Build something

My advice from life:
When your heart is breaking,
build something.

Turn the hammer
that thumped you in the gut
into the tool used to knock down walls.
When your mind races
and chases sleep away,
double check your math.
And dream not just
of how to manage the repair,
but of the possibility in the options.

When your heart is breaking,
gather the tools and supplies you need
to create, to build, to make something new again.

That is how you shine.

Posted in Creativity, Life, reflections | Leave a comment

Yes. My husband is a great dad. Stop saying it.

Our family of three just got back from a great little “pre-return to work holiday.” And it was just what the doctor ordered. Except for one little thing: the number of people who complimented my husband.

Before I launch into why that bugged me, let me lay out a few examples.

One afternoon the boys went up to nap together, and I wasn’t sleepy, so I stayed by the pool for a bit. One of the women in a group beside me asked if “dad was giving me a break”…commenting on what a good husband he was to do that.

I mentioned to the same women – later in our conversation – that our trip was a celebration of the trade-off coming: that I am about to back to work and N is getting ready to take over for the last four months of our joined parenthood leave. To which one of them said “You’re so lucky your husband wants to do that.”

So I got the compliments on what a good husband and father N is (as I do often, not just on vacation). N also got them directly.

He had multiple people coming up to him to tell him they’d been watching him: watching him walk and spend time with Little-Z. They all, in various ways, commented on what a great dad he is.

Now, I’m not disputing that. N is a great dad. He’s an amazing one in fact. And I have grown to love him in a whole new way as I watch him grow as a father.

Buuuuuuut…NOBODY has ever come up to me and complimented me on being a good mother for spending time with my son. Nobody approached me in the pool to tell me I was a great wife for swimming with the kid so N could chuck a football around with some lovely people we met. And I checked: nobody has ever told N he was lucky to have a wife who wanted to take eight whole months off of my career to help raise our son. Nobody.

JT (Justin Trudeau, not the good one) said it recently: it is 2015. What’s with the double-standard? Why is a mother choosing to be a good parent the silent expectation? And why does a father who makes that same choice get showered in accolades?

I’m waiting for more fathers to step up and share the job of being a parent…so that it won’t seem so exceptional to take a turn walking and humming a child to sleep. And I’m making it a goal to compliment women for the unseen and unappreciated work they manage every day.

So, to all you mothers out there: you rock. Whether you split your work between in and out of home pursuits, or if you stay at home with your kids (in which case, you are braver than I am), well done. For all the moments you slipped out of conversations you really wanted to be part of, but needed to shush a fussy baby: bravo. For all the solo walks to the grocery store and errands across town that keep the house together: way to make those happen. For daily remembering to read a book, do tummy time and (hopefully some days) remember those pesky vitamin D drops: you’re great people!


(And for the record: I don’t have to go back to work early. I’m choosing to go back to a workplace that helps make me feel fulfilled and engaged. Because, while I love the sh*t out of my boy, I need more than him to fill my days. It is just who I am. Plus, my husband deserves the same opportunity I had to build a lasting bond with our Little-Z. It is only fair.)


Posted in family, Feminism, Life, reflections, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How being a new mom affects my vote

As a new mom, I’ve been relatively quiet this election. I’ve been focussing less on politics and more on the day-to-day needs of keeping a six-month-old alive and growing.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t care. In fact, in many ways, I care more than ever before.

We all hope to give our kids a life slightly better than the ones we had. Or, if we’ve been lucky in our lives, we want to at least give them something close to what we experienced.

Stephen Harper has ruined that hope and possibility for me and for most families across this country. He’s torn apart and damaged Canada in ways that may be hard to ever repair. And he and his Conservative MPs have violated so many of the values that used to define us as a nation.

There’s a huge list of reasons to hate Harper and the Conservatives. It includes things like: the Senate scandal, cheating in election campaigns, his attacks on science and research (which included actual book burning), cuts to the CBC, using huge omnibus bills to avoid proper debate on issues (effectively also hiding important legislation in the process), cuts to public services, attacks on charities and so much more.

But there’s a shorter list of things that hit some pretty emotional chords for me…as a mother and just as a person.

(For those who want more info, I’ve included a number of links in this post in case you want to see what the references are to.)

  • In 2012, in one swipe we went from having 2.5 million protected waterways to just 159. We’re talking about lakes and rivers rural families count on for drinking water, and the types of waterways I want to take my son swimming in some day.
    *Later it was proven these suggested changes were driven by the pipeline industry 
  •  I used to love that Canada’s Peace Keepers were some of the best in the world. It made me proud that we used our military to help people put their worlds back together (in contrast to what a US Republican recently said in a debate: “The purpose of the military is to kill people and break things”). But under Harper, we’ve been so much faster to throw our brave men and women into harm’s way…putting them at greater risk – for seemingly less understandable reasons – and adding to the burden their families carry. And then Harper somehow has the gall to (use taxpayer dollars to) take veterans to court in an effort to take benefits away from them. That’s wrong.
  • I’m officially in that “sandwich generation” people talk about. My parents have increasingly scary health issues popping up, and I now live in a constant state of mild anxiety that something might happen to my young boy. (Leukemia happens to children. So do car crashes and various other accidents. And sometimes I get a bit teary wondering how I would react if it was my sweet boy in one of those scenarios.) It makes me happier than ever to pay taxes…because when they need it, I want them – my parents, my husband, my son, my friends, my neighbours, whoever – to have whatever care they need. But in 2017 we’ll start to see the effect of a $36 billion cut to health care. What will those kinds of cuts mean? Fewer doctors and nurses? Longer waitlists? Privatization of services and corners cut? As needs are increasing with a growing and aging population, the idea of what the cuts mean is pretty scary.

