Thursday, May 29, 2008

we are ugly but we have the music

Ever since Andrea expressed her change of heart about privacy, and Mad commented that her daughter may be more mortified by what she says about herself than what she says about her daughter, I've been thinking about some of my old flashback fridays. On the one hand, there probably aren't (m)any appropriate occasions for discussing one's sexual history with one's children - certainly not the details - but I do remember asking my mom, and feeling a little let down that she was a virgin when she married my dad. My friend's mom was much cooler: not only did she smoke (and let us smoke around her) but she had had love affairs before she married my friend's dad.

Officially, I was a late bloomer. I didn't have my first date and first kiss (on different days) until I was 17 and almost all of my friends had already lost their virginity. I didn't actually lose my virginity until I was 19, an old hag by any standards, as far as I was concerned. But still my mom made moralizing noises about anything she caught wind of, and I didn't much care for that disapproval.

When I was in high school, right around that time of my first love (the first date, first kiss guy), we listened to a lot of Leonard Cohen. I've probably written this before but my friend and her boyfriend had built a cabin in the woods, complete with dugout beer cellar, hammock, and battery-operated stereo. It was great, and we spent a lot of time drinking, talking, and listening to Leonard Cohen, among others, there. I had his Best Of tape, with So Long Maryanne (it so happened that one of our friends was named Maryanne and the night before she moved out west we sang it loudly, badly, and repeatedly), Suzanne, Sisters of Mercy (which I found faintly shocking at the time), Famous Blue Raincoat, and Chelsea Hotel No. 2, which everyone said was about Janis Joplin, so I always picture Janis and Leonard on an unmade bed high above the city some short time before she died when I hear it. We all fancied ourselves poets, and Leonard had the perfect mix of poetry, melancholy, and blatant sex for us.

In my early twenties, I became a one-woman political movement. I wanted to prove that the teen magazine view of female sexuality was all wrong, that women could have sex without love, could do it without wounds. I may have had a wound I was trying to heal, but if anything I blame the magazines for that wound.

Through high school I pored over teen magazines. Apart from my friends' boyfriends, they were my only way to learn about boys so I sopped up the advice columns and the quizzes and the feature articles about how to please your guy. I read all about how if a guy really loves you he won't pressure you for sex, that any guy who pushes for sex is an asshole, that all guys want sex with anyone, any time, anywhere, and all girls need time to be comfortable and firmly in love before sex is an option. I really hate that stereotype, that guys only want sex and women only want love. So I set out to prove it wrong, at least to myself.

Now that I'm on the other side of that experiment, I feel like my silence is a weapon. Like all us married women whisper behind our hands or comment on my blog that yes we had casual sex too but shhh... we don't want to admit anything other than this staid, settled, married front. And I really don't think that's helpful to our daughters. Sometimes I catch myself feeling like that experiment was a mistake, another misguided hiccup of youth, like the time I got into a car driven by a drunk driver who pulled from the 26-er of whiskey riding down the highway in the middle of the blizzard. But was it really? Or did I learn important things about myself?

At the bloggy weekend, the same one Bon left early to see Mr. Cohen himself, I asked around the room, how will you discuss your sexual history with your kids. I think that's the one thing I want to do differently from my mom. In some ways I'm proud of my brazenness, proud of not letting my Amazon-ness prevent me from discovering my sexuality, proud of the work I've done to enjoy and accept my body. Mad wondered if in fact I'd had any good experiences, because my Flashback Fridays are mostly ... shit I can't remember the word she used but it was quite apt... something along the lines of damaging or troubled. This tells me I still have stories to tell, even if I find it difficult or embarrassing. I have the good stories to tell still, and yes there were some.

At this point, I think I have to send you over to Bon and Sage for their discussion of Leonard Cohen's songs and his portrayal of female sexuality, if you haven't read them already. They're that good, and much more articulate than I could ever be.

This afternoon, I decided to listen to him again, for old time's sake, and I picked Chelsea Hotel No. 2 first. As I listened to it, and then commented at Sage's place, I realized he had influenced my own sexuality. I think I was trying to become the woman at the Chelsea Hotel No. 2, from the "I never once heard you say, I need you, I don't need you, I need you, I don't need you And all of that jiving around" to the "clenching your fist for the ones like us, Who are oppressed by the figures of beauty, You fixed yourself, you said, "well never mind, We are ugly but we have the music" to the "I don't mean to suggest that i loved you the best, I can't keep track of each fallen robin. I remember you well in the chelsea hotel, That's all, i don't even think of you that often."

