laundry and folks hangin' out, and couldn't resist. I swallowed my self-consciousness and asked Auntie J to stop. I hope I didn't write about this when we were in South Africa but I can't be bothered to check. Auntie J pulled over to the curb, and I got out and started snapping, car door still open, over the roof of the car. They noticed me and I held up my camera in the universal consent-requesting manner and they waved and carried on, pleased to be of interest to my lens. What I didn't notice at the time because I was too far away were the details of the people watching me watch them. The guy with the yoyo kills me. See him? Look closely. I feel so lucky to "have" him. He's in this shot, but by the next shot he'd disappeared inside I guess.

I love having a talented husband who knows how to do stuff like this. Do you notice that the little curly-cue things are actually like the ends of cinnamon sticks? Yep. Though I can't take the credit for that... that was SD's brilliant idea.

Thanks, SD!!

face plant

Yesterday I made it out to our small front garden to do some spring cleaning. I took down last year's seed heads that fed the birds who stuck around over the winter, and cleared away the old leaves, and dug out some baby weeds. I studied the tiny new shoots coming up and admired the purplish backside of the bloodroot's leaves wrapped tightly around their stems until they reach full height of about six inches and they unfurl them in their irregular, flat hand-like glory.

I was nearly finished that bed when Swee'pea came out, the first time we've really let him walk around outside. It's hard to believe it's been just about a month since he took his very first steps ever, and now he's an expert. Well, almost. He toddled into the garden with its very uneven soil. My first thought was, "Nooooo! My baby plants!" then as he lost his footing it was, "Noooo! My baby!" But it was like I was moving through molasses. He did a total face plant just in front of the mounds of new columbine, thankfully several inches from introducing his teeth or nose to the concrete edge of our porch. But the poor little guy had dirt in his eye.

We wiped him up but didn't know how to get at the dirt IN his eye. We called telehealth to see if it would work itself out or whether we should begin a campaign to remove it. After about 20 minutes of questions, they finally said we should really flush it out with tepid water, so we tried. Swee'pea didn't like it but eventually it worked, and it appears that there is no lasting damage. Unlike poor little Miss M.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Does spring sun make people flirt?

Remember that plumber I flirted with while he put his snake in our clogged drain a couple of weeks ago? Well, this morning I had to call him back. I actually tried to get another plumber in because I felt weird about the flirtation, but I also needed someone fast and that young plumber got here first, around 9 this morning.

The first thing he said after identifying that the same problem had reared its ugly and stinky head again was, "Well I brought my bigger snake, so I'll give that a try."

Eventually he fixed the problem, and our kitchen sink is draining faster than I think I've ever seen it.

He gave me his home phone number, just in case we have another problem with the drain again, and said he'd come out for free on the weekend if anything happens in the next year.

Is that service or what?

* * *

After lunch, Swee'pea went for a walk in the warm spring sunshine, and I brought my camera just in case.

These young lads were singing on their porch, and I couldn't resist a shot.

porch song 2

After I finished shooting, they invited me to a party up at the university. It's a rally to decriminalize marijuana. I declined their invitation, but I couldn't help wondering why they invited me. I decided to feel flattered rather than pitied, then concluded it must be because I'm so obviously uber hip (although Swee'pea wasn't even wearing his tie-dye and leopard print combination). Maybe babies are the new thong showing above the jeans?

I didn't shoot anything downtown... just ran some errands and bought Swee'pea some new board books on the advice of the Mad Hatter.

On the way home, pretty much across the street from where those boys had been singing, now three young women were painting in their front yard. I asked permission (which I've been doing a lot of lately) and they clearly enjoyed having the lens pointing at them. As I shot, an older man walking with two canes and difficulty made friendly, flirtatious comments. Which is when I shot this:

spring glee

Such a contrast from this scene I shot just a few days ago, when I thought spring would never come.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

No More Ms. Nice Guy!

April '07 ROFL

All-Night Breastaurant is Shutting Down

G-town, ON – The All-Night Breastaurant is ending its night shift. Daytime operations will continue as they have been since last month’s cutbacks to the day shift. Cinnamon Gurl, Owner-Operator, cites severe sleep deprivation and increased violence for the closure.

“Some of the past few night shifts have just been too rough around here, too much hooliganism, too much violence, too much screaming,” Cinnamon Gurl told reporters at a press conference this afternoon.

A few weeks ago, Cinnamon Gurl was badly bitten during one of the night shifts and woke to intense pain. During the attack she endured several seconds that felt like hours envisioning the central apparatus breaking completely off. "I imagined that clenched jaw NEVER letting go, EVER. I imagined being in that intense, brain-warping pain forever. It wasn't nice." Since then she has tried to make informal cutbacks to her overnight operations, but the primary consumer has become more and more demanding, perhaps the result of teething.

As of tonight, there will be no more night feedings. The owner of the All-Night Breastaurant has hired her long-time partner, Sugar Daddy, as a consultant to manage the transition for the first few nights. Sugar Daddy has endured personal attacks himself over the last few nights as well. The other night, a juvenile delinquent who cannot be named managed to kick Cinnamon Gurl in the kidneys AND Sugar Daddy in the head AT THE SAME TIME – repeatedly -- over several hours.

The All-Night Breastaurant has made a significant contribution to our community over the past 14 ½ months that it’s been in business, reporting about 20 pounds and 12 inches in growth.

“It’s really the severe sleep deprivation of the last couple nights that has really brought me to this decision. I just cannot do it anymore and maintain my daytime operations. Something has to give,” Cinnamon Gurl concluded. “Hopefully, cutting back the breataurant’s operations will lead to more sleep for all of us.”

- 30 -

For more information, please contact:

Cinnamon Gurl
All-Night Breastaurant

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

In His Own Words

Well, only Mad took up Sugar Daddy on his offer of an interview, and she asked some doozies.... so here he is, Sugar Daddy, in his OWN words:

What went through your mind that day when you walked into Black's and first saw Sin?

She was striking with her long red hair and she moved in a confident way that suggested a devil-may-care attitude. I thought she looked smart, like someone who would be interesting to talk to and fun to be with... Oh, and I thought she was hot :-)

Why did you migrate to Canada from South Africa?

I had just finished High School & my mom was planning to come to Canada (parents were divorced) so I thought it would be a good opportunity to further my education.

When Sin's labour went into distress, how did you react?
Mostly I just felt helpless - I had tried the breathing - thing: counting , etc. but nothing seemed to work. I tried to find encouraging things to say, and I tried not to worry or appear worried, but I had the suspicion that something wasn't right. But this was my first time attending a pregancy so I didn't really know what was normal, so I deferred to the advice of the midwives, doula, nurses & doctors.

At what point did you know that everything would be ok and what did you feel in that moment of Swee'pea coming safely into the world?

