Sunday, March 30, 2008

porcelain altars, crazy, and Cuba

Ugh. I threw up Friday afternoon... luckily (in a way) I'd been so nauseous at work that I came home around noon, and felt awful in my own bed for a coupla hours before actually doing the technicolour yawn. When I left work, I worried I was just being fooled by a panic attack, that I was somehow regressing to the anxiety of a few years ago, so it was (almost) vindicating to spend hours and hours and hours shaking with cold, and feeling exhausted and nauseous, complete with a prayer to the porcelain goddess. I wasn't panicked, I was actually ill! Very, very ill!

Anyways, I spent yesterday horizontal and feeling weak, and today I'm upright. I've even left the house, although I cancelled my shift at the drop-in centre this morning. Somehow I thought my commitment and its attendant possibility of contagion would not be appreciated, especially considering the whole food handling aspect.

I hope to hell we've now paid our illness dues for the winter. I've had three different bugs in the last month, two of them awful, and Swee'pea and Sugar D have suffered nearly as much.

I'm even feeling strong enough to enjoy some good news. We booked a trip to Cuba! In three weeks! (Yay tax return!)

And even more significantly, our family member who has been of no fixed address for the last two and a half months, moved into her very own one-bedroom, subsidized apartment. This is truly amazing, especially considering the fact that any time I raised the subject of exploring a subsidized apartment (and I'd done it more and more over the last several months), she shut the subject down immediately, coldly, in no uncertain terms.

Mostly, we have the case worker we've been working with for the last year to thank for this. She'd not been able to meet with our family member until a month or two ago, because we figured our family member would be hostile and slam the door in her face. But because our family member was being sheltered in a motel on the Drop-In Centre's dime (yes, the very same drop-in centre that I started volunteering at the same weekend our family member lost her most recent housing), she was able to make contact and develop a rapport. It was the case worker who not only found an available and appropriate (not to mention idyllic!) unit, but who convinced our family member to consider it, and who negotiated terms that were acceptable to our family member. I want to kiss the case worker, or send her flowers or chocolate or donate somewhere in her name, if she can't accept gifts.

I'm also grateful for the contact we made with the drop-in centre. Until I started volunteering there, I had no idean of the range of services they provided. They really helped take the pressure off us during this difficult time, and even provided food vouchers and once a food delivery when our family member hung up on us after telling us she had no food.

The other key factor, I think, is that our family member slipped on the ice several weeks ago and sprained her ankle, which meant she wasn't able to look on her own for her usual kind of housing (a room in a house shared with the landlord -- the kind that has no security and never lasts because the landlords are driven crazy by her crazy-making behaviour). Now, our family member doesn't have to share space with anyone, and has a full apartment with big windows that is walking distance to the places she needs and wants to be walking distance to. I hate to jinx it, but there's a lot more chance of long-term success than there has been anywhere else she's lived in the last five to ten years. Not only that, but she's met the case worker, and trusts her, so hopefully over time that relationship can lead to more help, now that the immediate housing need has been taken care of.

Dealing with our family member is hard, and sometimes makes me feel like "Why me?!?" but it's also taught me more thoroughly than anything else could have that we cannot take our mental health for granted. We all have the potential for mental illness, if we have enough bad shit thrown at us, if our capacity for coping is overwhelmed by just too much to cope with.

Friday, March 28, 2008


Ministry of Seasonal Compliance

March 28, 2008


Dear March,

As you know, our organization contracts with you and 11 other months to provide Canadians with a varied weather experience each month of the calendar year. The terms of our agreement require you to do one of the following:

1) come in like a lamb and go out like a lion, or
2) come in like a lion and go out like a lamb.

In more literal words, you must bring about some form of mild weather, and it is up to your discretion whether that falls at the beginning or the end of the month. As at the date of this letter, we have seen not even the merest suggestion of lamb-like weather.

The end of your term for this year ends in three days, and we cannot urge you strongly enough to desist with all this lion-like weather. Your behaviour over the last 28 days could have a negative impact on April, and its reputation for being the cruellest month. If do not go out like a lamb, April may need to modify its raison d’etre.

The fact that you are also contravening Wiarton Willie’s prediction of an early spring only adds to our concern that you are not abiding by the terms of our agreement. If you do not go out like a lamb, we will be forced to consider alternative arrangements for next year, including contracting April for a double term or perhaps even extending the summer months’ contracts.

