Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Premembering: Building the Future with the Past

Why do we write down our thoughts? A while ago I changed the name of this blog from Feminist Farmer’s Wife (a journey about how a wife and mother finds her footing in a farm setting) to Inspiration Station. It was something about getting out of a dark place and surrounding myself with hope and possibility, things that were inspiring, and being more kind.

I wanted to stop complaining and worrying and obsessing in my writing and make my words into something more productive. Something that people could use. Instead of recipes for food, patterns for knitting, plans for chicken coops, I wanted to form quilts of ideas woven together. Connect things that might not naturally be brought together. All in the hopes of building a future that would be more enjoyable to live in. For all of us.

A year later I have noticed something very powerful. Where I once believed that you could make things come true by simply writing them down, I now see something different going on. I recently learned of the term ‘premembering’ from my favourite writer, Martha Beck. Premembering is basically getting a sense of something just before it happens. Like all memory related things, the thoughts can be jumbled, they are not always accurate or clear. What if the ‘memories’ of the future are coming to you, all the time, and you only need to find a way to make sense of them?

Writing things down about the future – that’s a form of premembering. A sort of diary about what is to come. The things you dream about, envision, wish for, want to build in the world. Now hold on a minute, I didn’t say you were psychically imagining what was going to happen next. I just mean you start to lay out the path a bit. Push aside debris to make some openings. Map out a little direction. Tell the world you’re ready to go whichever way it can take you.

Last fall we had an unfortunate event happen to our space. After spending literally years cleaning up the leftover construction materials from the addition we put on our house, we were finally starting to make progress when some neighbours offered us some lumber from a shed they were tearing down. As garbage loads were now costing locals a fortune, people were looking for creative ways to get rid of their junk. For us, this looked like a truck backing up on a day that we were not home and unloading all of this ‘lumber’ (aka the entire shed in a heap) onto our lawn.

I was not pleased with the mess. Many months went by and I complained about what I saw out my window. I cursed the pile of garbage on our lawn. Until I walked over to it one day and had a good look at what was there. Some two by fours. Some strapping. Siding. Plywood. Floorboards.

I pulled out a crow bar, a hammer and an empty bucket for the old, crooked nails and got to work. Hours and hours of disassembling eventually led to neat little piles of lumber of different shapes and sizes. My husband had already been going at the pile for months and putting what we couldn’t use in the furnace. I was tackling what was left. If you know anything about me, you’ll know that nothing makes me happier than reusing something that would otherwise go to waste.

Such were the beginnings of a new raised playhouse. Poles were sunk, a second story floor was hung, a frame was built, ladders hung, nets and slides positioned, old windows dragged out of corners of the farm, tin brought from our parent’s house. Save for the slide and net, all of the materials for this playhouse were from recycled materials.

Next came a portable chicken coop. It is the triangular variety good enough for 3-6 birds. It is light and easy to move, has a nice little swinging door, and a perching branch leading to a nest box where the chickens can lay their eggs. So far the new chicken coop is working swimmingly and allows us to pasture our hens without concerning ourselves about predators (including our resident fox).

As my children grow past the stage of toddler toys and games and into the realm of exploring and climbing for their independence, they now have a perch for themselves. From their new house they can look over the entire farm and enjoy some privacy away from Mom and Dad (though I positioned it where we can see them from many of the working stations on the farm).

Though it is not yet finished, it is getting there. Yes, I have been away from writing for a bit. Just imagine me out there with my hammer and nails and a big smile on my face. Perhaps you’ll forgive me.

You see, I believe that you can use the mess you’ve got to build something good in your future. You may not see your lot as anything but chaos, but something inside of you may already know exactly what comes next. You just have to walk over to the pile of junk, get out the tools you have and start working.

A year ago I honestly did not think it was possible to regain any sense of confidence in my life again. So caught up in the day-to-day demands I was, that I lost myself entirely. And somehow I seemed to have premembered my way back into something more productive for everyone around me. A balance that suits my family and me, at least for now. None of it could have been planned. There was only one foot in front of the other. One nail pulled at a time. Next comes a blog about the present I think. Can there be such a thing? What do you think that would look like? Or is it technically impossible to write down your thoughts and still be in the present moment?

I’ll have to get out there with my pile of lumber and think on that a little more.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Carbon Copy Children?

Wouldn’t it be great if you could understand what was going through your child’s mind every minute of every day? Wouldn’t life be so much easier if you knew, you just knew, what they needed when they needed it? In the real world we must interact with our children using the best available information we can find. In fact, we must interact with everyone this way. And there often isn't much to go on.

There are visual cues like sweating, crying, laughing or squirming. Maybe it is something we can sense like tension, or distance. If we are lucky we are told what is needed – there is hunger, the person is cold, hurt, tired…

Yet without instruction, no matter what state we are trying to read, we are only ever able to perceive it through our own senses and experiences. If we are hungry we might push food. If we have a chill we may hand over a sweater. If we are afraid, we might surround and protect. Only once we master the art of empathy can we take ourselves out of the picture and respond to the true needs of another.

But how often do we misread what is needed from us? This is perfectly illustrated with those who do not actually need anything from us. I have been known to lean over my fellow adult dinner date’s plate and start cutting up his steak. I have assumed that someone in the centre of a crowd needs space. I have turned off lights, closed windows, silenced radios, all in response to what I thought others might need. In the end, I think they were really only things I would have wanted myself.

Here is the thing. As parents we are being asked to care for people that we can’t completely understand. Why? Because we are not inside their bodies or their minds. Though they seem a part of us, they are still so very separate. Frustratingly separate. Their needs are different, their lives are unique, their experiences are their own. And most of the time, our own little interpretations just aren’t going to cut it.

Greater than what goes on in our own little households is the need to educate these little minds. To show them how the world works. To teach them skills and ways of learning and avenues to explore. We hope they will meet their potential. That they will be true to themselves. And for that, we will need them to know that it is okay to be different.

Yet all we have to go on is our own little perspectives. The little window that we view the world through. We have to send them out into the world knowing that they are going to see something different than what we see. They are always expanding into territory uncharted by us. And yet somehow, we are still asked to guide them.

It makes me realize how very important it is for us to let our children know that we trust them. To teach them respect and appreciation for differences. Including their differences. Because all too soon our ways will part and they will be heading in a direction so unfamiliar to us we may no longer be able to get our bearings in their lives.

I’ve spent a lifetime trying to justify why I didn’t seem to view the world the way others did. I spent many decades learning how to behave so that I wouldn’t appear so darned odd to the folks around me. I have spent countless hours teaching myself the things I was supposedly taught in school. I didn’t learn the way others did. I didn’t think the way others did. I didn’t say or write things that people could understand.

It is only now, four decades in, that I recognize that it is time to celebrate that difference. As quirky as it may be, our difference is the very thing we have to offer the world that cannot be duplicated.

Can I work harder to see my children through their own eyes? Could I take my own desires out of the equation to see more clearly what they need? Learn ways to listen better, open our minds, accept that appreciating who our children become may mean taking a walk right into the middle of the unknown. Just because we cannot recognize parts of ourselves in our children does not mean they have gone astray.

What a naïve parent I am! To have believed that my genetic code would create something predictable. Something that I could explain.

It is easy to fear something that is unknown. But perhaps if we expect it to be new and different, we will be much better equipped to support what comes down the pipe. Who knows whether our children will be artists or lawyers, whether they will rule countries or study ant colonies.

I figure the sooner we wrap our head around how great it is that we are all so very different, the better poised we will be to cheer on the wonderful human beings our children are well on their way to becoming.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Local Cinnamon Bark?

My four year old recently asked my husband how to make cinnamon. Hubby said it comes from the bark of a tree. My son wanted to know why we don’t make cinnamon from our trees, then.

I’ve resigned myself to the pull of the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins lately. For years people have been approaching me and telling me they are reading these books. As someone who usually reads non-fiction and rarely fiction, especially popular fiction, I couldn’t understand what I would enjoy about this book.

I was a girl growing food from my land. I was raising kids in a world that scares me just a little in terms of what we might be leaving them in the future. I did not need a haunting scenario dramatized for me. (That said, Margaret Atwood and Oryx and Crake was a book I got a lot out of – smartly written, not gratuitously provocative). Being afraid of scarcity in our future was not entertainment for me.

But the curiousity got the better of me and now I see something of what I might have in common with this fictional time and place. If you know nothing about the Hunger Games, suffice to say that the folks in this book need to learn how to be resourceful and survive in the wild. It is true that I want to learn basic skills. But this is not out of a fear that they would be needed if technology or political boundaries busted down and we were all stuck to fend for ourselves. I am pretty certain that in the event of a catastrophe or war we would not be left in our bucolic corner to enjoy our cornucopia while others starved. All I have ever been drawn to about our countryside place of abundance is to know where things grow, how they are made, what the original materials are. I don’t do this because I think the world is going to end. I interested in the ultimate things that help us survive. What are we here for if not to learn what sustains us?

As an aside a wee calf entered our lives recently. She is a lovely little dairy specimen (our first after a string of getting female beef or male dairy offspring) that we hope to milk one day. She is lovely and her mother is producing a healthy amount of milk that we will soon be able to enjoy when the colostrum production finishes.

After two years of my son asking when we were going to drink ‘Bonnie milk’ again, I am pleased to tell him that it will be any day now. I only hope he does not start banning milk at day care again stating that he won’t drink anything but milk from Bonnie, our Jersey.

