Thursday, January 31, 2008

make my day

This made my day yesterday:

You Are a Ring Finger

You are romantic, expressive, and hopeful. You see the best in

You are very artistic, and you see the world as your canvas. You are
also drawn to the written word.

Inventive and unique, you are often away in your own inner world.

You get along well with: The Pinky

Stay away from: The Index Finger

I thought fer sure I was going to be the middle finger, and I'm not sure I agree 100 percent (especially with seeing the best in everything), but it sure sounds good, doesn't it?

But now, I discovered that the awarding of the Canadian Blog Awards will be unrolled over the NEXT WEEK. I'd hoped I'd find out the results today or tomorrow at the latest. Oh well... guess it won't kill me to wait a bit. I'm hoping for third so I can get some nice bling for my sidebar...

I so thoroughly enjoyed the questions that Slouching Mom got from her readers that I'm going to up this space up to questions too... ask me anything. I can't imagine a question I wouldn't want to answer... so go ahead, make my day?

PS I'm so stoked about Lost starting again tonight. I didn't think I was but then I came across last night's repeat of last season's finale and I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed it. Anyone else looking forward to it?

PPS With Sugar D going away in a few days, I'm wondering how I will shower. For the last two years I've just waited until Sugar D was home and showered in the evening, usually after Swee'pea went to bed. But now that Swee'pea's in the big bed, I'm not sure how comfortable I am showering while he sleeps in case 1) he doesn't go to sleep for a very long time or 2) he wakes up when I'm in the shower and starts wandering around opening drawers and pulling furniture over on himself. Any ideas? How do you do it?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Ode to Warmer Days, or, Resurrection

In honour of the last day of voting for the Canadian Blog Awards... here's hoping.





man painting


(All of these images were rejects when I shot them, but somehow now they're not.)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Headline News

Sin Flamed

Blogger/Photographer/Mother Cinnamon Gurl was flamed at a small online photography site that uses members’ images and stories to publish a print magazine. Sin had adapted a blog post for submission to the magazine and within hours, a member who has posted no photos or stories, asked “So what ? I mean, just going downtown, find a homeless, take a photo, speak a little with him, and then ?”

Despite irritation and disappointment, Sin simply replied, “What would you prefer?” with little expectation of a response. Instead, she will just remain peeved for the rest of the day, forever wondering exactly what the person’s problem was with her work.

Editor's note: Flamed may be a bit of an exageration but forgive her, she's never had a remotely negative comment before.

Toddler Found Alone in His Very Own Big Bed This Morning

A two-year-old boy was discovered alone in his Big Bed this morning. It came as a pleasant surprise for his parents because although he’d been very excited about moving the Big Bed into his room on Sunday and sleeping in it, he’d also been very clear that the bed was for him AND his mama. This is the first time he’s slept through the night by himself since probably August, and it came after he fell asleep by himself too. His parents are tentatively overjoyed, anxious not to raise expectations (or probability of jinxes), but enjoying the moment nonetheless.

Hapless Husband Can’t Start Car and Gets Key Stuck in Ignition – Must Walk Child to Daycare in Small Umbrella Stroller Across Slushy Sidewalks Because Bigger Stroller’s Lock is Frozen or Jammed; Resorts to Internet for Solution to Key Removal Later

The headline says it all, really, and I can’t be bothered to report all the stupid details.

Deadbeat Driver Forced to Cough Up

A stupid person who shall remain nameless was painfully reminded of outstanding parking fines yesterday. It all started when she called the city about a parking ticket she found on her car when she'd been granted an exemption and they pointed out that it was because her license plate didn't have a valid sticker. "I thought the ticket was referring to a parking sticker... I totally forgot that my birthday meant I needed to renew my plates!" said the unnamed stupid person.

It got worse though, when she went to renew her plates and was told there were a lot of fines on the car. "I'd forgotten about those parking tickets last spring, and I figured they were about $100, $150 max. But from the tone of the clerk's voice, I wondered if it could possibly be as high as $300." Guess again... the fines totalled $566. The stupid person had no choice but to pay up.

And You Didn’t Ask But…

A small piece of advice to people who wear ear pieces for their cell phones instead of holding the phone to their ear: If you are arguing heatedly on the phone and gesticulating wildly in a public space, you may want to indicate somehow that you are talking on the phone, otherwise I may fear for my personal safety. If you do not have a cell phone and are arguing with someone nobody else can see, as you were… I’ll just hang back a bit.

Tomorrow's the Last Day to Vote!

Don't forget to vote for Sin. (If you want to... if you already have, many thanks...)

Monday, January 28, 2008

speaking of molasses

This weekend we watched Manufactured Landscapes, a documentary of photographer Edward Burtynsky's exploration of our manufactured landscapes: factories, mines, quarries, oil rigs, and all the wastes of those kinds of sites.

The film starts slowly, moving past endless aisles of quiet workers. The factory is so big, this scene goes on for some time, long enough to become mesmerized by the rhythm of the passing aisles, long enough to wonder what the workers are making, long enough to come out of your reverie and see more of the same aisles passing by, long enough to comment on how the factory is much brighter and quieter than any factory any of us have worked in, long enough to wonder if we will ever escape the drudgery of this vast place of production. And then, finally, it ends. The scene changes to Burtynsky's still photos of the same factory floor, shot from one end, with the aisles horizontal on the image and repeating beyond the vanishing point.

From there we follow Burtynsky through a number of sites: another Chinese factory, this time outside it where he shoots reams of people in yellow stretching down a road between yellow building after yellow building. Burtynsky wants to communicate the sheer scale of these places, and I'd say he succeeds.

The most interesting photographs for me are of a toxic ship graveyard in Bangladesh, where people dismantle the ships, heavy metals and all, piece by piece, and the destruction of Chinese cities to make room for the largest dam in the world, a dam so large it requires 13 cities to be pulled down brick by brick by its own inhabitants before the water comes in. They need to be destroyed so the skyscrapers don't get in the way of tomorrow's ships.

It was fascinating in a pouring molasses outside in the winter kind of way. Most definitely recommended -- and it's Canadian!