We hope you will do the right thing and demonstrate our shared commitment to appropriate seasonal behaviour. We look forward to continued partnership.

Yours sincerely,

The Honourable Jane Weatherby
Minister of Seasonal Compliance

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

six-word epitaph

for Mad.

Risk taker only in my imagination.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I'm trying really hard not to giggle every time I type wiener

I just this minute finished reading How do you Photograph People? by Leigh Wiener, a professional photographer. I'm sure it's well overdue at the library, but I wanted to take my time with it, to get the most out of it. The book seems to be out of print, but if you can find it, I highly recommend it.

Wiener uses an interesting structure for the book: questions that his celebrity subjects have asked over the years, often accompanied by the very portraits that came from the interchange. Along with some technical tips (like shooting from above helps eliminate double chins -- self-portraits here I come!), he also talks about the psychology a portrait photographer must understand and make use of to get his subjects to relax and reveal parts of themselves they would rather protect. Some quotes that will circle my mind for a long time:

"I never worry about composition, but I am constantly aware of it. There is a difference."


"There are many, many decisive moments, and this brings us to the best reason for taking many pictures: the subject himself. Once rapport has been established and the subject is relaxed, he begins to reveal many portraits of himself. I want as many as I can get.

"There is no such thing as a single best picture of a person."

Carrying on in the same theme, he asserts later,
"Since the beginning of time, there has never been a decisive moment -- or an indecisive moment for that matter... Moments are like minutes and hours, days and weeks: one just follows another.

"It is people who are decisive or indecisive; not the moments in time. As a photographer, you create hte image. You decide when to release the shutter. You, the photographer, are the decisive element in the taking of the a photograph, not some hyped-up moment. Your sensitivity and your understanding of the subject matter, and your point of view, will determine whether your photograph is decisive or not."

This past weekend, my dad turned 65 and I decided to try to document our family, potentially for a belated gift. Wiener's book has definitely changed my approach to portraits -- where before I (mostly unsuccessfully) tried to be an unobtrusive observer with a lightning fast trigger finger, now I try to make the person in front of me comfortable, and not to show my self-consciousness.

My one niece has no shyness with the camera... she was so absorbed in her play, I'm not even sure she noticed me. (This shot was totally unset-up by the way. She chose her outfit -- the tutu was compliments of the Easter Bunny -- and she just started playing with these plastic masks my parents brought home from their recent cruise.)


But my other niece said she hates getting her picture taken, and it showed. Most of the shots I made of her are blurry from camera shake (I ordered a new Nikon 50 mm F1.8 lens yesterday because I can't stand how slow my kit zoom lens is so hopefully that won't happen again), but I did get one sharp shot that I think is not bad.


Here are some other people shots I like from the weekend:




My brother opened another art show this weekend, and it was great to get the chance to go. This is my mom, looking at some of the reading material. I'll post more pics from the gallery later, because I like them, and I think they'll go nicely together.

**It seems my other blog is broken, and Sugar D is in bed with flu, so I can't fix it. So I'm posting here... sorry.

Monday, March 24, 2008

one day left - free ground shipping from Imagekind

For anyone in the US, if you order more than $15 worth of stuff from Imagekind, you get free ground shipping. Maybe this would be a good time to get some greeting cards or something else? Just type SPRING2008 as the coupon code when you check out.


(I suppose it's appropriate that Canada's not included in the promotion since there are no signs of spring yet...)

I went to my parents' for the weekend for my dad's 65th birthday (and Easter), where Swee'pea ralphed and ran right before we left last night. Didn't get home till late last night (yay traffic!) and have been cooped up inside all day with a kid who doesn't realize his tummy his upset so keeps asking for all kinds of food and gets very upset when I don't let him have it. Shot lots, probably more to come on that...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

more blathering

I just finished watching The Motorcycle Diaries. Something about the time when Che was at the leper colony where the Amazon segregated the ill from the healthy, something about the nuns there, made me think about the drop-in centre. It seems I'm only capable of blogging about three things days: photography, woe is me, and the drop-in centre, and I suspect I've been losing readers. My apologies.

My brother was really into revolution theology; he even considered converting to Catholicism, but didn't for some reason. He went to Chiapas, Mexico, probably 10 years ago now, and did research for a series of paintings of people who had been murdered in the struggle for freedom. He called it Portraits of the Disappeared. One of the most beautiful pieces was of Bishop Romero, who was murdered while he gave mass. After my brother came back to Canada and painted the actual paintings, he returned to Mexico to give some of them to the families of the deceased. My sister lived in Havana, Cuba for three years, and Santiago, Chile for a year or two. Her PhD and subsequent career is mostly focused on Latin America. And yet I know very little about Che Guevara, apart from his face of course, which I know from all the t-shirts.

