Thursday, January 28, 2016

I love you too much

With Ben, the words for love are always dramatic. Lately he is saying he loves Mummy (A) too much. It’s the first thing from him in the morning, the last at night. He holds her clothes or skin like they might vanish, like a little is never enough. He can hit too, in those moments. Of course A feels terrible, feels she should somehow make up for this with time or words or more focused presence. It would probably help but Ben also loves deeply and it may just be his way of expressing something we all find hard to put into words, that chest-crushing, all encompassing feeling we have for those we love with our whole being. Like our heart is walking out there in another’s body. Like it’s too much.

With me, even though I know Ben loves me very much, he will say he doesn’t love me. I think that what he is doing with both of us is testing his boundaries, and how much we love him back. Both the “positive” and negative expressions around love can hurt us sometimes. I try to stay cool and remember his age. The other day he and I were having a “time-in”, which is like a time-out but with a parent. It’s a time to chill out, take stock, with a loving coach alongside. He was super angry, trying to hit me, saying he doesn’t love me. I assured him that no matter what I would still love him. He started listing things he could do, seeing if I’d still love him, like if he bulldozed the house down or sent our stuff into space. After many questions came this one: “Would you still love me if I cut you in half and put you in jail?” To which I replied, “Well, I’d be angry and sad, and it would hurt. I’d probably die. But I’d still love you, even dead!” He scoffed at that, saying I’d be in the ground. I explained that my body would be but I’d still love him while floating out there becoming one with everything, and then would love him into the next life. He wasn’t sure, concerned I’d come back as an animal. I said I could be his dog or something. He was worried a dog couldn’t love him enough. I told him I was pretty sure I’d be a person again and I would find him and love him. He was satisfied, calmed down and started playing with me. 

Sweet Ben, for heaven’s sake, words cannot describe how much we love you. I hope that deep inside you, you know that.

E

Monday, January 25, 2016

Our traditional family


A funny thing happened a while back when Ben’s school VP identified us (US?!) as a “traditional family” for complaining about too much screen time in class. After I got over the shock of reading that email, I burst into a fit of giggles, calmed down and then started laughing again! I had imagined many hurdles sending our sensitive, vegetarian child to kindergarten with stories of his two mothers and their eccentric habits (naked family dance parties, delivering
instructions through song, having roommates, hosting Solstice soirées). I never imagined this.

It’s not totally out there, since we are part-time inhabitants of the organic, wear-your-baby world. But dude! I have a smart phone, share Google docs, blog… My partner A rocks social media, soaks in pop culture sites. We both use computers proficiently as part of our work and live for a movie night with take-out. We just think kids are smart enough to figure all that shit out later and should just be running around getting mud caked on their knees, paint under their nails, and fall laughing into a tired heap like puppies from dancing to live music or even CDs. Is that too much to ask?


And there you have it folks, you can be a big ol’ lesbo family but if you complain that the kids at school have too much screen time (it’s epic, a lot of people are upset) than you might as well camp out with the Amish.

E

Friday, January 22, 2016

Freedom from within

Written April 8, 2015

Wary, peering from behind shadows. The fur chewed off paws. Pacing, antsy, a deep growl echoing. There is a part of me, somewhere in my upper chest locked behind ribbed bars, which feels caged. My body tells me so: pain in the heart area sends me to ER (inflammation, Advil heals for a time); pneumonia keeps me home. Something is pushing, aching, something infected is trying to get out, something is trying not to drown.

How does one do marriage, a family, and remain intact? What does our "self" look like anyway, that we try so hard to protect its integrity? Perhaps we shouldn't remain "who we are", throwing everything up in the air to see how it falls into a new shape. Change is the only constant after all, it's just destabilizingParenting changes all of us, and it has brought to light wonderful and beastly parts of myself that I am slowly integrating. My wish upon seeing the first night star, ever since I was a teen, involves freedom and possibility. Since I chose a domestic life, I have to believe I can find those within it. Freedom is a pretty word… but does it mean escape to me? The ability to do whatever whenever however? There is no life in community without compromise, without construction on the roads, without restraint. I don’t want to be alone somewhere, nor to drop everything and travel. I don’t want a different spouse or children (or cats, as one purrs on my lap). I love our home.  