I was never really sure that everything would be OK... I just didn't think about the possibility that it wouldn't be. But once it was announced that Kate would be having a C-section, I became more emotional as I knew that soon our baby would be born. When I saw him presented to me on a table, wrinkled and pink, I was overwhelmed. He seemed so vulnerable. I just remember crying a lot.

* * *

After I read his answers, I reminded him of the email he sent to his dad shortly after Swee'pea was born, which I thought worth sharing here, and he complied.

We are at home now -- we came back yesterday -- and we're settling into the parenting routine of feeding and sleeping when possible. The hospital turned out to be a more positive experience than anticipated: the staff were very helpful and considerate. So much has happened since Tuesday that it is overwhelming to contemplate. I had no idea becoming a parent would be so amazing, so uplifting. Of course there is much responsibility, but some kind of instinctive parental trigger has been pulled and there's never any reluctance to perform the necessary duties, only joy in serving one who is so loved. So euphoria competes with exhaustion, and time flies by. The birth was difficult and stressful for sure... home birth is only an option in low-risk births, and that ceased to be the case from early on in labor when the meconium was detected in the water.. not in itself dangerous but it necessitated monitoring and controlled position. It just didn't seem to be going right - the labor was too painful early on, and so an epidural anaesthetic was given. Although there was significant progress, the doctor in charge (care had been transferred from the midwives earlier) decided that C-section was the best option... they allowed me in to the operating room, and Kate was conscious though physically anaesthetized, and we were both quite emotional - indeed crying - at this stage. Fortunately I didn't see the actual surgery -- there was a curtain shielding us from the undoubtedly gory process, but we could hear the surgeons talking. Suddenly we heard a squawking cry and 'it's a boy!' ... they cleaned him up and took him over to a table where his vital signs were checked and found to be good. I was given a pair of scissors to trim the tough and stringy umbilical cord and he was then taken to the nursery in the neighbouring room. He was kept in a transparent incubator, but I was allowed to reach in and touch him which I gingerly did. He was alert and we stared at each other uncomprehendingly for a while. They had to monitor him for several hours but he was able to visit Kate, who was immensely relieved to see and hold him, and we cried some more. That night he had made enough progress that we were able to keep him in our ward room with us overnight, where I watched him with paranoia at every hiccup or cough. I held him a lot... he didn't spend much time in the crib. We spent the rest of the week at the hospital, learning to look after, change and feed the baby (fortunately he is breastfeeding) and recovering... Kate was not very mobile of course, and so I was very involved in looking after Ezra, and this continues...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


I mostly try to avoid the news. We watch a bit in the mornings to get the weather report, but I try to tune out the actual news until I turn it off. So much of the news is focused on rapes and murders and armed robberies and propaganda, that it's just not worth it to me. I really don't need any help in figuring the world as a frightening and dangerous place. I think there's been quite a bit of research showing that as crime goes down our awareness of it and our fear of it goes up. I am not proud of my ignorance at all, but avoiding the news has been an effective strategy for me to reduce anxiety. Plus I generally find out about the stuff I need to know from other people.

All this is to say that my only information about the Virginia Tech shootings is from blogs. I first saw mention of it at Slouching Mom's, then at Jen's. (And Jen, I don't think there's anything wrong with sharing your sleep deprivation when you don't know about a tragedy that has befallen others... though upon finding out, it is a good opportunity for counting our blessings, that sleep deprivation is our biggest problem...)

This morning I started to watch the news because I figured I should probably find out more of the details. But then I decided that I really wasn't comfortable with Swee'pea watching it alongside me while he ate his milk-soaked Shreddies. He keeps surprising us with the things he understands, and he has a whole lifetime to learn about shit like this; it doesn't have to happen yet.

So I don't know much about what happened, but I wanted to point you to V-grrrl's very thoughtful post on the subject, just in case you miss it. Sadly, I can't figure out how to link to the specific post, but her blog is here and it's the one titled, "Reaction to the Virginia Tech Shootings."

So that's all... just wanted to share a brilliant post with you.

Monday, April 16, 2007

A Bloggy Dream

Last night I dreamed that I was at my parents’ cottage in the height of summer, and I was blogging. I blogged at night when the light in the cottage glowed yellow on the small lake, and during the day when the sun glinted off the water’s ripples in a way that made me keep looking away, retinas burning.

Someone on the lake was reading my blog, and managed to track me down based on watching lights in cottages at night and matching them to the time I posted my thoughts. She was a midwife or a doula or something, intent on helping people, and kind. Her daughter, who was almost grown up, was sick, not sick with a cold but with something if not life threatening than significantly life changing. I think it was life threatening though, and her name was Hope. I don’t remember the name of the mother, the woman reading my blog, but she was strong too, and swam across the lake to me one afternoon. I stood high up in the sun, looking down at her as she swam.

I was a bit taken aback at how interested she was in me when she reached my side. She asked me lots of questions, and invited me to a belly dance show she had tickets for.

When we met at the show entrance, she asked me how my day/weekend/whatever had been. She asked me how I was feeling and about my more recent posts. I talked and talked in response.

Then she mentioned her daughter, Hope, and I felt bad that I hadn’t thought to ask her and said so. She said she’d noticed or something like that. I tried to make a joke about how self-absorbed and self-centred I was but she didn’t laugh. She just said, “I KNOW!”

Then she walked out, angry, too angry to spend another instant in my presence. And I found myself without a ticket, without a valid reason for being where I was, and alone in a crowd, more self-absorbed than ever.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Horses, Babies and Slackers

I've mentioned before that I used to be big into horses. I went through times when I was very disciplined about it and rode every day in preparation for competitions, and times when I was less ambitious and got distracted by friends and boys (although, in the interest of full disclosure, no real boys were interested in distracting me until I was 17, and then he was passionate about horses too so I remained disciplined so it was more an obsession with boys when I was younger, trying to figure out how to meet some that would like me I guess).

When I was about 14, I got a new horse who was still somewhat green, and I set about training him with the help of my coach. Also at this time, I started babysitting. I discovered that many principles of training horses could be applied to dealing with children. Things like never doubting that you're the boss, never lose your cool, and never get angry. Always keep your eyes on the end goal. Getting angry at a horse, I learned the hard way when I was younger, would set you back weeks in your training. Horses are social animals and their herds have a strict hierarchy that gets renegotiated every time a new horse is introduced. So if a horse thinks they are the boss of you, you are seriously risking your life. Luckily, horses have small brains, and can be relatively easily convinced that you are the boss despite the 1000-pound advantage they have.