I am ready to be rid of winter. I want warm air and no more snowpants and mittens battles, no more heavy gray snow forcing my stroller to become some kind of all-terrain vehicle. I am reminded of Susanne Antonetta's A Mind Apart: Travels in a Neurodiverse World, where one of her key coping mechanisms for managing her bipolar disease is to write when she's manic and revise when she's depressed. That way her depression isn't compounded by writer's block; she can be comforted that it's not time to write, it's time to edit. Although I don't have bipolar, we all go up and down in smaller scales, and it seems a wise insight. So while I don't feel like shooting outside in the winter, I will keep re-editing my old photos... preferably of summer.

One of my biggest dreams is for both Sugar D and I to develop the kind of careers that are portable, so we can spend six summer months in Cape Town, followed by six summer(ish) months here. Fluffy snow is pretty but I think I could live with pictures.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

7 things I feel like blogging about but not in any serious, extended way

1. I was home sick yesterday and made the mistake of finishing The Time Traveller's Wife. I seriously cried for like the last 150 pages, which did not help my already full sinuses. I loved it though, even if it was devastating, and I am SO adding Henry DeTamble to my Top 10 Most Snoggable Literary Characters, which is still in development. Because I have such a lousy memory for a book's details, I'm only up to four. It could be a while...

2. After I finished, I discovered Love and Rockets's "Haunted when the minutes drag," on itunes and spent the rest of the day listening to it on repeat, tripping down memory lane, and mopping my drips.

3. My blog has been getting double and triple the usual number of hits since that hot young celebrity was found dead. For the longest time (like 18 hours?) I couldn't figure out why I was getting so much traffic to a crappy photo I stole from somewhere else to illustrate a silly meme. It was the next morning before some of my blogger peeps shared the news.

4. I'm scared because Sugar D has to go away on business for four days in the same week that my parents will be out of the country. And my best/only friend to call in crisis is on the other side of the world. I know I'll be ok if Swee'pea sleeps reasonably well and goes to bed in decent time. But if he doesn't? I don't cope very well in those instances even when Sugar D is around to take over. But if he's not here, and I have no-one to call for company or a friendly voice, things could very ugly indeed.

5. I really want to win Best Photo/Art Blog now that I'm in the finals. Only a week to go before I will shut up about it already... (and, um, vote for me if you haven't?)

6. Yesterday I was scoping out some of the other categories of the Canadian Blog Awards and came across this post in the Best Blog Post category. It's gotten my vote, and I seriously recommend you read it and make your vote too if you haven't already.

7. I'm feeling more than a little disillusioned. I've been reading a few books about digital photography and photoshop and checking out various photographers online. It turns out that those portraits that are just gorgeous? They aren't candid shots of a person as the photographer found them. Often times good photographers art direct their shots. I seriously did not know this. I thought they just waited and shot at just the right moment. On the one hand I feel a bit deceived, but on the other, the photographers have also talked about getting to the know their subjects a little bit. I think back to the man in May with the crutches and how those are my favourite street portraits I've taken, and it occurs to me that perhaps I've been missing something. I think the next time I go out shooting in the streets, my goal will be not the random street shots taken a little bit on the sly but part of an interaction that starts with hello.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Topless But Not


I actually posted a colour version of this when I was in South Africa last year as a throwaway snapshot of a funny scene. But going through and reworking old photos with new knowledge and looking for summer, I made it monochromatic and suddenly I really like it.

And Mad says VOTE! Ain't she great? (Thank you so much for voting me into the finals... now for Round Two.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

random round-up

My insurance agent has posters on the wall that I imagine are intended to inspire.

The poster nearest me features a photograph of sunbeams filtering through several tall evergreen trees in the mid-ground. Your eye starts at the sun and follows its beams down to the foreground, where there is a flag stuck in a golf hole. Then you notice that the green is covered with silvery frost, and there are green footprints like random stamps. The footprints concentrate around the flag.

Underneath the photo is the word SUCCESS in all caps, followed by a message in smaller type: “Some people dream of success… while others wake up and work hard at it.”

I’m struggling to connect the image and the words, to decipher how the image represents success, and working hard at it. I guess it’s a morning scene, with the light frost and lowish sun. But a golf course? I’ve heard of the cliché that all major decisions and negotiations are made on the golf course, but it’s really a leisure activity in my books, and an exclusive one at that. I don’t like golf, and I don’t like the amount of water and chemicals required to maintain a pristine green. It seems like an awfully good way to ruin the planet. But that’s besides the point, I guess. Are the footprints meant to represent the people "working" while the rest of sleep, away from this hive of productivity?

It occurs to me that this poster is not so much to inspire as to placate those already conventionally successful, to comfort: don’t feel bad about being rich when so many are much, much poorer, because poor people just haven’t worked as hard as you.

The other poster, over the agent’s computer shows a photograph of a misty morning farm scene; maybe there was snow. The details are foggy, literally in the photograph, and figuratively in my memory. The caption is in a cursive sort of font: “Without dreams there is no need to work. Without work there is no need to dream.”

I can sort of get the first sentence, because when I dreamed as a teenager about competing as an equestrian in the Olympics, I still had to shovel shit. But the second sentence? Seems wrong and depressing to me. Still, I suppose there are a lot of people out there doing soulless jobs to pay the bills and their dreams are what keep them plodding away and sane (and hey, both Sugar D and I have been there and done that). But must work always be something that requires escape, even if its only in your dreams? I suppose so… I’ve said it in this very space before that if I became independently wealthy somehow, I’d drop my job in a heartbeat…

What is up with this insurance agency and its hardcore work ethic? What stake does an insurance agency have in people working hard?


Is it normal for a two-year-old to have insomnia? Swee'pea just laid awake in bed for hours last night, sometimes chewing his soother, or stroking the wall, or poking and kicking me. It was very annoying and a little distressing to wonder what keeps a two-year-old awake at night when he hasn't had chocolate or sugar or caffeine of any kind.


