Thursday, December 22, 2011


You know that Wham! song Last Christmas?  I'll be frank with you, it drives me insane.  And it's not because I've heard it three trillion times in the past month, either.  It's because it's stupid and doesn't make any sense.  Before all you die hard Wham! fans jump all over me, hear me out.  The part that drives me the most insane is the chorus:

Last Christmas I gave you my heart
But the very next day you gave it away
This year to save me from tears
I'll give it to someone special

Here's what goes through my head every single time I hear this crappy song:  First off, did you give her anything else besides your heart?  Because that might have been your first mistake - you know, giving her a figurative gift instead of something tangible and real.  Romantic or not, she probably wanted SOMETHING, not just your heart.  Just a tip for ya'.

Second off, who the fuck did she go and give it to?  Like anyone else wanted your crummy old heart?!  Never mind the fact that it's not an actual item to start with but really, who did she give it to, huh?  Some hobo on the street?  An elderly woman on the subway?  Did she re-gift it to her Aunt Evie and Uncle Lawrence when they stopped in unannounced?  Was it a friend from work?  Who?  WHO???

Thirdly, did you not learn your lesson last year?  Obviously not, since you're already planning on giving that same shitty, old, used heart to another poor woman this year.  Talk about setting yourself up to fail, dude.  Take my advice, go buy her a nice, tangible gift at the store and include a card - I guarantee you'll have better results.

Finally, you're going to give it to someone special this year, eh?  Who's that gonna' be?  Are they gonna' be more special than that re-gifting slut-bitch from last year?  'Cause I'm thinking she musta' seemed pretty darn special at the time, too.  Or was she not special?  In which case, why the fuck did you give her your fucking heart?  I mean, buddy, it's your LIFE SOURCE.

In closing, maybe you wanna' try not to be such a hussy with your heart, hmmm?

Oh, and PS: We all know it's you who's the slut, George.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


I take off my coat.  I realise how tense I am.  This tumultuous day has taken hold of all the muscles in my neck and shoulders and just tugged and tightened slowly over the hours.  My arms are tight, my legs and feet are tense.  Everything is wound up.  I didn't notice until this moment.


I tell my self I need to relax.  Take some breaths.  Sloooow breaths.  Focus on the breathing.  Nothing else.  Quiet those swirling thoughts.  Power down.  Unwind.  It occurs to do some Progressive Relaxation Techniques so I sit down on the chair in the kitchen, lean back and just focus on relaxing my face, with focus and awareness, from my forehead to my cheeks, to my chin, then my mouth.

Often when I'm really wound up I have to tighten and loosen alternately a few times so I can get a feel for the fully relaxed state of the muscles and get them to stay there.  Tonight, it is hard to get the feel for my muscles as I move through my usual PRT routine.  I refocus, take more breaths.  Always more breaths.  I move to my neck, linger there a while just really appreciating the feeling of those muscles being fully relaxed.  Starting to get into the groove more now.  More breaths.

Shoulders.  Back.  Getting easier to clear my mind.  More breaths.  I imagine I am breathing in light and purity and goodness, relaxation and rejuvenation while I breathe out all my stress, tension, frustration, confusion and fatigue.  I let my body sink into the chair.  I feel the relaxation in my legs, in my calves and my ankles, in my wrists and my fingers.  I lavish in the sensations of total relaxation.  Aaaaaah... It's okay to be here.  It's okay for me to be here.  I can relax.  It's okay to be relaxed.  I breathe in the light and relaxation, breathe out the tension and stress.  Breathe in the light and relaxation, breathe out the tension and stress.  Breathe out the tension and stress.  Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat...

Keep breathing.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Risk Versus Benefit

The Smiler is now 15 months old, walking quite well and has been working on his climbing a lot lately, too.  He crawls up and down the stairs at our house, both inside and out, quite capably and I don't worry about him around stairs as a general rule.  He has a bit of a tendency to walk riiiiight to the edge of a step before stopping but because I know him, I know he won't just walk off the edge.  I'm of the belief that you can't worry about them constantly, anyway.  They're going to fall sometimes, you know what I mean?  Of course I keep a close eye in new situations or places he's not familiar with, etc. but I generally let him be "free range" as much as possible and that's worked well for us.  He understands to be careful and that he's responsible for his own bodily safety so he doesn't just barrel along expecting someone else to stop or save him if there's danger, HE watches for himself and I think that's a good thing.  Of course he doesn't understand that an electric mixer or power cord is dangerous because that's not a naturally occurring element that he can evolve to be careful of (like a deer can't evolve to be fearful of a car - well, at least not very fast, at any rate). He does understand edges and falling, though, and watches out for his own safety.

So we were at my parents' house last night where they have a stone patio with two steps down, also made of stone.  The Smiler was having a wonderful time climbing up and down the steps as well as dancing and walking in circles up on the patio because Oma had music on.  My dad was getting really uptight about him being up there, though.  He would jump up any time The Smiler would get within even a few feet of the steps and at one point even hollered, "No no no no NO NO NO!!!!!" at him as he danced near the steps.