Anyways, I babysat people's kids and I applied the same principles that worked on horseback. If the kids screeched for something they couldn't have I remained calm and repeated the options that were available. I negotiated with them. Only once was discipline really called for when a three-year-old pinched her three-month-old baby brother's head so hard the skin wrinkled. Then I did like her parents and sent her to her time-out chair. That same baby brother was somehow already trained to fall asleep by himself. I could put him in his crib awake for his nap and he would coo himself to sleep (AT THREE MONTHS OLD!). I'd have to listen carefully at the end of his nap because he would just sing to himself until I went to get him. I didn't really know how his mother did it but I resolved to do that with my kids one day.

I started to watch other parents over the years and I saw all the mistakes they were making. I resolved not to make those mistakes with my kids.

Well here I am, a parent, and I am making those 'mistakes.' I don't even know how really, but here we are and despite my resolutions that MY child will go to bed, MY child will have a set bedtime, MY child will be put to bed by many different people, and MY child will be babysat by others from time to time, those things haven't really happened. Some things like the bedtime, are coming into place 14 months later, but the babysitting? Not so much. And I do get angry, I do lose my cool.

What I have discovered is that the emotional distance required to train children like horses is impossible when you're the parent. That approach may work fine for two or three-hour periods when you're babysitting someone else's kids and you know you'll be able to walk away when your time is up, but it doesn't work for parents. Or at least it doesn't for me. The high emotions tied up with MY child are further compounded by exhaustion and sleep deprivation, by being so engaged in this motherhood business, so covered in Mommy as Bailey put it on Grey's Anatomy once, that my resources are used up to the last little molecule, so there's nothing left and I STILL have to keep going.

More than anything, I have learned that judging other people's 'mistakes' in parenting are like diagnosing other people's marital problems -- stupid and pointless. We do what works, and at least half of the time, we're coasting on fumes.

Not to mention the fact that I don't think there is a neat and tidy, linear, cause and effect relationship between a child's behaviour and parenting choices. It's a complex interplay between nature and nurture, which in turn is a negotiation between the natures and nurtured experiences of two different parents (if they're both involved). For example, Andrea mentioned in a comment at B&P's that Frances hasn't had a temper tantrum - ever - and she's three. Does Andrea know the secret of parenting that none of the rest of us know? Or is she just lucky? With all due respect to Andrea, I have to believe she's lucky.

I just read confessions of a slacker mom by muffy mead-ferro, who's apparently such a slacker she can't even be bothered with capitalization. I thought it would be right up my alley, since I discovered that I am not a baby trainer. I expected, you know, confessions, from, you know, a slacker. But I got neither. I suppose the pointy-toed shiny black uber-shoes on the cover should have warned me that it wasn't written by a REAL slacker.

On the one hand, it's cool that she's attempting to counteract the plethora of contradictory advice and instructions for new parents, like we here in the blogosphere do from time to time. But on the other, the book mostly just offers yet another contradictory prescription for parents. There are personal anecdotes, which would put the book in a memoir (momoir?) category, but it's also filled with judgments of other parents, including diagnoses of their mistakes, and completely unfounded, unbacked-up conclusions. The prescriptive attitude swiftly removes it from the category of memoir. Alternative titles could have been, "The NEW Right Way to Parent," or "that's how I was raised and I turned out fine."

I am not a person who trusts science just because it's science, but if you're going to draw a conclusion like if your kid throws a tantrum in a store, you should march the child out explaining that not only will you not buy the kid the airplane he's freaking out over but you won't even let him be in the store, I'd like to see some kind of evidence that it'll work. Muffy says that the momentary inconvenience of not completing your errand will pay off later, but doesn't offer the slightest bit of proof that it actually works, whether anecdotal or study-based. That is not a slacker mom, in my opinion. A slacker mom would do what works in the moment, which probably means accomplishing the errand however you can.

PLUS, that whole little anecdote she used was about somebody ELSE's kid having a temper tantrum in a store. And she thought she knew what the right course of action was? For someone ELSE's kid? I don't buy it.

Some of what muffy says I happen to agree with. Like encouraging more unstructured time and not packing the calendar too full of structured activities. And as B&P once called it, a little benign neglect is not such a bad thing, in my opinion. And, I'm also not into buying a boatload of toys... I love watching Swee'pea's endless fascination for a yogurt container, putting the lid on and off, and putting items in the container then taking them out. I like that he plays with lots of stuff other than toys and if we're in a new place he gets new containers from the kitchener cupboard.

But muffy uses a lot of examples from her own childhood being raised on a cattle ranch in Wyoming. (I will come back to my suspicion of parents who don't examine their own parents' choices with a critical eye in another post.) She argues that it's a good thing to let children learn for themselves to avoid making stupid mistakes that hurt, to learn that they should be careful of cracks in the sidewalk because scraped knees hurt. Which doesn't sound so bad, but her illustration comes from the ranch. I grew up on a farm too, not a working farm but we still had to take the hay in on the hottest days of the year, and it was also just about to rain so we had to work as hard and as fast as we could. I drove the truck once when I was about 12 years old because we were shorthanded and I wasn't strong enough to throw the bales on the back of the truck.

Anyways, my point is that farms are unsafe for kids. Children die or suffer serious injuries on farms every year. Which is not to say that it's bad to raise kids on a farm or involve them in chores, but just that the fact that many children survive their childhoods without serious injury doesn't mean that it's a paragon of childrearing. It doesn't mean we should let our kids figure out how to avoid stupid mistakes that endanger their lives without our guidance. Yes, we can't protect our kids from every possible injury, but we may as well protect them from the ones we can.

(I remember once my first boyfriend and I went for a walk to a local swimming hole one night. There was heat lightning in the sky while we were swimming, and on the walk back it turned into a bonafide thunder storm. I freaked. I just knew we were going to fry. I was frozen in place and hyperventilating. My legs wouldn't work. But my boyfriend said that maybe we were going to get struck, but he was determined that he would be as close to home as he could damn well get before it happened. So I got my legs back and we ran the mile home holding hands and arrived safely. I think about his attitude a lot when faced with a difficult situation.)

Muffy even trots out the old horse-child analogy that made so much sense to me before I was a parent. The analogy grossly oversimplifies the tension of trying to sort out what limits to enforce when, trying to sort out when it's right to be the boss and when it's right to encourage a sense of agency in our children. And trying to sort out when it's right just to surrender for the sake of our own sanity and survival. Never mind that these limits are going to be different from family to family.

Muffy tries to end the book with a chapter about how we must follow our own instincts and never mind the parenting manuals, which is obviously an idea close to my own heart. But it falls flat after the previous 8 or whatever chapters prescribing the RIGHT way to parent.