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

[updated for an ugly morning]

You wouldn't think a warm night has a sound but it does. It blows in on the sweet fresh air as you push open the heavy window. It's like a hum but that's not the right word. Too loud. A buzz is too electric. I think it's really of distant cars and factories beating the air. Every once in a while a car drives over the sound and fills my dark room. I feel so rested this morning, after a full night of quiet sounds like an ocean and all of my personal space intact.

OMG I wrote WAY too soon! As soon as I hit publish Swee'pea started whining this pathetic gulping sound and couldn't put his angst into words. He eventually ate some breakfast and seemed happier but then freaked about putting clothes on. I was such a ball of anger by the time we got in the car that I was actually kind of pissed that he just skipped into school happy as can be. I feel like I was run over by a train after a sleepless night. Off to get another cup of tea!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

comings and goings

People come and people go at the Drop In Centre. There seems to be a core population of regulars, but others come and go. Whenever I meet someone new to me who intrigues me, I always worry they'll stop coming before I have a chance to learn more.

Several weeks ago now, I met one of those intriguing people. He was at the shelter, and when he asked for a coffee, he was a holding a paperback: Michael Ondaatje's Anil's Ghost. I mentioned that In the Skin of a Lion was one of my top 5 favourite books of all time. He said he reads a lot of Booker Prize winners but he doesn't know if that's good or bad... sometimes they can be - he searched for the right word - "a bit head up their ass?" I supplied. That caught him by surprise and he laughed. "Well that's one way of putting it," he chuckled. I haven't read a Booker Prize winner since university.

He has a posh British accent and every time I see him he's very clean shaven. He wears white button-down shirts, the kind that the bureaucrats I work with during the week wear. He looks like he could be working there right now. He doesn't have the rough look of an addict or the medicated look of someone mentally ill. One can't help but notice a certain similarity among the people who come to the Drop In Centre. In particular, men staying at the shelter have a weathered and guarded look, a metaphoric hunching of their soul's shoulders and collars against the elements; their skin is necessarily and obviously tough. But not this man. His cheeks are smooth and have a healthy pink look about them, free of ruptured capillaries or grooves of exposure. At one point, I suspect his life must have been pretty easy, and yet he has none of the arrogance of one who feels s/he doesn't belong here.

I'm dying to know what made him end up in a shelter. I keep thinking I'll ask him, because he has a sweetness and humility about him that make me think he wouldn't mind answering, but then he doesn't come until we're just serving lunch and it's too busy to chat. So we can only exchange a quick "what are you reading this week?" (He seemed quite taken aback at the week I was reading a book of essays by 30 Canadian mothers. "Oh. ... Are you preparing for uh...?" he gestured at my belly. He was surprised to learn I'm already a mother... it made me wonder if perhaps we'd been flirting. Even though he's quite a bit older, maybe I'm a bit attracted to him, in a harmless I'm married but not dead kind of way.) The last time I saw him I said I wouldn't be here the following week but I would be the next and I'd try to dig out my copy of In the Skin of a Lion. "Ok," he said. "I'll be... here," shrugging kind of helplessly. Like where else could he go? Even though I suspect he'll be relatively quick to find himself a place and get on welfare and start the rest of rebuilding, it was like he couldn't see that at all.

But this week he wasn't there. I was all set to ask him if I could photograph him. I wasn't going to chicken out. But he wasn't there so I couldn't ask. I'm hoping he's just enjoying the gorgeous weather today and I'll see him next week.

I do, however, have my first subject. And he's turning out to be a great first subject. He's challenging me to think and direct when what I really just want to do is just catch. He's making me decide what locations will help make whatever point I want to make (what point DO I want to make?? I DO want to make a point, but I want it to come out organically rather than me contriving to make it) rather than telling me where he'd like to be photographed. I still haven't taken my camera out, but I'm looking forward to more conversations with him and hopefully others.


Two men approach the counter together. They both want coffee. One pays his quarter, the other says he's at the shelter. His friend pipes up that people at the shelter get free coffee. I already know this. The man at the shelter says to the man who paid, "You haven't haven't lost your pride... you don't know how good it is to pay for your own coffee."


A boy says he's diabetic and has to watch his sugar. He lives on the streets and when I ask how he manages his diabetes on the streets, it comes out that he doesn't really. He lost his health card and moved before a new one reached him. They won't see him at the clinic. He hitchhiked down here from Thunder Bay when he heard that a girl he dated all through high school had cancer and maybe wouldn't be released from the hospital. I suspect he's feeding me a line, but it doesn't matter. We give him some buns with peanut butter so he doesn't have to eat the fresh donuts that came. He starts selling cell phones out of his bag and it seems like suddenly the place is all atinkle with ring tones.


