Category Archives: NaBloPoMo

NaBloPoMo; So long, farewell…

Today is the last day of NaBloPoMo and I made it! Wow, what a month. I am so glad I participated this year and I am certainly on board for next year. It was a challenge, but a good challenge.

Looking back on this month.. wow. My blog got a new look. I shared my story of anxiety. We discussed all sorts of interesting topics (at least interesting to me). I shared some recipies. I asked your advice. I started a Facebook page and a ‘amoment2think’ facebook persona (so you can like me and/or friend me… I post my blog posts there so if you don’t use and RSS reader and you aren’t a fan of e-mail subscriptions, that’s an other way to be alerted to my post. And if you like them and share with with your friends you will be helping me build my readership. Which would be like, awesome.) This month though, has been the busiest on my blog ever. Cool!

It’s been a big month friends.

And now it’s December. ControverSunday the holiday edition is next Sunday. My class is now over. My house is decorated. Yeah holidays!

Thanks all for reading these 30 posts, sharing your thoughts and being so very supportive. You all rock!

Oh! Oh! I totally forgot to congratulate all of you who were such stellar NaBloPoMo participants too!!! Great job!

Ambiguity and the Quest for Right

I used to be very very uncomfortable with the idea of ambiguity. That is to say, I was addicted to the idea of being ‘right’. I had to get that A. I had to be on the honor roll. I had to have the answer to the question.

And more then that, I had to believe in something 100% or not at all. When I was a teenager, I decided I was agnostic. Why? Because I didn’t feel like the church had all the answers. The irony, of course, is that agnosticism is just about the most ambiguity choice when it comes to religion. I couldn’t buy atheism either; not 100%. There seemed to be ‘something’ behind everything. I have always had the sense that ‘every thing happens for a reason’. And so far, science has not be able to explain that for me.

Anyway, my point is that I very much tried to live my life in the ‘right’. I strived to either made the right decision or have the right answer. If I felt the debate was too many shades of gray (like religion) I would opt for ‘no answer, thank you.’ Ambiguity wasn’t my friend. Unless I actively choose ambiguity as a cop-out.

In highschool there is a winner of the debate. When your on the debate team, at least. Problems come with an answer. A gold star. A grade. A check mark on the page.

In life, conversation, discourse, disagreement do not lead to a winner. Debates rage on and on and on. Sometimes our whole culture or society shift in one way or an other. But this doesn’t happen from one debate, it is a result of many many many small, short interactions that slowly change people’s minds. It is a result of new and different life experiences that shape our perspective. Everything around us and everything that happens shape our society. Tiny tiny increments at a time.

And it is in this knowledge that I have become more and more comfortable with not having the right answer. Changing my opinion. Considering multiple perspectives as partially valid all at once. So many things hold value and meaning for me. I can’t just pick one.

Did you know that I don’t have a favourite book, or meal, or color (well, maybe green) or song or day of the year or anything like that. How could anyone pick a faviourite? One thing against all similar categories of things that holds more meaning for them then anything else? I just can’t do it.

But that’s just the thing. Identifying or aligning oneself with one thing, one choice, one perspective, does not negate the possibility of finding meaning in something else as well. You can find yourself drawn to one thing, while still recognizing that it has its faults, downsides, missing links, and holes. You can believe something and at the same time think, ‘maybe that’s wrong….’

Despite our politics which says ‘flip flopping’ is the ultimate sign of a weak politician, I see flip flopping as the ultimate sign of openness. Of respect for the value of the perspectives and ideas that others bring to the table. I believe it is a sign of maturing (at least me maturing) to the point at which the goal is not ‘right’ the goal is simply to understand within the limitations of the extent to which we can understand. There is no one answer. Life is about the interaction of millions and millions of little tiny ‘answers’ that all criss-cross and over lap and wind around each other to paint a picture of what is ‘reality’. Or at least reality for you.

So I am embracing the ambiguity. The nuance. Having an opinion but recognizing that I ‘think’ I do not ‘know’.

The most versatile tool in my kitchen

Via Flickr by arifm

My cast iron pan is probably my most used kitchen tool. I love it. Like a lot.

Last night I made corn bread to go with our slower cooker ribs. Yum. And I, of course, used my cast iron pan. The corn bread came out perfect and crispy on the bottom. Double yum.

This morning I had cornbread with molasses! Best breakfast ever.

I use my cast iron pan to make my Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. The book suggests baking their bread on a pizza stone, but I find the cast iron pan works even better. Particularly because a) I don’t have a pizza stone and b) Cast iron pans are easy to take out of a hot oven and then slide the bread dough on to.

I love the smell of fresh baked bread.

