Archive for September, 2007

Fear And Hope And Love, Oh My

September 28, 2007

My first pregnancy was – for the first six months – a long gauntlet-run of fear and anxiety. I started bleeding about seven weeks in, and this continued off-and-on until well into the second trimester. I was on permanent miscarriage watch, and spent a great deal of my time in a state of confused terror, never sure when the bleeding would increase, when I would have to go back to the hospital, when I would have to hold my breath and wait for the doctor to search out the heartbeat and tell me that she had no idea what was happening.

I both hated and depended upon my visits to the doctor. Hated, because they were visits motivated by fear. Depended upon, because they represented the only sure place of safety: there, I received my only reassurances in the form of the delicate pulse of the heartbeat, thrumming through the monitor. There, there was always a heart beat. Despite the bleak hormone tests, despite the ever-present blood, there was always a heartbeat breaking the silence of those the cold, bright rooms.

I have my first full prenatal assessment today, and I’m scared. But I’m also counting down the minutes, tapping my feet anxiously, waiting for the moment when they tell me – and they will tell me, they must tell me – everything’s okay.

*********

In the meantime, there’s a world that needs saving. Or, at least, a world that needs looking out for. A world in which mothers and children need looking out for. So I’m directing my spare energies to those matters, and pushing the worrying aside.

First, I’m throwing all of my available superpowers into the causes of The League Of Maternal Justice, a vigilante effort to right the wrongs perpetrated upon mothers. First Mission: shame Facebook for policies that discriminate against breastfeeding mothers (that is, their insistence that breastfeeding photos violate their standars of decency, while pro-anorexia materials and pics of half-naked pop tarts do not). Second Mission: the Great Breast Fest, an Internet-wide virtual nurse-in and celebration of all things booby, to empower women to be proud of what nature gave them. You’ve got superpowers, too – boob-powers, heart-powers, MOM-powers (and Dad-powers) – so please… join in.

Second, I’m using all of my available ordinary powers – waking up and walking, primarily – to support my nephew, who has Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy. I’ll be getting up before dawn this coming Sunday to walk the 5 kilometre Charity Challenge. I won’t, however, be doing it alone – I’m going to have some wonderful, wonderful friends walking with me, friends who have helped me raise over $2000 (and counting – you can still pledge the cause) so far. And there’s a long list of more wonderful, wonderful friends – too long to note here, but who will be counted in Tanner’s Super Friends Hall of Fame, coming soon – who have helped from afar by sending dollars and good wishes. I’m indebted to all of you.

(If you’re in or around the Toronto area, you’re still welcome to join us, either for the early morning walk or to help me cheer my sister – who is running the Toronto Waterfront marathon, of which the Charity Challenge is an adjunct event – later that morning. Just send me an e-mail or leave a comment and I’ll get you the details.)

Ready. Set. Go.

The Swimmer

September 26, 2007

The first time that you do it, it’s like taking a long jump off of a short pier into unfamiliar waters.

Maybe it was something that you always wanted to do. Maybe you were enticed by the sight of all those other swimmers, out there in the water, swimming toward distant shores. Maybe you got too close to the end of the pier, and slipped. Somehow, you got in that water, and when you did, you didn’t know what to expect.

You didn’t know what to expect, and so you were surprised by how quickly the current moved, by how turbulent the waters could be, by how hard the waves pushed. But you put your head down, and swam and swam and swam toward the far-off shore, and sometimes you even enjoyed the cool of the water and the feeling that you had become, somehow, another being, another species, and the sweet freedom of just bobbing along when the waters were still, of taking the journey slowly, even as you yearned for its end.

And then you arrived, at your once-far-off shore, and you were new and life was new and you looked back across the waters and couldn’t believe how far you’d come, how distant was that pier.

You can’t even remember what it felt like to take that leap, what it felt like to hit that water.

But you do remember the long, long swim, and how it was sometimes dark and cold and turbulent and frightening. And so it took you a long time to jump back in. If you really did jump, that is. You were pretty close to the edge, so close that the jump was inevitable, but still. Maybe you slipped.

