Radvent #6 and #7

Humility

I know I am a privileged person-white, university educated, Christian, in a heterosexual marriage.  At the same time, there are areas where I feel I am underprivileged.  All the “only” and “just” and “not” labels: just a woman, just a mother, only a renter, not a real teacher, not a real artist, only working part-time, etc, etc, etc.  It’s maddening, but it’s life.

I feel like my job has changed my awareness of privilege, and that I am constant re-evaluating privilege.  This is challenging.  I make mistakes.  I learn.

Right now, the best I can do is strive to be fair, respectful, polite, and kind.  To model patience and justice.  To listen without jumping in (something I struggle with).  To be thankful, helpful, and cheerful.  To also be firm, to use my voice and actions even when it is difficult.  To love and to forgive and to move on.  And to do these things because it is the right thing to do, not for applause or a pat on the back.  To be quiet yet powerful.

Relaxation

I try to schedule me time on a daily basis.  Knitting, watching a movie, going to the library, wandering Michael’s or Ikea or Value Village or Dollarama, baking, drinking hot cocoa or tea, painting my nails, napping.  I am a much better mother, wife, and person when I have my down-time.  I don’t feel guilty about it, as it is important for my own mental health and well-being.  Everyone unwinds in different ways.  We all need our “me” time, even Georgia does.  Every now and then she will go off and play quietly on her own, or I’ll put her in her crib and hear her singing to herself, happy and content to have some time to breathe and think.  She comes back content and energized.  Relaxation is a part of our daily routine, and we all suffer if we do not have time to unwind and recharge.

Radvent #5

Decorating

I had a longer post on this, but the internet/my computer/monsters ate it.  So to sum up: I finally live in a place where I feel my style/Jason’s style/our style is coming together, slowly but surely.  I’m also okay with waiting and taking my time to find art and objects and furniture that I love, as opposed to buying cheap crap just to fill the space.  My life is a work-in-progress, and so is my house.

A taste of some of the pretty things in our apartment:

Champagne glasses from our wedding, a silver cup that belonged to my father, a mosaic tile vase given by a friend, a little bird from somewhere in NYC, stained glass art, a vintage bank I bought as a child, a painting I bought at the end of high school, and a print, also from high school.

Champagne glasses from our wedding, a silver cup that belonged to my father, a mosaic tile vase given by a friend, a little bird from somewhere in NYC, stained glass art, a vintage bank I bought as a child, a painting I bought at the end of high school, and a print, also from high school.

And our little nativity scene, circa 1982:

My mother won this in a raffle, probably in the early eighties.  She was at a craft store, and there was a raffle for this set.  My mum mentioned that she hoped she would win, as she ran a home daycare and the wooden figures would be ideal for small children.  She won (and thinks the draw was rigged), and this sat on the mantle or buffet of our old home for many years.  She gave it to me last year, right before I gave birth to Georgia.

My mother won this in a raffle, probably in the early eighties. She was at a craft store, and there was a raffle for this set. My mum mentioned that she hoped she would win, as she ran a home daycare and the wooden figures would be ideal for small children. She won (and thinks the draw was rigged), and this sat on the mantle or buffet of our old home for many years. She gave it to me last year, right before I gave birth to Georgia.

 

Radvent #4

Sincerity

I am the queen of the unsent letter.  I don’t know how many times I have started writing to a friend, and then…my hand cramps.  The baby wakes up from her nap.  I need to change the laundry, finish the dishes, get ready for work.  Life happens, and that letter is never finished, never tucked into an envelope and sent off in the mail.  It’s sad, really.  I love snail mail, love the thrill of opening something to read, something I can hold in my hand and then keep in a treasure box to read again later.  I know most people feel the same way, the joy of going to the mailbox and finding something that isn’t a flier or a bill.

So what’s a gal to do?  How do I ensure that my thoughts and words and questions and silly little stickers (I have a thing for stickers) reach my friends and family, and not end up in the recycle bin in my kitchen?

I think I have the solution.  While I want to be the queen of the long letter and beautiful care package, I am not.  What I am good at is the notecard.  Short, sweet, and to the point.  There’s very little pressure when I write on a notecard, and I find the size constraint very freeing.  I can’t blather on for pages, because the notecards I use are small.  The perfect size for a quick “I’m thinking of you, I love you, I miss you”.  But they work, they still send the joy, still send the love, still send my thoughts and words.

