Friday, March 30, 2007

Letter to a teenage daughter

I'd like to ask for your help, from anyone reading this blog.

My daughter is entering the Maiden phase, has just hit puberty in the last year, and will soon be fifteen. That's the age I lost my virginity at, under dubious circumstances not entirely of my own choosing. Peer pressure had a lot to do with it, and hippy communes (hmmm, that story may come out later if I ever write that autobiography....)

So what I want help with is: how to let a daughter know how to trust her budding body's sexuality, and yet protect her from losing herself; how to teach her to trust her instincts in a world of double standards which does not honour female sexuality, yet encourages attractiveness and desireability in girls. How to teach her respect for her body, and boundary making?

I'd like to write her a letter, and tell her that being a virgin is a good thing, that sex is about choice, her choice not her friends' timing. I want to let her know that oral sex is sex, and that it's often degrading for girls to provide this as some kind of service to boys who give little or nothing in return, not to mention the risk of disease, herpes, etc. Being popular does not make it worth it. And then, alcohol - how a girl must keep her head together, because alcohol lowers her resistance, loosens her inhibitions and her common sense.

Women/girls make love for different reasons than boys I think. Maybe I'm wrong, there are lots of sensitive boys and men out there, but our needs are more emotional - we bond quickly. We make links, little spider threads of love and need get woven into our psyches when we make love. We can't break those bonds as easily. We expect reciprocity and it's not always forthcoming. I know I can't protect her from heart break, but as her mother, I want her to feel like she knows her own limits, her own self-worth.

So, for all these reasons, I need your advice - write me if you can, with your story, or how you let your daughters know about the joys and pitfalls of becoming a sexual being.

many thanks,

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

What my daughter taught me

I was digging through a big plastic container in my home office this afternoon, and dug out two collages I had made during a class a few years ago. One was cuttings from magazines, pictures and words on the theme of Finding My Passion.

I had pasted: the secret code of women makes my heart dance, and girl powered, guilt-free love is still a complete mystery". "Independent spirit, quirky but cool" and right on top in big letters: Follow your heart, put the world on hold.

The earlier one has some great pictures of a green watery oasis "felt but not seen" beside a buddha head "125 years of wisdom" - wish I could scan the whole thing and paste it on my blog. My dream-on garden, happy tails, I feel free, Abandon the conventional and raw pleasures are more indications of what I was feeling or looking for then.

Then, right beside these two was one my daughter had made with coloured pens, on a day she was home sick with a back-ache this past September. She wrote: Don't worry, Love will keep us alive, Lust, Life, Love, Live, Happyness is priceless (sic), Be yourself, Love Yourself, and Thx 4 everything! I (heart) you, (shop till you drop was also there!).

Tomorrow is the last class on Embracing the Feminine at the women's centre, and I thought of doing a collage, then wimped out because it involves gathering 6 glue sticks, finding giant pads of paper, magazines, scissors, etc. Maybe we'll just hold hands and count our blessings instead. It's been a wonderful journey, to explore the Feminine, (see Wisdom for Women blog for some more musings on that). And I'm sure it's a subject I'll continue to write about.

A horoscope reading I had last fall advised me not to plan too much, or intellectualize too much, that the transmission of knowledge or information that I want to communicate will happen, will become clear. And so it has.

Right now, the energy of spring is calling me, bright sunshine and a sleepy dog that needs a walk. I want to stretch my legs (stiff from cross-country skiing this past Saturday), and let my mind wander. It feels good in my heart to know that I am living my passion, I am feeling my heart's quiet contentment, and I am giving myself the rest that I need when I am tired (yesterday it was all I could do to get the laundry folded).

My new motto may be: power naps rock!

Care about yourself, is what Caitie taught me. Take good care of you,


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Requiem in the dark hearing music

This is my requiem poem for Michel, who passed from darkness to light on Saturday.

Give me bird song
to lighten the sadness
of the dark

give me rainfall
to sweeten yellow grass

give me long summer nights
and Danish choirs singing
in the light that lasts until

give me a woman in black
playing piano in an upper room
where we cannot see her.
let the melody and music
float down to us below
beside the crooked white house
with tilted stairs.

give me what is broken but true
for I have been a perfectionist
all my life and grew to hate
every song that didn't hit
the right notes.
I even refused to sing.