This kind of crazy reaction reminded me all too much of when I was a child.  My dad would push me to try new things (that I wasn't interested in doing like driving the boat or snowmobile or sports or helping in the garage, for example) and when I'd finally agree hesitantly, he wouldn't give me enough information or instruction to be successful and then he'd react really dramatically when I wouldn't do it right.  I was very sensitive and his reactions always made me feel embarrassed, frightened and/or admonished which would make me freeze up and not want to try it any more.  As an adult, I still have trouble trying new things for fear I won't get it right and someone will make fun of me or I'll break something or I'll do something embarrassing.  (In my dad's defence, he's got a loud voice and he was never taught to think of others' feelings by his own parents).

The Smiler has been climbing up this slide since before he could walk!

I had already said a few things like, "It's okay, I trust him by the stairs." and, "Don't worry, he knows what an edge is and how to climb up and down, Dad." but he just couldn't seem to relax about it.  After that last freak out I was a little annoyed, to say the least.  The Smiler has been so shy and hesitant in the past about new people, new situations and new things and been so unwilling to try stuff or even get out of my lap at times that I'm really glad he's coming out of his shell and getting braver.  I want him to run and play without fear.  I want him to climb things and explore his world.  I want him to occasionally trip and fall (without being seriously hurt, of course) so he can learn about his world, have fun and be resilient.  I certainly don't want him to be yelled at by his grandfather (who, as an aside, wasn't worried enough to get out of his chair and run over to save him and just wanted to holler from his seat) for dancing, running in circles or climbing up and down stairs.  Those are life skills, after all.  Valuable life skills, at that.  Especially the former.  You can't stop your children from doing every single thing that poses a risk; you may as well just tie them to a chain under the stairs in your basement to keep them safe, then.  EVERYTHING poses some kind of risk.

A little while later, I glanced over to see The Smiler climbing up the steps.  As I watched, he got up on the top step but his feet were juuuuuust on the edge of the step and I could see he might lose his balance if he tried stand all the way up from having his hands down.  As I walked over saying, "Your toes are too close to the edge, honey." the toes of his one foot slipped out from under him and he tripped back down to the first step, tipping over to one side a bit.  It wasn't a bad fall at all and he wasn't even crying, though he did make a little whine at the initial realisation that his plan wasn't working out.  I helped him up and said, "Uh-oh!  See, we need to have our feet completely on the step before we stand up."  As I helped show him, my dad turned around and snarked, "I told you that was going to happen."

I was SO MAD.  Firstly, he hadn't said a word about The Smiler possibly falling while climbing UP the damn steps, he had only worried about him running off the edge like a complete idiot so he actually hadn't told me that was going to happen.  Secondly, The Smiler was perfectly fine and learned one of many valuable lessons about climbing in a safe, supervised environment.  Thirdly, I'M THE FUCKING PARENT AND I'LL DO IT MY FUCKING WAY, thank-you-very-much.  Fourthly, there were a bunch of guests over visiting so it was socially inappropriate for him to chide his adult daughter like that.  I turned and said, "You want to be the parent?  'Cause I can go make a drink and socalise and just interfere occasionally, too."  He just walked away.

I'm rambling a little here but I'm going somewhere with this, I promise.  The whole situation got me thinking a bit...  You see, ever since I was first pregnant and we didn't even know if The Smiler would be a boy or a girl, my dad has been buying all sorts of "toys" for him.  Like a bicycle, a mini motorcycle and a mini quad, for example.  My dad loooooves him some motorised shit.  My dad is also the first one to scoff at and dismiss my desire to feed The Smiler healthy, whole, organic (as much as possible), natural foods or to avoid toxin laden plastic toys or to not give him juice or pop or to keep him in a rear facing car seat or when I ask him to please step a few feet away while he's smoking cigarettes (outdoors) around my child. 

So here's good old Pop Pop, ready to put my kid on what is, effectively, a motorised death machine the instant he's tall enough to reach the clutch thinking that letting him go up and down two steps is too risky.  At the same time, he thinks worrying about my son's consumption of toxins and carcinogens, his day to day exposure to poison substances like lead, BPA and pthalates, his ingestion of processed sugar, his lung health and his vehicle safety is absurd.  

Don't get me wrong, I'll definitely let him ride the bike, motorcycle and quad - when he's old enough, has proper personal protective equipment and wants to try it.  I think all children should be exposed to as many opportunities as possible to try new things and I'll encourage my kids not to be scared to try things and see if they like them.  I just think it's funny that someone can simultaneously be ready to put my toddler on a motorised device whilst being afraid of him falling down two steps whilst thinking my concerns for his long term chemical and toxin exposure are silly.  Realistically, the latter is the most dangerous because it affects his lifelong health and is far more likely to affect his eventual cause of death.  The other things are all safe when done in safe ways and accidents are just that - accidental.

