Bitchy Tuesdays and the 68 minute 20 minute drive.

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I swear I didn’t wake up this morning thinking this was going to be a bitchy day. I didn’t roll out of bed, snarl and crack my knuckles, ready to rumble. Hell – who takes on a Tuesday unprovoked?  I woke up and it was 26 below zero, crisp and clear and cold and beautiful and I was happy about that. I woke up happy, started my day calmly with coffee, a fuzzy bathrobe and a shower. I did the normal morning things that get me from horizontal (dreaming of hosting a huge dinner party in a Mexican farmhouse with no running water or electricity – no idea where that dream came from or why I remember it) to upright and mobile.

Leaving the house was where things started to go sideways a bit.  Sixteen year old girls and their mothers do not always move in blissful synchronicity. Sometimes, without warning, harmony and smiles turn to discord and gnashing of teeth, while the benign turns radioactive and toxic in a matter of seconds. Ommmmm.

So we left, we drove and we got to where the bus ought to have been but wasn’t. It wasn’t there, of course, because we were several pleasantry filled minutes behind the bus… (that was irony). From my home to her bus stop should be, with no traffic or red lights, a straight forward 18-20 minute drive. Of course that almost never happens. If she misses the bus, which has happened a time or two, we have a problem. The journey from the downtown bus stop to her school is an easy 7 minutes’ drive. The journey from her school back across the bridge to my office is, inexplicably, an agonizing 20 minutes on a good day. We’re talking bottleneck traffic jam backup swearing going nowhere late for work I guarantee it chaos like you just don’t see in a small city. There is a new roundabout, there is a new traffic light, there are 3 school zones and a two lane bridge to contend with, all leading out of a crowded suburb that everyone leaves in the morning to go… you guessed it, the same place as me.

This morning, there was also a car accident – a fire truck and a  flat bed and a couple of cars where they don’t belong…right in the intersection next to the two lane bridge just ahead of the roundabout. You’ve really not seen anything like it unless you’ve been on the Interstate 5 outside of LA at 5:15 on a weekday.  Every side road was bumper to bumper, and there was no getting out of there, period.

So the commute to work, usually a seamless 20 minute jaunt took me 68 minutes. Without coffee. But even that didn’t push me over the edge to bitchy… nah. Once the initial WTF are you KIDDING me happened, I kind of took it in stride. I got to work, told my tale and carried on.

The bitchy has come on by way of a few other things; small things, pissy little things and frightening large things that come with a separation and having teenagers and a new job and all of that real life. Many days I can surf on through it and emerge un-bitchy at the end of the day, but for some reason today those little things have sharp little barbs – they’ve been clinging to me. By the time I walked back into my place tonight I was about done with this day. It wasn’t done with me, of course – that’s how these bitchy days seem to roll.

But I have to thank you, big wide world of people I don’t know. This blogging (also known as utter self indulgence and naval gazing) has given me a new perspective. If I look at it differently, I’ve actually had a great day. I’ve been working on cultivating gratitude, and I’m learning it helps in situations like this. I have healthy kids, a great job, a car that can withstand -26 (it got to -27 as a matter of fact) and a pretty reasonable relationship with the husband from whom I am separated. I have a warm house with a fridge full of goodness and plenty of tea to calm my cranky old soul. My daughter had her moment of angst and anger where it was safe and appropriate…with me, her mom. I had my moment of cranky here, with people who can choose to listen or not (what a great freedom that is!). If I smeared anyone with my cranky today I can try to make it up to them tomorrow. If I sound Pollyanna now, that might just be what I need to fend off the bitchy Tuesday vibe.

Tomorrow is a Wednesday and we all know Wednesday is nothing at ALL like Tuesday. For one thing, it’s payday and that’s guaranteed to make me smile.  My car is plugged in and ready to take on the morning and there’s even a chance we’ll make that 20 minute drive in under an hour.

Here’s to Wednesday…

So soon?

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A few weeks ago I gave birth to a magical little redheaded baby girl. She’s 20 now, but that is the way the heart massages time…the real passage is hard to measure in ordinary terms. To my arms, the weight of her baby self is still a recent memory, there is still an ache in my shoulders from pacing with her while she cried of colic. I still hum the only song that calmed her, and when I am stressed I remember how the sound of the vacuum was the only thing that soothed her mysterious fretting.

I left her in another city the other day, this baby child of mine. I left her in her own apartment surrounded with the trappings of a new life. No diaper pail, no stuffed rabbits or pastel blankies; instead pots & pans, thrift store dishes and school supplies clutter the space.

She is ready. She is ready to take on the world and be a shining beacon of newness, of hope and promise. She has the confidence, the kindness, the grit and the guts to tackle this new chapter. She is, after a few years of holding my breath, everything I knew she would be. I am the kind of proud there are no words for.

But I am now 5,385 kilometers from her forehead… the forehead I like to kiss goodnight. And it turns out I am less ready than she.

Impossible Loss

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The community I live in and love has been struck hard by tragedy in the last month. Two young families have lost their Dads…quickly, shockingly, unfairly. The two families have 5 children between them, all 11 and younger.

The two men, both dedicated outdoors men were friends. They worked together, shared similar passions and lived their lives with enormous intensity and capacity for joy. They died 3 weeks apart, separately, in two completely unrelated tragedies.