Now that my voice is broken,
give me bird song
to sweeten the dark.


Friday, March 23, 2007

Listen to the Birds! poem for spring

it's not quite Earth Day yet, but the birds in Montreal
are chortling, singing, tu-twhit-tuuing like crazy. It
almost feels like Spring. Oreo is listening to that red
cardinal whistling in the back yard.....

Listen to the birds/Earth Day

The prodigious wind doth blow and heartily.

Something is about to happen.
Listen, it calls you…
bright from within the shining …
glistens, whispers, wet, alive.

Speak, but from the wordless place.

This wind outspeaks the loud roadways
outvoices birds, bells,
the ubiquitious
chrome chimes.

The open sky above the field
echoes dump trucks’ rattle.

Overhead high clouds line up,
booming by. Dark over the lake,
coming fast

See the red-winged black-bird,
hear the willow breathe –
all that roaring wind
punching branches up and down.

This is the week, the day
it may happen,
the first leaves.

Listen to the birds, robins, crows
They speak from the wordless place.
Listen, something

is about to….

Monday, March 19, 2007

permeable boundaries indeed!

"Women have permeable boundaries" says the author of The Feminine Face of God. "Our bodies feel the irrevocable connection of the tides with our cycles of monthly bleeding." (I think I'm in the downward part of the cycle, even if there is no bleeding any more). Then she quotes several women talking about the difficulties of having a separate spiritual life and a marriage, where one feels 'locked in' or dependent on a husband for a sense of identity. "I don't know how to integate my inner life with my marriage, one person says, " I don't know how to find the balance between the separateness I need to nurture my spirit, and being close to my husband."

My spirit was greatly nurtured at a choir retreat this weekend, at a lovely sing-along around the piano, where our fabulously talented new director played all the songs we threw at him, plus a few more. Then he played a song from Godspell, By My Side, that I had sung long ago (almost 30 years). As I sang along with him, I felt something cracking down the middle, a little tiny earthquake of tears brought on by the feeling that comes only when I sing my heart out.

What an ache opened up inside! I went to bed, and soon was sobbing and trying not to make noise, cause sharing a room with three other women. Later I realized it was like the 52 year old turned and saw the 20 year old walking up to her. Some things haven't changed, like the longing for a pure love that soars up with open wings - sorry, can't explain that feeling of singing bliss. But coming home to husband and teenagers afterwards, drained and exhausted from 2 days of intensive singing work, I felt such a need to be alone, and to find that feeling again.

So the quote about permeable boundaries jumped out at me when I opened this book. It's partly a longing to be alone, to find that soul part of me, and yet quivering in my boots at this new open-heartedness, the prospect of living my joy out in the open? letting it fly, unstoppering the bottled up need for bliss and singing....

you see, we used to sing together and here I confess that my husband rarely reads my blog, and if he does he'll know what I'm talking about....we used to sing at our weekly 'satsang' gatherings years ago, in our young-love days. He played guitar, I sang and warbled folkie love songs by Elton John (Love is the opening door), Bruce Cockburn, Joni Mitchell, Fleetwood Mac.... we fell in love inside of the music-making.

I also remember what my twenty-year old zeal was like, and how love could not be limited to just one person, in my heart, in even earlier days. It had to be shared with all - massages, cooking, singing, cleaning, serving, giving....not limited to one person.

Yikes! I have opend up a can of worms with this singing -

Thursday, March 15, 2007


Breathing is highly underrated.

Most of us do it without noticing, unless we begin to run and then run out of breath. Or have a chest cold or congestion, then breathing is difficult.

Today, in our Women's Centre class, we sat and listened to a body awareness meditation by Joan Borysenko, a little visit into the body to check in, see how we were feeling.

Fifteen minutes passed, it may have seemed long to some. I know I was aware of all the little children being picked up by their mommies in the daycare right next to us, their voices echoing in the hallway, happy noise. But mostly I noticed the energy lightly moving inside my arms and legs and back, and how calm everyone felt after the tape was over.