Then there’s the horrific record on women and women’s issues. From inaction on the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, to closing Status of Women offices (which speaks to the value Conservatives place in helping women achieve equality), to basically doing nothing when it comes to the crisis of affordable child care. (Sidenote on child care: Harper’s “solution” was to increase one payment slightly, but then made it taxable and eliminated a previous credit, which means, for example, the average Ontario family is now getting an additional $13.18 a month…yeah, that will go far to help families.)

Sadly, the list of ways Harper has hurt our country is so much longer than this. And the Conservative attempts to make this election all about the economy? Laughable to anybody who has actually tracked their (lack of) success…which is marked by a poor jobs record, affordability issues and so on.

So, I sure know what I’m voting against. I’m voting against a corrupt government who repeatedly picks the interests of corporations and the wealthy over the benefit of average working families like mine.

But I’ll also be voting for something this election.

I’m voting for the party who holds love, hope and optimism at the core of its being (thank you for articulating that so well Jack). And the party who built their plan through strategic collaborations with experts, by listening to people, and in a manner that is measured, responsible and puts the needs of families first. I’m voting NDP.


Because I believe we are at our best when we look out for our most vulnerable. I know paying taxes to cover things like health care, policing, public education and infrastructure development is the most responsible, safe and cost-effective way to do things. And I don’t believe that we have to pick between a strong economy and a vital environment – we can have both if we do it smartly and start thinking and acting differently.

And those are all values I see in the ideas and plans of the NDP. But here are the three campaign promises that connect the most with me:

  1. $15 a day child care: I consider myself to be fairly well educated and capable. But I’ve been overwhelmed at how difficult it feels to find child care. There are so few licensed group centres that will take a one-year-old, and what few there are have enormous wait lists. Then you look at the cost: one person I talked to said he and his wife pay more in child care each month than they do on their mortgage (and that’s a Vancouver/crazy high housing costs type of mortgage). When it comes to party plans on the issue, the Conservative suggestion does nothing to help (noted above). The Liberals are just suggesting they give families a bit more money each month.But the NDP plan looks at the issue differently. It acknowledges that affordable childcare is actually an investment in the economy. And their plan says child care should only cost families $15 per day (per child), and it actually includes increasing the number of spaces available. Which is really important, because if I can’t find a space where it feels like my boy will be well looked after, then it doesn’t matter how much money they give me. I want my child to be in the right place for him, not just the only space that’s available when I need it. (And I don’t want to consider what I hear other mothers contemplating: giving up the careers they’ve put years into developing because they can’t find care for their kids.)
  2. Strengthening public health care: My child’s life and health is worth no more or no less than that of any other child. And I will never support creating a two-tiered system where those with more money get better care than those with less. But I fear that’s where Harper’s government is driving us. Instead what I’ve heard is Tom Mulcair and the NDP talking about a return to strengthen the system we all count on. They’ve committed to increasing home care for seniors (to keep them out of expensive ER beds and give them the dignity of living longer in the homes they worked hard to build), providing grants to help rural communities get better access to doctors and nurse practitioners, increased support for children and teens with mental health issues, and a commitment to reverse the $36 billion cut the Conservatives made.
  3. The jobs plan: I’ve always been partial the Henry Ford style of thinking when it comes to jobs. Pay people a bit more than the bottom-line, and they’ll have the disposable income available to buy the product you’re asking them to make. Plus you’ll attract the brightest and most talented people. That means supporting and rebuilding Canada’s middle class. The NDP plan on jobs and the economy? Giving small businesses a tax break…while they close up unfair tax loopholes for CEOs and make sure corporations start paying their fair share again. Investing in renewable energy. And then not only keeping nurses and doctors working, but investing in more of those good-paying, family supporting health care jobs. (Sidenote on the economy: when you compare provincial governments, the NDP have historically presented more balanced budgets than any other party, and are some of the best fiscal managers. Despite the comments those on the right keep repeating. It does make sense: you have to invest in and build the economy if you also want to increase the social services you deliver.)

Now, I get that this election looks a lot different than others. Never before have I seen a race where so many are united in voting against something…against Harper and the many ways he’s ruining Canada. And my dad, who is a bunch older, assures me he hasn’t seen anything like this either (just teasing you Dad…kind of 😉 ). I know that means some traditional NDP supporters – in ridings where hopes look very thin – are making tough personal decisions to vote strategically. It is the sad reality of a nation desperate to stop the damage.

