Wednesday, October 31, 2012

You are 7

My little girl, today you are 7. Seven, what a year it’s been! A year of kindergarten where you took over the class and were commended for helping other students; a year of Irish dancing which, well, you seemed to have fun with; a year of creating, and learning, and laughing, and make believe.
You are still your brother’s very best friend, and the two of you make worlds of fictional characters come alive. You live in a land of super heroes and Lego and barbies and stuffed hippos, each new story and game coming out of your mind in a flurry of rampant imagination. You point out the beauty of the moon, bright and still under the clouds, you laugh at Picasso and tell me he doesn’t know how to draw a face properly, you sing along to Bob Marley in the back of the car, and dance to a beat that is yours and yours alone. You make friends without fear or judgement and have a way of making even the toughest playmates comply and you fill the world with the joy and wonder that you find all around you.
I love listening to your insights on life as we walk to the park, drive through the country, cruise the grocery store, and hike through the woods. There may be one too many fart jokes now, and the “Muthurrrrr” refrain has already begun, but I find your humour and silliness charming when paired with your mischievous grin and the twinkle in your eyes.
You are in a hurry to grow up, wanting to imitate the older girls, make yourself exotic, be the dramatic centre of attention – but when you and I are alone, and it’s quiet, you lay down next to me and hold my hand and we talk and all the personas fall away and you are just you, and you are so damn beautiful that I want to gather you up and hold you forever. Never stop being you my little Noo, because I love the person you are and all the things you want to be and cannot wait to see where tomorrow brings you.
You are a fantastic, amazing girl and you make me proud to be your mom, you always will.

All my love, Momma

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Daughters, some thoughts

I’ve been thinking about Amanda Todd. Not about the tragedy of a young girl taking her life, and not about the outpouring of support and rage on all social media networks and across schools and communities, although the idea of a story this sad going viral because of a YouTube video and perhaps encouraging similar events because of the mass response scares me.
I’m thinking about Amanda Todd because I have a daughter, and I want to understand what brought this ordinary girl to such a drastic decision. The media is talking about bullying. Bullying is bad, and I commend the seriousness with which this issue is now treated in most schools across the country. Bullying creates an endless cycle of mistreatment and abuse that effects everyone. But from what I understand, this girl’s bullying problems started from some bad choices she made while communicating with cretins on the Internet (who take advantage of young girls on a regular basis and should be prosecuted). So maybe parents should be more careful about what their children do on the Internet, but the deeper issue is why girls go seeking attention online in the first place.
My first thought is lack of self esteem. We blame society and ourselves for not having enough self esteem. There are articles all over the Internet, Dove campaigns, and tons of self analysis and criticism of media, the modelling industry, advertising companies, and everyone else who tells us what a perfect woman should be.
So what is self esteem? As I type this I realise that I equate the lack of it with pictures of thin models and I couldn’t be more wrong. Self esteem is knowing who you are, it’s liking the great things about you and improving the things that are not so good. It’s about being a good person and pursuing your dreams and living a life that you are proud of. It is being happy to be you.
We are born without any preconceptions of what we should be, but as we become aware of the world and ourselves we start to think about how we are viewed. This isn’t a bad thing, but if we also start to compare ourselves to others when we do not know who we are, what we like, where we are going, then we latch on to an ideal created by someone else and compare ourselves to a figment of the imagination, that’s when the issues start.
I was reading an article in Psychology Today about the myth of girls losing their self esteem in adolescence (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-power-women/201001/the-truth-about-women-and-self-esteem). According to the study, there is no significant change in adoloescence, and girls although more “anxious about their appearance” are more confident than boys in terms of academic achievement. What seems to make a difference is support, “For both girls and boys, those who felt supported by parents, teachers, and friends in expressing their points of view felt they had a stronger voice”.
Adolescence is such a fragile time because we emerge from that bubble of being completely unaware to the question, “who am I?”. It is important to have people in our lives who help us become who we are and not tell us who we should be.
I want to build a relationship with my daughter that allows her to share doubts and problems, and I want to help her to understand that she is beautiful and if people tell her she isn’t she just won’t believe them. But most importantly, I want her to know who she is so that she can make her own choices and be a happy person.
My goals for my children are countless, but I want them to understand that they are loved and that they have people in their lives who think they are wonderful, can listen without judgement, and will provide help when they need it. I think I’m on the right track, I’ll read some more and get back to you.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Future fiction and non-fiction writers (spot the difference):

