amoment2think is Moving!!

Photo by Hillary Boles via Flickr Creative Commons

Okay all, I am taking the big leap and going to a self-hosted wordpress blog. VERY exciting!

I have spent all weekend obsessing, but it is now ready for everyone to check out. Please update your readers, bookmarks, ect.

Here is the url of the new site:

http://amoment2think.ca

And here is the RSS to add me to your reader:

http://feeds.feedburner.com/amoment2think

Thank you everyone for your support and I hope you all continue to engage in the conversation over at my new site!

Infant rules have expiry clauses, right?

I remember when Audrey was an infant, I was very very strict in following the ‘nothing in the crib but the baby and a blanket’ rule. We didn’t have those crib bumpers and we used a swaddling sack or sleep sack with her, to avoid her blanket covering her head by mistake. It was a matter of safety and doing what ‘they’ recommended. Some recommendations I think are exaggerated (like the warnings against co-sleeping, which I think can be safe with some basic precautions)  but this one seemed like good common sense to me.

Well, until she was old enough to get her little legs stuck in the crib slates, at which time I realized why bumpers were probably invented. We got those breathable mess things instead- let air through, but not little limbs. I hate middle of the night screaming due to limb stuck-age.

The only other things we ever had in her crib was a little ‘lovey’ (I know, I hate the term too, but I don’t know what else to call it) which was small and met the standards for still being safe.

Again, this was when Audrey was an infant.

We had a beautiful sheep skin sleep mat, which we didn’t use because the poster on the wall at the nurses office said it was dangerous. (Though, I am sure there are parents somewhere who have had generations sleep on the same type of mat, but admittedly, they probably co-sleep and are better able then to monitor that baby is safe.) Anyway, the point is, we followed the “rules.”

But somewhere between, Audrey’s first birthday and now, approaching Audrey’s second birthday, let’s just say that her crib has become a little less pristine. There is an expiry clause on that “there should be nothing in the crib” thing, right?

Because now, everything ends up in the crib and I seem powerless to fight it. There are multiple blankets, designated as “my blanket. MY blanket”. There is that sheep skin mat we feared before. There are books. There are stuffed animals. There was even a brush for one nap. “Audrey brush hair?” Sure kid, knock yourself out. I am sure her tooth brush is next.

Please tell me I am not alone!

It’s okay to let go, right? (rhetorical question. It has already happened.)

I think there are a lot of ‘rules’ like this in parenting. Things you aren’t suppose to do. Toys they shouldn’t play with. Foods they shouldn’t eat. Good common sense safety stuff.

The thing I think is interesting is that no one seems to say anything about when these ‘rules’ end. Obviously some don’t end (like putting a child in an age appropriate child seat). But others. Others end. Eventually a child can have nuts. Or eat an apple that isn’t cut up into little tiny pieces. Or be left alone in the tub. (Cause my Mom was never there in the bathroom with me when I took a bath when I was eight years old, for example). But when? When does these end? And how do you know?

My theory… it just happens. You just let go. Eventually. Not all at once.

Or you see some other kid of similar age doing just fine scarfing down a whole apple.

How do you know when is the right time to let go of those ‘rules’?

Parenting and Political Affiliation… is there a connection?

So one day I was Stumbling and I came across this:

Diagram by Mkandlez via Flickr Creative Commons License

Now, I love a good political diagram. LOVE. What with all the info and summary of huge ideas and over simplification and stuff. You know, boiling down all the complication of the world into a picture. Awesome. (I kid. I actually think this diagram was very very well done and very interesting.)

But as I was looking at this one, something interesting caught my eye. It talks about parenting. And puts parenting characteristics on a diagram about political beliefs.

It makes the assertion that Society/Culture which leans to the right or tends to be conservative is linked with parenting which is “strict” and where the relationship with the child is based on “respect and fear”. This (again according to the diagram) leads to “self-reliance, morality, discipline” and “builds character” resulting in a “self-reliant” adult.

On the other side, the left or liberal is associated with parenting where the parent is “nurturing” and the the relationship is built on “respect and trust”. This leads to “openness, empathy, reflection” and “creates potential” resulting in a “fulfilled adult”.