Now you’re in the water, and you know exactly what the long swim ahead feels like, you know all about the waves and the current and the cold and the fear and you’re scared. Happy, too, of course, and excited, to be pursuing this adventure again. But still, scared.

You take a deep breath, and plunge ahead. The shore awaits.

A shore worth reaching.

THEIR Bad Mother

September 24, 2007

(It’s early days, but I’m sharing anyway. Because so many of you figured out that my anniversary message to my husband was coded. Also, because it’s all that I can think about, and how am I not supposed to write about it? Also, because our realtor knows, and if he knows, why shouldn’t you?)

Decade, Plus One

September 23, 2007
September 22, 1996
Every year, more amazing than the last.
Ever more amazing years to come.
You, me, we three, we three plus.
Us.

Getting The Funk Out

September 20, 2007

I’m in a blogging funk.

I keep posting because I need to keep writing, keep talking, but I’m finding it difficult. And I’m finding it even more difficult to venture beyond the confines of my virtual quarters and be neighbourly and friendly and chatty. I wander out into the neighbourhood and hear the chatter and the camaraderie and the friendly debate and am torn between wanting to jump in and wanting to run inside and draw the curtains. I run inside and draw the curtains. I haven’t the energy to chat or discuss or pat shoulders. I run back inside and draw curtains and feel guilty.

It’s not like there’s anything seriously wrong. I’ve had the flu, sure, and that gets one down. But I’ve not been facing any real trials, any life-changing challenges. My challenges and trials have been more or less mundane. The thing of it is, I can’t write about them.

That conflict with my mom – that I have not been able to write about – was never fully addressed. We called a truce, because my sister is struggling with some terrible challenges – a heartbreaking struggle that I cannot write about – but it remains only a truce. My husband and I are trying to make a decision about a big change in our lives, but we are at loggerheads about how to proceed – and I cannot write about it. Our struggle to negotiate our disagreements on this issue (that I cannot write about) is frustrating me, and I cannot write about that frustration. (Why do we not know how to disagree? Why do we not know how to fight? Does anyone know?)

Blah, blah, blah.

I cannot write about those things, so I write about other things. Britney, physics, the potty (which, for the record, has seen no more action. Wonderbaby insists upon visiting it and sitting on it, bare-assed, with sunglasses, but has not repeated the tinkle of the other day); a review here and there, a lot of mindless gossip – these are easy things to write about. But those posts are just me, talking to myself, chattering away so that I won’t feel the weight of heavier things bearing upon my heart. And I can only sustain that chatter on my own, alone, here in my corner. I can’t bring it out into the community, because I simply can’t just chatter in this community. You all make me talk. Which is good, but. Right now, I don’t want to talk.

Does that make sense?

Anyway.

There are a couple of things that I can’t and don’t want to avoid talking about right now. Breastfeeding, for one. I haven’t weighed in on the discussions about Facebook and Bill Maher because – in addition to everything I’ve said above – the whole thing just makes me mad. There’s nothing to argue about. Breastfeeding is natural. Boobs aren’t dirty. Anyone who thinks otherwise should be shunned. It’s like arguing over whether the Taliban maybe had a point about oppressing women – it’s stupid and backward and I thought that we were, as a culture, better than that, or at least, getting better. I was wrong.

So I haven’t wanted to discuss it. All I want to say is this: fuck you, Facebook. You too, Bill Maher.

These friends – among many others that I cannot list here, not least because I haven’t read them all yet, for reasons noted above – are discussing it more civilly. This friend went so far as to chat with a representative of Facebook. (Facebook, not surprisingly, doesn’t really have a satisfactory response. But at least he tried, and was civil. I would have just yelled at them.)

Behold the boob. It is good. If you don’t like it, fuck off.

The other thing that I want and need to say is this: even through the fog of all this funk, you are all, always, bright shining lights. The amount of support you have shown for my nephew, and for my efforts to do something, anything, to make a difference in his short life, fills my heart to bursting. Whether you’ve pledged my walk, or signed up to walk with me, or have staked a duck and a vibrator on raising money for the cause – you’ve all done so much to sustain my faith that, despite Facebook and Bill Maher and all the many, many other tards out there, the world is full of good.

