Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Making things

Handmade things. 
Patchwork blanket made by my talented sister Dorothy. The lovely hex knitted blanket was a collaborative effort by the women on my husband's side of the family. 
The overalls were made by my sister-in-law Emma. 
I printed the tree poster years ago. My first (and perhaps a tad ambitious) letterpress printing project. 

I have just acquired a sewing machine. I know nothing about sewing and in fact got a B in Home Economics class simply based on effort.  I stayed after school regularly for help from the teacher to sew a pair of shorts, but still ended up sewing the legs together repeatedly as well as making a waistband that would have fit three of me. 
More than 15 years later I'm ready to try again. I have some hopefully easy projects in mind. Baby clothes seem to be a good bet since they are small, so the potential for wasted materials is less devastating. These baby harem pants look adorable, as do these little baby tights, which I thought I would adapt into leggings without feet. 

I've been reading tons lately. After taking my time reading Murakami's gigantic IQ84, I'm now totally hooked on the Wallender detective series by Henning Mankell, and have torn through 3 in the last couple of weeks. But I've been thinking about ordering this book on attachment, since I've been thinking lots about parenting and how my parenting style will impact V's development. Not because I feel neurotic about it. I am trusting myself and my intuition with parenting, for the most part. I am just interested in reading more about attachment theory and the research behind it. 

I've been making myself a list of things to do. Projects. Big ones, small ones. Onerous ones I dread, and fun, creative ones. I feel like the days are slipping by. And while the best part of my day and the biggest chunk of my day is spent playing, feeding, and nurturing V, I feel like I get next to nothing done, and I need to do more. Even planning meals feels overwhelming, and I normally really enjoy cooking. I don't know where this ennui and apathy is coming from. Perhaps the sleepless nights are simply catching up with me. But, if I'm honest with myself, I'll admit that this is just par for the course with me. So many plans, so few actions. Sometimes I wonder when or if I'll ever change into the woman of action I want to be. I'm not sure how to make myself more accountable to myself. One change that has to happen is less time spent reading blogs about people doing stuff and more time doing stuff myself. If anyone has any tips on avoiding procrastinating, I'd be very receptive to them. 

Living. Doing. Making. Playing. That's what I'm aiming for here. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Blogging about blogging

I am back here, blogging into the void, questioning what this is, what I want it to be, and if I even want people to read it. I don't post links to my updates on my facebook page, as some blogging friends of mine do. I initially started blogging as a way to be a participant in the blogging world, so that I wouldn't just be a passive observer, but could join in. But I have often been too unsure of this space to share it with people, preferring to do it more for myself, then wondering why I bother hitting publish if it's only for me.

I started out, admiring one of the first blogs I started reading, and wanting my blog to be similar... simple, a few photos, relatively anonymous, a visual diary that gives glimpses of everyday life without too much personal details. But as much as I enjoy reading that blog, I couldn't really adhere to that format. It wasn't satisfying enough for me. Let's face it, in reality, I am an over-sharing extrovert, so it is difficult to not to do that online. At the same time, I am aware that things have a permanence these days online, that public is so very public... and so I am reluctant to be as open as I might intuitively feel.

And reading this made me think about all this as well. What am I doing here? And should my position of relative of social privilege mean that I don't blog? Should it mean that every post should be pointing out how good I have it? Does being a thinking, socially conscious person mean that everything I write should evidence and awareness of my position? Sometimes I think that I spend too much time thinking about this, that it sometimes takes away from the feeling I have in a moment, when I constantly remind myself how lucky I am. I feel like this reminding myself how lucky I am thing came along a few years ago when I decided I was too negative all the time, that I needed to have a great appreciation for things and to be more positive. This blog was part of that motivation. And yet, now, it sometimes feels a bit much. I feel like every positive experience I have, I remind myself how other people might not have it so good. Every negative experience I have, I remind myself how much worse it could be. It's a way of never being emotionally in the moment, of not allowing myself space for whatever feelings I have, since there's always this guilt...

All this feels a bit like the written equivalent to my inclination to over-think things. I want to blog/write with awareness, but also feel free to just write what I think and feel without the hyper analytical slant, which is a bit crippling.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

On Worry, Pets, and Birth

An update on our beloved cat: we weren't able to resolve the issues and she sadly had to be put down. It's a long story, but it mostly involves seemingly greedy veterinarians out to do every unnecessary, expensive test in the book, but delay the necessary, life-saving surgery until our cat was at death's door. It's hard to look in the eyes of a creature you are supposed to advocate for and keep safe and healthy, and feel like you've done the right thing, when actually you feel like humans have failed her.

Anyway, I have tried to keep in perspective the fact that though she was very much loved by our family, she is but one cat in a world of many cats. And when we are ready to have a pet again (which will be when/if we have a vet we trust to help us make the right decisions for our animal), then there are many other creatures out there for us to love.

I struggle to balance my tendency to over-worry. My tendency is to neurotically worry that my worries are nothing compared to the worries of many people in the world. It's ridiculous, but I so often feel guilt about this that it's actually really unproductive, and just causes me more stress, rather than putting things in perspective for myself.

