tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-47461450574368531662014-12-10T02:52:09.827-08:00Amaranth Road StudioHome-Made Life. Home-Grown Insight.Andrea Patersonhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/13984333909108719150noreply@blogger.comBlogger272125tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4746145057436853166.post-10292594508800923832014-12-01T14:56:00.002-08:002014-12-01T14:57:03.723-08:00Coyote Visit<table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/amaranthroad/15925499452" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" title="UBC Coyote by Andrea Paterson, on Flickr"><img alt="UBC Coyote" height="513" src="https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8660/15925499452_4ea75ab2f3_z.jpg" width="640" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Coyote. Copyright Andrea Paterson. 2014</td><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;"><br /></td></tr></tbody></table><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;"><br /></div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;"><span style="font-size: large;"><span style="font-family: inherit;">Winter is settling onto the land here in the West. We have snow on the ground today. A rarity that makes it feel like Christmas. I like the rawness of the air when the temperatures plummet to just below freezing. I like wearing hand knit wool sweaters as insurance against the cold. I like the way the work of my own hands can fend off the chill and I like the scratch of real sheep's wool reminding me of my own fragility against the roughness of something more purely animal.</span></span></div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;"><span style="font-size: large;"><span style="font-family: inherit;"><br /></span></span></div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;"><span style="font-size: large;"><span style="font-family: inherit;">The winter is a time for animals set against a canvas of blinding white—the iconic stag in the snow kissed forest. The white hare hiding. The red fox hunting. And, suddenly, the coyote loping. I keep seeing coyotes these days. Not a common sight in the city and one that makes my heart pound a little faster. In my car about a week ago I came to a stop-light near an open field. Just behind a bus shelter I saw a lone coyote set off across the frozen land. I thought it was a dog at first, but no, something else entirely, something distinctly <i>wilder</i><span style="font-style: normal;">with a ravenous purpose. </span></span></span></div><div style="font-style: normal; margin-bottom: 0cm;"><span style="font-size: large;"><span style="font-family: inherit;"><br /></span></span></div><div style="font-style: normal; margin-bottom: 0cm;"><span style="font-size: large;"><span style="font-family: inherit;">At the University of British Columbia Rose Garden yesterday I was taking pictures when a coyote came down the path towards me. I had to leap aside, a part of me fearing for my safety. The coyote passed within three feet of me and didn't even bother to look my way. He was sick looking, with a wound on his back leg and a scraggly tail. Something is afoot, I thought. Something four footed. Something that sends a shivery thrill through my body and also makes me worried because the city is not the place for creatures such as these. </span></span></div><div style="font-style: normal; margin-bottom: 0cm;"><span style="font-size: large;"><span style="font-family: inherit;"><br /></span></span></div><div style="font-style: normal; margin-bottom: 0cm;"><span style="font-size: large;"><span style="font-family: inherit;">They are displaced things and some of my concern stems from the fact that I identify with them. I am a displaced thing too, not particularly well suited to city living. I suffer from senses that remain in a state of high alert so loud noises, congested streets, too many lights, and too many people quickly result in over-stimulation. The concrete hurts my feet. The constant drone of planes and cars and and sirens eat away at me. Aren't we all just wild things living in the concrete jungle? The coyote reminded me of the world beyond and how immersion in the city can lead to a certain sickness, a kind of ennui and dependence. The UBC coyote was in the process of forgetting how to live in the wild. He scrounged for garbage, lost his fear of people, became vulnerable to the easy appeal of civilization with its discarded fast food boxes and spilled soft-drinks. But he was dying it seemed. Or at least very ill. Civilization is not the place for a coyote. And though humans, perhaps, fare better, we have also forgotten where we came from. The coyote encounters of late sparked an ancient memory about being connected to the land in a way I can barely dream of now. </span></span></div><div style="font-style: normal; margin-bottom: 0cm;"><span style="font-size: large;"><span style="font-family: inherit;"><br /></span></span></div><div style="font-style: normal; margin-bottom: 0cm;"><span style="font-size: large;"><span style="font-family: inherit;">I hope the coyotes find their way home to a wilder place. I hope I can continue to find pockets of wildness to experience not far from the city. There are always places to go. A short drive up the Sea to Sky highway you can enter the Wildwood. Not without hearing traffic noise from the highway, but it's still something. It's hard to find the time to get away though, hard to find the resources sometimes. The coyotes reminded me that I should try harder to get there. Maybe this year is a good time to try snow shoeing. I relish the idea of walking silently atop the snow in a world muffled by ice. These small pleasures are within my grasp if I need them. Who wants to come with me? I have extra wool sweaters.</span></span></div>Andrea K.http://www.blogger.com/profile/04276747830002776579noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4746145057436853166.post-38426766287595543342014-10-25T14:03:00.000-07:002014-10-25T14:03:42.691-07:00On Empathy<table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/amaranthroad/15400409547" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" title="1410_BabasVisit_20-Edit.jpg by Andrea Paterson, on Flickr"><img alt="1410_BabasVisit_20-Edit.jpg" height="400" src="https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3936/15400409547_22b2214c92.jpg" width="500" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Hayden. Copyright Andrea Paterson. 2014</td></tr></tbody></table><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;">In a world so full of terrible things I am finding great peace and hope in watching my nearly three year old son develop powers of empathy. My Hayden changes every day, becoming strangely articulate, his thoughts only sometimes outpacing his capacity for language. He is developing a sense of empathy that seems impossible for such a young creature. It's as if we are born with great wisdom and compassion that we slowly lose as we age and then have to work hard to recapture. If we maintained the simple kindness of a child, the world might be a very beautiful place.</div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;"><br /></div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;">A few days ago Hayden was playing with a friend, also two and a half. His friend, at one point, became despondent and pouty. Hayden was clearly concerned but the sudden change in mood.</div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;"><br /></div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;">“Let's run!” he said, trying to prompt his friend to play. But he got no response.</div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;">Hayden peered under the other boy's hat and tried to make him laugh by imitating the pathetic sighs his playmate was dramatically producing. No response...then maybe just the smallest twitch of a smile. Finally, Hayden reached into his pocket, produced a bouncy ball that he had borrowed from his very reluctant friend earlier on, looked at it wistfully and said, “Do you want my bouncy ball?” His friend lit up immediately, took the ball, and the two boys ran down the path together holding hands. </div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;"><br /></div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;">I was dumbstruck. My two and a half year old child had given up a hard won and treasured object simply to make his friend happy. I wasn't sure that an adult would have done the same thing in his place. It was an unbelievable sacrifice that showed, I thought, a beautiful sensitivity to the emotions of others. This small child was such a bright light in that moment. </div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;"><br /></div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;">He surprised me again this morning. We had a rough night. Hayden was up a fair bit and I was exhausted as a result. I went about the morning routine in a fog, feeling my control and patience slipping. </div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;"><br /></div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;">“I'm really, really tired,” I said to Hayden and he ran upstairs. He came back with the blanket and pillow off his bed. He proceeded to make me a bed on the floor. </div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;"><br /></div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;">“Have a nap Mommy!” he said. I lay down on the floor and my son tucked me in under his blanket. He then got a plastic cup out of the drawer, ran to the bathroom and came back with a glass of water for me. After I had my water he brought me his alarm clock and said I should stay asleep until the clock's green wake-up light came on. I was laughing, but almost crying as well, because it was a ridiculously thoughtful and lovely thing to do and it completely blew my mind. </div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;"><br /></div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;">I want to say to you, Hayden, that I hope your capacity for love and kindness will endure. I hope it will never be beaten out of you, or your sensitivity discouraged. It's a rough world out there and it's easy to become jaded. I dream you a future in which you maintain at your core that luminous sweetness and grace.</div>Andrea K.http://www.blogger.com/profile/04276747830002776579noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4746145057436853166.post-79814634976146434432014-08-23T10:24:00.000-07:002014-08-23T10:24:08.251-07:00Used Books with a Cat IncludedOne of my life's greatest pleasures is perusing the dusty aisles of a good used book store. One of my favourites in Vancouver is <a href="http://www.kestrelbooks.ca/" target="_blank">Kestrel Books</a> on 4th Avenue near Dunbar. It's a dangerous corner of town for me because it's also home one of my favourite restaurants, Aphrodite's Cafe and Pie Shop, where it is nearly impossible to pass up a huge slice of rhubarb and apple pie. But I digress....BOOKS!<br /><br />There is something so nurturing about a used book store. I'm not entirely sure why it's more exciting and more comforting than a new book store. I think it has something to do with the sense of history. All the books on the shelves at Kestrel were once held in the hands of a stranger. The words on the page have already made their homes in someone else's consciousness. The pages may even have marginalia, written in pencil or faded ink, that allow you a bizarre window into someone's reading experience.<br /><br />There's also a sense of adventure and discovery. A used book store is always changing and I can walk through it while inviting moments of synchronicity. I read the book store like I might read a Tarot deck, letting books come to me as portents of my future. Dear Universe....what do I need to know right now? What do I need to read? What words need to come to me for the purposes of transformation, knowledge, epiphany? These largely subconscious questions are answered by colourful spines that draw my eye, draw my hand, draw my imagination. I let my fingers brush the dust covers and allow the spirit of the books to speak to me.<br /><br />New books don't have soul in the same way that used books do. Don't get me wrong! I wouldn't snub a new book, and I've bought my fair share of them, but my heart is with the used books and their slightly worn exteriors.<br /><br />I don't usually buy fiction at used book stores. In fact, I'm trying to use the library for fiction in order to stem my obsessive book buying. I now limit my purchases to books that I want to have near me. Books that I will want to refer to over and over again. This does include some of my favourite fiction, but my collection now tends to be focused on philosophy, psychology, mythology, ecology, and spirituality among other "ologies."<br /><br />I spent over an hour at Kestrel books yesterday, sitting on the floor leafing through volumes, and petting the store's lovely tabby cat. Every book store should have a resident cat. The depth of calm and relaxation I can achieve while reading and petting a cat is far beyond anything my mindfulness meditation practice has produced. A dog might work too, but I find they're a bit too fidgety and energetic to be good book companions. A book really marries perfectly with a cat and a cup of tea.<br /><br />My hour of bliss resulted in the purchase of four books with a decidedly Jungian leaning.<br /><br />1. <i>Alchemical Active Imagination by Marie-Louise von Franz.&nbsp;</i><br />von Franz is a Jungian scholar and this particular book explores the symbolic parallels between the process of physical alchemy and the practice of active imagination that Jungians use to access and dialogue with our unconscious archetypes. It may be that alchemy had more to do with psychological and spiritual transformation than it did with turning lead into gold.<br /><i> </i><br /><i>2. Seeing Through the Visible World: Jung, Gnosis, and Chaos by June Singer.</i><br />A book about inner work, mystical experience and its relationship to the ordinary. It's about the experience of things that are not "knowable" through ordinary mechanisms of human awareness.<br /><i> </i><br /><i>3. The Voice of Experience by R.D. Laing</i><br />Oh how I love R.D. Laing. His writing about psychology and perspectives on mental health remain highly relevant even 40 years after the original publication of his work. I bought this book particularly for Laing's discussion of pregnancy and birth, though I'm sure I'll enjoy the rest of it as well.<br /><i> </i><br /><i>4. The Body of the Goddess: Sacred Wisdom in Myth, Landscape, and Culture by Rachel Pollack.&nbsp;</i><br />A journey through the sacred spaces of a number of ancient cultures. Pollack provides a look into the form and significance of the Goddess.