It’s up to me how I live this. I can play the victim, poor hapless, overburdened me. I can whine and wail, shaking the cage of the limitations I chose. To be fair, no one really knows how parenting is going to feel before it happens, before nothing is the same again. Or, I can chose to loosen up, calm down, creaking open those rusty gates, letting some lightness into those dark places. It’s about vulnerability, ultimately. Really feeling love comes with so much risk. Perhaps I cage myself FROM domestic life, never fully participating out of fear. Loss of control, the unknown, perceived loss of self. I think the only healthy way out is through courage to be fully in the moment. And faith in myself and my family. In my mind’s eye I see my naked self from the back, walking out through my ribs into an explosion of light.


It’s not freedom from my beloved wee boys or sweet gal I seek. I see that I am my own oppressor by telling myself things ought to be a certain, perfect way, or I that I ought to feel more, be more. What I want now, in fact, is release from my own fears and to live in joy. 

E

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Eat, Pray, Love, Fear…

Originally written Dec.2, 2012

when Ben was 10 months old, and Daniel was nothing but a wish in the wind...

I just watched Eat, Pray, Love. Julia is one of my faves. Not sure how I feel about the movie though. It was cheesy and predictable, a meditation on the privilege to take time for self-discovery. Yet I also ache for a similar journey to get free of myself, to forgive myself. And to travel to India, Bali, Italy would be so delicious. I felt watching it that I was looking into a mirror, a bit embarrassed by what kind of clichés I saw looking back. Has my interesting life, my many spiritual, travel and life moments just been a broken record? Too add insult to injury, I am reading Bright Sided at A’s request, a highly researched and scorching book about how the “positive thinking” movement is destroying America. The author, Barbara Ehrenreich, pokes holes in the positive psychology movement and in many of my cherished “wisdoms” like “possibility thinking”, “manifesting desires”, and the "law of attraction". She agrees that being positive does tend to make you more successful and make people like you more. That’s about the biggest concession she’s given. It doesn't necessarily make you happier, healthier, live longer or cure illness.  I can’t say I have changed my mind on these issues, but I have paused for sure when wondering if “things happen for a reason” or whether I will “jinx” things by thinking a certain way.

All this to say I feel like part of my rug is being pulled out from under me, and perhaps for the best. That my eyes are opening more and more to the present, to what makes up my core line of thinking (and the impact thereof). It is very uncomfortable for me to experience this kind of scrutiny, much as I claim to love “feedback”. I usually expect feedback to be good, so what’s to fear? I aim high, so if I can improve, please let me know! In Eat, Pray, Love Julia’s character says something about how if we can forgive ourselves for our "harder to love" qualities and actions, the truth of who we are will come through. No doubt easier said than done. And that relates to something else: I think my greatest fear is myself, my dark side, what I might miss or fail to prevent, especially as it relates to Ben. Coupled with that is fear of loss of Ben and A. Not so much in that daily way of worrying about their welfare and safety, although those are part of it. What is more truly a “fear”, the kind that paralyses with terror, is that it could somehow be my fault through some missed detail, some inattention, some lapse in judgement/ exhaustion/ etc. That my lifeline of holding onto what is positive negates the essential need to pay attention to life’s darker sides, and worse, my own. Admitting to her existence, to my fierce (but quickly fizzled) temper, my ugliness when exhausted, my resentment. That sometimes in the moment, I just don’t care. That I often judge others, especially A, and that I can act so superior. I am nowhere near enlightenment, nor “free of myself” such as is the aim of meditation, nor “smiling with my liver” like the guru in the movie. I am a flawed human like any other, un-peeling ever deeper layers of self-knowledge, some of them still quite raw. 


