Friday, October 25, 2013

Mama Bean was driven to poetry (!)

On this windy morning
this Arctic wind
pierces your breath
drives out any thought
but the next immediate task
get inside! then fold
face the very centre of
what's real
(the need for warmth)
while anything else
you thought real
is blown away

On this grey morning
when the sky pulls down
like a helmet
leaving a band of pale light
just an inch over the horizon
life condensed again
just a ribbon
clinging to the road and trees
over there a patch of
vaguely brighter haze
where the sun
may be rising
but why would it

On this morning which,
in short
(too late, too late)
insists on being melancholy

give in

let yourself fold down
like a helmet
against the wind
and give in to
that broken place

or if you must unfold
look up at that grey
look! it is empty
and waiting
to be painted
with your memories
or your dreams about

but curling inside
one could simply
carry that grey sky
like a swath of cotton
and mist
carry it pressed to the wound

the wind has polished you
cleaned the surface
who would know
what you painted
and held
(so tight)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Mama Bean is pretty pleased with her garden this year

I fear I've been remiss in my garden posts this year :( It's been a good year, the whole process is starting to feel more natural, more fitted into our family culture. I don't overthink or overplan or overworry as much, I mean, I think all gardeners do these things, but I hope my concerns are less n00by now... I must say, however, that the magic of growing still touches me daily. My yard doesn't look exactly as I'd like, I can never do all the chores (and weeding) that I need, but every day I see the beauty I helped coach into the world. And every day it surprises me - by having its own mind of growth, by being more beautiful than I imagined, by asserting its otherness, by forcing me to breath in that I am not in control. Breath in, breath out, look what magic happens all by itself... [The picture is of my fairy garden, the perfect white flowers are on the Scottish moss.]
I planted the cucumbers on the south end of the beds this year, learning from last year's north end/shaded by potato plants disaster. The vines did much better, though the dilapidated chicken wire trellis is not sturdy enough for cukes as it was for peas. I may source a cheap futon frame on kijiji and build another trellis like the north bed's for cukes next year. Although in principle I'd like to rotate the crop into a different location next year, the south end is the best place for them. I will have to amend the soil to replace what they took out.
A forgotten carrot from last year sprouted (well ahead of when I even seeded carrots this year, which goes to show how early I probably can seed in the future) and flowered this year. There are eight or nine 'blossoms' which are large discs of hundreds of tiny flowers. Carrots and baby's breath are related. Each tiny flower will become a seed. I won't have to buy as much seed next year. And I will leave one carrot from each of the types we grew this year to seed out next year. And that makes me very happy :) [The types we grew this year are a few purple haze, a few sweetness III, a package of red atomic, and a package of atlas. The red atomic seeds only came up sparsely. Considering how well everything else came up, I'm attributing this to the quality of the seed, and won't be buying from that company next year.]
There are eight different kinds of foliage in this bed this year, it's like a green rainbow. I am terrible at spacing rows. In fact, there were two rows of soy that should have also been in this bed (where? where did I think it would fit??) but the rabbits ate every sprout down to the dirt. The kale grew ridiculously well. Unlike every other brassica I've tried to grow, it had no bugs. Papa Bean asked to grow it this year. Then he made kale chips. Then he declared they 'still taste like vegetable' Then I blended and froze half the harvest. Maybe I'll make some more chips for myself and the kids. I may grow it ornamental-style next year. It's a very pretty plant.
French fingerling potatoes. We have repurposed the recycling boxes for potato growing, now that we have a big autobin for our cardboard, etc. What I hate about root crops, and potatoes in particular, is that I have no real idea how well the harvest is going. The plants are large and healthy, they flower like crazy, but there could be no potatoes under there. I fear we have not hilled/mounded/added dirt enough :( This is one crop I consistently fail at, I may just give up next year. It's not like potatoes are expensive.
I often feel like I have my yard/garden, and it occupies this slice of my mental pie over here, tucked away. And then I have my tomatoes, and they are like my children, and they take up the rest of the pie. I don't weed, I don't monitor, I may not even look at my whole garden every day, but I visit my tomatoes two or three times a day. I talk to them. I check their blossoms. I pinch off extra leaves. It's amazing, really, that I haven't created some sort of chart for them. I know I'm getting the hang of this gardening thing because my neighbour, who has gardened for decades, who got us hooked up with the community plot when we first started, who grows copious amounts of food for fun, asked me what magic love songs I sing to my tomatoes :D So I know I'm doing something right...