So I guess I'm encouraged that there's room in the market for a book by a REAL slacker like me, with REAL confessions, not rationalizations and judgments. I think there is far more power in writing about our own experiences as parents without extrapolating them to other people. I think it's better to look at the kid throwing a temper tantrum in the store with some interest in what the parent does, not for judgment or to compare what the parents do with the RIGHT way to respond, but to learn how to suspend judgment and be more sympathetic. Our lessons and methods don't have to be used by other people to be right. I think it is far more subversive and supportive to embrace plurality and difference in our parenting choices than it is to add yet more voices and opinions and contradictions to the chorus of the ONE RIGHT WAY to parent.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

random fun stuff

This morning a coworker sent me to this article about how Beijing is trying to ban Chinglish signs in preparation for the Olympics. I haven't been to Asia but I have friends who have and who have generously given me some wonderful treasures of Engrish. I think banning those signs will be a loss. Yes, Grammar Grump me loves to laugh at unintelligble English. I discovered a pool on flickr dedicated to capturing Chinglish treasures, where I found this:

Ice boy taken to the streets, originally uploaded by xiaming.

Somehow I also came upon a few treasures, unrelated to Chinglish but related to disco, on youtube. I just had to share this one:

Betcha never knew about the connection between disco and agriculture before did you?

And, while I'm on the subject of disco, I'd like to take a poll: do you think a disco-belly dance fusion solo would be cool or just plain silly?

AND finally, I have persuaded Sugar Daddy to participate in that interview meme going around. Now's your chance to get to know Sugar Daddy better! So whoever gets their questions to my email inbox first wins.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Egad! ANOTHER Interview?

Edited to add the people who answered my questions.

Why yes, it IS another interview. I cannot get enough of this meme. So I asked Sage to interview me this time.

The woman responsible for putting together the Breast of Canada fundraising calendar lives in G-town. Would you ever pose for it?

Ooh, that’s a doozy.


I’m really quite stymied by it. It’s never occurred to me that anyone would want me to pose in a calendar.

My first thought is no. But perhaps if someone did a really good pitch and had a really good reason for wanting ME in the calendar then maybe I would. But I’ve never been an artist’s model, so I’m just not that comfortable with putting myself OUT THERE in quite that way.

True or false? Redheads can most definitely get away with wearing pink.

True. Redheads can wear anything they damn well please and just you try to stop us. I‘ve heard people say that about pink AND red, and it’s all bullshit. Like anyone, you just have to choose the right shade. I wear a lot of red, and only recently began to allow pink, starting with a pink v on brown Vans shoes, into my wardrobe.

Why do people feel they can comment about what colours or clothes a person with a particular characteristic can wear? (Not that I’m suggesting that’s what you’ve done here, Sage, but other people – strangers, not even in clothes or shoe stores, just passing by randomly – have said things like that quite sincerely and it pisses me off.) I mean who gives a shit if I wear a colour that looks awful on me?

Have you ever started a rumour?

Well, I don't know about STARTING a rumour, but I have certainly passed them on. I remember in grade 8, my friend's mom got pregnant, and I found it quite scandalous because that meant they'd had sex -- recently! My friend had asked me not to tell anyone, I think because it was still quite early and maybe they weren't sure what they were going to do with the surprise, but I couldn't resist sharing the scandal that someone's parents had HAD SEX!

My friend got really upset with me, and her mom found out and everything, and I felt really bad. That was really when I learned that it's important to keep people's secrets.

Bellydance is rumoured to be a birthing ritual. Did you belly dance through part of your labour?

Well, as I mentioned here, I did until they strapped me to the monitors and we discovered that any time I spent upright caused the baby’s heartrate to plummet (I still can’t really refer to that baby, that baby who I feared might die, as Swee'pea). The shimmies were especially useful through a contraction, though I was only 2 cm when I had to stop moving. My belly dance instructor, who has four kids, said that belly dance doesn’t help at all in very late labour.

I’ve had it explained to me that belly dance was a way of showing girls how to be women, and I guess that would include all of our sexuality and reproduction, including conception and birth.

I started reading Kitzinger’s Ourselves as Mothers, but I stopped because it seems like in just about every culture she writes about that women are seen as inherently dirty who must follow strict codes to avoid infecting men with their dirtiness. This isn’t related to the question but I asked Sugar Daddy why this would be, why women would be seen as so awful, everywhere. And we both came to the realization that women’s sexuality is threatening in the sense that you can never REALLY be sure of paternity. Unless you very strictly control women’s sexuality. And what better way than to make women scared of it, to feel inherently dirty and evil?

Anyways, I like to think of belly dance going on behind closed doors and under veils, a secret celebration of our bodies and power and beauty.

If you had the power to make one Canadian artist (other than yourself), from any discipline, known to everyone in the world at large, who would you choose and why?

Ha! This fits right into my nefarious plan to blog about my brother ever since I discovered this weekend that he is a blogger. His blogs aren’t like mine, in that they’re all images, but still… he’s a blogger.

But first and foremost he’s an artist. He has incredible talent and drive, and I would love to see him able to support his family with his talent alone. He’s also the most well-read person I know, and he didn’t even finish university. He’s read all of Joyce and Pound and Eliot AND I’m pretty sure he even understood them all.

He has a normal website but I don't think he's updated it in a long time, though it shows his landscapes. He said he started the blogs so he had a place to put new work without having to depend on someone else. This blog shows his recent studio pieces, this blog shows a group of invented landscapes, and THIS BLOG showcases a great collaborative project. It's something to do with some guy named Rauschenberg, who I've never heard of. Anyways, anyone can participate: you download a photo, print it, then take a picture of it somewhere else and email it in to be posted. This one is one of my faves, and so is this one. Anyways, if you like to take pictures (Em and Denguy, I'm lookin' at you), check it out and participate.

AND if you have money and want to buy some art, his rocks, in my totally unbiased opinion.

PS I got the chance to interview some seriously kick-ass people:


Check out their interviews if you haven't already.

Round the Bend and Back: Part 4

Ok, so I know you all thought this series was over, but I'm really just getting to the whole point of it now. I didn't just find the right counsellor and snap my fingers and all was well. As I've written here and there in this space, I still struggle with anxiety, I still feel it from time to time. What's different is that it doesn't totally overwhelm me, I can cope with it and manage.

Once I accepted that what I was experiencing was mostly panic and anxiety, I started to read. One book I picked up at the library (I can't remember the name of it and I didn't read it all anyways) pointed out that worrying is an adaptive response, it keeps us safe. Many of the most successful people are successful because they are very good worriers. They can look ahead and imagine all the things that could go wrong, then take steps to prevent them from happening, or develop strategies to employ in the event that they do go wrong.