Another man asks me and another volunteer what people like us are doing at the Drop In Centre. Why aren't we in our 8000-square foot houses, fully furnished? At first I take him at face value, then I realize he's kind of mocking us. Even though I've never seen that man engage in a coherent conversation and I know he's kind of nuts, I feel like he's onto me, that he knows I'm a fraud, some kind of pompous do-gooder with a silver spoon in her mouth who uses people for playthings; who once a week sinks down from her $5-pineapple plenty to play in the slums before her Sunday brunch slot. In that moment, I don't have a decent answer to his question.

"This is the place for derelicts and murderers and rapists and..." he goes on and on at some length detailing the worst of humanity. "Everybody here hates Jesus Christ," he ends. I have nothing to say to this because I don't think that's true. I've seen quite a few crosses around necks here.

Later, over brunch, when I tell Sugar D about this man's mild outburst and doubt my motives, he reminds me that I do know why I'm there, because I get to meet people, interesting people, and get out of the house. I suppose that's as good a reason as any, probably the reason most of the people come there. I go because the counter is just a counter, not some line between the do-gooders and the done-good-unto, the rich and the poor. It's just a counter that anyone can choose which side they want to stand on today, whether they want to serve or be served on any given day.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

unveiling Lunenburg's parking meters

I wish I could figure out how to embed a slide show here, because I'm betting that the idea of Lunenburg's parking meters is not compelling enough to get you to click away and then come back again and give me your opinion. Ah well... for the small minority of you who are curious, check it out here.

parking meter-10

parking meter-9

So??? What do you think?

Send them to the recycle bin or put them up for sale?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

true neurotic

I am SO done with flying for a while. Though I AM kinda pleased to be able to say I’ve been to two UNESCO World Heritage sites in two different countries within about three weeks of each other. Last night I was dog tired, but I couldn’t fall asleep for all the words circling around my head… the many, many conversations of the weekend, cringing over the stupid shit I said and wishing I could have just listened to the inner voice that was yelling shut the fuck up! and figuring out what I wanted to say here about the weekend. The beds were so comfortable where we stayed that coming home to my own bed wasn’t even its usual sigh of relief.

This morning I saw that Dani is a True Neurotic, so of course I had to take the test, even though I felt like this weekend was the weekend of My Great Neurosis. Seriously, I wish I could have shut the fuck up about myself. As I went through the test, I thought my answers were coming out very laid-back. The test was going to miss my neuroses! And poor Dani was going to be the only Truly Neurotic Blogger. But no. I am the True Neurotic too. So I wasn’t just fibbing with the blog’er folks.

Favourite moments:

Kate reading Bon’s post aloud in the very same room of screaming prints, like the macbook was a ghetto blaster at a high school campfire and our loud comfy chairs were logs.

Checking out the beach at twilight under a full moon.

The many moments when Bea pulled out her paint chips, especially after a particularly victorious placemat purchase.

Bon giving me the finger as she licked yet another dessert off her middle finger (photo to come?)


Losing my appetite for most of the weekend even though delicious food was nonstop.

Feeling totally obnoxious with my camera, and expecting to come home with tons and tons of great photos of everyone but getting home to discover that I barely took any and the ones I did mostly have peoples’ eyes closed. I had no idea people BLINK so much! I barely have any photos of the women I spent the weekend with but tons and tons of photos of Lunenburg’s parking meters. When I told Sugar D about all the parking meters I shot, he asked if they looked different in Lunenburg. But they don’t. I just like parking meters. (I actually really like the parking meter shots… I’ll share them once I’ve edited them.)

And with many apologies to the unnamed condiment-phobe, I simply must take a poll. Please, please share your opinion. (Oh crap. It seems the poll broke my site... would you mind clicking here please?)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Guess what?

I trimmed Swee'pea's fingernails for the first time last time. No blood, and I think he actually liked it! Next up: toenails.

Also, I'm going away to Halifax this weekend -- without Swee'pea or Sugar D! And I'm flying to get there. I'm not sure which is more scary: leaving Swee'pea for three whole nights or flying without Sugar D's hand to squeeze the life out of or a certain blogger spending the night at my house tonight so we can catch the plane in the morning. Not much I can do about the first, but I've got my lorazepam all lined up for the second. As for the third... well I've got some SERIOUS cleaning (and packing) to do.

And a long lost high school friend of mine has a blog too. Actually, she's got two, one for children's book reviews and one more personal.