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Mama Bean is doing push ups

About a week ago, I volunteered to be in a group for our local CBC morning show, trying out a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) exercise program touted in the NYT as The Scientific 7-Minute Workout. Our "Fit in 7" group agreed to do the program daily for two weeks and report back. The first day, we visited a trainer to teach us the steps. Papa Bean and I had tried it a couple days before to get a feel for it, so I knew the steps, knew they were simple but *NOT* easy - but being the first day and being a wee bit competitive, I pushed pretty hard in the studio. Enough that I sort of growled at the very nice reporter covering our progress (sorry Trevor!), and promptly felt like vomiting afterward. The nausea lasted the morning. The soreness set in while I was working that evening. It made me realize how much I use my calves, lower back, and obliques to do my job, when my body twinged every ten seconds with every patient lol.

This initial taste confirmed the reasons why I thought this would be a good program for me to try. The program is very simple - you can tell what the exercise is from a picture, more or less. They don't require buying extra equipment - a chair, something to step on, comfy clothes... The difficulty of the steps is self-inflicted; it's as hard as you push yourself. And it is a complete body work-out; every muscle is used, especially trunk/core muscles that almost anyone would benefit from strengthening (to save our lower backs from compensating for weakened cores.) And it's scientifically-backed, which means I should see measurable benefits relatively quickly.

These are the 12 exercises: jumping jacks, wall sit, push ups, crunches, step ups, squats, tricep dips, plank, high knees, lunges, push up rotations, and side planks. The second day, PB and I did it together and counted the countable ones, to compare after the two weeks. Surprisingly, I was kind of on par with him on most things except the upper body things - I did 11 modified push ups (from my knees) to 15 of his full push ups (from his toes) and 9 modified tricep dips (with knees bent/feet flat) to 23 (sigh) of his full dips (legs straight/toes up). After that, my knees were stiff/swollen and my lats/rotator cuff/obliques were tender/achy. I slept like the dead. By morning, everything was stiff and my left SI (my weak point) was pinching. I self-adjusted the SI and stretched and felt fine in a couple hours.

I have the benefit, I suppose, of having learned about exercise physiology through my career and fitness-oriented colleagues, but I haven't lived it out practically with this intensity before. It helps that I know my musculo-skeletal anatomy. I can self-examine and stretch or adjust whatever might be ailing from whatever exercise I do (same thing happened when I was doing the Couch to 5K program.) I know to ice my knees, I know to hydrate. Although I feel like a fitness n00b, in terms of actual fitness level, I'm glad I had the background knowledge to support my efforts and success.

Most of the time, I do the workout at home. We tried it last night outside, on the soft grass in the fresh air, but it wasn't actually that great :( We spent our 10 second rest times rushing to the next spot (to the vestibule for step ups, to the garden box for tricep dips, to the grass for crunches) and the grass was itchy on hands and slippery for feet (my plank ended abruptly.) I also did it once at my gym, but I didn't enjoy really givin' her around other people - I felt embarrassed. I think the ability to do it at home in private is the best part, in a way. I can breathe like a dying horse and roll around in exhausted agony, and flop/jiggle without shame - and burn and sweat and feel stronger for it.

I have felt stronger every day - that kind of immediacy with results is exactly what this easily discouraged, chronically overweight lady needs. I don't get sore (DOMS) as much, nor am I as stiff. I sleep like the dead every night and wake up feeling more rested. I'm in a better mood. I can do 15 push ups (vs 11) and 15 tricep dips (vs 9), my two weakest exercises. After only seven days!

When the CBC show posted about this segment on their facebook page, there was this weird pushback in the comments: "it's not really a 7 minute workout, you're not being journalistically ethical" "it's not as efficient as my workout" "a healthy lifestyle is a bigger priority than potential strain/injury" "my current workout is enough." There is nothing more discouraging to the person trying something new for their fitness than to have an experienced, already fit person tell them, "No, that's not enough/won't work/isn't perfect." Really? Do you workout perfectly every time?! Don't. be. that. person.

Just because some research (quite a bit of research) has detailed the benefits of this style of exercise, doesn't mean that your workout is scientifically invalidated - that's a logical fallacy. If what you're doing works for you, then great, keep doing it. If what you're doing isn't working, or you have Exercise Ennui and like bright shiny things, or you're doing nothing and want to start something, science has found a lot of good reasons why this could be good for you. And if you are starting from nothing or almost nothing, then this workout for 7 minutes is more than enough. (After all, my professional knowledge was a considerable asset to my ability to keep up with this; I might have injured myself or given up without it.)