I have always been a good worrier in that way. As a child, I competed at horse shows, which involved significant preparation the night before and morning of. Even as young as 12, I'd calculate backwards from the time I'd need to arrive (leaving enough time to tack up and warm up once there), and consider how long it would take to get there (sometimes as much as 2 or 3 hours) and how long I'd need to prepare in the morning before we left, then set my alarm accordingly. Sometimes I was getting up at 3 a.m. I also made lists of everything I had to do, and would do as much as possible the night before. I couldn't stand the thought that I might forget or not have time to do everything on the list, and it would be catastrophic if I were late for the show (I've always been compulsively punctual, probably my parents almost always made me late if they had anything to do with it). I always had to wake up my dad with enough time to do everything we needed to do together (he always drove me and the trailer with the horse in it). I remember he often complimented my ability to get us out the door on time. My anxiety dreams were almost always arriving at the show so late that it was empty and everyone had gone home.
Anyways, worrying can be a very good thing, from both a safety and success perspective. The stress response that causes panic attacks is also an important defence mechanism. It helps us recognize life-threatening situations and identify the best life-saving response. But sometimes it gets out of control and becomes paralyzing and crippling, like it was with me.

I remember my brother once telling me that being nervous is ok; it means that something is important to us, and it makes us pay more attention and do better on the important thing. I believe he was on to something there, and I still tell myself that when I'm uncomfortably nervous about an upcoming job interview or other performance.

When I started seeing the counsellor, I thought he would give me the answers and tell me what to do. But this wasn't the case. I had to come up with the answers myself, and he was just a guide. However, at the first appointment, he did give me some techniques for the next time I had a panic attack.

One was the sort of cliché you hear about. He helped me identify a happy place, and to situate myself in that place and think about all the sensations that I feel there. I imagined sitting on the warm sunny dock at my parents' cottage. It's on a small lake, and it's very peaceful and warm. Mostly I just felt the warmth of the sun relax my muscles.

The second seemed totally bizarre. I was skeptical of both. The second one involved tapping lightly on various body parts in a specific order. I can't remember the order exactly, but you take your index and middle fingers and tap twice at each place:
1. the middle of your eyebrow,
2. the middle of the occipetal bone under your eye,
3. about an inch from the outside edge of your eye near your temple,
4. between your nose and upper lip,
5. in that indent between your lower lip and chin,
6. in that little hollow at the base of your throat just above your breast bone,
7. hmmm this is where things get foggy... I think the next one is near the side of your breast under your opposite arm,
8. between your breasts in the middle of your sternum. And that's it.

I thought they were both a lot of hullabaloo, but since I'd already tried drugs unsuccessfully, it was my last chance.

Around this time, I'd found a barn that I had started taking a riding lesson at once a week. It required me to drive a half an hour each way, but I really wanted to ride again, I needed something in my life, so I did it. The next time I went up there after my first session with the counsellor, I started freaking out on the drive. So I pulled over and tried the first technique. The thing is, it was SO hard to drag my mind away from the panic and focus on something else. It didn't work. I've always felt that if I can think of bad things happen before they happen, either they won't happen, or it won't be so bad if they do. In the midst of a panic attack, it felt like if I stopped thinking about the bad thing about to happen (usually vomiting), it would happen. It was like watching a predator creep around me; if I let my attention wander even for a second, I'd be overcome by it.

So I tried the tapping thing, and because I didn't have to consciously take my mind away from the panic, it worked. I was shocked. I actually felt less panic. I did it again, and I was good to go. I got back on the road and went riding, but it didn't take me many lessons to discover that you can never go home again. Suddenly the back of that horse was SO high up and I just didn't like spending 2.5 hours of my short evening doing it, so I stopped.

During the time of reading, I remember seeing on a website somewhere advice for dealing with a panic attack. It said to ask yourself in the middle of a panic attack, “What if this is as bad as it gets? What if what I'm feeling right now is the worst of it?” Any time I've had a panic attack, the answer would be, well, I can handle it now. I AM handling it now. This was also a good technique for me. It's a way of trying to keep yourself in the moment, because panic attacks are really all about worrying about the next moment when you might die or you might puke or whatever.

During the next sessions with the counsellor, we tried to look at why my anxiety defence mechanism was being so over-protective. I talked about some of my past experiences, like the food poisoning and the McDonald's thing. I think I have pretty high standards for myself in many respects. I was still in the frame of mind from university, I think, feeling pride in my apathy, believing that it's cool to be laid back. I think I had felt like those two incidents were not big enough to be scary, that it wasn't right to be scared by such things; it's not like we're talking war or rape or murder. One thing the counsellor did was validate that it's ok to be scared by those events. They were traumatic. He gave me permission to accept myself and my fears, and just accepting them seemed to lessen them.

He also told me about a time that his wife got caught short in Toronto, downtown, I guess maybe one of those parts where it's all unfriendly high rises and no shops or cafes with toilets you could use. Anyways, she had to shit in his hat, which he then disposed of. A few things struck me about this: 1) that other people have shitty incidents and it doesn't kill them. It sucks and I'm sure she wouldn't want to repeat it, but she survived and continues to live her life. 2) People will help you, even if it means letting you shit in the hat off their head. Ok, so it was her husband and all, but seriously, that's pretty cool.

I think his story also made me examine my fears in more depth, to ask what was the worst thing that could possibly happen. And I realized, and really accepted, that I might shit my pants one day, but it wouldn't kill me. I might vomit on myself in front of a large crowd, but it also won't kill me. I could even, Heaven forbid, have both happen at once and chances are I would survive – I'd just make sure to burn those clothes as soon as I could get out of them.

One session my counsellor suggested that I try some dream work. So that night when I went to bed, I asked my subconscious why it was being so overprotective. I did have a vivid dream, but it was about my mother-in-law so I immediately discarded it. At the time she was very critical of both Sugar Daddy and I and was constantly trying to convince us to get married. Never mind that I would have jumped at the chance if Sugar Daddy had been the slightest bit interested, but it was quite annoying to have someone trying to tell us what to do so forcefully. I think a large part of me couldn't give her the satisfaction of stressing me out. So I went to the next session and told him about how the dream work failed.

But he didn't think it had failed at all. He thought my dream was quite telling, so I began to accept that my mother-in-law WAS a source of stress. That was another thing that once I acknowledged it, it mostly stopped bothering me.

My counsellor also helped me realize that I'd been avoiding developing any networks here, so intent was I on moving to another city to be closer to my family. For years I scoured job ads and applied for jobs just waiting for a chance to move. Once I realized that I had almost no friends or supports here, I decided that maybe we would move away eventually, but in the meantime I would make this city my home. I started hanging out with people I met at work, and a few months later I saw a flyer for belly dance classes, which I'd been wanting to learn for a while. Six months after that, I decided that life in this city was pretty good, and that other city was pretty depressed with fairly lousy job prospects, so maybe I should plan to stick around.