Now, before we totally pull this to shreds, I think the intention is to draw parallels with certain societal values and how they relate to parenting values. Let’s be real. This is a diagram meant to illustrate large, over arching concepts… not one that is meant to be applied to every individual as an assertion of what is. We all know that parents, families and their values come in a wide array of different packages. I have always asserted on this blog that every family/child/situation is different and people should parent according to those circumstances.

But isn’t it interesting to see politics and parenting theory linked in this way? Especially after all the hubub of the “Tiger Mother” stuff, which would probably fall under the “strict” and “respect and fear” paradigm. I mean, as much as I see some serious over simplification with this diagram, I also see the connection it is drawing. It makes sense to me that the values that impact how we parent would also impact our political beliefs. Except that what our values are, as individuals, don’t often fit into perfect categories. But I think it is still a concept worth exploring.

If the society values “survival of the fittest” it would make sense to raise children based on that concept.. trying to raise children to be as self reliant and tough as possible. (The argument of course of the other side is that children raised in a very strict environment with their freedom to choose limited may not be self-reliant because they haven’t had the practice making their own decisions and facing challenges. ) On the other hand, if the society values “one for all and all for one”, then raising children to be open and empathetic becomes much more important.

There has been a lot of talk about shifts in parenting style from that more traditional, strict, “reward and punishment” type parenting to a much more nurturing and “protection and communication” style. Perhaps that has more to do with shifts in society’s values more then one style being ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. It is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ relative to what you value in society and when what you value in society changes, so does what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.

What is even more interesting is that I feel that some of the even newer parenting approaches- slow parenting, free range parenting, RIE approach (all of which have both similarities to each other but also very big difference, so please don’t think I am lumping them all together) don’t seem to fit with either of these categories. They seem to value different things. They are less concerned with ‘protecting’ our children and more concerned with providing children with the space and opportunity to lead their own experience in life. (Not that those approaches don’t have a healthy respect for safety). They are also less inclined to a strict approach that would interfere with child’s opportunity to make their own choices. So do these approaches signal a totally different political approach as well. A less bi-partisan, more nuanced approach? Overall, I think society is moving the direction of a less bi-partisan approach in general. There is a lot more nuance in politics then their used to be.

I don’t know.. I am just thinking as a write. I don’t really have a thesis or answer or conclusion here.. other then huh. I haven’t really every connected parenting and politics in my brain before. A wonder, actually, as I am deeply passionate about both!

But now I wonder what you think… so tell me!

Additional Information about the above diagram:

Left vs Right: A view of the political Spectrum

A concept-map exploring the Left vs Right political spectrum. A collaboration between David McCandless and information artist Stefanie Posavec, taken from my book The Visual Miscellaneum (out Nov 10th).

THIS IS THE EUROPEAN & UK VERSION WHERE RED=LEFT WING. BLUE=RIGHT WING.

From my book The Visual Miscellaeum (HarperCollins, Nov 2009)
www.harpercollins.com/book/pre-order.aspx?isbn13=97800617…

Do Toddlers need to exchange Valentines Cards?

stars, hearts and crumbs - valentine's art project

(Photo by woodlywonderworks via Flickr Creative Commons License)

Yesterday was all lovely dove-y… today I have a bit of a rant.

In short, in my opinion, no. Toddlers don’t need to exchange valentines day cards.

Yesterday, I went to pick up my not yet two year old from the Day-home. Now, the absolutely wonderful women who takes care of Audrey obviously really likes holidays. Or maybe she just likes the reason to make a couple days a year extra exciting for the kids. Or she has an intense love of crafts. Regardless, every holiday we get a homemade, toddler decorated card. Which is quite cute.

But along with our card this time was a little envelope of valentines day cards from some of the other kids. Now obviously I am not the only ‘bad’ Mom who didn’t even think of this.. there were only a couple cards. BUT. I thought we were still a good couple years away from Valentines Day cards.

But it brought to the forefront for me my feelings about Valentines Day and kids. Mainly that I think, at the very most it is totally unnecessary and at the very least it should be 90% kid led.

Valentines day is a hallmark holiday if I have ever seen one. My husband and I do use it as a good excuse to be extra nice to each other and plan a special day. Cause you can never get enough special days and extra excuses to be good to each other. Because when you’ve been together for almost 8 years and you have a toddler, you need all the excuses you can get.