Here's the thing: you don't have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great. Obviously an overall healthy lifestyle should be the ultimate goal; maybe, for us n00bs, this workout is a nice, simple first step towards that ultimate goal. Starting with 7 minutes a day, and seeing the immediate improvements and benefits I've logged has boosted my confidence - now I'm motivated to make even more positive health changes and not feel hopeless about it.

I'll be back in another week with the Final Count (lol) but I think I'll be incorporating this into my life on the regular. (It should be noted, ideally there'd be rest days, but I think for two weeks, doing it daily won't be the end of the world.)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mama Bean went to Target

As I was driving into the parking lot, Death Cab's I'll Follow You Into the Dark (Cowtown represent!) was playing on my iPod, and so that was stuck in my head as I perused the aisles. Which is fitting because the last time I visited Target with any kind of regularity was when I lived in the US, during which that song was featured heavily in several of my favourite, sad-sack, college-life-is-hard (what the fuck did I know?) playlists. It was a good throwback moment.

To be honest, the last time I was in a Target was on our August trip to my alma mater, both kids in tow, buying 'hotel dinners' - things that can be eaten direct from the back or box, in a semblance of healthfulness, for less money than a restaurant. Sprout was 18 months on that trip. The difference between then and now in her behaviour (mental and emotional faculties) is astounding to me. We took a baby on that trip - she is not a baby now. The difference in Bean is beyond mind-blowing; he's like a fully formed human compared to the 100% Id-based toddler last summer. Well, that may be overstating it. He's down to, like, 65% Id tops now; he's got that Super-ego operating at minimum 10%, which is just what we need for potty training. Let's be honest, as an adult, I probably operate at 10% sometimes (often), too... (and that trip alone would disabuse me of the notion that anything about college life was hard /sigh. Youth is wasted on the yada yada yada...)

Which is to say, Target, and stores like Target, what I call I-didn't-know-I-wanted-that-but-now-I-need-it stores, are best enjoyed sans children. I spent over an hour in there today. It. was. glorious. There was nothing surprising, it was exactly as I remembered it. Prettier and better quality things than Wal-mart, or the Zellers it replaced for that matter, with commensurately higher prices, but not department store level prices. Target-level prices. Groceries are about Safeway-priced, but it's Archer Farms, so who cares? Archer Farms is the shizzle. I don't go to Target for groceries. I go for bowls to replace the pasta bowls we keep chipping/breaking, lamps that fit the aesthetic and small surface area of my bedside table, birthday presents that are light enough to mail to nephews and nieces, books 25% off the cover price, divided storage boxes in a gorgeous cranberry red that'd be perfect for holding my kids' thousands of socks (Why does every other member of my household have more socks than I've had in my entire life?) I go for the things I didn't know I wanted, but now I completely and utterly need. 

Full disclosure: it was the same story when I went to our new IKEA store the first time. What can I say? My love language is CONSUMERISM ;)

But can we talk about how useless melamine dishes are? They aren't microwave safe. Cute, brightly coloured children's dishes that I can't put in the microwave are functionally useless to me. I don't care if they're only  $1.49!

And next time I won't wear a bright red sweater. Two employees asked if I worked there. Um, no? But I kind of wish I did?

When can I go back? :D

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mama Bean is exhausted by seven different technologies

Mary: I had this guy leave me a voice mail at work so I called him at home and then he e-mailed me to my Blackberry and so I texted to his cell and then he e-mailed me to my home account and the whole thing just got out of control. And I miss the days when you had one phone number and one answering machine and that one answering machine has one cassette tape and that one cassette tape either had a message from a guy or it didn't. And now you just have to go around checking all these different portals just to get rejected by seven different technologies. It's exhausting.
(The movie trailer is tangential. I do feel Drew Barrymore was under-utilized in that movie, but then again, I hated her character. I do like that quote, though. I haven't been in the dating arena for a decade, but that quote still applies to my life. To wit: the rest of this entry.)

I have spent the past few months preoccupied with failing friendship. I've even written about it already. And yet, I can't seem to stop thinking, in the back of my mind, about these friendships I just can't seem to get the swing of. I can't get it together! Where in my schedule does the Magic of Fellowship happen? How do I effectively use the communication tools available to me? Is there a way to balance my preferred habitat (Teh Interwebz) with my very real need to have a very real life? Why is social media determined to so abundantly demonstrate, with seven different technologies, that the people I want to like me, don't? How do I redirect my efforts - how do I stop investing in toxic people - without feeling bad, guilty, like I've failed, like I should have tried harder or done more? Why can't I stop feeling so fucking angry? What is this "thicker skin" I've been told since childhood to acquire and how exactly do I procure it?