Also, I'm getting lonely over at peripheralvision. I want to keep my photography blogging over there, but it's not nearly as friendly as this space and it's hard to keep writing when nobody's reading. No obligation of course, but if you're interested in that stuff, I'd love to see you there.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

I've had a lovely Mother's Day weekend. Yesterday, I went to Toronto, all by myself! There's a month-long photography festival going on, so I checked out a couple of exhibitions and went to a lecture/slide show by a photojournalist. I will post more about that when I get a chance at peripheral vision. While I was in the Big Smoke, I stopped at a Starbuck's for a snack, and picked up a section of the Toronto Star. The Ideas section was all about mothers, and I thought the section's cover story made an interesting counterpoint to the recent Globe and Mail article about mommyblogging, which I only got around to reading last week. Yesterday's story was all about the recent trend of people to write about their horrible mothers, especially when their mothers were themselves in the public arena.

So that seems to me to be the whole solution to the mommy blogging conundrum. If writing about your kids fucks them up, they'll probably get they're own back later when they write about you. If that doesn't keep you reasonable, I don't know what will.

These articles also speak to me about the growing interest in the sort of last literary frontier: personal lives. And it seems fitting that motherhood is the first up to bat. More than a year ago, Mad got all thinky, even thinkier than usual.

She said, among other things: "In our wake, we are leaving a dense trail of information: the minutiae of our daily lives, early biographies of our children (who will all be famous one day), theories on life, motherhood, art and politics. Stories of emotional and physical survival. Conversations. Treatises. You name it. We have taken the seemingly mundane--what many (not me) would call the idle prattle of play group--and turned it into an evolving, documented record of what it was like to be a mother in the early years of the 21st Century. And yes, I will strongly state the caveat here that we are primarily white, middle-class, urban, women in the West."

If you haven't read Mad's posts before, go do it now. Anyways, I didn't have time to read the whole section, so I stole it, because I didn't want to buy the whole Saturday Star just for a 10-page section. I was thinking of the trees.

On a similar vein, I finished Between Interruptions: 30 Women Tell the Truth About Motherhood, and I loved it. I loved the plurality of voices, which felt a lot like the blogosphere. I had only two reservations: one, there wasn't more representation from the blogosphere (only one blogger's essay was included), and two, the discussions of careers seemed very skewed towards women with crazy jobs like war correspondents or high-flying fashion editors who spend their days at work and their nights at fashion events. Since it's a collection of essays, I suppose it's kind of a necessary bias (to have writers) but including more bloggers could have addressed that. (Actually, I'd love to be involved in pulling together a collection of essays by mommy bloggers, but I don't know the first thing about it... anyone else interested in a project like that?)

Every time I read a book, I intend to blog a proper review. I dog-ear pages where a phrase punches me in the gut or thrills me with its total rightness. And then I get to the empty blog post box and clam up, the only thing coming to mind either I liked it or I didn't. In this case, I totally recommend the book, especially because it's 100% Canadian content, so for those Canadianaphiles out there, I think you'd quite enjoy it.

A couple of weeks ago, I came out to a coworker. I've actually come out to a couple, but they generally visit the blog once, skim a post or two and never come back. Which is fine, but a bit disappointing. So you can imagine my gratification when this coworker started mining my archives. Then I started to get scared. There are a couple of posts in there that I'd really prefer not to have around my workplace. If you've been reading me for a long time you can probably figure out which ones. I know I could unpublish them but that feels hypocritical, and I feel like put them out there for a reason and I really just have to live with it.

Anyways, she emailed me last week saying that although she was really enjoying my blog (yippee!), reading some posts made her feel like she shouldn't be in there. I figured she must have been talking about those other posts, so I said something like I was a little uncomfortable but I put that stuff out there for a reason so it was up to her to decide if she was comfortable knowing too much information about a coworker.

Later, I began to wonder which posts made her feel that way, if maybe they were different posts. By the next day I was dying of curiosity. So I asked her. It was my motherhood posts where I talk, among other things, about my insecurities as a mother. Oh jeez, I said, I've got no problem with my insecurities. No, it's almost a political thing for me to talk about my insecurities as a mother, because I think all mothers feel them from time to time. It's such a crap shoot - we can never know for sure if we're making the right decisions, not even if our kids turn out 'perfect' because you can't know if that's just the kid or if it's you. Plus, mothering is fucking hard, and that's not recognized or valued very much in our culture.

I may not get much recognition from my culture, but I get tons from my family, and that's where it really matters. I felt so spoiled yesterday, driving off on my own adventure with a bunch of cds and a warm blue sky, and coming home to a new bouquet of flowers on the dining room table.

I have also been utterly spoiled by Swee'pea's daycare. Check out the gifts I got:

may11 127

may11 137

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Letter to Swee'pea: 27 months

Dear Swee'pea:
As of yesterday, you are 27 months old. This month I have finally begun counting your age in years instead of months (except of course for the previous sentence): two and a quarter. When you were first born, you changed every day and every week, but as you grow older, you grow slower, so now, it seems appropriate to count your age in quarter-years.


