Bigger Picture

If you want to see my dilemma in what to teach my kids looks like when it's blown up into the societal level, check out Jeremy's Personal Evolution post. Working within the system for change or blowing the whole system wide open to start something creative and new?



One thing I learned during my social work training that really stuck with me was that it is possible, and often inevitable, for two opposing goals/thoughts/feelings to simultaneously be true or desireable. If you want to get really technical, we can label the resulting stress as dissonance (had to prove that I was awake in class).

Here's an example from my day. My three year old has started going to a kid's class two hours, two times a week. She's thrilled to go and is always begging to go play with other kids and do something "interesting". She's able to follow rules very well and does the proper things at the proper time. This allows her and her classmates to get the full benefit of the experience (ie not acting up and causing trouble). Great job, right? ARGHHH. At the tender age of three she has learned to follow the leader and that drives me nuts. I want her to question what she's told to do, but I also want her to fit in socially and enjoy herself. How do we teach both of those? More to the point, when to do which one? And how often am I going to regret teaching her to question MY authority? ha ha.

Although she loves it and is good at following the rules and playing with others, she is utterly exhausted at the end of two hours. It takes a lot out of her to be on her best behaviour for that long and she usually breaks down within minutes of picking her up. That's how I sometimes feel myself after a long social outing. She's already internalized that although some parts of it are hard and tiring it's worth it because of the fun things they do. Interesting.

Bike Philosophy

I think I've surpassed a personal best - 4 bike rides in 5 days! Loving it. I have had some odd experiences riding in areas that are new to me. All too often what looked like a solid trail simply...trails off into nowhere. Generally one of two things happens next. Either I forge ahead where it seems like the trail should be and it reappears two feet wide a few metres away or after I stop and turn around to have a look there is an obvious branch that I just missed. Worst case scenario is it's an absolute dead end and I go back the way I came.

Is this begging to be made into a flowery metaphor for life? Trails appearing and reappearing, taking risks and hoping to find new paths, slowing down to look at options you'd missed before. I'm probably taking this much too seriously, the endorphins are going to my head and I'm starting to sound a lot like my bike-loving significant other...

On a different note, the highlight of my ride yesterday was actually catching sight of a coyote that I startled from the trail. Too bad I scared it but it took my breath away to see it bounding off right in front of me. We don't see a lot of wildlife in the settled valley bottoms around here so I felt privileged.


Hats Off

Hats off to Jeremy's parents who are making a huge change in their lives this weekend. They made a tough decision to downsize their housing in order to live mortgage free. I think it's a great call in the long run and stand by them as we all make the adjustment to their next living space. It will be a beloved spot because they are there.


One of my favourite things about living where we do is the easy access to mountain biking. A few minutes of road riding in any of several directions will get me to a trail. No car required. It makes it so much easier to get out, particularly if motivation is low. It's an amazing quality of life issue.

Today however, I happened to get a lift to a further trailhead, cutting off some agonizing road climbing. I was hot, whiney and cursing on the way up but the view was amazing when I got there. I pushed myself harder than I have in years and didn't allow wimping out on the dry skidded out downhill. Why is it so exhilerating to scare yourself just a bit?


Reviving Ophelia

I read "Reviving Ophelia" a few years ago when I was working with young teenage girls (women?) and it had a strong impact on the way I reflected on my teen years. I saw the pressures and choices that I made more clearly. Now Dianne is reading the book and it reminded me that I have two daughters that are going to go through adolescence. That's enough to keep me up at night. For years. (And I haven't even seen Thirteen which I've been assured will completely disturb and frighten me to the point of wanting to lock my children up for years.) I don't remember a lot of the details of the book but to quote loosely, Dianne mentioned that the average American woman is significantly bigger than she was years ago and yet the ideal being pushed is getting thinner and thinner.

I'm terrified about watching my daughters navigate those impossible waters but draw comfort from a comment a good friend of mine (that's you Kim) once made about kids - it's not like you wake up one day and they're 6 (or 10 or 13), you learn how to deal with different stages as they grow. I want to use these years to build a solid foundation for them to draw on and try to teach the tools for making good decisions. Unfortunately we won't know how well we've done until we've all been through it. And that's assuming they'll place any stock in anything we've said in the first place!

Balancing Act

I feel an almost irresistable draw towards the Kootenays. We spent the weekend doing the hot springs and Nelson tour (To avoid repetition, check out Jeremy's blog to see pictures and find out the details). I've been spending a lot of time thinking about a different approach to housing than is standard in our area and it was very affirming to see that there are thousands of people that feel the same way. They just all seem to live in the Kootenays.