Le cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point

How do I reconcile my online and offline worlds? Or how do I reconcile the authenticity of friendship I desire with the limitations of whatever media I have to communicate that desire? Because it's not about where the friendship takes place anymore (in flesh or in the ether or in both). We don't do that anymore, though I do still relish the safety of Internet anonymity as much as the next Troll (lol). I have all the skills to build lovely, authentic relationships purely online, so it's not about the medium (sorry Marshall), it has to be about the people... right?

When I want a phone call, an email forward leaves me cold. When I want a email, every facebook like is an irritation. When I want facebook banter, mindless re-tweeting feels inconsiderate. When I want to be the special snowflake in your life that you are to me, and who can explain why you are, the heart has its reasons - when I'm trying for something Real, the meaningless chatter of thumbs ups and lols makes my stomach sink.

Sometimes, I try to comfort myself that the clickety clatter of social media interaction, as meager as it may feel, is still better than nothing at all. Better than being phased out entirely, fluidly (am I over-romanticizing this?) the way friendships ended in the Olden Days. It's got to be better than that era when we just wistfully turned the pages of our yearbooks, right? But maybe not. It is a little pinprick each time - as social media brings into my consciousness, repeatedly, these faces for whom I mean little when they mean a lot to me. 

Fuck it. I probably just need to leave the internet for awhile. It's only gotten worse since I got a smart phone - I thought it was going to keep me more connected. Turns out it just makes me feel more alone. Thank you for engaging in my pity parade today, please don't indulge me. There is no meat to this threat, trust. I couldn't quit the Internet on my best day, and these days are far from that < insert appropriate sardonic emoticon > < i guess >

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Mama Bean knows it will always be this way

During one of Papa Bean's pastoral counseling classes, they talked about how people change in long-term relationships. The specific 'stat' was that, in five years, you're not married to the same person as your wedding day. And again five years later. Etcetera until death, you know, do y'all part.

I sang this song as my wedding vows. I kept it a surprise, did a rushed mic check before the rehearsal, got the pastor to let me do my vows second (is it normally the other way around, I'm not sure, I don't think either of us would have cared), scared PB when I started walking away to start my vows, instead of starting to, like, talk and stuff. I sang it with a dry throat, it didn't sound at all like I wanted.

Five years later, I'm a better singer, for one thing. I'd have put a damn glass of water on that piano, if I'd known then yada yada yada.

I sang it trying not to cry, and trying to see if it was making him cry; I sang it trying not to laugh, because he smiled and laughed through most of it. It's all the promise I could muster, and it's all the promise I needed to make.

There are only two promises in the lyrics, actually. That I will always try to get it right, and that I'll stand right by his side. The rest is just reflection - I'm still learning what love is. Guess I'll always be doing that. Just figuring it out. When I lived in Iowa and we were flying back and forth to see each other every eight weeks (not longer than eight weeks, ten weeks apart nearly did us in, and I'm not exaggerating, it was untenable) I heard a Rosie Thomas song on Grey's Anatomy, and I put her album on my mp3 player for a trip, and I heard this song's lyrics for the first time, really heard them. I started crying on the plane. It was embarassing.

This is the verse that does me in: I'm still learning what love is/Every time you look at me that way/I'm still trying to figure out just how/You can still look at me the same

We're almost six years out, though I feel like we've been married in spirit for ten, and most definitely, we are completely different people. But he still looks at me the same. I mean, we're parents now, I love him for the father he is to my children, and he helped me bring those children into the world. The sparkle in his eyes then, oh they made sense. But as we bring those children up in this world, as he watches me fail and fail again, as he watches me fall and struggle and stand and fall again with depression, and he still looks at me like that? As he listens to my hurt, my anger - Lord, my unending anger at anyone and everyone - and he still looks at me like that?

Even though I may not get it right/All the time/I will always try/And I will always/Stand. right. by. your. side...

Sunday, March 10, 2013

To this day, Mama Bean balances between pain and beauty

In the first six months of 2012, I lost 30 pounds. I changed my eating habits, following the old Weight Watchers program; it helped that Papa Bean did it, too. It helped to have online support from a group of close friends. I increased my activity, started the Couch to 5K program, got to week 7 of that program, got to the point where I could run 20 minutes in a row.