We were walking through the Botanical Gardens the other night after the Magic Lanterns and came across a series of fountains and lily ponds. Both kids were entranced and Naomi was thrilled when she discovered that they changed colours.
N: Look! The water changes colours!
Me: Wow! That's amazing!
N: It's magic!
Ben: I think that it's lights making it change colours (heads off to investigate as water turns purple).
N: I think the water is changing into grape juice (water turns red) and blood!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

the joys of a head cold

One of the only fun things about having a head cold is losing my sense of taste. Suddenly, that no-sugar diet is doable and last night I was amusing myself by downing handfuls of wasabi peas....... what strange and spicy things will I eat today?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Sometimes, it's enough just to love.....

Monday, August 13, 2012

Reasons why I am awesome

Sorry, but I feel like blowing my own horn today.....
  • I have two beautiful kick-ass kids that I constructed, nurture, and inspire.
  • I take good pictures.
  • I write good words.
  • My heart is almost always in the right place and I love utterly and big.
  • My hair.
  • I love discovering the unknown.
  • I get people excited about stuff, lots of stuff. Sometimes stuff I didn't think I had any interest in. Getting excited is fun.
  • I talk to everyone, or try to anyway. I meet some pretty awesome people this way.
  • I bake really well.
  • I run half-marathons for charity.
  • Just one month ago, a famous photographer told me he had to take my picture. And he did.
  • Did I mention my hair?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Why I am happy this morning


  • Some very nice kid cuddles
  • Waking up to my kids giggling and wearing my bras over their pyjamas
  • My daughter, closing the fridge door after helping herself to a slice of pizza, saying, "yum pizza for breakfast". Frat boy.
  • The sunshine and the cool breeze on my balcony, drinking coffee and listening to the faint sounds of a Marmaduke movie that I do not have to watch
  • Knowing that today both my parents are home
  • My son joining me briefly on the balcony to see what I'm doing, hug me, and say, "I love you Mom".

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

feminist thought for the day


Women are crazy, and I am the one at the front of the parade waving the flaming baton.....

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Nine

Oh Ben, you are nine, where does the time go? I have blinked and another year has zoomed by and you are bigger and still so very beautiful.
You continue to spread love and joy where ever you go, touching people and making the world kinder and sunnier. Your ability to notice and understand the feelings of others borders on telepathy and is a rare gift, rarer still considering who you are. You always have a kind encouraging word for friends, and you would share anything with your sister to make her happy, and you still walk up to my bed every morning and ask "for a cuddle please momma". Your selflessness continues to inspire me and proves to me that a gentle heart can have a much greater impact than cautious one.
Grade three was so much better than two: an enthusiastic teacher and two lovely helpers who appreciated your gifts all gave you room to be yourself and encouraged you to believe in yourself and now you are a confident and enthusiastic reader and a creative writer. You made up your own poem on a walk home one evening and everytime I look at it framed on my wall I burst with pride. You can converse about Spiderman, story plots, and The Magic Flute. In addition to being a scientist and inventor, you have recently added Lego master builder to your c.v., and I believe you are on the right track about that, the bricks dance between your fingers and become worlds that I marvel at.
In addition to your academic and creative achievements, you also managed to complete a 10k run for charity and have started karate which you are patiently teaching your sister at home.
With every accomplishment you are becoming more mature, more aware, and more able to perceive and challenge things in your life that you feel are unfair or wrong. You can stand up for yourself and are a loyal friend and these traits will protect you when you need it most.
You are everything you should be and so much more, your light and sweetness are unique in this world.
I love you more than ever,
Momma