This month you have begun calling me Mommy instead of Mama. Your dad and I got into the habit of calling ourselves Mommy and Daddy when you were first born, but I never really liked being Mommy. When you started talking and called me Mama, I loved it. I much prefer being Mama instead of Mommy. Now, when I ask you to call me Mama instead you get a mischievious grin and repeat louder, "Mommy. Mommy. Mommymommymommy!" So I've given up asking. I hope it's just a phase and at some point you'll go back to Mama.


The cutest word you've learned this month is naked. You say it sort of like neh neh but my spelling doesn't do justice to the way you say it. There is a sharpness to the second n, like an almost silent t on the end of the first neh. Sometimes you pull your shirt up and point to your bare belly and say, "Neh neh." Others, you wait until you are truly naked to yell, "Neh neh!" and run into the bathroom. I've been trying to keep track of all your words for your speech therapist. I wonder if she'll think I'm taking liberties with your vocabulary, writing down ba for everything from car to ball to bath. I didn't bother recording the time ba meant crap (you said it several times right after something went wrong and I said, "Crap!"). I did, however, record boob and big poo, a bit sheepishly, and earlier today, Chinese (Dineeze), which you said while you were watching Big Bird Goes to China (still your only favourite dvd). [By the way, I wasn't blogging while you were watching tv, I was cooking dinner. And you started out by pulling your mini-recliner into the kitchen, sitting on it, and, as I started cutting up veg, declaring, "Deedee doe" (cooking show)].

Right now you keep coming up to me with your sunglasses held up to your eyes (the ones you have refused to actually wear, like with the band around your head) and proclaiming, "Daw! Daw!" (Dark). It's like I can't get enough of this.

Whereas last month you wanted to do everything yourself, this month you seem more interested in finding out what you can make other people do for you. You remain a study in contrasts, swinging from imperious bellows to courteous sweetness, from screaming meltdowns to octopus cuddles. You've become a bit more clingy recently, and now demand loudly, "Ba!" (Up!) with your arms stretched up and a grumpy, imperious look on your face. No please, no lift in your intonation that would make it more a request and less a command. As much as I love (almost) every opportunity to cuddle you, I do not care for that tone. So every time, I ask you what the magic word is and you say "Peez" as I put my hands under your armpits. But in other ways you are uncommonly courteous: if I wipe your nose, you say "saytu Mommy," and if I'm in your way, you always Memee Mommy as you squeeze by. If I offer you something you don't want, you say, "No peez," or "yeah peez," if you do.

You love your daycare. You were sick last week and had to stay home a couple of days, and every morning you cried to go to school. Of course, it's a good thing that you like it so much, but I couldn't help but doubt my parenting and wonder what we were doing wrong to make you dislike home so much. I don't think mother guilt ever goes away, no matter what choices we make. You've been getting more negative reports again lately. Things like having to be reminded to listen to the teachers, and now wanting to share anything, and, this week, even "testing the teachers to see what you can get away with." That last one actually made me a little happy to know that I'm not the only one you're testing.


Last weekend was your dad's birthday, and I made him a cake. You helped, sort of, by which I mean you stood on a chair and grabbed utensils and measuring cups while I mixed stuff in and told you what I was doing. It was your naptime when the cakes went into the oven, and you didn't understand the concept or necessity of baking before eating it. You screamed and wept and railed. You assumed your favourite yoga posture for meltdowns: on your knees, forehead to the floor. That you choose this posture for most tantrums instead of flat on your back seems to me like more evidence that you are an old soul.

You've discovered the question why. You say it with a y sound instead of a w sound, and you draw out the eye sound for a long time. I don't think I need to tell you this can get very tiresome, very quickly. But it's also kind of fun, thinking up answers to the things you ask why about.

A couple of weeks ago, we went to Cuba. I don't think very many two-year-olds (ok, two and a quartre-year-olds) can say they've been to South African and Cuba. I never set out to take you around the world as a baby and toddler, but it seems I'm just coming into myself as a traveller, like some kind of late adolescence, and so you come with us.


The first time we stepped onto the beach, you cried. You didn't want to walk on the sand. It felt too strange. But we coaxed you to try it, one step at a time, and eventually you became an old pro at walking barefoot on the beach. And you loved the little showers that washed the sand off. You liked the ocean too, but after the second day at the beach and the first sea-swim, you refused to go back to the beach. Your dad asked why, and I said, "Oh he never answers that question," because I've tried many times. Which is when you answered: too sunny. So we didn't go back to the beach.


