Archives for October 2013

Podcast: Katrina Alcorn Says Moms Need a Break

strocel.com podcast maxed out katrina alcornThe title of Katrina Alcorn‘s book – Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink – resonated with me instantly. While I’m not American, I am a mom. I know how it feels to have a (more than) full plate, with no end in sight. I immediately arranged to speak with her, and I’m thrilled to share our conversation with you on today’s podcast.

The book is sort of an unconventional memoir, following Katrina’s own life, and how she dealt with feeling maxed out. It incorporates research about women and work, and presents suggestions for how we can make things better.

At a time when we’re all being encouraged to lean in, and when the world is micro-managing Marissa Mayer’s maternity leave, Katrina’s book provides a welcome perspective. Of course we want to encourage women and young girls to go after what they want. However, many workplaces could also benefit from an overhaul to provide a better work-life balance for everyone. That balance is what Maxed Out addresses.

strocel.com podcast katrina alcorn maxed outDuring our conversation Katrina shared part of her story. She talked about why she wrote her book specifically for moms, and presented some research she uncovered. We also discussed alternative work arrangements, like the results-only work environment and telecommuting. If you’ve ever felt maxed out yourself, and you could use a break, I encourage you to listen to this podcast:
 

If you enjoyed my conversation with the amazing Katrina Alcorn, subscribe to the Strocel.com podcast in iTunes, and you won’t miss a minute of my future broadcasts. Next week I’ll be sharing an interview with Maggie Oman Shannon, minister, mother and author of six books including Crafting Calm: Projects and Practices for Creativity and Contemplation. You won’t want to miss it! Also, if you have a podcast idea, please share it with me. I’d love to hear your suggestions!

Scenes from Sushi Restaurants

It is a little bit after five o’clock on a sunny Friday evening, and I walk through the sliding glass doors of my local mall unencumbered by children. My destination is the second shop on the right, a small sushi place my husband and I have been frequenting for almost ten years. It’s moved since our first visit, but only across the hall, to a space that allowed them to add a few tables and a countertop bar along one of the walls.

When the girl behind the counter sees me she smiles. I have become a regular, and so have my children. Usually I stop by on a busy night with them in tow, but tonight they are at home with their father. I am glad that Jon came home early from work, because it allows me to avoid the usual game of chasing after Jacob when he runs out of the sushi restaurant, and refereeing fights over who will carry the sushi.

While the restaurant is busy, and many people are standing and waiting for their orders, no one is in front of me tonight so I don’t have to wait. The conversation opens the same say it always does, with the question, “For here or to go?” I return the smile and ask for my sushi to go. Then I experience the same mild panic I always do over what to order. How many California rolls? (My husband and children are simply mad for California rolls.) How many pieces of tako nigiri will my daughter eat? I take a quick breath and just wing it. Once I start it all spills out. The panic is misplaced – the truth is I order pretty much the same thing every time I visit. I could do it in my sleep.

I pay, crossing my fingers that my credit card will work. It’s getting old and the chip seems to be wearing out, so it only works about 75 per cent of the time now. Tonight is a lucky night, and I punch in my passcode and sit on one of the high stools along the bar. While I wait, I open a book on my iPhone, February by Lisa Moore. I’ve been working on it for a while. It’s slow going, but not because it’s difficult. It’s a leisurely read, and I’m taking a meandering journey through its sparsely beautiful observations. The 10 minutes while I wait for my food is perfect for a quick dip into the story.

Other people stop by and pick up their food. Two girls, who I think are in their late teens, order their food and then sit on the stools beside me. They parse a conversation one of them had with a boy about Skyping. Or not Skyping. Did he want to? What did he say, exactly? What did it all mean? I can’t help but listen as I watch a woman who looks to be in her mid-40s picks up a California combo (dinner for one). She clutches the plastic bag close to her side against her heavy black coat. She’s wearing a skirt and hose and practical shoes, and I guess she must have come off the train when she decided to stop and get sushi on the way home.

In another two minutes my order is up, and it comes in the biggest bag of all (dinner for four). I feel lucky, in that moment. I have a family at home waiting for me, and I don’t need to worry about Skyping boys or not Skyping them or what it all means tonight.