<br /><br />Emerging into a sunny afternoon with my purchases I feel like I've just spent time kneeling at the altar of some secret church. I've breathed the incense of ink on paper, I've touched the sacred texts, I've sat in quiet contemplation and now am released back into the streets feeling renewed and energetic.<br /><br />It breaks my heart to think that independent bookstores everywhere are an endangered species. Amazon doesn't come with friendly, book-obsessed staff. It doesn't come with serendipitous book encounters. And it certainly doesn't come with a cat. Next time you're off to buy a book, think about a soulful excursion to your nearest used book dealer. You might just emerge a convert. Andrea K.http://www.blogger.com/profile/04276747830002776579noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4746145057436853166.post-19513319007524396632014-08-16T11:20:00.000-07:002014-08-16T11:20:29.169-07:00It's Potty Time!Having kids is weird. They always say that you get to re-live childhood through your own child's eyes. I didn't think they meant that literally, as in--you will suddenly be acting like a two year old and your child will be taking on the role of parent.<br /><br />Example: my son is in the midst of potty training. We have a system: if he pees on the potty he gets an M and M candy (I know, this bribery system using sugar will probably render him incapable of functioning in the world or something, but it's working). And generally we say encouraging things, like "way to go" and "nice work." Standards are low when you're two, okay?<br /><br />So the other day I have to go pee, and because two year olds are incapable of letting you pee alone my son followed me into the bathroom. He stuck his head right between my legs while I relieved myself, because apparently he needed a REALLY good look at the pee going into the toilet. When I got up and flushed my son was ecstatic.<br /><br />"Way to go Mommy!" he exclaimed. "Now you get an M and M." So we marched downstairs so I could have my treat. It has been a VERY long time since anyone praised me for depositing urine in a toilet. This is what I mean--having a kid results in literally reverting to a state of childhood yourself.<br /><br />My son is talking a lot now, and very strange things come out of his mouth. The very best thing about having a two year old is that they have literally never seen things before so everything is the most freaking amazing, confusing, bizarre, unbelievably awesome thing in the world. It's kind of like an alien landed in your living room and is completely blown away by everything that happens around him.<br /><br />At lunch the other day Hayden's stomach grumbled. He stopped eating and looked startled. He looked at his stomach.<br /><br />"What was that Mommy?" he asked with concern. "Did my <i>bellybutton</i> make a noise?" I had to explain that bellybuttons are generally silent, but stomachs are quite rude and will blab away at the most inopportune times. My son seemed satisfied with that.<br /><br />Two year olds are also the best at insisting upon completely nonsensical things. I sing Hayden a song called "I gave my love a cherry," which is a riddle song my parents used to sing to me and my great-grandfather used to sing to my father. Hayden really likes it, but wasn't completely satisfied with cherries, chickens, stories, and babies as gifts (as the song outlines). So he insisted that I sing "I gave my love a lawnmower" instead. He's kind of obsessed with lawnmowers right now. I can't say that I get it.<br /><br />And finally, two year olds are tantrum wizards. They can throw a fit about absolutely anything. While Hayden likes getting his M and M after he pees, he's a bit particular about the colour. He really only likes the brown ones (maybe because they're the only ones that look like they're going to be chocolate?). So one day he reaches into the jar and pulls out an orange M and M. I screw the lid back on the jar and put it away. Hayden puts the M and M in his mouth and starts chewing. Then he starts crying, and that deteriorates into a full on tantrum.<br /><br />"I don't LIKE this M and M!" he sobs. "I need ANOTHER one!" Seriously. Toddlers are the only people on the planet who can cry about having a mouth full of chocolate. You would think that chocolate and tears are mutually exclusive. Not so, apparently. The upside of all this is that Hayden discovered that the coloured M and Ms taste like chocolate too. Now he'll eat a coloured one, but only in addition to a brown one, and only if he can put them both in his mouth at the same time. Toddlers are naturally obsessive compulsive it seems.<br /><br />At least he's not a one trick pony anymore. When he was a baby all we got was bodily fluids. Now at least there's some entertainment value. Although a drunk adult might provide similar amusement. Andrea K.http://www.blogger.com/profile/04276747830002776579noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4746145057436853166.post-33297062271045304232014-08-03T15:31:00.001-07:002014-08-03T15:31:32.125-07:00Why Being an Emotional Wreck is a Good Thing<iframe frameborder="0" height="80" src="https://rd.io/i/QWmtTTde4aSG/" width="400"></iframe><br /><br /><br />I'm listening to this song by <a href="http://www.karinepolwart.com/" target="_blank">Karine Polwart</a> and thinking deeply about my son, and about how raw being a parent makes you. Polwart sings of an earth poised on the brink of environmental disaster, of a place where the rivers, the very life-blood of the land, are threatened by human insatiability. She tells a tale of great love, great hope, and great beauty. Like Polwart I hope that there will be a natural world that's worth passing on to the next generation. I hope that my boy will have a chance to connect with the living-ness of the planet and I worry that too much is being lost too fast. I worry about the world my grandchildren will inhabit.<br /><br />And all this loving and worrying leads me off on tangents about the emotionally vulnerable place that parenthood is. Having a child left every nerve exposed. Pregnant women get heckled for being overly sensitive--for crying at commercials and things. What they don't tell you is that this emotional rawness isn't going to end with your pregnancy. In fact, it's never going away EVER. My son is two and a half and I have cried twice today. Once when reading an article about a photographer who photographs stillborn children and their parents in order to give the families a few precious memories and some closure. I was in tears after viewing the first powerful and heart-rending image (<a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2714169/Photographer-takes-heartbreaking-photos-stillborn-baby-grieving-family.html" target="_blank">article found here</a>). Already primed by grief I ended up shedding a few tears over Karine Polwart's song as well and had to fight against an urge to go into my child's room and snuggle his sleeping body in the midst of his afternoon nap.<br /><br />I was always an emotionally expressive person, but becoming a mother kicked it up into high-gear. In the beginning I was worried. I wondered when these stupid hormones were going to regulate. I wondered when I could act like a normal person and not experience every tragedy as if it were my own. I wondered when I would be able to peruse my Facebook feed without ending up in tears over something sad or something beautiful. But when I realized that it wasn't going away I began to look at things differently. It's a gift, really. My son came with the gift of deepened empathy and that empathy leads me to take compassionate action in the world. I care more about the earth and I care more about the people around me. I remember to compost, I grow some food in my garden, I get outside more and think about things like losing the darkness and losing the wilderness. Whatever is beautiful has become immensely more so and I am more often in awe of art, music, and the natural world. I get to see everything again through the eyes of my Mother-Self and even though this entails more tears and more hurt, I'm grateful that motherhood keeps me from becoming jaded. My emotional spectrum is (unbelievably) wider than ever before.<br /><br />All this means that I have to be careful how much media I expose myself too. I quickly become overwhelmed by the horrors that our world faces daily, but I can also become overwhelmed by too much beauty. This experience of everything being "too much" helps me to empathize with my son, who must see the world as a huge and confusing place that can often become "too much." But rather than being a burden it's possible to see "too much" as a blessing, as evidence of startling abundance and insurance that I am living fully in the world. Being moved to tears regularly shows me that I'm walking right up to the edges of my soul's landscape and really engaging with the most expansive parts of my emotional life.&nbsp; I read a quotation recently that went something like "if you don't want to feel pain, don't love anything." I will not stop loving so I welcome the hurt to my table and offer it a drink.Andrea K.http://www.blogger.com/profile/04276747830002776579noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4746145057436853166.post-69594516351306555142014-07-27T11:00:00.000-07:002014-07-27T11:00:04.420-07:00The Death of StarsI'm reading a book called <i>The End of Night</i> by Paul Bogard and find myself plunged into a state of mourning for the beauty of true darkness. As I read more about our overuse of light at night, how it disrupts entire ecological systems, how it leads directly to the deaths of enormous numbers of birds and bats, how it deprives human beings of a chance to see the life altering beauty of the night sky saturated with stars, I begin to grieve. Bogard writes that "The history of Western civilization is full of attempts to stamp out wildness--the unknown, the mysterious, the creative, the feminine, the animal, the dark" (130) and I am at a place in my life when the loss of wildness feels particularly sharp.<br /><br />I have had a sudden realization that some of my most profound memories come out of the darkness and out of those brief encounters with wildness that I have been allowed. As a child I used to drive with my family to Rondeau Beach in south-western Ontario. We would swim in the lake all day, have a dinner of hot-dogs and marshmallows, then wait for night to fall. When the darkness descended we would drive slowly home, stopping in a dark alcove of trees to watch the fireflies sparking just outside the car windows. When we tired of their winking brilliance we would continue down the highway and I would tip my head back as far as it could go so I could stare up at the stars and the moon through the back windshield. The memory of watching those stars fly by is stamped on my soul. There weren't even that many of them. The sky was polluted by the wan orange glow of light from the city that obscured the night, but there were enough stars to be tantalizing, enough to enthrall a sleepy child after a day of play.<br /><br />At the age of 15 I traveled to Greece on a school trip. While staying on the island of Santorini my two room-mates and I sat on the balcony of our hotel room and watched a meteor shower as we sang in three part harmony. Those shooting stars fell straight into my body, filling me with white-hot energy, with the purest joy. I call still see them falling and falling, the darkness filled with the most perfect sparks.<br /><br />At 16 I spent a summer in the north of Ontario and on the last night of camp, when I was troubled by the complex grief of going home after eight weeks of transformational time in the wilderness, we were given the gift of the Aurora Borealis radiating across the sky. Forty girls, who had become my closest friends, gathered in the darkness and let our tears intensify the wavering of the northern lights.<br /><br />I forgot about the night sky for awhile after that I think. I finished high-school, completed two post secondary degrees, I got a job. I was busy and I wasn't living in a place where darkness was accessible. Bogard points out that the majority of the world's population no longer has the option of seeing a natural night sky. We go out at night and we can see everything--people, buildings, roads. The darkness is dead, chased away by our own anxiety and the lights we install to dispel it.<br /><br />But on the night of the last full moon a friend and I walked out to Garry Point Park--a strip of land by the docks of Steveston--and we watched the Super Moon rise over the tree tops. We were walking and talking and I turned around suddenly to come face to face with a massive, glowing presence on the horizon. Chills ran through my body. The moon appeared like some miracle of light, like a door opening in the universe that could let me back in to all the wild places civilization has lost through our technological "advancement." I actually leapt for the joy of it. My friend and I embraced. The moon rises every day, yet we rarely stop to experience its beauty. We bathe instead in the sterile light of our iPhone screens, watch only the bluish apple-shaped light glowing on the backs of our lap-tops.<br /><br />Bogard doesn't call for us to shut out the lights completely. He realizes the folly of plunging our civilization back into darkness. We need the lights to help us navigate, to keep us safe. But we need only a tiny fraction of what we have. Our eyes adjust to dimmer places, and without the glare of a million streetlights we can actually see <i>better</i>. And not just in a literal sense. Our night vision is connected intimately to the seeing of our souls and to our emotional landscapes. To be in the dark of night is to become familiar with the darkness inside ourselves. We have forgotten the magic that lies within that darkness. We try to banish the dark nights of our souls along with the starry skies.<br /><br />Bogard quotes Henry Beston, a man writing in the 1920s, who says "For, with the banishment of night from the experience of man, there vanishes as well a religious emotion, a poetic mood, which gives depth to the adventure of humanity." Having emerged so recently from the underworld of my own Dark Night I now have cravings for the darkness and the gifts hidden within it.