In happier news, I'm one of the five finalists in the Best Photo/Art blog category of the Canadian Blog Awards!! Hurrah! I really didn't expect to make it... but I've checked out a lot of the other blogs and it seems I've been pimping A LOT more than anyone else in the category. Round Two of voting starts tomorrow. I think it's the same as Round One, except there are only five blogs to choose from now. So if I could trouble you a bit more, I'd love it if you could vote for me again starting tomorrow.

In the Best Family Blog category, the category that nearly killed me with so many of my favourite reads and only two votes to spread between them (one at work and one at home), I'm pleased to see that Dani and Beck have both made it into the finals. I'm very sad that Bubandpie and Mad and Bon did not.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


I can see how volunteering at the drop-in centre can be addictive. I'm fascinated by the people, the other volunteers as much as the people being served. I go for purely selfish reasons, but I'm ok with that because other people benefit and it's not hurting anyone. It just feels good. Why didn't I do this sooner?

A girl in high school tells me that she just finished her community service hours but she loves it here so much she still comes about twice a week. I wish they'd had that requirement for community service when I was in high school. This is really my first volunteer experience. It's shaming. There are also two university students, which surprises me. When I was in university I was far too busy drinking, playing pool, talking out my ass, and occasionally going to classes to even consider volunteering somewhere. But they're science students, and in my experience the science students were much better behaved.

The man who puts ham and potatoes on the plates and passes them to me for creamed corn was here last weekend. He volunteers every Saturday and Sunday, all day, works four days in Hamilton for pay and spends another day walking dogs for the humane society. Wow. Keeps him sober, he says. Six years he's been clean, but that doesn't mean he doesn't still want it. He says he'll never give up getting laid, though, which shocks me. It's never occurred to me to give up getting laid, but I suppose it's different being married.

The man who washes dishes, he was here last weekend too. The box of slightly bruised apples that's been donated also has mushrooms thrown in. We talk about mushrooms for a bit, and when I offer up the tidbit that mushrooms are made almost entirely of protein, he says well, they have very little nutritional value but what there is is all protein. He studied nutrition in university but he made one big mistake: not getting a job in his field 20 years ago. Privately, I don't know how that can be a mistake when it's so difficult and often beyond a person's control. He looks 30 but he's 42.

Sister Christine runs the place and all the shelters in the city. She helped our family member this week too. She is old and small, but you could never describe her as a little old lady, or if you did, you'd realize your mistake soon enough. She has a presence much larger than her body, and she's always directing someone or other, or listening to someone in need. She eats standing up. I don't know why I find it remarkable that she wears crocs but I do. Today I notice her ring, and I remember that she is a Bride of Christ. I wonder what metal her ring is made of -- it hasn't yellowed like my white gold band has. I wonder if I will ever be able to get her to sit down long enough to make a portrait?

A man comes up to order a coffee, no sugar, sugar makes you crazy. He's wearing a tweed sort of English golf hat, and has eyebrows like my dad's right before he gets them trimmed. One of his eyes squints a bit and immediately I mark him as a future photographic subject, if I should be so lucky (I know, I feel like some kind of predator stalking my prey, but on the other hand I'm just interested in getting to know people, with or without my camera. And I have paused to consider the ethics of blogging about these folks like some scavenger feeding on the fragments available to me, but I can't resist sharing with you, even at the risk of appropriation). He talks about his theory of madness caused by sugar in a good-humoured way, then comments that we look like new volunteers. He comes in closer to me and lowers his voice, "This place is amazing. You will meet people here... well some of them you'll wish you'd never met, but some people here are so wonderful, in what they do, and just who they are." And I know he's not only talking about people like Sister Christine. I like him already. I hear someone call him John later and I hope I get the chance to use his name.

Not that it's all sweetness and light of course. First thing this morning a women comes to the counter asking for a little bag that one of the workers put away for her. None of us know of any such thing. She has acid green eye shadow up to her eyebrows and bright red lips, and a slightly mad look in her eye. She's not happy to be told she needs to wait until someone else comes in. Later, I'm near the phone when she asks to use it. Right away. When she asks the more experienced volunteer she tells her to wait a moment while someone takes the enormous pot of boiling potatoes across the kitchen to drain and mash. I see she has very long dreadlocks, almost down to her bum, and a faint whiff of urine hangs around her. Must be the dreads I think. Some of her teeth are brown, which I notice when she grumps at me for having to wait for the phone. I mean, it's an emergency! After she finishes on the phone, I hear Sister Christine talking about schizophrenia and people starving to death if she didn't feed them, and how that would look very bad on the drop-in centre.

I notice how the more experienced volunteers deal with particular individuals, reminding them to only take one piece of cake because there's no other dessert for lunch, or only enough creamer for the cup of coffee they've just been served. I find it fascinating that they can be so direct and effective yet so respectful. We can't leave even a few quarters out in the open, and my coat gets locked up. Good fences make good neighbours and all that I guess.

I'm still awkward because I'm learning the ropes. I don't know the routines or where things are. But that just makes me want to come more, to overcome that awkwardness. So I tell the staff person who comes just before I leave that I would like to come every Sunday morning, give or take. My two hours a month commitment has grown to two hours a week, just like that.

* * *

Today's the last day to vote for me at the CBAs... if you've already voted, thanks! Now I'll just cross my fingers and hope for the best... and now I'll stop badgering you. Thanks for your tolerance.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

a bliss I have never before known

I had no idea of the sweetness of a conventional bedtime, of Swee'pea lying awake but drowsy and all tucked in beneath the blankets, his head cushioned in the sweet divet of a soft pillow, apparently all cool with my announcement that I'm going downstairs.; of watching his heavy-lidded eyes watch my face as it closes in for a kiss on his soft soft face; of whispering the words, "Night Night," and knowing that I am leaving the room. I have no guilt, since he's had 20 minutes of walking back and forth with Dada and 15 minutes of lying in bed with Mama first.

He asks for milk as I straighten up, and because it's been a while since he used that as a stalling tactic and he did have some salty things for dinner, I get it for him without argument. I watch him drink, repeat the soft kiss and Night Night whispers, and walk down the stairs in perhaps the most blissful silence ever, apart from the creaking wood.

