Mixed Nuts: 5 reachable goals

Thank you everyone who answered last week’s question about the Mixed Nuts, here on the blog or on the Fearless Family Life Facebook page. I wanted to know if you preferred the short and sweet “5 quick-takes”-style blog post where I share links without commentary or the longer “fruit of my brain” commentary on things I’ve read throughout the week. The dominant opinion was that whatever I posted was fine (you are all so nice!) but that a mix of longer and shorter, especially during the summer, would be perfect. Today, I will share 5 quick reflections — something between a link and a ponder — about my goals for the near future.

1 Pick a project and pursue it .

“If you only have one ass you can’t sit on two horses.”

My creative projects are as scattered as they are unfinished. I have a tech writing project that pays bills and as such takes priority. I am learning how to make better YouTube videos and edit them faster. I am trying to find an agent, a publisher and a ghost-writer for my friend Johanne, if anything we need to write a test chapter and a rough road map of the book to increase our chances of catching a publisher’s eye. I also have a parenting memoir project and, last but not least, my beloved novel.

I struggle with picking the right horse to sit my one ass on. Creators are often advised to create regardless of the commercial potential (or lack thereof) of their projects: every successful writer, musician or movie producer has a pocketful of stories of bitter rejection. They are the battle wounds they show-off in interviews, laughing about the butts they’d like to wipe with the million-dollar scripts once rejected without as much as a call back. But this creator has 11 mouths to feed and cannot blissfully disappear in a fog of inspiration. My income goes into the necessities of life for a large family, not into boot-strapping my next project. I can’t pull a Steven Pressfield, sell the coat off my back and move into my car until my first novel is finished. Raising my children is the creative work that I have to do relentlessly, with discipline and laser sharp focus. I have no illusion of growing as a creator without pounding the appropriate amount of pavement but I have to choose the road wisely, with some discernment as to which pavement is most likely to yield an income. Right now, I feel like a Canadian twist on Sisyphus: rolling my 4-5 snowballs up the hill, hoping that one will get to the other side and roll into some momentum. But they still roll back down the way they came.

2 Believe I can do this.

Last week I sat on the Jody Mitic podcast (episode 7) and played a bit of the devil’s advocate about the Black-Lives-Matter-Toronto-Pride-Parade sit-in where the group demanded —among other things — that police floats no longer be allowed to participate. I don’t do parades, never been to a Pride Parade. Never been black, or queer, or even arrested. I don’t even have a single clue what I’m talking about but I did enjoyed shooting the stuff with Jody. He is the most un-politically correct politician I have met and I do believe that our political discourse would benefit from having more elected officials speaking from a place of genuine emotion the way Jody does: if anything it’s entertaining. I also got to pick his brain (off air) about his experience getting his book published and reaching number 1 of the best-sellers’ list here in Canada. One of the positive side effects of being an opinionated one-man-show is that it makes you a great cheerleader. He has a knack for convincing me that living a normal life with 9 children is as remarkable as being a sniper, getting your legs blown-off, running a half-marathon on prosthetic legs, almost winning the Amazing Race Canada, getting elected to City Hall and writing a best-seller. Then of course I got home to my 87 YouTube subscribers, my $1.47 of lifetime add revenue and remembered exactly how far I was from going anywhere. But that kernel of encouragement lives on and someday, maybe, it will grow into something.