Speaking of pizza, I also use my cast iron skillet for making deep dish pizza. Oh my gosh yum. Gets the crust nice and crispy.

Every other weekend or so I make pancakes. My husband really loves pancakes. Anything breakfast really, but pancakes is one of his favourites. Sometimes I put blueberries, or apple and spice or orange zest in my pancakes. But I always cook them in my cast iron pan.Then they get that really dark crispy look on them.

This pan is also great for browning meat (like lets say a pork tenderloin) and then sticking the whole thing right in the oven so it can finish cooking. Works really well for fish too.

It’s my favourite pan to use for caramelizing onions. Or sauteing mushrooms. Or sauteing asparagus.

I have made apple upside down cake in it. I have made crust-less quiche in it. And it makes just about the best darn grilled cheese sandwich one could ever want. Food almost never sticks to it. So it is easy to clean; it hardly ever needs scrubbing.

Essentially what I am saying, is that I couldn’t live without this pan.

What are your favourite tools in your kitchen and why?

Free Range versus Highly Engaged Parenthood: The Debate goes on

Via Flickr: Pink Sherbert Photography, D. Sharon Pruitt

This is not a new debate. Not on this blog and not in the world of parenting. But it rages on none the less. And being a topic that is of great interest to me, I am content to bring it up and discuss it over and over again. The last time we talked around this issue was a ControverSunday topic. Check it out here.

This time, I am responding to this article, “Modern Parenting; If we try to engineer perfect children, will they grow up to be unbearable?” by Katie Roiphe. Go read it, I will wait.

Her point is this, there is a tendency in modern parenting whereby parents are highly involved in their children’s lives. (Not all parents, but many). This high involvement seems to include parents going to great effort to ‘control and perfect’ the child and the environment the child grows up in. It is in part a response to perceived and/or real risk, both of which exist. And it is in part a response to try and give our kids a ‘head start’ at success. There many many examples of things that parents now do that were not common place 30-50 years ago. Playing classical music to your baby with earphones before they are even born. DVD’s, toys and flashcards promising to make your baby capable of things not taught until preschool. Enrollment in a wide wide range of activities and programs to try and ’round out’ your child with art, music, sports, ect. Advanced education programs promising to get your high school kid a head start at university.

And then there are the more subtle changes. Closer supervision. “Showing” babies how to play. Doing homework ‘with’ your child. Parents calling up University professors to argue their kids mark. Did you know that some employers are now sending an information package to the parents of the new graduates they are sending offers of employment to, as they are recognizing that winning over the parent is key in the new grad decision.

Not all parents do this. And not all kids that experience this are anything but wonderful, engaged, warm children. But. But.

Think about the homework thing for a minute. In the article, Katie says:

“I can recall my own mother vaguely calling upstairs “Have you done your homework?” but I cannot recall her rolling up her sleeves to work side by side with me cutting out pictures of rice paddies for a project about Vietnam, or monitoring how many pages of Wuthering Heights I had read.”

Here the thing. If you are eight and your parent asks if you have done your homework and you say you have, but they don’t do it with you. You haven’t done your homework. You go to school and you fail a test. You have just learned there is a consequence to your action. Then the next time you study and do your homework, and you get a B. You have just learned that you can do it. You motivated yourself and you accomplished something. You feel proud of yourself.

But if every time you do your homework your parent sits down with you a monitors to see if you have it done. Answers any questions you have. Helps you through it. What happens when you go off to university and you don’t have someone to do that? No one to give you a gold sticker for finishing your homework.

Obviously, not every kid who’s parents do their homework with them is going to lack internal motivation. It is metaphor for the larger point. Our job as parents is to support our kids to live their own lives. Learn what they are passionate about. Learn their strengths and weaknesses. Learn how to make decisions, make mistakes, make changes, and motivate themselves. Learn how to like themselves.

“One sometimes sees these exhausted, devoted, slightly drab parents, piling out of the car, and thinks, is all of this high-level watching and steering and analysing really making anyone happier?… Is there something reassuring in parental selfishness, in the idea that your parents have busy, mysterious lives of their own, in which they sometimes do things that are not entirely dedicated to your entertainment or improvement?”

Children have their own lives. From the time they are babies their lives are their own. And as parents, we need to have our own lives too. Living your life through your child’s accomplishments is so not a life I want to live.

“Built into this model of the perfectible child is, of course, an inevitable failure. You can’t control everything, the universe offers up rogue moments that will make your child unhappy or sick or ­broken-hearted, there will be faithless friends and failed auditions and bad teachers. The one true ­terrifying fact of bringing an innocent baby into the fallen world is that no matter how much rubber flooring you ship to the villa in the south of France, you can’t protect her from being hurt.”