Speaking of that worry-induced guilt....

At Christmas, my mother-in-law gave me one of those cards that says she gave a donation in my name. The donation was for pre and post-natal care for mother and baby. On Christmas morning, my eyes filled with tears reading that card. Oh, maybe it was the baby hormones, but I cried thinking of how a month after giving birth I read an article about a woman my age in Uganda being unable to access medical care during labour, how she was in agony for 14 hours with her baby lodged in her birth canal. The baby died and she also had to have her uterus removed. (I would link to the article but it can't be accessed now without a subscription to the Globe and Mail's website content.) That article haunted me, it still does, especially because in all the discussions with my friends over choice of birth place and care provider, our conversations and the conversation in general in the developed world regarding birth is so focused on birth as this significant experience in the life of a mother. And it's true, it is. And it should be an important topic for discussion, especially in an era of scheduled C-sections and often of needless interventions that spiral into more interventions. It should be viewed as a life-changing experience that can have lasting effects on the mental health of a mother.
The birth experience that I got to have was so amazing, so empowering, and awe-inspiring (and painful as hell, let's be honest)... I feel so lucky to have had that. Lucky that things went well, that I had such excellent midwives, also lucky that I had access to resources to educate myself about the benefits of midwifery and home birth. I feel lucky that had things gone awry, I would have had quick, easy access to a hospital. And I feel so grateful for the experience that I had. (And here's where that unproductive guilt comes in: I feel guilty that other women I know don't get to have that kind of experience.)

When I told my family doctor that I would be using midwifery care for my pregnancy and birth he sort of scoffed and told me that he sees women all the time with pages and pages of birth plans, that they are so concerned with the experience of child birth, but that those birth plans go out the window once they are in labour. In my mind this was further argument to not use my doctor as a care provider during pregnancy. But I get it, of course the most important outcome is healthy mother and healthy baby. All I am saying here is that we are so lucky to be in a position to move beyond simply the physical outcomes and talk about the experience, because in Canada, healthy mother and healthy baby is almost a given. We are able to move on to talk about the experience aspect of birth because we can be assured that outcomes in Canada are quite good for women and babies.

Writing and thinking about motherhood here in a somewhat sleep-deprived, babbling sort of way makes me miss academic writing, and makes me want to dedicate more time to write focused, coherent posts of specific topics. But I know it's hard enough get chunks of time to write these more incoherent, stream-of-consciousness posts. So perhaps I'll stick to these for now and make it a goal to write more focused posts down the road.

P.S. Oh, and that lovely cat we had? She laid beside me on the bed while I was in labour, left during the most intense pushing, and came back to snuggle at my feet while I nursed my sweet babe for the first time. I'll miss her.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Ups and Downs

Ha, just when I was feeling so good about myself, about life, and about my positive attitude, stuff happens to harsh my mellow. A baby that had been sleeping through the night from 6 weeks old, now at 4 months, is up several times a night. Yes, yes, go ahead and laugh, all of you who want parenting to be difficult and want to say "I told you it wouldn't last." Last night it was every hour or even every half hour. I knew that things would change as she reaches different developmental milestones, and was trying to appreciate each full night's sleep, knowing it could and would change. And here we are. After a month away on the West Coast, her sleep routine has been totally shot. I was asked by a helpful relative "When she wakes up do you reward her with the breast?" Um, yes. Because why would I let her cry, let her get distraught and awake when I can easily calm her in minutes by nursing her. Because she is a baby and nursing isn't a reward, it is an innate need for food and for comfort and there is nothing wrong with that. But thank you, thank you for undermining my confidence in my ability to mother my child by following her lead and my intuition.

Life feels harder to deal with when one hasn't slept well. The roof of our house was just replaced, and an enclosed sun porch was re-framed, insulated, and drywalled. Our cat is at the vet with some kind of intestinal blockage, possibly needing expensive surgery. I feel anxious about money, but how can we refuse treatment for our cat after spending thousands on our house? We won't. It feels like a drop in the bucket, but it's not, it adds up and feels overwhelming. I fret about the ethics of spending money on saving a cat when there are babies and children out there who need help, but would our money be donated to Red Cross or Unicef or something if we didn't have this cat emergency? Well, no. And I also just think, I am so privileged to even be in this position: home owner fixing up our house, owning and being able to care for an animal, etc. It's these kind of feelings that are so unproductive... stress about life and then feeling guilty about my stress because ultimately I'm so much better off than most of the world. I know it's all relative, but it really is bourgeois suffering when there are women out there dying in child birth, women unable to feed their children and I am stressed about a sick cat or the expense of a new roof.

Anyway, it's hard to feel clearheaded when you haven't slept well, and you're unshowered and there's a man upstairs hammering away at your walls. So, this post is less positive, less constructive. I'm not thinking about what creative outlet I should tap today, I'm just thinking about getting through the day.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


I have been feeling so good lately, about life, about being a mother, about how lucky and privileged I am (I have a sweet baby, I have a supportive husband who is also home on parental leave, I live in this lovely house, I have many wonderful people in my life, I'm highly educated, I am healthy and so are the people I love, etc. ), but I have not been doing much for myself lately, and I worry that it is going to catch up with me.

