Thursday, December 30, 2010

Operation A-to-sleep

This is a picture of our happy family resting, 4 days after A was born. The only pictures I have of A sleeping are from her first few weeks. After she shocked us by sleeping through the night for 2 weeks straight at two months old, things slowly went downhill from there. While other Mommies and babies were enjoying increasing time spent sleeping at night, A was waking up more and more frequently. She also did not nap, unless resting on one of our chests. As soon as I would lay her down in her bassinet, she would begin to squirm and let out a big cry.

I don't know what I expected in terms of a babies' sleeping pattern, but I was not at all prepared for the battle that ensued over our child's sleep. We consulted every book and website imaginable. We commiserated with our friends, and tried different tips we were given by other well-rested parents. Nothing worked. A would not respond to anything that wasn't human - the swing, a vibrating chair, soft relaxation music, a "lovey," and the list goes on. The only thing that calmed her were our arms, and very intense rocking. I became a pro at being a jiggling, swinging, rocking Mom. I lost something like 20 lbs.

We found out at 4 months old that A had something called GERD - Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. It was probably made worse by an allergy to cow's milk protein, which can pass through a mother's breastmilk. We felt relief at knowing that something was actually wrong, but that didn't lessen the increasing burden of sleep deprivation.

At that point, A was waking up every 30 to 45 minutes, all night long. It was a form of slow and terrible torture. Being the source of milk and comfort, I was the primary caregiver at night. Tom helped when he could, but it was just easier for me to stop the screaming by breastfeeding her and dozing off myself. She would then wake up screaming and the process would start all over again (little did I know that feeding her was probably not the best thing to do, as this would exacerbate the acid reflux hurting her tiny tummy). I still get weepy over the times I "lost it" - screaming in frustration at A waking up for the zillionth time, breaking my toe after kicking the wall, having visions of myself throwing her down the stairs. I scared myself more times then I'm willing to admit - I just thank God that I had a supportive partner who could step in when I got to my breaking point, and that I never did anything to hurt my baby. I don't know how many times I said "I wasn't meant to be a mother," because I couldn't forgive myself for the times I lost my cool.

Very very slowly, things started to improve. For one, I was able to handle the sleep deprivation better as I adjusted to it. We learned "tricks" to get longer periods of sleep - most of the time it was having A on our chests and propping ourselves up with a bunch of pillows. The upright angle and our comforting warmth allowed A to sleep for longer periods. And secondly, I learned how to cultivate more compassion for both myself and my daughter, and was able to overcome times of impatience or anger. As A grew and turned into a little person, I was better able to associate her daytime self with her nighttime self.

We are now at 16 months, and life is very good. We adore our daughter, and I no longer think I shouldn't have become a mother. In fact, I'm enthralled with the job, and can't wait to do it all over again. Next time around I think my expectations will be much more realistic, and although we desperately hope that our (potential) second child will not have reflux, we at least have the knowledge and tools to deal with it if it does happen again.

However, it is time for A to learn how to sleep. All those months of holding, comforting, rocking and sleeping chest-to-chest have created some habits that need to be changed. A still wakes up frequently at night - usually every 2 hours, although sometimes more often if she has a sore tummy. I'm convinced that she still has some digestive issues, but we're not really sure what they are, and whether my eating dairy again is playing a role. I have been unsuccessful in giving up my cheese and yogurt!

And so, the journey starts now, as we attempt to break some of the habits she has learned. Some crying will be involved, although I hope to be there to help her work through her frustration. My goal is to have her sleeping at least 5-6 hours at a time, but it all depends on so many factors. She is one of the most strong-willed little babies I've ever met, so we'll see how she does when she is told "no."

Follow along and see how we do...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

New Year

Oh, the New Year. A time for reflection on what has passed, and renewed hope for what will come. I find this week in between Christmas and New Year's the hardest part of winter - I'm tired from all the entertaining, my house is a mess, and I feel the oncoming winter blahs. Once January hits, I tend to find some energy to soldier through our Canadian winter (usually by mid-February I am cursing the snow and cold).

As I'm sure you are all in the middle of doing, I'm now writing my resolutions, in the hope that I can make some positive changes this year and meet some of my goals. I'm excited to follow along with a friend's new blog as she embarks on a personal journey.

This year feels significant for me, because my husband and I hope to start trying for another baby. But before that happens, some changes need to be made. For one, my firstborn needs to start sleeping better. There is no way that I can be pregnant and deal with this amount of sleep deprivation. I'm willing to wait to have another baby until things improve. But rather than just waiting around, we're hoping to make the changes ourselves. This may involve a bit of crying, which I have been very much against, but there comes a point that my sanity is more important than my 16-month old feeling angry and frustrated.

The other changes I would like to make are somewhat more personal. I'm aware that I won't accomplish all these things in 2011, but I want to list them all out and then pick my "top 3" priorities. So in no particular order, here they are:

1) Make sure I take my daily Omega3s and other vitamins
2) Get back to a daily meditation and/or yoga practice
3) Find space for creativity in my life - whether it's writing, music, painting...whatever!
4) Do some kind of cardio exercise, at least 3x per week
5) Implement Operation A-to-sleep
6) Find a good therapist
7) Eat less Omega 6-9s (I know this sounds very specific, but if I put "eat healthy," that won't happen. Omega 6s and 9s are found in many of our processed foods, such as crackers, cookies, breads and chips. These are the things I hope to cut back on)
8) Eat more Omega 3s (olive oil, walnuts etc.)
9) Be kinder to our earth, by eating less meat and fish, conserving more water, becoming more self sustaining (a big garden, and starting a new project - a root cellar!) and cutting back on WASTE...all the junk I find myself buying!!
10) Take time to look around and be grateful for this life

I hope to continue posting on these resolutions, and find ways to really make some of them happen (even just one???).

Happy New Year to you and your loved ones. Here is Sarah Harmer's Lode Star:

Out of the night, into the water
We push the boat from shore
Breaking the air and the stillness of the bay

Intensity of stars reflected in the harbour
Silently ignite
The oar dips into oil like water
And we are away

Your hand won't write
Not tonight
But your mind may wander
Into those deep lagoons that you know
And your boat will go by starlight alone
Da da da da da da da da
You sang to the moon
In the great black night
With no lodestar in sight

Out of the night
Out of the water
We pull the boat back to shore
Breathe in the air and the stillness of the bay
Intensity of stars reflected in the water
Silently ignite
The oar dips into oil like water
And we are away

Under the moon in the great black night
With no lodestar in sight

And wait for it
There are only two things now
This great black night
And the fireglow

And listen! The darkness rings
The darkness....

Listen! The darkness rings

And wait for it
There are only two of us now
This great black night, scooped out
And this fireglow

Listen! The darkness rings
The darkness...
Listen! The darkness rings
Take off your things

And listen!
The darkness rings

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

All through the night

I recently shared a song called "All Through the Night" that I sing to my baby as she drifts off to sleep. I'm not sure the origins of this song, although I think it may be Welsh. As a child, I heard it every Christmas while my family and I watched "A Child's Christmas in Wales" - the television adaptation of Dylan Thomas's beautiful crafted tale about....yep, you guessed it, a child's Christmas in Wales.

Although I'm not going to copy and paste the full text into my post, I would just like to share a few bits and pieces that I think are particularly poignant. We all enjoy remembering Christmases past, and telling fine tales to children who listen and think "but that happens here during Christmas too!" It's like every story that begins with "when I was a child..." and ends with "I walked 12 miles in the frozen desert, to and from school, every day."

And so Mr. Thomas tells his tale to a young boy who is listening,

"Years and years ago, when I was a boy, when there were wolves in Wales, and birds the color of red-flannel petticoats whisked past the harp-shaped hills, when we sang and wallowed all night and day in caves that smelt like Sunday afternoons in damp front farmhouse parlors, and we chased, with the jawbones of deacons, the English and the bears, before the motor car, before the wheel, before the duchess-faced horse, when we rode the daft and happy hills bareback, it snowed and it snowed. But here a small boy says: "It snowed last year, too. I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea."

"But that was not the same snow," I say. "Our snow was not only shaken from white wash buckets down the sky, it came shawling out of the ground and swam and drifted out of the arms and hands and bodies of the trees; snow grew overnight on the roofs of the houses like a pure and grandfather moss, minutely -ivied the walls and settled on the postman, opening the gate, like a dumb, numb thunder-storm of white, torn Christmas cards."


Oh, the snow that comes "shawling out of the ground" and swims and drifts out of the arms and hands and bodies of the tree...what a picture he paints!

The part of the story that my family always found so amusing was when the man and the boy are discussing the "useful" presents we receive at Christmas such as

"engulfing mufflers of the old coach days, and mittens made for giant sloths; zebra scarfs of a substance like silky gum that could be tug-o'-warred down to the galoshes; blinding tam-o'-shanters like patchwork tea cozies and bunny-suited busbies and balaclavas for victims of head-shrinking tribes; from aunts who always wore wool next to the skin there were mustached and rasping vests that made you wonder why the aunts had any skin left at all."