All you can do is set your child up to handle that disappointment, hurt, challenge. And setting them up means letting them practice, when they are young and you can be there to give them a hug and make them cookies.

I don’t believe Katie is suggesting we should stop parenting based on what we think is best. I don’t believe she is suggesting that we shouldn’t be involved and shouldn’t do things that mitigate real risk. What I believe she is suggesting is that we remember that the perfect world and the perfect child are unobtainable and that we need to remember that children have their own lives. And live is about ups and downs. From a very early age, children can direct aspects of their own lives. Make choices. Make mistakes. Learn consequences.  She says: “It might be time to dabble in the laissez faire; to let the imagination run to art instead of art projects; to let the imperfect universe and its imperfect ­children be themselves.” Dabble. Just dabble. Sure, I can dabble.

If you haven’t read it, I would highly highly recommend reading a book call “Under Pressure”, by Carl Honore. It is a fantastic book about the high pressure that many of our parenting and educations practices put our children under. If you want to really understand this whole debate, it is a great place to start.

Running on Empty & a Reading Assignment

NaBloPoMo has exhausted my all my blogging ideas. I have a few drafts in the tank, but nothing I feel driven and passionate about writing about. And today, being Friday, I am pretty much just done. So.

I am thinking I might write my thoughts on this article this weekend.

http://www.slate.com/id/2275596/

But right now I can’t gather my thoughts. Other then general agreement with the premise of the article. But I am going to go there. I would love to hear what you think too. Why don’t you take a read through when you have a minute. You know, if you wanna. I will be here.

And go.

What I am thankful for

I am not American. As you can probably tell from my rants about the Canadian winter. I was born in Canada and I celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving, over a month ago. (Our growing season is shorter y’all, so our ‘harvest’ comes earlier. I assume that is why the date discrepancy.)

Anyway, I am grateful for many things, most of all the people in my life. And it just so happens that two of the people within my top 5 people I am most grateful for are American; my father and my husband.

Okay, they are both also Canadian. But if they were crossing the border they would say they were American, cause they are dual citizens and the US Border guards no-likey dual citizens and would prefer you claim your Americaness first and foremost. I have heard. Anyway. I digress.

I am grateful for them both.

I am grateful for my Dad, who is a great father. I credit all my success and happiness in life to their great parenting. Really. And my Dad has always ‘got’ me, accepted me and encouraged me to be who I was. He never asked me to change (except when I was being a bossy brat- he wanted that to change. ) What I mean is that he never pushed his hopes and expectations for me on to me, all he did was support me to achieve my hopes and expectations for myself. And for that I am so grateful.

I am grateful for my husband. He is loving and affectionate. He is passionate and interesting and unique. He truly wants to share this life we have. He is my partner around the house, getting right in there with the dishes and the laundry. He pushes me out of my comfort level and challenges me to face my fears.

And he too is a great father. Oh how I love watching him talk with my daughter. I love how he talks with her, how he interacts with her, how he parents her. I love how he balances me as a parent. He is good at what I am not, and vice versa. I love the look of joy and pride in his eyes when he tells me about some cute thing she did while I was away at class. Really, Audrey couldn’t ask for a better Dad.

And for that I am grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving my neighbours to the south!

I was listening, it’s just that…..

You know when you are having a conversation or reading something and you hit something… and your mind starts to go a mile a minute?

All of a sudden you find yourself thinking of how you would respond. Why you disagree. Why you agree. Why that story relates to your life. What you think.

If you are having a in-person conversation, you start thinking of the next thing you want to say. If you are having an online conversation, you continue to scan what you are reading, but your mind has already gone to that comment box. You start to plan the words in your head.

This happens to me. I suspect it might happen to you.

I was thinking about this the other day and realizing how much it can hamper understanding. Because once I go to this place in my brain, really, I am not longer listening or understanding or absorbing the other perspective. My brain have left the building, so to speak, and I have taken the conversation off course.

I notice this happening online. A LOT. So I assume I am not the only one who does this. People responding in a particular way to a post, or tweet or comment. People responding passionately. People responding will good, clear, interesting perspectives. But seem to be totally missing the point of what the original author was saying. I am sure I have done this. Lots.

We all have our own conversation triggers. Those pet peeves; issues near and dear to our hearts, painful memories, points of great pride, goals for the future. And so off we go. Off.

Communication is difficult, isn’t? To really hear someone we have to be really listening. This is so easier said then done. We see the world through our own lens. We make assumptions. We take cognitive leaps to fill in any blanks. We tune out things we don’t want to hear. Ignore points we don’t want to recognize.