Radvent #3

Media consumption.

Right now, my media consumption is the internet, plus the occasional tv show at my parents’ house.  We don’t have cable at home, so no tv for me.  And since we don’t have a car at the moment (and the radio rarely worked in our old van) no music while we drive.  I can’t even remember the last time I bought a cd, and I have never quite warmed up to MP3s.  I used to listen to the CBC, but that habit seems to have disappeared.  Most of my music comes from youtube, and it tends to be the same thing: choral music, Pomplamoose, OK GO, random pop music I happen to enjoy (Janelle Monae and Cee Lo Green come to mind).

I used to buy cds all the time, back when people did such things.  A good report card meant a trip to CD warehouse, and my Dad and I would comb though shelves and racks searching for the perfect tunes.  I had a sweet Sony stereo in my room, and wore out three or four discmans (discmen?) during high school and my first year of university.  Second year came, and suddenly all my albums had been imported to my laptop, and an iPod nano showed up as a Christmas gift.  I also lived in a really small town with limited shopping, so I essentially stopped buying CDs.  And so I always have the feeling that my taste in music hasn’t grown since high school.  I could probably organize all my music based on boyfriends: jazz for this one, techno for that one, indie-folk for this other one.

I miss music.  I dislike feeling out of the loop, of always feeling a year or two or ten late to the party.   I wonder if Georgia is missing out because of this-not that I feel the need to go buy a bunch of children’s music or those lullaby versions of Metallica or the Beatles, but that I need to be exposing her to different sounds, much in the same way that I expose her to different tastes and textures.  When I was pregnant with her I listened to Scala and Kolancy (amazing girls choir) and the King’s College Men’s Choir non-stop.  When she was a newborn it was anything with a strong beat: ‘Wake Up’ by Arcade Fire, ‘Rolling in the Deep’ by Adele, ‘Honey’ by Moby.  Now there’s a lot of OK Go, because I enjoy it and I don’t mind if she watches the videos since they tend to shoot things in a single take.

I think I need to find my way to some new sounds.  Hook up my gran’s old radio, ask for suggestions, go video jumping on youtube.  Find things that excite me, things that challenge me, things that move me, things that get me moving.  Replace screen time with sound time.  Involve my daughter.  What will she rock out to, chill out to, make out to?  Will she like classic rock, sharing that same taste with her mama and her grandpa?  Will she be inspired and make her own songs?  What memories will a certain track on a certain cd hold for her?  What memories will I make, for songs I haven’t yet heard?

I need to find the frequency for Radio 2 in Ottawa.  And see if CD stores still sell music, or just tv on dvd and pop culture paraphernalia.

Radvent #2

My relationship with my body has always been complex, full of ups and downs.  I love my skin but I hate my teeth.  My hair is shiny but I wish it were red.  I have nice breasts but if you saw me topless you would see stretch marks and flat nipples.  Am I curvy?  Voluptuous?  Hourglass?  Pear?  Pleasantly plump?  People call me cute, pretty, sometimes sexy, rarely beautiful.  I’m told I have soulful eyes, rosy cheeks, and a kissable mouth.  My legs are strong from walking everywhere but my thighs touch and I get prickly heat in the summer.  Everything about my body has been in a constant state of change for years now-early puberty, maturity, frosh fifteen on, add the depression ten, weight off, muscle added, then pregnancy, then nursing, and now…something new.

Having a baby changed everything.  My body wasn’t solely mine any more, and it still isn’t.  I cried when my breasts changed with pregnancy, when my nipples darkened.  But those breasts fed a baby for six months, and still do.  That tummy pouch carried a child.  This is a body that carries and cradles my daughter, that lays in bed nursing and tickling and cuddling, that pushes a stroller all over Ottawa.  I do not always recognize myself when I am naked, but I am a beautiful woman with a beautiful body.