The little boy responds by saying "I don't like socks" in such a charming Welsh accent, that we still quote that line every time someone in our family receives socks in their stocking!

If you have not had a chance to read the poem, I highly suggest you give it a Google! You can find copies of it on many different websites. If you're really interested, and want to see the PBS version, it is available on Amazon

Happy Christmas from The Chickadee Tweet!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Chickadee

You may wonder why this blog is called The Chickadee Tweet - if you're not wondering, you may want to logoff and go find something more interesting to do.

For those of you still reading, give some thought to the characteristics of the Chickadee, which happens to be my favourite flying creature. According to Wikipedia, the ever helpful online encyclopedia, the chickadee is "a small, common songbird, a passerine bird in the tit family Paridae." (Being the immature person that I am, I had to click further to read more about "tits"...there are a species of birds called "tits!" Then I had to google where the origin of tits comes from, as a nickname for women's breasts - I found nothing, but honestly only searched for several minutes)

Where was I? Oh yes! Chickadees! The black-capped chickadee is small, fluffy, and in my opinion, the cutest bird around. They're very friendly, and will often come and peck away at some seed in your hand. Their song is beautiful, and sounds exactly like their name (chickadee-dee-dee-dee-dee).

When thinking about a proper name for both my blog and my doula services, I couldn't think of anything I liked better than chickadee. To me, its name conveys a sense of fun; its song is a lighthearted melody that you can hear even in the dead of winter. And so, The Chickadee Tweet was born. And soon, as I work through my doula training, I will birth my second project - Ottawa's Chickadee Birthing Services. I'm hoping for a natural birth, but am open to interventions from financial advisors, business planners, and banks. Also, friends and family can donate money to me if they wish (with 0% interest, and 75 years to pay back the loan....what? Come on...by then they will have discovered the fountain of youth!)

I don't know a song about chickadees specifically, although I do really like bopping around to Rockin' Robin (but for the record, chickadees are definitely better than robins):

He rocks in the tree tops all day long
Hoppin' and a-boppin' and singing his song
All the little birdies on Jaybird Street
Love to hear the robin go tweet tweet tweet

Rockin' robin, tweet tweet tweet
Rockin' robin' tweet tweetly-tweet
Blow rockin' robin
'Cause we're really gonna rock tonight

Every little swallow, every chick-a-dee
Every little bird in the tall oak tree
The wise old owl, the big black crow
Flappin' their wings singing go bird go

Rockin' robin, tweet tweet tweet
Rockin' robin' tweet tweetly-tweet
Blow rockin' robin
'Cause we're really gonna rock tonight
Yeah yeah

Pretty little raven at the bird-band stand
Told them how to do the bob and it was grand
They started going steady and bless my soul
He out-bopped the buzzard and the oriol

He rocks in the tree tops all day long
Hoppin' and a-boppin' and singing his song
All the little birdies on Jaybird Street
Love to hear the robin go tweet tweet tweet

Rockin' robin, tweet tweet tweet
Rockin' robin' tweet tweetly-tweet
Blow rockin' robin
'Cause we're really gonna rock tonight

Pretty little raven at the bird-band stand
Told them how to do the bop and it was grand
They started going steady and bless my soul
He out-bopped the buzzard and the oriol

He rocks in the tree tops all day long
Hoppin' and a-boppin' and singing his song
All the little birdies on Jaybird Street
Love to hear the robin go tweet tweet tweet

Rockin' robin, tweet tweet tweet
Rockin' robin' tweet tweetly-tweet
Blow rockin' robin
'Cause we're really gonna rock tonight

Monday, December 20, 2010

Off we go a-doula-ing

Doula (pronounced doo-luh): a woman wise in the ways of childbirth, who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a labouring woman and her partner.

Although that is not a textbook definition, it is my understanding of what a doula does. But having never attended a birth as a doula, my definition or understanding may change significantly in the weeks to come! My very first client is due any day now, and I have several to follow in the new year.

My decision to begin my doula training started with the birth of my daughter, and the positive experience we had with our doula. Some of you may have heard of the Pain Medications Preference Scale (PMPS) - this is a scale that allows you to explore and clarify your feelings about pain medications in childbirth. My own PMPS score was a -7, which means that I really wanted to have a natural birth for the health of my baby, along with personal gratification, and that I would be disappointed if I used pain medications. Given that I had such strong feelings about pain medications, I needed to find ways to ensure my satisfaction with the birthing experience.

One of the ways to increase your chances for a natural birth is to hire a doula - introducing a doula into the labour room not only improves the bond between mother and infant, but also seems to decrease the incidence of complications and interventions (an intervention is anything that "intervenes" with the normal process of birth). And so we found our doula and went about preparing ourselves for the birth of our first child.

People always ask me "what does a doula do?" My first answer is usually "nothing medical!" There is a misconception that a doula is somehow like a midwife - however, we have no medical training (although women can have medical training outside of their roles and responsibilities as a doula). We never provide medical advice, or try to advocate on a woman's behalf. We are there to support a woman and partner in their health decisions, by providing information and a non-judgemental shoulder to lean on.

Some of the things my doula did:

- helped time my contractions when we weren't sure if I was in active labour
- suggested a walk around the block, which really got things moving!!
- held my hands as I gripped onto them with all my strength
- massaged my back
- applied cool and/or warm compresses; wiped the sweat from my brow
- held the bucket while I vomited my red electrolyte drink (water is really best)
- suggested different positions
- supported my back as I pushed

There are probably many more things I have missed or can't remember, but the doula was a very important part of the process.


Another question people ask is "doesn't a doula replace the father or partner?" My answer is "no!" If that is happening, then the doula is not doing a good job. A doula's role should complement the role of the partner, not replace. We work together to support Mom in her efforts with each contraction. We can also provide each other with breaks to grab a coffee, go to the bathroom, or in the case of a really long labour, take a short nap. This means the labouring mother is never alone (unless she wants to be, of course).

Although I will not be changing this blog to become a "Doula Blog," I'm certain that my new experiences will be expressed in my writings and my choice of music. To honour the confidentiality of my clients, I will not be posting any specific information about mothers, fathers or their births. I will speak generally about the role of a doula, and the things that I learn on my journey.

Feel free to share an experience you had with a doula...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas is upon us

It's hard to believe that in only 8 days, our family will be celebrating together for Christmas. The tree has been trimmed and decorated lovingly with the (very few) ornaments we've gathered since moving in together 5 years ago.

As I do every year, I take the time to reflect on the meaning of Christmas. My family was never very religious, and my Moms' efforts to take us to church every Sunday were thwarted by my Dads' total disdain for organized religion. He has never been comfortable with those who trust so thoroughly in Gods' way - I'm not sure where that view comes from, but I should ask him one of these days.

So I grew up in a home where Christmas was a celebration more of family and love, rather than the birth of Jesus. This sometimes makes me uncomfortable, as I feel as though we're appropriating a religious holiday that has nothing to do with our own beliefs. However, each Christmas I go through the same motions, guilty of giving in to our consumerist drive (buying lights for the house, spending money on plastic toys from China, and filling the table with a ridiculous amount of food when so many others have nothing). These are things I WANT to change, and hope to change someday. In one of my favourite blogs (Click Here), a family learns how to simplify Christmas in a special way.

There is no denying that there is something magical about this time of year, if we take the time to peel off the layers of plastic trees, glittery lights and shopping malls. My favourite Christmas movie is called Prancer,
and features a young girl who is so passionate about Christmas that she inspires a whole town to rethink the true meaning of the day. It never fails that the movie ends and I am sobbing into my tissue (in my defense, this is a learned behaviour - both my parents cry at this movie as well). The most emotional part of the movie is when the girl's father reads Francis Church's 1897 editorial, in response to Virginia O'Hanlon's letter asking if Santa Clause is real:

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.


Monday, December 13, 2010

oh blog, how I have missed thee

Once again, I have abandoned a source of my creativity, a stress busting activity, and a place to browse lovely entries by like-minded people. I would be intrigued to know why I tend to ignore the things that help me to relax and "veg out," and instead turn to other things that are not as healthy or fulfilling (e.g. like eating half a bag of chips while staring bug-eyed at the television). But the important thing to remember is that I'm back! I have not abandoned my blog completely, and I just need a little inspiration to get back into the swing of things. Plus, the cable is getting cut this month, so crashing on the couch will not be an option.

There have been many reasons for my time away, the biggest one being that I recently completed my doula training course, and have started to take on clients for 2011 (actually, my first client is due shortly!). I have been busy writing up contracts, gathering resources and meeting with mom and dads-to-be for prenatal appointments. More on this in future posts!

The other source of busy-ness is of course, little A., who still refuses to sleep at night without waking up every hour. We have slowly started weaning her from our bed and into her crib, but most nights she continues to wake up very frequently. I long ago accepted her sleeping habits, and vowed to get on with my life, but things are getting harder with my part-time job and doula work. So we continue to plod along, hoping that at some point, our efforts pay off, and she gives us the gift of 4, 5, or 6 (do I dare say even 7 or 8?) hours of solid sleep.