3 Read more and write more about what I love.

I started reading Stephen King’s “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” and I downloaded Steven Pressfield’s “The War of Art” on Audible. In general I find that reading about writing is a form of avoidance. The fear of wasting my time writing something bad keeps me reading about writing instead of diving headlong into my projects. When Stephen Pressfield characterized writing workshops as “pits of resistance” I knew that I had found my match. His scolding about “the resistance” — a mix a of pride and fear — shed a hard light on my own avoidance mechanisms and excuses. That said, “On Writing” by Stephen King and “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White kept nagging me through blog posts and podcast interviews and I knew that they should be part of my reference library, if nothing else. In the first chapter of “On Writing”, Stephen King lays down the law on writing: reading a lot and writing a lot are key. Isn’t it funny how we sometimes need permission to do the things we know are right? For the last couple of years, since I started homeschooling, I have been constrained by a sense that I should use my reading time wisely by focusing on non-fiction so as to learn something useful. The problem is that I don’t love non-fiction. I like it as one likes vegetables and exercise but not with the breathtaking emotion reserved for stunning landscapes, newborns and lovers. Learning that Stephen King read mostly fiction gave me permission to return to my one true love: the good work of fiction.

4 Find YouTube collaborators

To celebrate my liberation from the shackles of self-imposed boredom — yawn — I decided to read “Far from the madding crowd” by Thomas Hardy and “Au bonheur des dames” by Emile Zola. I would love to chat character development with other like-minded people. If you are a Youtubber or a podcaster looking for a fun collab, please wave in my direction and we can overthink how Bathsheba Everdene doesn’t deserve three suitors, let alone the devotion of a man of Oak’s caliber. In the mean time, just enjoy this Gabriel Oak on me:

“Gabriel was paler now. His eyes were more meditative, and his expression was more sad. He had passed through an ordeal of wretchedness which had given him more than it had taken away. He had sunk from his modest elevation as pastoral king into the very slime-pits of Siddim; but there was left to him a dignified calm he had never before known, and that indifference to fate which, though it often makes a villain of a man, is the basis of his sublimity when it does not. And thus the abasement had been exaltation, and the loss gain.” (p.45)

If you are more of the movie kind, enjoy this interview with Thomas Vinterberg and Matthias Shoenaerts (the producer and main character of the latest film adaptation of Hardy’s novel, available on Netflix). You should still read the book to better appreciate each character’s depth.

5 Get in shape and start lifting weights

Finally, I wanted to share one of the highlights of my week. I bought a membership at my local Movati gym from a from a former member who was moving away before the end of his one-year enrollment. Movati Kanata made it an easy and pleasant experience, showing excellent business sense and superior concern for the customer. I imagine that the low-lying fruit of making membership transfers such a pain in the neck that members never dare to leave is tempting but in my case, it has made gym memberships verboten. I cannot commit to a yearly membership in anything and cannot afford the unfavourable short-term membership fees. Transferring membership is the perfect solution for me and Movati can be sure that when I am in the market for a gym membership, theirs will be the first door I’ll go a-knocking.

Friday’s Mixed Nuts on a Saturday: the quicker version

  1. One video I posted on YouTube:

2. My favorite casual dress for under $50 (or less if you wait for sales): Marks’ notch neck knee-length dress

3. One new podcast I subscribed to: Freakonomics 

4. One book I want to read: The checklist manifesto by Atul Gawande

5. One thing I dream about at night but will not buy in American dollars: Saddleback Leather Satchel

And a question: Do you prefer this short and sweet version of the Mixed Nuts or the lengthier one with commentary? Your feedback matters to me.

Friday’s Mixed Nuts: 5 links I care to share

1. I woke-up this morning to a world slightly different than it was when I went to bed. I did not follow the #Brexit referendum until its very last weeks. I watched John Oliver, he seemed to support the “stay” vote. Lately, I have taken an interest in the geo-political history of the First World War and it has made me aware that history unfolds in haphazard ways. In the early weeks of the first World War, many moments presented as forks in the road where the course of history could have gone either way. Our present-day way of life hinges in many ways on split seconds, swing decisions, rolls of dice, made by military and political leaders long before we were born. The Brexit vote was history unfolding itself in its usual, random, way. In that sense, I am curious to see where this most recent turn takes us. I hope to live long enough to see how it will eventually fit in the bigger picture of the rise and fall of Western Civilization. That said, I have enjoyed watching my friends and acquaintances on the progressive left wake-up with a hangover this morning. Progressives have been pretending that the rise of populist nationalism across the world is the realm of a few unenlightened minds. It’s been a fun zinger-fest on Twitter, sharing John Oliver on Facebook, I have enjoyed it tremendously while nationalists everywhere are counting their chips. And Donald Trump, what fun it has been to watch a few unenlightened knuckledraggers propel him this close to the White House. Populist nationalism. It’s a real thing and it’s starting to call some serious shots.