I say look out for your children's long term health, keep them safe while they try new things and let them explore and climb to their hearts' content!

Friday, July 29, 2011

"Don't complain that you had to wait to eat."

I grew up with a dad who worked construction.  Mostly heavy construction - roadworks and sewer and water - when I was a kid.  If he wasn't away in that vagueness us Canadians call "Up North" for a few weeks to a few months at a time, he was working long hours all summer, effectively gone to me with my early bedtime and his early wake time, and then laid off all winter.  This was also in the days when there were no cell phones.  I remember how excited we were when my dad got a pager and we could page him, knowing he'd call us back as soon as he got to a payphone or the office.  Before that, we had no clue most nights what time he might come home at.

I remember sometimes on weekends my dad would take me with him running errands.  This often meant stopping at various suppliers' warehouses or showrooms for work-related stuff, going to the dump (we lived in the country and my dad likes to scavenge for stuff he can fix up), washing the car, stopping in at Beaver Lumber (where they had full size play structures on display outside to play on), going to my Uncle Luther's studio (he's an artist and collector - I loved looking at all his things and artwork), stopping in at friends' houses (images of Lynrd Skynrd records, motorcycles, full ashtrays, stubby beer bottles, dirty garages full of car parts and greasy jean jackets are conjured up) or milling around in Princess Auto.

I have this one memory...  I'm too big for my car seat now, a big girl.  I like my car seat.  It's familiar.  White plastic form with light brown waterproof lightly padded cover.  My mom says I'm going to go with my dad to take the car seat to the dump.  We go and my dad just gets me out, takes it out of the car, chucks it, we get back in and drive away.  I feel strange in the big seatbelt - loose and insecure.  I'm sad that my car seat is gone.  My dad wants to cheer me up.  We're on a gravel road and there is a bump coming so he speeds up a bit so we can get butterflies as we go over.  This is not something I would enjoy but it is something he would enjoy.  My father has trouble making these distinctions.  There's a pothole when we land and I bounce up too high, hitting my head on the ceiling of the car.  I'm upset, he's uncomfortable and he doesn't know how to comfort me.  He makes some jokes, tells me to tough up and I try.  Now we're at the car wash and he leaves the radio on for me while he soaps up the windows.  As he cloaks the car in white darkness I wait in anticipation for him to make a peephole with the clean water and smile and wave at me.  George Harrison's Got My Mind Set On You plays on the radio.  This is a nice memory for me, this time in the car wash with my dad, peeping in the window, smiling and waving at me in the dark carwash.

As I got older, my dad got better jobs and in my teen years he was typically gone five days a week but home all weekend.  Because I was a teenager and he was absent so often, I think he felt some responsibility to pick up the slack parenting on the weekends which is a noble deed, to be sure, except that he did it in a disciplinarian, authoritarian way.  We never really had a close relationship because he was so often absent so this compulsion to just "enforce the law", as it were, made it even harder for us to be close.

My Dad Walks Me Down the
Aisle Four Years Ago
As a little kid I didn't really understand that my dad was doing anything different from other dads.  As I got older and teen angst grew stronger and our relationship grew more tenuous I was glad when he'd leave on Mondays because my mom and I had a routine and she was predictable.  As an adult, I am sad that I don't have a close relationship with my dad and I can see that it is at least in part due to his often being absent.

Now, I'm married to a carpenter.  We have been fortunate that he has generally had work close enough to home to sleep in our bed each night, though we have had separations typically a few times a year for work for anywhere from a few days to six weeks.  Since The Smiler was born, though, The Carpenter hasn't had to go away for work.  Until now, that is.

For the past month my husband has been gone five days a week and home only on the weekend.  For the past five months before that, he worked 60-70 hours a week, at least six days a week, starting early in the morning and working until late at night, often not seeing his son or only being able to say good night to him quickly before he fell asleep.

Most People Have Chairs in Their Breakrooms.

Sometimes I wonder why I didn't think about this when I married him.  I know what it was like having an absent father and I'm worried the same thing is going to play out for my son, now.   The Carpenter tries very hard to be home as much as possible but sometimes you have to accommodate in order to keep your job.  His employer isn't bad to him and it's the same way everywhere else in the construction industry.  I remind myself that many other places are in recessions and no building is taking place.  We have a short summer in Manitoba and we try to do as much construction as possible during those months, I get it.  I really do.  I try to be thankful for the work that IS available.  I try to be grateful that my husband has a good enough job that we can squeak by on one income and whatever I get from odd jobs here and there.  I try to be grateful for all the stuff I have that others don't but when there's a crying toddler and I haven't had a break all week and I'm hungry and tired or when my hair is dirty and the kitchen needs cleaning and my vehicle needs repairs or when I skooch over out of habit to make room for someone who isn't there next to me at night I miss my man.

The Smiler is missing his daddy, too.  He gets so excited when The Carpenter comes home and when it's time for him to go again on Monday, The Smiler just keeps hugging him and doesn't want to let him go.  He cries when the door closes behind his daddy.