The belly dance classes were significant. I'm pretty sure it's widely known that exercise is good for your mental health, and it can do wonders for anxiety and depression. But I found that most exercise didn't really get me out of my head, out of my anxious monologues and worries. You can walk and still have your mind going a mile a minute, not taking in a single detail of your surroundings. But belly dance pulls me out of my head and firmly re-inhabits me in my body. I think it's because you have to use your mind to watch the instructor and then try to make your own body move in that way. So it's a combination of exercise and learning that's key for me.

I loved seeing a counsellor. He was a personable guy and I am a chatty person, so I loved having a captive audience who even feigned interest. And he helped guide me to wellness. Although I've always been a somewhat anxious person, the out of control anxiety was most certainly caused or exacerbated by stress, the stress of an uncertain job on a monthly contract, the existential stress of being finished school and trying to figure out what I want to do for the rest of my life, and the not uncommon stresses of family and relationship dynamics. I've known a lot of people who have had mental health problems during their twenties, and as hard as being a teenager is, I think it's harder to be in your early twenties. People expect more of you and you're supposed to be a grownup even though you don't feel like one (does anyone EVER feel like one?).

So, just to summarize, if you're struggling with anxiety, I highly recommend:
  • B vitamins
  • a diet rich in vegetables, whole grains, Omega 3 fatty acids and not many processed foods... a lot of research has shown that Omega 3 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain chemistry, and it would be my first line of defence for any psychological problem; also whole grains don't fuck with your blood sugar the way simple carbohydrates do
  • examining yourself and your stress honestly, maybe with the help of a counsellor
  • asking yourself what's the worst thing that could possibly happen and inhabit that possibility
  • learning techniques to cope in the midst of panic
  • taking up dance or some other physical activity that requires you to learn how to do it (walking, running and biking just don't cut it)
So, I think I have one more post in this series, where I'm gonna look at helping children with anxiety. I may even do some reading for that one.

If any of this series of posts has helped anyone, I'd LOVE to hear from you. Please let me know that I didn't bore the pants off some people for naught. If you're not comfortable commenting, drop me a line at cinnamonfemail (at) gmail (dot) com. Thanks!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Monday Mission

I was super keen to try this Monday Mission, but my mind was a complete blank all last night and this morning. All it took was a trip to the grocery store though and Bob's your uncle. We're supposed to write an anecdote that shows instead of telling. There's one bit in here though that I couldn't resist telling...

It's been three weeks since we've been able to go to the Saturday morning market. Our fridge is empty, except for a few outdated leftovers and three eggs.

By the time we made it to the bakery section at the grocery store, our cart is nearly overflowing. There are no Farmer's Market cookies to be seen. Burgeoning dread accompanies my question to the woman putting bread on a shelf. While she goes to check the back for cookies, I go over my list. Damn, forgot kitty litter.

They're still too warm to package, but I just put some in the cooler if you can wait five minutes?

Hmm... waiting 5 minutes for freshly baked oatmeal chocolate chip cookies? Hardship for sure.

After I get kitty litter, I try to think of something to do to pass the time usefully but can't. I loiter in the bakery section amusing Swee'pea and enjoying his bright shiny smiles as he signs at the lights way up above.

Golden haired darling...

I don't realize she's talking to me until she's nearly past, her low high heels clipping smartly.

Golden haired darling boy, he won't give you any trouble.

She turns back. See? He knows. He's giving me a big smile. He knows I'm a grandma. I had one of those golden haired darlings. He won't give you any trouble.

I'm leaning over the shopping cart, my elbows on the handle, so my face is on the same level as hers.

I don't think I say anything in response, so busy am I consuming details like treats. I smile though.

She's taken the time to put makeup on, just like my grandma used to, and the rouge across her rounded cheekbones also verges on the garish if I'm honest. She has the same abundance of nearly-white hair, and the same sparkle of life and wellness as my grandma did before she got sick. She stands straight and wears smart clothes like my grandma did before the car accident broke her pelvis and the months of bedrest knitted her bones permanently, though gently, twisted. She has the same papery, healthy pink skin, crinkled like a paper crumpled into a ball for a three-point shot in the bin, then retrieved and smoothed out on second thought, the lines of experience still clear no matter how many hands try to smooth them out. The similarities are remarkable between this woman and my grandma who died three months before this darling's golden hair emerged into the air. Or maybe they're not.

She turns to Swee'pea: my GREAT-grandkids are bigger than you.

To me: I have eight GREAT grandchildren. And they're all GREAT!

I watch her walk away, energetic yet relaxed. She doesn't look back; why should she?

A ghost of a breeze ruffles the hairs on the back of my neck.

Later, instead of walking Swee'pea back and forth, I dance him to sleep, his head on my shoulder, my lips on his hair, my feet shuffling in that self-conscious circle from high school dances. I notice it's Neil Young's "Only love will break your heart." I don't let any tears fall on his head.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Letter to Swee'pea: 14 months old

Dear Swee’pea:

You are 14 months old today. We are at Grandma and Grandpa’s for the Easter weekend, and Auntie C, Uncle T and Cousin Zee are here too. This is really the first time you have shown more than curiosity about these folks we call family; this weekend you are enthralled with each of them, especially Cousin Zee and Grandpa. Yes, it appears that Grandpa is working the same magic that he has worked on each of your cousins before you. He seems to have a way with babies and near-toddlers like you, and you can’t get enough of his tours, where he shows you fridge magnets and family photos, ceramic cats, goblets that sing when he flicks them with a finger, and other relics from their many travels. When you see him, you raise your arms with a plaintive, “Uhhenh?” And because he’s Grandpa, he can’t resist. As soon as he has you up in his arms, Cousin Zee, not ready to relinquish her position in the family, imitates your please lift me up baby sound, and because he’s Grandpa, he can’t resist. So most of his time in the same room as the two of you is spent with his arms full of 60 pounds of happy near-toddler and pre-schooler.

new point

So much has changed in the past month. Not just in you but in our daily life. I’ve gone back to work three days a week, which sees you in the care of a lovely woman who feeds you well and cuddles you as much as you like, and with new, older friends. You have managed the transition amazingly well, although I should take a teensy bit of the credit because I made sure to make it as gradual as possible and spent weeks introducing you to her and her house before my first day at work.

This new arrangement has enforced a new routine, which I think is good for all of us. It means we have to wake up earlier, which until a few days ago was clearly difficult for you. We’d try to say your name quietly to wake you, but you wouldn’t even stir. Then we’d have to tickle you gently, which would make you squirm in your sleep, and maybe you’d even squeeze your eyes closed and stretch your arms up in protest against the waking world pushing in on your slumber. But finally, after several minutes of reluctant tickling on our parts, you would finally open your eyes, maybe with a noise of protest, maybe not, and eventually you would smile on the world, grab your soother and put it in your mouth, and try to snuggle back into sleep. Much as we would love to snuggle in bed with you, we’d force you to sit up and then take you downstairs to breakfast.

sleeping in the crib
Your first sleep in the crib since August.