* * *

I've never known a real-life nun before, and the thing that most surprises me about Sister Christine is her humanity. I expected a nun to have some otherworldly grace and serenity about her, to have a peaceful face that indicated a rich inner life. But Sister Christine isn't like that. She is down to earth. She bosses us around and she is stern when she needs to be. People are constantly wanting a word with her, and she gives everyone the time they need, including me. I don't know much about Christ or Catholicism, but it seems to me that Sister Christine really is doing Christ's work, the way he intended when he said things like love your neighbour and, even, love your enemy.

* * *

A couple of weeks ago, one of the long-time volunteers mentioned that she just didn't like one of the clients, a woman. She said she likes people, but she just doesn't like that woman. At first I was shocked, but then I was ashamed to realize that there was more respect in her dislike than there was in my naive sympathy.

* * *

I chatted with a young girl in college about why we're volunteering. She has to do community service as part of her program, and I told her about how I liked it so much I immediately upped my commitment from two hours a month to two hours a week. She responded with something about every little bit helps, but it fell flat with me. We're serving coffee; we're not saving the world. This isn't like recycling or using fluorescent bulbs or not driving as much where every little bit really does help. The people who keep coming back to volunteer at the drop-in centre do it because they like it, they like meeting the people the meet, they like the structure or how it feels, it keeps them sober or healthy in some other way. Whatever. It's not because every little bit helps, and anyone who thinks they're being altruistic is fooling themselves.

* * *

My eyes are certainly opening. Last weekend, one of the clients looked so rough, all bleary and blood-shot eyes under his brimmed hat; I remember feeling that way sometimes when I was in school. A kid I hadn't seen before kept his hood up the whole time and sucked back at least six cups of coffee within at most two hours. It didn't seem to help him, but one of the volunteers reckoned the coffee consumption was related to addictions of one kind or another. Another couple of kids never have any money, and I remember how much I didn't like spending money on food. I always wanted to save it for booze. One volunteer was doing a sales pitch on the gravy last weekend, which was mushroom based, with imported mushrooms no less. The kid said something to me about mushrooms from Mexico being really good. Really? I said, thinking I'll have to keep my eye open for them at the grocery store. They laughed a lot and I finally caught on that he wasn't talking about the gravy.

I wonder if I would have gone to the drop-in centre if I had known about it when I was drinking heavily at school? I probably would have. I'm not judging these folks, because addicts and alcoholics need to eat, and if they're so addicted they can't pay for it, I'm really glad they have somewhere to go for food and friendliness.

* * *

I really enjoyed the Motorcycle Diaries, although it took me several nights to get through it. It's a slow, important kind of movie. (It didn't hurt that the actor who plays Che is very, very hot.)

* * *

A month or more ago, I had to switch my Sunday morning shift to Saturday afternoon. And I saw the guy I shot last May, the one I'd been slightly concerned about since I hadn't seen him panhandling since. I struck up a conversation with him, reminding him that I'd taken his picture, and he said yes he thought he remembered that. I said I could give him some prints if he wanted, the following weekend, and he said that would be great. I asked his name, and he told me, and I introduced myself. So I had the prints made (I guiltily only included the shots that he knew I took, not the ones that I took before I asked his permission), and put them in my coat pocket and nervously went the next Sunday. But he wasn't there. And not the next Sunday or the one after that or the one after THAT. I asked a long-time volunteer about him, and how he'd said that Sister Christine pays for anything he wants, and how yes, sometimes she does that for certain people (like her sister). Anyways, it also came out that he doesn't often come on Sundays, but he's alwasy there on Saturdays.

So last Saturday I stopped in after the Farmer's Market and sure enough, he was there, at his usual table. I gave him the pictures and as he looked at them, his face crinkled into an even bigger smile than when he smiled for my camera, and he chuckled a few times. As he passed them around the table, I asked, nervous that he wouldn't like my processing or the way he looked, "Do you like them?" And he said yes. Thank you.