I guess I underestimated the impact the changes of travel would have on you. I've always seen you as a fairly laid back person, like your dad, mostly because you never seemed to get overstimulated as a baby. But being two is different from being a baby. You did well, mostly. You slept great, you ate decently, you loved the buses, and did well on the plane ride home (not so much on the plane ride there, but who could blame you? We had to get up at 4 am so by the time we got on the plan, you were done. Thank goodness for the peole next to us who shared their portable dvd player with you long enough for you to finally drop off to mercifully silent sleep). It was more the transitions, when we'd stop doing something you enjoyed and move onto something else, and mealtimes. And you were a nightmare in the restaurants, screeching, refusing to sit in a high chair, then not staying in the big chairs and literally running all over the dining room. Other diners smiled indulgently at us while we took turns chasing you around, remembering their own days chasing toddlers.

cubab 095

There were lots of fun times too. On our last day there, we spent lots of time at the pool, which you loved. You splashed and stomped and ran from the "deedee doo" (little pool) to the "bee doo" (big pool), and never seemed to tire. Your dad and I braced ourselves for the screaming transition to getting ready for dinner, but you handled it like a star. We'd made sure you were decently fed in advance (I think many of your meltdowns are hunger-driven, which you come by honestly), and so you happily had a little wash of your feet in the foot-shower, and pointed at the koi in the little pond as you walked by. It was such a pleasure to follow behind your happy strides that I asked your dad, "Do these moments outweigh the bad ones? Is travelling with a two-year-old worth it?"

(You made a friend in Havana.)

He thought for a moment (like he always does; he's a very considered man, your dad), and said simply, "Yeah, I do."

I do too. I get a happy feeling of containment travelling as a trio in between the grumps and frustrations that probably come with all travels, solo or family.

(I think mosquito bites will be the story of your life in warm weather.)

Last night I had to work late and your dad picked you up from daycare. When I got home you came running over full tilt, yelling, "Mommy's back!" You gave me your usual ferocious running hug that I always have to brace myself for and that once or twice have knocked me on my ass - literally. I asked you how your day was (good) and what your favourite part of the day was. You thought for a moment: "Ummm..." and then, "This."

I was confused for a second. "This?" Then I got it. "Seeing me?"


Anything I can say about how that made me feel is a cliche: melting my heart, bursting my heart, that kind of thing. But they're interesting images if you think about it. Both have to do with changing states, breaking molecules apart and putting them back together, fundamentally transformed. And that's really what becoming your mother is all about.

cubaa 086
(You're holding a baby coconut, in case you're wondering.)

Love Always and Forever,

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

cover photo

Tonight at the grocery store, I happened to glance at the newspapers as I was leaving. The headline of the G-town Mercury read, "Rags to Riches," and I had a cynical moment of yeah whatever, thinking of the people at the drop-in centre. A familiar name floated in through my cynicism... I looked closer at the paper and stopped dead. Not only a familiar face, but a familiar photo. My photo! On the front page!

There was no photo credit; it said only "submitted photo." The reproduction was lousy, and I wondered why, figuring it had been stolen off flickr. I reread the headline, and realized that it had been submitted by the man himself. It feels right that I didn't get credit. It feels good that he liked the picture enough to share it with the paper, and it seems right that he doesn't know my name.

The story is about this man, the man that I didn't see for ages and ages and I worried he was dead, but finally saw at the drop-in centre a few months ago. The one I gave prints to just a couple of months ago.


This is one of the photos that I gave him, the one on the front page. Go read his story and come back. It's pretty cool.

You back? Good. I just want to point out a whole bunch of details and weird coincidences.

I shot the picture a year ago, almost exactly. I saw him a day or two after that, and then not again for a long time. I worried he was dead. Then finally I saw him at the drop-in centre in February. I figured he must have been hooked up with the drop-in centre all along. I remember thinking it was a bit strange that he panhandled when he was hooked up with the centre and Sister Christine paid for his coffees, but whatever. To each his own. I never really believed that he was actually homeless, but the article says he slept on the street for a whole decade.

Did you look at all three photos? The one with the cop who helped him? Well, that was the same cop who brought our family member to our house when she was evicted, the night before my first shift at the drop-in centre. I remember being mildly surprised with the kindness and respect of both cops, but scolded myself for succumbing to old stereotypes.

So to recap: I never go to the grocery store during the week and I never read the Mercury, so it was a fluke to even see my picture on the paper. It was a fluke that I had the courage to ask for his photo on that day, just days before the cop started helping him. It was kind of a fluke that I saw Rick at the drop-in centre, because he never comes on Sundays and I don't usually work Saturdays. It was a fluke that I gave him the prints less than two months before this story got printed. It was a fluke that our family member got evicted the night before I started volunteering at the drop-in centre. It was no fluke that the drop-in centre helped find her permanent housing because that's what they do. And of course, it's probably not really a fluke that the same cop who removed our family member helped this other person.