In the last few days you have woken up either just before or just after our alarm goes off, finally becoming accustomed to our new hours. Getting up so early and taking only one nap at daycare has required you to go to sleep earlier in the evening, which has brought the added benefit that your daddy and I finally have a couple of tired hours to ourselves at the end of the day, to read, to watch tv, to work on the computer on whatever pursuits we like. Sometimes we even talk to each other or have a cuddle on the couch.

Your sleep patterns also seem to be changing. Now, instead of requiring attention 4 or more times between when you fall asleep and when we go to bed, you may not need any, or maybe just an adult finger to hold as you journey quickly back to sleep. Overnight too, you seem to be growing up. Or at least you’re back to the pattern you had when you were six months old, mostly only waking twice. In fact, the other night was groundbreaking, the first groundbreaking night since that lovely night when you were eight weeks old. This more recent night, you slept from about 7:30, in your crib, until about 2 a.m. Then your dad brought you into the warmth of our bed and you didn’t even nurse, just cuddled your head against me and put your feet against my belly, and you slept until just before the alarm went off. It’s the closest you’ve come to sleeping through the night in your life.

The flip side of these developments is that I’ve begun to have sleep fantasies again, imagining how long you’ll sleep for before we have to get you, wondering if tonight will be the night you sleep all the way through until the morning light, wondering what you will look like in your crib with the light just creeping in, imagining the post I’ll write about it, the emails I’ll send… sometimes I get so excited about the possibility of sleeping through the night that I can’t fall asleep for a while. That happened the night after or the night before your groundbreaking night, I can’t remember which now, and I finally fell asleep around 11 I think. I was pretty disappointed when you woke up at 11:30, then again around 2, then 4 then 6. Nevertheless, the fantasies slip into my mind in those minutes of darkness between going to bed and falling asleep.
Ok, so enough about sleep; let’s get to the good stuff. You’re walking! You took your first courageous steps a few weeks ago, and I was surprised at how excited I was by them, how brave you were throwing your arms up and stepping your feet out. Since then you’ve grown braver and steadier, and just in the last few days it’s been unarguable that you are spending more time on your feet than your hands and knees. Your gait looks kind of lumbering and stiff to me, swinging from side to side, but as unsteady as it may look, you can keep your balance for quite a while, and have learned to control your landings when you reach your destination, coming smoothly down on one knee. Now that you are walking so confidently, I’ve also enjoyed the odd stepping out with you holding my hand, not for balance, not really, but for some bit of security. Holding your hand while you walk me somewhere makes me think that you are all grown up already; you know where you want to go and you’re just taking me along for the ride.

Also in the last few days, you have insisted on grabbing the spoon at some mealtimes, and you surprised and impressed us by dipping it in the yogurt container and then getting it back into your mouth successfully.

Using a spoon 2
I can use a spoon all by myself!

Your aim may be a bit off, and occasionally you put the wrong end in your mouth, but you quickly correct yourself. I guess this is just the start of your ever expanding independence, and we just have to stand back and admire your abilities with amazement at how much you can do for yourself in such a relatively short time. I mean, it’s been just under two years since you weren’t even two cells. That is some mind-bending stuff.

You are OBSESSED with lights. It’s one of the three signs you use regularly, right up there with eat and bath. You admire each and every light you come across, reaching your hand up in its direction and opening and closing your palm with a gleeful grin on your face.

Sign for light

Recently, we have shown you how the light switches work, and you point your pudgy index finger out firmly, and gently push the switch down, then look at the switched-off light with pride at your handiwork. Once or twice you have turned the light on but it’s harder for you to push up, and usually you let us do that once you have sufficiently admired your work. Your desire for this game is endless, and goes far beyond any of our adult attention spans. When we decide to stop, you throw your head back and arch your spine in a backwards C and scream with all your thwarted frustration. So it seems that your redheaded temper may finally be making itself known (not that I know anything about that). So far, though, you are fairly easily distracted from the mini-tantrum, and will become absorbed in putting the lids on and off various plastic containers, or changing the channels on the tv with the remote, or pretending the remote is a phone and putting it up to your ear. All very adorable of course, even the arched back and screeches, because it is an important skill in life to know what you want and how to ask for it.

You have discovered the joy of sitting in chairs like adults, and make your rounds from chair to chair.


Once you get lifted into one, you grin maniacally, then get down and indicate the next chair you would like to sit on, then grin maniacally, and repeat the process until we get sick of it and you arch your back and scream as above.


The last month has been a lot of fun. I have experienced many intense emotions in the last 14 months with you: joy, love, awe, happiness, anxiety, fear, exhaustion, anger, all with an intensity I could never have dreamed possible before your birth. But this month has seen pure, unadulterated fun. Maybe it’s the new sleep, maybe it’s having fewer days to spend with you so those I have are precious and focused, maybe it’s your new skills and level of communications; I don’t know. Whatever it is, I want more.

mona lisa


Thursday, April 05, 2007


This afternoon I found myself in a strange (for me anyways) situation.

I found myself flirting with a very young plumber in my messy house.

Yesterday I stayed home from work, sick with a stomach bug. It was the first time I've been alone in the house since Swee'pea was born. I slept for two hours, I rested and lounged on the couch and watched home design shows. Finally, I managed to throw in a load of wash. Around 4:30 I heard the ominous sound of water dripping. Inside the house. When no one was in the shower, so it couldn't possibly be the somewhat usual leaking from the shower through the floor into the kitchen. When I looked in the kitchen I saw a wave of blue laundry wastewater pouring over the kitchen sink, down the cupboards and onto the floor like blood from the elevator in The Shining.

Which is how I found myself flirting with a very young plumber in my messy kitchen.

Is it me or do people just keep getting younger and younger while I get older and older?

Ok, so now that I've confessed, I don't know what else to say about it, except it was weird and I felt very out of my depth.

And yet. I couldn't resist commenting on how nice it was to see a plumber who wears a belt. Better yet, the belt works.

And he said that he does 50 lunges a day to keep his bubble butt capable of holding up his pants. And he tried to show me his ripped underwear.

I averted my eyes.

He suggested that my job is boring, and that I must be boring, in a way that implied that he knew I couldn't possibly be boring.

I told him that his job does not appeal to me in the slightest... dealing with other people's shitty water.

It was a totally harmless absolutely flirtation, unthreatening to any absent partners, but just a teensy bit thrilling. I mean, he was REALLY young, like 21, if that even. And I am not 21. I haven't flirted in... oh... I don't know, a VERY long time.

* * *

And, because I'm greedy and Alpha Dogma indulged me, I have more interview questions. Yippee! I love this meme!