——————————————————————————————————————-

Fast forward four days. It’s just before six thirty on a Tuesday evening, and I am early for an event celebrating the launch of the new AnxietyBC website for mothers. I left straight from my son’s music class, where I handed the children off to their father as if I were handing off a baton in a relay race. “Here you go, make sure you give them supper, I’ll see you later, I have to run!” I wasn’t sure how the traffic would be. The traffic ended up being good, and now I have 20 minutes to kill and I am very hungry and can’t wait for the nibblies I know will be all laid out in a gorgeous display at the event.

sushi restaurant misoAs luck would have it, there’s a small sushi restaurant in the same building as the event. I push the door open and a small bell tinkles. A middle-aged woman sees me and asks the opening question: “For here or to go?” Tonight, I am for here. I take a small table beside the counter. There’s a half-flight of stairs down to the main dining area, but I prefer to stay here, where I know I the server will be nearby. I quickly settle on a combination dinner for one, and ask for some water, which arrives without ice or straw in a plastic cup. I actually like it better this way. The straw is unnecessary plastic waste, and I prefer my water to be a little warmer.

As I sip and wait for my miso I pull out my iPad and open February again. I made some more headway over the weekend, and I’m now about two thirds of the way through. My miso arrives and I arrange and re-arrange until everything is positioned so that I can comfortably read and eat and the same time. While I slurp the soup a father comes in with his two young sons. I flash him a conspiratorial, “I have little kids, too,” sort of a smile, before I realize that my children aren’t with me and he wouldn’t know. He smiles back warmly, though, and I feel understood.

The miso is warm, and eating it makes me feel good. Just after I finish my sushi arrives, all laid out on a plate, and I set about mixing the wasabi and soy sauce in a little dish. The perfect soy/wasabi balance is critical when you’re eating sushi. I realize I will actually have to eat my sushi with the chopsticks tonight, and grit my teeth. Usually I just use my fingers, but sitting where I am in full view of the restaurant I will have to be more refined. I manage it, mostly, splashing myself only once when I drop a piece of sushi accidentally into the soy/wasabi blend.

While I wrestle with my chopsticks I hear the other patrons down below start a round of “Happy Birthday”. I smile, and take a moment to look around and notice my surroundings. The ventilation system in the building is very loud, muffling the song. The building – a famous one designed by Vancouver architect Arthur Erickson – is built out of concrete. Erickson is famous for his concrete, which I became intimately familiar with when I attended Simon Fraser University, another one of his designs. Being in this space reminds me of being 18 years old, sitting at the back of my first computer science class. I see the same small circular indents in the concrete blocks in the sushi restaurant that I saw in that classroom. It makes me think of LEGO, as if the building was pieced together by some sort of giant child with a knack for modern design.

The song finishes, and I get to the end of a section in my book. I am full, and I can’t finish the last two pieces of sushi. I pull out my wallet and pay in cash, then I drop a shiny $2 coin out of the change I receive into the tip jar and leave. As I do, I feel lucky, for the chance to enjoy a quiet dinner by myself, in a fortunately-placed sushi restaurant.

Podcast: Conscious Mom Rapper Monica Morong

strocel.com podcast monica morong world hip hop mom rapperI love, love, love podcasting. It is an amazing privilege to interview people and share their stories. What I don’t love, however, is booking people. I don’t mind the editing, the technical work on the back-end, or formatting the posts. In fact, I kind of enjoy all those things. Chasing people down and asking them to be guests, however, still feels a little awkward to me. I feel like I’m always asking people to chat with me, which is why it surprises me when I realize that there are amazing people in my circle who haven’t been on this podcast. Today’s guest, Monica Morong, was one of those surprises.

Monica Morong is also known as World Hip Hop Mom. In addition to being a Vancouver-based mom of three adorable little girls, she’s also a conscious rapper. We travel in many of the same circles and when she first started doing this, I honestly wasn’t sure what it meant. However, when I saw her perform at an event I attended just over a year ago, heavily pregnant and getting a room full of women on their feet and waving their hands in the air, I got it.

So often we come up with reasons not to do those things we love. I know I do. It would be very easy for Monica to not pursue a hip hop career as a mom of three, but she’s doing it, and she’s doing it on her terms. I encourage you to listen to our conversation, because regardless of how you feel about Monica’s music, you’re sure to find her inspiring. Maybe it will be just the impetus you need to go out and do something that you love, too.

If you enjoyed my conversation with the fabulous Monica Morong, subscribe to the Strocel.com podcast in iTunes, and you won’t miss a minute of my future broadcasts. Next week I’ll be sharing an interview with Katrina Alcorn, author of Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink that is full of food for thought. You won’t want to miss it! Also, if you have a podcast idea, please share it with me. I’d love to hear your suggestions!

*Image Credit – Bethany Schiedel, www.imagesbybethany.com

Teach Your Children Well

Sometimes things have a way of sneaking up on you. This is what happened to me with Blog Action Day this year. I signed up to participate ages ago, but it was only this afternoon when I finally checked my inbox and saw the subject line Blog Action Day is today. that I realized I pretty much missed the boat. Partly it’s because I just plain forgot. However, there’s more to it than that.