<br /><br />A few nights ago I went outside near midnight with a blanket and looked up at the stars from my back-yard. There wasn't much to see. The Big Dipper is one of the only visible constellations from my light polluted vantage point. Someone's security light was glaring into my yard with ugly persistence, making it impossible for my eyes to adjust to the available darkness. I tried to reach out with my mind to the cosmos. I tried to conjure up memories from my summer in the north when I could see the spiraling tail of the Milky Way signalling my place in the universe. What are we truly afraid of in the dark? What monsters lurk there? Only the ones that reside in our own unconscious I think, and these are beasts that we would do well to befriend. Shining a light in their eyes only torments them and detaches us from our spiritual depths. It pays, sometimes, to turn off the flood-lights and sit, instead, by the primitive glow of a small fire, and call the monsters home. Andrea K.http://www.blogger.com/profile/04276747830002776579noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4746145057436853166.post-16279886608482299472014-07-03T14:20:00.001-07:002014-07-03T14:21:07.575-07:00A Second RetreatAt the end of June I took myself to the Sea to Sky Retreat Centre near Whistler looking for a weekend of solitude and quiet.<br /><br /><table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/amaranthroad/14314142308" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" title="1406_Retreat_61.jpg by Andrea Paterson, on Flickr"><img alt="1406_Retreat_61.jpg" height="334" src="https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3844/14314142308_b8df3603d5.jpg" width="500" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Sea to Sky. Copyright Andrea Paterson. 2014.</td></tr></tbody></table><br />I certainly got my wish, arriving at a tiny private cabin overlooking the above pictured lake. A short walk took me down to the dock where I could look out over the water to the snow capped mountains beyond and breathe the clean air. I immediately got the sense that I had landed somewhere wild. It never ceases to amaze me that a two hour drive by car can take me from my front door to the gateway of wilderness.<br /><br />In my cabin at night the silence was so complete that it woke me up. At about 3 am when all the birds were sleeping and the darkness was so complete that I couldn't tell the difference between having my eyes open and closed I would suddenly wake up with a feeling of terror creeping over my body. I think we city-folk forget what silence is really like. We forget how dense it is, how layered and complex. The darkness and the silence contained within them a whole world that I don't have access to lying in my bed at home with the traffic noises dulling my senses. So on my second night I was lying there in the dark, listening to my heart pound in the uncanny silence and then the silence was broken by rustling. Something...something fairly large walked across my cabin porch. I have no idea what it was and was too afraid to investigate. I tried not to breathe and whatever it was went away. A shadow disappearing into shadows. It was as if the wild-things that stay trapped in my civilized body managed to escape and click-clacked with their ragged nails across the threshold of my heart. That creature outside was also inside and I was afraid of it, afraid of recognizing my own animal nature roaming out there in the dark.<br /><br /><br /><table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/amaranthroad/14314095360" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" title="1406_Retreat_65.jpg by Andrea Paterson, on Flickr"><img alt="1406_Retreat_65.jpg" height="400" src="https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5278/14314095360_57a88c305b.jpg" width="500" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Resident Husky. Copyright Andrea Paterson. 2014.</td></tr></tbody></table><br />On my second day at the retreat centre I set out on a hike up to Garabaldi Lake--a 19 km round trip journey straight up a mountain to a glacial lake. I left my camera behind as I wanted to travel as lightly as possible. I was at the trail head by 8:15 a.m. and began the steep climb up&nbsp; a series of switch-backs. I spent the first hour fearing I would be eaten by a bear. I had some real anxiety about being alone on a mountain trail. Being so early there were very few other hikers and the forest rose thick around me, broken only by hundreds of feet of vertical cliff face. But I had come to gain confidence in my ability to be alone, to travel alone, to confront whatever demons were contained inside solitude. An hour in I had stopped worrying about the bears. My breath filled my body, my muscles were warm and I was moving steadily. At the three hour mark I caught my first glimpse of Garabaldi Lake and I think I may sworn aloud because it was just so otherworldly. There was this pristine turquoise body of water surrounded by the remnants of the winter's snow. I had to trudge through rotting logs and slush to get to a bridge overlooking the water. The air was perfectly clear and the distant mountains stood out starkly against the morning sky. I sat there for a half hour staring and trying not to think about my trek back down to the parking lot. I think I conquered something on that hike and it wasn't just my own body which I forced to work its way up the mountain, it was something more subtle, something that had to do with a deep seated fear of becoming lost alone in the wild.<br /><br />I half fell, half ran back down the mountain making it back to the parking lot in about 2 hours. I had blisters all over my feet and the gleam of my car was almost as stunning in that moment as the gleam of the lake. I stumbled into my car and made it back to the retreat centre in time for lunch.<br /><br />The rest of my stay was spent engaged in serious relaxation. I would rise for breakfast, read until lunch, go for a short walk around the grounds, write until dinner, then go back to my cabin to read and write some more until bedtime. It was amazing to have such long hours for rest, reflection, and uninterrupted lounging. I spent the weekend reading a book on writing called Ensouling Language by Stephen Harrod Buhner. I felt like it was talking to my soul. I felt like I was seeing directly into the creative process for the first time in my life. Buhner discusses the concept of <i>notitia</i> or "the attentive noticing of the soul" which allows a person to reach out and touch the things around them with a sort of non-physical, soul-oriented touch and suddenly see into the essence of those things. This is, according to Buhner, what allows the writer to understand and communicate great truths.<br /><br />So I spent much of my weekend practicing the art of <i>notitia. </i>I let myself reach out to touch the "emotional tone" of nature around me and tried to forget my tired ideas about what things are and how they operate in relation to me. In this state I took some pictures of the things around me, trying to see something new in them:<br /><br /><br /><br /><table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/amaranthroad/14314131928" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" title="1406_Retreat_45-Edit.jpg by Andrea Paterson, on Flickr"><img alt="1406_Retreat_45-Edit.jpg" height="334" src="https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3842/14314131928_81d5e8b3fa.jpg" width="500" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Birch. Copyright Andrea Paterson. 2014.</td></tr></tbody></table><br /><table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/amaranthroad/14314124159" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" title="1406_Retreat_43-Edit.jpg by Andrea Paterson, on Flickr"><img alt="1406_Retreat_43-Edit.jpg" height="334" src="https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3888/14314124159_b8441ea2e2.jpg" width="500" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Driftwood. Copyright Andrea Paterson. 2014.</td></tr></tbody></table>It's a good meditation, and I recommend it. It's something I hope to practice more, allowing my writing to become informed by a deep sort of noticing that transcends the physical shape of things and gets at something closer to the core.<br /><br />When I had to come back to my life I experienced some brief culture shock. Even three days away were enough to make me forget the chaos of my daily life. When I stepped in the door my life came crashing down on me as if it had been piling up to the ceiling in my absence. Into my mind flooded knowledge of bills to be paid, and toilets to clean, and lunches to make, and groceries to buy, and a million little things needing my attention. <i>Notitia </i>was drowned under <i>minutia</i>. Yet I had a chance to get in touch with the wilderness, if only briefly, and I had an opportunity to see differently for three short days. It was worth it to have that respite. I can carry it with me into my harried days and also recognize that occasional trips to the mountains are not just luxuries but necessities.&nbsp; This is the second year in which I have gone on retreat and I believe it needs to be an annual tradition--an opportunity to, in the words of Buhner, "travel into the wilderness and bring back meaning in buckets made of words, to give it as drink to the thirsty, to slake the thirst of those who have lived isolated too long inside their own houses, to give them the living experience of wild water" (87).<br /><br /><br /><table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/amaranthroad/14499540222" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" title="1406_Retreat_5.jpg by Andrea Paterson, on Flickr"><img alt="1406_Retreat_5.jpg" height="334" src="https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3906/14499540222_2081d7795d.jpg" width="500" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Recharging with Tea. Copyright Andrea Paterson. 2014.</td></tr></tbody></table>Andrea K.http://www.blogger.com/profile/04276747830002776579noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4746145057436853166.post-39226770094148271622014-05-23T11:47:00.001-07:002014-05-23T11:48:16.034-07:00Imaginal WorldI need to tell you about Imaginal Discs, because they might just be the metaphor that can unlock the experience of personal transformation. The butterfly has long been a representation of the human soul, rebirth, resurrection, and metamorphosis. The metaphor is a bit worn out, until you dig into the details of a butterfly's biological reality. Things are far more traumatic, violent, and ultimately powerful than you might think. We tend to believe that caterpillars crawl into their cocoons, sprout some wings, and emerge a butterfly, but this is a very simplistic description of the process.<br /><br />Consider this--a caterpillar contains within it a two complete sets of DNA, one for the caterpillar and another for the butterfly it will eventually become. The DNA for the butterfly is contained in dormant groups of cells located throughout the caterpillar's body, called imaginal discs. The imaginal discs eventually "switch on" and begin to impose their biology on the caterpillar as it lies inside the chrysalis. The caterpillar's immune system fights this apparent threat, but eventually loses. The caterpillar's body is liquefied by a digestive enzyme and from the protein rich soup the imaginal cells reorganize into a butterfly. Amazingly the butterfly seems to retain some neurological information from the caterpillar, so while it seems that the caterpillar is completely gone it continues to exist in a small way inside the brand new creature it has become. In terms of a way to imagine the postpartum process I have never encountered a richer metaphor.<br /><br />Because I have, like the caterpillar, imaginal discs embedded under my skin--a second DNA code that contains everything I <i>might</i> be, everything I am destined to become. I was comfortable with my old self--the single self, the academic self, the woman who never aspired to be a mother. I wanted to birth books, essays, knowledge, and literary sensibility.<br /><br />But underneath my skin the imaginal discs were at work dreaming me an entirely different future. I got married, I got pregnant, and my son was born in the cold light of February. As he took his first breaths I dissolved. The Mother Self fed on my liquid remains and I descended into an Underworld to confront Death and wondered if I would ever return. Guided by Persephone and Inanna I learned how to be dismembered and reassembled. I grieved for my lost self and struggled against the Imaginal potential, clawing at the growing stumps of wings that burned and wounded. I railed against motherhood as the caterpillar rails against the invasive butterfly body superimposing itself. I wanted to reject the Mother Self who was so cruelly displacing the comfort of my pupal body. I clung to the simplicity of my life and was tormented by the suddenness of love when I held my infant son for the first time and knew that I would die for him. I carried the knowledge of my willing sacrifice like a million crosses and I <i>did</i> die for him, but in all the wrong ways. I died to joy; I died to self-love and to play and awe; I died to everything but the persistent demands of my child who devoured me.<br /><br />But eventually I woke up and I saw my new body for the first time. I saw its beauty. I saw its lightness and began to feed myself again, learning to balance my own needs with those of my son. I feel now that I am coming out on the far end of transformation, the far end of postpartum depression. I cling to the branch of my life with wings too wet and heavy for flight, but I can feel the sun on me now. I can feel an unfurling and I wonder what I look like under all the slime and dead cells of that disintegrated self. I want to know what I am now and see what work I am suited to do in this world. Andrea K.http://www.blogger.com/profile/04276747830002776579noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4746145057436853166.post-2692751670033526142014-05-05T17:56:00.000-07:002014-05-05T17:56:06.126-07:00Animal InsideI have been thinking a lot about the wilderness of soul; about the animal heart that beats in me, craving blood and the shadow-light of a full moon. I have been reading the poetry of Susan Musgrave--a woman who clearly feels the claws of a suppressed creatures scratching at her rib cage, looking for an exit. In "Night Hawk" she writes:<br /><br /><i>All night the&nbsp;</i><br /><i>deep bird inside me</i><br /><i>circles the</i><br /><i>gripped skin. At times in the&nbsp;</i><br /><i>cold light</i><br /><i>he edges fire.</i><br /><br />Musgrave seems to live in a place of darkness, the gestating coolness of the earth. She sees the value in hidden places, in the regeneration that can only exist as the bedfellow of death. From "The Herd":<br /><br />No one would come here,<br /><i>to this place; light is cold and</i><br /><i>water is too deep for swimmers.</i><br /><i>No one yet has been able to find me</i><br /><i>nor would enter willingly these spaces, clear</i><br /><i>and dark where I, like roots, find</i><br /><i>upward from the edges that I am somewhere</i><br /><i>nearer myself.</i><br /><i>The darkness moves, not around</i><br /><i>but into me. I might be here</i><br /><i>forever, one moment might</i><br /><i>hold me to the ground or shake me</i><br /><i>from becoming anything else.