Archives for July 2011

Talking Motherhood, Career and Feminism with Marcy

I first met my friend Marcy at church almost 10 years ago. In face we once delivered a sermon together in honour of International Women’s Day (if you listen to the recording at the end of the post you can hear Jacob screaming as Jon carries him out of the service). I was trying to remember the first time we actually had a conversation, and I couldn’t, so I’ll have to apologize to her. But regardless of when or how that auspicious first meeting happened, what I do remember clearly was serving on a committee together with her. And I remember how much I sincerely enjoyed working with her.

What I love about Marcy is how warm and open she is. I also love how readily she shares from her own experiences. If you have been a regular visitor to my comments section, you will already be familiar with her wise and well thought-out responses. In fact, I have come to think of her as something of a mentor – someone who has been right where I am now, and come through it all with flying colours.

I decided to ask Marcy to be on my podcast, first of all because I consider her a friend and a role model. But more than that, I knew that she had a lot to share. She started her career as a school teacher, and became an at-home mother while her children were small. She was a feminist, and when her children got a little older she returned to school, helped to found the local women’s resource society and an emergency shelter for women facing domestic abuse. She became an employment counselor, and worked as a consultant, eventually moving into full-time work. Her story gives me hope that I can build something great as a mother of young children.

I encourage you to listen to Marcy’s interview. It’s full of inspiration, humour, and warmth, just like Marcy herself. And then I encourage you to talk to your own role models, and let them know what they’ve meant for you.

I’m working on a very exciting interview for next week. I can’t wait to share it with you! In the meantime, subscribe to the Strocel.com podcast, and you’ll be sure not to miss a minute of it!

Kids and Kid Clutter

When you have kids, you have stuff. Even my friend Rachel, a.k.a. the Minimalist Mom, stated in our interview that her take on minimalism is different because she has a child.

And yet, hope springs eternal. A few times a year I make Grand Plans. I pull out bins and boxes and attempt to de-clutter my home. This time I will find the perfect organizational system, and life will be grand. My kids have so many toys they never play with, and so many books they never read, surely I can get rid of half-of it. But if you’ve ever tried to de-clutter around your kids, you’ve probably learned something that I keep re-discovering: kids hate getting rid of their stuff. They may not have touched that toy in six months. It may be broken, its batteries may be dead and they may have once run screaming from it because it scared them, but as soon as you try to toss it in the “donate” bin it’s their favourite toy ever.

the messes we make
Photo credit: hownowdesign on Flickr

I have learned to steel myself against the reproachful looks and the high-pitched, whiny voices. I have set measurable limits (all of your stuffed animals need to fit in your stuffed animal bin), I have reasoned (Santa brought you so many new toys, and we need to make room for them) and I have drawn boundaries (you may not choose all of your brother’s toys to give away). I have also, on occasion, resorted to waiting until the kids are asleep before engaging in play room de-cluttering.

Sometimes, my efforts work. I achieve a state of clean. My house seems to have more space, and it doesn’t make me cringe every time I walk in the door. I institute tidy-up times to keep it that way. And for a while, all is sweetness and light. My floors are bare. I do not step on small, painful objects as I attempt to traverse the kitchen while holding a pot full of boiling liquid. My feet don’t stick when I walk.

Kohl's toy department
Photo credit: Chris Devers on Flickr

But I have kids. And so, inevitably, they re-assert themselves. It starts small, almost without me noticing. There’s a stray pair of socks left beside the toy box. And, oh, that book really should be upstairs. But it’s not that bad, and so I tell myself that I’ll deal with it later. But as soon as I turn my back on the first signs of clutter, it begins to reproduce, until I’m finding an old, rotten apple with one bite taken from it under my couch and I have to move a pile of toys to sit down on my couch.

As long as I have kids, I will have kid stuff and kid clutter. As sure as the sun rises, it will return when I least expect it, engulfing me in piles of dress-up clothes and books and craft supplies and toys. Like a scene from the Robert Munsch book The Dark it will consume everything in its path until it engulfs my whole house. And my husband and I will be left clinging to each other in the back yard, trembling in the face of the kid clutter.