When you get tired of having your opinion handed to you by humorists — who are very funny, don’t get me wrong, but stuff’s about to get real here — you might find this breakdown of Trump supporters interesting.

2. Speaking of getting stuff wrong, I was listening to a podcast interview with star rock climber Alex Honnold where he spoke about fear and assessing risks. It takes someone who lives with life-threatening danger to avoid platitudes about ignoring fear, I liked that. I believe that fear and doubts are important sources of information that should be honoured rather than ignored: there is a darn good reason why you are afraid of swimming with sharks, know what I mean? At some point in the interview, Honnold answers a question about his spirituality and religious beliefs. Raised in a nominal Catholic household, Honnold remembered never believing in any of that stuff. Even now, he added, he is dumbfounded that grown-ups believe in what are essentially fairy tales. When I heard his comment I had to chuckle because whether or not you accept the existence of God, it’s impossible to deny that religious belief has been part of the human experience since, well, the human experience started. Of course, the reality of religious belief does not prove the existence of anything but it takes some gall to overlook how some very intelligent grown-ups — Aquinas, Augustine, Teresa of Avila come to mind — have explained their belief in fairy tales. It’s one thing to know how Christopher Hitchens explains religious belief but the real test of atheism should be to go beyond atheist writers and read how Aquinas explains it too. It would be like saying “That gravity thing — it made no sense to me as a child and now that I am an adult who is thoroughly uneducated in matters of physics, it still makes no sense to me. I can’t understand how anyone believes in that stuff.” Or “I don’t care what Newton and Einstein have written about gravity, I read Aristotle on gravity and he’s pretty smart.”

Imagine my delight later last week upon stumbling on this excellent piece shared by journalist Andrew Coyne via Twitter. We were wrong abut gravity for thousands of years, what might we be wrong about today? It’s a fun question to ask.

3. Speaking of things that change, one of my favorite things to observe in my fellow humans is how quickly those who reject religion build new churches in their lives, whether it’s jogging, nutrition, politics, I’m sure you can come up with a few more if you look around for a hot second. I find that it speaks to a fundamental human need for absolutes, even when the absolute is that there be no absolutes. There is a drive toward moralistic thinking, clear definitions of right and wrong, that is wired-in human nature. This disquisition on food and sex speaks to our changing morality, or as they say “The more it changes, the more it stays the same.”

4. If all this is too much to bear, I strongly recommend knitting something. Knitting something is always a good bet. This Tulip Tank Top by Purl Soho hit all my buttons until I tried to order the Euroflax yarn required for this pattern. At $26 a skein, requiring 3-4 skeins for my 39 inches of chest circumference, it seems like a bit of a luxury. If you want to buy the yarn, I’ll knit it for you. How’s that?

5. If knitting something is not for you, there is always this fragrant, beautiful cake. In French but learning news words never killed anyone. To serve with tea and eat in one sitting.

Friday’s Mixed Nuts: 5 links I clicked (and so should you)