But for kids? Especially toddlers who very likely didn’t say “Mother, I would like to hand out cards to every one of my friends. Could we please buy that package of Princess cards?” Here are my “con” arguments.

1) It is a waste of paper.

Now this might be a horrible thing to say. I am all for sharing loving sentiments with others and I love beautifully hand made cards. But when we are talking Valentines cards given by ‘toddlers’, we are talking those crappy perforated cards where the parent just fills in the “to” and “from”. It really seems like a waste of paper. We aren’t suppose to keep those are we? Cause ours went in the recycling bin.

2) It isn’t kid led.

We have had a fairly consistent view of holidays- they can be fun… but they should also be, at least in part, kid led. Same reason why Audrey hasn’t been to see Santa. Did she want to see Santa? Did she ask to give out Valentines day cards? At not even two years old, we wouldn’t be giving out Valentines cards for her, or even for her friends. We would be doing it for us or to show that we knew what one is ‘suppose’ to do as a parent. You know, I just wonder, who are we really doing this for? Correct me if I am wrong here.

It’s different with an older kid who ‘gets’ is and actually asks to participate actively in a holiday.

3) Commercialism

Just like everything else in the world of toddlers, every Valentines Day Card out there is Licensed Merchandise. Dora, Princess, Thomas, ect. ect. ect. It’s like an other big excuse to market to our kids and get them more deeply involved with the various characters they all become attached to. And you all know how I feel about that.

4) Obligatory ‘give one to everyone so no one is left out’ stuff

It’s not that I think it is great when some kid gets their feeling hurt because they were the only one in the class who didn’t get a card. I just think it is a rather pointless exercise for eveyone’s parents to buy every other parents kid in their kids class a valentines card (and often candy) on behalf of their child and exchange them. Why don’t we all just buy our own kids 25 cards and a bag of candy and be done with it? Because I know my kid needs candy and pictures of t.v. characters.

So, I am not doing Valentines cards. Until Audrey asks to and can write them and hand them out herself. Even better if she makes them, rather then pulling apart, along perforated edges, some Dora themed cards that come in packs of 20. And if she only wants to give them to 3 kids or all 40 she knows.. whatever. That is up to her.

Maybe my views on this will soften… they often do when faced with reality and peer pressure and you know, life. But right now, at first blush…. I am not a fan of this kids Valentines card thing.

In general, I don’t like ‘should’. I do believe in being kind and considerate and cognoscente of the impact of ones behaviours and choices on others.. but I think the world operates too much on us doing what we ‘should’ do, rather then being authentic and honest and doing what we want to do. I don’t like all the conventions.

Now, before you all roast me on a spit, I don’t think ill of anyone who does ‘do’ the valentines thing. I know it is done with the best intention. Sometimes we need an opportunity to remind each other that we mean something to each other. The parents who do send their kids with cards and candy or whatever, I assume do so because the kids probably like it and everyone is happy and why the heck not?

I am just a big cynic, that’s all.

Am I being a no fun, ridiculous, bah humbug? Do you think Toddlers should exchange Valentines Cards?

Tuesdays 2 Think: Esperanza

This weeks Tuesday 2 Think post comes from Esperanza over at Stumbling Gracefully. Not surprisingly, many of us blog writers share a passion for writing… I love this post from Esperanza. I love how the words just tumble out. Check our her blog for some great writing and lovely photography.

Also, I am looking for more Tuesdays 2 Think writers… I have someone on deck for March 1st, but after that I think I am open. Let me know you want a Tuesday by e-mailing me at amoment2think at gmail dot com.

Now here is Kait:

I’ve been thinking about this for two weeks. What to write for my Tuesdays 2 Think post. I pondered possible topics. I reread the original prompt (several times). I revisited the subsequent entries. I told myself that I had time, that I’d think of something. I counted the days until my deadline. I told myself not to worry; inspiration would surely hit.

And then suddenly I woke up and it was Valentine’s Day. February 14th. And before I could idly dream of heart shaped chocolates, it hit me. After 14 marches 15. And February 15th would be my Tuesday 2 Think. I had less than 24 hours to bang this baby out.