Many houses are clearly built as the money comes in, not mortgaged to the hilt. We're not used to seeing houses without "proper" siding or finishing or landscaping but why not? So many of them were also built in stages, as money or need arose. The clarity of mind to build/buy/rent within one's financial comfort zone frees up a lot of choices regarding work and lifestyle.

There are always tradeoffs of course:
- cheaper land and housing are never conveniently located next to cities where most people find work
- which means you spend more time and money on transportation
- that equals less time at home to relax, enjoy the family and follow personal pursuits
- UNLESS you can go all the way and reduce your wants and needs to a low enough level that you can survive on a lot less money, either self-employed or working locally within limited options.

When you stack it all up it's not necessarily a "greener" or cheaper choice to move to the boonies. To rent a reasonable place in the city close to work, entertainment and supplies makes really good sense. Often the ideal places to live (from my perspective) are the gentrified, high end units near downtown areas which kind of goes against the lowering costs ideal.

Round and round...I guess what's important for me is to live with a balance I'm comfortable with. We have an odd arrangement now I think compared to most people. Jeremy commutes to Kelowna (45 min) twice a week which is never a really good idea but it frees him to work at home the other three days. It also means we can live further from the price tag of Kelowna, keeping housing costs a lot lower. From our townhouse we can walk to all essential services and supplies, which I love. I'm fascinated by the balancing act we all do to try to reconcile our contradictory needs and wants.



Yes, I'm aware that the spacing is a bit hard to read in the "Huxley" post. It's driving me nuts but since I'm not html literate the fix will have to wait. I'm trying to be patient as I learn.

Huxley's "Island"

I'm reading my first work of adult fiction in months, Aldous Huxley's "Island" thanks to Jeremy checking it out of the library. It's fun to read it at the same time he is because there is infinite fodder for discussion. To post too much about it before reading the whole thing feels risky but it's the process that's exciting, right? It's essentially a philosophical statement and I have no doubt that there are hundreds of references sailing above my head. It's really dense but I've decided to read it leisurely and without pressure to understand it at every turn, at least this first time through. There have been a few fascinating monologues so far on western parenting and medicine, two of my pet topics. Not sure yet how to reference quotes to be most useful to readers but I linked to the Chapters page on the book at the top of the entry.


(Page 89 of 295, or .30)
"Escape," she explained, "is built into the new system. Whenever the parental Home Sweet Home becomes too unbearable, the child is allowed, is actively encouraged---and the whole weight of public opinion is behind the encouragement---to migrate to one of the other homes."
"We all belong," Susila explained, "to an MAC---a Mutual Adoption Club. Every MAC consists of anything from fifteen to twenty-five assorted couples. ..Besides our own blood relations, we all have our quota of deputy mothers, deputy fathers, deputy aunts and uncles, deputy brothers and sisters, deputy babies and toddlers and teen-agers."
"Mutual adoption guarantees children against injustice and the worst consequences of parental ineptitide. It doesn’t guarantee them against discipline, or against having to accept responsibilities. On the contrary, it increases the number of their responsibilities; it exposes them to a wide varity ofdisciplines….If a child feels unhappy in his first home, we do our best for him in fifteen or twenty second homes. Meanwhile the father and mother get some tactful therapy from other members of their Mutual Adoption Club. In a few weeks the parents are fit to be with their children again, and the children are fit to be with their parents.
Hmm, children free to leave a home if things are bad or if they want a holiday? Parents and children getting the help they need when things get too intense? Without stigma or blame? You've got to be kidding. This is taken to an extreme we're not used to but the idea of the community shouldering some of the responsibility for raising children is at the same time freeing and terrifying to me. You mean I'd have to trust someone else to do the right thing? Who could possibly take as good care of my kids as I can? But I get breaks when I need them? What if they get taught something other than what I believe? Ah, that's the hard one...why is it so threatening for our kids to get exposed to other ideas and ways of doing things than our own? It happens anyway so why do we fight it so hard that we alienate them? That's going to be a big one for me and will take a lot of forms at different ages I imagine. I'll keep you posted.
“[Western medicine] isn’t primitive. It’s fifty percent terrific and fifty per cent non-existent. Marvelous antibiotics – but absolutely no methods for increasing resistance, so that antibiotics won’t be necessary. Fantastic operations – but when it comes to teaching people the way of going through life without having to be chopped, absolutely nothing.” P.71
Not much to elaborate on here, it's right up my alley. Pretty timely with the premiers talking health and the boomers aging. The PM is talking big about a 10 year plan (will they honestly still be in office in ten years?) and how much it's going to cost, but no word on how we might reduce stress on the system by staying healthier. So short sighted. Another reason to check out the Green Party platform. Who knows if they'd be able to pull it off, but someone has to start looking that direction and put the pressure on the status quo. Eventually I suppose finances will force politicians in that direction, even if goodwill and planning don't.