</i><br /><br />I rip away clothes and civilized graces to see the greasy fur underneath. The musk-smell of something untamed, untameable. I am wary of poachers. The Animal Self is vulnerable, endangered. Yet I risk it all and raise my face to the sky to howl, passionately, at even a hint of moon. <i>&nbsp;</i> <br /><br /><table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.pentagonpost.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Wolves-linger-26117522-1024-768.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" src="http://www.pentagonpost.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Wolves-linger-26117522-1024-768.jpg" height="480" width="640" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Image Credit Unknown.</td></tr></tbody></table><br /><br /><br />Andrea K.http://www.blogger.com/profile/04276747830002776579noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4746145057436853166.post-16764433995798872772014-04-28T14:10:00.000-07:002014-04-28T14:10:09.147-07:00Being a RaccoonThere is little I love more than putting on a ridiculous costume and going out in public. My husband thinks that's weird, but it can't be helped. I'm not sure when it started but I do know that in the 9th grade I had drama class before shop class and I would often go to shop class in my costumes from drama class, claiming that I hadn't had time to change even though this wasn't entirely true. I would then do my woodworking and welding dressed as a fairy, or a clown, or an impersonation of one of my teachers. There's something so liberating about acquiring a new skin, something that allows you to access the souls of things that exist outside of you.<br /><br />So when the Museum of Vancouver announced an animal and plant themed dance party in conjunction with their <a href="http://www.museumofvancouver.ca/exhibitions/exhibit/rewilding-vancouver" target="_blank">Rewilding Vancouver Exhibit</a>, I bought a ticket immediately. The intent was for guests to dress up as local flora and fauna to celebrate the wilderness that lives alongside us in our mountain city. <br /><br />I was having trouble deciding what to dress up as, until I found Vancouver local costumer <a href="https://www.etsy.com/shop/ShagpokeStudios" target="_blank">Shagpoke Studios</a> on Etsy and discovered that she makes the world's most amazing animal tails. The raccoon tail just had to be mine, so I ordered one and then got to work needle felting some ears to go along with it. I then made the sad mistake of using liquid eyeliner to draw "fur" on my face. Turns out that's a bitch to get off. Nonetheless, a fun evening was had by all. I danced, stared into the glass eyes of the museum's collection of taxidermied animals, was especially spooked by the grizzly bear that looked as if it could break through the case and eat me, and generally carried on as a raccoon at a party might (I also took a quick poke through the garbage, just for the sake of realism. The friend who accompanied me to the party has photographic evidence of this). My husband stayed home. Ostensibly because someone needed to watch our kid, but mostly, I suspect, to avoid seeing me shaking my tail in public. <br /><br /><br /><a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/amaranthroad/14031729946" title="1404_raccooncostume_12-Edit.jpg by Andrea Paterson, on Flickr"><img alt="1404_raccooncostume_12-Edit.jpg" height="334" src="https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7239/14031729946_f7c30963ac.jpg" width="500" /></a><br /><br />Here's me on a fence. Because I'm pretty sure raccoons like to hang out on top of fences.<br /><br /><br /><a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/amaranthroad/14055328164" title="1404_raccooncostume_10-Edit.jpg by Andrea Paterson, on Flickr"><img alt="1404_raccooncostume_10-Edit.jpg" height="500" src="https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7195/14055328164_612e53f06f.jpg" width="500" /></a><br /><br />A close up of the impossible to remove make-up and my needle felted ears.<br /><br /><br /><a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/amaranthroad/14055324504" title="1404_raccooncostume_6-Edit.jpg by Andrea Paterson, on Flickr"><img alt="1404_raccooncostume_6-Edit.jpg" height="500" src="https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7391/14055324504_446aec2b2c.jpg" width="334" /></a><br /><br />Hiding amidst the honeysuckle. Again, because I feel like that is a raccoon thing to do.<br /><br /><br /><a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/amaranthroad/14051655541" title="1404_raccooncostume_1-Edit.jpg by Andrea Paterson, on Flickr"><img alt="1404_raccooncostume_1-Edit.jpg" height="500" src="https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7192/14051655541_74193d1479.jpg" width="334" /></a><br /><br />And one serious portrait of my raccoon-self, complete with amazingly luxurious tail. I worried that I might run into real raccoons on the way to the party and that they might be jealous. Thankfully I didn't have any encounters except with the taxidermy raccoon at the museum. He looked at me askance but was unable to comment. Andrea K.http://www.blogger.com/profile/04276747830002776579noreply@blogger.com1tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4746145057436853166.post-30740028202665650642014-04-21T15:18:00.001-07:002014-04-21T15:19:00.707-07:00No Option of DyingKim Thuy's book <i>Ru</i> gives the reader a story in stream of consciousness form. The word Ru means stream in French and lullaby in Vietnamese. Thuy uses the word in both ways simultaneously, presenting interconnected prose poems that glisten on the page like tears, and sing sad, quiet songs. The narrator's conflicted relationship with her mother and with motherhood stands out as particularly poignant. Of motherhood the narrator says "It's my children who taught me the verb <i>to love, </i>who have defined it. If I had known what it meant to love, I wouldn't have had children, because once we love, we love forever, like Uncle Two's wife, Step-aunt Two, who can't stop loving her gambler son, the son who is burning up the family fortune like a pyromaniac" (103).<br /><br />Later she says "I never had any questions except the one about the moment when I would die. I should have chosen the moment before the arrival of my children, for since then I've lost the option of dying. The sharp smell of their sun-baked hair, the smell of sweat on their backs when they wake from a nightmare, the dusty smell of their&nbsp; hands when they leave a classroom, meant that I have to live, to be dazzled by the shadow of their eyelashes, moved by a snowflake, bowled over by a tear on their cheek. My children have given me the exclusive power to blow on a wound to make the pain disappear, to understand words unpronounced, to possess the universal truth, to be a fairy" (113).<br /><br />And so it is that to love your child is not so much a feeling but an eternal impulse, a constant action. Loving my son is an all encompassing, perpetual thing. It is not a choice, not something I work at, but something that lives in me like another organ next to my heart. And as Thuy's narrator so eloquently expresses, this love is not always a gift. It can be heavy, it can rip you to shreds, it can lead to the most extraordinary outbursts of rage, because no matter what your child does&nbsp; you cannot stop loving them, and that knowledge is a hard thing to carry. Think of the mother in <i>We Need to Talk About Kevin</i> who finds that she loves her child even as he sits before her in prison, a convicted murderer. Containing such a love means facing the full catastrophe. It has its own neural network that plugs in to your mind, your body. It allows you to experience great tenderness but only if you are willing to experience great pain, only if you are willing to be horrified by the violence of your emotional landscape. <br /><br />It is cliche to say that we live again through the eyes of our children. Thuy turns this cliche upside-down and writes that the arrival of children removes "the option of dying." It's easier, sometimes, to let ourselves die to the world, to allow ourselves to become numb, unresponsive, unseeing. As a parent you no longer have the option of dying. A child makes everything hyper-present. Every experience is intensified, every tear is a symbol of the greatest hurt, every outburst is a wail of unparalleled grief, every smile reflects the most expansive joy and wonder. It is exhausting to confront life so magnified. And any parent could be forgiven for saying, "I didn't know it would be like this. Please just let me close my eyes for a moment, shut out the cacophony, retreat to a dull and colourless dream where the edges of the world become hazy and indistinct." When does beauty become so sharp that it turns to pain? When does elation spill over into despair? My son shows me that the line between them is an illusion. In him every experience, every emotion lives untempered by the social systems that will eventually wear the mountains of feeling down into harmless pebbles. He is a daily storm that leaves me raw with love, stripped down to the bone. When the narrator of Thuy's book says that "If I had known what it meant to love, I wouldn't have had children," this is not a statement of regret. She clearly does not regret the presence of her boys, but she expresses the crushing weight of forever, of being under the control of a love more powerful than any other force in the universe. This is not regret but awe. How is it that a person so small brings the entire universe with him when he is born? He carries it like the compressed matter of a baby star, drawing in everything that dares to enter its gravitational field.<br /><br /><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: left; margin-right: 1em; text-align: left;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-AyOJpbhzmU4/U1WY6cUZVeI/AAAAAAAAAIw/Bh2fXTQSXoI/s1600/1404_Easter_9.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: left; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-AyOJpbhzmU4/U1WY6cUZVeI/AAAAAAAAAIw/Bh2fXTQSXoI/s1600/1404_Easter_9.jpg" height="427" width="640" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;"><i>Collecting. Copyright Andrea Paterson. 2014.</i></td></tr></tbody></table>Andrea K.http://www.blogger.com/profile/04276747830002776579noreply@blogger.com1tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4746145057436853166.post-64842620516060402512014-03-04T15:01:00.001-08:002014-03-04T15:01:27.436-08:00The Necessity of Self Care <div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;">I have been reflecting on a blog post that I recently read in the context of the Buddhist philosophy of Thich Nhat Hanh. Hanh writes that:<i> </i></div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;"><i><br /></i></div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;"><i>“<span style="font-style: normal;">So in taking care of yourself, you take good care of your beloved one. Self-love is the foundation for your capacity to love the other person. If you don't take good care of yourself, if you are not happy, if you are not peaceful, you cannot make the other person happy. You cannot help the other person; you cannot love. Your capacity for loving another person depends entirely on your capacity for loving yourself, for taking care of yourself” </span></i></div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;"><br /></div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;">This applies so deeply to motherhood where the insistence upon martyrdom is still strong. I was recently reading a blog post by a mother who was reflecting upon the challenges of parenting and attempting to cast the struggle as a duty and, ultimately, a blessing. The writer suggests that being a mother is the greatest and most wonderful thing, and that nothing in her life will ever be better than being constantly needed. She suggests that when her children leave her life will be empty and meaningless. You can find the entire article <a href="http://yourbestnestindy.com/2014/02/27/mommy-somebody-needs-you/" target="_blank">HERE</a>.</div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;"><br /></div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;">One of the statements in the article that disturbed me greatly reads as follows:</div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;"><i><br /></i></div><i></i><div style="font-style: normal; margin-bottom: 0cm;"><i>“The sooner I can accept that being Mommy means that I never go off the clock, the sooner I can find peace in this crazy stage of life.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;That ‘Mommy’&nbsp;is my duty, privilege&nbsp;and honor. I am&nbsp;ready&nbsp;to be there when somebody needs me, all day and all night.&nbsp; Mommy means I just put the baby back down after her&nbsp;4am feeding when a&nbsp;3-year-old has a nightmare.&nbsp; Mommy means I am surviving on coffee and&nbsp;toddler leftovers.&nbsp; Mommy means my husband and I haven’t had a real conversation in weeks.&nbsp; Mommy means I put others’&nbsp;needs before&nbsp;my own, without a thought.&nbsp; Mommy means that my body is full of aches and my heart is full of love.”</i></div><div style="font-style: normal; margin-bottom: 0cm;"><br /></div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;">In the context of Thich Nhat Hanh's theory of the essential practice of self-love, the above paragraph hints at nothing less than self-abuse. No one should be living a life where they “never go off the clock.” Even mothers should be able to carve out time alone when someone else is caring for their children and they are pursuing their own interests. If you are “surviving on coffee and toddler leftovers” then you are not nourishing your own body with healthy food, and that can only mean depletion and sickness down the road. If you are not talking to your husband then your relationship will suffer greatly. As co-parents it is essential that you maintain your relationship, even in the chaos of a house full of children. Your marriage is the foundation upon which your family rests and if your marriage suffers so will your children. Especially terrifying is the author's contention that “Mommy means I put others' needs before my own, without a thought.” This is the most damaging and persistent myth out there about parenthood and motherhood in particular. If, as a mother, you never put your own needs first, if you neglect your own health and well-being in favour of the health and well-being of those around you, eventually everyone will suffer. Thich Nhat Hanh so wisely says that you must take care of yourself in order to have the capacity to care for others. Love comes from a place of wellness, not a place of depletion. If you are exhausted, if you are ignoring the desperate plea of your own mind and body for nourishment and healing, then you will grind yourself down to a tiny nub and you will have nothing left to give of yourself. </div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;"><br /></div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;">The author of the blog post also talks about motherhood as being the sole purpose of her life. She states that being needed is what gives her value as a human being:</div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;"><br /></div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;"><i>“I am sure there will come a day when no one needs me.