I lost 30 pounds. Enough for people to notice. Friends, patients.

Today, I have gained almost every single pound back.


In the summer, I got depressed. Hard. I said I didn't really have a reason, but that wasn't really true, and with eight months of hard-fought self insight, let's talk reasons. 

For one thing, a guy harassed me while I was running, and I couldn't see past my fear of him to do anything but run away, and that made me feel weak - makes me feel weak to this day. I keep rehearsing the should have and could haves - and as I perform this mental dress rehearsal, I am enraged by my own helplessness; I only rehearse because I am so sure this will happen again. This could always happen again. Or, even worse, it will happen to my daughter. And I don't know how to fix that. And so I feel weak.

But the bigger thing is this; my parents came to visit, and dismissed my weight loss in the same breath they celebrated my husband's. Worse than just ignored it or didn't notice - it was nice that I'd finally lost something. But it wasn't anything worth noting. It wasn't something to celebrate. It certainly wasn't enough.

When I came in from a satisfying, amazing, personal best jog of 25 fucking minutes straight, my dad said, with the loveliest shade of derision, "Back already? Just a short run then, eh?" And to tell you my inner self crumpled with hopelessness and unlovedness and despair does little to describe what truly happened in my core.

I was never bullied by people at school, despite being socially awkward, a bit of a nerdy pariah. But in my own home, in the place where I should have been safest, from the person whose words spoke my identity to me from the time I was born, I have always been told that I am fat. 

I have always been told that I need to eat less and exercise more, I need to provide a healthy body for my great mind, I need to take up less space and look nicer. None of these messages on their face seem all that bad, they don't sound wrong. But to the mind of a young girl, bombarded by cultural messages that nothing about her matters but her beauty, bombarded by conflicting messages that her brain could take her anywhere (but only in the right body), to the mind of that little girl, they hurt. Anyone with an ounce of fucking sense would know they hurt. 

Yet when I had the courage to tearfully and desperately express my pain, I was told they were messages of love. Messages of caring. Messages of wanting what was best for me. Never mind that what was fucking best for me, what is best for everyone is knowing they are Loved without question, Accepted without caveat, completely Worthy and Enough, no ifs/ands/buts. What is best for everyone is knowing they are loved without being told to lose a few (or more.)

To this day, I cannot parse the reasons why I both refuse to lose weight yet desperately want to. I cannot explain why I both love my life but hate my self. To this day, I want to prove They Were Wrong by staying just as I am. Because to change, to get skinny, to be more of what I "should" be and less of what I already am, would be like an admission of guilt. An admission that I am not good enough, and that they were right. An affirmation that what really matters about me, what really holds the most value, is a fucking number on a stupid, meaningless, scale. A measure of gravity.

As if my life amounts to nothing more.

Yet every day, I wake up to two gorgeous little faces who prove to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that my life amounts to so. much. more.

I am not the only person with a story like this. That video up there has been viewed millions of times. Dozens of friends shared it on my facebook. I'm not holding this up to win some Pain Olympics, like I deserve a Gold Medal. There is no Pain Olympics, people! Everyone's pain is valid, and it is not your place or mine to place it into perspective for them. So don't tell me what I should be grateful for. Don't tell me I don't get a voice on this. 

Listen, my story will not end in weakness. My father recently apologized for some of his comments over the summer, and though it's tough to look at that through the lens of a lifetime of pain without a touch of cynicism, it was a step in the right direction, and certainly quite healing. Though I cannot parse it, I will change my life however the hell I want, for the best reasons I can muster, while ignoring anyone else's reasons as best as I can muster, also. I'm on the path to strength, of many kinds, because I have to be. I have to be a better Me to Myself. I have to be a better parent for my kids. And I have to make a better world for them and me to live in. 

"we are graduating members from the class of
fuck off we made it
not the faded echoes of voices crying out
names will never hurt me

of course
they did

but our lives will only ever always
continue to be
a balancing act
that has less to do with pain
and more to do with beauty." 

-Shane Koyczan

Friday, January 25, 2013

Mama Bean projects herself into her parenting (surprise, surprise)

I think I would rather have my child get hit or scratched or pushed than have them told, "You can't be in our group" which is the same as "I don't accept you" which is the same as "You are not loved." (And vice versa, I'd rather my kid hit someone than say something like that.)