My Monkey Man Up Six Stories in the Air
I'm sure The Carpenter sometimes wonders why he didn't choose a different career path, too.  He's amazing at what he does and truly loves it, though, and I would never ask him to give up a career he loves (to be clear, he loves carpentry, not being away from home).  At the end of the night, after he's worked all day and has only a shared hotel room to go "home" to after eating restaurant food for supper AGAIN (trust me, this gets old fast), after he's hurried in the shower to accommodate his roomie(s) and lays down in a foreign bed, my man misses his family.

So what am I saying all this for?  Here it is.  Sometimes, when I was a little girl and my dad was working heavy construction, on rare evenings when he'd be home for supper and we'd eat as a family, my mom would complain about traffic hold-ups on the way home from work.  My dad would say, "Don't complain that you had to wait to eat."

The Carpenter Was Mere FEET Away When This Crane
Fell and Nearly Killed Him and Several Other People
Next time you find yourself stopped in the car, staring at a "SLOW" or - even worse - "STOP" sign and maybe getting a little perturbed, or unable to find what you need in the grocery store because of renovations or having to park on the far end of the lot because they're repaving, remember that those people working there bust their asses every day.  They get up at the crack of dawn, they work in conditions postal workers wouldn't even consider, they work in the blazing heat and the freezing cold, in pouring rain and mucky spring muds.  They skip their breaks and lunches, they run out of water and can't access more, they hurt their hands, knees and backs, they work late, late, late to get it done (as the saying goes in the industry, "Time, tide and concrete wait for no man"), they work nights, they go up and down in crazy machines, risking their lives and they work HARD.  Physically HARD.  They have families waiting for them at home and they don't want to be at work any more than the next person does.  They certainly don't want to hold up your day, either.

These are the people who make the roads we drive on and the sidewalks we walk on.  They make the grocery stores we shop in and the malls we walk around.  They make the museums we take our children to.  They make the skate parks and amusement parks.  They install the sewer systems we don't give a second thought to when we flush away.  They make the swimming pools we swim in and the stages we are entertained on.  They make the stands we cheer from.  They make the driveways or garages we park in and the homes we sleep in.

They are my father and husband.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Stop! No! Don't!

Today a friend and I hit up the Winnipeg Fringe Festival for a while.  We were meandering along the alleys of street vendors (may I just say that I don't like the way it's set up this year because Market Square is under construction (and has been for seemingly EONS...  come to think of it, I never see any one doing any work there....) so they're using Arthur and Albert for street vendors, instead).  We also enjoyed a gelati but that's not what I'm here to talk about today.  I overheard a few parents using negatives in their language with their children and it got me thinking that I actually hear it a lot.

"Stop fighting."
"No running."
"Don't touch that."
"Quit it!"
"Get out of there!"

You get the picture.  I'm not entirely innocent of saying some of these things myself and before I go any further I'll say that I have much understanding in my heart for the parent who is having a rough day so I always give people the benefit of the doubt and try not to judge.

With that said, I can't help but put myself in the child's shoes at times, though, too and think of what it must be like to live in their world of nos, cannots, don'ts and stop its.  So I've come up with a few thoughts I'd like to touch on regarding negative guidance.

1) Children Live in a Near-Constant State of Uncertainty
No decision is their own, the schedule revolves around adults' agendas with little to no regard for children's wishes or plans.  They are often not even informed of what's going to happen throughout the day or even what is happening at that very moment.  When we tell children what NOT to do all the time we add to their uncertainty and make them anxious.  When we empower them by showing and telling them what IS acceptable instead of what IS NOT  they gain a sense of security from knowing what they are able to do.

2) Children Are Always Learning and Experimenting
They are curious and driven to acquire knowledge and explore, trying new things, experimenting with their environments all the time (which is often why they "misbehave" in new situations - they are not inherently bad!  They are driven to test boundaries when unclear, like little scientists watching what mice do in a new maze, to see what happens).  The child longs for a sense of knowing what is desired of him, it's actually very stressful for children when they aren't sure what to do.  When we use negative language, telling our children what NOT to do, we leave a void.  The child is already upset - obviously they wanted to be doing what they were doing because they were doing it - so they feel slighted and, on top of it, are being forced to find something else to do, risking being told no again.

3) Social Mores and Generally Accepted Behaviours are Foreign to Children
As discussed, children feel more comfortable when they know what to expect (this is why Mr. Rogers is so popular - the kids know what's coming next) and what is expected of them.  In new situations, we can tend to assume our children understand rules we inherently know from years of experience, inadvertently setting our children up to fail.  For example, children don't understand that it's inappropriate to wander around the restaurant, talking to strangers, tasting other people's foods, exploring the kitchen and servery, etc.  This is where we come in as guides!  It's so important to arm our children with knowledge of the expectations beforehand and discussing the situation and expectations the day before, the day of and on the way there is a great way to help the child understand and remember.  I am often simultaneously pleased and disappointed, though, when I hear parents doing this with "Do nots" instead of "Dos".  I love seeing parents prepare their children for new situations but it's hard when I hear it all as nos and don'ts.  There's sort of an underlying sense that the parent assumes the child wants to exhibit all these negative behaviours as well as a message sent to the child that these are things s/he should want to do since they're being specifically forbidden.  When preparing your child for an outing to a new place, consider discussing what the place will be like and what will be expected in positive, absolute, group terms: "There will be lots of people talking in the restaurant."  "We stay in our seats in the restaurant."  "We talk quietly in the restaurant." (add the because at the end of each of those if appropriate for your child) "We'll each get to choose what we'd like to eat and have our very own plate to eat from!"