E

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Good Day, Sunshine…

One redhead’s opinion on sunscreen

Oh the deliciously long days, the watermelon dripping from our chins, the glee of the water park… There is so much to love about summer. What with hats and sunscreen application, for many of us it can take as much time to leave the house as it did in the winter! As a child, my mother made us swim with hats and t-shirts on, otherwise we turned fire hydrant red. It hasn’t changed, alas, though I’ve learned a lot more about sun protection. Everyone needs to think about it, even if you never burn.
Here are the basics:

Sunscreen is not always a safe substance to use. It can give people a false sense of security, cause them to stay outside longer, and the chemicals in it (even the pricey stuff) can have quite harmful effects on the body. There are many truly concerning ingredients, but I’ll flag two of the nastiest which have the most research to date, oxybenzone (also called benzophenone) and retinyl palmitate (a kind of Vit A). Oxybenzone is in most North American sunscreens and has known hormone disruptive qualities and is not recommended for children/babies. The retinyl speeds up the development of skin tumors and lesions when worn during daylight (or ingested). Both are very common in skin creams because they are cheap and the retinyl helps with anti-aging. It’s in my Aloe post-sun cream. I just make sure to wash it off in the morning before going out. If you want to know more about the nasties in your sunscreen or other body products, check out a comprehensive site rating them and explaining every ingredient: http://breakingnews.ewg.org/2012sunscreen/sunscreens-exposed/ or http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/. Seriously,

So what’s a gal/guy to do???

Never fear! I'm not saying don’t wear sunscreen. As always, the best protection is to stay indoors mid-day, and/or wear a hat/protective clothing/use a parasol/umbrella. Even if you never burn (from UVB rays), you are being exposed to UVA rays (even on cloudy/cold days) and those are the ones that gift you with the big M melanomas. So here is my sunscreen advice (based on WAY too much reading and experience):

1.      Look for mineral based sunscreens, ideally made of Zinc Oxide. It’s not a perfect substance, but compared to the other options it is very safe. Here is an article about Zinc http://www.badgerbalm.com/s-33-zinc-oxide-and-nanoparticles.aspx . Sunscreens without zinc or titanium contain an average of 4 times more high hazard ingredients known or strongly suspected to cause cancer or birth defects, to disrupt human reproduction or damage the growing brain of a child. They also contain more toxins on average in every major category of health harm considered: cancer (10% more), birth defects and reproductive harm (40% more), neurotoxins (20% more), endocrine system disruptors (70% more), and chemicals that can damage the immune system (70% more) (EWG 2007).

2 1. I use Heiko and Badger products which can be found in health food stores and at sometimes at Loblaws. Badger seems to be the safest of all the safe ones which can be found locally since I think Heiko has some artificial fragrance. Badger is cheaper than Heiko too.
   2. No, they are not as easy to apply, you can see them more on your skin (because they are a block, not a cream), and yes, they are more expensive. But they smell like nothing, or like heaven (and naturally so), don’t give you the cancer you’re trying to prevent, and help you feel safe.
   3. Avoid spray sunscreens of any kind (inhalation=very bad). Wiggly kids be damned, hold them down!
   4.  If you just can’t do the white stuff (though after rubbing, there is really very little left), Green Beaver makes one that goes on clear (bit greasy). Sunscreens with Avobenzone are the next best option as a full-spectrum sunscreen ingredient (assuming it is not combined with all the other nasties).

So if you want to talk more about any of this, feel free to contact me. I can chat at length about nano particles, free-radicals, new European innovations and all kinds of other stuff I didn't mention here! Now THAT’S a PARTY!
 
More reading?
Chemicals to avoid: http://chemicaloftheday.squarespace.com/sunscreens/2009/6/17/chemicals-to-avoid-in-sunblock.html

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Present

How do I keep my spiritual practice alive while parenting little kids? That’s the question I asked recently of Krishna Das, singer of Hindu devotional chanting. He said, “You don’t”. He must have seen the look of shock and dismay on my face as those words echoed through my body and added, “you just stay in each present moment as it comes, and when you’re distracted or want to run away, you keep coming back to the present.” I could feel my cheeks getting hot and tears threatening to spill over. I wanted him to tell me a funny anecdote about some other family in India that made it work, or to encourage me to discuss with my partner a way to prioritize a daily practice for myself. Instead he told me to sit with the discomfort, with the urge to escape, with the messy, chaotic, emotional whirl of each parenting moment. That perhaps other practices like meditation or yoga could strengthen me for the work. But the work, he said, was already in front of me. Hari om.

E