Are you a pro at keeping on top of the kid clutter? Or does your home succumb to utter chaos on a regular basis? Tell me all about it!

PS – Every month I do a monthly review of things I learned. Some are serious, some are funny, and all are hard-won. I will be running my July review on Monday, August 1. If you want to play along, there will be a link-up, so write a post on or before the link-up date and come back here to include it.

Going After Your Dream

It’s Thursday, so I’m Crafting my Life! I invite you to join in the fun. If you would like to share a story from your own journey, please drop me a line.

The second run of the Crafting my Life online class on living with intention and authenticity wraps up next week. I’ve really enjoyed it, just as I really enjoyed the first one.

I plan to run the class a third time, but not immediately. I’ve decided to take a little bit of a breather to help me re-balance, and also to work on the Crafting my Life e-book. The e-book will contain the class material – minus the audio-visual components, plus a couple of extras – in an easy-to-read format. The idea is that people who want to access the material and start their search for authenticity right now can download the book and get started immediately. It allows people to work through the life-crafting process whenever they want to, in whatever way that works for them.

Because the thing about crafting your life, is that you’re crafting your life, and so you should choose the format that works best for you.

I mentioned in my Crafting my Life newsletter that I was in the process of creating the book, and that I was on the hunt for a great editor. My good friend Marilyn saw that, and sent me an email offering her editing services. She also mentioned that she has a dream of being a professional editor, which was something I didn’t know. I hadn’t expected her email, but I have to say that I am thrilled she sent it. I followed up with her, and she will be editing the Crafting my Life e-book, helping me to hone my message about living with purpose and authenticity.

I don’t know how Marilyn felt sending me the email, but I know that it’s not always easy to put yourself out there and offer your services to someone else. It isn’t for me, anyway. At the same time, however, I also know that I never would have considered asking Marilyn to be my editor if she hadn’t sent the email, because I wasn’t aware of her experience or her dreams. So this is a really good example of how putting yourself out there can really pay off. By opening up to others, we can create an opportunity both to progress on our own journey, and to help someone else progress on theirs.

It’s the mutuality of working together with someone else to make something happen that I find really compelling. I have never worked with a professional editor before – at least not in a back-and-forth, give-and-take sort of a way. I’ve submitted articles and someone else has edited them, but I had no say once I passed it along. I’m not entirely sure that I know what I’m doing with the Crafting my Life e-book. Having Marilyn in my corner helps me to feel a little more confident. And hopefully by editing my e-book, Marilyn will also be learning and growing and working towards her own dream. We both benefit because Marilyn reached out.

It’s true that not every overture we make will be accepted with open arms. I think that’s OK, and I don’t think it means we should stop making overtures. Because every time we reach out we are making a connection and learning something. It may not pay off immediately, but I believe that it will absolutely pay off in the end. Authenticity and openness lead to great things. Including, I hope, a great e-book.

So I’d like to thank Marilyn, both for agreeing to edit my e-book, and for showing me an example of being bold, being yourself and crafting a life of authenticity.

Have you ever reached out to someone who didn’t expect to hear from you? How did it work out for you? Tell me all about it!

Air Hannah

There’s something about children that makes them seem not entirely of this earth. It’s almost as if, at any moment, they could just take wing and fly away. I think that part of it is that they are so small and delicate. And I think that part of it is that strange wisdom that you can see in the eyes of a very young person that seems to come from someplace else. Because, surely, they haven’t lived enough to gain wisdom from here.

There are many cultures that actually have traditions that dictate how newborns should be handled. For instance, in Bali, for the first six months of life a baby’s feet may not touch the ground. They are not considered fully human yet. And many people speak of children who are old souls, who seem to come with baggage and knowledge before they can even walk.

I’m not particularly sure that I believe my own children are mystical. Of course they’re mystical to me, because their very existence seems miraculous in my eyes. But in most ways, I believe they’re ordinary children. And yet, my daughter Hannah has a certain lightness about her, as if she’s not quite bound by the laws gravity. While my son Jacob walks solidly on his two little legs, Hannah flits and floats. And sometimes, for an instant, she flies.