Sometimes at the drop-in centre, I've noticed that thank you can be uttered with a special, slow signifcance, often with a moment of penetrating eye contact that causes everything to slow down. They are moments that make me think the thank you is about something entirely different from the thing they're thanking me for. It happened for the second time last Saturday, just for a second, then things sped up again and I walked out, saying see you tomorrow to a few people.


I was rudely awakened very, very early this morning (4 a.m. to be precise) by a not-very-familiar but clearly identifiable burbling-slash-retching sound coming from the little person who was wedged against me. This is not a nice sound to wake up to, especially when it's still very very dark. I was pretty impressed with my instincts, though, even if I do say so myself. I leapt upright, and pointed him out of the bed, then traipsed down the hall to the toilet. It doesn't seem to matter what's in front of him though, because I managed to get puked on six times by 7 a.m. He seems to have stopped, and now he's sleeping, hopefully for a long time to get over the very early morning.

This stomach bug comes when I am also sick with a miserable cold. I came home before lunch yesterday I was feeling so rotten and sorry for myself since I did just have a nasty flu a few weeks ago, AND I got woken from my attempted nap yesterday by not one but TWO fucking telemarketers. Let's just hope we can keep our bugs to ourselves...

* * *

Is it me, or is there a lot less blogging going on this week? I'm having no trouble keeping up with my bloglines, and that's kind of unusual...

* * *

Edited to add: Ugh. Just when I thought we'd put the worst behind us, Swee'pea just christened our new couch in a major way. Any tips for getting puke out of a stainguarded couch? Also, what does one do with a brand-new, vomited-on 2008 Photographer's Market?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Winter is beginning to recede!

Last weekend was bright and sunny, not particularly mild but not particularly freezing either. So I took my camera with me on our usual weekend trips to the Farmer's Market, Planet Bean Café, and the library.

planet bean cafe
I'm a sucker for a clear reflection, and I love all the heads poking out from places you don't expect to see people's heads.

On the way to the library, I noticed this guy and his crazy beard from half a block away. The huz was all grim resignation, you want to take his picture, don't you, and I was all, YEAH! So he proceeded to the library with Swee'pea and I shot these kids playing hackey sack before meeting back up at the library.

The guy with the dreads kept tapping his fingers on the drum every time the sack came near him, almost like a nervous tic, and randomly blowing into his harmonica.

*Cross-posted at my new blog, the one that will eventually be part of my own gallery site.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Yesterday I went shopping. I've had a $50 gift card to Chapters burning a hole in my pocket since Christmas, and I finally decided what to do with it. I was going to buy The Photoshop CS2 Book for Digital Photographers by Scott Kelby, which I got out of the library a couple of months ago and saw it would be a great reference book to own.

When I got there, however, they didn't have any copies left of the CS2 book, only the CS3. So I browsed the photography section, and along with the 2008 Photographer's Market, I decided to get Forsaken by Lana Slezic.

Immediately I knew this was a special book. It is the only book I own that I won't look at or hold if I'm eating or drinking. Something about it makes me want to keep it pristine.

What started as a six-week assignment in Afghanistan for Canadian photographer Lana Slezic quickly lengthened into a two-year project. She and her friend/translator, Farazan, quietly travelled the country, speaking to Afghan women and listening to their stories. Over and over again she heard horrible stories of forced marriages, abuse, illiteracy, murder and suicide, stories that made it clear that the end of the Taliban has not freed Afghan women in any meaningful way. I flipped through the pages in the bookstore enough to identify a collection of beautiful photos, more engaging than any of the other photo books on the shelves. That it was created by a Canadian woman was a bonus.

Last night I sat down to go through the book more slowly, cover to cover. I was transfixed and finished it in one sitting. I can't imagine how tightly edited the colletion must be, since Slezic spent two years shooting, and I found the structure of the book really enhanced my experience and exploration of the images. The preface by Deborah Ellis situates these photos and stories in a country destroyed by a quarter-century of war.

I'm normally a pretty quick viewer of photos; I decide very quickly whether I think it is good or bad, beautiful or boring, then move on. I rarely spend time lingering over an image, but I did with many of the images in Forsaken.