Part of this is due to my parenting aptitude. I know, more or less, how to deal with physical hurts. I have a script to follow, and it's a pretty black and white no-tolerance issue. "We don't use our hands that way. That is not okay" etc. etc. I feel like this is the first script of parenting I learned. And it's usually pretty easy to solve the instigating problem - figure out what toy needs to be shared, what distraction will be sufficient, whether a nap or a snack is the solution to all problems (as it so often is.) (See? This is where we learn that food solves problems. Oi.)

I don't have a script for emotional hurts - it's so much greyer. On the one hand, there is the fact that words hurt. On the other hand, it isn't realistic that all children will be friends with all others, and I don't want to force friendship. That would be invalidating their feelings. But how to explain tact and diplomacy and respectful words to a three year old?

I suppose it comes down to separating emotions, which happen and can't be denied, from behaviours, which are choices, and some should most certainly be denied. Physical wrongs are motivated by feelings, too - anger, frustration, envy. The script is not "We don't get angry or upset when someone takes out toy." The script is about not turning that anger into a violent action. So I suppose it can likewise be taught that, though we may not like someone or may not wish to play with them, we don't turn those feelings into mean words or cruel behaviour.

Part of it is my children's developmental status, also. A physical hurt produces a well-identified area of pain, sometimes even a visible mark. They know the word(s) for that pain, they know how to point/show it to me, and they know a kiss and a hug (and maybe a Spiderman band-aid) will make it go away. Certainly time fades all such wounds. But, emotional hurt is still so confusing and nebulous - they don't have the words, it's hurts somewhere strange inside, and a band-aid will not help. Sometimes not even a hug, if it's not from the person who produced the hurt, y'know?

And here I feel my own emotional immaturity is my own worst enemy. I get tripped up in my explanations because I can't even explain these hurts to myself. To me, not being accepted is the greatest hurt. Has been so since childhood. Thus, when my children are hurt in this way, I lose all perspective.

[A lengthy aside: the adopted child is always aware of feeling Other and Outside, and they are terrified of being excluded or rejected. It is the nature of starting in one family and ending up in another; the sense that all relationships are transitory and fragile. I believe this feeling is permanent, that is, it cannot be loved away, and if it is ignored, all the worse. If you know or love an adopted person, the way you love them should acknowledge this fear in them - even if they don't have the words to name their fear.]

Part of it is, naturally, that my children are beloved to me, and I want them to be beloved by everyone. I was thinking the other day that, in this very shallow way, I want for my children socially what I never had - to be part of the In Crowd, part of the Popular Kids. I don't want them to be social outcasts, geeky pariahs, nerdy loners - because that hurts. But let's be honest, I want it all for them, just as we all do - the academic success of nerdiness, the social success of popularity. (And I do know these things are not mutually exclusive, I experienced a strange such mixture in my high school years.)

But life being what it is, the truth is they will be disliked and/or discluded, often. And my parenting strategy (and I'm using that word loosely...) feels like this nebulous mixture of a) hiding them away b) helping them accept and adapt and rise above these hard truths of life c) teaching them to love themselves as much as I love them (or because I love them?)

Hiding them in/with/behind my love is not a complete solution. That is, I feel with certainty it is not enough to respond to social hurts with, "Don't worry, baby, mommy loves you." Because I do want my love to be their place of safety, their place to hide, but I don't want running away and hiding to be their default solution to trouble (of any sort.) I am so prone to running and hiding, and it is maladaptive. How to teach them to stand on their own and fight on their own, when I cannot do these things myself? (And, deeper down, this is not a complete solution because I am human, I will make mistakes, and I will disappoint them; and an imperfect love is small comfort in the face of a cruel world. But here I may simply be projecting. Ha! Of course I'm projecting.)

Accepting an imperfect world is also not a complete solution. Taken too far, it normalizes bad behaviour - what starts as "Oh that's just how kids are" too easily becomes teaching them it's okay to turn a blind eye to injustice, it's okay to ignore (or worse deny) the rights of the oppressed, because "Hey, we live in a crappy world. Get over it!" What a strange dance it is to learn where it's a waste of time to try and where it's a wise investment of one's unique ability to change the world.

And frankly, this notion of self-esteem has been so diluted and distorted, if it offers any solution, I personally cannot parse it out. I know that my love is a foundation for developing their self love. I would never want my love to encourage arrogance. I don't want to deny the reality of The Bell Curve - that we are all simultaneously special stars and also all pretty average. Special average stars of normalcy. But each with, yes, this opportunity to change their own little world. More of this tricky balance! Finding that just-right-amount of confidence, not too little, not too much.