It's 10 pm, and I haven't heard from him since. This is second such moment in our lives, both within a few days of each other.

No jinxes please... I've been knocking on wood all over the place, but I had to make a record.


Friday, January 18, 2008


I spent Swee’pea’s nap yesterday gathering and writing content for my new photography portfolio. Sugar D still has to design and develop it, but I’ve bought a new domain and I’m excited thinking about how the images will work together and what kind of text I want to include.

I never thought I would ever make the switch from film to digital. I worked in a camera and photofinishing store in 1999 and digital camera sales were growing exponentially, but I remained steadfast. I loved that with film, I was literally working light, making the little silver molecules on film dance to light. I loved working in the darkroom to make prints. It felt like time slowed down or disappeared when I was in the darkroom, and the quality of sound changed with all the images coming to life or hanging to dry around me. I loved gently swishing the developer and washing my image fade in, shadows first, highlights later.

I dreamed about having my own darkroom in my home, because I struggled a bit with commitment from time to time. Booking darkroom time in advance required a commitment that sometimes I didn’t want to make. Once I was in the darkroom, I enjoyed myself in the peace and excitement. But getting there was a challenge. I thought it would be easier if the darkroom were available in my home.

I remember when we were looking for a house to buy, the basement had to have a laundry tub and plumbing so I could eventually set up my own darkroom. The house we bought did indeed have a laundry tub, but thank goodness I never got around to setting up a darkroom down there. Our basement is dank and I can’t believe I ever thought it possible to make it into a place I would want to go to hang out in the dark. Thank goodness I came to my senses and switched to digital, where I can even enjoy a cup of tea while I work in the digital darkroom.

Although I loved making my own prints, I never enjoyed developing my own film. Too much pressure for one thing, working in pitch black and knowing that one false move could destroy the entire roll. You know why the movies never show people developing their own film? Because it’s pitch black and you can’t see a thing and you have to go entirely by feel. If you drop the roll of film while trying to get it on the spool, you have to feel around in the dark until you find, which is not so nice if your film developing room is also your bathroom. It doesn’t make for good cinematography. Much nicer to watch people humming around beneath a red light, hanging enlargements and waiting for images to appear in the developer.

I also worried about the chemicals. Although I was always told to wear gloves it’s a real pain in the ass because you have to put them on and take them off over and over and over again, and sometimes I just couldn’t be bothered. For this reason, I never went into the darkroom when I was pregnant or breastfeeding, although I fantasized.

And while part of the thrill of using film was its physicality, it was also its drawback. I never stored my negatives very carefully, and invariably they would get scratched or leaked on, and some of my favourite images have been destroyed forever. Even handling them to print is a risky and delicate undertaking. And the digital darkroom, while not exactly easier than the real darkroom, IS easier to undo. Through all my trials and errors, at least I don’t end up with print after print after print that I can’t bring myself to throw out but also have no use for.

Of course, digital images are at risk too, as I discovered when my cds got scratched on the way home from South Africa last year and I lost a few of my favourites. But at least I can back them up in multiple places and formats and be reasonably assured that I will be able to access at least one of those sources. Those blue jeans on a blue wall (over on the side bar with a link to imagekind where you can purchase it!)would have been lost forever if I hadn’t already uploaded its high res self onto flickr. When I consider my collection of images, those jeans are probably in the top five for me.

Life is a funny thing. A month ago, I wanted to write a book, a memoir. It somehow seemed more attainable than making a photography book. I told Sugar D, "I want to write a book. Now I just need to wait for something to happen to me." And he said, "Yeah, I used to think that too. Then something happened and I still can't write about it."

Now, mere weeks later, I want to be a photographer when I grow up. Not a commercial or wedding photographer, but an artist I guess. It started when Sugar D gave me a book for my birthday just after Christmas that featured photography with a similar aesthetic to mine. It was so inspiring. And then Mad went and nominated me for a Canadian Blog Award for Best Photo/Art Blog and that encouraged me so much I found a service to sell my prints through. I'm really chasing a dream here, and it's exciting and scary, yet just fine if it goes nowhere and I just keep pursuing my passion.

Thank you for voting for me at the CBAs... I hope I make it into the second round, but I have a feeling those other nominated blogs have much bigger readership so it's doubtful. And if you haven't yet... um, could you? Pretty please with sugar on top?

(Or you could buy a print, because at least half of the proceeds will be donated to the Stephen Lewis Foundation.)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Mac Daddy

Mac Daddy
Ah, the sweet gaze of a man for his new baby.


Please don't forget to vote for me.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

working it out

You know it’s been WAY too long since you last went to the gym when your “workout” clothes (aka your painting clothes) are snugger than they have ever been. And when the scale in the locker room confirms that you have gained more than 10 pounds since you last stood on that scale and wondered if could be wrong.

I was beginning to get a little suspicious that perhaps I’d gained even more weight this fall (you know, on top of the postpartum weight I gained thanks to sleep deprivation and a bottomless breastfeeding appetite) because it seemed that my pants, which had been washed and dried many, many times, suddenly started shrinking. What kind of self-respecting stretch-corduroy does that? It was a total mystery.

So in November, I quit my Farmer’s Market Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie habit cold turkey (if you don’t have them in your part of the world, I’m sorry). I figured I would see immediate results because some days all I snacked on were those cookies. But it’s been at least six weeks, probably more, and if anything my pants are getting tighter. (Of course, it was around the same time that I set out to drink a lot more wine in preparation for the possibility that one day I may not be able to drink wine for at least nine months. That *could* have something to do with the mysterious shrinking waistband.) Last weekend I was all set to sink back into the cookies since the deprivation was clearly doing no good, but the damn grocery store was sold out. The nerve!

I’ve been hesitant to blog about my growing size for a few reasons. For one thing, there are a lot more interesting things to blog about. And for another, I believe very strongly and will advocate to the death that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, and anyone who doesn’t see that needs to adjust their lenses. I worried that admitting to wanting to lose weight would compromise that belief. I also feel very strongly that feeling bad about your weight is solved by dealing with the bad feelings not the weight, and I didn’t want to become just another blogger trying to lose weight. I realized today, however, that wanting to lose weight doesn't have to equal feeling bad about your body.