Back to the cinnamon. I can’t tell you how proud I was when my son explored the origin of cinnamon. There are so few things that we don’t bring to our table that he is actually now noticing the exceptions. This is remarkable insight on his part. And tells me this kid knows where things come from. Not because we explained it all to him. But because he has watched it all cycle around.

I have seen a place where cinnamon grows in a far away land on an island off of west Africa. The climate is a little different there than it is up here in Canada and my guess is that we won’t be growing any cinnamon here anytime soon. Then yet again there is a winery up the road from us producing their own wine from their grapes. It was once thought we did not have a long enough growing season to grow grapes for wine.

May and early June is the season of greens here, especially the baby salad mix kind including hot mustards, young lettuces, and arugula. Later in the month we will see our first strawberries and the arc of colour will begin. Until then, I am helping myself to a milk bag sized bag of greens everyday on my drive home from work. There is nothing quite like the splash of flavour that comes from eating real salad mix fresh from the garden. No dressing required.

Though we won’t be seeing any cinnamon bark trees around here anytime soon, I do know one thing. My little boy is connected to something that took me half a lifetime to learn.

How does your garden grow?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

10 Things I Gained From Not Eating Sugar

It has been almost a month since I began my journey without sugar. Over 3 weeks ago I made a commitment to cut out all sweets and baking, all processed, sugary things, almost all refined and processed grains. I have partaken on occasion but the no’s have outnumbered the yes’s 100 to 1. I didn’t know I was capable of the level of success I feel I’ve achieved with this. Here are some of the things I have learned:

1. You shouldn’t tell other people when you are restricting what you’re eating. They either try repeatedly to feed you what you’re cutting out or they tell you in great detail when you’re ‘cheating’ without even asking for details on your approach. (Note that I did not cut out dairy and allowed refined grains and some condiments in a very limited fashion – one fruit a day was also welcome but no fruit juice).

2. Without processed sugary things I have to be creative and resourceful when choosing snacks and do whatever I can to plan in advance. I am learning new ways of eating. It is not difficult anymore to say ‘no’, even to be around a vast array of supposed temptations.

3. A small piece of dark chocolate when you haven’t had any in 3 weeks tastes like something that has fallen straight from heaven. And if eaten slowly, it has far more wonder attached to it than eating a whole bag full of chocolates in ten seconds flat. It is worth savouring. It has value. It is noticed.

4. Forcing any food ‘category’ out requires that you become mindful about everything you eat. It means you can’t eat everything off your children’s plates without thinking. It means you start to think about the other things you might be eating without consideration. It makes you aware of how often you might have reached for these things ‘you didn’t have often’.

5. Some of my new favourite snacks? • Tuna inside half of an avocado. • Popcorn made with organic coconut oil on the stove (let’s me honest, this beats the air-popped business by a mile). • Olives • Seeds and nuts mixed and pressed into a nut butter, wheat germ and date paste (keeping dates to a minimum and bulking up on nuts/seeds). • Carrots and cucumbers dipped in homemade hummus. • A small scoop of ice cream made with real cream and peanut butter. Yup – that was my treat – a true unadulterated off-the-wagon treat. I figured any sugar I was going to eat should be coupled with real fats and proteins to assist with the speed that the sugar landslides into my system. • Peanut butter on a spoon. The stuff without sugar in it. • Apples and cheese • Bag of baby greens without dressing (the new chips!)

6. Let me be clear. This is not a cleanse. It is not a diet. I have not lost pounds or inches. There is no way to tell if I have more energy or feel healthier because coincidentally the beginning of this journey coincided with the breaking of my little toe cutting my exercise routine down to a fraction of what it had been. But I do not get heartburn anymore. I feel less puffy. My skin does not break out. And I can think more clearly now that I reach for protein or ‘good fat’ snacks instead of sugar.

7. I never crave the good things I eat in place of sugar. I still only think about reaching for sugar when I feel hunger – probably out of habit. But I feel completely satisfied when I have taken a healthier choice instead. I stop looking for something else when I am done the first thing, no matter what time of the day, how bored or upset I am and what other snacks are within my reach.

8. When I go on a trip with my husband to Montreal for the weekend for our wedding anniversary without children, my commitments are sabotaged. Yet the mindfulness does not leave me and my bad choices are far fewer than they once would have been even when I am ‘letting go’. I notice that the ‘I’m not really feeling better’ is actually a load of hogwash. I am reminded how TERRIBLE I feel when I eat things with sugar and am less careful about what I eat.

9. Cheap decaffeinated coffee is completely awful without massive amounts of cream and sugar. Best to choose the good coffee.

10. Building in flexibility according to circumstances made sure that I did not give up entirely when the ‘rules’ weren’t followed. What I have gained is an approach that I can take well into the rest of my life. With this, I’m going to be able to carry on for decades to come and not just a handful of days I can mark off on a calendar.

Now for the most unexpected thing that I have learned: the power of saying ‘no’ to things that are not good for you goes way out and beyond the bad thing you are eliminating from your life. You build a new template where things you usually let in that are not good for you become unacceptable. You learn how to REALLY take care of yourself by nourishing yourself with positive inputs from all angles.

Finally, without question, I feel empowered. I suddenly find myself easily taking actions that better all areas of my life. I do not reach for empty things that do not give back in a positive way. I feel stronger emotionally. Removing sugar (and consequently most processed foods) as a major source of energy requires replacing these items with real food that has real benefits to the body.

The result? Feeling more full, more fulfilled, and more in control.

I don’t recall getting benefits quite that lofty from a mock-o-late bar in the past. Maybe it isn’t about what I’ve been giving up at all.

And simply about what there is to be gained.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Gift of a Broken Toe

Last month I managed to fit in a different run/hike every week through hilly and mountainous terrain (usually climbing as much as 1000m) over a 13 to 15km distance. That’s a lot of boring numbers, I know. But man, oh, man was I proud of myself! It took me at least 2 hours for each stretch up and down across the hilly trails.

Trail running is my absolute favourite. Sometimes I feel as though I could go forever. Yet as I’m getting older it does cross my mind that one day I might not be able to anymore. But while I can, I will. Because the happiness it brings breezing alongside the trees, rocks, the deer, the tiny plants pushing out from the leaves while the sun pushes through the canopy, periodically shining on my face. It can’t be beat.

Last week I dropped a Thomas the Train flashlight from neck height straight onto my foot (it fell out of an armful of toys I was cleaning up, the flashlight literally tucked under my chin). Hours later my son dropped a metal truck on the other foot. Somewhere in there my 80 pound dog jumped up to lick my face and landed funny on my toe. Then I went to play a tough game of squash which involves forcefully lunging oneself across a court for 40 minutes.

The result? One very sore foot. I wasn’t quite sure which event caused what or what had happened to my toe. I also had a plan to do a hike with a friend I was really looking forward to. So on I pushed. Many kilometers later I began to limp a bit and then finally a lot through the final few kilometers. Not smart? You bet. Would I do it again? Um, probably.

You see that month was coming close to being the best shape I’ve been in since I had my babies. All of my life I have been able to integrate fitness into my day out of the sheer enjoyment of it. Somehow farming, and then babies managed to take priority over something that made me who I was. Built me and held me together, in fact. How I could have lost sight of this in those years, I’ll never know.

One thing I’ve never been able to do is limit the amount of food I ate. My general method of staying lean was to eat a mountain of food and burn it off in the mountains. All fine and good until I ran out of time, will and creativity for getting myself in motion once children were in the picture.

Ironically, before I even realized the extent to which I had damaged my poor wee toe, I had committed to go without sugar in my diet for 5 weeks. That included anything that contained sugar and anything that metabolically resembled sugar (eg. white bread, white pasta etc.) 8 days in and I am AMAZED that I have made it this far.

Oh, I’ve had a few moments of weakness. Moments where the deprivation was heading towards an all out landslide in a way that a small bowl of real ice cream was willing to act as the finger in the dam. Mother’s Day brunch with the family likely won’t look very clean but I’ve decided to fare it without deserts, added syrups or jams and cope with the odd pancake that can’t possibly take my resolve away for the future. When I began this I knew I had to be realistic about living my life alongside the commitment.

So here is the thing. Right when I changed my diet in a restricted way for the first time in, well, a century it seems, I have been unable to exercise. Not in the way that I was exercising.

And as these things go, a light has come on. I have done some modified yoga for the first time in months. I have done more stretching, more holding, more careful bending, some lifting, but in all ways move slowly, more intentionally, always quietly. I found my 5:30am time slot again.

It has become clear to me that I had fallen into a pattern of feeding two addictions. One was sugar. And one was long trail runs. Nothing wrong with long trail runs. But the manner in which I was approaching them was getting obsessive. I was pushing through pain. I wasn't listening to my body anymore.

And now I spend my evenings with Arnica, foots stools and ice. I have worn nothing but flipflops as I have had to tape my fractured toe to its neighbour, having it act as a splint. At one point I had a band of duct tape wrapped around my whole foot to take the pressure off my little toe. It worked but it didn’t look pretty.

A week later my foot is feeling a lot better. And one week without sugar and I feel as though I have far more power than any distance or mountain could provide me. I’m certain my health is better – I feel lighter and less as though I’m on a mood roller coaster.

The greatest feeling is knowing that I can trust myself. That I am making the effort to take care of myself. Knowing that I can commit to something and see it through. There is nothing more debilitating than letting yourself down after making a commitment. There is nothing more empowering than following through on what you say you’re going to do.

The broken toe has given me kindness again. The ability to give my body what it needs. The opportunity to recognize the strength in stillness. In knowing when to take a break, slow down, do things differently as needed.

