I’m a size 10. So I’m gross?

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I grew up as a dancer… ballet, tap, jazz, non stop competetive dance from the age of 5 until I finished high school, having won the top prize in my Provincial competition… best of the bunch. I battled my body all through my teens… fingers poked at my “midriff bulge”, fingernails dug into my derriere and told to LIFT IT! LOSE IT! PULL IT IN! SUCK IT IN! My years as a young woman were rife with negative body messages, blatant and more oblique…as a dancer, there’s no such thing as too skinny. Predictably, I succumbed to the pressure. I stopped eating. Everyone around me feigned shock and horror, but I shrunk and I won the BIG prize, so the dismay was muted. Once I’d won, I started eating again and everyone breathed a huge sigh of relief. It wasn’t a PROBLEM I had, it was a SOLUTION… I’d lost the few extra pounds I carried and clearly it had all been worth it…, no?

I stepped away from dance for about 10 years and, strange truth, I got slimmer. I stopped obsessing over my weight, found a man, got slim. Got REALLY slim.  When I got married, my nearly 5’6″ frame carried only 118 pounds, barely a size 2. I wasn’t dieting, wasn’t sick, wasn’t trying to be slim. I ate chocolate, candy, chips, pancakes, you name it. I also smoked… that did it for me. When the babies started coming, I got slimmer and slimmer. With each baby, my feet got bigger and my boobs got bigger… otherwise I shrank almost immediately to the size I’d been before birth. Then I’d get smaller. I had 3 babies in 4 years, nursed each one. I smoked (I will forever be ashamed of this) during my pregnancies…yes, I cut WAAAAAAY  back to a few a day, but still. I then carried, chased, ran after, held, rocked, fed and cajoled those three babies while blessed with a hyper drive metabolism.  I also taught dance… up to 14 classes a week of jazz and tap. That burns a lot of calories.

Then I turned 35. I took a desk job, and thankfully I quit smoking at last. My metabolism did an about face and I began to gain weight. I now struggle to maintain what I feel is a healthy weight.

I don’t have a thigh gap. In fact I didn’t even know what that was until a few months ago. I have a bit of a pooch.  I need an actual bra, with cups and a bit of underwire. I have birthed 3 children, and there is evidence of that in various body parts. I’m also 46… there’s no escaping that though I’m no stranger to Dr. Botox.  I ride my bicycle when it’s warm, run, work out (not religiously), and salsa dance. Even so, I cringe when I step on the scale, cry when I can’t fit something that I want to wear, and have learned to despise shopping for pants, skirts and dresses. I’m okay with tops… so long as they are all big, baggy, hide my flab and don’t strangle my (apparently) freakishly large upper arms.

And I hate my body. I hate that I am no longer a size 2, 4, 6 or even 8. I hate that I get the “full body check tsk tsk” from the hyper cool gay sales guy at Le Chateau. I hate knowing that I am teetering on the very brink of “plus size”. Me. Hot, beautiful, strong, fashionable, powerful ME. Plus size. Scared. Horrified by my own body. How can I overcome this? How do WE, as women, overcome this?  I can cover it well with nice clothes and good shoes, but don’t expect to see me in anything clingy. Ever.

Mike Jeffries, in a 2006 interview which was made enormously public this week has declared that his brand, Abercrombie and Fitch will not carry XL. In fact the largest size they carry is 10. My size. MY SIZE. Anything larger than me is plus size and has no place in the fashionable universe. No. Nononononono.

I resent the idea that a woman of my size (average) and weight (absolutely dead average) is a plus sized woman. Who decided that?  What does that tell my daughters? I have two gorgeous, stunning daughters who are each within 15 pounds of my weight. They both hate their bodies, both think they are fat. I accept my culpability in that… how could they grow up with me and my warped body image without absorbing some self hatred at least by osmosis?

I have a couple of links for you today. One is a remarkable video curated by Dylan Lambi-Raine, Kayla Hatzel and Sarah Zelinski; 3 classmates in the Gender Studies program at the University of Saskatchewan. This video shows objectification of women… AND of men, in stereotypical roles and demeaning and degrading poses. Oddly the reflected version, images of men being objectified, is no less disturbing.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/story/2013/05/08/saskatoon-viral-video-university-of-saskatchewan.html

An interesting bit of history: the 2006 Salon article featuring Mike Jeffries in full dreadful flight:

http://www.salon.com/2006/01/24/jeffries/  It’s just a big old trash bag full of political incorrectness and awful misogyny.

So Mike Jeffries, go away. The cool kids don’t like you. Voice in my head? Get lost. Please? The truth is I’m actually pretty gorgeous, at least that’s what I’m going to keep telling myself. Every single day.

My groceries terrify me.