Flying down Rathtrevor Beach

Flying through the air

Jumping for joy

Hannah skipping

Dancing in Bellingham Children's Museum

As someone who’s always dreamed of flying, but is forced to submit to the grown-up reality that it will never really happen, watching my daughter’s feet leave the earth makes me smile. Of course I know that she can’t fly, either. And I know that these photos are just captured transitions as Hannah makes the brief jump up before she lands again. But all the same, they remind me of that sense that anything, anything, is possible – including a flying six-year-old girl.

Are your children firmly tethered to the earth, or do they always seem to be *thisclose* to flying? And can you fly in your dreams, as I can? Tell me all about it!

Need

As I type, it’s 11:00pm on Monday evening. Pretty much exactly an hour ago I got home from a kid-free evening out at a very grown-up event. As I tiptoed in the door as quietly as possible, I was greeted by a little voice exclaiming, “Mommy!” and the sight of my son Jacob’s smiling face.

I am currently gearing up to attend BlogHer in San Diego. In nine days I will get up at an ungodly hour of the morning and fly away on a plane. I will stay away for three whole nights, attending the conference and networking and meeting people and maybe even going to a few parties. It will be the first time that I have flown on a plane in over five years, and the first time I have flown anywhere without my children. It will also be the first time I have spent more than one night away from either of them.

I am not afraid of admitting that I am terrified. My son Jacob will be one week shy of his third birthday when I go. He still wakes up pretty much every night at least once. He’s no longer breastfeeding, but when he does wake up it’s my name that he calls. Plus, my husband Jon doesn’t tend to wake up to his calls at all. And when I’m out he doesn’t go to sleep as easily, as tonight’s demonstration shows.

When I got home tonight and found my son awake I scooped him up in my arms and took him straight up to his bed. He jammed his little thumb in my bellybutton, which is his go-to comfort-seeking move since he weaned from the breast. It’s not as comfortable for me, but I am willing to tolerate it in small quantities. He tossed and turned this way and that for about a minute, and then he started snoring. And for a few minutes, I laid there next to him and listened, my thoughts racing through my head.

What if Jacob cries and cries for me while I’m gone? What if he cries more at night because Jon doesn’t hear him? What if he doesn’t go to sleep, or doesn’t go back to sleep, without my bellybutton to poke? What if he thinks I’m never coming home? And then, there’s the biggest question of all: what if he’s totally fine?

(Do you hear that sound? It’s deafening silence.)

Here’s the thing – in spite of my raging babylust, which really only gets worse by the day, Jacob is likely my last baby. And a part of me – maybe even a big part of me – needs him to need me. Because if he doesn’t (or, more precisely, when he doesn’t) then it means that chapter of my life has ended. I no longer have any babies. And then what?

(That is even more deafening silence.)

Of course I know that Jacob’s not exactly packing up his stuff and heading off to college anytime soon. But I also know that at six and a half his big sister Hannah’s already very independent. She has friends and interests and activities. She will miss me when I go away for three nights, but she will continue her regular routine of eating peanut butter sandwiches and making art. She won’t sleep differently. She won’t be sad that my bellybutton isn’t around for her to jam her thumb into. And she won’t be confused and wondering where I am. She just doesn’t need me anymore in the same way.

Very soon Jacob won’t need me in the same way, either. In fact, he already may not need me in the same way. And if I fly away for three nights and he doesn’t even blink, then it forces me to face that reality. That inevitable truth that my babies don’t need me as much as I need them to need me. And that a chapter of my life has closed far sooner than I ever thought it would.

So tonight I sit up and worry about flying away from my babies. I worry about what I will do if they cry for me while I’m away. And I worry just as much about what I will do if they don’t.

Things I Wish I Could do, but Can’t

I think we all have certain talents we wish we had cultivated, but never did, for one reason or another. Or maybe we have talents that we once had, but we have since lost. (Oh, to be 16 again!) I feel this way often. I lament the fact that I didn’t keep up my French language skills, or reminisce wistfully about how I used to be able to climb tall trees when I was a child. And now, in a fit of blatant navel-gazing, I will share some of the things I cannot do, but wish I could, with you.