I do miss my trails. I have plans to do a certain trail end to end in the fall. We’ll see where my toe takes me. It will have to be about the journey this time and not the destination.

But for now, I feel as though I’ve climbed the biggest mountain of my life. I’ve kicked that sugar thing off the edge of my world. 4 more weeks. A nice round number. Care to join in?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Fencing Out Beauty

The Fence
The last decade of my life I have prioritized things with form: development, growth, structure, stability: with our family, our animals, our homestead, our farm business, our careers. It has taken far too long to notice what has been missing in this time.

Beauty. The beauty hasn’t been missing - just my ability to notice it.

How easy it is to get caught up in the daily grind of feeding, cleaning, building and beginning. Somewhere in there I lost the ability to appreciate the beauty in my life. The beauty we can see, but also what we feel, hear, smell or taste.

What drew us to settle in the place we now live was the view one could see from the little log cabin perched on a hill. Framing the gently sloped valley of arable land was a hillside splashed with autumn colours, a golden September sky and a rainbow arching across the horizon. A friendly black dog that we would soon call our own wiggled and nudged against me while I took in the scene. I had found my heaven. As it turned out, it was our heaven.

We later hiked this mountain – our mountain – to discover rocky outcrops and small caves, mosses, fungi

Shelf Fungi
Lichens blanketing the trees, the rocks, the fallen logs, a stream, a very old beaver pond.
My Favourite Place on the Farm
We found out that we could see the Ottawa river from the height of the land.

How blessed were we to be able to call this home? How exciting it all was to have the ability to make life here. Plant and animal, furry, feathered, fronded and podded…and then human. The place was a Mecca for creation.

Plows upturned dirt, nails were hammered, boards were cut, chicks were hatched, foals were born, pastures were fenced, seeds were planted, weeds were pulled, fruits were harvested, straw was forked, manure was piled, children were born, fences were made, puppies were acquired, more fences were made.

Soon life became a series of fences and jobs.

Last week we took down a welded wire fence that surrounded our house. A fence that had kept our children safe from the road, and eventually our dogs as well. These dogs would go on to use the yard for their waste, chew and kill the apple tree we planted on our wedding day, dig up the hollyhocks, trample the lupines, break off the lilac branches, prematurely prune the raspberry canes and dig massive holes throughout the lawn. Soon we found ourselves avoiding the space around our house as it was no longer a pleasant place to be.

The Easter Egg Hunt

The children were too little to unlatch the gates themselves, nor were they allowed, as an open gate would have sent the dogs running off down the road. The kids were trapped inside the yard. Or worse yet, trapped outside of it unable to come back in. I began to feel trapped as well. Our children have finally reached an age where they understand where they are not to go.

Down came the fence. The grass has now been mowed where the fence had once been. The vast expanse of our lawn has now reappeared. Paths to the barn, the greenhouse, the field, the play structures are all easy and direct. The dogs now have their own fenced yard at a rarely used area in the back of the house.

A Dog's Yard

The children run freely in the new expanded space.

Something has shifted. Suddenly I can see the sun going down again with all of the hues of purple, pink, red and orange. I see the green all around promising new growth. The trees are one year older. I can visit my Jersey girl who is about to give birth any day now. The flowers are starting to grow, unthreatened by dogs.

I no longer see all of the work that has to be done when I walk out my door and shimmy awkwardly through that gate, keeping dogs in, letting children out, carrying buckets or wagons or wheelbarrows through. I no longer focus on the piles of barn boards rotting alongside the greenhouse. I do not see the cow fence alongside the road that is in desperate need of repair.

I see the space where my hollyhocks once grew and cherish the opportunity to plant the seeds again. I see a new apple tree, a pear tree and a plum as well that have taken the place of the wedding tree. We have a bench that I can place somewhere that will hopefully look out at the rainbow when it appears over the mountain one day soon.

I do love those dogs that have replaced the one we bought that day (who I always said came with a farm). I take my badly behaved black bundles of fur up to the gravesite where the original canine owner is now buried. I tell them about her. There also lies a horse there that we lost far earlier than we should have. Another dog. A cat or two. Sadness there, but still beauty in all that they brought to our lives when they were here.

Spring does this, I know. It brings new life. A better view. But something more has happened this spring. Our world has reopened. I suppose the children have grown and can now be trusted to wander with far less supervision. Taking down the fence that divided our yard and our farm has symbolized something for me. The beginning of a new era.

We will never stop building and growing things around here. But perhaps just now, just there now, I’ve reached a pinnacle where I can finally look out on all that we have earned in this space and take a seat on my bench and appreciate it. We worked hard to get here. The job isn’t anywhere near over. But it is time to take a moment, or many, to appreciate what we have.

We have committed to a year of tying up loose ends instead of taking on large, new projects – like barns, like babies, like businesses. Slowly we are reclaiming the rooms, the fields, the places that have gotten away on us. One space at a time we are taking them back from the fray.

Our lives are often surrounded by fences that we build ourselves. Fences that confine us in areas that don’t allow us to wander and expand anymore. Fences that keep us from seeing the leaves changing colour or feeling the breeze or watching the growing flowers. Fences that hold our children out, or keep us from walking freely to the places that we love.

Somewhere along the way I fenced myself away from the beauty of where we live. I lost sight of it. Right in the middle of it, I couldn’t see anymore.

And then I took down a fence. It seems to me now that it is every bit as beautiful here as the first time I laid eyes on the place. But someone must have come along in the meantime and made some changes around here. I think that someone was us.

I can’t say I was present for it every moment along the way. But I can tell you, I do see it now. I am going to make sure I set up a seat to get a better view. Because I plan on gawking a whole lot more in the future.

The Free and Clear

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Breaking Up with Sugar

Everyone knows you can’t control who you fall in love with. All you can do is hope that the stars align and you end up with someone fantastic and inspiring who is good for you and treats you with respect and lets you grow in all the right ways. I have been blessed with a life partner who gives me plenty of room to grow and encourages me to be the best I can be. And he isn’t hard on me when I grow too much, width-wise I mean. Thank goodness. I have known the other kind who criticize and suggest and attempt to control every morsel eaten and the length and intensity of activities taken.

But here I want to talk about a different kind of love affair. The kind I have with the food I eat. This is not love. Let us be clear what it really is. An addiction. One where I seek validation from the outside, I go running back to the familiar, uncomfortable feelings in hopes that they will change. This time, maybe, it will be different. But it never is. I eat too much sugar, I feel grumpy, tired and bloated. I feed a craving and the blood sugar roller coaster begins, the cycle of abuse goes around again. I partake as though I am a fugitive, secretly hoarding the forbidden fruit. More accurately, I do it all mindlessly, continuously, openly.

I was so incredibly thrilled this morning to hear from a friend who is doing a Candida cleanse for a month (no dairy, no sugars or refined grains, no caffeine, no starchy veg). I have known many who have done cleanses. The Master Cleanse (syrup, lemon, cayenne and water..?), the vegan route, nothing but organic, or cutting out dairy, or sugar or wheat, nothing but juiced veggies.

A good cleanse in my mind pushes you towards nutritionally dense foods and away from those that are harmful or difficult to digest in some way or another. This is not rocket science. Yet we receive so many conflicting messages about what healthy really means. What I love best about my friend’s story so far is that after nearly two weeks she FEELs better. She has more energy, needs less sleep, still takes her body on long runs.

I have been blown away by her diligence and determination. I think because this particular friend is in my camp. She gets the value of home grown, home-made food. But like me, she takes advantage of the convenience of processed stuff once in a while. Limiting sugar and dairy would be especially tricky for me. There are days I give myself nothing but kale and beans and homemade condiments and grass-fed beef, and raw, unhomogenized dairy, and spinach and whole, healthy grains and omega-rich fats and perfect proteins. And other days…well…maybe all of that plus three Cadbury Easter cream eggs.

Don’t wince. It is true that I am an organic farmer who values nutrition and unprocessed food and food grown without chemicals and fresh, clean air and all of that. But I have a vice and this is it. Some days the vice visits and stays unwelcome for days and days. Other days it stays away for weeks at a time. I don’t drink alcohol very often. I don’t smoke. I exercise intensely at least 3-4 hours a week. I get my sleep. I take time to breathe. And every now and again, I eat a mountain of sugar that would make your head spin.

When I was younger I could get away with just about anything and still manage to walk around looking like a beanpole. As the decades pass, I find more and more that my secret behaviour (not really so much secret anymore is it?) is starting to show. Not just on my waist but in my moods, my skin, my energy levels, my ability to sleep or cope. And it takes a lot more work to keep the extra pounds at bay.

Now I don’t think this is the worst addiction in the world. You could argue that the only person I’m hurting is myself (if you keep the health care argument out of it and perhaps longevity and quality of life as it relates to time with my children). I’ve also met folks so addicted to their exercise regimes or their diet plans that they are downright nasty to other people who don’t do what they do or get in the way of their obsessions. I’ve been there too. Addicted to movement. Compulsive about nutrition.

Now it is absolutely essential to me that any changes I make are done with kindness. Kindness to others, to myself, and to the planet. I want to approach my health with love and not criticism. With acceptance, not rejection. Because fundamentally it is way too much of a paradox to reject your own body. You can’t hate it. You can try. And I bet at times you do try. But at the end of the day exactly who is hating whom???

So I’m breaking up with refined sugars. I no longer wish to lean on something that gives me so little in return. This particular love of my life is abusive. It acts as though it is a saviour, the knight in shining armour, the healing potion, the quick fix to any problem. In the end it leaves me stranded and needing more of the same. Selling off my valuables to find money to get more. Seeking it out in the dark of night. It brings me bad days - it does not take them away.