So in the wonderful world of the web, my blog has patiently been waiting for me to return, never once deleting my past writings or turning its back on me in disgust. Thank you blog! It's great to be back.

In the spirit of the holiday season, here is the song I sing to little A. every night:

Sleep my child and peace attend thee,
all through the night
Guardian angels God will send thee
all through the night

Soft the drowsy hours are creeping
Hill and dale in slumber sleeping
I my loving vigil keeping
All through the night

While the moon her watch is keeping
all through the night
While the weary world is sleeping
all through the night

O'er thy spirit gently sleeping
visions of delight revealing
breathes a pure and holy feeling
all through the night

Though I roam a minstrel lonley
all through the night
My true heart shall praise sing only
all through trhe night

Love's young dream alas is over
yet my strings of love shall hover
near the presence of my lover
all through the night

Hark a solemn bell is ringing
clear through the night
Thou my love art heavenward winging
home through the night

Earthly dust from off thee shaken
soul immortal shalt thou waken
with thy last dim journey taken
home through the night

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Double Down

How we determine that music is "bad" is entirely subjective. We all have our own opinions about what constitutes a bad song. While I might derive a sense of pleasure or excitement from a tune, you might be hollering at me to shut it off. True, there are awards and fame/fortune that artists come by, which some may say is an evaluation of their talents. However, these are more often about popularity contests and not an effective way to judge the craft of music making.

I have been thinking about the difference (or sameness) between bad music and bad food. Just as we judge music in a subjective way, is it possible that we do the same with our food? Can someone correctly argue that a McDonald's Happy Meal is good food? And if they can, and others agree with them, what does that tell us about the future of our food system?

These thoughts have been forefront in my mind because of a recent immigration to Canada - The Double Down sandwich by KFC. This sandwich (if you can call it that) has been making headlines across the country (CBC News Story).



KFC describes this monstrosity as a "one-of-a-kind sandwich featuring two thick and juicy boneless white meat chicken filets, two pieces of bacon, two melted slices of Monterey Jack and pepper jack cheese and Colonel's Sauce." The whole thing packs a whopping 32 grams of fat and 1380mg of sodium.

I'm no nutritionist, and I enjoy my share of food that some may deem to be junk. I don't believe in categorizing foods as "good" or "bad," as I feel this creates a sense of guilt and anxiety that shouldn't be associated with food. Our young people need to learn a sensible attitude towards our bodies' fuel, and grading our food like we do an exam may be harmful for teens who are developing body image issues.

Despite this, I'm still struggling NOT to label this sandwich as bad, as it scares me that fast food of this genre has become so pervasive in our society. We've all heard this before - the supersizing of our generation. But nothing seems to be changing, and in fact, I see the same patterns being repeated over and over again.

My brave and crazy husband has offered to complete a field experiment - he will buy and eat a Double Down, and will report back for my blog. We'll discuss taste, texture, consistency and price, and attempt to make some sense of what creates a "good" meal (if there is such a thing). Hubby will tell me his feelings and thoughts associated with eating such a sandwich, as surely, we have many emotional responses to our food.

In the same way we derive a sense of "guilty pleasure" from our food, we do the same with our music. Who hasn't blasted a song alone at home that they would never want to admit to listening to? Heck, we follow the same guilt pattern with so many things in our lives - skipping the daily workout, avoiding a visit to the doctor, sneaking in "one last smoke," downing 6 beers on the weekend, because dammit, we deserve it!!Perhaps the problem is that we are consumers who base our choices on values of right or wrong, good or bad. Essentially we are sinners, or full of grace. Black or white, and no in between.

On that note, here is a wonderfully sinful song by Britney Spears. It's a brilliant example of a contradiction - both catchy and annoying, boring and bold, brass and slightly embarrassing...enjoy!

Baby, can’t you see
I’m calling
A guy like you
Should wear a warning
It’s dangerous
I’m fallin’

There’s no escape
I can’t wait
I need a hit
Baby, give me it
You’re dangerous
I’m lovin’ it

Too high
Can’t come down
Losing my head
Spinning ‘round and ‘round
Do you feel me now

With a taste of your lips
I’m on a ride
You're toxic I'm slipping under
With a taste of a poison paradise
I’m addicted to you
Don’t you know that you’re toxic
And I love what you do
Don’t you know that you’re toxic

It’s getting late
To give you up
I took a sip
From my devil's cup
Slowly
It’s taking over me

Too high
Can’t come down
It’s in the air
And it’s all around
Can you feel me now

With a taste of your lips
I’m on a ride
You're toxic I'm slipping under
With a taste of a poison paradise
I’m addicted to you
Don’t you know that you’re toxic
And I love what you do
Don’t you know that you’re toxic

Don't you know that you're toxic

With a taste of your lips
I'm on a ride
You're toxic I'm slipping under
With a taste of a poison paradise
I'm addicted to you
Don't you know that you're toxic

Intoxicate me now
With your lovin' now
I think I'm ready now
I think I'm ready now
Intoxicate me now
With your lovin' now
I think I'm ready now

Saturday, October 9, 2010

An Ode to my Pug

Before we had a baby, this was our baby. In some ways she still is, but like most family pets, she often plays second fiddle to A.

Darcy was born on October 10th, 2004. That would make her 42 in people years. She was a surprise Christmas gift from my parents. Arriving on Christmas Eve at their newly purchased home, we began the grand tour. My parents saved my guest room until the end, and when they opened the door, there was this tiny porcelain pug sitting in a dog cage.

OK, so it wasn't porcelain, but she sat so still, that at first I thought she was fake. Then she began whining, and I realized that she was a real, wriggling, snuffling fur ball. I was so shocked that I began to cry, and could barely see her through all my tears.

Pugs hold a very special place in my heart. Before my parents had me, they bought their own little pug named Simon. I grew up right next to Simon, probably thinking all the while that he was my brother. There are countless pictures of me on the floor next to him, with his big pink tongue licking my face.

After Simon died, we got our next pug, Maggie. Maggie was truly "my" dog. She was a bit of a crazy pug (normally they are quite lazy and docile), and spent most of her days on the edge of the living room armchair barking at passerbys. She also liked to chase cars, which led to her inevitable death at the age of 4. She broke loose from her leash and ran into the street and was killed instantly. We were so devastated that we couldn't bring ourselves to buy another pug - we instead got a Jack Russell a little while later (who is still alive and kickin' at age 16!)

After Maggie died, I swore I would one day have another pug. Unfortunately, they became very "trendy" and the price for a purebred skyrocketed. If it hadn't been for my parents generosity, I'm not sure I'd ever have been able to afford one!

Darcy was there at our wedding, and sat by the bed while I delivered A. She has been with us on many road trips, up north to cottages and even camping. She still makes us laugh with all of her puggy antics, and we are fearful for the day when she is too old to run around chasing her tail.

Happy Birthday little pug...here is Weeping Tile (Sarah Harmer) with "Dogs and Thunder"

a rifle sits behind her sleeping ear
an echo on the cold wall closest neighbor couldn't hear
we dug a hole in the fall
so now its a frozen burial
and she's gone
just before the new year

well i'm gonna build a cross for the spot between the trees
and stick it in firm so it won't sway in their breeze
well you and i have trouble making up our half-assed minds
but she'd seen 16 years of our kind
and what's it like when your memories start to freeze

oh and i wonder what it is about dogs and thunder
what they hear coming over the fields
backhouse shelter warm nights in the summer
shaking the ground that you lie under
well i know you're not here but at least you don't feel it anymore

and i came to see you on the day that it happened
you said hey sorry sar but i gotta go
and i was trying to read some sorta reaction
it's something you just can't show
so i guess it's time i go

across the snowy barnyard just past the driving shed
a shadow of me in the moon well i was in a movie in my head
this pile of dirt on the ground
will sink when nobody is around
and winter covers everything but everything's not dead

oh and i wonder what it is about dogs and thunder
what they hear coming over the fields
backhouse shelter warm nights in the summer
shaking the ground that you lie under
well i know you're not here but at least you don't feel it anymore
well i know you're not here but at least you don't feel it anymore
well i know you're not here but at least you don't feel it anymore

Friday, October 8, 2010

Tamarack

I think I want to start adding photos to my blog. At first, I wanted the focus of my blog to be music. But the problem is, I can only upload lyrics, which don't really convey the full effect of the song. So to give my blog some substance and personality, I'd like to start adding photos. I am a horrible photographer, but maybe this will help me improve my skills! (plus, it's an excuse to learn how to use my husband's Canon 40D, which seems enormously complicated to me).

The catalyst for this change was my walk in the woods yesterday. I was crunching on the beautiful yellow needles of the tamarack trees, and I thought about how hard it would be to describe the landscape without a picture.

So, stay tuned for some pictures, as soon as I figure out how to upload! In the meantime, here is the "Tamarack Song" by a great children's group called The Wilderbeats (www.wilderbeats.com)

Tamarack, Hackmatack, Juniper, and Larch
Absolutely naked from November until March
It's got CONES! and it's got NEEDLES!
But it isn't what it seems...
It's decidedly deciduous and never evergreen

Next time you're outside playing and there's a tamarack in sight
Why don't you get up close and notice what the needles are like?
They grow in little bunches that look just like tiny brooms
If you were only a couple inches tall, you could use one to sweep your room!