Sunday, June 24, 2012

My life in points

  • My birthday celebrations were all wonderful, I have wonderful friends and family.
  • Naomi graduated from kindergarten, I know it's silly, but very sweet.
  • The experiment of having flowers on the balcony is so far a success.
  • The kids are completely psyched about summer vacation. We went to the pool for the first time this year and much merriment was had.
  • I'm in the last week before I hang my pics and I'm still deciding what's going up. I'll be spending a lot of time with the printer I think.
  • Taking pictures, taking pictures, taking pictures.....the sun and warmth are melting and inspiring me.
  • On the hottest day of the week, I decided to bake 7 dozen cookies. Dumb.
  • My house is such a mess I've stopped inviting people over until I find a shovel and a dumpster.
  • I introduced my kids to the idea of bonfires and now Ben wants to go every night.
  • I'm here in this moment and I'm happy.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

It's that time again....


I woke up this morning with no kids, but a lovely heart card that Benny made and hid in his room as a surprise. You never know how much those things really mean until you are a parent.

So, what have I learned during the year? I've learned that some people and things cannot be replaced, but sometimes fond memories are better than bitter regrets. I've learned that I am the kind of person who cannot just jump back up and move along without pause, and I've learned that everyone deserves good things in this life, including me.

I discovered that I am not as strong as I wanted to be, last year wasn't easy. But I learned a lot about myself and the people around me and I am making peace with the changes and letting the things that hurt me go in order to embrace the things that I love.

And what will I do this year? I will try to be a good friend, a good mom, and a good person. I will follow my heart and try to have more confidence in what I do and to seek approval only from myself. I will leave myself open to discover and find joy, even if it means finding pain too, and I will continue to find out what is meaningful to me.

Let's see what happens, what I can do..... :-)

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Process

I'm trying to narrow down the photos to a shortlist, and suddenly realise that I'm bored with almost everything I've done. I want dynamic, I want life and movement and faces, and details, I want images that will draw me in. I also have a new idea every hour for a theme or a style I want to do. I think that this will require more walking about with my camera at very early hours of the morning. The fact that I look forward to this is a step in the right direction I think :-)

Friday, May 25, 2012

status

Beautiful morning sun, a soft breeze coming in my window and a light in my heart. I am slowly brushing away the last, stubborn flakes of the previous version of me, the unhappy version mired in desperation, paralyzed for reasons I acknowledge but no longer understand. I believe that we are constantly reinventing, or at least we should be, always moving forward, never accepting our last work as our best work, and never taking anything in our lives for granted.
I am bringing along the things from my past that I love, even if they are not good for me. I am doing instead of talking, hopefully. It will be a nice change.
I am also hoping that my words return soon, but they have been elsewhere, contemplating a life without me, or at least a life where we are just good friends instead of intimate and entwined. I am trying to be patient, and I have other distractions, but it's hard.
While I wait, there is coffee, and the sun reflecting on the green leaves, and a smile on my face. It's a morning that makes you feel like anything is possible.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Know your Montreal architecture: the Aldred Building

I was photographing Sunday morning. Actually, I woke up at 5:30 and figured that if I was going to be awake I may as well do something constructive. I was not disappointed. I'm a morning person. I have always enjoyed that feeling of being awake before most of my world. I love driving around just before dawn, the empty streets, the street lights getting ready to flicker off, the chill in the air, watching another surviving soul in the sleepy, surreal apocalyptic grey light walking down the street or waiting for the bus. I wonder if they are feeling what I feel. There is peace and clarity and as a breeze floats over my cheek I shiver at the thrill of the world existing only for me. And there is always parking.
 
I cannot wander down to the area and not photograph the Aldred building. My lens often seems a bit too preoccupied with the beautiful Art Deco building cross-corner from Notre-Dame. It's ziggurat, step-back design was probably due to the city bylaws prohibiting buildings over 12 stories unless step-backs were included, a bylaw also adhered to by New York City, and it is no surprise that the Empire State Building has a similar design.
Construction started three months before the stock market crash in 1929 and miraculously the construction continued and was completed in 1931.