&nbsp; My babies will all be long gone and consumed with their own lives.&nbsp; I may sit alone in some assisted living facility watching my body fade away.&nbsp; No one will need me then.&nbsp; I may even be a burden.&nbsp; Sure, they will come visit, but my arms will no longer be their home.&nbsp; My kisses no longer their cure.&nbsp; There will be no more tiny boots to wipe the slush from or seat belts to be buckled.&nbsp; I will have read my last bedtime story, 7 times in a row.&nbsp; I will no longer enforce time outs.&nbsp; There will be no more bags to pack and unpack or snack cups to fill.&nbsp; I am sure my heart will yearn to hear those tiny voices calling out to me, “Mommy, somebody needs you!” </i></div><div style="font-style: normal; margin-bottom: 0cm;"><br /></div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;">I would like to challenge this vision of the useless old person in a care home. While I will be the first to admit that parenthood is a deeply important job, and while I will agree with the sentiment that there is worth in being a caregiver for small children, I must emphatically disagree with the notion that a woman has no other source of worth. Yes, children will grow up and your role in their lives will change. And while you may not have the power to heal them like you once did I like to hope that your influence will still be valued even as an old woman. I hope my son and I will maintain a relationship that comes to be more and more one of equals. We will, one day, sit together as two adults who might help each other see the world in new ways. As he gains independence it will be important for him to need me less in some ways, but I hope that he will choose to love me still, even when he is long past the point of needing me to bandage his knees and sing him to sleep. I also hope that I will find other ways to express my worth and value to society. There are so many other places that a woman can engage with the world in powerful and meaningful ways. If your children don't need you in the intensive way they did when they were small then certainly someone else in the world does. We have so many opportunities to fight for social justice, to be a voice for the voiceless, to get involved in our families and communities and the structures of our globalized world and help those who are less fortunate. I hope that sitting in your wheelchair at the end of your life thinking that your value ended when your children moved out is not an inevitability. And to assume that no one will “need you” in your advanced age is narrow-minded and ageist. We need our elders. We need their wisdom and the accrued knowledge of their advanced years. We need them to continue to tell their stories to the younger generations so we can all have a sense of our heritage and history. </div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;"><br /></div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;">I can see what this author was trying to achieve. She wants to show the reader the beauty in motherhood. She also wants to vindicate her exhaustion by situating herself as a martyr. But I must argue that this position is damaging. If we encourage women to lose themselves to motherhood, if we keep insisting that martyrdom to our children is the ideal, and the highest work that we can do, then we will continue to condemn mothers and parents in general to a place of insecurity, depletion, and depression. It's important to find joy in the process of motherhood and I appreciate that this author was attempting to do just that. She wants to see beauty in the night-time feedings and the muddy boots. That's a wonderful exercise in mindfulness. But at the same time it is dangerous to live through your children and find worth only by subsuming yourself into their needs. As parents we must live for ourselves as well, feed ourselves, feed our souls and find modes of expression outside of parenthood so that we can model self-care for our children. This is the greatest gift we can give them, and it can only be achieved by sometimes putting ourselves first. </div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;"><br /></div><br />Andrea K.http://www.blogger.com/profile/04276747830002776579noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4746145057436853166.post-28441934306485249612014-02-17T14:29:00.001-08:002014-02-17T14:29:32.806-08:00A Small Moment of Utter IdiocyIt has become apparent that I am too dependent upon modern technology. I was in my driveway last week attempting to get into my car when I found that the battery in my key fob had died and pressing the "unlock" button to open my car door was no&nbsp; longer an option. I pressed it a few times hoping to hear that comforting click but the battery was well and truly dead. I stood outside my car feeling a wide range of emotions. The first was bewilderment--"how am I going to get into my car?" I thought in dismay. Thinking about the problem I realized that my husband had another key fob and I could simply go back inside and get it. But this lead to rage--"What if this had happened when I was away from home and didn't have access to another fob? What if my son had been in the car and got locked in? What if I was on my way to somewhere really important and my fob just died, stranding me? Who came up with this stupid system that can fail in such a way that getting into&nbsp; your car becomes impossible?"<br /><br />In the midst of my annoyance I was scanning my car door absentmindedly. Suddenly I registered the small detail of a keyhole by the handle. I flipped open the key on my fob (until now used solely for the purpose of turning on the car engine) and realized that the key I held in my hand would very likely fit in the keyhole on my car door and, wonder of wonders, unlock it. And so, I was able to get into my car, now in a state of shock over my own stupidity. When on earth did I forget that physical keys can be used to open car doors? Technology is a scary thing people. The old ways are slipping away. I share this story as a cautionary tale to others so that you won't be caught in public fretting over your inability to get into your car when your fob battery dies. Andrea K.http://www.blogger.com/profile/04276747830002776579noreply@blogger.com2tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4746145057436853166.post-62211684114961373972014-01-31T12:17:00.000-08:002014-01-31T12:17:04.446-08:00How to Disappear CompletelyThere has been a lot of talk about mental health in the days since this year's Let's Talk campaign sponsored by Bell. It's taken me awhile to get to it, but I've been wanting to add my voice from the perspective of post-partum depression. I wrote the following piece a number of weeks ago after stumbling across a print called "How to Disappear Completely" by Lauren Grey. You can look at Lauren's work on Etsy in her shop <a href="https://www.etsy.com/shop/TheHauntedHollowTree?ref=l2-shopheader-name" target="_blank">The Haunted Hollow Tree</a>.<br /><br /><table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="https://img1.etsystatic.com/016/0/5306735/il_570xN.467168527_f939.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="640" src="https://img1.etsystatic.com/016/0/5306735/il_570xN.467168527_f939.jpg" width="492" />&nbsp;</a></td><td style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">How To Disappear Completely. Print by Lauren Grey.</td><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</td><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;"><br /></td><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;"><br /></td><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;"><br /></td><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;"><br /></td><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;"><br /></td><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;"><br /></td></tr></tbody></table><br /> <div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;">This image is me. I see myself in every line of its beauty and terror. The artist, Lauren Grey, perfectly encapsulates what it is to be a mother and especially what it is to have post-partum depression. There is that gaze between the mother and child. They look at each other steadily. All that exists in that moment is the gaze, that connection of eyes and through the eyes the connection of spirits. They are locked together through that gaze. The mother is still, but she isn't smiling. This isn't a picture about joy, it is an image about a primal bond and also a devastating loss of self. </div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;"><br /></div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;">What is terrifying about this picture is expressed in the title. The artist calls the painting <i>How to Disappear Completely. </i>The baby is almost entirely present except for one foot, but the mother is nearly erased. She is reduced to her face and the gaze that she casts upon her baby. She has her eyes to look upon him and her hands to hold him but the rest of her is simply gone, reduced to hazy outlines, whited out with gesso. She exists only in her relationship to her child and outside of that relationship she is lost. There is no surrounding context, no world outside the mother and child, no background, no locational details, no other people. The archetypal mother engages in the process of dissolution. </div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;"><br /></div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;">I wonder if the artist meant for this to be such a tense image. It's possible that the intent was a lovely one; it's possible that the artist set about to capture the act of disappearing into a single, condensed moment as a new mother forms an intense bond with her child. You can disappear into a baby's eyes. Lose yourself in the look of complete trust, vulnerability, and pure need. But it is a dark thing to be lost, to become ghost-like and transparent. The viewer can observe nothing of this mother except her motherhood. She is incorporeal, disembodied. Her baby is the only physical presence, almost fully rendered, detailed, whole. I am deeply shaken by this image in which only one half of the mother-baby dyad can be complete. </div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;"><br /></div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;">This is exactly what post-partum depression feels like—a slow fading away with nothing left but the intensely physical and all consuming bond between mother and child. When I look at my son I feel as if the entire universe is contained in his tiny body. I feel I could survive anything except the loss of him. But I also find myself shattered, my soul broken up into a million little pieces that can blow away on the breeze like dandelion fluff. I'm running through thigh-high grass trying to recover every single seed that once made up my identity and potential, but they are scattered too far. I dissolve. There is just me and my son while the rest of the world, and my self in relation to that world, disappears. </div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;"><br /></div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;">How do you learn to live within that condensed and intensified reality? How do you define yourself when your entire existence is compressed like matter sucked into the vacuum of a black hole? This painting shows a cosmic event: time and space, self and other compacting into a pinpoint of highly volatile, unbelievably heavy matter. Mater. Mother. </div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;"><br /></div><div style="margin-bottom: 0cm;">Post-partum depression is this duality: the beauty and immensity of a star being born in opposition to extraordinarily powerful destructive forces released through that birth. Somehow this image captures that feeling with such honesty that I want to cry, but also scream “YES. Yes. This is exactly what it looks like.” </div>Andrea K.http://www.blogger.com/profile/04276747830002776579noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4746145057436853166.post-31474136427469805462014-01-24T13:56:00.000-08:002014-01-24T13:56:26.473-08:00Book Review: The Patience Stone Audiobook2014 is going to be a year of books. Along with a few book obsessed friends I'm embarking on my very first Reading Around the World project in an attempt to think more concretely about literary voices--who gets heard, who gets translated, whose books make it to Canadian shelves, and what countries are underrepresented in my literary diet?<br /><br />The plan is to eventually read at least one book by an author from every country in the world. This might be overambitious, but I'll take it a day at a time. I hope to read one or two Around the World project books each month this year and then I'll re-evaluate. <br /><br />My first book was The Patience Stone by Atiq Rahimi from Afghanistan. I decided to listen to the audiobook which is read by Carolyn Seymour and was available through Hoopla.<br /><br />The Patience Stone has received much praise for giving voice to the innermost thoughts of a young Afghan wife and mother. Her husband is in a coma after being shot during his time serving as a soldier. The narrator begins to pour out her most guarded secrets to her unresponsive husband, using him as a "Patience Stone," a mythical stone that is said to absorb all your confessions until it finally shatters, setting you free from your suffering.<br /><br />Our narrator tells us about all the horrors she has suffered at the hands of her husband, all the pain she has endured simply because she was born a woman. I deeply respect Rahimi's project, but I have to say that the audio version was so difficult to listen to that I almost gave up on this book entirely. I ploughed through to the end only because I thought that the reasons for my distaste were worth thinking about.