For me though, this election – this first election as a new mom – I will join what I can only hope will be the masses in voting against Harper. But I will also be voting for something. I will be voting for the type of world my son deserves to inherit. Because I hope when he, his parents, or his grandparents need health care, it will be there. I’m voting in hopes that when I take him camping as a child, that I can trust the lake won’t be polluted by some corporation. I’m voting for the party who will help make sure families like mine can access safe, affordable child care (which will also help us moms who chose to work outside the home to continue to pursue our careers).

So when I vote this election – which for me means for the amazing NDP MP, Don Davies – it will truly be a vote about the people I love, based on the hopes I have as a mother, and in the spirit of optimism…for a return to the type of Canada we all want for our families.

I hope on Monday October 19th I won’t be alone in that.

Posted in Activism, Community, NDP, Politics | Leave a comment

Experiments in colour and failure

Last week’s passing of Ted Harrison reminded me of a challenge I had posed to myself, but hadn’t yet followed through on. So, here we go…

My attempt at recreating a Ted Harrison

My attempt at recreating a Ted Harrison

About a year ago, I decided to take an acrylic painting class. (Sometimes I like to take classes and just learn new skills: like my wood working, dark room, photography or clay wheel turning classes I’ve done.)

While I have a tonne of craft supplies, I don’t necessarily always feel knowledgable about how to use them. And I feel like I have a fairly strong portion of creativity in me…but I don’t always know how to express it. So the class seemed like a great opportunity to learn some technique and feel a bit more comfortable playing around.


A van Gogh pastoral

And, it seemed like a good way to challenge myself to fail. Which is something I’m not very good at.

In fact, there have been many times in my life where I avoided trying things because I’ve been afraid I might not be good at them. There are still things I avoid for fear of looking foolish or failing. But I’m trying to say yes more. And I’m trying to be better about admitting those fears and accepting the failings…about being more forgiving of myself when I can’t achieve what I’d like to. (Probably a good lesson to really embrace before becoming a parent.)

And that’s where the challenge comes in. I made a mental commitment to show people my attempts at art…the good and the bad.

Oh O' do you do it?

Oh O’Keeffe…how do you do it?

There are some here I’m pretty proud of. And others that really amp up the challenge part for me. (Hello Georgia O’Keeffe: how do you make a tightly cropped, painted flower look so obviously like a calla lily? Mine is awful.)

What did we do in the class? We learned about various techniques by recreating the work of great masters. We picked our favourite Ted Harrison to recreate so we could learn about tinting and mixing paint hues. (Thus his death finally inspiring this post.) We copied van Gogh to study the length, layers and weight of paint strokes. Georgia O’Keeffe was the inspiration on blending. Mondrian taught us the visual weight of various pigments and importance of white. And we picked our own masters to recreate…using pointillism to interpret them.

And I did learn from the process.

Blue is a heavy colour

But, more so, it turned out to be an amazing way to shut off the loud voices in my head. It forced me to just be in a quiet space for a short time – three hours where the chatter of conference calls, political meetings and life’s commitments all just faded into a distant hush. A break so lovely, I’d take my projects home to spend another five to ten hours to finish them up.

Pointillism Degas

Pointillism Degas

So, now I have a stack of slightly dusty canvases in a room I’m trying to empty (baby room awaits). No idea what to do with them…but here they are. My successes and failures.




(Forgive the quick iPhone photos of them all…a little more yellow and dull than they should be. But no energy to light them properly for the post. 🙂 )

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Love and other bumps

Dear “Zed,”
Over the course of your life, we’ll make you many promises – and they’ll reflect the love, many dreams and hopes we have for you. Granted, on occasion we will falter, but we’ll spend each day making efforts to do what we can to keep these promises alive.

So, let’s start off with a few to set the tone for your life…

  • We promise to raise you to become somebody worthy of being loved. And we promise to love you for whoever you choose to become.
  • We’ll work hard to provide you with the things you’ll need…though sometimes we’ll tell you “no” when it comes to the things you want.
  • We’ll make sure you spend time – regardless of your gender – learning about cars, art, sports, politics, dance and more…because tasting a bit of everything is the only way to find your favourites.
  • Sometimes in life you will fall. And sometimes we might even let you – if that seems like the only way you’ll learn. But we’ll always be ready to pick you up, clean your wounds and kiss you better. Always.
  • You’ll see each of us choose to pursue activities we’re passionate about – supporting that is part of being family. Because being fulfilled and happy as individuals is part of what will makes us stronger, together.
  • And we promise the commitments we’ve made to each other, and to you, will always be at the core of the decisions we make. We are a family, and that will come first.

Most of all, we promise to do our best to fill our home with laughter, love and joy. In tougher times – when those traits seem hard to find – there will be snuggles, understanding and kindness waiting to step in. And, failing all of that, we just promise to do our best – for you, for each of us, and for all of us together.

In eager anticipation of your arrival (March 28th’ish, 2015),
Your mom and dad.

Introducing Zed

Posted in family, Life | 2 Comments