4) Children Think in Pictures
A baby is born with no words.  When they want something, it is only a feeling at first, growing over time into an image along with that feeling.  When a baby thinks about wanting an object on the other side of the room, she doesn't think in WORDS, she envisions the item in her hand or sees herself moving toward it to get it.  As the child grows and acquires more words, they become associated with pictures in their mind (we cement this with puzzles, pictures, matching games, etc.) so when we say, "No running!" the child SEES running in his mind.  "No" is pretty hard to make a picture of so it is abstract to the child.  The image of running is very compelling and running is fun!  Some children will immediately want to test a "no" boundary to see if you really meant it, too.  "Slow down." or, "Please walk." will create a much better picture of what you want your child to do.

5) It's Just Plain Nicer
Guiding our children can fast turn into a long string of criticisms in the daily grind if we're not careful.  On top of noticing our children's good traits whenever we can, we can also try to be more positive in our guidance.  When we use too much negative language our children can't help but eventually feel like they're doing everything wrong.  Positive direction or redirection can really help our children to feel like we're with them on their journey, cheerfully helping them learn what is appropriate without resentment or judgement (which is, after all, what we want them to feel like, right?!)  Remember, too, that negative reactions don't have to be quelled all together; saying, "Oh, yuck!  Rocks taste gross!  Let's keep them out of our mouths." will still discourage rock eating just as well or better than, "Don't eat rocks!"

I challenge you to watch your language over the next week or two, being mindful of how you phrase things with your child and try thinking of positive phrasings to replace the negative ones you find yourself using.  Then, implement them!   I have found that if I think creatively enough, there is no situation in which I have to be completely negative.  When we have to tell our children not to do something or when we've slipped up and used negative phrasing accidentally, it should immediately be followed with at least one or two suggestions for what they CAN do.  It will take a few weeks to get into the habit of positive phrasing and it may take your children a bit of time to get used to it, too but I truly believe you'll all feel better for it!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Losing My Touch

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!!!!!!  Something really horrible has happened!  I told a client I could finish something for them by week's end and when I went to open it tonight to work on it, the whole file was just empty.  Gone.  Nothing in there.  The job is for a new foundation for a house that's being moved.  It was all site measurements.  They want their drawings right away and now I'll have to go out to Selkirk and do them again.  I AM SO MAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Slow, Silent Sunday

On our first date The Carpenter showed up at the door wearing a hoodie that said "DEATH" in big white letters across the front of it.  I thought it was the sexiest thing I'd ever seen.  I came across this picture today while looking for something else and you know what?  I still think it's the sexiest thing I've ever seen!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


So, lately I've been feeling kind of stagnant about being a parent.  The Smiler is growing physically every day (at not even one year old he's a whopping 25lbs already) but since learning to crawl a few months ago there haven't been any major developmental milestones.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

James, Joanna and the Highway

One of my best friends in the world is a man.  His name is James.  When we first met we hated each other - like, really, really despised each other so much we couldn't stand to be around one another.  For years.  Then, I had a falling out with another friend, Dan, who was James' roommate at the time.  The falling out was over something very, very stupid that spiralled out of control fast and involved the loss of pretty much that whole friend group.  One day I went over to their house to drop off a few things that belonged to Dan but he wasn't home and James was there instead.  James said he wanted me to know he didn't agree with everyone else and he felt I hadn't done anything wrong.  That meant so much to me at the time, especially coming from someone who hated me.  A while later, I learned he also stood up for me at a party where everyone was bashing me and I wasn't there to defend myself.  That took a big person to do - standing up to all your friends for someone you don't even like because you think they're being unfair.

I decided maybe I had this James pegged all wrong, after all, so I called him and asked him if he wanted to hang out.  All of a sudden, it was totally different!  We got along SOOO well!  We made each other laugh so hard our bellies hurt and we had such a great time together - I couldn't believe it.  In no time at all, we were the best of friends and couldn't figure out why we had never gotten along before (here's a hint:  we *may* have disliked traits in each other that were very similar to traits we possessed, as well).

Over the years, James grew to be a very close friend and confidant to me.  We supported each other through many tough times and enjoyed many good times together, too.  James was in our wedding party and never fails to call me, even if he's on the other end of the country working or we're too busy to get together for months at a time.  We can always pick up where we left off.  We can be honest with one another about everything, never having to beat around the bush or pussy foot around things.