It was Montreal's first sky scraper, with state-of-the-art elevators and a visible break from the classical architecture in abundance around the square. The architects reflected the mass of the cathedral on the lower part of the building and cleverly aligned it to both Notre-Dame and Place D'Armes streets even though they do not meet at 90 degrees. I had never noticed until someone pointed it out to me on an architectour a couple of years ago. The building was commissioned to be a symbol of wealth and properity. Times had changed by the time it was finished, but the vision of the design endures to this day as a piece of luxury and beauty from an era that so many of us wish we were a part of.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Well put, Ze


"Let me think about the people who I care about the most, and how when they fail or disappoint me, I still love them, I still give them chances, and I see the best in them. Let me extend that generosity to myself."

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Moms in the jungle - article in progress



I’m sitting in the dank kitchen in a church basement waiting for my daughter’s latest class to finish. Irish dancing. It seemed like a good idea, good for her coordination, great excercise, lively music,and none of the weight issues and structure of ballet.
My daughter started with the rest of the class of absolute beginners, none of them knew a single step in September. Now most of the girls are picking it up very well and a few are exceptional. My daughter is not one of them; she’s been at it for six months now, and she’s still stumbling over basic steps and waving her arms around like windmills which is the biggest sin an Irish dancer can commit other than dissing Michael Flatley.
I get up and take a peek into the main room. She’s been shuffled into remedial jig with four other girls so they can catch up with the rest of the class. She’s pulling at her underwear and staring at herself in the mirror instead of paying attention. Sigh.
I am caught in the stage of “before it’s too late”, the world of “if they start young it’s easy”, the window of opportunity that allows your child to become a talented, successful adult rather than an ordinary drudge. Every world-renowned dancer, singer, musician, nobel winner, and elite athlete started, it seems, before age 2 and practised every day for 50 hours. And as adults they love what they do and make the world a better place and they thank their mothers every day for the sacrifice and encouragement (nagging) they received in their childhood to keep going. Their success, they say in interviews, was largely the result of their moms guidance (pushing).
I live in the age of the Tiger Mother, and I am a Tabby Cat. I want my children to find passions, but I want them to have fun and enjoy their childhoods. And I agonize over this every second of every day.
How is a Tabby mom to compete? How can I ensure that my children excel in this world of overachievers? I look around at the rest of the moms in the kitchen: some checking their email on their phones, some chatting about learning activities, some helping their other kids with their homework or feeding them something organic. We are all living with the pressure of parenting and wanting to do the best job that we can to raise our children, knowing that if it goes badly, it is all our fault. And that every other mom in the room is doing a better job than we are.
We find activities, pay the registration fees, buy the shoes (leotard, stick, racket, trampoline, chainsaw), and then throw them in and hope something talented happens. If it doesn’t, we think, as moms, that it must be our fault, so we put in more effort.
I have encouraged and asked and drilled and praised and pleaded and scolded, but nothing I have done has made my wonderful child turn into the diligent girls dancing near the front of the class, bouncing gracefully and practising their steps over and over to get them perfect.
It didn’t make her a great ryhthmic gymnast either, laying on the mats looking up at the ceiling of the auditorium while the other girls did effortless cartwheels and twirled without falling over.
We worry about wasting the limited time available and then worry that we haven’t given our kids a long enough time in an activity to truly develop. My limit is two sememsters before we move on, watching for signs that she’s still keen about the old activity. Did she just twirl without falling over? Did she just perform a flawless reel? No, probably not.
And in the midst of all of this, our children skip around in a fairy circle oblivious to talent and judgement and I envy them and realise that I am insane. And I smile and enjoy the dance.
Let’s try karate next.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Getting up

I'm lying in bed, cozy and warm and the sheets are soft against my skin and I want to burrow in and linger and daydream. Dream about accomplishing my goals, dream about creating wondrous things, dream about loving and being loved and seeing the world and discovering.
But nothing's gonna happen if I don't get up and stop playing with my phone....