I don’t feel bad about my excess weight. It’s been a hard summer and fall, and I probably did a lot of emotional eating. So much was changing it felt like we were bobbing down white water, just trying to keep from drowning. Despite this weekend’s drama, and the drama that will no doubt continue in that vein, and the fact that Swee’pea’s bedtime battles are worse than in a long time (when am I EVER going to be able to change my damn profile description?!?) I’m starting to feel like perhaps there is a raft beneath us and a paddle in my hands, and maybe I can start to steer now. So I felt good that I was at the gym and taking my wellness back into my hands. Not only that, but in the six months since I was last there, they’ve expanded their dance class offerings from belly dance to hip hop and African dance. So count me in.

Monday, January 14, 2008

hangovers of a different kind

I'm feeling hungover again. Except I haven't been drinking. I felt fine when I first got up, even though today started differently. Today was supposed to be the day that we finally got help for loved one. I mean help for more than her homeless state (which we did get help for despite her unwillingness to admit to having been evicted this weekend - for the second time in about six weeks).

When I got to work, I suddenly realized I felt like ass. Jittery and distracted and so. damn. tired. I think I must have been putting on supportive airs for Sugar D and as soon as I was away from him the jig was up. I felt so changed. I'm pretty sure none of my coworkers can say their Saturday night involved the arrival of a family member in a cop car. I remain haunted by T from the drop-in centre. A friend of mine said she once read a book about how to build community that was sometimes kind of cheesy but one of the tidbits remains with her still: Don't think in terms of us and them. It's all us. The posts I managed to read this morning swirled together, all part of the same big circle.

Probably not a surprise to anyone who's had experience in this sort of thing, but today was not the day we got help for our family member. I think, however, that today WAS the day we got ready to play hardball. Ultimatums. As in, if you don't go to the doctor, you won't get to come for visits anymore and we sure as hell are not bailing you out next time you get evicted. This is how people end up on the streets, even if they have loving family. I'm so done, but it's not really mine to be done about, and it's never going to finish.

Today is also the day my best friend leaves for Malawi. I don't think it's any coincidence that I had a wee breakdown at work, upon hearing that today wasn't going as planned. What's a girl supposed to do when the person she can always call for a sympathetic cuppa is gone? Apparently, she goes into the handicapped stall and cries. And then cries to her manager that she can't finish up that rush request because she is totally unable to focus. Sugar D came and got me, and we quietly vented and mourned and debriefed on the day and the phone calls and the lack of resolution.

I couldn't think of a goodbye present that would do justice to how much I'm going to miss my friends. I thought about just getting Malawian currency, but for some strange reason the exchange houses don't carry the currency of the fourth poorest country in the world. I thought about Indian currency because they're stopping over in Dubai and it's nice to be able to buy a tea while you wait. But Sugar D told me Dubai isn't in India. I got it mixed up with Mumbai. When we looked on wikipedia we discovered Dubai is very close to Iran and Iraq, which we found a bit alarming. Still, it's better than Nairobi, which is where they were originally routed to for a 12-hour stopover. I asked Sugar D how things are going in Kenya and he said not good. The prime minister won't admit there's a problem and refuses to do anything.

Sounds familiar.

Yeah, said Sugar D, my mother is an African dictator.

We laughed. A lot. I said I had to blog that and he didn't object.


On a happier note, voting is open for the Canadian Blog Awards, and I've been nominated for Best Photo/Art Blog. Please go vote for me. Apparently, voting goes in rounds, and you only get one vote per category per round. Voting for Round 1 ends January 21, 2008, so please go vote for me now. (Write About Here in case you forgot where you were.)

Sunday, January 13, 2008


**Now with more pimping! See below...**

I didn't expect the first person I served coffee to at the drop-in centre to be someone I already knew. My brain stalled, I figured he must be a volunteer, but a story someone told me recently involving a hairdresser and bipolar disorder niggled at my mind.

"Do you remember me?" he asks.

Yes, I do. He was the hairdresser on campus who did all kinds of wacky things to my friends' hair, and less wacky colours to mine. He was married with kids, and fun and charming. My one friend's hair changed every six weeks, each new style and colour more outrageous than the last. He asks what I've been up to in the last many years and I tell him. He notices my wedding ring and I tell him about my son. He is thrilled.

The question hangs between us, unspoken. What about you? Why are you here?

So he tells me. He had to have chemo for his liver and he had to stop working. He got sick, bipolar, and lost everything. Now he's fighting for his boy in court. All stated matter-of-factly, until he reached the part about his son.

"Oh, T. I'm so sorry."

He shrugs, a little uncomfortable with my sympathy? "Tough things happen. But yeah, chemo ruined my life." I am stunned as he walks away, reeling from the tenuousness of the threads that hold us to the dearest parts of our lives, how quickly it can all fall away. I suppose this is why I volunteered, but the sorrow pulls me down. I suppose nearly everyone here has a similar story. And yet there are jokes and silliness.

T and I talk a bit more here and there through the morning. I help serve ham, mashed potatoes, a mixture of canned peas and corn, salad, buns, and random goodies for dessert, whatever was donated. The people are nice, and funny, and I enjoy being part of it. And I couldn't help but scope out a few possible models.

I committed to only two hours a month, but I think I want to do more. I had worried that with things going on in our family, it would be too much of the same. But it's not the same. The people I served today are friendly and pretty appreciative of being served a hot meal in a safe place for less than a dollar, or, if they don't have any money, free.

But seeing T and how much he's lost knocked the wind out of me. I'm still catching my breath.