<br /><br />My first observation is about voices and their associated authenticity. Having a narrative from the perspective of an oppressed Afghan woman is unarguably a valuable thing, but the narrator's voice comes to us through a series of filters that, possibly, strip it of its power. The first filter is the author himself. Here we have a woman's narration coming through the imagination of a male writer. I don't fundamentally have a problem with this. Fiction is such that authors should be free to speak through whatever characters call to them and Rahimi, a refugee from the Afghan war himself, very likely has enough knowledge to imagine what it is like to be an Afghan woman. Much of the power of this story comes from hearing the thoughts of a person who is not allowed to speak her mind due to sociocultural constraints. Rahimi gives his nameless narrator a voice, but I kept tripping over the fact that it was only through a man that this fictional woman gets to speak. It was an issue I could have set aside, especially since Rahimi handles the story with great sensitivity and courage, but the audiobook's reader truly ruined this novel.<br /><br />Carolyn Seymour provides the second filter through which our narrator's voice must pass and the voice emerges completely ravaged and beyond repair. Seymour is a white British actress (Russian father and Irish mother) and in her hands our narrator becomes whiny, overly dramatic, and takes on the characteristics of someone out of a soap opera. Seymour constantly has the Afghan woman weeping and wailing, sobbing and whimpering, flying off the handle into screaming rages and generally achieving a constant high pitched whine that made me cringe every time I had to listen to another chapter. Why they couldn't get someone with a representative accent is beyond me. Or perhaps its because that would have meant <i>actually</i> involving an Afghan woman in this story, something that is apparently beyond possibility and says more about the condition of such women than this book does.&nbsp; So the voice of this Afghan woman comes to me through the imagination of a man, dramatized by a white woman with a British accent and it seems to me that the result is unforgivable.<br /><br />After finishing the book I watched the trailer for the movie and am happy to report that it corresponds much&nbsp; more closely to what I would have liked to get out of the audiobook. The actress playing the narrator is Iranian but her demeanor is far more stoic, strong, and unyielding than the obnoxious interpretation prepared by Seymour. The actress (at least in the 2 minute clip I was able to view) gives us a deeply intelligent woman who has been forced to suffer through life in silence and take unbelievably difficult actions in order to survive in her war torn and oppressed world. The actress speaks with soft strength and portrays a character who guards a secret inner power. I would like to see the entire movie or perhaps read the book again myself as I suspect that without Seymour this would be a powerful and moving work of literature. <br /><br />I also recommend this book quite highly since I think it provides fertile ground for talking about literary lenses and filters, but I wouldn't touch the audiobook with a 10 foot pole. <br /><br /><br />Andrea K.http://www.blogger.com/profile/04276747830002776579noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4746145057436853166.post-32471601519260649032014-01-11T10:26:00.000-08:002014-01-11T10:26:03.153-08:00Toddler Travel AdventuresOkay, everyone wait just a second while I give myself a pat on the back. I made it from Vancouver to Windsor Ontario, including a transfer in Toronto, with a 2 year old. We did it. We got here and while we were both in tears at some points of the journey, we survived.<br /><br />I left Vancouver yesterday with a yawning pit of anxiety consuming my insides. Our flight was pushed back a day due to the bad weather and mess of backed up flights at Pearson airport, so I was already feeling frustrated when we actually got to leave on Friday. I was also completely terrified to get into a contained, airborne space with my toddler. I'm cramming in a trip before his second birthday because he still flies for free, but that meant he would have to sit on my lap for the combined 5.5 hours of our flights, and that isn't even mentioning time spent in the airport. It was like I was about to be on Fear Factor or something. Getting on that plane was akin to eating a plate full of worms.<br /><br />Our initial flight from Vancouver to Toronto was delayed by 30 minutes so I got to start worrying right away. My connection in Toronto left only one hour of leeway, so I was now down to a half hour to catch my flight to Windsor. The flight attendants assured me that further delays were unlikely and I would make my connection. So I tried to breathe and relax. Hayden and I explored the Vancouver airport and found it to be a fairly entertaining place. Hayden was especially taken with the moving walkways which we rode on for nearly an hour straight. I passed the same people having lunch about 40 times and I could tell that they were laughing at me. But no matter, my son was happy and I was feeling pretty good about things.<br /><br />We boarded the plane a half hour late as projected and I headed to my seat, which ended up being in the middle of a set of three. Not good. I began to imagine the next 4 hours, crammed between two other passengers with no real access to the aisle and a wired toddler jumping on my lap. I asked the woman in the aisle if she would trade, for both our sakes. She reluctantly agreed and I could breathe again. Eventually she was offered another aisle seat and I got an empty seat next to me for Hayden. I felt like things were really going my way. "This might actually be okay" I dared to say to myself.<br /><br />In an attempt to be one of those good and well prepared mothers I had packed a goody bag of dollar store toys for Hayden. I figured we could open one each hour to keep him entertained. I&nbsp; had piles of stickers, a colouring book, crayons, a puzzle, cars, a dump truck, and a magnetic fishing game. It all turned out to be useless. He stuck one sticker into his album and declared stickers passe. He had no interest in the totally cool dinosaur colouring book. He spent almost the entire flight to Toronto plugging the headphones into the jack on his seat and pulling it out again. He occasionally glanced at some cartoons, but generally seemed content to practice his fine motor skills. He ran up and down the aisle a bit, knocked over the cups of other passengers, washed his hands in the tiny plane bathroom about five times, and absolutely refused to sleep even when he was hours beyond his usual naptime.<br /><br />I have to say this for him though--my kid was unbelievably well behaved and good-natured for the entire trip. It was like some sort of miracle. Like my son was a Changling, but in a good way instead of an evil way. I am pretty sure that benevolent spirits or aliens or ghosts inhabited the body of my child on that flight and turned him into a complete angel. He charmed all the other passengers, and even though he must have been exhausted by the end of the journey he was still smiling and laughing most of the time, though becoming vaguely hyperactive. I was so proud of him and his amazing travelling abilities almost made up for the&nbsp; near heart attack I suffered in Toronto.<br /><br />Our plane arrived at Pearson airport, as projected, half an hour late. That should have been enough time for me to make my connection, except that some sort of power issue caused our plane to be unable to turn off one of the engines, and we all had to wait on the runway until the issue was resolved. I became increasingly agitated. When 6:20 arrived, and with it the scheduled departure of my connection, I began to panic. A well meaning fellow passenger offered to see if my connection had been delayed on his phone. The results were that it wasn't delayed. And that's when I started to cry. I was standing there, stuck just minutes away from the terminal, and wasn't going to make my flight. If I was lucky I could wait 4 hours and get the midnight flight (not a pretty picture with my child refusing to nap on the go). If I was unlucky I'd be stuck in Toronto overnight. I was collapsing under the weight of my disappointment and frustration. I stood sniffling and quietly crying as we were finally let off the plane.<br /><br />In desperation I asked the attendant at the desk if I might still make my connection. She then gave me a ray of hope: my flight had been delayed. I had already been removed from the passenger roster, but now with the delay I had been put back on. I was given new boarding passes and I then made the most maniacal dash through the airport that you can imagine. I had Hayden on a leash attached to his backpack so I wouldn't lose him, I was dragging a rolling suitcase, and carrying a backpack full of camera gear. I was NOT going to miss this flight.<br /><br />"We're going to have to run" I said to Hayden and took off. The poor kid. He tried his best to keep up, but he couldn't. He kept falling flat on his face and I heard the gasps of other people in the airport. But I didn't stop. I used the handle of&nbsp; his backpack to pull him back onto his feet and kept running. When he had fallen about four times I tried to carry him, but he was too heavy and my rolling suitcase kept tipping over. I was crying and swearing, and wary travellers came by to look at me with pity and pick up my suitcase for me. I charged my way down an escalator to my gate and practically dragging Hayden behind me we got to the departure desk.<br /><br />"Sarnia?" asked the weary attendant.<br />"No.GASP GASP...Windsor" I said.<br />"We haven't boarded yet" he said<br />"What??" I said as I tried desperately to catch my breath and ward off an impending panic attack.<br /><br />As it turned out my flight had been delayed an entire hour due to some sort of malfunction. Turned out I didn't need to run like a crazy person through the airport. I was a bit annoyed that I&nbsp; hadn't been told that from the outset, but I was also relieved that I would get to Windsor after all.<br /><br />Hayden and I settled in to wait. The good news: we were going to get on a plane to Windsor. The bad news: the plane had recently been broken in some fashion. Hayden spent our one hour wait running in circles around my luggage. I think he was starting to lose his mind a bit. Sleep deprivation can do that to a person.<br /><br />We got on the plane eventually and we got to Windsor. Hayden had a few small meltdowns when he was forced to sit on my lap, but mostly spent the flight doing up his seat belt and then undoing it again. Again with the fine motor skill obsession. We looked out the window and sang some songs. And we got to Windsor in one piece.<br /><br />As I was getting off the plane one of the other passengers actually stood up and applauded.<br /><br />"You are an AMAZING mother" he said. "I watched you this whole trip and you never lost your temper and your kid was a trooper and he is just so lucky to have you. You did a great job."<br /><br />I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes at this unexpected praise from a total stranger. And the whole trip suddenly felt meaningful. We proved something Hayden and I. We faced adversity together and both managed to be our best selves (perhaps minus the dragging my child through an airport). Hayden got through the day without a nap and I got through without complete mental collapse and as hard and exhausting as the trip seemed to me, from the outside it looked like we were just breezing along, handling everything with grace and infinite patience. From the outside I was a good mother, and for once it felt that way from the inside as well.<br /><br />So we're here and Hayden is making sugar cookies with his Baba and I'm listening to their laughter downstairs and feeling like it was worth it to come, even if I do have to do it all over again on the way home. Andrea K.http://www.blogger.com/profile/04276747830002776579noreply@blogger.com1tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4746145057436853166.post-49621878488472262472013-12-18T15:29:00.000-08:002013-12-18T15:35:30.119-08:00Shortbread, mulled wine, and a raccoonIf Christmas had a flavour it would be butter shortbread. The simplest, yet richest cookie you can imagine. An indulgence without excessive flashiness.<br /><br />If Christmas had a a sound it would be a distant fiddle, carrying on the frozen breeze over snow locked fields.<br /><br />If Christmas projected a single image it would be this: two children waiting in the pre-dawn darkness for the first rays of light to signal the start of Christmas morning. As the sun slants through the blinds there is a simultaneous intake of excited breath as they are given leave to burst from the warmth of sheets into the glow of the Christmas tree where magic makes the air crackle.<br /><br />If Christmas had a smell it would be a mixture of mulled wine, cranberries, and pine needles.<br /><br />If you could touch it there, against your fingers, would be the stickiness of sap and the roughness of tree bark, the slip of one perfect satin ribbon, the bristle of fur on the dog passed out under the table where he has spent the evening licking up crumbs.<br /><br />And at its core, the light in the winter darkness: being embraced by the people who hold your heart in theirs, a perpetual gift that they carry like a torch all their lives. <br /><br />***<br /><br />This holiday season has brought on a crafting spree. Here is a felted raccoon who found a new home at a recent gift exchange.<br /><br /><br /><table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/amaranthroad/11441917275/" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" title="1312_FeltRaccoon_4.jpg by Amaranth Road Studio, on Flickr"><img alt="1312_FeltRaccoon_4.jpg" height="500" src="http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2891/11441917275_1b85fbaf4a.jpg" width="334" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Felted Raccoon. Copyright Andrea Paterson. 2013</td></tr></tbody></table><br /><table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/amaranthroad/11441961014/" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" title="1312_FeltRaccoon_3.jpg by Amaranth Road Studio, on Flickr"><img alt="1312_FeltRaccoon_3.jpg" height="500" src="http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3727/11441961014_00d2980456.jpg" width="335" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Felted Raccoon. Copyright Andrea Paterson. 2013.</td></tr></tbody></table><br /><table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/amaranthroad/11441919145/" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" title="1312_FeltRaccoon_5.jpg by Amaranth Road Studio, on Flickr"><img alt="1312_FeltRaccoon_5.jpg" height="500" src="http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5543/11441919145_6105386bc9.jpg" width="335" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Felted Raccoon. Copyright Andrea Paterson. 2013.