The world is a strange place, don't you think?


I am such an idiot.

I’m also a creature of habit. Every day after work, I clip my ID badge to my backpack for the next morning. Every morning, as I approach the parking lot at work, I reach for the badge, always in the same place.

This morning, my routine got serendipitously messed up. I was already late leaving the house because I sidetracked by brainwave on a submission I’m trying to make by tomorrow. Of course, this morning was the first morning since last October that Swee’pea has been anything but enthusiastic to get into school. I cajoled him in.

The mother of one of Swee’pea’s daycare-mates was on the phone when we arrived, looking a little flustered.

“I locked my keys in the car.”

After I left Swee’pea at the window watching the big tractor that he’d wanted to watch from the car, she asked if I was driving and if I might give her a ride. Of course. I’m always happy to give someone a ride. It’s a small way to pay forward the millions of rides I’ve scored over the last several years. Plus, it would be a great opportunity to hear more about the earth-shaking news she shared last week, the kind of news that, over the heads of little ones, starts with D – I – V.

Obviously not the kind of conversation you can have in a five-minute drive, so we sat in front of her office building for a good 15 minutes I think. I was already late, but it doesn’t really matter (I just stay later) and I wasn’t about to screw up this opportunity to forge a new friendship.

Eventually, I made my way to the parking lot, and reached for my ID badge. It wasn’t there. WTF?!? How could it not be there?!? I must have left it on my pants last night, the pants that were still in a pile on my bedroom floor.

I had to back up from the security arm, and a car came up behind me. He assumed that the security thingie was broken again, as it has been many times before. I rolled my window down as he got out of his car. “I just forgot my badge.”

“OK, I’ll just try it myself.”

“No, I just forgot my badge. It’s fine. I just forgot my badge.”

But he kept walking without his car. Now there was a line of cars coming from both directions. One of my officemates was there. She gestured at me, what’s going on? I mouthed to her, “I just forgot my badge.” (SHE got it, at least.)

Eventually, I got away from all the cars and confusion I’d caused and went to the visitors’ lot, the visitors’ lot that last year generated like $500 worth of parking tickets (apparently the $15 tickets become $56 tickets if you don’t pay them within a month or two). I thought about going home to get my badge but I was already so late, so I didn’t.

Walking into the building, I thought about how difficult my day was going to be. I’d have to wait for someone to let me up the elevator, wait for someone to let me into our office, make sure someone comes with me for every break and meeting… ugh. Just then, my hand brushed something by my pocket.

My badge. Wha??!?

My mind sifts back through the morning, to when I was first letting my new friend into the car, when I put my backpack into the backseat to make room and put my badge on my pants so I wouldn’t have to reach back and fumble for it.

Oh yeah, I’m a thinker, alright.

Monday, May 05, 2008


I have a lump in my armpit. I think it's just an in-grown hair, but I've never had one before so I can't be sure. It's getting bigger and more sore every day. I keep thinking it will go away on its own and I won't have to see the doctor, but it keeps growing. I don't want to go in the doctor because I don't want to take the time and I don't want to say I have a lump in my armpit and have to rush through what I don't think it is.

I'm really busy at work. I get eye strain at the computer and I have to work in front of a computer all day. My head starts to hurt and I can't concentrate anymore and then my mind wanders to the dull ache in my armpit. I KNOW it's nothing to worry about, just something to address - preferably sooner than later - and still I have a little worry that I won't let my mind get too near.

Has anyone ever had an in-grown hair? How do you fix it? How big does it get?

Tonight I will go to belly dance for the first time in more than a year. Somehow I just couldn't make the timing work after I went to back to work. I tried to go last week, but apparently the venue had changed so I came home after only 15 or 20 minutes and Swee'pea had apparently screamed for his mama the entire time. I hope he doesn't scream so much tonight. Especially because I'm leaving my husband and child for four whole days in less than two weeks (eek!) for a girls' weekend.

Friday, May 02, 2008

deja vu

Swee'pea has a croupy cough and intermittent fever that seems to get worse at night. He was lethargic and quiet (and adorably sweet-tempered) yesterday, and we put him to bed early last night. He fell asleep in seconds.

After less than an hour, he called out for me, and when I went upstairs he was sitting up in his bed, facing the wall and looking perplexed and a little bit scared. I pulled him across my lap and cradled his head in the crook of my elbow but was aware of my ultimate helplessness. I couldn't make him feel better, I could only make him feel loved.