Tamarack, Hackmatack, Juniper, and Larch
Absolutely naked from November until March
It's got CONES! and it's got NEEDLES!
But it isn't what it seems...
It's decidedly deciduous and never evergreen

Now, if there was a party that only softwoods could attend
And the invitation said that you could bring along a friend
The tamarack would never ask a taller tree to come
'Cause taller trees are too shady, and larches love their sun!

I suppose you all are wondering what "deciduous" really means
Well, in the season we call "autumn", you can see the falling leaves
The beautiful Red Maple may be the one that we know best
But the larches drop their needles too, so they also pass the test!

Tamarack, Hackmatack, Juniper, and Larch
Absolutely naked from November until March
It's got CONES! and it's got NEEDLES!
But it isn't what it seems...
It's decidedly deciduous and never evergreen

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Warm me up!

Ah, fall. The leaves, the cool crisp air, the frosty grass in the morning. I just love fall. It's my favourite time of year! Perhaps because it always coincided with the start of school; and let me tell you, I LOVED school. I loved picking out my new outfit to wear, and packing my bag with freshly sharpened pencils, crisp white notepads and books that smelled like.....well...I don't know what books smell like! But I know that I have always sniffed books, regardless of whether they're new or old.

Fall is a time of darkness and death, but also a time for rest and preparation for the long winter ahead. Cooking and cleaning seem to go well with fall.

And cooking, I will be doing tons of! You can't go wrong with a warm fall soup, and I am always excited to try my hand at a new recipe. Here's one of my own concoctions:

1/2 small turnip, chopped into squares
1 sweet potato, chopped into squares
1/2 onion (or more...I don't particularly like onions)
1 cup lentils, chickpeas, whatever you like!
1 tbsp olive or canola oil
1 tsp minced ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
(1/2 tsp. salt, if no stock added)
1 can diced tomatoes
4 cups (or less, depending on whether you want soup or stew) water or veggie stock

Heat the oil in a medium size pot. Add the onion, ginger, garlic, turmeric and cinnamon, and cook until onion is soft. Stir in the turnip, potato and lentils and coat. Pour in the can of tomatoes and your water/stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20-25 mintues. Serve over quinoa, couscous, rice...whatever!

While you're slurping away, have a listen to "Autumn's Here" by Hawksley Workman:

You can tell by the wind
By fresh cut wood
All stacked to dry
That autumn's here
And it makes you sad
About the crummy
Summer we had

With pine trees creeking
The raven's screeching
Just like the story my grandma tells
About when a bird
Hits your window
And someone you know
Is about to die

Autumn's here
It's ok if you want to cry

Find a sweater
And you'll be better
Until the kindling is tinder dry
We can be quiet
As we walk down
To see the graveyard
Where they are now
I wonder how
They brought their piano
To haldane hill
From old berlin
Be hard to keep it
Well in tune
With winters like the one
That is coming soon
Auntumn's here
It's time to cry now

I think that ghosts like
The cooler weather
When leaves turn colour
They get together
And walk along
These old back roads
Where no one lives
And no one goes
With all their hopes set
On the railway
That never came
So no one stayed
I guess that autumn
Gets you remembering
And the smallest things
Just make you cry.

Autumn's here.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Mayonnaise Project

I have started an experiment. Remember in grade school when we used to leave a piece of bread out on the counter for several days to witness the growth of mold? Well, I've been doing something similar with my store-bought mayonnaise. I want to see how long it has to sit out on the counter before it goes bad. So far, we're 4 days and counting, and the stuff still looks exactly as it did when it came out of the refrigerator (and the due date was June 11, 2010).

Here are the ingredients in our Hellman's brand mayo: water (hmm, so the first ingredient is water? how watered down is this stuff?), canola oil, modified corn starch, liquid yolk, vinegar, sugar, salt, spices, xanthan gum, sorbic acid, phosphoric acid, colour, concentrated lemon juice, calcium disodium EDTA, citric acid and sulphites.

Phew! No wonder this stuff lasts for days on the counter. It's got enough preservatives in it to last for several years!

Since having a baby, I have become much more concerned with what's going into our food systems. I've always been an environmentalist, and have tried to buy organic and local when I can, but I still fall back onto grocery store staples when finances get tight. Lately though, even the economic crunch hasn't stopped me from feeling a sense of dismay as I read the ingredient lists on some of the foods I buy on a regular basis - granola bars, crackers, cereals, bread, mayo....even my hummus has added preservatives.

And so, I began to wonder - how hard is it to make all of these things that I rely on for healthy snacks? I started with homemade butter and yogurt, made from the raw milk we get from a local farm. Next I'll be trying cheese! Then I wondered how hard it is to make my own granola bars (it's a piece of cake), and began baking up enormous batches, along with muffins and irish soda bread.

Our freezer is bursting at the seams, but I'm feeling a much greater sense of satisfaction now that I know what's going into my food. There's still a long way to go from here, but I hope to spend more and more time making may own food. My next project is crackers - those crunchy little guys that lend a helping hand to cheese, almond butter, hummus and so much more. If anyone out there has a good and easy recipe, please send it along!

Here's Sarah Harmer's "I'm a Mountain"

Well now how did they get that lady on TV
Laughing so naturally
For a Wal-Mart ad
Is it not as bad as I thought?

There’s a woman sending poisonous mail
And they caught her now she’s sitting in jail
While the weather station forecasts hail
From the tropics

Oh I spent the day in a shopping mall
Through the biggest storm of the century
I’m a mountain
I’m a mountain like you said to be

The sports man and his double chin
Don’t listen to me in this state I’m in
Saying things about people that I don’t know

Well it’s just that way when you get hurt
And the things you need you’re made to work
You must decide if you will die or grow

Oh I spent the day in a shopping mall
Through the biggest storm of the century
I’m a mountain
I’m a mountain
Like you said to be

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Today

Today I thought "enough is enough - it's time to blog!" Why do I always seem to neglect things that make me happy/calm/grounded when I am busy? Isn't that the time when I need them most?

These last two weeks have been a whirlwind of birthdays (my hubby's and A's), our anniversary (two years!) and the end of maternity leave. We threw A a lovely first birthday party, and a lot of my family and friends came to Ottawa to partake in the festivities. As Tom's Dad was leaving, he said to me, "a lot has happened in these two years since you and Tom were married. I only hope that this has made your marriage stronger."

And you know what? He's right! Despite the huge changes we have gone through in such a short period of time, our bond is stronger than ever. Although I can say that we are ecstatically happy as parents now, the first several months raising A was the hardest thing we've ever been through. She came out screaming, and didn't stop for almost 6 months. I once said to Tom, dead serious, that we needed to give her up for adoption because I didn't think I could take care of her. We've spent many nights at 2am holding each other, in tears, wondering how we ever thought we could raise a child.

But then, slowly but surely, A's reflux issues got better, and we suddenly found ourselves fascinated and delighted with the little personality that was emerging. We suddenly realized how special all those nights of walking, rocking and holding were, and how much she truly loved and appreciated us for caring for her while she was in pain. Now, almost every day I think of how boring my life would be without her!

Despite so much of our energy and love having been used for our little girl, I feel as though the love between us has grown exponentially. Where once we used to clam up when the going got rough, and hide in our little shells, now we are forced to open up the communication lines and face our fears. A has brought out the best and worst in both of us, and we move forward in our marriage with a much clearer picture of who we are, both as individuals and as a couple.


"I Will Love You" by Fisher is the song we played for our first dance together at our wedding. Please listen to it - it's one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard.

'Til my body is dust
'til my soul is no more
I will love you, love you
'Til the sun starts to cry
and the moon turns to rust
I will love you, love you

And I need to know -
will you stay for all time
forever and a day
Then I'll give my heart
'til the end of all time
forever and a day

'Til the storms fill my eyes
and we touch the last time
I will love you, love you
I will love you, love you...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Back from Vacation

We're back online! I spent a wonderful, whirlwind week at my parent's house in Bethany, Ontario. I always seem to plan more things then I can get done when we travel out that way, as I have so many friends and family that I'm dying to see.

I grew up in Toronto, and although I can honestly say that I miss nothing about living there, I do sometimes feel far removed from all the friends I made growing up. While I finally feel "settled" here in Ottawa, part of me does miss the easy comradery I shared with my closest friends. I have made many great friends here in Ottawa as well, but maybe not the type that I can call at 10pm when I am exhausted and need someone to confide in.

It's also been hard having a baby without my family and friends around the corner. They can't just drop what they're doing and drive 4 hours to come help me out. It makes me a little nervous about planning a second baby, as who will I turn to for help if I'm feeling overwhelmed?

Perhaps I need to swallow my pride, and call someone who I may not know very well, but who would be more than happy to help. I have trouble showing my disorganized self to other people, and I put a lot of effort into appearing "together." But with a toddler and a newborn, I maybe be forced to let it all hang out.