No more corn syrups, sugary beverages, cakes, pies, pastries, squares, cookies, chocolate bars, Easter cream eggs, candies, sugary condiments, wines, beer, fruit juices… Maybe I’ll be brave enough to cut back on white flours. I don’t care for refined flour but I like to mix it in with the grainier, nuttier flours to get a lighter texture and consistency. White pasta, white rice, white bread, white tortillas… Am I ready to go the whole mile?

While I’m at it I should probably drop dairy too. But lets be honest. I don’t want to take the whole tower down at one time. Lets do this one addiction at a time.

Lover, you aren’t good for me anymore. I’m not sure you ever have been. If you love me, please let me go. Can one get a restraining order on a food? Oh, is that simply called restraint? I shall give that a go.

Care to join me? 5 weeks. Starting now. See you on the other side.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Blind Spots

I think we all have blind spots. There are areas of our life and personalities that are hard to look at, to admit to, to take responsibility for, to feel the whole pain of, or even to let in the full extent of gratitude that we feel. I believe these blind spots are linked to our triggers, to the buttons our loved ones are so good at pressing. We don’t want them coming to light. We have built motes around these areas with crocodiles and high, iron gates and guards surrounding electric fences. We have gone to great lengths to make sure that nobody can access our protected areas.

But like every elephant in the room, they are impossible to ignore.

I finished a book last night about a man who’s wife dies of cancer leaving behind a motherless 6 year old daughter. The man then gets wrongly accused of being a sex offender and loses his daughter to his inlaws as well as his job, his house and everything he owns. As with most books that I read, I am immersed in the story and I can’t stop reading it. I become it. But the situation has taken me so deep down into its reality that I spend my days trying to get over it. I try to force myself to feel grateful that I am not experiencing any of these kinds of trials right now. I even try to put the book down. I believe the story is meant to show how one human can survive the worst of tragedies and still prosper. I can’t help but think that such a situation would break me.

I lay awake for hours after finishing this book. Anger and fear spend the night bubbling under inside my body. Why did I need to read such a story? After spending my days unwinding my own life, I can’t figure out why it is worth my time to read this stuff. The tension in my body is palpable. But no matter what I do I cannot find release. The buzzing will not go away. Finally after hours of resistance I find a forbidden room. The hidden compartment. A key that unlocks a buried treasure. After a night of digging, I have accidentally hit the Blind Spot.

At first the Blind Spot is shocked to have been uncovered. It does not often see the light of day or receive any kind of consciousness from me. We have an unspoken agreement that we will leave each other alone. The Blind Spot squints in the light, as though it has been awoken from a long, dark, sleep. The Blind Spot is annoyed. The Blind Spot is scared. The Blind Spot isn’t used to being interrupted. Not like this. Not with my awareness present. Usually I experience an irritation I can’t explain. Or start obsessing about something someone says in ways that don’t match the gravity of the problem. Usually I have someone else I can blame for all of THEIR problems. But this book. Who can I blame? The one who wrote it? The one who leant it to me? I am reading online reviews on the title (which I’m not sure I should share with you!) to see how others reacted to the book.

I did not find a way around it. I spent the night coiled up with that feeling you get after a major confrontation. I still don’t know exactly what I was confronting because it was a blind spot after all. But that doesn’t mean the car ain’t still driving along beside me, right next to me, affecting where I can go next. If I could see it, I would yell ‘get out of my blind spot you idiot!’

I arrived late at work after a sleepless night to wander the hard hallways that I have become accustomed to navigating each morning. I hear a voice. The beautiful sound of someone singing. The voice is echoing off of the ceramic tiles. She doesn’t stop when we step on the elevator together. The elevator is full. She has no headphones on. She is just singing. Loud enough for everyone to hear. And she sounds lovely. She doesn’t make eye contact and she doesn’t stop singing.

Tears start to form in my eyes. Not a very well-timed release but a release nonetheless. The elevator keeps stopping at different floors but she does not get off. She keeps singing. I feel my body let go. It isn’t convenient. I have 4 more floors to go.

I’d love to tell you the nature of this blind spot I met last night. Or what it was that I finally let go of. I can’t quite say. Fear, perhaps. That would make sense. Then I wonder if it matters whether I put words to it or not. I think about Chinese medicine and how healing by this practise does not require the label that western medicine covets so highly. Similarly with homeopathic medicine. The symptoms are far more important than the ‘disease’. The treatment focuses on the state itself, not the analysis of the state. I’m not dissing either side, just noting their differences.

But what seems more important to me now is not why the fear manifested, but how it was healed. From a song. The voice of another human being carrying on her way, not minding what others thought of her. I wanted to find her – to tell her thank you. But I imagine it would seem crazy. Much more crazy than singing to yourself in an elevator full of people, right?

Healing in its very nature requires faith. So it seems strange that it would matter what we call it. Naming allows us to tame a thing, control it, make it do our bidding. When all we really need to get to is the healing, who cares how we get there? Yet is blind faith enough to heal?



In science there are things called double blind experiments that ensure neither the researcher nor the subject knows which treatment is the control (blank) and which one is being tested for its effects. In other words, there is a belief that the outcome will change if either side knows what to expect or what to hope for. In fact the blindness is essential to the proper functioning of the trials.



It occurs to me now that the day I built those protections, I obviously had a very good reason to do so. I shall not go digging about where the ground is not ready for new seeds. I shall let her sleep, whatever she is, until she is ready to wake up on its own terms.

And one day maybe, maybe in the presence of a beautiful song, in the cold elevator of a government building the Blind Spot will gain faith and reveal itself again. Or is it I who needs more faith? Faith to believe that whatever comes my way, I would handle in the best way I could? And I would get the support and help I needed from whatever people and powers that were willing. That I am not alone in this.

Blind maybe. But not alone.

Monday, April 23, 2012

So You Had a Bad Day

There is nothing more beautiful than catching a child in a moment of joy. Seeing their heads tilt back with the light of the world sparkling out of their eyes. There is nothing more healing than the sound of a child’s genuine laughter. I once imagined producing a CD of laughter tracks of children. Surely someone has done this already. One track after another of different laughs echoing through the air. It would be a sure way to bring people out of their darkest hour.

Some days I get tangled in my thoughts. My ideas get dark, my obsessions grow large, my assumptions are aplenty. People don’t like me. That friend is mad at me. My husband wishes he had married someone else. I’m a terrible mother. My family wants to disown me. I don’t do enough in a day. My body is betraying me.

Other days I feel peace and gratitude. I see the gifts I have been given in every corner of my life. I am humbled by the possibilities that present themselves. How did I get so lucky? Where and when was I at the crossroads that led me here? How narrow were the windows for the choices that were made? I cling so strongly to this path I am on for it has everything I have asked for. And so very much more.

I awoke one morning after a particularly hairy day the day before to the usual sunshine coming into our bedroom window and noted that the darkness had lifted. After a night of sleep, all of my concerns had gone away. As though darkness had packed its bags in the night and left for good.

Or is it that a spontaneous joy had overtaken me? Like children, we can squeeze all of the juices out of each moment no matter what story lies behind or ahead of us. This is what is remarkable about children. They can go from being incredibly unhappy to whole body giggling within seconds. They can clean the slate that easily. Wash away the black paints and cover them over with brightness.

Every day we wake up and paint a new mural. A new story for the day. Some good things happen. Some bad things happen. Some big. Some small. Some important. Some meaningless. Some background. Some foreground. We respond, react, recreate, reenact, interpret, extrapolate, expand, and exaggerate. We have a story to tell, darnnit, and we’re going to tell it loud!

But what story does a child have when they erupt into whole laughter in an instant? What about when their eyes dance with glee? There is no story there. Is it that their storage spaces are too small for extended versions of their moment? So few years to hold onto, therefore, so little is of importance. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a child cling to darkness quite like an adult can. We attach so much to our stories. Put so much detail into our murals. And we can pay so very much attention to each and every brush stroke in that picture we make.

A child is only starting its painting. We parents can make a difference which colours they use, which stories are told, which parts to focus on. The larger picture won’t come into view for many, many years for most children. Especially those that can exercise the right to live out their childhoods fully.

But as an adult with a mural to talk about, I think I should learn a thing from the perspective of a child. It is pink right now. End of story. There is wind. I am on a chair. He is smiling at me. Sometimes that whole story we tell ourselves isn’t worth hanging onto. Only the tiny detail in front of us matters. At least for right now.

So you had a bad day? The sun will come out tomorrow with a new canvas, a new brush, and new paints. Hang on to the laughter. Its what will heal you in the end. Untangle those dark thoughts. They may not be worth the space you’re giving them.

So you had a bad day? Paint me a new picture please.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Bullying: A Mama’s Place

My daughter is shy. At least that is the word that others like to use. In my view, she tends to keep her loud, complicated, busy personality inside of herself. I think she might be like her Mama, and come to think of it, her Papa that way. When she started day care at 17 months old she did not say a word to her provider. Nor any of the other kids. For about a year she only whispered to the person in charge of her care. Her second day care experience at 2.5 years old was not much different. Other day care providers at the centre would hear her chattering away to me when I was helping her with her coat in the locker area and remark that they had never heard her voice before – one year in.

She speaks quietly when asked a question from a new person (defined as someone on the scene for only 6 months – 2 years), and can usually only carry on a conversation at a detectable level with her close family members (brother, grandparents, parents, maybe aunts or uncles) or her friends and cousins. Otherwise, you may just have to guess what she is thinking. If you’re lucky you’ll get a slightly perceptible nod.