Things I Wish I Could Do

  1. Speak a second language. During my last year of high school my French was quite good, but alas that was some 17 years ago now, and I haven’t used it since. Rusty? Mais oui.
  2. Play an instrument. I have always wanted to play the piano, especially. But I didn’t learn as a child, and now as an adult I always feel as if I don’t have the time.
  3. piano
    Photo credit: tamaki on Flickr

  4. Fix a flat tire. It just seems like a good life skill to have. As it stands, I am at the mercy of my automobile association if my tires aren’t properly inflated.
  5. Do the splits. I tried really hard to increase my flexibility to the point where I could do the splits when I was a kid, with no luck. I’m 35 years old now, and I think that ship has sailed.
  6. Eat nothing but chocolate without suffering any negative consequences. Do I really need to explain this one?
  7. Walk in high heels. I am short, having a couple of inches of extra height would be cool. But about 20 minutes after putting on a pair of heels, I’m ripping them off. Ouch!
  8. Red patent heels - 20100202 - IMG_3156
    Photo credit: Sally Payne on Flickr

  9. Turn my kids off. I love my children desperately. But sometimes, at around 6:00pm, I wish I could switch them off for about 15 minutes and breathe in some peace.
  10. Drive stick. I learned to drive on a car with an automatic transmission, and it is the only kind of car I have driven since. Like changing a flat, it seems like it would be a handy skill to have.
  11. Type with my mind. I always seem to get the best ideas when I can’t write them down, like when I’m in the shower or just before I drift off to sleep. If I could record the idea with my mind, I’m sure my writing would be way better.
  12. Old typewriter
    Photo credit: Eye – the world through my I on Flickr

  13. Think of a tenth item for this list. Because lists are always better when they have 10 items than when they have nine, right?

What about you? Are there any talents you wish you’d cultivated, but never did? Or are there any skills you’ve once had, that you’ve now lost? Tell me all about it in the comments!

Chatting with the Chair of La Leche League Canada

As I have mentioned repeatedly on my blog, my daughter Hannah was born at 34 weeks. This led to a number of breastfeeding problems, and unfortunately, not all of them were resolved by the time I left my midwives’ care when she was six weeks old. When I asked my midwife where I could turn for ongoing breastfeeding support when I wouldn’t be seeing her anymore, she suggested La Leche League. So I looked them up and found a group near me, and I went. I found much more than breastfeeding support there – I also found a community of friends.

Over the years since I first visited La Leche League, I have found that mentioning their name in a group often brings mixed reactions. Some people have incredibly warm feelings towards La Leche League, and others have incredibly negative feelings. I suspect that, at least in part, this is because when a woman is struggling with breastfeeding she’s in a very raw place, emotionally. I was, anyway. And when you’re in that situation, every stray comment is taken to heart and etched into your memory. I will never forget some of the things that nurses in the NICU said to me.

I thought it would be a good idea to get some information about La Leche League straight from the organization itself, so I got in touch with Fiona Audy, the Chair of La Leche League Canada. They’re currently celebrating 50 years in Canada, and they’ve recently launched a National Awareness Campaign. You can find out more about that, and the work that La Leche League Canada does, by watching this video:

Fiona has been a leader for over 25 years, and now she serves on the volunteer board, helping to support breastfeeding mothers and their babies all across Canada. I got to hear a little bit more about how she became involved with La Leche League (her first contact story is actually really funny), and I got to hear about how the organization works to help mothers breastfeed. It was great to catch up with her, and get a new perspective on the work that La Leche League does. If you’ve ever had an experience, good or bad, with La Leche League, you’ll want to hear what Fiona has to say.

I am still working to track down my next podcast interview. I have a few leads, but I can’t make any announcements yet. This leads me to ask you a question that I’ve been meaning to ask for a while – is there anyone you’d like me to interview? If you have any suggestions for who you’d like to hear from on the Strocel.com Podcast, leave me a comment and let me know. I can’t make any promises, but I can certainly try!

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