Edited to add: Voting is open for the Canadian Blog Awards, and I've been nominated for Best Photo/Art Blog. Please go vote for me. Apparently, voting goes in rounds, and you only get one vote per category per round. Voting for Round 1 ends January 21, 2008, so please go vote for me now (Write About Here, in case you forgot where you were.)


frustration: being yelled at for inaction and called irresponsible for a situation you didn't create and in which you are powerless.

shitty night: getting called home by the babysitter from a night out and having two cruisers arrive outside your house and seeing a loved get out of one with her belongings.

inebriated: after sorting out a crisis, with the help of a hotel chain, going to the scheduled goodbye party and drinking enough to consider riding the mechanical bull at the local cowboy bar.

anthropology: going to said cowboy bar and discovering a whole tribe of young people wearing cowboy boots and hats and doing the two-step in a bar that *looks* a lot like the dance clubs of your youth apart from the mechanical bull (which you didn't ride after all, wanting to keep the distance of observer).

irony: showing up for your first volunteer shift in need of the organization's services for a loved one, and possibly more hungover than anyone dropping in.


Thursday, January 10, 2008


Literally translated, it means "place dizziness," and it was coined in 1870, a couple of years before agoraphobia for the same cluster of symptoms. Around the same time, doctors elsewhere identified American Civil War combatants who suffered from "irritable heart" and Inuit who suffered "kayak angst." Of all those terms (and many more boring and impenetrable terms), why did agoraphobia the most common? It seems the least accurate to me. It's not so much fear of the market or open spaces as it is fear of having a panic attack in public spaces without escape or where an escape would be embarrassing.

Apparently, Pan, the god of flocks and shepherds, used to descend out of the blue to scare the animals, shepherds and nymphs. How perfect that the root of the word panic ties us to our animal side, the fight or flight response. I've started reading Wish I Could Be There: Notes From a Phobic Life by Allen Shawn. On the one hand I want to feel proud of how well I've overcome my panic and anxiety, to recognize just how large an accomplishment that is. Shawn has suffered his entire life, despite considerable insight into his condition. "A phobia is like a pain in the soul," he says. On the other hand, Shawn discusses how chronic, long-term stress (like, oh I don't know, early, sleep-deprived motherhood?) can eliminate phobic symptoms, although they often come back if and when the stress is removed, so it could just be a matter of time. And then again, this phenomenon was documented in WWII concentration camps, and I hate to liken motherhood with Nazi concentration camps.

I'm only 50 pages in, and I see myself in every page.


Quite a while ago, Niobe challenged folks to write a blog post in the style of another blogger. This post started as an attempt at mimicing her style, but quickly devolved into typical Sin. Sorry.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


For the baby shower.

I will commit at least two hours of my time every month to volunteer in my community. I’ve been struggling, however, to decide just what to do with that time, which organization to work with. I’ve never actually volunteered before, and knowing myself, I’m wary of committing to something I can’t or won’t follow through on. I’ve been searching local databases of organizations in need of volunteers and researching organizations that are doing work I am passionate about.

While I would love to do something with young people, especially those served by the shelter that shut down suddenly last June and who still don’t have a replacement, I suspect that they need a bigger time commitment than I’m prepared to give at this time. I would hate to be just one more person that doesn't hang around in their lives.

It may be that with my skills, my best contribution would be in an administrative, office-bound role, perhaps for one of the local environmental organizations. But I’m not sure that would really draw me away from my home and family and, let’s be honest, the computer. I think I’d really prefer to volunteer in a way that comes into contact with real people.

So I think I’m down to the local drop-in centre, where I can serve coffee and stuff. I phoned them before Christmas and the woman in charge was excited to hear from me and told me to call back in the New Year to schedule time. But still I hesitate.

At the back of my mind through all this humming and hawing, I’m also questioning my motives. Because I would (not so) secretly love to make more portraits of street people, and volunteering in a way that brings me into more contact with them would obviously help. Is it ethical for me to volunteer with an ulterior motive? Is it enough for me to volunteer without expectations for photo ops and just see what happens?

I think it’s time to just act and stop thinking and analyzing and questioning and researching. I’m picking up the phone.

Well that was disappointing… I have to call back in the morning. Don’t worry though, I will do it.

What about you? Do you volunteer or have plans to volunteer? What kind of volunteer work excites you?

* * *

As I mentioned last week, I am also trying to sell prints of my photos, and donating at least 50 percent of the proceeds to the Stephen Lewis Foundation. Because my thoughts have been turning to parts of the earth that are now enjoying summer, and because I’ve been learning more in photoshop, and because I was so encouraged by the early print sales last week AND being nominated for the Photo/Art Blog category of the Canadian Blog Awards, I have been going back through my South Africa photos and finding new ones I like or new ways to fix old problems.

So I also offer to you, as a treat, the following summer days:

This one was ruined by a big ugly hair in the sky (tiny hair on the lens) and I just learned how to remove it. Salvation!



The Johannesburg skyline from Zoo Lake. I probably posted this one unprocessed before, but I like it better this way.

I'd written this one off before because his ears were cut off, but I love the reflection of sky in his eye and the sort of line that goes down his face and out his tail.

I probably posted this one before too, in black and white, but I love this new processing. This one is now available on my imagekind gallery. If you want to buy a print of an image not yet available there (like one of the zebras), just email me and I can set it up.

For 2008, I'm hoping to find new ways of expanding both my photography and my contribution to nonprofit organizations. Win-win.

* * *

And finally, while I'm on the subject of social justice (sort of), thanks to Matriarch for pointing me to Gloria Steinem's op ed piece in the New York Times. And to feministing, which I'd never seen before... although it really upsets me that they have so much material.

PS can you tell Swee'pea went to bed at a reasonable time last night and tonight? Yeehaw!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Letter to Swee'pea: 23 months old

Dear Swee'pea:


Today you are 23 months old. This month, I can no longer deny, you have become strategic. You've known for a long time that you can influence events, you can make things happen. First you did it with signs and then you learned the finer precison of words. But now you are learning how to equivocate. Bedtime has become a bit of a battleground, as has dressing. You will stop at nothing to delay bedtime, asking for snacks and milk. The first time, I suspected you weren't actually hungry, but I knew that if you were hungry, you wouldn't sleep well. So I took you to your high chair and plunked some noonoos (your absolutely favourite food: any kind of pasta) in front of you. You looked at the food and smiled a triumphant and mischievious smile at me. You took about 15 minutes to eat maybe 10 small noodles, despite my warnings and threats and ranting about the Boy Who Cried Wolf.