It feels good to breathe. It feels good to bring awareness down into the belly of the breath.

I think too much most days, and when I want to slow down, I sit and let my attention fall into the rhythm of my belly breath. It feels like wisdom, cause it's so nurturing and simple.

When my mind is racing, in panic mode, or just worrying about a list of things to get done in too little time, as usual, it feels like the last thing I have time to do.

But I do it anyway. With a stretch over the counter, or a deep intake of breath and arms overhead, or head down, hands dangling to the floor. Or just sitting here in my comfy chair with a dog on my lap. (Mollie is real small, a shit-zu mixed with bichon, a lovely warm weight).

So I invite you to check into your body, now, while you're reading this.

Take a long, slow breath in, and out.
Close your eyes for one minute. Give thanks.

We don't know how many of these we're going to get, do we?

Life energy circulates with each one. Yeah!

what else is new?


Monday, March 12, 2007

real women and compassion

Hi there, I'm not gone missing, just away from my desktop and laptop recently.

I have been writing about compassion and love for a while now, and god/ss decided to take me at my word and throw me a real life challenge, or two.

One of my good friends is journeying towards health through the cancer minefield, and a niece of mine landed on my doorstep, out of hospital on her way to the detox center, with a broken leg and a few other ailments needing medication, and a very big appetite!

So, I feel like a have a new baby in the house - it's very sweet, she is very sweet, and we get along fine. She sleeps a lot, eats a lot, and smiles a lot. Amazing, because I was expecting a very hard uphill battle.....instead I feel like I'm in a state of grace.

Those of you who know me, know I am usually kind and generous (hmmm) unless my patience is stretched, and then, watch out! But here is someone who is more fragile and vulnerable than myself, more challenged in emotional reactions because more brutalized, and yet behaving well under the circumstances. I feel very lucky to have found her again (she was lost to us for almost a year). And very grateful that she is back in one piece, and in need of our love.

So after writing that Women's Day manifesto, I find myself with a beautiful chance to walk my talk, and put compassion into action. Fierce protective love, overwhelming, achingly beautiful, caring love, patient, cooking and cleaning, serving love. Silent and strong love. Woman/mother/aunt/sister/daughter love.

My husband and kids are in on it too - we are all treating this love-starved woman with the best family love we know how. She's had a pretty rough nine months on the streets.

And my friend is also on the receiving end of a lot of care and love. And some chinese herbs, and healing stuff. Hats off to all who are helping him recover.

Gracious, our world needs healing! But the only place to start is here, now, at home, with those nearest and closest to us.

gratefully, in grace,


Thursday, March 08, 2007

International Women's Day

Happy Women's Day!

Last night I watched a movie "5 in the Afternoon" about girls in Afghanistan after the Taliban, one in particular who would like to become first woman President of her country.

Throughout the film we are treated to girls' voices reading from religious texts, about how men should not look at women, that girls and women should not lift their veils or allow a man's lust to be provoked by seeing them, and how a woman dancing is sinful. If a man sees a woman's face uncovered, he hides against a wall and asks God to forgive his sin.

The power of the gaze has never been so conflicted.

There is no happy ending to this movie; the father won't let the girl study, let alone work, and he sees blasphemy everywhere in the 'new' Afghanistan. It's not very hopeful.

I do see hope for women gathering, uniting, and educating themselves when I hear of organizations like Peace X Peace, or 60milliongirls or Oprah's new school in Africa.

Much more can be done to get out from under the bushel with our light. Today in the Globe & Mail, a national newspaper, an anglican bishop says Christianity needs to rethink how it looks at sexuality and admits that 2000 years of male influence has skewered things. Now that is news!

We must keep faith in our own power, keep faith in our own bodies, in making our own decisions based on our own knowing. Every woman who believes in herself and speaks her truth adds to the force of the truth being known.

What is the truth? Our fierce, strong beauty and independent thinking, our sensuality and resilience, our belief in each other and in ourselves will carry us through.

Compassion, strength, intelligence, power, caring: these are all feminine virtues.

They can be masculine virtues too - if humans choose so.

