Monday, June 29, 2009

Mothering, writing, solitude

notes from my journal about busyness, writing and mothering:

'I am missing the solitude of my journal, reading a book of short stories (Bang Crunch) woke that up in me, the need for self-expression or a quiet self-reflective mode - I am not obligated to write for anyone or anything but to recover lost parts of me - the urge to flaunt convention, to leap up in the face of tyrannical duty-bound daily life and its obstinancies of order. Truly, I tell myself lately, you must let go of the house-tasks, let go of cooking (alternately I berate myself for being lazy and not experimenting with new recipes). There is a battle within between the housemother who organizes and the artist who rebells, as if I can't decide which one I am.

But that black or white either-or thinking, is false, fatalistic, not creative - I am both and neither. I am all sides of myself, mother, writer, creative spirit, and I do not need to neglect either one - just satisfy the call right now for less 'outer activity' and more writing.

It is a sincere desire to create, not to escape household duties. but the frame or grid I put myself in leaves no time for 'being lazy' or loafing creatively. Thyroid issues are all about time, according to my dictionnaire des malaises et maladies, and so I imagine that my body mind soul are struggling with the same issues - what I tell myself becomes a reality. so I tell myself that time is elastic and stretches into whatever container I need to buoy me through the day. Being rigid about time allows it to pick me up and grind me in the teeth of agendas, appointments (did I really need a manicure today?) and then spit me out in pieces.

Pieces I have struggled to keep together may fall apart. I am a hostess with a unique style, not hyper orgnaized in advance (nor was my caterer for the prom cocktail, l hour late!). Being better organized reduces stress, so yes, we will improve.

I am juggling - or I am letting go of juggling all these balls - caitie julien jacques molly oreo zoe - am impatient when their needs pile on me - when is it time for me? Another typroid message. Ok I get it. I must create boundaries, limits, practise saying no, and getting down to the work at hand. Just do it! says my zena mooon candle on the desk - better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing flawlessly. (Robert Schuller)

Poet May Sarton in her Journal of a Solitude quotes a letter from a woman, who is complaining of something similar: "Can one be within the framework of a marriage do you think? I envy your solitude with all my heart and your courage to live as you must."

Then Sarton continues, "It is not irresponsible women who ask that question, but often women with children, caring women, who feel deeply frustrated and lost, who feel they are missing their 'real lives' all the time. Has this always been true and only now are we able to admit it? and what is the solution? It is partly no doubt, as women's lib has insisted, that it is time the warm nurturing powers, usually taken for granted in women, now be called out of men in equal measure. Roles should no longer be assigned on the basis of sex or of any preconceived idea of marriage, but should grow organically from the specific needs of two human beings and their capacities and partner in a love relationship (whether homo or heterosexual) shoud feel that he has to give up an essential part of himself to make it viable.

But the fact is that men still do rather consistently undervalue or devalue women's powers . ... and women, no doubt, equally devalue their own powers. But there is something wrong when solitude such as mine can be envied by a happily married woman with children. "

Happily married and still craving solitude, I have just had my first day totally alone, with only the dog and 2 cats, in a long time. Caitie has flown away to Italy, J & J are fishing till tomorrow, and the silent lake flows under a pewter sky.....


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Leonard Cohen in French

above is a link to youtube video of Graeme Allwright singing Leonard Cohen's the Stranger, in French. Geniale!

a great translation which keeps faithful to the mellow voice and rich text of Cohen's poetry in music.

hope this embedded link works!

enjoy the music of my favourite songster
in my favourite language

Monday, June 22, 2009

What Mommy Wars?

Read an article today in G&M Life pages, "Mommy wars" - whether full time daycare is ok for children, now that Ontario wants to offer it, is at the basis of this article. The title is so old, however, because mommies are just trying to do their best, it's not about which is better, full-time care with at home mommies or day care and working mommies. It's not a black or white issue.

Isn't it always about choice? whether the issue is birth control, abortion or full-time day care, parenting at home whether by fathers or mothers, it's all about choice. Women want to do what is best but they sometimes can't decide what that 'best' is.

Some of limited economic means feel they have no choice - between working and putting kids in day care and not eating, they choose working. The limited options for working parents (outside of Quebec's subsidized day care) are more of a problem than the working mother's guilt at not seeing every rite of passage unfold before her eyes. It isn't simple. And it isn't the same for everyone. See the recent blog about daddies at home, some due to job losses, some due to choice. It's not only about isolation versus self-fulfillment through work, either.

As a mostly stay at home mom who chooses to work from home, with workshops and retreats bringing me outside part-time, I have the best of both worlds. It has always worked best this way for me, hiring part time care when I needed it. When the kids were little, I both wanted to be with them, and wanted a foot outside of the house in my own creative world of writing. Now that they are teens, they need me less, but I'm still around when they do.