Similarly, I have discovered it's much easier to get you dressed if I give you choice. You battle the concept of wearing a shirt much less if I let you choose between the orange shirt and the blue one, the turtle neck or the t-shirt. Now, however, you're onto me. This week, when I asked you to choose between the red socks and the gray ones (a bit dangerous in itself because you've been showing an obvious preference for all blue socks all the time but we were out of clean blue socks), you wanted the red. As soon as I brought the red socks near your feet, you screamed for the gray. And, surprise, surprise, when I went to put the gray socks on, you screamed for the red. This went on for some time until I finally had to be the heavy and tell you that this was your final choice. Period. End of story (I repeated myself a number of times to give you fair warning). Then it devolved into the wrestling match that typified our dressing sessions before I started giving you choices. The wrestling match was followed by intense screaming grieving, and finally a long cuddle before you accepted the socks on your feet.

I was planning to spend a significant portion of this letter complaining about your sleep - the lack of it, or more accurately your inability to fall asleep before 10 p.m. It's been going on for a week and it's seriously damaging my sanity. But, I've been going through my photos from South Africa and I came upon a photo that made me realize how far we've come in the sleep department.

This used to be our reality. I don't think I was as grumpy as I look in the photo - I think I was trying merely to look pensive - but maybe I was grumpy. Because when I zoom in on the photo I can see a sheen of sweat on my forehead.

Now, you take all your naps in the crib, unless you fall asleep in the stroller, and it doesn't usually take long to get you down in it, asleep. Back when that photo was taken, you were waking at least every two hours a night, sometimes more often (I think you were getting molars). Although your bedtime is proving extremely difficult at the moment, you mostly sleep through the night, albeit in our bed. All this to say I will shut up about the bedtime thing (although, if you could make it better, I'd be in a lot better frame of mind... think about it?).

This month your language has taken another leap into the galaxy of compound nouns: garbage truck (bobo da!), newspaper (newww bobo), papertowel (bobo wawa), vegetable soup (baba Boo) etc. You've also discovered adjectives and possessive pronouns. Everything is BIG these days, from plates to spoons to blocks to your poops (I think the daycare taught you that one). Your utterance of the word "my" is usually accompanied by a wounded, hard-done-by look.

Kind of like this. I asked you if perhaps you wanted to switch out your sweater vest for a full sweater, and you declined looking hurt that I would even suggest such a thing.

dec29 028

Christmas just passed and last week we brought your beloved tree down and put our new decorations away. The tree is sitting on our snowy front lawn and I worried about how you would cope with us throwing it out there. Mostly, you've been ok, although every time we come home and leave, you always talk about the tree and how we took the tree down (dee da) and we'll get another one (nana dee) next Christmas. (I don't think you really get the concept of next Christmas though.)

You've been enjoying your Christmas presents, although I've already learned the downside of them (they're a lot of small pieces that make lots of noise when the big box is emptied quickly on the floor, or when you rattle pieces around in a metal collander as if you're panning for gold). We got you a big box of lego blocks, a bag of toy vegetables that you can cut into pieces and peel and then put back together, and a tea set. You love them all and sometimes even combine them to serve vegetable tea or cut blocks. I didn't quite realize that the vegetables came with a toy knife, or I didn't realize quite how disturbing it would be to see you playing with your knife. More than once you've played at stabbing us, so we try not to encourage the knife play. You are an attentive server of tea, promptly asking us if we'd like more as soon as we've taken a sip. And you are not easily distracted from your quest to fill everyone in the room with pots and pots of imaginary tea. It's quite amusing really.

dec29 011

Some nights after you (eventually) go to bed, we will discover a cache of toy vegetable pieces in a collander under your high chair or a line of toy tea cups all nicely ordered along the vent. Except that hasn't happened in days (the bedtime part). As I write this you are still awake. The usual walking back and forth to music didn't work once again, so now your dad is lying down with you in our dark room. I've heard you crying for me several times -- oh! here you go again -- but I can't come to you. I have an angry snake curling around in my belly. If I lie down with you, it rises up and makes me into the kind of mother I never want to be. One who snaps with almost no provocation, one who reacts angrily to every little thing. It's almost feeling like a panic disorder, these moments when you won't sleep and won't leave me alone, and I feel like I will never escape.

It scares me that I want to escape motherhood sometimes. Makes me wonder if perhaps I'm one of those women after all -- one of those mothers who abandons her child(ren) forever, or simply buries herself in other work, barely sparing a distracted hug or chuckle or pat on the head for her child(ren). Not that I'm going to do it right now, just sometimes I see clearly that I could become - permanently - the kind of mother I really didn't want to be. I had one moment when I thought maybe you would be better off without me, that I'm not good enough for you because I'm so angry. I imagine that's how mothers who abandon their children feel too.

I don't know why I'm so angry. So much of my life is really quite pleasant, including you. I just don't seem able to appreciate it at certain moments that overwhelm me with little warning. It used to be that at the points I knew I just couldn't take anymore, you would suddenly sleep well, and the edge I was perched on would recede to a safer distance. This has not been the case the last few nights. I hope these moments aren't all that you remember of me. I hope that overall, you find comfort and love in your memories of me. I hope things get better really soon.

I'm sorry I've spent so much of this letter going on about me and your lousy sleep habits, but they are a part of you, as am I. And besides, if you're reading this, surely we did something right?

Love Always,

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Me, a Spam Blog?


Yesterday, Blogger locked my blog because they thought it was a spam blog. Blogger says spam blogs are characterized by irrelevant, repetitive and nonsensical text with many links often to the same site.

Consider yourself warned: irrelevant, repetitive and nonsensical text is coming right up.

The day started out shit, literally, when our cat shat on our bedroom carpet, and continued that way. After work, Swee'pea had a meltdown at the daycare when I tried to put all his winter clothes on for the 10-minute walk home, and I couldn't cave because it was minus 13 celsius without the wind chill. His screaming rached boiling point when I wrestled him into the stroller against his will and bumped over the barely plowed sidewalk. He literally screamed all the way home. That does wacky things to an already stretched-too-thin mother: I joined his screaming from time to time in my finest mothering moment yet. I just panicked, because it was the only way home and I wasn't convinced he was dressed warmly enough and I didn't want to waste time putting his toque back on over and over and over again or pleading with him to stop crying so the tears wouldn't freeze on his cheeks.