The text is concise and it seems to me that rather than trying to tell every story Slezic heard, the stories are included only as an introduction to the magnitude of the force oppressing women in Afghanistan. The stories are an entry to the photos, where the real narrative is. In the images, we see women gathered in a dress shop, covered in burkas, the mannequins behind them modelling the dresses that must be hidden on the real-life women. We see a woman weeping on a crude, snow-covered grave, her head pressed to the stone. We see hands holding photos, a single eye illuminated by a strip of sunlight in darkness, we see burkas, we see children playing and living in crumbling buildings. And those are just a few of what linger in my mind, more than 12 hours after my last viewing. If a photo has a story with it, you only find out after you turn the page, and none of the photos have captions, which forced me to examine the photos for information. I was pleased to discover captions for all the photos at the back of the book, but by the time I got there, I was resigned to experiencing the photos on their own terms. If you enjoy photography and feminism, I definitely recommend this book.

You can see most of the images from the book at Slezic's website and several of her other projects. All of her images are simply beautiful. She's working on her next book, which will collect images of her family's home town, Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

where have I been?

The intense relief I felt upon hearing we didn't that lovely house kicked off a frenzy of spending ideas. It was like we'd just gotten a raise or a windfall not having to pay for that house. We could go to Cuba! I could get a new lens! I could go to BlogHer! Maybe I could go on some photography workshop! I've looked into most of those options but so far haven't done any. Now, the frenzy has given way to mild sadness. Every time I'm in the vicinity of that house, or near somewhere where I thought about that house, I feel sad. Sad that the two weeks of moving in our belongings and family will never be. It's ok, really, I know it was never meant to be and there is probably something better (and less expensive) around the corner.

After my initial disappointment at having gained 10 pounds in the last few months and not in fact having shrunk all my pants as I'd originally thought, I've been going to the gym with respectable frequency. I thought the weight would fall off with the increased activity and decreased wine and cookie consumption but sadly no. At least I'm not gaining weight, but still. I think the next move will be to buy new dishes. I strongly suspect that there is a downside to "generously proportioned" dinnerware as nice as the pumpkin colour is.

I've also been thinking a lot about photography. Someone's starting up SoFoBoMo, sort of like NaNoWriMo. If you sign up, the goal is to create a solo photo book with 35 photos, all laid out preferably in a pdf. You have 30 days to make the photos, process them, and lay them out with any text. I haven't signed up, but I've been thinking about it for the last month at least. I'm not sure if I want to sign up, but I think I may try to play along informally, so that if I don't follow through I have no one to answer to buy myself.

I've also been exploring blurb and their bookmaking software to see what it's like. It's really easy and you can even import your blog to lay it out for a book, but you don't end up with a pdf. You end up with a file format that can only be produced by blurb, which I suppose makes sense since the software is free but still.

Anyways, last weekend I asked Sister Christine's permission to approach people at the Drop In Centre about sitting for me, and she agreed, if somewhat unenthusiastically. I think she was concerned that I would just go shooting everyone without their permission, and "some people are funny about pictures." I didn't do a great job of reassuring her because I was nervous, but I know inside myself that I will make sure not just to get people's consent but to make sure they understand this is for an art project. So we'll see where that goes...

Sugar D's been working hot and heavily on my own gallery site, which will also have a blog focused mostly on photography. I've been surfing the web checking out other photographers and looking for workshops and thinking about possible projects. Sometimes it feels really good to be working on something bigger than myself and my family, but other times it's scary as hell. Sometimes I get scared that my newfound ambition is interfering with my parenting. I remain haunted by Her Bad Mother's passing comment somewhere else that some famous author's kids talked about always wanting to be inside the room their mother was in, always feeling, literally and figuratively, shut out. Anyways, I'm trying not to get paralyzed by thinking. The important thing, and I have to keep consciously reminding myself, is to keep seeing and looking and squeezing the shutter.

My wrists are tingling. I've been typing like mad at work this week and my wrists are really feeling it, so I'll sign off now.

Monday, March 10, 2008

whose bright idea was this anyways?!?

It is absolutely absurd to see daylight until nearly 8 o'clock at night when the only thing it's illuminating is six-foot high snowbanks. Daylight Savings Time is starting WAY too early.

It is equally bizarre to walk out to a crystal-clear, mind-freezing morning, the kind you usually experience mid-January, and hear spring birds singing.

Surely I'm not alone in this?

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Letter to Swee'pea: 25 months

Dear Swee'pea:


Yesterday you turned 25 months old. This letter is a day late because I was planning to write about how the last month has been nothing but sunshine and honey with you, and after that I sort of ran out of material. Over the last two days, however, we've swung back to the dark side of toddlerhood. You've been whining a lot and getting very upset at the drop of a hat. I hesitate to call them tantrums, because I'm not seeing anger so much as frustration tinged with hurt, some form of disillusionment.