I’ll find some way to thank you all. I really will. Until then: thank you. THANK YOU.

You touch our hearts.

You can still pledge Tanner’s Walk, and you are more than welcome to join in if you live in or around Toronto (e-mail me or leave your e-mail for more info). And if you play Kristen’s dirty duck auction, you can support the cause and get titillated, all at once. And Facebook need never know.

Potty On

September 18, 2007

This morning, Wonderbaby tugged on my arm as I lay on the sofa, sniffling and coughing and muttering softly about the evil of Bill Maher and of viruses in general. She tugged on my arm, and said, potty. Pee-pee. Go potty.

Potty?

Potty.

And so I dragged myself out from under the covers, and took her by the hand, and – asking, all the way, are you sure? you want the potty? – pulled out the little green Boon Potty Bench that we had tucked away for the toilet training that we felt sure wouldn’t begin until she was two, and I helped her unlatched her diaper, and she sat her little round bottom upon the seat, and she tinkled.

And then she asked for her sunglasses, which I fetched, and she put them on. And then she tinkled some more.

And then she asked for paper, and I helped her dab her parts, and then we tossed the paper in the toilet, and we washed our hands. Then we went back downstairs and I took some more Tylenol and crawled back under the covers on the sofa and thought, what the f*ck just happened?

I considered the possibility that I’d dreamt it, or that it was an hallucination induced by the cocktail of Neo Citran and Tylenol that I’ve been taking – the sunglasses were, I thought, a particularly fantastical detail – but then I checked my camera:

I must leave the bathroom door open a LOT.

The Physics of Domesticity

September 16, 2007

The Second Law of Domestic Dynamics – the Law of Parental Entropy – states that one’s children will be demanding in inverse proportion to one’s level of energy. Which is to say, the slower the parent moves, the faster moves the child, from which it follows that if one has flu, the rate at which one’s toddler speeds around the house (and, correspondingly, the decibel level of the noise that said toddler produces) increases in opposing relation to one’s general wellness (or, alternative, in direct relation to one’s fever and/or one’s headache and/or the degree of one’s sinus congestion.)

The First Law of Domestic Dynamics – the Law of Spousal Energy – states that the degree of bickering over small matters in the quotidien cycle of a marriage increases in direct relation to the difference in levels of energy between spouses. This is to say that under conditions wherein one spouse has a headache (or, say, a bout of flu from which derives a headache) and the other does not, the latter will be more inclined to disagree with anything said by the former, such that petty bickering escalates proportionate to the intensity of the former’s headache.

These laws derive from the hypothesis, suggested by thermodynamics, that that the fundamental object of contention in the life-struggle in the maintenance of the domestic sphere is available energy.

All of which is to say – I’m physically and emotionally exhausted from sinus congestion and headache and less tangible irritants pertaining to the occasional difficulty of navigating life with a partner and need to crawl under the covers for, like, days and so have nothing to offer by way of a blog post.

So if you’re looking for actual blog content, you should scroll back to previous posts. You want heart strings and a challenge – check this post. You want a take on pop culture skewed by hormones and maternal empathy – check this one.

Otherwise, you’ll just have to wait a day or two until my head stops hurting.

The view from here.

Using My Muscles

September 14, 2007
Edited below; more information.
I don’t exercise. Never have, really. Oh, I’ve tried, but I just can’t get into it: gyms are smelly, and yoga bores me. This is not to say that I have never engaged in anything fitness-y, just that I need to have better reasons than fitness. I like my bicycle because it gets me places. I love horseback riding because I love horses and I love the discipline of riding and I love (or loved – this should actually be past tense, because I haven’t been on a horse since becoming pregnant) being able to escape the noise and haste of the city for the lovely stink of the barn. I studied ballet for years, just to prove to my mother that I wasn’t hopelessly graceless (I failed, miserably, but can nonetheless do a posture-perfect plie. Just don’t ask me to actually dance. I will step on you, and hurt you, and myself, and anyone within ten feet.)