And yet I couldn’t figure out what to “think” about. And it was making me kind of depressed. I mean surely I had something, outside of my daughter, to talk about. I’m a relatively interesting person. I have friends who enjoy my company. I can make people laugh. I quiet a room of 32 young adults dozens of times a day. I went to college and earned a Masters. I’ve traveled all over the world. I speak two languages. I practice mindfulness, acceptance and loving-kindness in the Buddhist tradition. I adore photography. I pursue my life with wit, ingenuity and ardor. Surely I can think of something, one simple thing, I’m passionate about.

And yet, nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Tumbleweeds and such. All those trite metaphors of barren emptiness.

I kept singing those National lyrics in my head. “I better get my shit together, better gather my shit… You could drive a car through my head in five minutes from one side of it to the other.”

I was losing hope. I was despondent. Panic was setting in.

When I casually mentioned this complete failure to identify something that inspires me to my man he stared at me incredulously. What about your writing? He asked, with a tone like my middle schoolers spout when they can’t seem to understand how I could be so inane. Or did I infuse that tone into his words myself?

What about my writing?

It’s true that my writing is something I’m very passionate it about. Writing ignites a fire inside of me. Writing not only allows for self-expression, it fosters a connection with others, keeps a record of my life and encourages my creativity.

Can I write a post about… writing? Some how it feels like a cop out.

But the more I think about it, the more I realize that writing is my true passion. When I read a good book, I’m inspired to put a pen to paper. When I begin a post, I feel the world at my fingertips. Writing allows me to discover myself.  Writing is my passport to creative communities. Writing solidifies core beliefs while challenging them. Writing exercises my imagination. Writing makes me whole.

I used to write in journals. Endless diatribes scrawled across countless pages. These were purely therapeutic pieces, not meant for others’ eyes. But deep inside I felt there was more. I devoured the written word and ached to emulate what I read. I longed to piece things together, word by word. I aspired to mold something meaningful from the mundane. I yearned to be a writer but I didn’t know what being a writer was.

I read once that writers have to write; the words are constantly flowing – each moment lived as a descriptive narrative. Writers cannot function without getting it down on paper. I did not suffer from this compulsion, so by the transitive property, I was not a writer. I lamented the fact that fact and moved on.

Then I started my blog. It brought focus to my diatribes. It forced me to interpret the minutiae of my life. Simply put, it helped me make sense of things at a time when I definitely needed things to make sense. Suddenly I did feel urgency to bring narrative to the circadian. Suddenly I was jotting down that which I would return to. Suddenly I felt like, well, a writer.

And it felt wonderful. I’d found a piece of myself that I never knew was missing. I felt validated. I felt whole.

My writing brought me other forms of approval. My blog provided the opportunity to participate in a community of like-minded women who were driven by the same compulsion. Each of these women was weaving all the dangling threads of her life into something beautiful and unique. As I contributed my own efforts, relationships were formed. Not only did they comment on the design of my life’s tapestry but they pressed their fingers against the stitching, experiencing it’s very substance. For the first time in my life, I felt I was presenting an honest account, an authentic version of myself. And it was being accepted, even celebrated.

As the months passed my drive to write grew stronger. My posts morphed from prosaic play-by-plays to polished pieces. I was actually saying something and, occasionally, I was saying it well. I tentatively began to take pride in my work. Eventually, I wanted more.

Recently I’ve taken my writing to a new level. I’ve authored a children’s book and am laboring over it’s illustrating. Since I wrote that original manuscript I’ve birthed dozens of ideas. I have to write them down for fear they’ll get erased or written over. I have plans for bilingual books, integrating another great passion of mine with my writing. I have hopes of young adult fiction. I actually believe my dream of being a writer, a real writer, might come true.

In the meantime I will continue to etch my thoughts across the page. Stumbling upon the precise word, weaving together an impeccable sentence, fashioning the perfectly adorned paragraph, these are the moments I live for. The fruits of this labor compel me to cherish each and every day. These prose are the legacy I hope to leave, my imprints upon this short time here. And if nothing more than this ever comes of it, I will still know the worth of every word I have written.