This is "Where Everybody Knows Your Name" by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo, and was the theme song for the TV show Cheers. The lyrics that never aired on TV make me laugh...

Making your way in the world today
Takes everything you've got;
Taking a break from all your worries
Sure would help a lot.
Wouldn't you like to get away?

All those night when you've got no lights,
The check is in the mail;
And your little angel
Hung the cat up by it's tail;
And your third fiance didn't show;

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
And they're always glad you came;
You want to be where you can see,
Our troubles are all the same;
You want to be where everybody knows your name.

Roll out of bed, Mr. Coffee's dead;
The morning's looking bright;
And your shrink ran off to Europe,
And didn't even write;
And your husband wants to be a girl;

Be glad there's one place in the world
Where everybody knows your name,
And they're always glad you came;
You want to go where people know,
People are all the same;
You want to go where everybody knows your name.

Where everybody knows your name,
And they're always glad you came;
Where everybody knows your name,
And they're always glad you came...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Moooo

We had a lovely visit on Sunday to a farm just outside of Eganville, Ontario. This is where we get our fresh milk every week - from four lovely Jersey cows! The milk is not pasteurized, but we get around the law (sort of) by purchasing a "cow share." So essentially, we own part of the cow. My Dad has told me experts say we're playing Russian Roulette by drinking raw milk, but I happen to disagree [note: the following paragraph is MY opinion!].

Certainly, raw milk does have some risks, as harmful bacteria can grow and nasty things can be passed from the cow into her milk. But on a well-run farm, where sick cows are excluded from the milking, and where conditions are clean and sterile, chances are you are benefiting from the micro organisms in the milk that are killed off during pasteurization.

But unfortunately, the jury is out on the raw/pasteurized milk debate. I think there are good arguments on both sides, but I also believe that we should have the right to choose whether we want to drink raw milk or not. Most parts of Europe have laws and regulations in place for the production and sale of raw milk.

Tom and I have been enjoying our milk for several months now, with no problems to speak of. When A is able to eat dairy products (she is currently allergic), will I give her the raw milk? I'm still not too sure about that one, as well as whether I will drink raw milk when I am pregnant again. There certainly are greater risks for pregnant women and children.

But don't we put ourselves at risk every day by puchasing industrial-made products at the grocery store? Who remembers the listeria outbreak from a little while ago? How about all of the recalls on meats, packaged veggies and even juice? My cousin (who will go unnamed!) works for Health Canada, testing food and supporting recall efforts. She has often warned me against eating certain foods (cream cheese), as bacteria counts are very high, although not high enough to warrant a recall.

So in essence, we are all playing russian roulette in the current environment of industrial food. It's when we get back to the land, back to the producer, and find out where our food is coming from, that we can begin to rebuild our relationship to the things we eat.

This is Tim McGraw with "Down on the Farm"

Every Friday night there's a steady cloud of dust
That leads back to a field filled with pickup trucks
Got old Hank cranking way up loud
Got coolers in the back
Tailgates down
There's a big fire burnin' but don't be alarmed
It's just country boys and girls gettin' down on the farm

Ed's been on the tractor ain't seen Becky all week
Somebody said they seen 'em heading down to the creek
Farmer Johnson's daughters just pulled up in a jeep
Man he knows how to grow 'em if ya know what I mean
Old Dave's gettin' loud but he don't mean no harm
We're just country boys and girls gettin' down on the farm

You can have a lot of fun in a New York minute
But there's some things you can't do inside those city limits
Ain't no closing time
Ain't no cover charge
Just country boys and girls gettin' down on the farm

Well you can come as you are
There ain't no dress code
Just some rural route rules that you need to know
Don't mess with the bull
He can get real mean
Don't forget to shut the gate
Stay out of the beans
If it starts to rainin' will just head to the barn
We're country boys and girls gettin' down on the farm

You can have a lot of fun in a New York minute
But there's some things you can't do inside those city limits
Ain't no closing time
Ain't no cover charge
Just country boys and girls gettin' down on the farm
Ain't no closing time
Ain't no cover charge
Just country boys and girls gettin' down on the farm

Oh let's get down y'all
Stay out of that hay

Friday, August 13, 2010

Coming to you live...

Do you ever dream up an alter ego? Someone fantabulously better, sweeter, fresher and more exciting than you'll ever be?

This blog has got me conjuring up a fantastic alter ego. Given that very few people read me (hey, I've got a few more followers now!) I sometimes imagine I'm a late night radio host. In my fantasy, I have funky straight hair, black as night, and cut to different lengths around my face. I have a nose ring, and wear dark eyeliner and blue eyeshadow. I have fat, sultry lips licked in a juicy pink gloss. My voice is very sexy - deep and comanding. When I talk, people tend to listen.

But, alas, I've been demoted to the late night spot on CKLU, the local rock radio station, for making inappropriate comments about a nitwit listener who called in to request Nickleback.

And so, I ramble into the night, speaking to the shift workers wiling away the hours 'till morn'. I get to play anything I want, and my comments are rarely scrutinized by radio execs...who would be listening anyway? My miniscule, but devoted, group of listeners call in regularly to request songs, which they dedicate to their dearly departed (lovers, that is). These are the loners in life, the ones sipping from the bottle of whiskey, smoke in hand as they slurr their way onto the radio. I hear them all, hear their pain, and play them a song that will get them through the night.

Here's a smooth song to help that whiskey go down..."Fallin and Flyin" by Stephen Bruton:

I was goin’ where I shouldn’t go
seein’ who I shouldn’t see
doin’ what I shouldn’t do
and bein’ who I shouldn’t be

a little voice told me it’s all wrong
another voice told me it’s alright
I used to think I was strong
but lately I just lost the fight

funny how fallin’ feels like flyin’
for a little while
funny how fallin’ feels like flyin’
for a little while

I got tired of bein’ good
started missing that old feeling free
stop actin’ like I thought I should
and went on back to bein’ me

I never meant to hurt no one
I just had to have my way
if there is such a thing as too much fun
this must be the price you pay

funny how fallin’ feels like flyin’
for a little while
funny how fallin’ feels like flyin’
for a little while

you never see it comin’ till it’s gone
it all happens for a reason
even when it’s wrong
especially when it’s wrong

funny how fallin’ feels like flyin’
for a little while
funny how fallin’ feels like flyin’
for a little while

I was goin’ where I shouldn’t go
seein’ who I shouldn’t see
doin’ what I shouldn’t do
and bein’ who I shouldn’t be

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Slacking Off

I have SO much to do. Our house is still a chaotic mess since moving in one month and a half ago. Tom is currently working on redoing the master bedroom, and will shortly begin the destruction (and reconstruction) of our upstairs bathroom. Until that time, all of our master bedroom stuff is in the office, and all of our office stuff is in our guest room, and all of our guest room stuff is...well, it's not really anywhere. It's just sitting downstairs in big pile.

In the next month we have many guests coming to stay to check out our new digs. Friends are coming for a weekend getaway, and we've got a big party planned for A's first birthday on the labour day long weekend.

So....I have SO MUCH TO DO.

And yet, when my nanny showed up today to take A away for a few hours, instead of tackling all of that stuff, I instead poured myself a glass of wine (hey, it was 4:30...a little early, but still legal!), got in the bath, and read the latest book by William Deverell.

Yes, I have a nanny. Three days a week, for three hours a day. I somehow feel that I need to explain why I have a nanny, given that I'm on maternity leave and only have one child. It's simply that I am very tired from having to parent little A all night long, and hired a nanny to give me a chance to take a nap during the day (A does nap, but still wakes up every 45 minutes...it never fails!)

Having to write a post to explain why I needed a bath and glass of wine, or why I need a nanny, is so typically "North American" of me. As a society, we judge ourselves by how hard we've worked, and how little time we've spent just doing nothing. The longer the hours we spend at the office (or at our various jobs), the happier we are with ourselves. "I'm so productive today," I think to myself.

Take some time today to contemplate the meaning of productivity in your own life. Can we begin to redefine its meaning? And while you are so busy in contemplation, play a little Sarah Harmer for me. This is "The Hideout":

Look at that green
Out through the screen
After a quick rain came
So fast that
There wasn't time
To roll up the windows
And pull the clothes down off the line
But i don't care
It was so dry
And the grass is happy
And i think 'so am i'
'Cause i'm through thinking about you

For now i'm out at the hideout
Far enough outside of town
You can come
You can stay
If there's something you need
To get away from

Look at the day dropping away
Hear the traffic pass along
A distant sideroad down the way
I think the dust has settled on me
But i don't care, it was so calm
I knew i wouldn't stay forever
Knew i'd get some things together
And move on

But for now i'm out at the hideout
Far enough outside of town
You can come, you can stay
If there's something you need
To get away from

I just thought of you
And what you said
Laid out on the pullout
Did you forget
You said you wouldn't forget

Look at that green
Out through the screen
After a quick rain came
So fast that
There wasn't time to roll up the window
And pull the clothes down off the line
But i don't care
It was so dry
The grass is happy and i think 'so am i'
'Cause i'm through thinking about you

And for now i'm out at the hideout
Far enough outside of town
You can come out
You can come out
When there is no one around
All out at the hideout
Far enough from being found
You can come, you can stay
If there's something you need
To get away from

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Moving On

It's a done deal. I am changing careers.