And, from time to time, I’ve run. Not, again, for the sake of fitness – as I said, I’ve never been much fussed about fitness for fitness’s sake, and really don’t see anything wrong in not having rock-hard abs – but for a variety of other reasons. Clearing my head, for one – I’ve always found running to be a most effective head-clearer. Dealing with grief, for another.

When my nephew Tanner was diagnosed with a terminal, degenerative illness a few years back, I found that the only way that I could shake the foggy hangover that attends hours of crying and pressing of fists into eye sockets was to just head out my door and run. Run, run, run; pounding my feet into the pavement, pushing myself to round the next corner, to race up the next set of steps, to keep going, keep going, keep going until my lungs were fit to burst. And then I would stop, and stretch, and rub my sore muscles, and revel in the ache and tell myself that I should ache, that the aching is a privilege, that Tanner’s muscles would only ever ache from the exertion of living and, later, from the exertion of dying. And then I would get up the next morning, muscles aching and eyes rubbed sore, and do it all again.

I ran until winter came that year, and then stopped, balking at the snow and the frost. Before I had a chance to force myself out into the cold, I got pregnant. Thus ended my running. I found other ways to deal with the grief, and, later, with the joys and fears of motherhood and the general messiness of a life lived with love. I found writing.

My sister, Tanner’s mom, never did stop running. It wasn’t something that she and I talked about very often, but she was running, too. Faster, and further. Her grief was far more difficult than mine to escape, and so she ran and ran for miles, her sadness and her fear nipping at her heels, her dream of hope or, at least, solace, glimmering in the distance. She ran and she ran and she’s still running. She’s run hundreds and hundreds – maybe thousands – of miles now. Marathons, many times over.

She’s coming to my city at the end of this month, to run. It’s my deep, deep regret that I cannot run by her side. She’s running a marathon. She’s running it fast. It – and she – are beyond me. I haven’t run in nearly three years, except when chasing Wonderbaby. (And she never goes 26 plus miles. At least, not yet.) So I can’t run with my sister. I wish that I could, but I can’t.

But I can walk. And I can write. So I’ve decided to combine the two, and throw in a little bit of mad cheering.

Her Bad Sister is running in Toronto’s Waterfront Marathon on Sunday, September 30th. I’m going to do the 5k Charity Challenge Wussy Walk, which is an adjunct to the marathon, as a show of support to her, and to raise money for muscular dystrophy. And I’m going to do it all in Tanner’s name. It’ll be Tanner’s Walk, and I’d love for anybody who is in the Toronto area to join me. (Seriously. You don’t have to know me. You just have to be willing to sign up and walk with me and cheer for Tanner and his mom. I’d love it if you would. E-mail me or leave a comment here and I’ll get in touch with details. The more the merrier!)

And if you don’t live close enough to come walk, you could pledge me. Money raised will go directly to Muscular Dystrophy Canada, in Tanner’s name.

And, finally, you could spread the word, send people back here to hear this story, encourage them to walk or pledge or just send cheers and good wishes. That would be wonderful, too. (Let me know if you do. I’ll want to thank you.)

Tanner. Whose heart is stronger than his muscles give it credit for.

It would be wonderful for me, and for my sister, and most especially, for Tanner. And if you get a little fitness inspiration out of it, well – that’s a good thing, right?

(If you want actual fitness inspiration, check out PBN’s ‘How Do You Fit In?’ Blog Blast, or take part – you could win a pair of Ryka running shoes. Help you run marathons. Or walk them.)

Edit: all of you awesome, awesome people making pledges… if you’re having difficulty, as some of have reported, either just keep trying with the pledge link HERE (it seems to sort itself out), or go HERE and find the button that says “Put A Pledge on Your Favourite Runner Or Walker” – ahem, ME – and click through and search my name (Catherine Connors.) Voila!

Those of you who have said that you’ll walk with me (WOO HOO!) I’ll be in touch by e-mail in a day or two to pass on details.