Love is in the air

String of hearts

So, Love is in the air today. And yeah, I love my husband. But that’s not what I want to talk about today.

Today I want to talk about loving being a Mom. I often complain, or joke about how much my daughter is a handful (as all toddlers are) or whine about how hard it is being a parent. Which I think is fine… I think it is important to express frustrations to let them out. I also think that this community of Moms I am a part of is fueled in part by that tendency to share a very realistic view of our experiences.

But that doesn’t change the fact that  I love being a Mom. And not just being a Mom. I love being Audrey’s Mom. I love how she runs to hug me when she sees me. I love how she likes to kiss me on the cheek… and then says “other cheek?” and waits for me to turn my head so she can kiss my other cheek. I love the intense look on her face as she very seriously builds a lego tower or plays with her sushi set. I love listening to her sing ‘pat a cake’, ‘ba ba black sheep’, ‘abc’s’ or ‘six little ducks’. I love it when she tells me to sign or ‘sit here’ or ‘mommy read book’. I love the look she gets on her face when I tell her not to do something. I love it when she goes to ‘find mommys slippers’. I love it when she asks “where daddy go? where puppy go? where grandma go?” I love that words like “thank you” “please” “excuse me” “your welcome” and “sorry” are regular parts of her vocabulary.

As much as she exhausts me, she is an amazing little girl. Not more amazing then any other toddler, but amazing to me. Because she is ours.

Every day she learns, explores, shows affection, asks for comfort and has fun.

And I love that.

Photo by aussiegall via Flickr Creative Commons Licsense

ControverSunday Topic: ‘Saviour Siblings’ March 6th 2011

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Okay, we have our topic for March’s ControverSunday. And I hope its one that really gets you thinking.

It was suggested by my friend Sophie, who tweets at @malatrad and Lisa of @lisasunbury jumped in saying “this might be the link #controverSunday was created for.”

I think I agree.

So what is the topic you ask? Saviour Siblings. You know, deciding to have an other baby and using our knowledge of fertility and genetics to take measures to try and select that baby to have the right genetic material to help their sibling with a life threatening illness or condition. Essentially, creating a life to save a life.  Here is a recent article on the issue, take a read: France Sees First ‘Saviour Sibling’

Now that is a controversial topic if I ever heard one.

So gets your posts ready and scheduled to go live on Sunday March 6th. I can’t wait to hear what you all think. Quite frankly, I don’t even know what I think! I really hope you all join in. Remember, everyone is welcome! (To learn more about ControverSunday, check out the ControverSunday page. Which yes, I need to update.)

Making things from scratch and cultural shifts

Photo by hello-julie via Flickr Creative Commons License

I have been doing a lot of knitting lately. I learned how to knit a year or two before Audrey was born and go through phases of knitting lots to knitting very little. (I recently finished a sweater that it took me 2 years to make!) I love knitting. I love that it is calming and relaxing. I love feeling that I have made something from just yarn and sticks. I love figuring out what my next project will be and picking out yarns and colours. Going into the knitting store and brushing my hand against all my yarn choices. Looking for softness.

I joke that I knit because I am not a crafty person. I like having a plan, a pattern, and instructions to follow. No good can come of me picking up a paintbrush. But knitting I can do. Other then music and writing, it is the only art I feel capable of.

But I have been frustrated lately. Because knitting is also DARN EXPENSIVE. One ball of yarn can cost between $4 and $15 dollars, depending on what the yarn is made of. And most projects take somewhere between 4 and 10 balls of yarn. (For the record, not all ‘balls of yarn’ are created equal… some have less or more yarn, measured both in weight and in yardage.) For example, I really want to make this pattern I saw on Ravelry (if you knit and you social media, you must get on Ravelry… great patterns and forums and all kinds of stuff. Besides, I have no friends there, so it be great if you could join me. I am lonley.) It is essentially a really cool scarf. The yarn I want to knit with is about $9 a ball and I would need about 3 balls to do this projects, which means the scarf would cost me $30. For. a. scarf. I could go to any store tomorrow and find a scarf for $10. The materials for that sweater it took me two years to make? About $80. That’s a pretty darn expensive sweater.