When the doctor handed me this little baby girl, I could tell immediately that she was a wise sort of human. In fact I recall thinking: ‘oh no, she is going to know so much more than me’. There was something in the way her eyes were acute and focused from the minute she came into the world. This girl was taking it all in. And I was afraid I couldn’t guide someone like that.

Fast forward to the beginning of her first school year. How I managed to let that kid walk up the driveway toward that rumbling big, yellow bus without completely spazzing out with emotion, I’ll never know. She climbed up those stairs all brave and stoic, with her little backpack (actually half the length of her body) perched on her tiny pink back, and waved through the window with a delighted smile.

My daughter is a wild kid. She will sit quietly for hours doing puzzles or role-playing with figures. But there is no roller coaster crazy enough for her – no notion or concept she doesn’t seem to be able to wrap her head around and comment back on later – no new adventure too foreign for her. Yet it has always been difficult to know what she needs. She doesn’t always tell you. Or what she does communicate can be cryptic.

Around most other adults, she appears to be an angel. A quiet, well-behaved, gentle sweetheart. And that she can be. But there is a whole other side there that receives little light out there in the world. I suppose most kids are like that. Home is the safest place to let it all rip. Or where they know they can test the hardest. Or where they must finally release all of the pent up frustration from their day when they had to hold it all in.

It appeared at the beginning of the school year that my little girl was adjusting very well considering she was learning in a new language at a new school, with all new friends, in a different town than her day care had been with a new teacher and a new way of getting there. The fact that she didn’t implode with adjustment issues still amazes me. Instead she took it all in stride. She seemed to be able to handle everything that came her way.

To try to ease her way into school, I made sure I had a presence whenever possible. I would go on the field trips and volunteer at lunches or outings. I picked her up at the school as often as I felt comfortable doing while still letting her adjust to the bus routine. I got to know the names of the children in her class. I invited the girls to play.

When asked, she reported many new friends. She would have played with each of the children at any point in time. Gangs were already forming and she seemed a part of all of them. The girls and the boys. The francophones and the anglophones. The sporty kids and the more cerebral types. Then more and more I would hear about how she played alone both from her and other children in the yard. And that she doesn't speak to the other kids.

Finally, in an effort to find out if there was an issue, I put a group of toy cars in front of her and named them all after the children at the school. “Tell me what playing looks like in the school yard,” I said. She got very excited and unfolded a story that had me losing air and holding back a river of tears. But I let neither of those things show. I needed her to be able to tell me without having to react to my drama.

There were some uncomfortable words spoken to her. Ones that were not acceptable to me. Ones that made me want to park outside of the school fence and keep a very close eye on how my daughter is managing. There were some mild threats made and some very stern direction that controlled what she could and couldn’t do. She said she was fine with it all and wasn't hurt by it. She didn't think anyone was being mean. But after hearing this, I spoke with whoever would listen. Some friends who are kindergarten teachers, a favourite blogger who also teaches kindergarten, other parents, my own mother and childhood friends and then finally the teacher.

While the situation was definitely not okay, I was unsure of what to do. Who to tell. How to approach it. If I pushed too hard, would I make my daughter recoil and never share any of her school yard experiences again? Or if I didn’t do anything, would she deem herself unworthy of protection? Somewhere in the middle was the answer where there was neither blame nor apathy.

Here is what I have learned. It is not entirely my daughter’s responsibility at the age of 6 to protect herself from threats at school from any age of child. She must learn to stand up for herself, yes. She must learn to use her words. She must assert her position when faced with any kind of uncomfortable situation. But I do not believe that because she is a quiet sort she deserves to be pushed around or threatened. Not in the least. And so teachers should be told what is going on – even if by a third party. Parents should talk, try and get as many angles as possible on what is happening to help assess the reality of the situation, whether from the teachers, the kids or other parents.

It does not surprise me given my daughter’s character that she has come across some ‘bossiness’ from other children. She is not likely to push her way into any situation. In fact, left to her own devices, she may just as easily choose to play by herself. This makes it difficult to know if she is being excluded or if she is just not interested in the games the others are playing.

Worse yet, I think my daughter is smart enough to know what we want to hear from her. She may not necessarily be protecting the other children when she says she is fine with it all. She just simply wants to please her parents with the ‘right’ answers. It will take many indirect miracles to hear from her how her day actually went. She carefully chooses her stories and stays completely in control of how they are doled out to us.

The one thing that I have learned in the past few weeks of fretting and feeling helpless over my daughter’s social situation at school is that I have no say over who she will choose to be around. I can find out what I can, make my opinions known and forbid or exclude where I can (no, you can’t give that thing of yours to her). But I cannot make others be kind to her. I cannot make her walk away from trouble. I can bend these things, but not control them completely.

Where I hold the most power as Mama Bear – and this has taken a lot of sorting to figure out – is that I must teach my daughter to think very highly of herself. To treat others with great respect as she would wish to be treated. But to see herself as equal to those around her. To understand that nobody has a right to threaten her, take things from her because she is afraid, hurt her, say mean or scary things to her.

She needs to become untouchable. Untouchable. We do not define this as something you cannot touch. It is something that cannot be reached. A spirit so strong, a personality so vivid, a colour so bright, a heart so courageous – that nothing and nobody can sway its position. Untouchable. Something I never quite grasped.

I pray over the coming years (and there will be many, many more of them to come) I can find a way to support that wise, baby girl as she becomes a woman in this world. That she will tell me when she is afraid even if it is uncomfortable to do so. That I will be able to say or do the right things. That I will not project my own childhood fears onto her or try to correct my own problems through her.

I can build her up without putting her on a pedestal. That I can protect her without building her a bubble. That I can let her fly when her wings start to grow without holding her back in fear that she will get hurt. Teach her that it is okay to be quiet, to feel deeply, but it is not okay for others to mistreat you.

Surely she will get hurt. There is no way to keep that from happening. But I can still do my part as a mother.

And near as I can tell my job is to let her know she is wonderful. I cannot be responsible for teaching the world how incredible she is. That, for a mother, is too large a job. But should they try to make her feel a little less, I will do everything I can to stop the arrow from meeting its mark.

I can listen. I can protect. I can avert. I can educate. And try as I might, I must turn those wise eyes back onto her. Effectively spending my days helping her see what I saw in the first moment that we met. She sees everything. She takes it all in.

Now my job is to help her see herself for the good person that she is. And let her know that she has a Mama who will protect her in the spaces where she can’t.

Please feel free to let me know any strategies or concerns or perspectives you have on mean kids in the school yard. For those who home school, is this a large reason why? Where can you make a difference as a parent in your child's life?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Face Value

We live in a world where it is possible to see images from across the world instantly, learn about babies being born seconds after it has happened (with photos!), find out anything about anything the instant we conceive of wanting to know it. We can pretty much get a hold of anything we want if we are willing to pay for it or take a moment to seek it out. We can know where our children are at any time of the day if we hook them up with gadgets. Information is readily available. What is scarce? Face-to-face time with people.

Over the course of the last few months, my husband and I have been hashing out scenarios that would enable us to go to the Farmer’s Market this year without losing our work/life balance. Going to market every Saturday is the best thing about farming for me. Where on earth can you go, once every week, and interact with hundreds of human beings who are…always…ready for it? Happy. I mean it. I couldn’t have found a grumpy sort if I tried.

The appreciation, and willingness to support our efforts, the interest and engagement about our products, the flow of conversation about what we grow, what you can do with it, how we could do better, new ideas for preparation. These things knocked my socks off every time. I would leave feeling tired, fulfilled and incredibly satisfied every single week. The world made sense every Saturday.

So what was the problem? Preparation. The late Friday nights of packing greens until the wee hours. The readying of bushels and bushels of beans into quart baskets onto bread trays at 5am so that we could prepare for the hand-over-fist selling without a moment to spare. The poking of children awake to make them eat some oatmeal and get clothes on. The packing of sunhats, sunscreen, rain coats, boots, swim suits, sleep wear, toques, mitts, snacks, games, bikes, helmets, toy cash registers. The seemingly endless mental check lists. Table cloths, baskets, which new products needed a display, price stickers, information pamphlets, special orders, banners, tents, scissors, labels, the trays from here, the tables from there. Then there were the morning chores before we could leave. Last year that meant pig-feeding, cow watering, chicken feeding and moving the pasture pen, dog securing and bone-offerings. All of this before we started the van at 7am to hitch on the trailer and pull out of the farm driveway. It was a full day before we even left. I began to dread Friday evenings.

Upon my return to work in the city, I knew that coming home after a full week to prepare to go to market would be a stretch. Could someone else go in my place? Could I stay home with the children while husband went alone? Would he enjoy doing it all alone and not seeing us for the majority of our weekend home from work or school? Could we take separate cars and meet up later?

None of these options seemed feasible. Yet leaving market altogether to focus solely on the mid-week deliveries to restaurants and stores seemed too great a compromise. We deal with many loyal establishments who will take whatever organic vegetables we can grow at a fair price. But when you pack a 100 pound box of green beans for a restaurant, there is something far less intimate about the process. You do not hand pack a quart of beans for the person who will be eating them. They are boxed up and weighed and shipped out on delivery day. Done.

You know how great it feels to hear that your tomatoes were a real hit at someone’s dinner party? To have someone from Europe who fancies them selves a food connoisseur nod approvingly after grabbing a bean in one hand and breaking it in two with a satisfying snap.
To hear that your arugula has just the right amount of bite, the perfect sized leaf and lasts in the fridge for weeks? To know that what you are selling is some of the best stuff you can find anywhere. To have someone come early and fill up three shopping bags without a single question week after week. That feels awesome! It really does. Nothing more satisfying than this. To work hard for something you believe in AND be able to serve others. What a combination.