    1. I have a songwriting hobby, and by this I mean that I am completely obsessed with the songwriting creative process. I am a writer who is also a musician but I do not have a good-enough grip of music to set words to melody. I am fascinated by the ability of those who can write a 4-minute story that sometimes rhymes and touches million of people’s hearts. Nothing cracks me open like a good song. Should it come as a surprise then that one of my favourite podcasts is Sodajerker on Songwriting?I was especially thrilled with their interview with Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, the songwriting husband/wife team behind the Frozen powerhouse. In the podcast, they discuss the back-and-forth with the scriptwriters and how their songs changed the nature of the characters of Elsa and Anna. I doubt that the movie would have enjoyed its lasting success had the two princesses remained what they were meant to be in the original script. It was also a geeky treat to learn that in Life is an open door Anna and Hans never sing in harmony. We knew that right? But it was done on purpose! This is how gifted songwriters can build a story with details that you hear without hearing. Magical! You can hear the full interview here. A note for parents: the podcast is slapped with the “explicit” rating because Robert Lopez explains how the rhythm pattern for a certain song came from the title of a porno videotape he saw on a friend’s shelf one day. The title is quite crude. If you listen in the car with children there might be a 30-seconds of awkwardness. Forewarned is forearmed.
    * BONUS FREE NUT: If you were a teenager in the 80’s or 90’s, the podcast interview with Glen Ballard will be a giant, crimped, glitzy treat. Listen to it — and its accompanying Spotify playlist — here .

    2. Speaking of Glen Ballard, he happened to write Man in the Mirror for Michael Jackson, a song which message is always on point. You’ll notice some interesting footage in the music video from the rescue of baby Jessica McClure in 1987, a toddler who had fallen down a well on her family’s property. She was rescued after 58 hours of harrowing work by paramedics and mining engineers. That was back in the days when criticism was directed at the media circus rather than the grieving parents; and the heroes of the story were given more attention than what the parents should have done to avoid the tragedy. Fancy that…

    3. Speaking of songwriting, the Canadian political class deemed it desirable to re-write the Canadian National Anthem to replace “in all thy sons’command” by the gender-neutral “all of us command.” Now, I have to declare myself as one of those bleeding hearts liberals who believes that language and culture walk in lockstep; but I also want to declare myself as one of those hardened conservatives who don’t think our historical heritage should be re-written, warts and all. There is always room for adding diverse voices and clearer context to our history. As Dan Carlin puts it — pardon my shameless paraphrase — it’s as if history had a CNN and a Fox News but only the CNN version of everything had survived. History always benefits from a diversity of sources, it gives it colour and texture. Perspective doesn’t right wrongs but it puts them in context. History never exactly repeats itself: the lessons are in the nuances, in how humanity faced want, pain and desperation, how it failed and how it succeeded. Stripping history of its offensive bits is tantamount to spitting upwind: it only feels good for a second. On the other hand, our National Anthem is not merely a piece of historical artifact: it lives in our schools, our churches, our sports halls and institutions. We are not rewriting history as much as making our anthem more representative of our culture as we sign it every day. How do you feel about changing the words to our National Anthem? Are we shaping culture to make it more just or are we rewriting history? Andrew Coyne explains here how the meaning of words can change even when the words stay the same.

    4. Speaking of writing, I started writing a novel set in the intersecting worlds of healthcare, law and biomedical ethics, in other words my academic background. One day I decided to stop joking that my Master’s degree’s specialization in biomedical ethics had been a waste of time and the next day the idea had come to me. For two years while at McGill University I was a fly on the wall in paediatric and neonatal intensive care units where I learned more than I ever expected about humanity, tragedy and what’s found in the space between the two. My novel is written from the bedside of a critically ill infant and explores the evolving relationships between the infant’s family, his medical caregivers and a cast of lawyers and administrators who are drawn into the medical decision-making process. I love how this poem communicates the chasm of perception that often exists between patients and their caregivers. It touched me in a profound way. To read and let sink-in.

    5. If writing never amounts to anything, I could become an astronaut. I have the right blood pressure.

Friday’s Mixed Nuts: 5 links I clicked this week (and so should you)

Every week I will try to post 5 links I clicked and wish you would too. I take suggestions for free.