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I live in the far north of Canada… the real, snowy, wintry  northern lights north. We have a few hardy farmers here who fight for every carrot, potato and head of cabbage they pull from the earth. Permafrost, harsh winters and shallow soil are only softened by summer days when the sun shines almost around the clock.

These farmers know what works here. They have learned what magic can be wrought with seeds, soil, compost, sun and loving care, and they want to protect what they’ve worked for. As an Agricultural organization they are working to ensure the Yukon remains GMO free, and have begun lobbying our government to enact legislation.  Our territorial government however, refuses to consider a ban, saying it’s not their place and that it’s up to individual farmers to decide.

Why? Why on earth would the government of this small territory refuse such a committed, dedicated group of farmers? Why, when nobody has come out strongly (or at all) for the GMO side. There hasn’t been a group of people out marching to promote the use of GMO seeds, though there have been marches against their use.

I think they’ve said no because the government is afraid of Monsanto. I know they’re afraid of big oil… refusing to ban fracking, refusing to ban oil exploration in a tract of protected wilderness. They’re afraid of some potential backlash, some theoretical future legal challenge by these huge companies. Especially now, as Monsanto attempts to PATENT produce.

It’s true, a lawsuit by Monsanto would cripple our territory, but is that where we are now? Do we have to allow any huge corporation who wants what we have to just come in and take it? Why? Does Monsanto have that much power? Is it real, or is it just the threat that makes governments quiver and bend over?

I don’t want to eat GMO food. I am terrified of what we are putting in our bodies. The Canadian Diabetes Association says “one in every three Canadians is projected to have either diabetes or prediabetes by 2020”.  That is the kind of statistic that’s almost unbelievable, and yet it’s true. Obesity rates through the stratosphere, heart disease rates soaring… can we please just stop this?

We know that messing with every single thing we put into our bodies is messing up our bodies. We’ve super-sized and enriched and new and improved and fat free’d ourselves into a situation we can’t escape from. Genetically modified corn, modified soy, modified canola in everything we eat. And we can’t avoid it.

Our family eats very little processed food, but as a working mother there are some products I’ve relied on. Canned or jarred tomato sauce, pureed or chopped tomatoes, corn niblets in a can, frozen vegetables, cartons of low sodium chicken broth, that kind of thing. I’m not talking hamburger helper and squirtable cheese, but real foods that I can use in my workday, weekday cooking.

But it’s all a minefield. Canned tomatoes… BPA in the cans, likely bionic tomatoes. This is even putting aside any worry about pesticides, just thinking about the NEW food terrorism being perpetrated against us by Monsanto and our governments. Just try to buy any vegetable oil that’s not certified organic; you won’t be able to find any corn, canola or other oil that’s not from a GM crop.

It’s a tunnel we’re halfway down, a wormhole we’re already through. Our food has been commodified, modified, & adjusted, with a sticker on every single apple produced. Lab created “Grapples”; apples injected with grape koolaid, nicely presented in plastic clamshells…so many levels of insult to our bodies, to our earth. The garlic is all grown in china, & those sugar snap peas in little plastic bags have more miles on them than I will by the time I die.

I don’t understand it. We have the capacity to produce everything we need, at least all the cold weather crops we need. I don’t mind that we ship mangoes… no mangoes are going to grow here, but sugar snap peas? Potatoes? Garlic?  What is the rationale? Our governments should be investing in farmers, in the agriculture association’s vision for a more sustainable local food economy. Food security… safe food grown close to home, should be our collective goal.

I envy people living in areas with year round markets, access to a full range of organic foods. I buy what I can find, glad I can afford it. I couldn’t always afford it, and that frightens me too…what damage have I already done to my own body, to my children’s bodies?

So I say power to the farmers, the brave farmers out there marching with signs held high demanding our government protect the food we eat. It’s not as simple as allowing each farmer to choose for himself, not as long as we have wind and honeybees, pollen and birds.   We have to insist. We have to demand. We have to march, and be equal to the power of the corporations with the way we wield our dollars.

If you want to know more about the situation in Yukon, please follow these links.

In the US (and eventually Canada), food labeling is worth fighting for. Have a look:

http://www.rodale.com/what-are-gmo-foods

So go on, go shopping. I dare you.

Pocket NINJA!!!

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I know a she-lion of a mother who told me a story about the power of pocket ninjas. When her kids were in school and feeling worried, bullied, anxious or alone she would ask them to think of her as pocket ninja mom… there, just out of sight, and ready to fight evil for their sake.   I love the idea of the pocket ninja. I love the idea of a secret weapon, a tiny little warrior ready to do battle for me if I need a champion.

Our family has a huge collection of Playmobil, and I have a big bag of it at my desk for kids needing diversion while suffering through Mom or Dad’s meetings.  I had, in that bag, a few ninjas and aliens that I have pressed into service throughout the office for various purposes… mostly comical. About a year ago a colleague was very stressed, preparing for a big presentation. It was one of those presentations that would impact someone’s career and life, so she was feeling the pressure of wanting to get it exactly right. Remembering my friend’s awesome mom-ness, I offered her a  playmobil guy to carry in her pocket to her meeting… a genuine pocket ninja, even down to the black clothes and sword.