</td></tr></tbody></table>Andrea K.http://www.blogger.com/profile/04276747830002776579noreply@blogger.com1tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4746145057436853166.post-62919469746398161202013-12-07T13:16:00.000-08:002013-12-07T13:16:01.891-08:00Soul of the SeasonChristmas lights me up. There is a pagan magic that still lingers in the holiday and my whole being orients itself towards the solstice. The Christian nativity story had fallen away from my personal festivities a long time ago, but in a small Christmas miracle I was brought back to the story by theological scholar Tom Harpur, who managed to breathe new life into the tale. <br /><br /><div style="font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; margin-bottom: 0cm;">Harpur, in his book <i>the Pagan Christ</i>, traces the mythological figure of Jesus back to his origin in the ancient Egyptian god Horus, born through a virgin birth to the goddess Isis. Harpur asks readers to consider the Christmas story as the powerful allegory that it was meant to be rather than trying, and failing, to force our brains to believe in the physical impossibility of a virgin birth or other unlikely aspects of the story.&nbsp; Harpur argues that “the story is not the literal account it seems to be on the surface; it is about the birth, in the heart of every human being, of the Christ. It is a supreme telling of the central myth of all religion—the incarnation of the divine into human flesh.” (143).&nbsp;</div><div style="font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; margin-bottom: 0cm;"><br /></div><div style="font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; margin-bottom: 0cm;">On the darkest night of the year at the winter solstice humans in a multitude of times and places celebrated the return of the sun. This celestial event corresponded to mythological events including the birth of the Sun (Son) into the soul of every person. Harpur is a bit vague about what he means by Christ being born into the heart, but I take it to mean coming to the knowledge of our own inner divinity, seeing the spirit that resides in the housing of our flesh, or growing into a relationship with the soul--that ever elusive and undefinable part of our consciousness that makes us search for greater meaning. </div><div style="font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; margin-bottom: 0cm;"><br /></div><div style="font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; margin-bottom: 0cm;">I don't think you need to have supernatural beliefs in order to find this myth appealing. Suddenly Christmas can be about finding the divine spark in your own soul, about nurturing that new-born light, and letting it become a fire that guides you through your days. The spark is likely different for everyone, resulting in myriad actions--a tradition that lives on in the custom of New Years' Resolutions. Each year as the light of the sun draws equal to and then surpasses the light of the moon we have a symbolic chance to be reborn.</div><div style="font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; margin-bottom: 0cm;"><br /></div><div style="font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; margin-bottom: 0cm;">So at Christmas when you light fires in the hearth, set the mantle with candles, and hang the tree with a million twinkling beacons you can think also of the birth of the Sun in the darknesses you have been harbouring within yourself. We all have wounded places that could use the persistent flicker of a guiding star to bring them back into the light. The pilgrimage is there to be taken and you don't even have to leave your home.&nbsp; </div><div style="font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; margin-bottom: 0cm;"><br /></div><div style="font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; margin-bottom: 0cm;">What rituals are integral to your holiday festivities? I'd love to hear about them!</div>Andrea K.http://www.blogger.com/profile/04276747830002776579noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4746145057436853166.post-85501773739583925992013-12-03T14:15:00.000-08:002013-12-03T14:15:21.773-08:00Murder in the Music RoomIn a series of very unfortunate events my harp murdered my violin. I know, it seems unlikely, but I was there to witness the brutality and I can say with certainty that it is true. A motive has yet to be determined, but the string of events that led to the death of my violin are clear.<br /><br />My violin was sitting on an instrument stand minding his own business. He had, sadly, been evicted from his case due to an infestation of bow mites. Homeless and chilly he was making the best of it on the instrument stand. It's likely that he was lonely too, because he is my old violin, the one I bought in Scotland, and have been attempting to sell as I have acquired a new instrument. I have been trying to sell the violin for months now without any luck finding a buyer and I could see where he might begin to lose his will to live.<br /><br />Suddenly I am beginning to wonder if this was, in fact, an assisted suicide instead of a murder. Could it be that the harp, being larger and stronger, was somehow compelled to help my violin end his tormented existence? I will never know. What I do know is that my violin was sitting on the stand and I was trying to get something out of the closet and I bumped the harp and it tipped over and it crashed into my violin and cracked it down the middle. Not entirely in half, just a nasty crack down the center of the instrument that renders it completely worthless. <br /><br />The harp denies culpability. Says it was an accident, but I'm not convinced. The bump was light and the violin too perfectly placed for it to be an accident. Whether the two of them staged the incident or the harp acted alone out of jealousy I can't say. I will generally have to give the harp the benefit of the doubt, because I can't afford to trade it in for a more law abiding model. The harp didn't sustain any injuries, though she is getting old and could really kick the bucket at any moment.<br /><br />My new violin was safely in a case downstairs and, thankfully, didn't witness the mayhem. I don't intend to mention it lest she feel she's in danger from the harp. My suspicion is that there won't be a repeat offense, but one can never be too careful.<br /><br />I'm truly a bit broken up by the whole event. I hoped that my Scottish violin would go to a good home and get the years of play he deserved. I was also counting on the income from his sale to fund the purchase of photography gear. But alas, my violin lies cold and dormant in his mite infested case, and awaits a miracle. I will take him in to a music shop to rule out the possibility of a fix, but then he will have to be consigned to the musical scrap heap. I hope that he gets to sing in the afterlife and I'm sorry for my clumsiness which may or may not have contributed to his early demise. Andrea K.http://www.blogger.com/profile/04276747830002776579noreply@blogger.com3tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4746145057436853166.post-67851081328463165832013-12-01T13:49:00.001-08:002013-12-01T13:49:29.198-08:00Christmas FoxIf my son were an animal he would, no doubt, be a fox. Sneaky, cunning, and known for playing the character of the trickster, foxes are the kind of creature that might slink into your life and completely turn it upside-down. They are wild and fierce, wise and observant. Playful, hungry, sharp. Witty, and likely to get away with things. My son charms everyone he meets with a quick hello, then immediately starts begging for the treats they have with them. Many an adult has succumbed to my child's wiles--eventually giving up their grapes or strawberries, their candies, even small toys.<br /><br />At home I find that my little boy has squeezed himself into odd spaces--like behind the toilet--and has begun constructing a den of toys and household objects.<br /><br />I made this needle felted fox as a portrait of sorts. It is a gift, an ornament for my son's second Christmas. My hope is to make one every year as a record of his growing spirit. This year he has the spirit of a fox, next year he might transform into something entirely different.<br /><br /><br /><table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/amaranthroad/11144817234/" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" title="1311_FeltFox_2-Edit.jpg by Amaranth Road Studio, on Flickr"><img alt="1311_FeltFox_2-Edit.jpg" height="500" src="http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5549/11144817234_eb79da9115.jpg" width="334" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Felted Fox. Copyright Andrea Paterson. 2013</td></tr></tbody></table><br /><table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/amaranthroad/11144756205/" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" title="1311_FeltFox_4-Edit.jpg by Amaranth Road Studio, on Flickr"><img alt="1311_FeltFox_4-Edit.jpg" height="500" src="http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5522/11144756205_6493982b70.jpg" width="335" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Felted Fox. Copyright Andrea Paterson. 2013</td></tr></tbody></table><br /><table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/amaranthroad/11144759855/" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" title="1311_FeltFox_10-Edit.jpg by Amaranth Road Studio, on Flickr"><img alt="1311_FeltFox_10-Edit.jpg" height="500" src="http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2876/11144759855_349064723a.jpg" width="334" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Felted Fox. Copyright Andrea Paterson. 2013.</td></tr></tbody></table>Andrea Patersonhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/13984333909108719150noreply@blogger.com2tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4746145057436853166.post-34878821331537325052013-11-12T18:44:00.000-08:002013-11-12T18:44:42.533-08:00Another One of Those Days<div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.funnytimes.com/archives/files/art/20071114.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: left; float: left; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" height="400" src="http://www.funnytimes.com/archives/files/art/20071114.jpg" width="312" /></a></div><br />Today I smeared mayonnaise on my wall...on purpose. My son started it by drawing about a dozen foot long vertical lines on the wall in black crayon. I did take a few moments to analyze his artistic expression. Perhaps he's feeling a certain sense of darkness. Maybe those are supposed to be prison bars and he's trying to tell me that he feels trapped, that he's suffering from a lack of autonomy and doesn't feel the sense of freedom that he hoped for in this world. Oh wait...maybe that's me. Nevermind.<br /><br />So after some internet research I discovered that crayon can be removed with mayonnaise. The website I visited provided a number of crayon removal techniques, but said that the mayonnaise method required the least amount of elbow grease. It did actually work, but elbow grease was definitely required. And I think my wall still smells vaguely like mayonnaise. Not the happiest morning.<br /><br />This afternoon I wanted to take it easy--no tantrums, no fights, just a relaxing time. So I took my son with me to pick up some groceries, and to avoid total freak outs I let him walk with me and help me put vegetables in our basket rather than strapping him into a stroller. However, he's not the sort of kid who likes to stick with a parent and he's prone to dashing out in traffic, tripping other people, and generally causing mayhem. So if I want to let him walk I have to make him wear a backpack with a leash on it. It's the only way to keep him both safe and happy, so I do it.<br /><br />And then I was totally judged by a 12 year old who was standing behind us in line at the Kins Market. He was quite a dapper looking pre-teen. Well dressed, perfectly styled hair. He looked at me with my child on a leash and said to his mother with obvious disapproval "I can't believe that kid is on a leash!". I shouldn't have felt crappy. It was a 12 year old after all who knows just about zero about caring for a child, but I still felt just a tiny bit of shame creeping in, because I never really thought I would be that mom with her kid on a leash. I, in my younger days, couldn't figure out why anyone would need to harness their child in order to go for a walk. But when you have given birth to the equivalent of a hyperactive chimpanzee you suddenly see the logic of it.<br /><br />After my shopping trip I slunk guiltily to the McDonald's where I intended to have a peaceful meal. Before the judgements start pouring forth let me just say that I am totally aware that bringing my child to McDonald's is going to make him obese, physically incapable of eating anything healthy for the rest of his life, and may very well result in an immediate and spontaneous diabetic coma. But if that's the price I have to pay for half an hour of well mannered dining, then I'm willing to pay it. The occasional ingestion of chicken nuggets is just one more of those coping mechanisms I never thought I would need as a parent, but it turns out that I need all the help I can get.<br /><br />We bought our dinner and we were sitting happily devouring processed chicken that probably isn't even meat and is actually just a salt-lick in disguise. My son was joyously dipping artery clogging french fries in ketchup (aka red sugar) and sucking the ketchup off. I was killing myself slowly with a McChicken sandwich. We were having a good time: mother and son side-by-side sharing a moment that didn't involve crying or punching or screaming or hysterics of any kind. Then my son spilled an entire container of milk into my lap. When I stood up I found that it most definitely appeared that I had peed my pants. My jeans were soaked through at the crotch and milk was dripping down my pant legs. I had to walk up to the front counter where I declared loudly that my son had spilled milk on me, just in case anyone was ready to go home and tell their friends that some poor woman peed herself in the McDonald's.<br /><br />Humiliated and defeated I took my son back to our car, but he didn't want to get in, and he pulled the back arching trick so I couldn't bend him into his car seat, then he had the screaming, crying tantrum I had been trying so desperately to avoid and I sat in my wet pants and drove uncomfortably home where I was able to change into the signature defeated mommy yoga pants that are the trade-mark of crushed dreams everywhere and I am now counting down the minutes to bed-time so I can sit in a bath of nearly scalding water in an attempt to wash away my milk encrusted day.