I'd just had a shower and was still wearing a towel for a turban and my thick terrycloth robe, which was coming a little open at my chest. I felt his bird lips lifting and landing blindly around my upper chest. Recently, his kisses have gone from sloppy dog licks to wet vacuum sucks, but this was different. My brain chugged and sputtered for the right context. In those seconds of confused deja vu, I wished for a way to comfort him. Then the rolodex stopped flipping. The last time he rooted around like this he was a wobbly-headed and loose-limbed newborn and the one instinct he had was to seek The Boob. Was it really so long ago?

Last night, I actually considered, just for a moment, nursing him again, anything to alleviate his grunts and moans and wheezes, the noises that I suspect indicate a desire to escape one's aching body. But culture stepped in, easily lassooing the maternal instinct, and instead I put him back in his bed and laid down next to him. He fell back to sleep quickly, with his head in my armpit, my heartbeat all the comfort he needed.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

random round-up

(Thanks for your comments yesterday. They did help. And once I gave myself permission to step away from the photos, I felt a lot better.)

People keep asking me if I had a good trip to Cuba. I find this a hard question to answer, kind of like the "How do you like motherhood?" question. The weather was great and it was wonderful to be on vacation. But it was challenging. Swee'pea was more difficult than I expected. I learned a lot on this trip. I learned that I can't take it for granted that Sugar D and I will just get along on vacation (although that's been the case historically) or that we'll want to do the same things (although that has been the case historically). I learned that I (sadly) cannot combine photography expeditions with family trips; I just end up doing badly in both camps. I had thought I'd be happy pursuing photography as a passion with a trip or two a year, taken with my family. But if that's not an option, what's left?

I learned that I'm a little bitter that travel photography as a potential career is so utterly incompatible with family life. At the moment, something like that would be my dream job, but I feel like there's no point pursuing it since I wouldn't have the work-life-family balance I need and expect. No wonder photojournalism and travel photography are dominated by men and single young people.

I also learned that if I do take a photography trip, I should do a lot of research in advance, and go with a sort of theme in mind, and contacts. I don't get the best results wandering the streets frenetically. For example, after my conversations with our guide, D, I wouldn't mind going back to Cuba to photograph the lives of a variety of Cuban women.


Swee'pea had his first speech therapy this week. Reportedly, he had a great time and laughed a lot, and gave the therapist a hug before she left. Our homework is to spend the next two weeks compiling an inventory of his words, both clear and unclear (by far the vast majority), and word combinations. We are also to ask fewer yes and no questions. Instead of asking if he wants a cheese sandwich (dees mamass), we're to ask him whether he wants a cheese sandwich or salad. It's fine if he doesn't use a word to answer, we're just to give him what he wants and say the word for it clearly.

I'm glad she's asking for this inventory. I really think the problem is entirely with pronunciation, not vocabulary.


Eek! It's May! And Sugar D's birthday is suddenly only three days away! How did that happen?


Why is good tv concentrated on Thursday nights? Why can't they spread it out a bit? I have, however, recently discovered "How to Look Good Naked" on W network. I found it flipping around and of course the title sounds silly but in the absence of anything else I watched. And it's seriously good. It's like What Not to Wear but it focuses almost exclusively on the woman's body image, and how what she perceives of her body is often drastically wrong (adding 20% to her silhouette or hip measurements). They also get her good underwear and it seems like most women have totally the wrong bra size. Anyways, if you have the slightest dislike for any part of your body, I strongly suggest you watch this show.


Ages and ages ago, Niobe bestowed me with a great big E for Excellent. I'm pretty chuffed that she likes me, especially since I find her so engaging and intriguing. I always want to know more about her but I'm too afraid to ask, so I just live with what she sends our way.

She also asked me to show a picture of my bookshelf. But we packed our books into boxes more than six months ago when we thought we were moving, and we still haven't unpacked them. I *could* show you my dining room table, which is mostly where we store our books right now, but I'm not sure you could see the titles for the papers everywhere. And besides, you've seen my dining room table before. (Hey look! My bookcases are in the background!) Sadly, it isn't much different now.


I don't ordinarily buy hardcover books, and certainly not on a whim. I went to the bookstore to pick up The Discipline Book, and found another book that I just couldn't leave behind. It's called Between Interruptions: 30 Women Tell the Truth About Motherhood. How have I not heard about this on blogs? Of course, the blogosphere could be 30,000 or 3 million women tell the truth about motherhood, but print publication seems to carry more weight out there in the real world. Anyone else read it? I haven't started it yet, but I'll let you know how it goes.


Today I mailed my first cheque to the Stephen Lewis Foundation with half the proceeds from my Imagekind sales in January and February. Those two months raised more than $60. Yay, you!! (I won't have any earnings to contribute from April, but I have put the photos from Cuba that I shared in the slideshow yesterday up for sale, so if you're interested in a print or a card...)