James, like many people, comes from a broken home.  He has been on his own since he was 15 and had his share of hard knocks in the 18 years since then.  He has lost many loved ones, including his step father and his step mother.  His sister and mother have had many health problems over the years, as well.

James, like many people (including myself) made mistakes in his youth and has a son he cannot have a relationship with.  He has grown immensely as a person since that dark time in his life and deeply mourns the lost relationship with his child.  He adores children and children adore him.  Even my very shy son who makes strange with his own grandmother all the time doesn't hesitate to go to James cheerfully and James always welcomes him with a beaming grin and open arms, kissing him on the forehead, breathing in his scent and holding him tight.

James, like many people (including myself) has had many relationships over the years, searching for 'the one'.  He has had much heartbreak through this journey, too and I've done my best to support him and see him through, knowing that he wants to have a lasting relationship and a family.

James, like many people (including myself) found what I believe is 'the one' for him a couple of years back.  Joanna is the perfect compliment to him.  She doesn't mind his busy-bodying, his perpetual tardiness, his compulsive need to clean and organise everything.  She loves his quirkiness and his 'take no prisoners' approach to life.  She loves his roundabout way of doing things and his very strange sense of humour.  She is not jealous of his closeness to me in the slightest.  She accepts him exactly as he is and does not have one ounce of judgement for him or any of his past mistakes in her oh-so-sweet heart.  She is truly a gem and a treat to be around.  From the moment I met her, I loved her and knew she was the right girl for James, despite his being 11 years her senior.  I was so glad he found her, both for him and because I like her so much, too.  She  is crazy for him and has followed him around our fair nation for work, living anywhere and everywhere, to be with him.  The kindness, sweetness, fun and joy in this girl knows no bounds.  Her laid back attitude and 'come what may' approach to life is the perfect compliment to James' personality and the two are truly a special pair.

When James phoned me this morning to tell me Joanna was hit by a car on Henderson Highway and killed yesterday afternoon my heart absolutely shattered for him.

Fuck that the world does this.  She was only 22.  TWENTY TWO.  They were just here on the weekend, borrowing our truck to get a new bed for the bedroom they just renovated.  She was talking to me about their future and when they'll have a family.  She was telling me how much she loves James and how great it is to be with him.  I can't stop sobbing thinking of these lovers divided.  I can't stop thinking about James and his big loving heart that he usually hides (from too much hurt), all raw and exposed now, choking back tears on the phone, telling me, "She was my sweet princess."  I can't stop thinking about what her last moments were like, what she might have been thinking, how frightened she must have been, the pain she must have experienced, the confusion and sadness...  I can't stop thinking about her family, mourning their TWENTY TWO year old daughter's death.  I can't stop thinking about all the FUCKING ASSHOLES out there who are sailing through life, screwing everyone in their paths and how this ABSOLUTE GEM of a young woman has been stolen from us.  I can't stop thinking about what the last thing her and James said to one another might have been (how I yearn for it to have been, "I love you.")  I can't stop thinking about how I would feel if my husband didn't come home today.

Joanna was crossing the street.  It appears the person who hit her wasn't even looking and didn't even apply the brakes before unintentionally taking the life from her, forever removing her from this world and all those that adored her.

**UPDATE: The 18 year old male who hit her has been charged with criminal negligence causing death.  Racing is suspected.  Several eye-witnesses said the crosswalk lights were flashing and vehicles in the outer two lanes had already stopped.  He changed lanes to the median and didn't see the flashing lights or Joanna.  His life, too, is forever changed due to one single lapse in judgement.  How many 18 year olds drive recklessly?  I'd venture to guess 80% or more take risks with vehicles in the first years of having their drivers' licenses.  This young man was no different than many others - except that his fun ended abruptly and with death.  If he has any conscience at all, I'm sure he'll never get over this.  Charging him, incarcerating him, admonishing him; none of these things can bring Joanna back, nor can they clear her from his mind.

Please, please, PLEASE - I implore you - never walk away from someone you care for without telling them you love them.  No matter how mad you are, no matter what happens, no matter what they have done - tell them YOU LOVE THEM before you part because they may never return.  Please appreciate everyone in your life, today and every day.  Too often we get ground down by the day to day stuff of life and forget to relish in the joy of those dearest to us. 

Please, too, most importantly, don't be distracted while you're driving.  I'm sure this person who took Joanna's life is a good person with a good heart and loved ones, too.  I cannot imagine having to bear the knowledge that you took life, however unintentionally, for the rest of your days.

Sweet Joanna, please know that you are loved as you pass to the next stage of existence.  Please know that you were cherished and will forever be cherished in the hearts of many.  Please know that your love and acceptance of my dear, dear friend James softened his heart and changed him for the better.  Please know that we will miss you sorely - so sorely.

Lastly, enjoy this new adventure you've embarked on.