  1. Sometimes you come across a figure from history that really makes an impact on your life. Major Dick Winters, Second World War Veteran and the subject of the 2001 miniseries Band of Brothers, is one of these characters. Stories of exceptional leadership and courage leave their mark on the minds of young men such as my son, who watched the miniseries as a teenager, joined the Army Reserves at age 16 and is currently studying to become a military officer. One of the greatest things about Winters is that the person overshadows the TV character. I chuckled when I read about how he played chicken with Tom Hanks over cursing in the miniseries. It may sound like an issue of little consequence but self-discipline and dignity repose on the myriad little things that lay the foundation on which the greater things repose. Read more life advice from Major Dick Winters in this post from The Art of Manliness.
  2. If reading the article about Major Winters made you want to read his book but you don’t know when you’ll have the time to do it — if ever — I strongly recommend listening to podcast #17 from Jocko Willinks (also available on iTunes) where he reviews the book, reads extensive excerpts and offers his commentary about leadership, courage and physical fitness. Bonus link, for those who are curious about Jocko Willinks, his life and creds, here is one of his few interviews from the Tim Ferriss podcast.
  3. Listening about Major Winters reminded me how much periods of conflict in history can teach us about the extremes of human vice and virtue. Extended periods of peace and affluence such as we have been knowing in Canada numbs us to what we — as a human race — are able to do, the good, the bad and the ugly. If, like me, you are looking at improving your history game, I recommend subscribing to the Hardcore History podcast by Dan Carlin. I am currently listening to the Prophets of Doom podcast (all 4 hours of it, I spend a lot of time in the car…). At the beginning of the podcast Dan Carlin says that he will probably offend both believers and unbelievers and apologizes for it. I’ll have to take his word on the unbelievers front although I can’t see how this podcast could be taken as anything but a vindication of Christopher Hitchen’s thesis that belief in a supreme being is a totalitarian belief that destroys individual freedom. From a Catholic perspective however, I observed that while Carlin goes to great pains to explain that his aim is to expose how thin the veneer of civility resting on our advanced civilization really is and not argue against religious belief, he consistently confuses Catholics behaving badly with “the Catholic Church”, a mistake he does not extend the reformers, whose murderous preachers and prophets are not confused with the Reformation itself. This may sound like an irrelevant distinction but for Catholics it’s an important one. The tenets of our faith are clearly laid out in the magisterium of the Catholic Church. It should be easy to sparse out the difference between what the Church believes and what failed humans make of it. And yet, every day, Catholics and non-Catholics alike mistake the two. Still, you should subscribe to Hardcore History because it’s a fascinating, engaging and well-produced romp through our stories.
  4. One of the issues that Dan Carlin exposes in the Prophets of Doom podcast — and I can’t find where in the 4 hour opus, you’ll have to forgive my shameless paraphrasing — is the explosive cocktail born out of alienation, religious fanaticism and what happens when you dilute an established and stable society with newcomers who neither share its culture or religion. If this bell rings uncannily familiar — as it would to anyone acquainted with the Swedish town of Molndal — it may be time to listen (again) to the last installment of the Munk debates on the global refugee crisis. History may not exactly repeat itself as the poet noted, but it sure rhymes a lot.
  5. Finally, if all this military and history stuff seems heavy, you might need to listen to this TED-like talk by satirist Pat Kelly of CBC This is That fame. #12 will blow your mind!


6. I bought two pairs of Roots 2-Stripe Tribe Sandals, one to replace the pair of knock-off Birks I wore indoors and fell off my foot one sad morning and another one to wear outside because they are so amazing. You can take my word for it: Roots will not be sending me 11 pairs of 2-Stripe Tribe sandals for raving about them. “Comfortable insole with memory foam padding covered in suede” are not only the operative words here, they are the understatement of the century. This is like hugging your feet with clouds. Clouds with Cherubim, singing sweet nothings in four-part harmony to your tootsies.  Currently on sale, by the way.


Mixed Nuts: the Canadian election edition – In which I get to annoy all my friends in one fell swoop

You didn’t think I’d let you get away with a whole election campaign without sharing my pearls of insight, did you? After all, if the educated opinion of a mother of 9 is not worth having, what’s worth having I ask you? Hey, did you know that I am a former political aide and campaign manager? So there, educated opinion, but opinion nonetheless.