Parenting Rant - Compromises

There are so many reasons to be critical of our society and the expectations surrounding raising children but I’m only going to tackle one of them this time and on a pretty basic level…individual pursuits vs. collective good.

To be raised in a western culture is to want what I want and even demand it as a right (whether it's the house, the car, traveling…). Individualism at its peak. Our culture is designed to make it really hard to have children. No wait, relatively easy and expected to have children but very hard to raise them. Being a parent to young children is not about me, first and foremost, no matter how much I'd like to say so. I have to take care of myself of course and I take advantage of all the personal pursuits that I can BUT I am not number one right now. Two little beings depend on me for their lives, literally at this point, and that can't be denied. Enter stress. Nobody wants to admit that they are not in full control of every decision at every moment. It's not compatible with our training.

To me, being a mom is about compromises - a dirty word by our standards but that's a shame. It's possible to be really happy with the decisions you make out of compromise, but they require a lot more effort and creativity. Compromise is how you arrive at win/win situations, right? Anyone in management knows that in principle at least. Of course it's all easier when there's only one point of view, but barring that, you either dictate an option that screws someone else, or you find something in the middle that's acceptable to both parties (in our case, the parents and kids). Yes you lose part of what you wanted in the first place but that means someone else got part of what they wanted. A shift into the mindset of collective good rather than rugged individualism. Unfortunately this is extremely devalued in our culture - compromise viewed as a cop out or weakness, rather than a valuable way of solving problems.


Summer Water Use

Here's a little pat on the back for Summerlanders - we're moving in the right direction.

From the Corporation of the District of Summerland site:
As occurred earlier this summer, Summerlanders continue to employ water conserving practices, but recently there has been significant benefit from rainfall, and the weather takes most of the credit. Total water use in August was 1,375 acre feet compared with 2,092 in 2002 and 2,091 in 2003. In July people made their best showing, using 77% of 2002 consumption, even though the weather was hotter and there was no significant rain.


Compulsive Edits

For anyone following my blog up to the second and/or going back to re-read posts (and it's disturbing if there is anyone like that), you'll notice that I compulsively go back and edit my own writing. I suppose there are too many years of schooling in me and I'm struggling to figure out where blogging fits in. My writing has been polarized for years into either personal journalling or academic papers and this isn't really either of those. I'll try to relax about it a bit...

Fireside Chat

In contrast to my many negative experiences in Kelowna yesterday, we had a wonderful evening fireside chat with our friends Laurel & Barb out in the country. Their company, Avalon Alliance is tirelessly laying the groundwork for the first eco-village in our part of the province. The conversation ranged from zoning challenges and theories of development to promoting midwifery. Barb is a beloved friend and was an integral part of both of our daughter's home births. Incidentally, the girls we both pretty gracious while we talked and talked. Ella fell asleep on Jeremy's lap and Ivy snuggled with her precious blankie on a mat beside us. It's so energizing to spend time with people who have similar values and are doing positive things.

Chemical Soup

This article by Dave Pollard is really depressing but incredibly real. We live in a chemical soup that is way out of control. I can hear my brain screaming exuses for ignoring the mess. I figure that my options for dealing with it are denial, apathy, or action. Since I'm alive and presumably want the earth to sustain life for a long time to come, the choice is pretty obvious but difficult.

Jeremy (husband) had to work in Kelowna yesterday so the girls and I went along for the day. I'm not sure why I'm super sensitive to chemicals right now but I've always had more trouble than most people. There were a bunch of things that physically affected me and drove me nuts. Blacktop fumes, diesel fumes, "new car" smell, glue of some kind on the construction worker sitting next to me, an improperly washed apple, and almost everything in the mall. No, I can't justify my presence in the mall. On top of those direct physical reactions I felt nauseated taking a little tour through the burgeoning, cheaply-built-but-making-up-for-it-in-size vanilla subdivisions. I know we all need to live somewhere but to think of how short term that planning is and the amount of crap that goes into (and out of) each of those huge homes is grotesque. Not to mention that everyone is ignoring that there is still only ONE access road for those hundreds of new homes going up every year.

So after all that complaining what am I going to do about it? I am always working on ways to reduce the chemicals we come in contact with in the home but action outside of my little zone is also going to be necessary. Some ideas...get involved in the Green Party for educational purposes if not strictly political, harass friends and family until they get on board (only partly kidding), and make sure that at the very least that my strata doesn't use chemical fertilizers, herbicides orpesticides.

I will stop using those asinine plastic grocery bags. I have the worst time remembering to bring my own cloth bags but can be trained. For a more lighthearted statement on not using plastic bags, check out L.J. Williamson in "It's Not My Bag Baby" . I got a few good snickers out of it.