Sheesh, what a lot of words, and I've gone off track. All this to say, life is socially complicated, my childhood was marred by hurts from this, I thought it'd be easier in adulthood but it's not, so I project my social insecurities onto my children, and feel helpless in the face of their social hurts, but I've got to get it together for their sake, if not my own.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Mama Bean is trying to be an Ally

I was introduced to the term "benevolent oppression" today (in the context of chivalry, being a sort of benevolent patriarchy, a rabbit trail I don't wish to follow today.)

I sat and thought about it for awhile.

I've been quite captured by the Idle No More movement. It's been about a year now that I've been exploring these ideas of my own privilege, and how it relates to my feminism, my Christianity, my politics, and my racism. The INM movement has brought all those thoughts into a very stark reality. I have been challenged in a variety of (mostly online) arenas to confront the ways I am oppressed, and the ways I have participated in oppression.

And the ways I no longer want to participate.

Benevolent oppression is the favourite defense of most of the racists I see on my facebook feed these days. It's the argument that we (the majority, the White man, the colonialist, the not-Indians) have done so much, give so much, spend so much on these lazy people who can't help themselves. It's the argument that history can't be changed, so why don't they just get over it. It's the argument that tries to turn the oppressor into a victim.

"Don't you see we're just trying to be so nice and you insist on being such ungrateful wretches?"

(Read an excellent summary of The Distress of the Privileged here.)

You know what? I don't think anyone in this situation likes dwelling on the past. Would you want to relive over and over the way generations of your children were taken from their homes and systematically denied their identity? But the presentation, the cultural message, is this seeming broken record of rehashing the past - doesn't it feel that way?

Maybe it's just that we're not getting the fucking message.

I tell you what, I did not get the message. I thought I did, I thought I was sensitive and understanding and compassionate. I read the books, I watched the National Film Board documentaries, I listened to the CBC broadcasts. I thought I was on the right side, but I had a lot to learn.

(If you feel like you have something to learn, start here.)
(Interestingly, I also agree with a lot of what this guy has to say.)

The past that we don't want to dwell on anymore is that Canada is a benevolent oppressor (and sometimes often not so benevolent) of its indigenous people - and I for one don't want to dwell in that past anymore either. The Indian Act (and other comparable legislation) treats aboriginals like they are less than human (for example, by suppressing their rights to education or equal health care) under the guise of being some great Colonial Provider. These laws allow us to live here and benefit from a land that is ridiculously blessed with resources, without properly compensating the original inhabitants.

You and me, we are not the original colonialists, I know that. We didn't sign those treaties, we didn't create those laws. It's not our "fault" that our country is this way. But it is absolutely and completely our fault if it stays this way.

Let me invoke Godwin's law for you, or on second thought, how about no. This is not like blaming all Germans  for Hitler and the Nazis. I'm not blaming our history of Colonialism on you (and me.) I'm saying if we hide our heads in the sand, if we refuse to listen, if we deny justice, then we are no better than the colonialists. No better, and frankly, useless.

We can't go back into the past and right those wrongs. I can't just hand my house over to the nearest aboriginal person with my very best wishes. We can't move our cities, we can't change (most of) the current resource extraction, we can't move reserves (or outright abolish them in any overly hasty manner.) That isn't even a logical place to start the discussion! But it is fair to look for something equitable, it is fair to look for something just. It is fair to say the Indian Act and its compatriots don't work, have never worked, and must be replaced with something else.

By the way, it's also fair to say the old treaties aren't working terribly well either. The signatories of those treaties are no longer geographically accurate - Canada is its own country now. It's time for her to sign her own damn treaties.

I still do not know enough to know where to go from here, but I know that I want to be an ally. I want to be open to and learn from and participate in this dialogue. And that means, right now, I listen. I listen and read everything I was not taught before. I listen to what the oppressed think is fair and right and just. I am 1000% sure that they don't "just want more money." They've been denied so much for so long, poverty and marginalization and the continued cycle of oppression were inevitable. I can't even imagine what justice will look like, and I don't want to imagine something that merely puts words in the mouths of people who've been denied a voice for so long. I just want to hear, for perhaps for the first time in my life, their voice, their words, their life. No more lip service. Idle no more.

[My blog, my rules. If you comment ignorant shit, I will delete it. Don't like that policy, tell it to the rest of the internet. They'll care, I promise.]