You all rock. I heart you.

Kicking The Juice Box Habit

September 13, 2007

September is a time for pulling up one’s socks, straightening one’s sweater and resolving to do better: this is the year – we say each September – that I try out for basketball/pass math/clear up my skin/save the world.

I never did try out for basketball after Grade 7, I only passed math with difficulty, and I still struggle with my skin, but I still sometimes resolve to save the world. This September, world-saving has, for me, taken an eco-turn – BlogHers Act Canada is committed to acting on the environment this year – and the BlogHers Act Canada team is kicking off a series of eco-challenges, to be taken on at a rate of one per month. September’s is – reduce your dependency on packaging. Bottles of water, juice boxes, grocery bags, whatevs: cut it out.

And blog about it. From the BHA-Canada page: We invite all Canadian bloggers and FOCC-ers (Friends of Cool Canadians) to participate in writing a post about how you plan to reduce packaging. Write whatever part of this issue is most important to you. Share your own tips and clever ideas. Rant about how hard it is to use less disposable items. Review a great product. Do an expose on companies with particularly excessive packaging. Write a Haiku (brilliant example HERE). With enough of us blogging it and engaging our readership, we can get more people thinking and acting on tangibly reducing the amount of packaging that ends up in our landfill.

What do you say? We’d love it if you joined in. Let us know (link, comment, send e-mail) if you do. Deadline is Sunday midnight.

(PS – there are prizes. Lovely, lovely prizes. And lots and lots of good feeling.)

Britney and Me

September 12, 2007

I have long believed that, when it comes to discourse on celebrity and celebrities, no holds are barred. High-minded proclamations of the sort that insist that they’re people too, they deserve respect, privacy, etc, etc are, to my mind, entirely unconvincing: celebrities are not just like you and me, and they do not have an automatic right to privacy and respect. They’re celebrities: it’s their business to strut and fret their foibles upon the public stage. And if they embarass themselves – well, all the better for the rest of us, who do well to remember that celebrities are human-all-too-human, and flawed – sometimes very seriously so – and so not deserving of knee-jerk adulation simply because they’re there. I respect that some people take the position that all celebrities should be treated nicely as a matter of course – it’s a very nice position – but I don’t really have any patience for it. If a celebrity’s being a tard, then we should feel free to say so. And laugh about it. (Mockery of quote-unquote “masters” is as old as comedy itself for good reason: it’s socially healthy for those with less power to laugh at those with more. Keeps differentials of power in proper perspective.)

All of this is a very long-winded way of defending the fact that I have taken my fair share of shots at Britney Spears. It’s hard not to: the girl wanders around without pants, crashing cars and lamenting her lost career and prattling on and on about a comeback. The great Greek comic dramatist Aristophanes – and later, Plautus, and certainly Machiavelli and probably Shakespeare, too – would have had a field day with Britney: the comely girl turned goddess-of-sorts who falls from grace into a slatternly state of confusion (a kind of female Bottom, perhaps, minus the dalliance with fairies. Or a Poptart Gloriosus, of the sort that Plautus would have adored and pilloried). One almost wishes that she would stop being so ridiculous, so that she wouldn’t be such an obvious target.

I have wished that, actually – that she’d stop being so ridiculous. She’s a mom. I know from being a mom. Even if she has sixteen nannies – and I’m guessing that she has at least six – she’s still under tremendous psychological pressure. A few years of pop superstardom can’t prepare one for the mindf*ck that is new parenthood, let alone new new-parenthood-cum-single-parenthood. In the public eye – in the harsh, harsh glare of the public eye. But still: there’s a baseline of dignity that one has to hang onto, however tenuously, once one becomes a parent. For our own sanity, and for the sake of the kids: parents need to keep it together, in some minimal way, at the very least. Staying groomed and upright, for starters. Not doing anything that’s going to cause Child Services to pay you a visit. Not stuffing your post-partum, pre-Pilates body into a few scraps of satin and fishnet and tramping dully across a televised stage. That kind of thing.