I can't help but wonder if these outbursts have anything to do with your speech, and the difficulties people have understanding what you're saying. Shortly after I last wrote, your daycare centre suggested that you might benefit from speech therapy. I've filled out all the forms but nothing's happened yet. I suspect these things can be slow to start. Since then, you've started pronouncing the "s" sound at the ends of words to indicate both possesion and plural, as well as just words that end with s like bus. I found your breakthrough initially quite encourging. But then I discovered that it actually became harder to understand you, because you also use the sound of s to indicate f and soft g's. So, for example, where once move was "moo" now it sounds something like "moosh" or "mooce," off is "oss," and garbage is "babooce." I'm sure you can appreciate how confusing this could be. It seems like the concepts you are trying to express and the sentence structures you use just keept getting more complex, but your mouth and our ears can't keep up. (I mean, you're saying things like "Cat in the Hat" but it sounds like daadadadaa.)

And so I've found myself helplessly and apologetically telling you, "I'm sorry, I don't understand what you're trying to say," over and over again in the last week or two. I can't imagine how frustrating that must be. I suppose it shouldn't really be surprising that you're suddenly prone to bursting into tears, absolutely inconsolable. Hopefully our ears will catch up with your new ways of speaking, and the tears will peter out.

Last weekend we went to our favourite Latin restaurant, the one that has a shelf full of toys and books for kids. On Saturday nights they have a musician play, and that night it was a man playing his guitar and singing classic rock. You enjoyed the show, and every time he finished a song you would clap your hands and cheer, "Yaaaaay!" The singer loved your attention and I think the other diners and staff were also pretty entertained. You were an absolute pleasure to dine with, relaxed and quiet apart from your friendly cheers, and eating your favourite noonoos with gusto when you could tear your attention away from the singer. It was a really lovely evening, and as we left, one of the servers said you must be an old soul, you must have been two before. It was funny, because just that day or the day before, I'd been studying the palms of your hands and remarking upon how lined they are, how lined they'd been since you were born. I once knew another child with hands like that, and I've always believed it to be the mark of an old soul.

You were sick a few weeks ago. It was the first time you've ever cuddled up on the couch with a blanket, and you sat very still and watched Big Bird, your eyelids heavy.

We've really enjoyed a lot of laughter this month. You've started undressing yourself and every night the three of us go upstairs to your bedroom and sit on your big bed while you take your clothes off with a little assistance, always in the same order. You start with your socks, pull each one off by the toe, then get off the bed to put them in your laundry hamper, stopping to check yourself out in the window reflection. Next comes your shirt, and you tell us which one of us you want to help; usually it's me who pulls your sleeves off your arms and the shirt over your head. Then you toddle over to the hamper, stopping to admire yourself in the mirror, pat your chest or your belly, and exclaim that you have No Shirt On! ("no do dah"). Next we undo the fastener on your pants, and you pull them down and step out or shake them off each foot in turn, followed by the trip to the hamper and the exclamation of "No Pants On!" Then we take your diaper off and your gallop into the bathroom and your bare butt disappearing from view at speed is just about the cutest thing ever.

You've also gotten a lot more sophisticated in your peekaboo play. I'll come out of the kitchen, and not be able to see you anywhere. Then I'll hear a giggle or squeal of delight from behind the couch or the kitchen door and I'll look over and there you are! You never seem to tire of this hilarity, and frankly neither do I. Last night I tucked you in and came downstairs and 10 minutes or so later, you started calling for me. Usually you fall asleep quickly once I leave, so I didn't mind going back upstairs for another brief cuddle. When I looked into your room, I couldn't see you. You'd pulled the covers over your face and hands to completely hide yourself, and when you heard me ask, "Where's Swee'pea?" you threw them back and squealed again. I thought it showed remarkable planning skills on your part.

The other day you had a check-up with the doctor. You weren't keen to stay on the scale while she measured your height, but after the appointment I couldn't get you off it. You are 34.5 inches tall (50th percentile) and you weigh 30 pounds 10 ounces (just over the 75th percentile). You still have a hearty appetite and it's showing. The doctor was most impressed to hear how much you like to eat curried cauliflower and potatoes. Later in the day I decided to take you to get a potty. You've been expressing interest in peeing and the toilet, so I figured we'd get one for when you were ready to try sitting on it.