1) What can I say about the niqab? Thomas Mulcair, the leader of the historically left-wing, now more center-left, party took a principled and intelligent position, that is supported by Canadian law as confirmed by two instances of Canadian tribunals, and it looks like his party will pay dearly for it. That’s one thing about us Canadians, we like to make noise about hating negative campaigning, despising divisive politics and how nice it would be to have leaders who are more than talking points grinders. And I’m still looking for an example in recent Canadian history of a political leader who hasn’t paid dearly for doing just that. And don’t give me that whiny bullsh about people being victims of Conservatives attack ads. You can be a victim of many things — rape, pillage, treason, murder — but advertising? Get your big girl pants on and own the fact that people eat that stuff up. I don’t know a single Conservative MP who doesn’t despise their party’s attack ads. The only reason they keep turning them out is because folks, these hateful things work. And they’re about as subtle as my 4 year-olds: the victim card might be an overreach here. We love hating on our politicians  and we get what we deserve.

2) Speaking of the niqab, have you ever been close to someone becoming a Canadian citizen? Because if you have, you know that the process is neither simple, quick nor straightforward. By the time you are standing in a swearing-in ceremony with your niqab, you’ve been vetted through every orifice for about 5 years. You’ve filled-in your weight’s worth of paperwork and submitted it upward and backward. If you’re lucky, you didn’t suffer more than 2-3 setbacks due to misinformation given to you by the people who are paid to process your application. I know because I used to work for a Member of Parliament, where we helped near-citizens caught in the collimator of Immigration Canada. Hey, citizenship is a privilege, I get that. But if you are going to invest into getting the right people 99.9% of the way there, you’d think they’d be the kind of people we want as Canadian Citizens, regardless of what sits on their heads. “But Véro, you tell me, what if Ahmed get sworn-in instead of head-covered Fatima?” Ahmed would have had to show his face to an immigration official at the ceremony, just privately instead of publicly. Bait and switch is not the issue here, the issue is the coping with religious practices we find distasteful. So could we call it that please?

3) Speaking of religious freedoms, why is it that the people who campaign the most vehemently in favour of a prohibition of the niqab at citizenship ceremonies — or in general — are coincidentally the same ones who are concerned about the erosion of religious freedom and freedom of expression in Canada? Seriously, outside of the province of Quebec where everyone is a heathen, people who have every reason to be concerned about the erosion of freedom of conscience and religion are stubbornly not seeing the bigger picture. “But Véro, you say, the niqab is a barbaric anti-woman practice that goes against Canadian values of equality and relative liberty.” To this I will tell you that I’m a  Catholic woman who doesn’t use artificial birth control, which to many is a barbaric anti-woman practice. I disagree, just like I’m sure many Muslim women disagree with your appreciation of the Niqab as a barbaric cultural practice. Do you know how hard it is for women like me to find a doctor who will investigate the root causes of hormonal dysfunction rather than prescribe hormonal birth control as a matter of fact? I found one and he’s having his medical license threatened because of it. Both the Liberal and NDP parties don’t allow people with openly pro-life views to run for their parties or vote accordingly, even if said pro-life views are a reflection of the views of the majority of their constituents — which still happens in many older rural ridings. The erosion of religious freedoms: we’re in this together fellow believers. The secular world believes that religion is in the imagination of the beholders and it won’t stop washing away outward demonstrations of religious belief until our beliefs are indeed limited to the confines of our brains. As a believer, I feel a lot more in common with Zunera Ishaq’s fight than I do with those who’d prefer if she didn’t look so Muslim. To hear Zunera Ishaq in her own words — “Geez, we never thought of that!” — listen to this interview on CBC The Current.