She took the ninja, made a rock solid presentation and I believe won her case.  She had a little toy in her pocket to fidget with if things got stressy, but really… how anxious can you be when you’re playing with a hidden toy and remembering the goofiness that went along with receiving it?

That ninja has had many subsequent adventures… he has done a series of yoga photo shoots (he’s really quite agile), has been photographed in many exotic locales and has put a few miles under his groovy headband. He has, however, failed to return from his most recent journey… his adventures have carried him beyond my reach and his loss has been felt a time or two.

My colleague, upon hearing that pocket ninja had gone on to bigger and better things (or maybe just fallen behind my office bookcase?) worked a bit of magic.  She surprised me this morning with a new and different, but possibly even more kick ass pocket ninja (shhhh…the other ninja might just be hiding, and he isn’t very forgiving).

THIS ninja has not one, but two swords. A black sword AND a grey sword. He has a groovy removable helmet too, which almost makes up for his inability to do any of the more challenging yoga poses.

As talismans go, perhaps a little plastic guy with a yellow head is not as powerful as some. He does, however, fit in your pocket… more than you can say for some groovy crystals I’ve seen. He also has a bit more street cred than a St. Francis medallion on a chain, and I’ve yet to see a medallion depicting even ONE ninja sword, never mind two (no offense intended).

All joking aside, it’s awesome to have something to carry (or think about, or remember) – a reminder that somebody, somewhere, has your back. It’s great to know that there’s a little army ready to stand up for you, even if it’s a really really tiny army….pocket sized.  Those pocket ninjas are Mom powered…friend powered… and you know they’ll kick ass if they need to!

Keep hatred out of school policy, please

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The community I love has been engaged in emotional debate for the last several weeks over the treatment of gay students in our Catholic schools. There have been protests, meetings, letters to the editors and calls to radio hosts. Discussions have centered on whether a publicly funded school administration can be permitted to openly and actively encourage discrimination against some of its students.

The Bishop in charge of the school’s religious education program and guiding principles has published a document which was, until recently, posted on the school’s website. This document acts as a guide for teachers and school administration on homosexuality and the treatment of homosexual students.  It calls homosexual urges a “disorder” and labels homosexual acts an “intrinsic moral evil.” The Bishop said that  teachers are discouraged from using words like “gay,” and “lesbian,” and that a Gay-Straight Alliance isn’t allowed at the school.  A side effect of this policy has been plummeting morale amongst the school’s staff and students. Another impact, of course, is a sense of impunity for those keen to demonize young people who have identified as gay, or even those who just “seem gay”.

This  is all happening at the same time as the flood of equality messages and images, the anticipated decision to strike down Prop 8, the chorus of voices growing louder and louder reminding us that we are not allowed to teach children to hate… and yet, it’s still happening.

This is Canada. I know that in the US there are different ways of doing things, churches have different and perhaps greater powers than in Canada, but here, we separate church and state. If taxes are being used to fund a school, it has to teach in accordance with the laws of the land.

If you want an entirely faith based curriculum, then open a charter school. Charge tuition. Do not depend on the public purse.

I say all this, and even so… my daughter is enrolled in this school. Two of my three children have attended this high school. Confused? Yes, me too. My upbringing was Catholic, my husband’s Anglican, but neither of us are practicing, and we are not religious people. I have had occasional bursts of interest in attending church, but will confess the interest was largely social and based in a desire to create structure and community for my family.

When it was time for my kids to start school, the options were the nearest public school (at the time a poorly performing, underachieving school), french immersion (not our choice) or the Catholic school. The Catholic school had a wonderful principal, great morale, high achieving students, an inclusive philosophy and felt loving, warm and wonderful, so we chose it for our children.  Until very recently, the high school had the same warm and welcoming energy.  That changed with leadership changes in the school and in the church community.

As a result, gay students are now being targeted.  In one case, a locker was spray painted with the word FAG. The principal refused to investigate or seek to remedy the situation in any way. The newly “out” student was told if she didn’t like it, she could always change schools. So she did.  And then, as these things do, it all went public. And things have started to change, in a hurry.

I believe churches can teach what they believe. People can attend the church that best suits their belief system. Do I believe it’s okay to preach hate? Do I believe it’s okay to sanction looking the other way when acts of violence are perpetrated based on hatred? No. I understand that it’s a Catholic church, and the Catholic church does not support homosexuality or agree with same sex marriage. Fair enough. They don’t support pre-marital sex either, or birth control, but if a teenage girl gets pregnant, she is treated with  compassion and respect  while a homosexual student is not offered the same respect, or any reasonable protection from discrimination.