This year’s Blog Action Day theme is Human Rights, which is something I don’t exactly feel super-qualified to write about. I am a suburban mom of two, living a pretty comfortable life. I hear news reports and see snippets of stories that make me feel sad, alarmed and outraged, but the truth is I don’t know a whole lot about most of the issues raised. I’m concerned about human trafficking, about the plight of women and girls in countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan, about the conditions many First Nations people live under here in Canada, about war crimes and rights denied. However, I wouldn’t say that I’m an activist or expert in any of these areas.

I was reading through the live Twitter stream of Blog Action Day posts, and I came across this one at Raising a Revolution. It discussed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. That got me thinking, because children’s rights are human rights, and I know more about parenting than about creating political change. As I considered that, I started to think that while I am not marching in the streets every day, I am raising children. In many ways, my kids are my biggest legacy. I’m helping to teach two people concepts like fairness, respect, tolerance and kindness. It is important to me that my children honour – and speak out for – the rights of others.

Blog Action Day Human Rights Children ParentingThere are a lot of things that I tell my kids every day, but the truth is that my biggest lessons are unspoken. My children learn how to treat others by how I treat them. They learn how to behave in the world by watching how I behave. They learn to speak up when they see me speaking up. When I treat my children fairly, when I talk to them about issues that are important to me and when I empower them to take action on issues that are important to them, I’m working to raise people who will honour the human rights of others. Hopefully, I’m also raising people who will advocate for others, donate their time and resources to help others and not stand silently by while someone else’s rights are violated.

Now that my kids are getting older, they’re getting better at understanding abstract concepts and comprehending events that are happening far away from them. I’d like to do a better job of working together, as a family, to effect positive change in the world, so that everyone’s human rights are respected. Today, on Blog Action Day, my commitment is to look into actions that we can take together. We’re heading into the holiday season. A good project for our family would be to make a commitment to a project or cause in the New Year.

It might seem like a small step, but even small steps make a big difference when we add them all up. I may not be a human rights activist, and I may not know much about all of the abuses taking place all over the world. That doesn’t mean that I’m powerless, though. I’m raising two people who will go out into the world one day. Teaching them well is one of the best things I can do to create a world where everyone is treated fairly and justly, at home and around the world.

How are you teaching your kids about human rights and taking action? Do you participate in charitable or political causes as a family? I’d love to hear your stories and ideas!

What I am Thankful For, 2013 Edition

It’s Thanksgiving Day today in Canada. It’s a time to eat pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce and turkey. Or maybe a vegetarian un-turkey if that’s your style. It’s a time to gather together with your family and friends, mark the harvest, and appreciate the bounty all around us. This year, on a gorgeous sunny day in Vancouver, it may even be a good time to head outside. But mostly, for me, it’s a time to count my blessings and remember what I am thankful for. It’s, you know, a tradition.

I like a tradition as much as the next person. Maybe even more than the next person. I think that using tradition and ritual to mark the passing of the year are excellent ways to connect us back to the natural rhythms of life, and create space for reflection. Or perhaps they’re just a good excuse to gorge ourselves and watch lots of football – both have a very important role to play. Either way, I’m taking a moment today to remember what I am thankful for this year. In looking through my archives, I can see that this will be the fifth year I’ve done this. To tradition!

What I am Thankful for this Thanksgiving

halloween kids
My children.

scarves and sweaters
Fall clothes. I heart scarves, sweaters and boots!

tea and chocolate
Tea and chocolate.

bee on sage flowers
My garden.

disneyland family
Family vacations.

Canadian Passport
My country.

couple
22 years of us.

vancouverrmom.ca team leading moms images by bethany
Working with amazing people. (Thanks to Images by Bethany for the photo.)

anne boleyn tea cup
Owning a really great tea cup.

kids art
Art.

bench sea trees
The chance to escape every once in a while.

Now I hope you’ll join me. I’ve shared what I am thankful for this Thanksgiving – what are you thankful for? I’d love to hear what makes you feel grateful, whether you’re celebrating today or not!

Not-Quite-Mid-Life-Crisis

Yesterday on the podcast I shared an interview with Leela Francis, author of Woman’s Way Home. One of the ideas that she expressed during our conversation was that it gets easier to claim your power as you get older. You stop caring so much about what other people think. I may still be in my 30s, but I can relate to that sentiment.