I try to respect this body, treat it well.  I’m still learning how to dress it, as nothing much fits the way it used to-my legs and bum and waist are smaller from walking, but my breast and hips and grown.  Mostly I dress for comfort, for chasing kids at work, and for nursing.  Today I dressed it for glamour-put on a cabled tunic dress and heavy tights.  Played with what little makeup I own.  Admired my jewelry collection, carefully choosing my earrings.  I felt fabulous, and looked fabulous.  As I flirted with myself in the mirror, I noticed Georgia smiling, beaming.  She thinks she has a beautiful mama.  She does.  I need to remember that.

Radvent #1

Today is the first day of advent. I have no calendar, religious or secular, homemade or storebought. But I do have a daily writing practice, courtesy of Princess Lasertron. I think this is what I need: something to provide focus, insight, fresh ideas, reflection. Something to simply sit down and do, every day through the season. So let’s begin.

FIVE THINGS I KNOW

1. Mentors are extremely important. My job at the Boys and Girls Club is fulfilling, but also challenging. There is always something to do, a child that needs attention, a problem to solve. And it’s tough, and sometimes I feel like my ‘toolbox ‘ (experience and education) isn’t quite enough for everything that work throws at me. Hurt kids. Angry kids. Kids with autism, kids with an inability to focus, kids still learning how to respect other human beings. So I talk to my bosses. I ask their opinion and their advice. I try different things and look for new perspectives. I am thankful to work in an environment where I can have meaningful conversations about what works and what doesn’t, what’s frustrating and what’s rewarding. It makes me a better educator, a better friend, and a better person. And I’ve come to realize that I too am a mentor, and that I am a very important figure in someone else’s life.

2. Make soup. Ever since I started to work four evenings a week, while juggling my home life, with a husband that works odd retail shifts, soup has been my lifesaver. It allows me to be creative in the kitchen while using the odds and ends from my fridge and pantry to make something delicious. I have a freezer full of nourishing meals because I make soup. We still eat healthy because I make soup. I also find that preparing soup (stewing bones for stocking, chopping vegetables, adding spices, simmering) is nourishing for my soul, just like eating soup is nourishing for my body. Soup is comforting both as a ritual and a meal. It brings normalacy to what feels like a chaotic time, while allowing me some creativity.

3. Staying inside is not an option. Getting out into the fresh air is a very important part of my physical and mental health regime. I suffer when trapped indoors-we all do. So we bundle up warm and make the trek to my parents’ house, the park, the market, anywhere. I feel more energized and I sleep better at night. Yes, I live in Canada. Yes, it is cold out. Yes, getting the baby dressed in her snowsuit is a major time suck. But it is worth it.

4. Experience counts. I mean this in two different ways. First, there’s the resume/career kind of way. I have two degrees. I went to two of Canada’s top universities. I am qualified to teach across a wide variety of grades and subjects, and plan to continue my education. But it is the hands-on experience that is my most important form of education. I learned this on my teaching places, when I worked as a nanny, when I interned for the NAC, when I was involved in collaborative theatre. My job at the Boys and Girls Club has proved that I learn from doing, from being hands-on in the thick of things. It is nice to have a fancy B.Ed, but the best education comes from being in the classroom (or clubhouse, as the case may be). I also mean that experience counts in terms of what we do together, not what we buy. This is especially important to remember as we enter into a holiday season that often screams “More more more!” I can remember different Christmas presents, but not all of them. Ask me about my favourite present and I doubt I can give a proper answer. But I have the memories of all the experiences shared with family and friends, and that is what I treasure more than bikes, guitars, iPods, cameras, or fancy blankets. Tree decorating parties. The Carol Service at church. Music. Watching my favourite Christmas movies. Going tobogganing at the Arboretum. Looking at Christmas lights. Hot cocoa with candy canes. Making gingerbread and sugar cookies.

5. Georgia is always learning. I love watching my daughter as she works, plays, and experiences life. She is putting her world together, figuring things out, trying new things. How to connect duplo blocks. How to stack a tower. How to crawl. How to stand. She doesn’t stop learning, and neither should I.

Short takes #2

We now live in Ottawa.

We have a beautiful three bedroom apartment in my parents’ neighbourhood.  We are close to a park, woods, bike paths, the beach, the Ottawa River Parkway, shopping, public transit, and my work.  Our landlord is a sweetheart.  Georgia has her own room!

Jason transferred to Future Shop but is contemplating other things.

I work for the Boys and Girls Club.

Life is good.  I need to remind myself of that from time to time.  Life is good.

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