When they were little, the options were easier for me to afford. I tried full time daycare and lasted three days, when my son was one year old. I opted for home-care three days a week with a nanny. Even though my home office was just upstairs, which made it difficult to not intervene when there were tears, I did have the time and mental space to mark papers, prepare teaching plans. The biggest discovery was a shared office in a dingy university English department with rundown furniture and a tiny space-- that felt like being on vacation compared to being at home with two small kids all day. Yet I was there to see the first teeth fall out.

The hardest challenge I faced was graduating from university and no more teaching position - graduating to a full-time mommy role, albeit with pre-school and kindergarden schedules filling in for some of the time. Still, I don't think my life was any easier, or harder, than my sister's lifestyle. She went back to work after trying to stay home full time with her second baby. I think she lasted three or four months before she knew it wasn't good for her mental health to be cooped up at home. She missed her work, she missed the stimulation of a job and co-workers. But then, she had to drop them off in winter at the homecare around 6:30 am and pick them up after dark in the evening. When they got older, they prepared their own meals some nights and she'd arrive in time to take them to Tae Kwon Do twice a week.

My solution to the 'going crazy feeling' was to keep active in the writing community as a volunteer, organizing readings, meetings, writing a newsletter, going to see other writers read, reviewing books, working on projects I could do from home. I also joined mothering groups, mom and tot groups, and volunteered at their schools. I kept busy, fought my lack of patience and mounting anger with therapy sessions, wrote about my lack of patience and anger at being the only one they called out to in the middle of the night, explored the issues that came up for me so intensely in a book called "Little Mother".

In my experience, the Mommy wars have been inside of me, not with other women. I appreciate that staying at home is very difficult unless you build a network of friends to support you. I appreciate that working full time means you only get to see your kids between 6 pm and bedtime, which at some ages means an hour and a half of get supper ready, get pyjamas on, and hop into bed. There are advantages and disadvantages to both choices.

Can governments support working parents better? yes. Can we give stay-at home parents more tax breaks? Yes - Penelope Leach's 1994 book "Children First" makes a very strong argument for government support and family friendly workplaces being good the the economy and for families. Let's give parents more options, more choice.

Two other excellent books about the pitfalls, challenges and joys of mothering: The Mother Zone by Marni Jackson, and The Myth of the Perfect Mother, Parenting without Guilt, by Jane Swigart. Both these books help us see mothering as something outside of the stereotypes we have unconsciously swallowed. The emotional reality is that it draws out the best and the worst of us, and yet, without children the 'world' would cease to exist. The reality is that parenting work is "heroic". It takes courage to give a child what they truly need.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Peace and Cake

It's funny about blogs. Now that I am aware that there are people who subscribe and follow this blog, I am more conscious about what I want to say, and who I am saying it too. Most of the time what I write is a spur of the moment inspiration. I also realize that there are men reading this, not only women - (maybe the 'go pee when you have to' on my list of 7 Tools doesn't make sense to a man - is it only women who hold it in while they continue scurrying around doing a million other things that need doing?)

Anyway, today is worth writing about. Today was Debra's 50th birthday party, and she prepared a garden party for us, where we were treated like queens. She prepared food herself, had some of it catered, from salads and wraps to chocolate cake and fruit platter. We drank champagne, and chatted with some of her friends we didn't know yet. She had about 15 people there, including her mother-in-law, so I figure she has a lot of good friends, a lot to be grateful for.

As the party wound down, a few of us sat still drinking tea and talking about stuff - about massage (since our gift to her was a certificate for an hour and a half massage); about how we are all so tense, hold on to so many tensions inside. I had a wonderful conversation with Doris, 78, who suddenly asked me, 'how do you relax? sometimes I can't sleep more than 3 hours a night. I don't know how to turn it off, the mind is always thinking.'

I thought I could share a few tips about breathing, the slow relaxing outbreath, the yogic centering breath, but really it wasn't the place for that. But when I mentioned the word Sabbath, talking about the book I'm reading called Sabbath, Restoring the Sacred rhythm of Rest (Wayne Muller) her face lit up. "Synagogue! that's where I feel at peace, she said. "I sit and close my eyes, listen to the music, sometimes we have to sing along, and I feel transported." Wouldn't it be nice to find an inner temple to be transported to?

Isn't that what we all want? a way to find that sacred space in which we forget our worries, let go the 'holding' we do, and just come back, settle back into simplicity, into a comfortable feeling of being at home with ourselves, of being rocked into serenity. Some of us find it in music, some of us find it in churches, or by the lake, but all of us have this natural urge to feel peace within.

That is a topic that I can safely say transcends gender. Women, men, mothers and fathers, we all want to feel that simple, homey, feeling of peace.