I am a cautious person by nature. While other people spent their teens and early 20s experimenting and making mistakes, I spent mine studying hard, dating one person, getting married, working and buying a house. In many ways this paid off – I don’t have any debt outside of my mortgage, I don’t have any ill-advised tattoos and I found the love of my life at a young age. In other ways, though, I sometimes regret missing my chance to do less-than-sensible things at a time in my life when the stakes were lower.

nose piercingOne of the take-aways that I gained from my own journey towards a more purpose-filled life is the idea that I can just go ahead and do things now. I can’t go back in time 15 or 20 years and dance on tables, but I’ll never be any younger than I am today. There’s no reason not to embrace my life as it is right now. And this, my friends, is how I found myself sitting inside a tattoo / body piercing studio on a Friday morning at around 11:30am, waiting to get my nose pierced.

I’ve wanted to have my nose pierced for quite some time. I’m good with having just a single hole in each ear, and I can’t see getting my bellybutton, tongue or anything else pierced. Tattoos are way too much commitment for me. But something about the nose piercing appeals to me. Plus, like any piercing, if you don’t like it you can always take it out. I’m a grown-up, and I saw no reason not to go ahead and do it.

While I was at the studio a half-dozen other clients came through, and I can safely say that I was the oldest one there by at least a decade, probably more. The other clients talked about how supportive (or not) their parents were when it came to their body art, which is an issue for them because they still live at home. Because they’re 20. And I am … not. When one of them reassured me that getting your nose pierced was no big deal and I replied, “I’ve given birth to two kids without pain meds, I think I can handle it,” I realized that I was on the older side of this particular generational divide.

I am now officially more concerned about what my kids will think than what my parents will think. Because I love my mom a lot, but it’s been a long time since I’ve asked her for permission. Plus, she lives 45 minutes away from me, while my children follow me into the bathroom. There are big differences in proximity.

nose piercingIn the end, having my nose pierced wasn’t that bad. The weirdest part was the prep, when my nostril was swabbed with alcohol and my nose was handled with tweezers. The piercing itself hurt briefly, something like a flu shot. I didn’t bleed hardly at all. It stung for a little bit after, and my left eye watered for a couple of minutes (I got the piercing on my left nostril). I occasionally catch sight of the little nose ring out of the corner of my eye, and it catches me off guard. However, I’m pretty sure that I won’t even remember I have it within a day or two. I just have to remember to do a saline rinse regularly and I should be totally fine.

I’m not ready to call myself middle-aged yet, but yesterday I went and got my nose pierced. It definitely smacks of the early stages of mid-life crisis. Still, I’m happy I did it. I may have been the oldest person at the tattoo and body piercing studio, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t get to have any fun.

Oh, and my kids? They like my new nose ring. As long as we’re all happy, I’m golden.

Podcast: Experiencing Embodied Power with Leela Francis

strocel.com podcast leela francisMany people don’t feel at home in their own bodies. This can be especially true for women, who receive a lot of messages from society about how our bodies need to live up to some kind of unattainable ideal. We may also have been taught that we have to be nice and compliant all the time, and that we shouldn’t express certain emotions. I can relate to these messages, which is why when I heard about the new book Woman’s Way Home: Navigating Your Path to Embodied Power by Leela Francis I knew I wanted to feature it on my podcast.

Leela is the founder of Vividly Woman Embodied Leader Tools and Training. That’s a mouthful, I know. What it means, though, is that she created a global community of women and women’s circles ‘devoted to the sensual, emotional and intuitive empowerment of all women’. In the process, she’s working to empower women to listen to their instincts, claim their inner wisdom and ignite their creative spark. You know, I can use all the empowerment I can get, which is why I was eager to speak with Leela.

strocel.com podcast woman's way home leela francisDuring our conversation Leela talked about what she does, why she wrote her new book Woman’s Way Home, and what embodied leadership means. If you’d like some suggestions for feeling more at home in your own skin, or you need a little kick-start to get you moving in a more positive direction, you’ll want to listen. During our conversation Leela took me through an exercise that was really eye-opening for me. I honestly think anyone (male or female) can benefit from getting more in touch with what their body is telling them.

Listen to my podcast with Leela Francis here:

If you enjoyed my conversation with Leela, order your own copy Woman’s Way Home before October 15 to be eligible for a whole bunch of bonuses. Also, subscribe to the Strocel.com podcast in iTunes, and you won’t miss a minute of my future broadcasts. With school back in session and my blog’s technical issues apparently resolved for the moment, I’m planning more podcasts throughout the fall. I’m in the process of lining several up right now, and I’m excited to share them with you. Also, if you have a podcast idea, please share it with me. I’d love to hear your suggestions!

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