I wish that Britney had stopped being so ridiculous before she got up in front of the VMA cameras, before she’d turned Puck on herself and stumbled and fumbled her way across that stage and made herself more of a laughingstock. But she didn’t, and we are, most of us, laughing. And even though one might say that she asked for it, even though one might say that that’s what she signed up for, way back when she was a Mouseketeer and aspiring pop tart and wanted celebrity so bad that she could taste it… even though one might say these things – even though I might say these things – the laughing and finger-pointing at Britney’s VMA performance is making me a little sick to my stomach.

It’s making me a little sick to my stomach because so much of it is directed at her unstageworthy physique, at her failure to regain her taut, poptart figure after having two children, at her insistence upon squeezing those dimply thighs into fishnet stockings. And it’s not simply because I, personally, draw the line, in mocking celebrities, especially female celebrities, well short of the point of mocking or criticizing bodies (at least, the bodies that God gave them. The bodies that they buy are fair game. Oh, and David Caruso’s body; that’s fair game, too, for no good reason that I can think of. I’ve made fun of his legs.) It’s partly that, of course – laughing at Britney for being a dimply size ten (eight? six?) after bearing two children is an insult to all women, everywhere, and to anyone who was borne of woman. It demeans all of us. But it’s not that, in itself, that sickens me in the deepest part of my gut. It’s mostly this: I look at those images of Britney stumbling self-consciously across the stage in that ridiculously skanky outfit and I see myself. And I cringe.

No, I don’t see myself wearing that outfit, or grabbing some poor back-up dancer’s crotch. I don’t see myself desperately grasping for fame and adulation while shimmying awkwardly in fishnet stockings. But I do see – I have seen – myself, sometimes, desperately grasping for the girl that I used to be, the girl that I was before I became a mother. Mostly, it’s an imagined grasping, but it’s grasping nonetheless – it’s me berating my reflection in the mirror for not having lost my pregnancy weight, it’s me trying on clothes that would have suited me three years ago but are now too small and too hip and too not-me-at-all, it’s me telling myself that thirty is the new twenty and forty the new thirty which makes me, like, twenty-something and not at all old and hey, I’m still up on the cool music and the cool clothes and see? Motherhood hasn’t changed me at all!

There’s a figurative satin-and-fishnet skank outfit in my psychic closet, and I have certainly pulled it out and tried to squeeze myself into it more than once. That I have not had to confront that image in all of its sordid glory – never mind parade it publicly – is my very good fortune, but still. It’s there. It is there. It is.

So it is than when I click through on those videos playing and replaying and replaying again the footage of poor Britney wandering, sad and self-conscious and disoriented, through her VMA performance, I feel sad. Sad that she wasn’t able to let go of some old dream of herself, some old, pathetic notion that she is and always will be girl. Sad that – from the looks of it – she woke up from that dream mid-stage, as the lights hit her and the music started and the elastic in her tiny satin panties cut into the ample flesh of her thighs and the giggles from the audience burned in her ears and she all of sudden knew. Not a girl, fully a woman – but a woman grasping desperately for the girl, and just not reaching her, not even close.

It makes me sad, because I’ve reached for the girl in me, the girl that I was – not so much to be her again, but to feel her, maybe. Understand her. Make her more a part of the woman that I am, whatever that means. And I’ve imagined, sometimes, that I’ve grazed her, with very tips of my fingers; that I’ve almost reached her; that I’ve come close to grasping that girl and integrating her with the woman that I’ve become and am becoming. That I’ve maybe, just maybe, preserved the girl inside the woman, and that maybe, just maybe, that girl will get the woman to fit into a smaller pair of skinny jeans.

And then I see Britney, and all I can think is: how ridiculous. How ridiculous, her. How ridiculous, me. How ridiculous, all of us who refuse to go gently into the good night of age and gravity and seriousness and dignity. How ridiculous, all of us who would fight the loss, mourn the loss, of the silly, beautiful girls and boys that we once were.

And how sad that we laugh at that, as if we none of us have fought that fight on the stages of our psyches, and lost, and mourned.

How very, very sad.