It was a hard decision to make. But alas, we must pay our mortgage and eat, so I had to find something that could pay the bills (and allow me to stay at home part-time with A).

So in today's post, I would like to make mention of the work I have done these past few years, and talk about something that usually gets pushed under the rug in our society. In doing so, I realize I am "outing" myself in this blog. I had intended to keep The Chickadee Tweet completely anonymous, as I felt I might be creatively contained if I was attempting to write posts that would be read by family or friends. However, I've decided that this blogging stuff is just so much fun, that I would like to share it with the people in my little world!

Hopewell is an eating disorders support centre (www.hopewell.ca). They don't provide treatment, but information, support and resources for all individuals affected by eating disorders. This means the sufferers themselves, and their family and friends can all turn to Hopewell for support.

It continues to amaze me how many people struggle with eating issues. And I'm not just talking about serious illnesses such as anorexia and bulimia, but other eating issues such as compulsive eating, overeating, and an obsession with organic and "pure" food. Even individuals who wouldn't say that they had an "issue" with food still spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about their weight and body image.

The sad part of it is, all of these behaviours are getting passed down to our children, and are affecting girls and boys as young as nine years of age. I don't want to be one of those people who says "now, in my day..." but it is a fact that the number of people affected by these issues is on the rise. Is it our culture's preoccupation with a thin body type? Is it the overabundance of food? Is it the advertising for fast and processed food? Or perhaps our new found obsession with local, organic and "natural" food? (I can't tell you how many eating disorder sufferers I've met who claim to be vegan and/or raw food purists). It's probably a combination of all these things, as well as individual factors such as temperament and family history of mental illness.

I sometimes get asked the question "is obesity considered an eating disorder?" The short answer is "no." There are too many social and biological factors that determine obesity to label it an eating disorder. But, we can see many links bewteen eating disorder sufferers and obesity, and we can also see how our media's claims that obesity is reaching "epidemic proportions!" can have an impact on young people. All of this focus on healthy eating and physical activity - heck, even the Wii measures children's BMI - may be pressuring some young people to take dangerous measures to lose weight.

My work at Hopewell was simple, but deeply meaningful to me. I provided one-on-one peer support to people affected by eating disorders, organized programs and services for our community, and helped to raise money for such an important organization. Every day I went home knowing that I had made a difference in someone's life, or had given a worried mother/father a sense of hope for their child's wellbeing. I will miss the quirky staff in our building, my manager and co-worker, and all the wonderful volunteers who have donated so many hours to Hopewell.

To honour the organization and my time working there, I have chosen a special song (well, special to me!). Although this has nothing to do with eating disorders, I love the lyrics and the idea that someone is there to help when you "just can't go on." This is "Sisters of Mercy" by Leonard Cohen. Serena Ryder sings a beautiful version of this song.

Oh the sisters of mercy, they are not departed or gone.
They were waiting for me when I thought that I just can't go on.
And they brought me their comfort and later they brought me their song.
Oh I hope you run into them, you who've been travelling so long.

Yes you who must leave everything that you cannot control.
It begins with your family, but soon it comes around to your soul.
Well I've been where you're hanging, I think I can see how you're pinned:
When you're not feeling holy, your loneliness says that you've sinned.

They lay down beside me, I made my confession to them.
They touched both my eyes and I touched the dew on their hem.
If your life is a leaf that the seasons tear off and condemn
they will bind you with love that is graceful and green as a stem.

When I left they were sleeping, I hope you run into them soon.
Don't turn on the lights, you can read their address by the moon.
And you won't make me jealous if I hear that they sweetened your night:
We weren't lovers like that and besides it would still be all right,
We weren't lovers like that and besides it would still be all right.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Littlest Bird

I was sitting down on my living room couch the other night reading "My Life in France" by Julia Child, when I heard a loud smack against the window. I went outside to investigate, and found a tiny bird taking its last breath on the garden below the windowsill. I gently picked him up. He was still so warm, and I instantly felt a deep sadness for the poor little guy. Who decided to put a big window there anyway??

I brought him over to my husband, who was cutting the lawn, big fat tears rolling down my cheeks. "He's dead!" I blubbered. Tom looked at me with a mixture of amusement and sympathy on his face. He's used to this kind of behaviour with me when it comes to any living creature (except earwigs...I hate those things). Tom kindly offered to bury the bird in the backyard.

I've always been so emotional when it comes to animals, birds, reptiles, you name it. I was the kid that spent the whole time in the pool scooping out ants and bugs and yelling "you're saved, little bug!!" One time driving along a two-lane highway up north, I spotted a huge turtle attempting to cross the road. Big transport trucks were driving right over him, and he'd duck his little head into his shell, and then attempt to soldier on. I screamed at my husband to pull over, and looking both ways, I ran over to the turtle, picked him up and carried him across the road.

I'm not naive enough to think that I can "save" every creature who might be in trouble, but I certainly try. Could it be that I want to help them because I perceive them to be innocent? Because they can't talk or communicate with us? Because we humans have encroached so much on their way of life that I feel bad about that?

I don't really have the answers, and to be honest, I'm sometimes embarrased by my strong reactions. My mother could never understand why I'd sob through a movie where an animal had perished, but could watch the most vicious scene of human violence without batting an eye. She took this to mean that I care more about animals than humans, but I don't think that's true. At least I certainly hope not, because I know I love my husband and daughter more than anything.

So in tribute to that little bird, and to all creatures great and small, this is "The Littlest Bird Sings the Prettiest Song" by the Be Good Tanyas:

Well, I feel like an old hobo
I'm sad, lonesome and blue
I was fair as a summer's day
Now the summer days are through
You pass through places
And places pass through you
But you carry them with you
On the soles of your travelling shoes

Well, I love you so dearly
I love you so clearly
I wake you up in the morning
So early just to tell you
I got the wandering blues
I got the wandering blues
And I'm going to quit
These rambling ways one of these days soon

And I sing
The littlest birds sing the prettiest songs
The littlest birds sing the prettiest songs
the littlest birds sing the prettiest songs
And the littlest birds sing the prettiest songs

Well it's times like these I feel so small
And wild like the rambling footsteps
Of a wandering child
And I'm lonesome as a lonesome whippoorwill
Singing these blues with a warble and a trill
But I'm not too blue to fly
No I'm not too blue to fly

'Cause the littlest birds sing the prettiest songs
The littlest birds sing the prettiest songs
The littlest birds sing the prettiest songs
And the littlest birds sing the prettiest songs

But I love you so dearly
I love you so fearlessly
I wake you up in the morning so early
Just to tell you
I've got the wandering blues
I've got the wandering blues
And I don't want to leave you
I love you through and through

Well I left my baby on a pretty blue train
And I sang my songs to the cold and the rain
And I had the wandering blues
And I sang those wandering blues
And I'm gonna quit these rambling ways one of these days soon

And I sing
The littlest birds sing the prettiest songs
The littlest birds sing the prettiest songs
The littlest birds sing the prettiest songs
The littlest birds sing the prettiest songs

Well I don't care if the sun don't shine
And I don't care if nothing is mine
And I don't care if I'm nervous with you
I'll do my loving in the wintertime.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Create or Bust

I read a wonderful quote today by Lawrence Hill, the author of Some Great Thing and The Book of Negroes. He says "for those who struggle to make it in the creative field, my wish is that you find enough work to live with dignity and enough space to give yourself over to your artistic drive. It's a risky way to live, I know. But for those who were born with a "loose chromosome" (as my father used to say) and who simply have to dance or sing or make music, or paint, or sculpt, or write, it's the only way to live."

How many of us creative folks are suffering from lack of time/money to actually create? Oh the courage it must take to leap into the unknown, just to do what you love best. Lawrence Hill certainly didn't know if he was a good enough novelist to "make it," but he took the plunge, living off what he could get at the time.

I envy him, and then I don't. My sensible voice wonders how many of us can actually make a living off our one true love. And my life at the moment holds no space for me to drop everything to follow my passion. But my creative voice, my manic-induced energy, calls out to me at different points in the day. It worries that I will one day find myself suffocated by the mediocre and the sensible. It wants to do something great...great in the sense of personal accomplishment combined with public acknowledgement (and the ego perhaps desires the latter more than the former).

One of my all-time favourite artists is Martha Wainwright. I love her boldness, and her lack of inhibition in song writing. The following may offend some due to the language, but so many times I have wished that I, too, could express the anger and frustration in this song. To create something so powerful must be the greatest release! This is BMFA...