It's right under our noses, it's so close and attainable. If we can leave it some space, & breathe into it. Allow it to catch up with us. Stop for a moment and catch the wind in your sail, let the calm inner self be where you are. Stop holding on. Surrender your restlessness. "Quench our thirst with Sabbath tranquillity" as Wayne Muller puts it. Lose our fear of resting and non-doing. Find our wellness in just being.

I wish that for Doris, and I wish it for Debra, and I wish it for all of us.


Monday, June 15, 2009

daddy bloggers enter the real world

"Taking care of kids is no can be gruelling. When the kids are napping or late at night, it really kind of helps to get on-line and bitch or share stories."

Mommy bloggers? no, this quote is from an article in the Globe & Mail ( Lifestyles section Monday June 15)
about Daddy bloggers, lots of whom are newly at home because of the economic downturn. Bitching about childcare just got a masculine edge.

All of a sudden, these once upon a time important people with jobs are facing a lack of recognition, a lack of a way to measure their "own success" by promotions and raises. "Nobody's patting you on the back, nobody wants to take you to lunch," says Ron Mattocks, whose blog is Welcome to the club Clark, the super woman club.

I remember feeling this shock to the ego, inspite of the joy of having children, and wondering why things hadn't changed much since the 50's when my mother was staying at home with her kids. Millions of women have experienced this lonely transition to working at home, feeling like you've disappeared into a black hole, and millions have gone back to work because they couldn't hack it being at home full-time. Nobody said it would be easy, but men are now having a chance to experience what women have known for a long time. And they are smart enough to be building on-line networks to cope with the isolation.

Another recent article by Margaret Wente in the Saturday Globe & Mail asks where women's happiness went. Apparently women now have more power, better jobs, more equality, but we are less happy than we were in 1970. Ms Wente should read more daddy blogs. They're venting about the same issues, "you're used to networking within your profession and now you're isolated at home. There's nobody there except for two kids and you're breaking up fights, you're doing laundry and you're finding barbie doll heads clogging up the toilet." Article by Sarah Boesveld on Daddy Bloggers (

Men who stay at home with their kids at least are doing half of the job working women are now expected to do. Being a stay-at-home-most-of-the-time-mom myself and working from home, I have all the frustrations of the moms who work full-time and raise kids, but I probably get more sleep - at least I'm not doing laundry at 10 pm on a Monday night or spending my weekends catching up on housecleaning and errands. Happiness, for most modern mothers, would be having a cleaning lady come in once a week so they can enjoy their weekends. Having a wife would be even nicer.

I think that's why women are less happy. They don't have access to the free services of a wife. They have to pay to hire housecleaners, lawn and garden specialists, day care providers and babysitters, window washers and laundromats. Ergo, they forego these services unless they can afford to pay for them. And even some who can afford it would rather do it all themselves, even if it leads to exhaustion. Now I hope the women with daddies at home are getting more sleep and not feeling guilty that the men are carrying half of the load.

Women have been battling the lack of self-esteem and pats on the back for all the caring they do for a far longer time. Maybe having more men stay at home with their kids will turn out to be a boon for women and mothers. It may mean that the role of childcare, caretaking and house managing gets a boost in status, if more men take on this role. Or it may mean that the men who stay at home to care for their kids just lose status, get bored and return as quickly as possible to the 'real world' of perks, raises and bonuses. The end of the article on daddy bloggers states that he won't be a stay-at-home dad or "housebound" much longer - he's looking for a real job, to be back "being the primary breadwinner."

Does that mean his wife will go back to double time? doing the unclogging of toilets, driving kids to dentist appointments, and working full time? It doesn't say much for the real value of the real work parenting and housekeeping involves.

Either way, mommies and daddies are blogging about the ups and downs of being at home, while they're waiting for a 'real job'. One day, in my imagination, both women and men will agree that raising children is a very tough job indeed, and worthy of the highest recognition as a real job, if not the highest salary.

Meantime, let's welcome the dads into the blogosphere!


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Knowing the source of Joy

in you is the Hottest Topic. It is the news.

The joy that you have in you needs to be honoured. The love, not the love mixed up with lust, but the love that expresses itself in kindness, in gratitude and understanding, needs to be honoured. And indeed, the God that is within you also needs to be honoured. And the greatest of all gifts, the blessing of all blessings, the kindness of all kindnesses, the most subtle, most beautiful, needs to be honoured.

What does honour mean? To recognize it for what it is worth. To honour, respect, to acknowledge the most magnificent but the simplest of things in your life.

You honour everything else – you honour those things that do not honour you. What happens when you honour this God in you? God in return honours you, and the homage that is paid to you is called peace. That’s your reward.

It’s called Joy. It is called understanding.

You honour this breath and it brings you peace. That is simplicity. You need to start seeing simplicity in a new light. You need to start seeing the divine in a new light. And it is in your heart, not in a temple, but in the temple that resides in your heart.