James, please know that you are such a cherished friend to me and that I love you; when your heart hurts, my heart hurts.  Words cannot say but I am telling you with my heart.

Much love.  Love, love love.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Honouring the Marks

The very first time I saw a stretch mark I was 13 and it was on one of my best friends.  She was 13 when she got pregnant, 14 when she had her son, and got some very large stretch marks during her pregnancy.  Her whole belly looked like she had been mauled by a tiger, her stretch marks were wide and long, each one probably 1/2"x6" and covering the whole front of her belly.  They looked like they hurt but she said they didn't.  After she had her son they were still there; I  guess I'd thought they'd go away or heal so I was surprised when she told me they'd never go away - fade, yes but never go away.  That sure seemed like a bum deal to me.

After that, the next time I saw a stretch mark was on a boyfriend I had who was 6'-7" by the time he was in tenth grade.  He had stretch marks all over his legs and back but they went horizontally, of course.  They were very thin, like 1/8" thick at the widest part, and he had many more of them than my friend had had.  They were silvery and shiny and I remember marveling at them on his tall, strong body.  These were marks that showed how his body had grown.  He was embarrassed by them and I remember thinking it was silly to be embarrassed about a mark of how strong and tall you are.  He said they just reminded him of how much it had hurt to grow so fast.  A flashing memory of when I'd had growing pains occasionally as a child ran through my mind and I felt very bad for how much it must have hurt to grow 12" in less than a year.

The next time I saw stretch marks was on a friend after she had her baby.  She also had very big, thick ones (which I now know are uncommon) and she said they hurt to touch during and after her pregnancy.  She got even more with her next pregnancy and I remember thinking that was cruel of nature to do to her.

The next time I saw stretch marks was during my first trimester of pregnancy.  They radiated out from my nipples around my breasts like cheery sunbursts, mocking me as I stared at them in the mirror with disdain.  I had been using the stupid Bio Oil, I had been eating well and staying hydrated - why was I ALREADY getting stretch marks?!?!  Did this mean I was going to get them on my belly, too?  I mean, I could handle them on my breasts because I could still hide those with a bathing suit but I certainly didn't want my perfect stomach marred with stretch marks!  My mother doesn't have any stretch marks from carrying me in her belly so I just sort of assumed without even considering that I wouldn't get any, either.

Throughout my pregnancy I kept up with my Bio Oil routine (though I don't believe this does anything to prevent stretch marks, it sure is soothing to itchy, stretching skin).  Before and after showering I'd inspect myself all over for stretch marks and often grilled The Carpenter to check my bottom and back for them, too (as if knowing I had them would do anything, anyway).  I was very disappointed one day when, sitting on the toilet, I noticed some forming on the inside of my thighs.  Still, though, I couldn't see any on my stomach or back so I was thankful for small blessings.

After having The Smiler the first few days were a haze but I distinctly remember getting out of the shower one day and getting dressed in the bedroom and suddenly catching a glimpse of myself in the full length mirror on the wall.  Much to my chagrin, the lower part of my belly was covered in little worm-like stretch marks.  Probably a hundred of them, all squiggling around and my loose, droopy, empty belly lopping over my pubic bone and I just sank to the floor and started bawling.  I was ABSOLUTELY CRUSHED to see my previously perfect stomach in that condition, especially since not one of those stretch marks was visible while I was pregnant.  The Carpenter tried to console me to no avail and I spent a long, long time hating to see those little wormy squiggles and my deflated, empty belly after that.  Truth be told, I still don't really like looking at my stomach very much, even 9.5 months after having The Smiler.  Some women spring back after having a baby and their flat tummies are back to the way they were before within 6 weeks or less.  Other women forever have a little "pooch" that they'll never be able to get rid of, no matter how many crunches and squats or how much walking and jogging they do.  Their bellies will always curve with the memory of a baby's back.

To comfort myself about my stomach I sometimes think of Ina May Gaskin saying that she finds stretch marks beautiful but then the pessimist in me often retorts, "Well, you're a woman and a midwife and probably have a few, yourself, Ina May." and I have to make a conscious effort not to go down that path of self-loathing (sometimes I'm successful, sometimes I'm not).

This mother is beautiful.  Her belly is round from holding a baby and her breasts are full from milk.  She has no shame in her body - I'd bet if you asked her she'd never even have given it a second thought.

I had a dream a while back, though, in which I lived in a society where no one wore clothes (it obviously wasn't in Winnipeg, or even Canada, for that matter).  In this society, men were attracted to women with stretch marks or poochy bellies and those women were revered.  Full, drooping, stretch-marked breasts were held in the highest esteem and women with the roundest, most stretch-marked bellies were lusted after the most.

When I awoke, I realised this makes perfect sense from an evolutionary, survival and reproductive perspective.  Of course men would find women with full, stretch-marked breasts and bellies most attractive!  This would be clear proof these women are fertile and fit, able to carry and nourish a healthy baby and feed it well once born.  This would be a sign these women have carried and nourished babies already and are therefore desirable to impregnate again.