Yes, I could buy less expensive yarn. I am a yarn snob. I don’t do acrylic. (If anyone wants to sell me on why I should use acrylic, other then cost.. please do. I would like to hear from others what they feel the benefits are.) I like natural fibers. And I often go for things like bamboo, organic cotton, alpaca and wool. The yarn I want to knit this project from is cashmere, merino and microfiber. But I figure that a) if I am going to spend the time I want it to be nice and b) why would I spend the time and money if the quality of the yarn is going to be less then something I would buy. And I like soft yarn.

All of this has gotten me thinking about the shift from craft and making your own as something that people who couldn’t afford to buy did, to something that the only those with the time and money can do. We aren’t rich at all, but I know we are lucky in comparison to most and we have enough money that I can invest some in a craft I love. Though I have to be careful to not go on a yarn binge. But not that many years ago, the poor made their own and the rich bought. Now, we are facing a switch in that. Obviously there are very few people out there making 100% of their clothing, ect., so it is not like those who knit or sew no longer shop for clothing. So that is an other part of the shift. These types of crafts are no longer done to fill a need, but a want. And a want for a rewarding activity more then the end result.

Fabric is expensive. Yarn is expensive. Heck, organic produce is expensive.

The other part of this is of course the time. Making your own takes a lot of time and many at the low end of the income brackets have even less time then your average middle income earner.

So all these home arts; knitting, sewing, cooking, growing… are becoming the domain of the rich rather then the poor, when some 60 years ago this was the exact opposite.

I am not really sure what I think about this, except, “huh”. It seems ‘wrong’ somehow that it is more expensive to make something then to buy it. But it is also wrong how few things we repair rather then replace. Certainly there are ways around the high cost of raw materials for making things; I have heard a lot about fabric and yarn recycling… essentially going to a thrift store and buying and old sweater and unraveling it and then using the yarn to knit something new. I should try this. I do think there are still people out there that get creative with getting their hands on materials to make and repair things, just as there are still people darning their own socks because they need to.

And I get the economics behind why it is expensive. My little ball of yarn, wrapped neatly in its package, costs more because I buy it 4, 5, 10 balls at a time. Rather then a huge garment manufacturer making sweaters for some big store in the millions. You know, economy of scale stuff.

But that also goes to show the ‘real’ cost of making the goods that we get so cheap. That sweater I bought at Superstore was $25 because the materials were probably bought and manufactured in a less affluent country at a much lower cost- at the expense of that country and its people. The environmental movement has brought that concept of real cost to the discussion, but it applies to the social and economic impacts as well as the environmental.

Anyway, again, I am not sure what I think should be done or what this all means. Its just a bunch of ideas swirling around in my head while I knit.

ControverSunday: Mental Health

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The Cheeseblog

I thought a lot about the topic I would cover this week. The open topic challenge was to get up the guts and talk about that thing that we all avoid talking about. That controversial issue that sits there, right near the surface, that people hesitate to go into.

For me, that topic is mental health. Now, I guess I am cheating a little, cause I have talked about mental health before, in reference to my struggles with anxiety. It is not a totally forbidden topic for me. And in the general societal discourse- the topic is coming up more and more.

None the less, it is by far the topic I wish more people talked about. A lot more.

But I am not sure my take on it is controversial. I feel that I am just joining a chorus of voices that really want to bring this topic into our everyday conversation.

For example, I was really excited to see this campaign from Bell:

People are beginning to talk. This is not at all because of just Bell or any other one group, company or individual. It is all those voices adding up. I see it as a good sign.

So what do I wish people would realize and really talk about?

You see, I really think we see mental health issues as something that ‘those people’ have. We think of individuals on the extreme end of living with mental illness. The very visible illnesses: Bi-Polar, Schizophrenia, Obsessive compulsive disorder, ect. And we think of people who are very obviously at the point of not functioning the same way in society as we would.

The problem I have with this is that I truly believe that mental illness works on a bell curve. (no Bell pun intended) ‘They’ say that 1 in 4 or 1 in 5 Canadians experience an episode of mental illness within their lifetime. I disagree. I would suspect that number is much higher. Just like the vast major of people experience some form of physical illness within their life time, I suspect the vast majority of people experience some form of mental illness. I would rather say that the frequency, severity and duration of those episodes puts almost all of us somewhere on a big bell curve, with very mentally well and very mentally unwell on either end of the curve.