In the new context, however, going to market every Saturday in the city for 6 months was going to kill some aspect of us. So we thought about compromises. Maybe a shorter season? We could show up late in the year and leave before the end of the season. Perhaps we could grow specific things and time our visits with certain specialized crops. There did not seem to be a way.

So we lived with our decision to give up the market and turned our efforts to other things. My husband ordered seeds that would complement his wholesale market better. He planted more of some things, less variety, fewer market-friendly items.
Then some time passed.

It just wouldn’t do.

We made a new plan. We would go just once a month. This way we could see all of our regular customers, friends and family members who come to the market without losing our minds in the process. This way we could expose our children to what I think is such a valuable process to show to a child. How do people buy food and where does it come from? How do your mommy and daddy earn their living? Where does what we do meet the world out there?

And how many sunflower plants does a kid have to sell before they can go and buy a cookie?

We feel good about this compromise. It won’t be entirely comfortable. Surely an onslaught of peas will come on the week after our one market day and we’ll be scampering to find a place to sell them. Some days we will go with less than we could have if we were committed to going regularly and growing for this purpose. But no matter what happens we will show up with a smile and make the best of what we’ve got.

So off we go to our happy place. Blessed we are to have this opportunity.

We live in a world where it is easy to get anything you want, whenever you want it. But sometimes all you really want is a direct exchange with another human being. Taking the time to do things more carefully, mindfully, wholeheartedly, with presence and intention. To see with your own eyes where your efforts make an impact on the world.

And when the work you do leads to passing goods along with your own two hands to a smiling face that can give you direct feedback?

That has immeasurable and unique value. The value of a human voice. Another human’s story. A human face. My kind of face value.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Dear Pregnant Woman

Dear Pregnant Woman,

With the questions in your eyes and so much hope in your heart, I’m watching your little belly growing. Only now can I look at you and remember what it was like to have a baby inside of me and understand what it was all going to mean.

I remember when I was pregnant and a crowd of woman a half of a generation ahead of me would surround me with a knowing look. Like they belonged to a club that I would soon be allowed into. I became a spectacle. A vessel for their memories. I heard their stories, I asked them questions, I shared my fears. Sometimes they would answer with great detail and honesty. Other times they would lower their heads or look away. There was something that couldn’t be put into words.

You see, I thought they were imagining how much it hurt to give birth. Remembering what it was like to be hungry all the time and not be able to eat. To have trouble getting out of a chair. To feel your stomach under your nostrils. To eat buckets of Tums in one night. To lie awake wondering how something so large was going to make it out from inside of you. And whether ambulances would be involved.

I thought they were thinking about the weight they had gained, the names they had picked, the cribs and strollers they were going to buy. I thought they remembered photos of their naked bellies, pictures of their belly button, new bras that were outgrown monthly until all that was left was the uniboob sports bra.

Dear Pregnant Lady. It is only now that I know what I want to say to you. But I can’t say it to your face. Because there is so much for you to find out between here and there. There is so much distance you’ll have to travel alone. Knowing that many, many billions have done it all before you. The births, the feeding, the changing, the sleeping, the shelters, the carrying, the protecting… Billions have done it before in millions of different scenarios and ways.

What I want to tell you is that I don’t think about how much it hurt to give birth. I think about how to reconcile the difference between what I want for my children and what the world wants for them – what they want for themselves. I think about the mean girls in the school yard that pushed my baby into a gate last week and there is so little I can do to protect her. I think about how I expected to know these humans inside and out, and even though they came from my insides, I most of the time can’t figure them out.

I think about how much I have learned from these small people. In such a short period of time. And there is so much left to learn. Without question, it is far more than I have taught to them.

I think about how there is no vessel large enough to house the worry I feel for them some days. There is no apology deep enough to fix some of the mistakes I have already made. There are more hours needed in the day to do all of the things I want to do with my kids. There are other hours needed to spend time away from them!

I think about the relief I feel when another mother tells me a story that helps me understand my own children, my own parenting, my own mother.

I think about how there was absolutely no way I could have been warned about the distance the children were going to create between me and the man I chose to spend my life with. How ironic is that? How did it become possible to be in such a small space with another human and find yourselves not making eye contact for hours on end?

I wonder how I never got around to losing that pregnancy weight. Why I pressured myself so much about it. Why I always, always, always, in every circumstance, felt like I wasn’t doing enough for my children. (Is there ever enough?)

Why being away from them for any length of time feels like leaving my right arm behind. Yet being in their company for only a few short minutes can sometimes lead me to wanting to run far, far away again.

Nobody in the world has ever driven me so close to (or past) the point of being crazy. No human in the world has filled me up with love, perspective and belonging quite like these ones have.

I have heard myself yell to the point of avoiding my neighbours in the grocery store (and they live pretty far away from us). I have cried behind closed doors afraid that I was never going to figure this parenting thing out. I have pulled over vehicles to the side of the highway waiting for balance to restore. I have been so lacking in sleep for weeks on end that it became a feat to hold a thought for more than few seconds at a time. When the patience ran out, the tears were spent, the resourcefulness left the room, I was still asked to give more of myself. I could never have imagined it so difficult to come by a shower, a warm meal or 3 hours of sleep at a time.

What nobody ever told me was how much children can bring to a person's life. It is easy to talk about what they take. It is also easy to rhyme off things about joy and love and satisfaction but none of it makes any sense until you can feel it in your own blood and bones.

Dear Pregnant Lady. I can’t really tell you any of this. Because you’re going to have your own story one day. And that is the only one that will ever matter. Some of this may ring a bell. Much of it will be entirely different for you. It will be the story you tell one day that will make it all make sense.

You are now bringing your own life into this world. Not just the one in your belly. But the new one that we shall now call You, The Mother.

I look forward to hearing how the story plays out for you.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Making Our Way Up

I wonder as I work on ways to be a better person, how do I know that I’m not spending all of my energy cultivating my own ego? Some of the greatest people I admire seem to have egos larger than life. Yet others are so humble, so unassuming, so quietly wonderful. I strive to be the latter and fear that I fumble much too often on being the kind of person who sees everything in black and white. I am either good or bad. Some days I just can’t keep up. Other days I have it all going on.

I was reminded in a comment made by one of my favourite readers and bloggers, Panther Creek Cottage that in all the great things we do, we do not do them alone. We are every moment working beside Jesus (or God, or higher powers, or connections, or universes or whatever word suits you here) to get us through. That our success does not belong to us alone. In every magical step, we are led and we are supported.

For a control freak who’s pretty certain she can do everything by herself this is a humbling realization. Ah, that I am not only not alone. But that nothing I do can be credited to my efforts alone.

I thought about this a lot. All week in fact. And towards the end of the week as I made my way to my usual parking spot and meandered to my work building I noticed the church on the corner that has been part of my landscape for a couple of decades. It was no longer a church. It had been converted to an altitude gym.

You see, the thing I find about working out, exercising, setting physical goals for myself is that the work is incredibly self-satisfying. It is inherently selfish. And in a life where the demands on me are far greater than the attention I give myself, exercise creates a much-needed balance. It gives me a refuge, some time to think and move in ways of my own choosing (well, it seems that way when I make the commitment beforehand, there can be some resistance part way through).

But I get caught up in it every time. It takes me to that place of black and white. Good and bad. Better or worse. And I thrive when I am doing better – especially than myself. And there is no end to the opportunities to beat myself up. For not going far enough, often enough, fast enough, long enough. So I don’t let those opportunities in. I ride the high. And push and push and push until I find my happy place. Rich with endorphins or whatever hormones are at play.

I am relieved to know that I am not doing this alone. I think ego is a lonely place. Actually an insecure place. A place where a body has a lot to prove. And is separate from everything. And it is hard work being separate from everything. Being connected to something larger than ourselves, that is the place where we can excel to our highest potential. To realize that it is not ALL ME is actually quite a comfort. If I could kick the ego aside, I’d see that. I’m not in this alone.

So what does it look like for a person to show up at a building where thousands of people have gone to worship their higher power every week for decades and decades and – well – strap on some ropes and climb the walls? Do you reach any higher? Can you find God better from the ceiling? Do you prove to yourself that you can do anything you set your mind to?

I’m not dissing the rock-climbing world. I’m only attaching my own state of 'elated' physical strength to the experience. Would I climb those walls and know that in this building, I am most definitely reaching a higher place? Or could I just as well sit on the floor and gaze up from my spot and experience all there was to know from that vantage point? Or for that matter take my feet for a run through the woods and find the same thing?

What beautiful creations we all are. I believe we show God a great deal of gratitude when we take good care of the form we were given. And I don’t believe any of us serve God better by neglecting ourselves. But I would argue that when you feel separate from yourself, you are not very good at taking care of yourself, and so much more likely to feel separate from your protector and creator. And to feel separate from that, well, that’s a scary place that I have known too well in the past. And I’m willing to use whatever tool it takes in any way I can to prevent that. If it means I have to strap on some ropes and show the gang how high I can climb, then so be it.

Now I’m not much for testing gravity, so I don’t think I’ll be doing that any time soon. But my own strength? I cannot short-change myself here. If I am healthy and my bones are intact and my muscles are still working and my heart and lungs are still willing, then I am blessed. I will invite my ego to join me while I will push and push and push until I feel totally and completely in the company of that something great.