Now, when I look at my body after having carried a baby I think of this and I remind myself that having a child has been the most changing and amazing experience of my life so why wouldn't I want that to show in my body?  I still struggle with self-image and esteem issues but I try to always remember that I eat a pretty healthy diet and that this body grew a baby - a healthy, happy, well nourished baby - and these stretch marks were earned, I worked hard for this poochy belly and these droopy boobs.  They are mine and to not have them would mean to not have my child.

So today I am honouring the marks of being a child-bearing woman.  I encourage you (as a woman or a man) to do the same.

No shame in their child bearing bodies.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Slow, Silent Sunday

The Carpenter comes from a small town (Beausejour, Manitoba).  You may be aware that country folk like to know what's going on around town.  His mother was recently heard complaining that his father needed to trim the shrubs in front of the living room window at their house because she was having trouble seeing out from her spot on the couch.  So my husband comes by it honestly when he snoops what's going on in the neighbourhood through the window.  We're friends with our neighbours a block up and we joke sometimes that The Carpenter is sure to know if they have company because he can see the cars parked outside their house.  My husband is often heard saying things like, "Oh, Mike across the street must be out tonight 'cause he's usually watching TV in the living room by now."  I think this is absolutely hilarious, particularly because I am virtually oblivious to all happenings outside our windows, in spite of the fact that I'm a stay at home mom (the oft-used stereotype of snoopiness).  What's even funnier is that The Smiler apparently takes after his father's side of the family because he LOVES watching out the window, too!  He'll spend several minutes watching (nice break for Momma) and will even lean forward and tilt his head to see farther out, just like Daddy.  Awwwww...

Monday, February 07, 2011


So, The Smiler has been hitting a lot of developmental milestones lately.  He started crawling a few weeks ago and it's super amazing to watch his crawling abilities evolve and improve.  He also started pulling himself up on things a lot more and with much more confidence.  He has figured out a lot of new sounds and babbles much more frequently and at a higher volume.  His signs of desire, pleasure and displeasure have all gotten much clearer, too, and the dreaded back-arching, body flailing, unhappy signal has shown itself several times.  He's cut two teeth in the past two weeks and just turned nine months yesterday.  He's developed his pincer style grip and is showing a lot more interest in foods, his favourites being whichever ones we're eating at the moment; specifically the piece in your hand is the best.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Slow, Silent Sunday

Inspired by other bloggers who have recurring posts like 'Wordless Wednesday' or 'Thrifty Thursday' or 'Funny Friday' I'm going to have Slow, Silent Sundays.  On Sundays I will post a picture of something or other and a short little blurb about it.  The photo may be recent or ancient, it may be of something in my life or my surroundings or maybe just something that catches my interest.  It may be relevant to current events in my life and/or the world or it may be totally random - basically I'm leaving myself lots of options, here, so this doesn't get boring.  Let's be realistic, I'm a stay at home mom of a new baby - I would gladly show you a 136 photo slideshow of my son playing in the kitchen sink or gnawing on a wooden block but that probably wouldn't bring in droves of readers - so I'm going to try to keep it spicy and fresh.  Here goes!

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Crunchy Mommas and the Stylish Blogger Award

So, I was flattered (to say the least) when my sweet friend Amy at Journey Mum gave me the Stylish Blogger Award.  I was even more flattered when she said, and I quote, that I was "...supremely crunchy..."

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Smiler's Birth Story (A Pure, Unassisted Birth)

Warning:  This is "graphic", contains information you may not have known about me and may not wish to know about me that I feel no responsibility to explain and is rather lengthy.  Read at your discretion and stop if you're not enjoying it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Let It Be

Today I'm going to talk about a pretty sensitive topic that I feel strongly about.  DUN DUN DUN - circumcision.  I heard today that a baby who was born with hemophilia (a clotting disorder in which the afflicted's blood doesn't clot properly, causing often life-threatening excessive bleeding) was circumcised and is now at risk of dying.  Couple this with the recent death of the baby who had a heart condition and was circumcised anyway and I've got some shit to say on the matter, now.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Nothin' Doin'

So, I was going to write a post today complaining about my parents who I have a tenuous relationship with but they pretend they're oblivious to that and love to suggest last-minute plans as though we don't have a life or anything to do at our house.  It should be safe - my dad is completely computer useless and my mom isn't on any social networking sites and doesn't know I've started a blog but all the same, I have this nagging fear that someday, somehow they'd come across it and be really offended and hurt.  They drive me crazy but I don't want to deal with the fallout from a blog post that pisses them off, all the same.  If anyone has any thoughts on that I'd be interested to hear them.

Monday, January 17, 2011

There's No Use Crying Over Spilled Baby Pee

So, The Carpenter and I do elimination communication (EC) with The Smiler. This is a process of watching your child for cues s/he needs to eliminate and then giving an opportunity to do so in an appropriate vessel and should not be misconstrued as 'infant potty training' which is ridiculous and impossible.