...Search for this joy. Wherever you find it, fulfill your thirst. And if you don’t find it, look me up. I make it possible – it’s not just words.

Prem Rawat, Sydney Australia, May 5, 2009 (adapted from video on

I couldn't resist printing this out on the blog today - just watched the video at, free webcasts of events Maharaji is doing around the world. We may see him in my home town this weekend, and I am so excited!

Living words for the living....


Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Knowledge of the Self

Today, in a singing lesson I was reminded of the importance of learning by feeling, of letting go of the mind's intense desire to 'get something' or 'get it right', and go with the rapture.

Click on the link below for an excerpt from an interview with Burt Wolf and Prem Rawat, about self-knowledge, reason, logic, feeling and the heart:


Monday, June 08, 2009

7 Tools for Gaining Essential Wisdom

Tuning into body guidance - a revised version from earlier blog post
(with thanks to all the teachers who have inspired me: Dr. Christiane Northrup, Dr. Joan Borysenko, Marion Woodman and special thanks to Maharaji for showing me the well of peace within).

I believe our wisdom is close at hand, right within us, and very doable. You don't need a book to tell you how to tune in. All you need you have already, if you can live close to the body/
belly/heart wisdom.

If we can listen to our need for rest, food, inner peace, we can begin the healing we need. In my experience this involves trusting myself, and accepting that I am enough. I have enough. I do enough.

This is my challenge right now, and I share it with you because it is simple, (if not easy) to start following your body's guidance right now. (The first rule is so simple, you'll laugh. But it has been trained out of us since childhood.)

l. Eat when you are hungry. Enjoy your food (fresh, organic produce whenever possible) sitting down - taking time to digest and savour the flavours. Notice when you feel satisfied. If you are really adventurous, let yourself be served once a week. This feels wonderful!

2. Sleep when you are tired and take naps whenever possible. Set your body clock by going to bed at a reasonable hour. Can you find your own need for rest?

3. Strike two items off your to-do list every day and be happy with that. Do not be a slave to ‘getting it all done’. This helps me to practice feeling "I am enough". And from the Adrenaline Junkies List by Cheryl Richardson, I add, Do Not Spread yourself too thin. Learn to say No and disappoint people, gently.

4. Take time to sit in silence once a day to center yourself in the breath for at least 10 minutes. Make inner peace a priority, because it is :)

5. Stretch, shake your body, dance, do yoga, walk, or move a new muscle. Wake up your body every day. (thanks to Brigitte for this insight)

6. Go pee when you have to – respond to the first call. This is harder than it sounds.

7. When you have your monthly period, give yourself what you need – either rest or exercise. Consider that PMS is the result of not listening to your body guidance. Sit with your center and ask yourself, hot water bottle or pilates? Your gut will guide you. This is your time to be alone; your intuition is stronger now. Pay attention.

As with any list, you can start with any one of these in any order, and do what you can. Just begin somewhere to take care of you!

I have found that when I take care of myself and treat my body less harshly, more lovingly, I naturally become less harsh and more loving to others. My favourite gift to myself is a massage or Reiki session to balance my energy and relieve anxiety and stress.

Remember, whatever I bless flourishes, whatever I criticize falters. So love your body.
(from the Woman's Belly Book)


Friday, June 05, 2009

Friends Encouragement

Blogs are more than a personal diary, at least for me, the blog is a place to share information, reach out and touch someone with interesting facts or insights, and even make new friends. I especially love getting feedback and hearing from readers.

A friend wrote me this week to say she had visited the blog, browsed it, and found it chock-full of information and resources.

That encouragement is so helpful! thanks Sylvie for writing to me with your feedback.

I will never feel the need to 'tweet' about what I'm doing every minute of the day, because that is too much minutaie for anyone to be interested in. But today was not an ordinary day! I had a colonoscopy for the first time. Every person over 50 is supposed to have one, so I finally accepted my doctor's advice and booked one. It didn't take long, and the day before was more of a bother, what with emptying the colon all day.

However, if they offer a sedative, take it. I tried to be tough and go without it, but there was some discomfort and pain as they tried to reach all the way to the end of the colon, turning corners and helping the instruments along from outside as best they could.....won't go into more detail, but it was definitely easier once they put the drugs in an intravenus needle... I am so much more afraid of needles than of pain, that I put it off till the last minute, and now the Demerol is still wearing off.

Here is a quote from Conversations with God:

"For most of your life you've lived at the effect of your experiences. Now you're invited to be the cause of them. That is what is known as conscious living. That is what is called walking in awareness....

Be patient. You are gaining wisdom. And your joys are now increasingly available without pain. That too is a very good sign.

You are learning (remembering how) to love without pain; to let go without pain; to create without pain; to even cry without pain."

enjoy the new sun and warmth,