Interesting, isn’t it? It’s a wonder we ever understand each other. 😉

What do you think?

I was going to write….

I was going to write something interesting, intelligent, riveting. You know, my usual fare. (Ha! HA!)

But I just spent 3 hours in traffic. So I am going to whine about random things that annoyed me today and random annoying things I started thinking about while thinking about those random things that annoyed me. Sounds like fun eh? So excited to read on, aren’t you?

Wait, Wait! Isn’t there a blogging meme invented just for this reason? Well, maybe not the whining, but the randomness?

randomtuesday

Oh thank goodness. Hi Keely, over at The Un Mom I thought I’d play along. Hope that’s okay.

  • Winter traffic sucks. Normally I try not to complain about traffic, because really Calgary isn’t that bad. At least not in comparison to Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver. (Not to mention many major U.S. cities). So I kinda scoff when people complain about Calgary traffic.
  • But 3 hours in it gives me the right to complain I think. Winter traffic sucks. Black ice. Drivers doing one of two totally annoying things: going way to fast or way to slow. Good times.
  • Take that an add in screaming poopy (don’t worry, only for the last 20 minutes) toddler demanding: Daddy? Water? Milk? Grandma? Snack? Elmo? Cheese? SNACK?! DADDY?!! CHEESE!!? MILK?!! GRANDMA?!! ! ELMO?!!  RASINS!?? WATER??!! Peter Rabbit? Repeat that for about 2 hours. Fun.
  • I got to hand it to the toddler though, she did much better then I would have strapped into a seat while hungry, bored and thirsty.
  • You might ask why we didn’t stop. Trust me we tried. But we were on highways, you know. And always in the wrong lane. Eventually we did. Pita made the situation all better.
  • Did you know that Calgary was the second coldest place on earth today? I am not even kidding
  • You know what I hate even more then driving in the winter? Parking in the winter. You get just a little bit of snow on the ground and no one can see those stupid yellow lines and it turns into the wild wild west. Artistic parking creations to some, maybe. But completely annoying. Especially with Calgary’s tendency for BIG PICKUP TRUCKS. Because there is a strong likelihood that one will park one lane over in a way that makes it impossible to back out of the parking spot as the lanes shift one way or the other.
  • I have a lot of laundry to fold. See:
  • I am not going to fold it.
  • Because I don’t want to. I would rather drink wine.
  • My husband took various forms of bus, train and taxi cab home today. Because we were already stuck in traffic so long that if we went to get home we probably wouldn’t get home until 9pm.
  • I sent him out for wine anyway. I feel like a bit of jerk. But he likes wine too.

Okay, I think I am out of random thoughts. Were they random enough? Kinda united by a general “I’m grumpy” theme, I guess. Anyway, my wine is calling.

What I learned from T.V. about Parenting Judgement and Guilt

Do you ever watch “Parenthood”? It is one of my favourite shows on T.V. Mostly because I wonder if they have hidden cameras in our house. The emotions and experiences of the parents, struggling to be the best parents they can be while still being human (ie. flawed), are so real. It is one of those shows on T.V. where the dialogue is so real and so moving. Even experiences I haven’t had as a parent (yet) I totally relate to their reactions and emotions.

But the last couple times I watched it, (along with some of the discussion on my “Pick em up, Put em down” post and some other posts I have read and that Erica Jong article and the reaction to it, ect. ect.), I have been thinking about the parenting archetypes the show (and other forms of media and social media) portrays.

I believe that how the media (including blogs and other forms of social media) portrays parents has a big impact on a) how we see ourselves and b) how we see (and perhaps sympathize, judge, or understand) other parents.

Probably the most common parenting (and one of the most bothersome, in my opinion) is the clueless, disengaged Dad. You know, Homer Simpson-esque? And like every Dad on a commercial where the Dad is the butt of the joke. This archtype really bothers me. Like a lot. Not that there aren’t kinda clueless Dads out there, just like there are clueless Mom’s. But it does such a disservice to all the amazing Dad’s out there to have everyone assume they are clueless, because the media tells us that all Dad’s are clueless.

On Parenthood, this archtype is played by the Grandfather of the show, and they do a really really good job of humanizing this character. It is not as offensive to me because he is so real, caring, loving and really trying to be a great father and grandfather. He knows he is flawed. He feels regret and guilt. Just like all of us do sometimes.

