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 clich├ęs 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. 


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: or 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 . 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:

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.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Integrating birth

I had another dream last night about being pregnant. I think that’s the fifth in the last while. I am always surprised about how it happened! Sometimes I wonder if A will be mad, like I went behind her back… I’m not sure why I’m dreaming about pregnancy. Is it Mama Nature tugging at me while She can? Is it just normal? I was looking at videos and pictures of myself right after Daniel’s birth, remembering his squishy face and cone head and deep eyes. Remembering how I’d almost given up, how I’d said “never again” after pushing him out. The love of a parent is a strange and potent thing, or maybe all love makes us blind. Maybe I’m dreaming of having another baby because mine is growing so fast, climbs everything, doesn’t always want kisses anymore, or says things like “boom, boom, music in the sky” about thunder.

I have another theory about why that dream keeps repeating. I’ve been an achy mama since Daniel’s birth. He’s two and a half already and my hips and knees are still acting like I became a granny not a bio-mom! How many moms groan when they stand up from the floor? Ok, maybe I’m not alone. What if it’s my body chattering to me? Am I listening? Could it be saying, “Listen mama, you’re really sad. Your heart is breaking a little watching him get further away each day. Giving birth to D was the most intense thing that ever happened to you and have you processed that?? Pay attention to me, I was his first home and I am hurting.” I am not sure I am ready to hear you body, because if I do, maybe I’ll let the pain go and won’t have a daily reminder that for a little while he was all mine.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Four year old family

Our family turned four this week with the celebration of Ben’s birthday! We always remind him that although he has to share his mothers, he will always be the one who made us a family. Our first everything. The guinea pig for two overenthusiastic, overly-read parents. He has two MOTHERS for heaven’s sake J

Normally A puts him to bed, but on Mondays I have the privilege of guiding him into la-la land (lying with him for the few minutes it takes him to fall asleep has changed our life for the better). Tonight he drifted off with his forehead pressed to mine, our breathing becoming in sync. I told him I loved him forever and he replied, “I love you forever Maman”. Melt my heart, that boy is a love machine sometimes. It’s extra dear to me now because he and I have been having some challenges connecting lately. He’s said some classic, mean, kid stuff to me, and though I’m accepting the kid/Neanderthal place he’s coming from sometimes, some of his words were starting to seep through the barrier. I want him to know that I not only love him, but like him too, that I look forward to seeing him. I’m not sure he knows that all the time, since his unique person-hood includes some strong feelings and actions that make me feel nuts and push my monster buttons. It should come naturally I suppose, for a kid to just know how you feel. A partner too, just read my mind! Instead it takes practice, hearing every time Ben calls my name, noticing and commenting on what fires him up with joy and concentration, my eyes lighting up when he comes home. I think it’s working too, since he really snuggled me tonight and every chamber of my heart is glowing.

Luckily his little bro and he are getting along better too. God they're cute. Daniel has finally succumbed to Ben's longstanding desire for a peer wrestling partner. Ben and I wrestle on the play room mattress most evenings, Ben being thrown around, pillows going "poosh" onto each other, laughter erupting. It's really precious to me (and I think him). But I know he's wanted Dee to play since he was born, really play with him. I caught them the other night on our (low) bed, jumping and pillow fighting and giggling so much. BOTH of them. No crying. Amazing. I really hope Dee realizes how great it can be to play along to his Ben’s games and imaginative ideas, and how lucky he is to have such a caring and thoughtful big bro.

Sustaining loving relationships IS a practice. Like yoga, or eating well. It may come in fits and starts, but pretty soon you get into the flow… Your body unfurls, your breathing deepens, your cells rest in full nourishment. Suddenly a big, little boy, soft in his “footie jammas” is holding onto you like you being there really matters. Happy birthday sweet thing.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Caught poo-handed

It’s certainly no record, but I have literally had poo on my hands four times today. It came from a combination of toddler diaper changing, preschooler bum wiping and the discovery of poo of mysterious canine origin under Daniel's boots. The latter had apparently affixed itself to his tiny boot yesterday. It had been frozen so I hadn't noticed. And I carried Daniel in on my hip last night, so while grocery shopping with the boys today I discovered the business crusted around the bottom of my coat. They took it in stride of course; poo is everywhere and their mums deal with it. Honestly, I think we socially construct its "gross" factor. Biologically we're probably wired to avoid it, for health reasons, but I've seen very little sign of either of my boys finding it intrinsically gross. Why do I blog about these precious anecdotes? Mostly to share a laugh with you and avoid any tears. Perhaps also to demonstrate my maturing motherhood with my apparent equanimity (slash apathy) about it all. 

On another note, unrelated to poo, though no less gross, I dismantled the high chair yesterday and put it away, probably for good. I was aware that it ought to be an emotionally fraught activity, and I did feel waves of nostalgia and a bit of shock at the speed of time passing. Mostly I felt the 3+ years of accumulated crust and crud from every nook and cranny upon my hands. And oh, there was this secret treasure stash under the basket of bibs and cloths, a prehistoric compaction of dried tofu, Cheerios once congealed together and now almost indecipherable from each other, and one lonely vitamin. I bet the lot could make a science grad student's day somewhere.

To top it off, mothers (and anyone with a period really) have to manage these shenanigans while also surviving the monthly onslaught of hormones! You'd think we'd be given a reprieve, having used our reproductive bits productively. I guess Mother Nature wants us feeling moody and questionably hygienic until we can't possibly push out another bundle of joy. Being in tune with the Earth's cycles, such bliss. 

Going to pop another Advil cuz now I just feel poopy.