And only now, thanks to my dear friend in the blogger world, I realize I am not doing it alone.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Study of Grains

Anyone who has lived on this planet can tell you that seeking nutrition information can be mind-boggling, contradictory and pretty much make you throw up your hands and forget the whole thing.

I’ve lately been thinking about grains. Morning porridge grains in particular but also flours, rice, barley, groats, wheatberries, quinoa, couscous, bulgur… So I’ve done a little research. We’ve also had the privilege of growing many-a-grain around here – rye, wheat, rice, and though technically not a grain, buckwheat galore as a green manure cover crop. Organic grains in my book can look a whole lot like a field of lovely grains mixed with a great diversity of weeds. But that is a story for another day.

Near as I can tell there are five factors to consider when choosing your grains:
• fibre content (whether the bran is left in),
• acidity (related to gluten content),
• glycemic index (how much it is processed and how quickly the sugars move into the bloodstream),
• protein content (whether the germ is left in)
• usable nutrients (are the nutrients added/enriched or naturally occurring?).

First a little bit about processing grains for consumption. The way I see it, the more a grain is processed, the more it seems to be readily available as sugar to the blood stream. The more simple (or broken down, or pre-digested, or processed) a grain or carbohydrate is, the more quickly it brings energy to the body. But these quick sugars lead to the release of an insulin roller coaster and a subsequent crash and hunger and the cycle starts all over again. Along the gradient I see white sugar at one end (smooth, sweet, finely textured) and a complete, intact whole grain (crunchy, nutty-flavoured) on the other.

An intact grain is made up of an endosperm, a germ and a bran – and often a hull as well but that is generally removed before it hits the market. The germ contains the protein and most of the nutrients while the bran houses most of the fibre. When white flour is made the germ and the bran are taken out. Often whole wheat flours have the germ and bran removed and then the bran is put back. The trouble with the germ is that it doesn’t keep so well. Hence, a more nutritious, higher quality flour won’t keep on the shelf as well as its more processed cousin. If it is nutrition you are after, then buy the truly whole grain products (that include the germ and the bran) in small quantities and keep them in the fridge or freezer.

You’ve heard me go on about processed cereals before. The part about the rats doing better on cardboard than some brands of cereal. The issue is simple. Many boxed cereals are without the germ (protein component) and sometimes don’t contain the bran either (fibre). Usually there is also an added amount of sugar nobody wants to hear out about. So the food value is there. It likely digests really easily (read: high glycemic index, therefore quick to raise blood sugar), lots of calories, little contribution to long-term energy and probably very efficient at fat storage. My personal vice is Cheerios. I include them in my diet knowing full well what they are - and balance them with better choices for the rest of my meals.

A quick aside to two ‘grains’ that I want to eat more of. We make crepes around here with buckwheat flour. Buckwheat is made from the small seed (groat) of a white flowering plant. It is an excellent choice for folks with gluten intolerance. It is also long-lasting as an energy source and more alkaline than acidic. Apparently our bodies are supposed to run on alkaline foods and we are all running around addicted to heartburn medication due to the high acidity in our bodies.

Barley is seemingly another wonder food – also more alkaline. It is often prepared as pearl barley which has had the germ removed and is an excellent source of energy, reasonably long lasting.

I’m an oatmeal fan. I eat it almost every morning for breakfast (as do my children). For a treat we will have Cream of Wheat. We put a wee pat of butter and brown sugar or maple syrup on there – maybe some berries. Its my lifelong love. But it doesn’t contain the same amount of fibre and protein that other hot cereals do. And I’m hoping to make a shift. Cream of wheat is like baby food. And I love it. Who wouldn’t? But it’s time to face the fact that its a highly processed version of a whole grain.

The difference between the oat cereals out there? Here is where I was getting deeply confused.

Oats of any kind are usually roasted to remove an enzyme that makes them go rancid quicker.

Steel cut oats are the whole oat groats chopped into pieces. They take longer to cook and have the best nutritional benefits in the way of proteins, healthy fats and fibre (also release their sugars more slowly into the bloodstream). The problem with all oats is they tend towards being an acidic grain. Kamut and spelt are considered far less acidic than oats and wheat, for example. From one whole grain to the next, the protein content in the germ seems to be about the same between whole grain wheat, kamut, barley, oats, rye and spelt.

Rolled oats are the result of steaming the groats and then rolling them out into flakes. Quick oats are large-flake rolled oats cut into smaller pieces. Old-fashioned and large-flake oats take longer to cook than quick oats. Instant oatmeal are quick oats cut into smaller pieces yet. The smaller the pieces, the easier for your body to take up the sugars, the quicker the sugars spike in your bloodstream, the faster you crash and get hungry again. Instant oats are fine but are often sold in small packets with added sugars, salt and chemicals.

Oat bran is simply the isolated bran from the whole oat grain and are very high in fibre. High fibre foods such as these have been shown to lower LDL (bad cholesterol).

The more I learn about the food available to us, the more I realize that an egg is not an egg. That all milk is not the same. That one side of beef is not equal to another. That one large, beautiful orange carrot does not have the same nutrient value as the next one.

And now I know that the ‘usability’ (digestibility, acidity, glycemic index, nutrient density) from one grain to the next is highly variable. I don’t think we should throw away every ‘wrong’ food in our cupboards but I truly believe that when we’re standing in the grocery store aisle scratching our heads we need to consider the following:

1. What do we like because that is likely what we are going to eat. Thinking you should be a Quinoa fan does not automatically make you a Quinoa fan. (I tried a Quinoa prune thing recently and nearly gagged – perhaps one day my taste buds will be so refined).
2. Eat your Cheerios. Love your Cheerios. Buy the squishy cheap, airy ‘whole wheat’ breads, just know what they offer and fill in the gaps.
3. When in doubt, head for the germ. ‘Whole wheat’ is not necessarily germ and bran-containing. Read about the products you buy and find out if the germ and bran are still in there. Best way to tell? Does it keep in your cupboard for months or go rancid after a few weeks? If it is the latter, you’ve got the right stuff (and need to clear a spot in your fridge or freezer for it).

All for now. Over and out.

Happy Grain Eating.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Independence Defined

Studies have shown that happiness has been linked to a person’s independence. Great, I think. But what defines independence? Is it the ability to spend money in whatever way you want to? Is it freedom and control over how you spend your time? Is it when you don’t need help for doing what you need to do? When you are not dependent on anyone to make things happen in your life?

The context I was reading about this correlation was about a recently divorced woman who was learning how to make her own decisions. She was paying bills for the first time in her life, buying cars, signing mortgages. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have no idea how it feels to do any of those things. A long time ago women were told they were lucky to not have to worry about such burdensome matters. All I know is that there is a certain power and strength in knowing that no matter what happens, a person can know they are capable of taking care of themselves.

I remember the first time I ran a half marathon distance. That day I learned that all I needed was a pair of running shoes to get me to the nearest gas station, grocery store, telephone, friend’s house – no matter where I was. Really and truly no matter where I was, if my car was the break down I could get somewhere I needed to on my own steam, with my own two feet. This is a very empowering feeling. I have covered these kinds of miles on major highways, logging roads, seaside trails, small villages, large European cities, around lakes, over mountains, across sand. I have taught myself that no obstacle is too great (although the list of potential dangers – wierdos and creeps, transport trucks, grizzly bears and cougars, thunderstorms, stray dogs - were vastly different, my own engine was never the limitation).

There is something inside of me that has come back to life since I have returned to work. I realize now that during those childbearing years, I wasn’t really showing up at work. I was physically there but mentally at home. I was often mentally nowhere no matter where I showed up.

What I have only now just realized is that having others depend on you does not make you independent. Let me say that again. Meeting the needs of everyone and everything around you does not make you independent. It does not automatically mean that you are meeting your own needs. It does not mean you are free and in control and doing what you want to do.

Further, taking time to ‘do things for yourself’ does not necessarily mean you are independent. I have practiced going through the motions of ‘things for myself’ without reaping the feeling of being in control of my own life, my own power. Taking a moment to breath was always more a survival mechanism instead of an opportunity to grow or build trust in my abilities.

All of this independence I speak of is separate from whether or not you are earning a wage or being ‘supported’ by someone else. None of this is about financial independence although that can lead to other kinds of freedom and control. What I am referring to is the feeling that you could do whatever you had to, wanted to, needed to in a pinch. The feeling that if your car broke down you could cover the distance you had to even if you couldn’t get any help.

You see, what I failed to notice is that helping others all of the time is not the same as NOT NEEDING help. I’ll say it again (for me, more than for you). Just because you can care for the planet, the neighbours, your kids, your husband, your dogs, your unicorns and your laundry pile does not mean you do not need support. It may be financial. But it is likely far more complicated than that.

Likely you need an ear to listen once in a while. You need time to think. To sleep. To move your body. To breathe and digest. To use your brain. To apply your ambitions. You need to hear your own laughter, often. To build dreams. To give them form. To paint pictures. To write those words down. Maybe you need a new pair of pants that fit better. Perhaps you need to make a doctor’s appointment to deal with that nagging issue. You need a haircut or maybe just a hair wash. You need things. Surprise Mama. You need things.

Independence. The ability to feel like you can take care of yourself when you need to. The knowledge that you could be there for yourself when asked. The certainty of where you stand – where you begin and end – not in relation to the needs of another person. I’m not saying you should leave a hungry baby without food to get in a run. But becoming a mother for me required a re-learning post extreme-dependence stages of what it means to take care of myself. It took time for me to remember what it really meant to meet my own needs.

I feel I have arrived there again. The place where I have a pair of running shoes in my trunk. Both literally and figuratively, I know I could do whatever was needed of me.