Sunday, April 01, 2012

The longest view


He stood there, looking out the window
And he wondered what she was thinking
About
what she was doing
At this very moment
she was watching a squirrel run along the power lines outside her bedroom window
trying to write, but the words weren't coming
Because she was looking out the window
And wondering what he was thinking
About
what he was doing
At this very moment.

Monday, March 26, 2012

There must be recorders in hell.....

Went out to a concert tonight, chamber music at Bourgie. The theme was Romantic Baroque, so Vivaldi, Handel, Telemann, but they invited a pair of recorder players. I know that recorders are pretty integral to a lot of Baroque music, but I loathe them (and harpsichords for that matter). Apologies to all who love them, but they attack every nerve in my body and turn me into a rabid dog, the sound agitates and irritates me until I want to scream or pass out to end the agony.

The bits when they weren't playing were good, a few of the Vivaldi concertos for two violins were quite nice and the Telemann Don Quixote also very lively and warm. But then the recorders kept coming back for more, the tall guy pulling out all the stops and playing a solo that was the Baroque equivalent of Hendrix wowing the audience. It was very impressive in its difficulty and execution I know, but it was all I could do not to rush the stage with my program and papercut his lip. Later on the whole thing became quite amusing when they were both playing flesh-coloured thicker alto recorders with bulbous, creamy tips. I'd never noticed what they looked like before and the enthusiastic bouncing and swaying almost brought on a giggle fit that would have had me kicked out of the hall. If my ears had not been bleeding, I'm sure I would not have made it through.

I am tired of living on canape classical - other than the opening children's concert I haven't been to the OSM or seen my boyfriend and the OM all season. I miss the power of a full orchestra and the kind of sound that pins you to the seat and sticks its tongue right down your throat. I'm tired of being tickled by the occasional arpeggio or fondled by a concerto grosso. I want a symphony,  to be slowly seduced and teased and delighted through the opening and allegretto, heightened to a flush in the scherzo, and brought to a frenzy in the finale, breathless and gasping and spent.
I need a good symphonic you-know-what....

Saturday, March 24, 2012

"There are two ways to live your life – one is as though nothing is a miracle, the other is as though everything is a miracle." -Albert Einstein

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Excerpt from somewhere lightheaded

I'm sitting here on my bed with a glass of wine and a breeze blowing over my toes from the open window and I'm wondering what it is that is making my heart so light today? Is it really spring with the bizarre summer temps that is making me so giddy, or is it a feeling of hope that comes when you let all the fear and doubt and sadness and guilt in your life go? All I want to do today is love people and things and me and the strange and beautiful things I do. Today there was no weight and nothing pressing into me and it didn't make me more productive or creative, but it did make me happier. I wish you were here to feel this with me, amidst the chaos of my house, toys, art projects, books, dirty dishes, unfolded laundry, and ninja lego ready to attack your feet at any moment. Sitting on my bed, legs and bodies entangled while you tell me something funny that takes me by surprise and all of a sudden I want to take your face in my hands and kiss you and pour my joy out into you so you can breathe it in and smile like a boy who has discovered he's a superhero, that he can fly.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Winter's gone

The season changed suddenly and I am trying to find the words to express that lightness and calm that the warmth brings to my body, melting the tension in my shoulders and mind as it melts the last remaining piles of snow and ice from the shadows. The smells of the earth and the trees waking up and everything coming alive again makes the entire city invigorated and enthusiastic. People are smiling more, people are outside raking their lawns, playing on the sidewalks, congregating on porches as the evening light stays longer. We are all one in spirit in the great communal relief that winter has left for another 9 months.
And my heart is wandering from place to place looking for a solid place to land and yet rejoicing in the soft breeze that is keeping it aloft. Perhaps I will let it hover on the currents a while longer.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Spring reflections