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Mama Bean is going to do one thing at a time

I have had the most fantastic New Year! And it's for the nerdiest reason: I've been cleaning. Well, reorganizing. purging. fixing my Space. It is so amazing! There are boxes and boxes of crap leaving my house to the garbage bin and the recycling bin and the giveaway bin. We have RUN OUT of boxes, people.

What prompted this? Well, Bean has been alone on the upper floor, but Sprout's grandparents bought her a bed that's been waiting in the second bedroom up there, along with boxes and dressers and a wardrobe full of clothes and toys and crap. We decided Sprout's ready for her big girl bed, which means turning the All Purpose Dumping Ground into a Real Bedroom. Ha! So where did we start? Oh, the basement. Of course. 

Stuff Management, at least in my house, is like one of those grid puzzles where you slide the squares around until they line up into a big picture - you can't move one thing into the place it belongs until you move that thing over there which means moving that thing down here which means... you get the idea.

Some stuff from Sprout's new-room went to Bean's room, and then his stuff came into our closet and basement. The other stuff from her new-room went into the closet of her old-room. The stuff from that closet came downstairs to the cold room. The stuff in the cold room was given away or redistributed in other parts of the basement. Those parts were likewise cleared out. My desk was cleaned off, and the filing cabinet was reorganized. Sprout's old-room is going to become the Guest Room, so we shuffled bookshelves and hutches, and tomorrow we'll take the bed up from the basement. Every day, I'm piling up more stuff to get out of my house and it feels so freaking cathartic, I want to dance with glee every time I walk by it - or put more stuff on it!!

Anyway, you're on the internet so you don't care what my house looks like, and if you know me in real life, you'll see it (in person or pictures on facebook) soon enough.

This post, surprisingly, is about Resolutions. I'm not making any this year, in the formal sense. I spent 8 (or more) months of 2012 in a deep fucking pit of depression - all I want for this year is to not do that again. I've taken some of the right steps, and continuing on those paths have nothing to do with January 1st, y'know? But I like the idea of giving the year a theme or OneWord (as is the bloggosphere trend) and I need a better Theme than Not-Depressed :P 

So my theme or focus is going to be One Thing At A Time (what's OneWord that will sum that up? Any ideas?) By which I mean, I can't Fix My Life all at the same time. It's like this whole Sprout's Room Project - we had to do each step one at a time, in the right order, while still feeding and clothing ourselves and our children. If we'd done too many steps all at once or not in the right order, it would have been total chaos. As it was, things definitely got Worse around here before they got Better, and there's still a pile of fifty or so books sitting in my living room for donation.

I read something last Fall that K directed me to, can't remember the link of course, but it essentially said, in a very encouraging and affirming way, that ya can't have it all. I can't have it all - at least not right away. I can't have the clean house and the organized meal plans and the orderly laundry and the well-adjusted well-behaved children and the happy spouse and the close walk with Jesus and the sassy girlfriends and the smoking sexy body and the happy peaceful spirit all at once. Not all right away.

But that doesn't mean I can't have any of it. It means I can only work on one thing, for a bit, until I get the hang of it, while still feeding and clothing ourselves and our children, so that it's not total chaos, even if some things get worse before they get better. And when (When!) they get better, I move on to the next thing. 

This dovetails nicely with a book/method I've been trying (inconsistently) to help normalize my emotional control; it's called Calming the Emotional Storm for anyone curious. The central tool is Mindfulness, as in keeping your mind in the moment, with the task, on the one thing you are doing right now and enjoying it for whatever it is. Turns out, I pretty much blow goats at mindfulness. And to be honest, with young kids around, complete mindfulness is almost impossible, but I keep trying. And it is helping. I can feel my emotional resources draining from my body when my brain is getting to far ahead (or in the past) of itself, and I feel myself get calm when I bring my head back into the present. Just this one thing, MB, cook the dinner. Just this one thing, read Bean a book. Just this one thing, fold this one load of clothes. Just this one thing, let your husband hold you. Just this one thing...

And then on a bigger scale. Reorganize the house. Not done yet. So. I don't know what the next thing is and I'm not thinking about it. Because I can only do One Thing At A Time.

So it's not like I'm going to do some kind of regular update thingy here about how my One Thing Project is going, but I hope it will be apparent that things are getting better and that 2013 isn't sucking as hard as 2012 if only by the fact that my posts won't be so sad sack all the time ;) Let me know if you have a resolution or OneWord or even a One Thing that I can support you with this year.