Independence is not about whether you depend on someone else or not. And not about whether you have others depending on you.

It is about whether you trust that you can depend on yourself.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Insanity, Unlimited

In response to my desire to increase resistance-type training in place of the long cardio adventures I was doing, I have started doing the Insanity Workout DVD series. They consist of 10 different 40-minute workouts that are done in a certain sequence over a 60 day period. I think I’m supposed to do them over 60 days straight but I’m doing an every other day thing to accommodate some of the other exercise commitments I have (walking at lunch with colleagues, squash games, and my weekend runs with my dogs). Its all going really well and I’m enjoying the mix of activities I have on the go right now. I’m definitely not getting bored and there is a nice balance between cardio and weighted exercise, lone and social stuff, at-home-with-kids-critiquing and adult-uninterrupted experiences. It seems trendy right now this sort of Jillian Michals/Biggest Loser, bootcamp, plyometrics kind of workout. There are things like burpees and stride jumps and squats and planks and fancy push-ups – all things that make me want to put on my 1970s striped Adidas outfits and head bands and get jumping!

Now I was told the Insanity workouts were going to be hard before I began. I braced myself for a big challenge, perhaps an impossible one. I worried that I was too old. That I was too heavy (when your own body weight is the resistance, weighing more can be a detriment or a bonus depending on how you look at it!) That I would get injured. That I couldn’t keep up to those hard body types. Aside from the fact that I regularly call the facilitator on the screen an asshole (pardon my choice of words), I am glad that it is possible to follow along reasonably well even if I can't do it all. No matter how much I do, it still pretty much kills me whether I am keeping up to the gang or not. It isn’t uncommon for me to find myself soaking wet with sweat, face down on the floor, moaning on the sixth push up of the fourth set while the bunch on the tv are on their 30th.

I love the simplicity, the lack of equipment, the anywhere/anytime way about it, the intensity over such a relatively short period of time that makes me feel as though I’ve just run a 10km (plus bonus muscle aching) every time.

At one point I had finished a round of some knee-up, plank, arms outstretched physical fandangling and turned over onto the floor with a thunk to rest for a while (this is just around the time I might have called the instructor, Shaun T., one of those profanity words). Lying on my back with my eyes closed, I imagined the keen, glistening sweaty bunch on the tv popping up with vigour and starting into their second set but I didn’t look. I didn’t want to know what I couldn’t do while I caught my breath. Then I peeked out of the corner of my eye. There they were outstretched on their back getting a nudge from the instructor to get up and keep going. It was then that I realized. Nobody can do this. There is not meant to be an end to it.

Enter permission here.

Permission to go as far as you can until you feel like you can’t and knowing that is enough. Permission to get up and try again even if you can only do one-third of the things everyone else is doing. Permission to congratulate yourself on pushing to your own limits and knowing that is exactly where you are supposed to be right now. Permission to do another round even when you are scared of how much it hurts, how much you might fall short, how much you wish you were in better shape. Permission to feel your body sweating, your heart beating, your muscles aching. Permission to be alive.

I would really recommend something like this for anyone who is reasonably active and fit, not prone to pushing themselves to the point of injury, and willing to get their butt kicked every single time. It is excellent if you find you have reached a plateau in your current activities and are not finding your fitness is improving. After taking a 3 week hiatus from running, I went for my first run yesterday and was quite surprised how I was able to go for much longer at a faster speed with my new found strength and endurance from these exercises.

Though I recently posted about how I appreciate that my current job has some semblance of boundaries where farming and parenting life did not, I am now becoming more of a fan of the unlimited. For it is there that we discover the kindness we need to offer ourselves in every life situation. Life will ask too much of us. We must go forward where we can. And decline when it gets too much. Unlimited is real. So too will become my new job tasks, I am certain.
Give it time.

It isn't what is being asked of us that is the problem. It is okay for us to be capable beyond measure, but know our own limits. It is okay to venture forth towards our greatest potential and not be afraid of falling. Our job is to find the edge, to move towards it always knowing that when we start to teeter we’ve gone too far. To know that we have the right to stop, slow down, close our eyes and lie on our backs while the rest of the world continues around us. We have the right to stand up and be our best. And lie down when we need a break.

And using profanity can sometimes help as well.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Boxed In

I have been placed in many-a-box in my day. We all have categories in our minds that help us know what people will do and what they believe and what they value. It helps us organize people. Makes them predictable. Makes them easier to get to know. Helps us know if they are on our team. But don’t you ever come across someone who surprises you? A woman with hairy legs and dread-locks devouring a steak? A hunter concerning himself with an orphan wild animal? Someone who belongs to a certain political party displaying characteristics of the ‘other side’? Sometimes its not that easy to keep track of who people are.

For some reason I have been exposed to a lot of political dialogue lately on facebook, the radio and especially with my socio-psychological interest in the current President of the United States. I have never been one to take sides politically. Most of my decisions in life happen intuitively and how I vote at election time is no different. I listen to what people are saying, ask questions, sporadically follow the issues and make a choice based on a variety of factors that include local, provincial, federal and global concerns and the history of the candidate. But I do not subscribe to any one team, side, or party and I am UTTERLY fascinated with people who do. What I find so incredibly interesting is the ability of a person to know without a doubt that they are wholeheartedly congruent with any one group’s ideas. No matter what. Even if the ideas change. Even in a storm of resistance (following a political scandal, for example). Even if it means sending their children off to war. Even if their party just stole millions of dollars from taxpayers. There is a loyalty and a faith and trust there that is often foreign to me. Fascinating.

I think there is great comfort in adhering to a specific set of rules. And great strength in any unity. If we can find a set of people who see the world the way we do this helps us feel as though we belong. I think that is the most important thing we can know as humans. We can also feel a part of something when we are willing to listen to another point of view, however, or are inspired to understand a different way of thinking – that is a resource not to be overlooked!

It is also important to know where we have come from. What our parents believed and what values governed their lives. What their parents believed. And what their parents believed before them. We have histories of belief systems buried so deep that they seem to literally become the fibre of our being. All of these things play a part as we choose what team to play on.

All I know is that I despise being put in a box. Because I seem to reside in many standard stereotypical roles, I often hear assumptions from people about who I must be and what I believe. Again I find this fascinating. Most of the assumptions I hear about myself are so dead wrong I am embarrassed to correct the assumptor. Even people that know me very well will fumble into these follies - my own mother included. I do not judge. But I cannot say that I do not cringe every time. In fact I want to scream at the top of my lungs: ‘that is NOT WHO I AM!!!!’ Doth I protest too much? Perhaps. But more than likely I just don’t think we as people are that static. We have different ways of coping with change, but we are not wired to be totally fixed in our thinking. What is good for us in one decade may be terrible in the next. What worked in one life phase will fail miserably in another. I believe that one of the greatest life skills is to be able to adapt to the changes around us. If you believe in evolution as I do, our very survival is based on this principal.

Here are some fun examples of ‘who I am’ told back to me in what I continue to find comical:

1. I am an organic farmer. Therefore, I grow pot and sit around all day complaining about my government and receiving social assistance cheques. I also despise all forms of conventional agriculture.
2. I am a female singer/songwriter with a guitar. Therefore, I am either Phoebe from Friends (whom I never knew because I didn’t have a tv in those days) or I am a Lilith Fair wannabe. Full stop.
3. I am a federal government worker. Therefore, I do nothing all day and get paid too much to do it. I have settled for working for the ‘man’ instead of doing real things in the real world.
4. I am a wildlife conservationist. Therefore, I abhor hunters and do not agree with any harm done to any animals anywhere.
5. I worry about the future of our planet. Therefore, I do not drive a car, I recycle at every opportunity, and I attend all protests related to the environment.
6. I once shaved my head. Therefore, I must definitely be either a cancer victim, a lesbian or a Buddhist.
7. I believe in restoring useful skills from the past (woodwork, clothing, food processing). Therefore, I never eat foods in packages with bears on them, I never buy anything from a dollar store and I make all of my own clothes. Or I must not yet have heard of pancake mix if I was bothering to make them from scratch.
8. I buy most everything second hand. Therefore, I have low standards, I’m cheap, and I don’t have enough money to buy the real thing.
9. I care about the fate of our natural resources. Therefore, I think making money from natural resources is evil, I think all industrial activity is wrong and I would rather enjoy looking at a forest full of trees than work for a living.
10. I was recently told that I was seen as a 'pretty girl’ in high school. That must be why I was not welcome in the enriched math class that I asked to take. I was also told I would be unable to run in track and field because there were no mirrors on the track. I should take up modeling instead.

I can assure you that all of these original statements are true. And every assumption that follows is a bunch of complete and total hogwash. But I have heard each and every one of them straight to my face. They are so far from reality that I could spend a whole post on each of them defending myself. But I won’t. Because my job is to get comfortable in my own skin and accept that I cannot change how people view me. I can only change what I do with my days.

I work hard. I believe in hard work. I really love a well written song no matter who is singing it and what instrument they are playing. I care about the environment. I care equally about the ability of people to earn a fair wage. I think there is something to be learned from the past. I look forward to what we will newly discover in the future. I like to be useful. I like to make good use of the things around me. I think it is my responsibility to make good use of our natural resources. Good use. Not waste. Not contaminating. I am older now and am no longer concerned with what it means to be a ‘pretty girl’. I got 93% on my first enriched math class test (where the class average had been 46%). I ran the 1500m and came in fourth. Without a mirror.

Please don’t box me in. I want to hear what you have to say too. So let’s chat.