Never before have I regretted a purchase so intensely and so immediately as I did that day. You picked out the potty yourself, a yellow one, after sorting through the pink, blue and red ones, and I figured it was good that you were keen. It was nearly dinnertime when we got home, but immediately you wanted to sit on your potty. "Pee!" you kept demanding, so fine. I put on Big Bird Goes to China, your favourite (and just about only) movie and plunked the potty down in front of it, figuring I'd make dinner while you "peed." Pleased as punch, you sat. And sat. And sat. Until you stood up and peed on the floor.


Then I thought I'd better put a diaper and pants on you, because I couldn't keep a close eye on you AND cook dinner, but no. "NO Diaper!" ("No baba") you said and chucked the diaper across the room. You wanted to eat but I (horrible, unjust mother than I am) wouldn't let you eat on the potty. I wanted you to sit in either your high chair or the 50s telephone table that you call your big tractor ("bee dada"), and for that I required that you have pants AND a diaper on. Oh, the injustice. Eventually I got you to permit the diaper and pants and even socks, and set some food in front of you on the big tractor. I went into the kitchen to start dinner, and came back out a few minutes later for some reason or other, and you'd put the potty on the chair of the telephone table and put yourself in the potty! So I did what I any safety-concerned mother would do and got the camera and took pictures before telling you that you absolutely must not sit on the potty on the telephone table, the potty must stay on the floor.


To make a long story short, the potty ended up in the bathroom upstairs, you cried for nearly an hour and I postponed dinner trying to console you and use logic to explain why I'd so unfairly put the potty next to mama and dada's potty. By the time your dad got home, slightly later than expected, we were both drained.

Your attention to detail and fastidiousness has also become more obvious this month. Now, you accompany me to the bathroom most mornings, and while I pee on the toilet you close the lid on the toothpaste and shampoo and moisturizer bottles that your dad and I have left open because we're lazy slobs like that. When we get down to the kitchen, you spend your first few minutes closing the cupboard doors and drawers that your dad and I left partly open after you went to bed. I also have an eye for detail, so I'm not surprised you have it too. I mean, I notice that the drawers and cupboards and toothpaste tubes are open, but I'm too lazy to DO anything about it. But where you got the urge to actually address these transgressions??? I have no idea!

I keep saying this, but soon we are really going to have to do something about soother addiction. You want your "doodoo" all the time, and I feel guilty when I wonder if that's why you're having difficulty with your speech. Every time I pluck the damn thing out of the your mouth - pop! - within minutes to you're whining and crying for it and I think, I just don't have strength for this battle today, maybe tomorrow. But one of these days we're just going to have to hunker down in the trenches and tough it out.


Overall, I'm loving this stage of your childhood. We're all sleeping much better, you can tell me when you're hungry or thirsty - heck you even take what you want out of the fridge - you pick out your own books for us to read, you make us laugh all the time. Of course the whining and crying are not so fun, but the giggles and tickles far outweigh the bad times. You are a treat.

Love Always and Forever,

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Lost without internet

Our internet at home is broken again and I can't spend my work day blogging. How unfair! Just in case we don't get it fixed soon, that's why I'm not able to visit... I'm seriously twitchy with withdrawl.

Oh -- and I've been wanting to talk about last week's episode of Lost but I don't know many people IRL who watch it.

Was Desmond's "I love you. I've always loved you," speech knee-weakening, or what? I think he overtook Sawyer in my Lost fantasies with that episode. What did you think? What are your theories about the island and all that?

Monday, March 03, 2008

imperfect world

The Original Perfect Post Awards 02.08

I wish I weren't awarding this perfect post. I wish the thing that spawned it hadn't happened. But it did, and I had to recognize the beauty and generosity and honesty of Mad's many moods of miscarriage part 2. (Part 1 is here.)

More perfects posts are at Suburban Turmoil and Petroville. The last two years of perfect posts are now available in a library.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

backwards in time

Deep down, I knew it had to happen, because I'd seen the reference to diapers and formula on the services description when I called to volunteer, but I'd hoped it was such a rare occurrence that I just wouldn't see it. I saw it today.

A boy, early twenties, came in with a baby this morning. At first I thought the baby was no more than three months old because of a faint head wobble visible under the fleece. But I think the baby was a couple of months older than that, just sleeping. He sat for a few minutes at a table, his back to me and the counter. I watched him sit with his head resting on the baby's head in that universal gesture, his fingers absently stroking the fine hair.