Poetry has no place for a heart that's a whore
And I'm young and I'm strong
But I feel old and tired
Overfired

And I've been poked and stoked
It's all smoke, there's no more fire
Only desire
For you, whoever you are
For you, whoever you are

You say my time here has been some sort of joke
That I've been messing around
Some sort of incubating period
For when I really come around
I'm cracking up
And you have no idea

No idea how it feels to be on your own
In your own home
with the fucking phone
And the mother of gloom
In your bedroom
Standing over your head
With her hand in your head
With her hand in your head

I will not pretend
I will not put on a smile
I will not say I'm all right for you
When all I wanted was to be good
To do everything in truth
To do everything in truth

Oh I wish I wish I wish I was born a man
So I could learn how to stand up for myself
Like those guys with guitars
I've been watching in bars
Who've been stamping their feet to a different beat
To a different beat
To a different beat

I will not pretend
I will not put on a smile
I will not say I'm all right for you
When all I wanted was to be good
To do everything in truth
To do everything in truth

You bloody mother fucking asshole
Oh you bloody mother fucking asshole
Oh you bloody mother fucking asshole
Oh you bloody mother fucking asshole
Oh you bloody mother fucking asshole
Oh you bloody...

I will not pretend
I will not put on a smile
I will not say I'm all right for you
For you, whoever you are
For you, whoever you are
For you, whoever you are

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Animal Speaks

Do you believe in spirit guides? I think I do...

The black bear has always held a significant place in my life, more so as an adult than as a child. It is quite rare to spot a black bear, but I have had the priviledge many times in recent years. I have seen a beautiful young bear swimming across a lake, a gigantic bear lumbering across the road, and a mamma and her cubs crossing a path up ahead. Bears visit me in my dreams, and during guided meditations, I will often see one as I listen to the CD leading me deeper into relaxation.

The funny thing is, I'm terrified of bears. The times that my husband drags me out into the wilderness (and trust me, it is truly wilderness where he likes to camp), I have serious panic attacks while lying in the tent at night. I have visions of a hungry black bear lumbering over to our tent and making mincemeat out of us. And no, it doesn't help when people tell me that bear attacks on humans are rare, because I only remember the stories about the ones that have happened, and I spend much time imagining what it must be like to be pawed to death.

I have been told by a friend of mine who has studied in Aboriginal spirituality for many years that the bear can point to a need for introspection in our lives, or for stregth or courage. This exerpt from a website describes the symbology of the bear:

"Bears hibernate in the winter, which may explain their association with "dreaming the Great Spirit" or retrospection. The symbolism of the Bear's cave reflects returning to the womb of Mother Earth. [A cave is an archetype for the mind, sleep, returning/flying/spiraling to higher consciousness.] This also suggests a strong feminine aspect, one of nurturing and protection. Bear cubs, born in the early spring, can spend as many as seven years with their mother before reaching maturity. People with Bear Medicine are considered by many as self-sufficient, and would rather stand on their own two feet than rely on others. They are sometimes considered dreamers. Many have developed the skill of visualizing new things, but as a result can get caught up in the dreaming, making little progress in waking reality. Bear's medicine includes introspection, healing, solitude, wisdom, change, communication with Spirit, death and rebirth, transformation, astral travel, creature of dreams, shamans and mystics."

And so I make every effort to welcome the bear into my life, and to continually question why I might be feeling fearful. It often points me to underlying issues in my life that need to be dealt with.

This is a song by the Wilderbeats, an east coast duo that sings children's songs (you should definitely check them out, their songs are so catchy and teach children SO much about the outdoors, www.wilderbeats.com):

Hey there, Big Black Bear
In the hood, please beware
'Cause people round these parts
They don't all have Big Bear hearts

Big Black Bear, I don't find you frightening
'Cause it's so rare to have a black bear sighting
What makes me shiver and shake with worry
Is that you're not at all afraid of me

So confused, misunderstood
Is a Black bear in the hood.

Yes I know, it's a big bad world
Loneliness and hunger swirls
Through your deep, sacred rest
Winter sleep, you awake famished

I never meant to be so inviting
You caught a scent you found so delighting
Cold, wet spring did impede
The food source you naturally eat

So confused, misunderstood
Is a Black bear in the hood.

Big Black Bear, you gotta heed my warning
Run away, 'cause I don't want to be mourning
Another senseless bear deceased
On the fine, fine line between man and beast

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Song

When I started my blog, I was determined to link every post with a song that has inspired me (or, perhaps even annoyed me!) However, I've realized that sometimes I might just want to share a song that really has nothing at all to do with the subject of my post. Or, like today, maybe I have nothing interesting to say, and would just like to share a song.

It's hard conveying the beauty of music without actually playing it, but I can only hope that as you read the lyrics, you are listening to the melody in your head and maybe even singing along. For more obscure songs or artists that I mention here, I hope that you can find the time to download the tune, or even give it a listen to on YouTube!

Nico was a German born singer/songwriter, model and actress, probably best known for her collaborations with both Velvet Underground and Andy Warhol (among many other artists). When I play her songs for people, they're not usually as impressed as I am. Nico's voice is quite deep - almost like a man's voice with a feminine flare. She doesn't sing particularly in tune either. But to me, her sound is evocative, haunting and soothing. Her lyrics speak to me in a familiar way, and I can always identify with her words.

Here is one song off the soundtrack from the movie The Royal Tenenbaums, which is where I first heard Nico (funny thing, but I discover most artists through movie soundtracks!)

Now that it's time
Now that the hour hand has landed at the end
Now that it's real
Now that the dreams have given all they had to lend
I want to know do I stay or do I go
And maybe try another time
And do I really have a hand in my forgetting ?

Now that I've tried
Now that I've finally found that this is not the way,
Now that I turn
Now that I feel it's time to spend the night away
I want to know do I stay or do I go
And maybe finally split the rhyme
And do I really understand the undernetting ?

Yes and the morning has me
Looking in your eyes
And seeing mine warning me
To read the signs carefully.

Now that it's light
Now that the candle's falling smaller in my mind
Now that it's here
Now that I'm almost not so very far behind
I want to know do I stay or do I go
And maybe follow another sign
And do I really have a song that I can ride on ?

Now that I can
Now that it's easy, ever easy all around.
Now that I'm here
Now that I'm falling to the sunlights and a song
I want to know do I stay or do I go
And do I have to do just one
And can I choose again if I should lose the reason ?

Yes, and the morning
Has me looking in your eyes
And seeing mine warning me
To read the signs more carefully.

Now that I smile,
Now that I'm laughing even deeper inside.
Now that I see,
Now that I finally found the one thing I denied
It's now I know do I stay or do I go
And it is finally I decide
That I'll be leaving
In the fairest of the seasons.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Reflection

I never supposed that I would be an everyday blogger, but I didn't quite realize how much life would get in the way of me logging on and posting. I'm embarassed at how long it's been since my last post, and since I last checked out my favourite blogs. I only hope that as time goes on, it becomes a part of my daily routine to read, comment and post my own musings on life.

There has been a reason for my disappearance, and she is a pudgy little bundle of joy I call my daughter. We have had a week of interesting "events," the first being when A. fell forward onto her face, and went into such a hysterical cry that she passed out. We weren't aware that babies can actually do that, but she has enlightened us by doing it again a couple of times since. Following that, she came down with a very high fever which warranted a trip to the emergency department, where we waited for 8 hours for doctors to tell us they didn't know the cause of the fever. Several days later, she broke out into a rash, and we concluded it must have been Roseola (again, something else I'd never heard of - isn't google wonderful??). THEN, to top it all off, she fell in the bathroom and with blood gushing from a cut above her eye, we once again took a trip to an urgent care clinic.

Phew, I feel tired just writing about it.

The good news is that none of this is at all serious, and she is doing just fine. It did, however, take up a lot of my time and energy, and she has been a human starfish for the past little while, stuck to me like glue.

It's amazing the revelations that occur when you have children, and all the significant and insignificant things they teach you every day. Sometimes it's a lesson that you don't even know you've learned, until you have a chance to take a deep breath and reflect. Excuse me for sounding a bit melodramatic, but I feel so strongly that fate, or destiny, or whatever you want to call it, was at work when we had our daughter.

We never planned on getting pregnant so soon after our wedding, and it came as quite a shock when the second little line showed up on the pregnancy test. I had been certain my period was just late, as it was never regular, but a little niggling voice in the back of my head told me to buy a pregnancy test at the pharmacy...just to be sure.

Since her arrival, I have been thrown into a life that is no longer within my control (but really, are we ever in control?). I have had to learn a very deep and infinite level of patience, and my own worries have taken a backseat to caring for my little girl. Never before have I devoted so much time, effort, blood, sweat and tears to someone else. It's been slightly more intense because of her illness, but I'm sure all mothers can relate to this - even the ones with the "angel" babies! But in the moments I do get a chance to breathe and reflect, I come to the conclusion that I wouldn't trade this for anything in the whole world.

This song came on in the car yesterday, and as it played, the sun shone low over the hills in Quebec, and I felt a true sense of peace I haven't felt in quite a while. This is "Dreams" by the Cranberries.

Oh, my life is changing everyday,
In every possible way.
And oh, my dreams, it's never quite as it seems,
Never quite as it seems.