<br /><br />I will live to fight another day tomorrow.Andrea K.http://www.blogger.com/profile/04276747830002776579noreply@blogger.com4tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4746145057436853166.post-12332067051429470242013-10-21T14:47:00.001-07:002013-10-21T14:47:38.363-07:00The Humans: Book Review<a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16130537-the-humans" style="float: left; padding-right: 20px;"><img alt="The Humans" border="0" src="https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1353739654m/16130537.jpg" /></a><a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16130537-the-humans">The Humans</a> by <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/76360.Matt_Haig">Matt Haig</a><br />My rating: <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/746205979">4 of 5 stars</a><br /><br />In the notes at the end of this novel, author Matt Haig informs us that he wrote The Humans while "in the grips of a panic disorder." He informs us that through the pain and irrational terror of his illness he came to see that "breakdown is very often breakthrough" and the reading and writing he did during the years of his panic disorder are what led him to become a novelist. Haig says, "I truly believe in the power of fiction to save lives and minds...words and stories provide maps of sorts, ways of finding your way back to yourself."<br /><br />It is with a mixture of terror, confusion, worldly beauty, love, music, poetry, and wonder that The Humans unfolds. It was an absolute joy to read. An alien visiting earth is certainly not a new theme, but Matt Haig manages to write a story in which the alien and the human are inextricable. In our irrationality, in our strange behaviour, in our odd rules and laws and conventions, and especially in our tendency towards mental breakdown, we humans are alien to ourselves. Our planet is alien. Our families are alien. We know so very little about ourselves and our world and yet we find a way to live our lives in meaningful ways, clinging to the tiny sparks of light in the darkness. This would be a great book to read aloud. There's a rhythm to it that sounds musical, surely influenced by the musical themes that are sprinkled throughout the novel.<br /><br />A central question is how humans manage to go about their daily lives without being crippled by the knowledge of their own inevitable deaths. Pain and sorrow are unavoidable during the short years each person spends alive. How do we manage to turn the brevity and anguish of our existence into something more? Haig explores these questions through an alien being experiencing humanity for the first time. Of course we are ALL experiencing humanity for the first time. We are all experiencing our one and only life, our one crack at being a human. We're going to screw up. We're going to misinterpret the rules. We're going to misunderstand our fellow humans and hurt the ones we love the most despite our best intentions. Haig holds up a mirror to our flaws and shows us the beauty at the core. <br /><br /><a href="https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/4904968-andrea-paterson">View all my reviews</a>Andrea K.http://www.blogger.com/profile/04276747830002776579noreply@blogger.com1tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4746145057436853166.post-63551938225304038822013-10-17T15:32:00.000-07:002013-10-17T15:32:30.335-07:00FlashbackThings are beginning to come around again for my little guy. My not so little guy I guess. I now have two sets of pumpkin patch pictures that show me just how much he's grown.<br /><br /><br /><table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/amaranthroad/8068684025/" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" title="1210_PumpkinPatch_59.jpg by Amaranth Road Studio, on Flickr"><img alt="1210_PumpkinPatch_59.jpg" height="428" src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8032/8068684025_a5d8e499e2_z.jpg" width="640" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Pumpkin Patch 2012. Copyright Andrea Paterson.</td></tr></tbody></table><br /><table align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/amaranthroad/10335808193/" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" title="1310_WesthamIsland_17-Edit-Edit.jpg by Amaranth Road Studio, on Flickr"><img alt="1310_WesthamIsland_17-Edit-Edit.jpg" height="640" src="http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7445/10335808193_df243484e9_z.jpg" width="640" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Pumpkin Patch 2013. Copyright Andrea Paterson.</td></tr></tbody></table>And I know that I'm supposed to be a bit weepy about it--about the growing up and the fact that my baby is now a little boy with a will of his own. And I suppose I am a little nostalgic for the days of snuggling my child into a carrier and toting him around to see the world, but mostly I'm just relieved. I'm going to admit it right here and right now: I'm relieved that the baby days are slipping away and I'm relieved that there is an emerging person standing before me who is starting to communicate, who can entertain himself for longer periods of time, who can, quite literally, now stand on&nbsp; his own two feet to view the world. There are still challenges, don't get me wrong. But I'm getting enough sleep, and I have regained some independence, and I finally feel like I am my own person and he is his own person and we get to stand side by side rather than occupying the same physical space. And good lord am I grateful for that breathing room. I know that the space will keep widening. Next year I'll look at my pumpkin patch pictures and see another version of this face looking back at me and I'll wonder where the time went. It's even possible that the space will one day seem too wide and I will ache for the days when I could scoop my little boy into my arms and cover him with kisses. But for now I am glad to be moving forward in this motherhood journey, to a place where I just might be able to reclaim my sense of self--redefining myself against the light thrown from my son's being. He illuminates my days, sometimes showing me things I wish would stay hidden (my rage for instance, my breaking point), but also revealing unexpected joys. Here is the march of years. Inescapable, visceral, startling. And here I am: altered, stretched, but somehow once again recognizable in the dawn glow of this child.Andrea Patersonhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/13984333909108719150noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4746145057436853166.post-135858845092830622013-09-06T14:38:00.002-07:002013-09-06T14:39:05.596-07:00You Can't Go HomeMy childhood home, where I lived from birth to age 10, was recently raided by police in connection with a drug trafficking organization. It was one of a number of homes searched resulting in the seizure of $35,000 worth of drugs and the arrest of 6 people. A picture of my home appeared in the paper. A silver airstream trailer sat in the crumbling driveway. I imagined Breaking Bad style meth labs. How far it has fallen from the idyllic memories of my childhood.<br /><br />My parents claim it was never a nice house. Too small, too unstable, my brother and I were not allowed to jump in the house because we might crash through the rotting beams of the floor into the dirt crawlspace below. When we jumped anyway the floor felt like a trampoline.<br /><br />We didn't have central heating. Instead a monstrous heater was the focal point of our dining room, one Christmas Eve refusing to turn off so that we all roasted in our beds. To me it was like a fire place. After baths I would take my towel and sit on the floor in front of the heat, letting it dry me and chase away any winter chill.<br /><br />We had an enclosed front porch where the Christmas tree went. It was cold out there so the tree tended to last a long time. One potted tree was still going strong at Easter, so we hung eggs on it and declared it an Easter Tree. We should have patented the idea, because shortly after decorations for Easter Trees were being sold at the Shoppers Drug Mart.<br /><br />Our backyard was the location of mom's famous blanket forts that she would build by slinging a sheet over the clothesline and pinning the edges down with bricks. We planted corn one year, producing multi-coloured but inedible ears that we hung from the rafters in the garage. Another time it was sunflowers.<br /><br />I held a funeral for my first cat in that backyard. She only lived 6 months, dying of feline leukemia despite the intensity of my love for her. I buried her collar in a Winnie the Pooh pencil tin and gave a eulogy from a rock in the garden. My friends from across the alley came and stood solemnly while I poured my first grief into the ground. I wrote her name in Sharpie on the rock.<br /><br />My parents eventually moved us to a house of more suitable size. I didn't want to go. I can only imagine how cramped they had felt in our old house and how they had longed for a home that didn't seem set to fall into the crawlspace, but for me, dilapidated or not, my home was perfect.<br /><br />As I think about it now I wonder if our family afforded the last instances of happiness within those walls. The house has obviously had a storied history since we left. Someone painted the shutters a hideous shade of purple after we moved out. We used to drive by as the years passed and marvel that the place was still standing. Over time it grew more and more neglected. The garden was untended. Junk began to collect in the yard. And now it seems it&nbsp; has become the site of criminal activity. I expect that it won't be left standing much longer.<br /><br />I just wanted to say that it wasn't always as it is now. I feel like the house needs defending. It was once the home of a joy-filled girl who rode her bike up and down the long driveway, climbed the tree in the front yard, ate home-made popsicles at a picnic table in the back, and said goodbye to a beloved pet while cicadas sang. It is the place I think of if asked to recall a sense of security and contentedness.<br /><br />While you truly can't go home, home frequently comes with you, creating a series of rooms in your soul where memory resides. My soul, to this day, has floors that bounce. <br /><br /><br />Andrea Patersonhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/13984333909108719150noreply@blogger.com1tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-4746145057436853166.post-38257276477493766102013-08-26T13:37:00.002-07:002013-08-26T13:37:22.468-07:00Moms, put down your weaponsThis article has been sitting in my draft folder for weeks now as I decided whether or not to send it into the public domain. I've decided that it probably needs to be said, so here it is.&nbsp; <br /><br />Recently I've been thinking about going on a very long internet vacation. Things are getting out of hand out there. The "Mommy Wars" are getting far too vicious. I recently stumbled upon an article that bluntly stated that putting your child in day-care should be considered the same as child abuse followed by an article entitled "Why I Hate Stay At Home Moms" that launched into the common "my out of home work life is harder than your at home mommy work life" argument, followed by a hateful counterattack of "my mommy work life is harder than your out of home work life." Throw in some "you're killing your child with (insert basically any food that isn't organic, home-grown from seed, personally harvested, raw, vegan, sugar-free and prepared on a counter free from all cleansers except for castille soap that you made from scratch at home here)" or "you're killing your child with (insert any product that touches your child such as sunscreen, toothpaste, cotton shirts that aren't organic, cotton shirts that are organic but don't carry a fire safety label, cotton shirts that were made in a Chinese sweat shop, cotton shirts that were pooped on by endangered brazilian monkeys, disposable diapers, or band-aids here) or some arguments about how having any only child is cruel, having two children is ideal, and having three or more children is environmentally irresponsible and we're looking at the Mommy Apocalypse.<br /><br />I don't even understand how we have the time to be so nasty to each other. Sometimes I'm still wearing my pyjamas at 3:00, thinking that it might be a good idea to have some breakfast, but not until I rescue my son from the kiddie pool he just fell into and can't seem to get out of even though he's perfectly capable of walking and climbing. How do women have the energy to argue about whose life is harder, who has sacrificed the most, who's the bigger martyr, who sleeps the least, and who has gone the longest without attending to a single one of their own desires?<br /><br />Life might be easier if we all accepted that having a child or children is hard. Period. And every life situation brings its own advantages and challenges. My suspicion is that everyone is just doing their best. We're all making sacrifices, we're all tired, we're all yearning for a vision of life that is no longer available to us. We're on the same team! But instead of supporting each other, commiserating, having a cup of tea and buoying each other up, we appear to be busy tearing other people down to give ourselves a single second of self satisfaction in the midst of parenting chaos. It seems that if you can prove you're doing at least one thing better than some other parent then you get to enjoy a fleeting sense of victory at someone else's expense.<br /><br />I know there's hope. I've seen it. I've seen some amazing Facebook conversations developing supportive networks of new moms. I've seen blog posts that seek out the humour in the chaos of parenting. I've listened to people speak candidly about post partum depression and the unexpected challenges they have encountered as parents. I've seen more and more resources for parents of all types--working, at home, part-time, single, same gender, divorced, depressed...It's a tough world out there and the last thing we need is more judgement heaped upon people who are already experts at making themselves feel guilty. It's time to lay those verbal barbs down. <br /><br />The ridiculous nature of all of this is gaining recognition. A recent satirical article&nbsp; called "Formula Fed Boy gets into Harvard Medical School" highlighted this perfectly. The future doctor interviewed talks about how he thought he would be at a disadvantage compared to his breast-fed counterparts, but realized they all had their own issues. Another student, for example, was subjected to "cry it out," and another had their soother taken away at age two, yet they were all finding a way to make it through their studies. <br /><br />None of us have to be perfect parents in order to be good parents. It's time to embrace the "Good-Enough Mother." The one who does her best, screws up, says sorry, and moves on. A chicken nugget won't destroy your child's chances for future success and your own worth doesn't depend on maintaining a nugget free zone at all costs.&nbsp; Andrea K.http://www.blogger.com/profile/04276747830002776579noreply@blogger.com0