I was pretty drained and ashamed by the time we made it home and Swee'pea melted down again, screaming for his doodoo then screaming louder when I brought it to him. Finally, he collapsed into my arms, doodoo in mouth, and I checked my email with him on my lap. Which was when I found out that Blogger had locked my blog:
Dear Blogger user,

This is a message from the Blogger team.

Your blog has been identified as a potential spam blog. For an explanation of what spam blogs are, please see Blogger Help:

You will not be able to publish posts to your blog until we review your site and confirm that it is not a spam blog. To request a review, please fill out the form found here:

We will take a look at your blog and unlock it within four business days. Please note that if we do not hear from you within 20 days, we will remove your blog. If this blog does not belong to you, then you do not have to do anything. Any other blogs you may have will not be affected.

Since you are an actual person reading this, your blog is probably not spam. We find spam by using an automated classifier. Automatic spam detection is inherently fuzzy, and occasionally a blog is flagged incorrectly. We sincerely apologize for this erroneous result. By using this kind of system, however, we can dedicate more storage, bandwidth, and engineering resources to users like you instead of to spammers.

Thank you for your understanding and for your help in our spam-fighting efforts.


The Blogger Team

I responded immediately, because I'd already posted four posts using their visual verification test AND requested a human review to remove that damn visual verification. When I went to their little help page and saw that my blog got caught by some sort of filter for irrelevance, repetition and nonsense, I just felt hurt, betrayed by the very people who encouraged those qualities. Although I gave Blogger 24 hours to respond before I left them, I just don't think I can live with them after that kind of betrayal.

Work is already underway to move to using wordpress. I'll let you know when it's set up.

* * *

Today WAS a better day, apart from being unable to post. I just got word that my blog has been reviewed and cleared of all spam blog-related charges.

And as a side effect, not being able to blog freed me up to try out an online service to sell some of my prints.They ship anywhere in the world, offer a range of paper and print qualities (with the most affordable option still offering great quality), and I will donate 50 percent of any proceeds to the Stephen Lewis Foundation. I've just uploaded my very favourite images of 2007 so if you've seen a photo on here that you'd like to buy, and you don't see it in my imagekind gallery, just email me and I can set it up. The site's a bit hard to navigate but if things go well, I will set up a better, more navigable online gallery that just links to imagekind for the actual purchasing.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Given the amount of fun (and wine) I had last night, I should probably feel worse than I do. Our two closest friends came over to see in the New Year, who are leaving IN TWO WEEKS for Malawi. For a year! I've referred to her around these parts as Banana but she's finally gotten her own blog for the trip and has come out as Janna. Which is much nicer than Banana. Her partner also has a blog, supposedly, but I haven't seen it yet. I just barely managed not to get maudlin and weepy last night by just not thinking about the whole long year stretching ahead with no Janna. I'm really quite unsure how I will maintain my sanity, as she's pretty much my only real (life), close friend. Anybody feel like moving to G-town?!?

On Cake

Janna very kindly brought me a specially decorated carrot cake (my favourite!) with my name and flowers and everything. AND brown icing -- how special is that?!?

jan1 004

I also need to mention that my mother baked me a cake too this year, a chocolate carrot cake with chocolate cream cheese frosting, all from scratch, which my sister witnessed herself. I believe this was the first cake she made me since I was six and asked for a store-bought cake. (What was I thinking?)

I can't remember if I blogged this last year but because my birthday falls on a stat holiday if someone forgets to get me a cake they can't fake it and run out and buy one at the last minute. This has happened twice in the last seven years, so I'm a bit sensitive. I don't need much in the way of gifts or anything, but I DO want a cake, and I make my expectations known in advance so there's no misunderstanding. This year is by far the best for cake.

This morning we've been pretty much snowed in again, which is kind of nice when you're just a bit hungover and still lethargic from the holiday gorging. I've spent a good portion of today working on my photos and trying to learn more about photoshop and thinking about how I want to do my online portfolio. My goal is to have it up and running by the end of March, early February if at all possible. I'm going to try to sell prints, and maybe cards or something, with at least half of all proceeds going to the Stephen Lewis Foundation. But we still have to work out the technological details. I'll keep you posted...

I know some of you wanted to see my birthday photos. So here you go...


While shooting this place, I came upon a dead cat. It looked like it died horribly with its head stuck in the chicken wire fence, and its body was stretched out tautly, I suppose trying to break free. It was orange and white, like many of the friendliest cats I have known (and I've known a lot). I also think I've seen more orange and white cats dead than any other colour. At first I thought maybe it was still alive because it was so fluffy, but then I remembered my brother's cat preserved in his shed until the ground softens in the spring and back when I was in high school the friend's boyfriend who kept his cat in his deep freeze until spring. I couldn't just pretend I hadn't seen it though, and as wrong as it felt, I had to make a photo. I felt disgusted with myself, wondering what it meant that I would make a photo of a creature who had obviously died in agony. Obviously, though, I can't post it on the Web. THAT would be disgusting. There's something about pictures of dead things that I can never quite look at or believe they're actually dead. I do feel ok now that I made the image. It was really the only way to honour his or her passing.


And the cement factory:




I felt 17 again, speeding down the highway from the cement factory to the burnt out old house, which just happened to be right around the corner from the factory I worked at for two summers around my first year of university. That freedom of just driving, without anxiety, without a schedule, just driving... it was rejuvenating.

I was inspired by Sugar D's birthday gift for me, a book of photography by Rudy Burckhardt, who I hadn't heard of before but whose photos are great and I was so touched that Sugar D picked it out specifically because his photos reminded him of mine. So I also shot some still lifes at my parents'.



I would never have thought about trying to sell my photos without your encouragement and support. This online community is so strange and beautiful in the way it can change lives.

(Aarggh! I keep forgetting that blogger cuts off a significant portion of my photos... it really does make a difference...)