Celebrate your wisdom: do something to soothe and uplift yourself and your world today.

in peace,


Monday, March 05, 2007

Poem for the day


A woman kept in a house
is like a cuckoo in a clock.
Her breasts sing with milk
in the middle of the night.

All night the house blows
in the wind, a cradle
on top of a tall tree
or a ship lost at sea.

A man thinks he owns his wife
if she stays in the house
but once she shuts the door behind her
shuts the door on her children behind her
if she shuts the door of her mind
she can fly,
no longer under lock and key.

A mother alone in the house
is like a cat in a cage with two birds,
alone in the house with two children,
in the house without wings.

Her two breasts, two small partridges
rustle in their nest, escape
like two cups overturned,
two loose dice on the floor,
two blind mice running to get the knife.

At night the house does not rock
like a boat at sea.
It is rooted, stands still
like a woman chained to a rock
awaiting rescue, like a cage
rocking on its pole.

The dangerous woman in the veil
sings to the women in the moon
she sings to the old woman in the shoe,
she sings to a woman
in anything else, besides a house.

from "Little Mother"
(Hochelaga Press, Montreal, 1997)

Friday, March 02, 2007

Mothering Myself, too

How can I mother others (read, be gentle), if I can't mother myself?

The first mother-god in our life is our own mother. She appears flawless, beautiful, all knowing, all merciful, kissing boo-boos, wiping tears, untangling curls; until we hit pre-teen years, then wham! she becomes the hag, easy to find fault with - we don't like the way she does her hair or the way she dresses, the clothes she buys for us are uncool, her disgusting personal habits (in our view) gross us out; not to mention the embarassing hoos-hoos over the back yard in search of us at supper time or bed time or the fact that she sees danger lurking on every corner.

In my life, things were complicated by the fact that my mom suffered from the disease of alcoholism - that made the transition to hag come a little quicker. I was the eldest of eight, and harnessed into 'little motherhood' at a young age - diapering babies, holding bottles, feeding pablum to brothers and sisters, babysitting - were all par for the course. Good material for growing up fast. Yet shouldering responsibilities too big for my small shoulders.

When mothering my own children came along, I tried so hard to 'do it right'. Be that perfect mom. Huh! And of course, no one is perfect. I began to resent having the weight of responsibility on my shoulders again. Somewhere down the line I realized my own need for mothering was still unfulfilled - that part of me that hadn't really grown up yet.

So how could I begin to mother myself? Hmmmm, perhaps giving up on that perfectionism, not pushing myself so hard to be all things to all people, not taking on too many tasks at once (which causes panic, anxiety to set in, and mad rushing, which usually results in accidents or at the very least, too much yelling); slowing down, letting things come to me, letting go, not being 'in charge' all the time or feeling overly responsible for everyone in my life. Giving myself a break, taking it one day at a time. Ceasing the self-criticism, harsh self-judgment. Reminding myself that I am ok. I am enough. I am not perfect.

When I am hard on myself, I push the kids too hard. They react, I react, we all get a little crazy. They remind me, chill out, don't sweat it, Relax! They don't need me hovering. They are learning to manage their own time, get homework assignments in on time, get enough sleep, come home on time. (Time is a huge issue here, I'm noticing) I call them reminders. They say, Mom, we know what we have to do! Trust us. They actually need less mothering.

When I don't feel like a 'good mom', when I feel like I'm blowing up too often, talking with other moms is helpful. Having a women's circle is a god-send. Turning to my husband and admitting I'm not the superwoman I think I am is humbling but good for the heart. Letting down my armour, asking for help, sitting in meditation, practising yoga, coming back into the body.

Today, I am nobody's rock. I need mothering myself. Many people may rely on me for leadership, team participation, support, or just companionship and friendly presence. But today, my mother-ship is docked in the service bin. I need some time out for just me, for heart care repairs, for recovery from the mommy battles. Instead of tackling the list of things to do, I'll take a nap.

Snowstorm outside makes me want to stay inside where it's warm.

Breathing in, breathing out, resting, unlatching all the 'shoulds'; the navigational devices and compasses are on 'rest mode' while we wait out the storm.

Breathe with me,