I imagine he just inhabited that moment, as I have so many times, every part of my being centred in the feel of my hand and face on this precious head, all soft and vulnerable. More likely, though, given where he was, he didn't have the luxury of just enjoying his child for a moment in between obligations and feedings and cries, more likely his head was full of all the circumstances that brought him here, in need of how much I have no idea. I'm guessing diapers and formula to start. I hope he has a home and I hope the baby has some relationship with the mother; I hope they're just having a stroke of temporary bad luck, a dry patch between paycheques.

I can't help but think, though, that that poor child, of whom I saw only a wisp of hair and a Michelin man outline of fleece, hasn't got a chance of seeing anything more than the insides of drop-in centres. I left the centre a bit early, my heart like lead in my belly and my eyes like sprinklers seconds before the spray.

* * *

A lit bit earlier, a woman I'd never seen before came up to the counter, after the first rush of lunch but close enough for me to offer her a meal. Her hair was bleached blonde and in a ponytail, and she had a thin line of black eyeliner on her lower eyelids. I noticed because not many women wear make-up here and because in high school I'd always wanted to get that thin line of eyeliner but never mastered it.

No, just a coffee, she said, I ate yesterday. I laugh, thinking it's just a figure of speech. But no. After a pause she says, wait a minute. Maybe I didn't eat yesterday. I was too stoned. She laughs and elbows someone standing next to her. I was too high to know if I ate yesterday. She drinks her coffee at a table and leaves without eating.

* * *

Earlier still, another woman I'd never seen before came to the counter. Her gray hair was shorn in a buzz cut, and she had a few very long rogue hairs on her chin. When I asked if she had a card and she started fingering through her change (we aren't supposed to give free coffee), her tongue kept unfurling from her mouth, mostly unconsciously I think. She spoke as if her tongue was too big for her mouth or like she had a hearing impairment, maybe both. I felt awkward serving her, I'm ashamed to admit, unsure what kind of behaviour to expect of her or how much she understood of me. I felt a little better when another volunteer called her by name, L, because they don't usually do that with the more unpredictable folks.

Some time later, L. was loitering by the counter, clearly wanting to be part of the conversation. A third volunteer, V, a woman who pretty much runs the place on weekends, starts talking to her. I hang about too, curious. Suddenly L. grabs V's hands and presses them gently to her cheek, her eyes closed for a moment in the bliss of physical affection. I love you, L. says. I love you too, says V. This is my sister, V tells me. After a few minutes, L tells me that she doesn't need to pay for coffee, and V. confirms. Sister Christine takes care of all her needs, coffee, hot chocolate, a meal, whatever. She doesn't need to pay. I took a moment to digest this crumb, then remembered that I had asked her for money and she'd paid. I told V. that I took a quarter from her and we gave it back. I didn't want to give her a hard time, L explains to V. She gave the newbie a break.

* * *

The tall bearded man who always has a joke told me a good joke today. His hands are red and swollen and look slightly frostbitten. I think it's because he washes his hands a lot but he never dries them, just lets them drip. His jokes aren't always funny, but they're usually off-colour and often sexist, not that I really mind. Today he asked me, What's the difference between an in-law and an outlaw?

An outlaw is wanted.

* * *
I'm becoming known, slowly. One man called me peaches and another introduced me as his sugar girl. I'm pleased to be included in the silliness.

* * *

Yesterday I did as Den asked and went out with my camera around 8 in the morning. And I'm glad I did. It was cold and snowing when I left so I had to put my camera inside my coat. Thanks, Den... these are for you:


I felt haunted by the person who wrote, "I lost my virginity here." I imagined some cocky and apathetic girl like I once was, feeling the need to mark her territory and commemorate the spot (isn't that really just blogging without the technology?). But there is only the merest scrap of comfort being out of the icy wind in this place that is all right angles and hard concrete. I started to think about the kids who come into the drop-in centre, and I started to question the nature of consent; if maybe in some cases it can look like consent and feel like consent, but perhaps it's not really? (This morning's baby and the drug addict seem to illustrate this question perfectly.) It is only when I got home that I realized maybe it wasn't even a girl who wrote it, maybe it was a guy and there was no girl around. Or, maybe, there wasn't even a virgin, maybe it was all a facade.

Something about the new snow collected in the corners of these steps just made me so sad, with everyone's need to record calling out from the concrete, I was here once, to mark out some permanence, even if it's just in a urine-soaked tunnel outside the bus station and under the tracks.