Working on this blog is one thing I am trying to commit to. I spent a satisfying hour or two tidying and organizing my desk yesterday and I pulled out a bunch of art supplies, and a little sketch book that a friend and I have been mailing back and forth to each other and doing art and writing in. I've got a bunch of jewellery-making supplies. I've got a great camera. I've got knitting needles and wool. I've got some nice notebooks. Some watercolour paints. I've got an itch to do something creative. I figure I should just dedicate time to doing something, anything. I could totally spare an hour a day if I wanted to.

Part of the problem though, of reading so many fantastic blogs, is that rather than being inspired, I get all self-defeatist. Last night I found myself talking to L, after flipping through a Canadian magazine of short stories and poetry: "I'm surprised you have it in you to keep writing short stories when there's so many out there that no one is reading." (What a jerk I am, eh? I wasn't actually meaning to be so mean and bitter sounding, I actually am impressed at his discipline and dedication and creative output....)

I said, "That's what I feel like when I think of being creative: just what the world needs, another mommy blogger; just what the world needs, another necklace; just what the world needs, another crappy drawing in a sketchbook, another photograph of a snowy tree..." etc. etc. I mean if I continued with that thought I could think "Just what the world needs, another baby...." and I certainly don't feel that way. What I need to remind myself of is that I am not doing it for the world, I am doing it for myself. I don't have to do anything with it. The act of doing it (whatever it is), should be enough.

And part of my thinking around this is also that I want V, my daughter, to grow up with a mother who does things. With a mother who is devoted to her but also devoted to creative and intellectual pursuits. I want her to see and know that I am not just a mother but a person who does things outside of mothering her.

Anyway, I'm trying to not be self-defeatist. It's just a pattern I've had for many years now, and one I should wash my hands of. It's not a useful perspective at all. So, perhaps along with my commitment to blogging, I will commit to making something every week. Maybe I will even post my progress towards that on here, kill two birds with one stone...

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Thoughts on this blog, on motherhood, etc.

It almost seems silly to write here again. It's been so long I contemplated just scrapping this blog and starting anew. But, no, I will try to stick with it.

Here I am, 4 months into motherhood. As usual, my grandfather's adage: "Most of the things you worry about don't happen", has proven once again to be true. My fears that I would have difficulty with being a mother have not come true. I am enjoying motherhood more than I ever would have thought possible. I prepared myself for the worst: I worried about post-partum depression (since I was indeed depressed for much of my pregnancy), I worried about not attaching to my baby, I worried about having trouble breast feeding, I worried about being traumatized by a scary or painful birth experience, I worried about feeling tied to my baby and trapped, I worried that since my pregnancy was emotionally and physically difficult I would resent my baby. I worried about pretty much anything I could.

So it came as a surprise when so much about mothering came "naturally" to me. I had a "natural" or drug-free home birth. I have followed my intuition and my baby's lead and everything has felt fairly easy, again, almost "natural". The thing is, I pause as I write these words. I feel like saying all this will make it more difficult for those who are having a hard time. Of course, I know that this isn't everyone's experience, it might not even be mine second time around. There is so much out there online about motherhood. So much pressure, so much noise. I read much of it when pregnant and continue to read it: blogs about birth, about pregnancy, about feeding babies, vaccinating (or not), co-sleeping, etc. But I have been trying to fill my brain with more material that is critical of the noise and the expectations. I see why there is so much material, since becoming a mother I too am fascinated by the intensity of this emotional, intellectual, and physical experience.

Spending time at home with baby V, I feel conflicted about how I am spending my time. Is it enough to just hang out with a baby all day? I feel like I need something, another project? As though having a baby isn't enough of a project? There is so much pressure online too, to be productive, to be creative.... I read all kinds of blogs where women are super creative, earning an income making art, being mothers, planning blog-worthy birthday parties for their children, buying/making exquisite toys and clothing for their babies etc. More pressure, more expectations.

I am loving being a mother but also recognize that I need to maintain interests outside of my baby. I need my daughter to grow up seeing a mother who is engaged with the world, who is a person outside of being a mother. So, for now, this blog is going to be about exploring what that looks like for me, as well as what being a parent is. I know, the world doesn't need another "mommy blog", and that's not what I intend this to be.... I am not sure what I intend it to be, but I do want to use it as an outlet for examining some of the many thoughts about this experience.

Monday, May 30, 2011


These are the before and after photos of our bedroom. Another yellow room painted grey, you're going to say. What can I say? I like it. It's calming and is a good background for art.
The first photos are the real estate photos with the old owner's stuff.... is that creepy? I forgot to take "before" photos.

The photos of the ocean were taken by L and I when we were on the north coast of California. They make me very happy, and were super affordably enlarged and framed thanks to Apple's photo developing and a cheap framing place nearby.

I'm pretty happy with our room, it's a very calm place, and I'm trying to keep it uncluttered. I feel like good sleeps happen without the distractions of clutter and everyday detritus. I'm also looking forward to hopefully bringing our baby into the world in this room.