Spring is coming and there was a warm, sweet breeze blowing across my face yesterday morning as I crossed the grey parking lot. I looked down at the puddles and marvelled at the stark reflections of the dark, bare tree branches against the pavement. I cursed not having my proper camera, but pulled out the old iphone and took a series of shots all over at all angles. One man stopped to watch and see what I was doing. He was amazed that I could find anything so beautiful on such a sullen day. But that is what I love to do best I think :-)
Part of me has turned upside down as well it seems. While I share most people's feelings of spring hope and anticipating the end of the winter, I am also moody, because I know that I am due for more change, and I am tired of negotiating with myself for it. I know what is in my heart and what isn't, and I am mad at myself for trying to justify it, waffling in the spring breeze and hoping I will suddenly wake up and everything will be different, that I will be content and sensible.
One puddle does not make a spring. There is so much beauty to see everywhere and in everyone, especially in the places where you least expect to find it. I can no more stop seeing it than I can stop breathing, and spring's light and warmth are making my eyes and heart restless for more.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Moments in a day


I woke up this morning when Ben walked into my room and asked for a cuddle. His sister was already sleeping on "her" side of my bed. He climbed in under the covers and snuggled up and we talked about dreams and snow and Iron Man and he gave me a kiss on the cheek and told me he loved me.
Later in the morning I was sitting on the bed with my laptop and Naomi wandered in with a book to read. Sometimes when I read she comes in and reads too, except that she doesn't read very much yet, so she spends a lot of time asking me what the words are. Today we read Princesses are not Quitters, and we spent some time picking out all the funny parts of the illustrations.
Both kids cleaned their rooms, with varying success.
We went outside and the kids played in the snow while I shoveled, and we saw our neighbour and her dog. Ben saw a pile of snow from a shovel and told us that it looked like a treasure chest (it really did). I told the neighbour about N telling me earlier in the week that "patience was a bird shoe". It cracked her up.
I actually managed to fold and put away all the laundry before starting more laundry.
After supper we all sat on the sofa together and watched a movie and we all agreed that mice with accents are very funny.

Friday, February 10, 2012

In Absentia


Went to a play a few nights ago called In Absentia. It's set in winter in a lakeside cottage owned by Colette and her husband Tom. A young man shows up and Colette lets him in and he brings the story along. You find out that Tom has been abducted while working in South America and ransom negotiations abruptly stopped over a year ago and Colette's waiting, hoping, frozen, lost.

She talks to Tom every day and voices the guilt of her failings as a partner and a human being and examines their relationship while her pragmatic sister who is staying with her chimes in with advice about what she should be thinking and feeling. There is a lot going on and and so many of the ideas are wonderful and true and provoking, although I found much of them too explained thoughout the dialog.

Colette couldn't wait for her husband to leave on his final trip and was planning on trying to have an affair with their neighbour, Bill. That changed when Tom was kidnapped. Her feelings are suddenly gone for Bill, and Colette wonders if she only truly loved Tom after he was no longer there.

I know, I know, absence, fonder hearts, blah blah, but is it possible that we really only love people in moments of their absence? When they are with you they are there and you enjoy them, or not as the case may be, and don't realise the space they fill in your heart until that space is empty? And when they return they light up everything as that familiarity and warmth fills in that space again? Do we only need those feelings when we are alone, in moments of uncertainty and doubt, or do we relish that feeling of loving from afar and delight at the anticipation of wanting? Are there simply people who take these things for granted and others who are in love with the idea of longing? And when you realise that the person may never come back, will never come back, the lengths that you will go to to keep that space filled to the point where you pretend that person is still there.

I try to take in moments and to enjoy them as they happen and not take them for granted, sweet moments with my kids, the smile of a friend, the softest, brief kiss on the back of my neck that means everything. But often I only really stop and think about the ones I love when I am alone, and replay those memories and remember how they made me feel. But if love is mostly constructed within your memories, you can alter the perceptions any way that you like. So why does it suddenly appear and disappear and why is it impossible to let go of?

I'm not really sorry

Finland

Apologies to anyone who still stops by, I have been out and about, living, travelling, reading, brooding, thinking, sitting very still, dreaming, learning....