I know  several gay teachers within the Catholic schools in our city. We have, in our family, long questioned the morality of practicing a way of life in secret while teaching your students that your own way of life is wrong…is an intrinsic moral evil.  That, to me, is a hypocrisy so damaging it defies understanding.

Now, the government has stepped in and advised the school their policy must change, MUST align with Human Rights legislation in our Territory. The offensive policy has been removed from the school’s website.

But the young woman whose locker was spray painted, her dignity was rejected, her very self was dismissed and that’s not going to go away because a website administrator took a policy offline. And the other kids who have suffered similar insult and assault in that school, with the pervasive disregard for the rights of every single one of its students will not feel less harmed because now, finally, the policy is changing. And what about the kids who have been allowed to think that gay bashing, even in its more subtle forms, is okay? Who’s going to go in and reprogram them?

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My baby girls are 20 & 16?!

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What a crazy emotional week for me. My eldest turned 20 years old today and my youngest will be 16 on Thursday. How? How can this be? I swear to you that only a few weeks ago they were little and snuggly and damp, all sweet breath and need and warm cheeks and lullabies.

My first born is preparing to launch… this nest has grown too small for her. She’s off to a real city, a bigger city, a new fresh start…school, friends, the BEGINNING of it all. My youngest is still half mine, half belonging to the world. So hard for me to separate, she is so much more ready than I am. 16 is nowhere near as old as it was when her big sister turned 16.

When your first child reaches a milestone, a threshold, it’s HUGE. 10 is so mature. 16 is SO incredible, so grown up. Since you’ve never been there before, it’s all enormous, especially because the younger siblings seem so… young, in comparison. Now, as my “baby” turns 16, I look at her with shocked eyes and wonder how on earth this young girl can be so near to being grown. How can I imagine letting her do the things I let her older sister do, especially now that I KNOW better!

When I grew up as the eldest of 6, I was the trail breaker. I had to fight all the fights, win all the  battles, break down the door for my younger siblings. Once my parents got through battling with me over every living detail they had lost the will to fight… at least that’s what I assumed. Maybe they just decided they’d best pick their battles and trust in the universe a bit. Either way my younger sisters had it WAAAAY easier than I did.

In my house, it’s the opposite. I was so innocent, so naiive as a mother I let my eldest do things I will NOT allow my younger daughter to do. I know… now I KNOOW so much more than I did then. Poor kid 😉 Her big sister was supposed to clear the way, not alert me to the risks!

Either way I have these wonderful 3 kids, all of them growing up in their own way and following their own rocky paths. I want everything fabulous, magnificent, exciting, scary and exciting for them. I want them to be explorers, adventurers, life long learners, readers, do-ers, sharing kindness and their gifts along the way. Thankfully too, my son’s birthday isn’t ’til Fall, so I have some time to recover before getting all emotional again.

Can they possibly do that without growing up? Without growing away? Without leaving me? Please?  This is a week of joy, of remembering, of story telling… and of being a big soppy sobby emotional puddle. Happens to me this time every year. Hard to avoid; two birthdays in a week… Happy Birthday Emily, Happy Birthday Chloe.  Love you both bigger than sunshine.

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Holy Crap – I’m FLYING!

wonder womanWhen was the last time you did something for the first time? I read that question in some magazine’s “finding personal satisfaction” or such quiz recently. It gave me pause; I don’t think they meant trying a new recipe or walking the dog on a different route. I think there’s a time in your life when you do LOADS of things for the first time, then the firsts kind of taper off as you get older and more experienced. And more nervous, and anxious, and self aware. Bungee jumping seems freakin’ awesome when you’re 19, young and single, but throw in a couple of mini-me’s and it’s downright irresponsible.

So… 3 kids, all teenagers now and getting ready to launch. And what have I done lately that I never did before? Not a lot, except use a more intense eye cream and get botox.

Mexico…zip lining. Yes. I drove an ATV, rode a whole bunch of really high ziplines, did a bit of rapelling and I FLEW LIKE FREAKIN’ WONDER WOMAN! That’s what I said. I rode 3/4 mile on a zipline in Puerto Vallarta that has you suspended on your belly, arms by your sides, flying through the tree tops at 60 miles per hour. Bam! Never did THAT before! That was pretty great, actually. Pretty damned great actually (at least aside from the Go-Pro camera strapped to my helmet, staring me in the face at alarmingly close range)!!

That was really scary… scary and exciting and new. And they were right, those quiz writing people. Doing things that are scary and exciting and new is a zap… a jolt.. a blast of power and a reminder that there’s a whole lotta living left to do.

I am 46 (shhh). I am young, strong, healthy and a tiny bit braver than I was 5 minutes before I flew like Superman. Now I just need a cape, and I’ll be unstoppable.