I know I've felt like this before, but now I'm feeling it even more,
Because it came from you.
And then I open up and see the person falling here is me,
A different way to be.

I want more impossible to ignore,
Impossible to ignore.
And they'll come true, impossible not to do,
Impossible not to do.

And now I tell you openly, you have my heart so don't hurt me.
You're what I couldn't find.
A totally amazing mind, so understanding and so kind;
You're everything to me.

Oh, my life,
Is changing every day,
In every possible way.

And oh, my dreams,
It's never quite as it seems,
'Cause you're a dream to me,
Dream to me.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Crossroads

It rained today, and the scorching heat has finally lifted just a little bit. My husband had the day off today, and he drove me to an interview this morning.

I am at a crossroads in my career, and am feeling very confused as of where to go from here. For the past couple of years, I have been working for a wonderful charity that supports people with eating disorders. It is a rewarding and fulfilling job, and I never felt like my time was wasted. And trust me, I have wasted a lot of time in other jobs!

Unfortunately, the charity is so small, and cannot afford to offer me a raise. I get a tiny salary as it is. This was all fine and good while my husband and I were dating and living together in an apartment. But we are now married, with a 10-month old child, and a new mortgage to pay.

I am supposed to be returning to work in 2 months, and in a moment of panic, I began sending out resumes to some of my contacts. Lo and behold, I got a call from a health research organization to come in for an interview today. It went super well, and it looks like they might be able to offer me a part-time job that would pay me the same as what I would be making working full-time at my current job.

What to do?? Do I bow out of the meaningful work, where I know I truly make a difference, to take a job that MAY make a difference in the long run (I am confident that a lot of research being done in the health field is interesting, but rarely applied) and that pays a heck of a lot more.

I shall ponder this question, and listen to this version of "Crossroads" by Cream:

I went down to the crossroads, fell down on my knee.
I went down to the crossroads, fell down on my knee.
Asked the Lord above for mercy, "Save me if you please."

I went down to the crossroads, tried to flag a ride.
Down to the crossroads, tried to flag a ride.
Nobody seemed to know me, everybody passed by.

I'm going down to Rosedale, take my rider by my side.
Going down to Rosedale, take my rider by my side.
You can still 'barrelhouse', baby, on the riverside.

Going down to Rosedale, take my rider by my side.
Going down to Rosedale, take my rider by my side.
You can still 'barrelhouse', baby, on the riverside.

You can run, you can run, tell my friend-boy Willie Brown.
You can run, you can run, tell my friend-boy Willie Brown.
And I'm standing at the crossroads, believe I'm sinking down.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Listen

Isn't it amazing how a song can lift us up, or bring us down, at any given moment in the day? We can be driving along in our cars, so focused on our daily worries, when suddenly a song comes on that says "WAKE UP!" The music can give us a lump in our throats, or paint a picture or memory in our minds. It can lift our spirits, and suddenly we are feeling happier and more energetic than we have in days. It can remind us of friends we haven't seen in years, or places we visited long ago. A song can be associated with a memory so strong, that we even have a sense of being there...the scent of wood fire, or the cold of starry nights, or the thick blanket of a summer night's breeze.

Here's a song that always makes me stop and listen:



"The Wind" by Cat Stevens

I listen to the wind
to the wind of my soul
Where I'll end up well I think,
only God really knows
I've sat upon the setting sun
But never, never never never
I never wanted water once
No, never, never, never

I listen to my words but
they fall far below
I let my music take me where
my heart wants to go
I swam upon the devil's lake
But never, never never never
I'll never make the same mistake
No, never, never, never

Monday, July 5, 2010

Wash Away

In the disinfecting craze that has been my life this past week, I've been pondering our society's obessession with cleanliness. We spend a lot of money on cleaning products and their various accessories (those ridiculous swiffer sweepers, to name one). We are also very anxious about germs, and it is the norm that almost every place we visit offers antibacterial gel in a dispenser.

As a child, I was always uncomfortable around "muck." I didn't like swimming in lakes, I hated finding bugs in my house, and I couldn't stand sand or dirt in my clothes. As an adult, I have fought hard against these anxieties, and have forced myself into plenty of situations (mainly while camping) that have allowed me to become more comfortable with the dirtiness of the outdoors.

It's one of my goals as a parent to be able to intoduce my daughter to as much dirt as she likes. This sounds slightly crazy, I know, but I hope that it allows her to be comfortable in nature. If we ever hope to fix the problems with our environment, the first step is to end our separation between nature and what we perceive to be our lived environment.

Here is a great song by Joe Purdy, called "Wash Away." And yes, you hear this little ditty during the Dawn soap commercial. But this is not a plug for Dawn...it just so happens that so many indpendent artists' lend their songs to commercials these days.

I got troubles oh, but not today
Cause they're gonna wash away
They're gonna wash away

And I have sins Lord, but not today
Cause they're gonna wash away
They're gonna wash away

And I had friends oh, but not today
Cause they're done washed away
They're done washed away

And oh, I've been cryin'
And oh, I've been cryin'
And oh, no more cryin'
No, no more cryin' here

We get along Lord, but not today
Cause we gonna wash away
We gonna wash away

And I got troubles oh, but not today
Cause they gonna wash away
This old heart gonna take them away

Sunday, July 4, 2010

So Much to Do, So Little Time

I mentioned in another post that we were moving house. We have arrived! We have spent many days scrubbing away twenty-five years of grime from the previous owners, thus my blog has been sorely neglected. So until I have a moment's peace to compose something better, I will share with you a song I wrote called "Changing"

Changing on a sad and lonley day
Moving van rumbles down the highway
But I got you
to comfort me, dear
with your warm arms
to quell all my fears

Changin from rain coats to short shorts
seasons pass me by in a hurry
But I got you
to comfort me, dear
with your warm arms
to quell all my fears

And he changed me with a touch upon my hand
And a sweet voice to light my way again
But his cold heart is a staircase in Paris
and my long climb is etched there in stone

How will he comfort me?
Where will he comfort me?
on and on, on and on, on and on

And it's not him that comforts me, dear
with his warm arms to quell all my fears
I got you, to comfort me
I got you

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Parent to Parent

I had an interesting conversation with my neighbour the other day. She's 37, lives with her boyfriend, and has always known she never wanted kids. She invited me over for a beer on Saturday night, and we got to chatting about how much different things are between "kid people" and "non-kid people."

This neighbour of mine is fun-loving and carefree. She takes off on a whim, travelling down south with her girlfriends or taking weekend trips to Montreal. She lives the life I thought I wanted back in my early twenties, before a little voice in my head began to wonder what it would be like to be a mother. I can hardly remember the last time I went out to a bar dancing and partying until dawn. Instead, I am greeting the dawn with my little bug curled up next to me in bed.

My very best friend is not yet a mother, and I can sometimes sense the tension between us. The other day on the phone with her, I was marvelling at the fact that my little girl was fuss-free for an entire day while we were out visiting relatives. My friend jokingly commented that it was because she is spoiled at home, but is allowed to be independent when we're out and about. My mama bear instincts immediately went on the defensive. I felt attacked - somebody who is not yet a parent had the gall to judge the way I was parenting!

Then I remembered how I was while pregnant. My husband and I would lie on the bed together stroking my belly, and we would discuss all the ways WE would be the best parents in the world. No way were we going to let our child rule the nest, and we were going to be sure that the little one was unspoiled and well behaved.

The second I pushed that little girl out of my body, all my careful planning and calculating went out the window. Instead of listening to baby trainers and well meaning family and friends, we began to parent the way we wanted and the way our baby wanted. We joke now that we were probably "better" parents before we actually had a child!

One of my favourite movies is called "Away We Go." In one scene, the characters of Jon Krasinski and a pregnant Maya Rudolph do exactly what my husband and I used to do. They create a wishlist of all the things they will, or will not do for their unborn child. It's a beautiful moment that reminds me of all the anticipation, anxiety and excitement that we experienced during pregnancy. As parents we can all plan to our hearts' content, but in my mind, the true experience of parenthood begins the moment our babies take their first breath. Here is a beautiful song from the soundtrack to that movie...

"All My Days" by Alexi Murdoch from the "Away We Go" soundtrack

Well I have been searching
All of my days
Many a road, you know
I've been walking on
All of my days
And I've been trying to find
What's been in my mind
As the days keep turning into night

Well I have been quietly standing in the shade
All of my days
Watch the sky breaking on the promise that we made
All of this rain
And I've been trying to find
What's been in my mind
As the days keep turning into night

Well many a night I found myself with no friends standing near
All of my days
I cried aloud
I shook my hands
What am I doing here
All of these days
For I look around me
And my eyes confound me
And it's just too bright
As the days keep turning into night

Now I see clearly
It's you I'm looking for
All of my days
So I'll smile
I know I'll feel this loneliness no more
All of my days
For I look around me
And it seems you found me
And it's coming into sight
As the days keep turning into night
As the days keep turning into night
And even breathing feels all right
Yes, even breathing feels all right
Now even breathing feels all right
Yes even breathing
Feels all right