Not only that, I would argue that most of us travel back and forth along the curve at different points in our life. Sometimes we are more mentally well and other times we are more mentally unwell.

I think a lot of the conversation has been focused on the extreme. And FOR SURE, there are a lot people with severe mental illness that need support. When you look at the issue of homelessness and poverty, the issues of mental illness and addiction are so intertwined that obviously the lack of focus on mental health in our society is having a devastating impact. But I think this image of mental illness is misleading and tends to dismiss just how wide spread we are all effected by mental health issues. So I wish we would see ourselves as all having the very real potential of becoming mentally unwell, just as we all face the very real potential of becoming physically unwell. When we see mental health as something that is an important part of all of our lives that is when we will really start acknowledging it and talking about it.

I get that we humans have a evolutionary left over instinct to ‘not show our weakness’.. its why so many people don’t like going to the doctor or the dentist… we think it means we will be kicked out of the tribe or left behind. That ‘your pack is only as strong as its weakest member’ mentality… which I guess makes sense when you are trying to get away from cheetahs or something. Regardless, if we want to really enable people to lead the most mentally healthy lives they can,  it starts with recognizing just how pervasive mental illness is.

Think of all the stress we have in our lives. The pressure. The balancing of responsibilities and priorities and time lines. It is just plain hard to always have the mental fortitude to deal with those things without that starting to have an impact on ones mental wellness. And the connection between the mental and the physical runs very very deep. I wonder what the physical health of a mentally well society would look like.

That is the awareness piece. The other piece for me is the health care piece. IF mental health and physical health are as intertwined as I believe them to be (and I don’t just believe this cause I do, I have read this often.. I just can’t remember where to find a good source to send you all too) THEN why isn’t there more integration of physical and mental health in our health care system?

The answer to this question is really that our system treats symptoms, not causes. For the most part. Which is why so many people are on medication for mental health issues. Because it is easier to treat the symptoms then it is to set up a system that deals with the causes. And particularly when it comes to mental health, the causes are not something that the health care system can entirely impact. To achieve a mentally healthy society, we would need to look at our lives holistically– our work places, our homes, our recreation, our food, our communities, ect. Though I believe our health care system could play a much better role.

Some parts of the system are now moving in this direction. I know my doctor has special appointments with her and a mental health professional that her patients can sign up for… though there is very limited space in this program. But it does seem that parts of our health care system are recognizing the need. It just needs to go further. Doctors need to be more aware of mental illness and the connection to physical illness. And the path to treatment needs to be easy to navigate.. especially because mental illness often impacts ones motivation and fortitude to navigate the very complex system.

But most of all we need to talk about it.

Open Letter to WestJet and those other airlines

Dear WestJet (and any other airline who might care to listen),

Flying with small children sucks. It sucks for the parents and it sucks for your other customers. And I hear you are all about your customers. You tell jokes. You make things simple. You know how to communicate with customers and show them that you value their business.

Do you think you could come up with something that might make flying with small children a little easier? Please?

Here is my suggestion:

Create a ‘family’ section on the plane and advertise it as such. Put anyone who has an infant ticket in this section and let anyone else who is selecting seats in that section know where it is. Encourage parents with preschoolers/primary school kids to book into this section.

This will do a number of things. For one- parents are very understanding of other parents. Cause we get it. We have all been there. And we can suffer together. And maybe our kids might be able to distract each other.

Secondly- those people who hate children and think they shouldn’t be allowed to fly- they can self select to seat far on the other end of the plane. No more dirty looks or heaving sighs.

Then you can advertise that you are doing something to make customers- all customers- happy.

Win- Win?

I’d like to make other suggestions, like giving parents with infants priority on having an empty seat in their row- but that would probably be going to far and may not be seen as ‘fair’ for all. Which- fair enough. Even though it would totally rock. Especially for those 1-2 year old ‘infants’ that really just hate sitting on Mom or Dad’s lap for 1, 2, 3, 4 hours. But I am pretty sure this is just a pipe dream. So I will stick with pushing for a family section.

What do you think readers?  Could it work? Should we start a petition?

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