Last night on my flight home from a visit to the big city I brushed up close to that pain. I sat with the sister in law of the most recently lost husband, father, friend, Daddy. Her heart was in pieces, visibly. She was lovely. She was so sad, so worried for her sister, her little niece and the shell shocked boys. Their father died trying to save them from a river; them and the son of the woman sitting next to me for 3 hours. I felt…still feel, gutted. I am grateful that I was there, able to help her with her own young daughter, be a new face, a new ear, a new mirror to look in to see who she is now.  As she told me the story, my heart broke again and again.  At one point, she said, there were six people in the river, all drowning. Half were there to save, half were being saved. All were at risk of being lost. Too few safety measures afforded by the resort they were visiting, so many people, so much crying and fear and screaming, so little anyone could do. And so, one Daddy died. One husband is gone. So many lives are forever changed.

I wasn’t there. I don’t know the family personally, though I feel so connected to them. I felt that connection even before meeting this woman who has so much to try and block from her memory, so much to move forward from. I felt that connection because I am a wife, I am a mother.   I feel that connection so much more now, having had the little girl with the saddest face I’ve ever seen sit on me, play with my phone and take sad photos of herself. This little girl has just lost her Daddy; she is 3.

The two families, linked by friendship and interest and passion and love of the outdoors are now linked by sorrow, loss and tragedy.  I am now, forever, linked to their story. I will never erase from my  heart the sight of this woman, this heartbroken sister, the aunt of these children in shock. She almost lost her own son and father to the river, lost instead her brother in law, her sister’s joy and her own sense of security in the world.

She said it was so awful. So horrible. So unbelievable. She has touched my life forever.

Yukon, we have two families who need us terribly right now. 5 children who will need all the support we can provide. Two mothers whose worlds have just been turned upside down, and who haven’t even begun to measure what lies ahead. I want to do something. I wish I could do something.

Powerfully Powerless

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Personal power. What is that? It’s not the same thing as personal strength. Personal strength I have in spades. Power I have far less of. Far less than I’d like, far less than I’d need to change any of the important things I believe need changing. I have strength, I have determination, I have drive and I have fortitude. But I don’t have power. I can influence, I can suggest, I can advocate and I can agitate. I can irritate, I can instigate and I can pester. But I don’t have Power.

I can’t make you do what I think is right. I can’t make you do what I think you must. I can’t make Him do what is so clearly needed. I can’t make them change the way they think, they act, they enact, they legislate. I can’t. I don’t use that word often. I can’t. Power is not something you can simply have by believing you have it. Power isn’t something I can drum up like confidence or belief or faith or mule headed stubbornness. I don’t have the power to make change happen.

I will lend my voice. I will stand to be counted. I will wave a banner or hold up a sign or sign on the dotted line and do my level best to be a force for change. I will speak loudly in my biggest  small voice and demand to be heard. And I will often feel small. Smaller for trying. Smaller for caring. Smaller for giving such a huge important damn.

There is so much change I feel is needed; little micro changes in my own life, larger macro changes in my community and giant leap forward changes in my country and the world. I am tired of trying to be powerful. I am tired of being chicken little. I am surprised so few people seem to notice. The sky might be falling but you seem fine… you seem not to notice it, you seem okay. Maybe, since power is only really available to a few, and I don’t think those few really play for my team, I should work on cultivating contentment. Stop seeking the power to change things, and seek instead the comfort of apathy.

Happy July everybody. The sun is shining so it’s all good. Right?

It’s tiresome, but I know I won’t be able to cultivate apathy. I am hard wired to give a damn. To keep pushing. To keep trying to jump just high enough to make sure you hear what I want you to hear. That’s ego, I guess. But it’s also a desire to connect, to work for things that matter to me and to demand I don’t just give up. I am going to always push against the easy if the easy feels wrong, feels like the lazy way. So chances are if you and I know each other in real life I have annoyed you at least once, or will.  I’ll work on that, but I will also keep working for what matters to me.

Can’t help it.

We are genius.

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It has recently come to my attention that I’m a freakin’ genius. No, don’t laugh… seriously! I have mastered a set of skills so highly specialized that many people don’t even know they don’t share them.

You’d think I’d hoard this magic, keep these powers to myself, but you’d be wrong. I WANT to share. I have willingly offered mentorship to anyone who is interested. Sadly, so few are interested… in fact I can say with honesty that, to date, no-one has actually wanted to learn.

So I will remain, for the foreseeable future, one of an elite few. A member of an unarmed group of specialists who know one another on sight, and know impostors in a moment. We are all around you.

We are the brave. We are the powerful. We know how to change a toilet roll, replace a paper towel tube, fold towels, sweep under the edges of the cupboard, sort laundry, close cabinet doors and refill liquid soap dispensers. We know how to empty the lint tray, pull gunk out of the kitchen drain and put a new bag in the trash bin. We understand that milk lives in the refrigerator, that food left out overnight goes bad and that brown bananas taste better. We know how to cap the toothpaste and collapse a stroller. We can tell you where you left your blue jacket and which type of peanut butter you prefer.

We are mothers. We are legion. We are genius. We are tired.

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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