One of the other archetypes on the show is that of the controlling, high powered, working Mom. It is that character that often makes me shake my head and wonder- maybe I do that sometimes… hmmm…. is that what that looks like to everyone else? Again, because of how real the characters and the emotions of the show are I feel both sympathy for the characters, as well as being able to relate to them. So when they do something ‘wrong’, it causes me not to see them as the ‘other’, not to judge them or say ‘I would never do that’ (even if that is the case), but instead to use it as a lens to question my own parenting.

And along with the typically parenting archetypes; the perfect does-it-all Dad, the worried about everything slightly too involved Mom, the all fun and no seriousness Dad who needs to grow up, the Mom who is struggling to find herself, her career, her partner…; there is also a stay at home Dad– presenting a much needed perspective on something that far fewer men than women do. Showing it not only as real, but also as coming with it’s own set of challenges.

Again, I like these depiction of parenting archetypes; these characters. They are real. They are complex. They seems to cover the spectrum of how parents are portrayed in society, and makes them less like archetypes and more like real people.

I also value the archetypes they didn’t include. The ones I am not sure really exist all that much, except in the minds of those who portray them. The parenting scapegoats of society.

The lazy, disengaged, yelling, selfish Mom who never holds her child and leaves them to scream while sipping her glass of wine.

The coddling, never put their baby down till their 3, never let the kid out of a meter’s range, no boundaries or discipline, no use of the word ‘no’, martyr Mom.

If we are really honest, those two archetypes are often what is portrayed in the media and the world of social media. The two extremes on a huge spectrum with no consideration for what is in between. And I don’t even think it is intentional. It is all part of that ‘easier to make an argument when you build it against a strawmanwomen’ thing, along with our tendency to stereotype the ‘other’. It is not a coherent and coordinated attempt. But when we hear over and over again about all these mothers who let their babies scream for hours on end without batting an eye or mothers who provide no boundaries what-so-ever and spend the first 5 years always within 10 meters of their kid– well those images add up. And all the milder versions of those images make us think of the extreme– those add up too.

I get that many people feel that they have met women like that, while others feel that those parenting archtypes are a myth. There is no way to argue on that point, it is a she said/he said/she said/ he said argument. I have no idea who you know and what those people are like. I can only speak to who I know and what those people are like.

But I do believe most real people exist in the middle. And even if they don’t, they are real, complex individuals. With whom if we met and got to know for long enough; if we strove to really understand them; if we could take a peek into how they feel; the guilt and love and trying to do their best and not always doing their best and flawed human that they are; we would have sympathy, not judgment.

Yes. That is what I learned from T.V. about parenting judgment and guilt. When we catch a glimpse in the real emotions and real lives and real trials of any parenting, regardless of what category they most closely fall into, it is hard to judge. So let’s just not.

And let’s provide a space for nuance and humanity in our descriptions of parenting styles and choices we don’t agree with. Just for kicks.

Thank you New Canadians

I love supporting small, family run businesses. It makes me feel good to support them because I know the money is re-invested into their families, rather then going to thousands of nameless shareholders. And I have been thinking about them a lot lately. Because I have come to realize more and more, that those small family run businesses are often run by families whom are first generation Canadians.

Many of these entrepreneurs are highly educated professionals in their home countries. They get in to Canada partly because of those professional qualifications. And when they get here, they have to jump through so many hoops, they often find it near impossible to work in their field of expertise.

Which is so frustrating. I understand that we need to ensure that they have the same knowledge and skills as Canadian trained professionals. But there is very little support in place to help them jump through the hoops of Canadian accreditation. Not to mention get support them to find employment once they are accredited.

So many of them, being the amazingly bright people that they are, go into one of the hardest fields to make a living in- running their own business. Sometimes that is a taxi cab, sometimes a restaurant, sometimes a little corner grocery store or gas station. They run franchises. They run independent businesses. They do it all. Some of them go on to run big, successful, businesses that expand and grow. Some of them keep their businesses small.

They take all the intelligence and dedication and hardworking attitude and apply it to their businesses. Running your own business is hard. It is a 24/7 job.

And instead of being bitter about a country that doesn’t recognize their foreign education, they are some of the most warm, kinda, welcoming people. I love going into a little restaurant or grocery store run by new Canadians. Their customer services skills are wonderful. They make amazing food and provide too notch services. They do it with a smile and a hello. They do it all with pride. They know they are doing something important.

And more then just providing great restaurants, stores and services, I feel that these businesses contribute to the cultural fabric of our city. I love that within 5 minutes of our house there are small family run businesses run by Greek, Indian, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, Lebanese and Afghani families. All with their own stories to tell.

Next time you are in your favourite small, family run business, whether they are immigrants or not, I encourage you to thank them. And then ask them their story. And thank them again. Make no mistake- the Canadian economy runs on small businesses and New Canadians run some of the best.

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