High heel espadrilles: your favourite new fashion trend or the dumbest thing since the trucker hat craze of 2004?

Um, neither?

This is actually quite a revealing question for me. I had to google "high heel espadrille," which as it turns out is not what I thought it was. I thought it was a little kitten heel sandal or something. Anyways, I actually kind of liked the pictures I saw but I almost never wear high heels. I love the idea of high heels, but they are just way too uncomfortable for me to wear for any length of time. If an occasion calls for high heels, like a wedding, I always bring a spare pair of shoes or birkenstocks to put on for the reception.

I also have to say that I while I didn't understand the trucker hat thing at the time, not exactly, in fact I was WAY ahead of time. Yes, way back in 98, my friends and I found a plastic bag of six brand new bright orange trucker hats on the bus. They featured a logo that included a maple leaf, a cow, a wheat stalk and barn with a silo, AND the letters C I J.

Because we were desperate for drinking money, we had an idea that we thought was a brilliant stroke of entrepreneurial genius: we'd sell them! We'd each wear one (there were three of us) to show our confidence in the utter fashionableness of the merchandise, then drink the proceeds.

Except no one would buy them. Luckily, one of my friends had a lucrative job at Toyota so she fronted our drinking money, as she did most nights, just until we sold the hats. We tried to say they were from the Canadian Institute for Idiots and Jugglers and other things depending on the (non)buyer.

Eventually, someone, an acquanintance took pity on us and bought one for 50 cents. We moved to the Albion. One guy turned out to be a juggler himself, and he pulled three eggs out of his pocket and started juggling (who carries eggs in their pockets?!?). We were so impressed we gave him a hat.

Now this next part I'm not proud of, but I was very very hammered. I was pitching the hat to another table of people I'd never met before. And they were due for another pitcher, so they all piled their money on the table for the next one. And while I was trying to persuade them to buy the hat, I took the money off the table. Then I told them they could keep the hat for "free."

We bought another pitcher with their money, and we each kept one of the three remaining hats.

The next night, or maybe a few nights later, I was drunk again and having a smoke with one of those same friends. I dropped the smoke in the front pocket of my coat, and dove my hand in to get it out before I ignited.


Someone put K-Y Jelly in my coat! Ewww!! What kind of person does that?!?

Then I noticed the hard little bits in the K-Y Jelly. Egg shells.

Apparently I carry eggs in my pocket. That's when I remembered that the juggler very kindly gave me the eggs, and I, feeling very clever, put them in my pocket for breakfast the next day.

trucker hat

No, I don't have a double chin. I don't know what you're talking about. See? I don't see a double chin. (Never mind the evidence of the strain of the neck muscles trying to keep the double chin away.)

Cash, interac, cheque or credit card: which one do you use most frequently when shopping for groceries?

interac all the way, although if I had one of those air miles credit cards, I'd use one of those.

You find a spider in your bathtub. Do you squish it, blast it with killin' chemicals or do you gently scoop it up and relocate it outside where it goes on to live a long and happy life and becomes a contributing member of the spider community?

Actually, I have dealt with this very situation. Well, almost the very situation. It wasn't my bathtub, it was my living room floor, and it was a really really big spider.

I put a jar over it and left the house until Sugar Daddy got home and put a card underneath it and put it outside. He usually takes care of all bugs in the house in this way. Unless it's an earwig or something and he just smashes it.

Does this season of 'House' suck or am I alone in this belief?

You're not alone. I can't quite bring myself to say it sucks, but I don't always bother to watch every episode. If I'm doing something else more interesting, like blogging, sometimes I just don't quite bother.

It's a bit too dark... Cuddy perjoring herself was a bit too much for me to believe, and then House continuing with the addiction was too bleak. Cameron kissing him too forced... And then, a week or two ago, House giving himself a catheter?!? It was just too much for me. And there isn't as much unbelievably smart-ass doctor comments as there used to be, in my opinion.

What are you having for dinner - and will you give me the recipe, please, please, please!

Well, tonight we're out of groceries so it's takeout curry. For that you pick up the phone, dial, then go out a bit later to pick it up.

I wrote that between dialing and going to pick it up. The youth drop-in centre that I walk by a lot with my camera but end up being too chicken to actually take anyone's photos is across the street from our local fast food curry place.

Tonight I thought about bringing my camera since it was still light, but I didn't. I knew I'd be too chicken. When I pulled up I saw a young girl with a pixie 'do, rainbow-striped toque, black docs with rainbow striped socks peaking over top and rainbow laces. In other words, a girl after my own heart. She was having a smoke with a tall skinny guy with green hair.

When I came out, he was standing with his back to her and she was sitting on a concrete step, her hand covering her face, army green canvas backpack at her feet. I thought I heard a sniffle and wondered if they were fighting. But I don't think so. It was freezing cold with a blustery wind, wind that had blown the former puddles into frozen still bubbles on the sidewalk. Another photo that wasn't.

As for the recipe, Sugar Daddy made dahl last night, which was very good, but I don't feel like typing out the recipe right now. Another time.

* * *

For anyone who's interested, you can download most of the Rheostatics' last show here. It's just missing the last two acoustic songs (and the site is sanctioned by the band themselves so you don't even need to feel guilty). Also, CBC is planning to broadcast the show sometime, though I haven't been able to find out an exact date. One place said Saturday with no time, and another place said sometime early next week (or maybe it was this past week?)... anyways, you've been warned that if you're interested you should try to find out.

Ok, just found out here. Saturday at 8 pm. But how do I find CBC radio 2? I always admire people who listen to cbc and think that I should do, but seriously, how exactly do I find them on the dial? And how do I know the difference between radios 1, 2 and 3? I'm so dumb.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

new pics

So it's been a while since I posted any photos... I meant to put some in my last post but I forgot. So I guess I'll just put a few up here...

I didn't shoot a whole lot in Toronto, but when I did I discovered a real bicycle fetish. Ok, so I've noticed it before, along with an interest in vespas and motorcycles, but where we were in Toronto has A LOT of bicycles:

bicycle parkdale

more parkdale bikes

And I couldn't leave my grammar grump cap at home:

gratuitous quotation marks

Gratuitous quotation marks... not once, but twice! On the same shop front!

I definitely want to go back sometime when the weather is a bit more reliable and nice for wandering around.

On Saturday when we came back from the Big Smoke, we walked downtown to buy milk. And I shot some more.


Also, Sugar Daddy pointed out these very strange dolls in a shop window. I was too shy to walk into the store and take a picture of them, so I just shot through the window and hoped that you could still make out the dolls past the reflection.

weird dolls

Just in case you can't make it out, there is the Lunch Lady Action Figure, the Obsessive Compulsive Action Figure, and just above the Lunch Lady, there is the Jesus Action Figure. What's up widdat?