4) Speaking of secular society, many of my Anglo-Canadian friends have expressed wide-eyed astonishment at the fact that the niqab issue originated from the small-l liberal Province of Quebec. Aren’t they progressives over there, they ask? After all, aren’t they the people with $7 daycare who made the federal NDP the official opposition? The answer is yes but no, where were you during the reasonable accommodations debates of 2007, 2011, 2013, not to mention the Quebec’s Charter of Value that became the defining election issue of the last provincial campaign? Quebeckers as a group — generally speaking — are not exactly progressive. They do not show consistency in their expressions of “progressiveness”. They look progressive on the surface but it’s a thinly applied veneer: you need only scratch a little to let the ugly come out. Quebeckers are not so much progressives as hedonists. Pleasure and self-indulgence are the highest good and proper aim of human life. I remember clearly hearing my French mother saying of the referendum campaign of 1980 that Quebeckers only wanted independence as long as they didn’t have to give-up their pools. When you cast Quebec Nation under the light of hedonism rather than progressiveness, their strident anti-clericalism and pursuit of their own individual rights — not those of others — come in clearer focus, I find.

5) In the end, it’s been 10 years of Conservative Government in Canada — where Conservative with a capital c does not always mean conservative with a lower-case c. The governing Conservatives are in some regards center-right and in way more others centre-left, depending of where the wind blows. My point is that the realities of governance are such as to erode most of the texture of political parties. Governing a country as wide — literally — as Canada forces everything to the centre, it’s just statistics. You can hang me for being an old disillusioned goat but man, sometimes when I hover over social media for too long I start hoping that October 20th will actually bring a change in leadership just to see the look on people’s face when they wake-up a year later and realize that very little has changed. They have the same Public Service, regulatory framework, law enforcement agencies and tax revenues to deal with. Because Canadians love the ideals but loathe the practice. We’re like that: we wax left-wing poetic about all the wonderful things we want to buy and shut our wallets tight like Scrooge on December 23rd when comes the time to pay for it. Change is not cheap, but we are.


Go forth and set the world on fire


4 Very-Serious-Things I am thankful for

A friend tagged me in a Facebook gratitude challenge whereby I was asked to post 3 thankful things for 5 days. Then tag 3 more people, do the hockey-pokey and turn myself around lest I desired to bring forth 7 years of locusts unto my descendants… or something. I gave thanks for 3 consecutive days, choosing family, faith and friends as my themes. I never met an alliteration I didn’t  love and thus running out of f-words I could share on Facebook, I decided to take the gratitude to my blog. And maybe, possibly because I take a stab at –oh — roughly 2/3 of my Facebook friends in today’s first item. By publishing it on my blog, I give them the courtesy of not having it show on their timeline. I’m nice like that.

Today, 4 Very-Serious-Things I am thankful for:

1. Perspective. Because my Facebook and Twitter friends love to share how hateful the leaders of Canada and the U.S. are. One for shutting down rural post offices, the other for trying to introduce health care insurance. And all I think about are the real people trapped on Mount Sinjar who had 4 hours to flee their homes of face barbaric extermination. “Hateful” is what’s happening in Iraq and Syria. “Democracy” is what’s happening in North America. Perspective is appreciating the difference.

2. Flexibility. Someone once told me “We have to be flexible because we can.” Flexibility, the ability to adapt, to roll with the punches, to accept changes without fear, is a gift.Blessed are the flexible for they shall not break.

3. Fertility, childbearing and breastfeeding. I made a commitment to Natural Family Planning 14 years ago and learning the ebb and flow of my whacky cycles has been a struggle. I was once told, in reference to an unplanned pregnancy, that I had a “fertility problem” and I have felt sorry for myself. But I have also seen many people close to my heart struggle with infertility and repeat miscarriages. As I enter my forties, I can see the pain and sadness that infertility wreaks all around me and I am thankful and deeply humbled by the gift of fertility. I have never lost a pregnancy, never had a caesarian birth or an epidural, I have given birth naturally 9 times, including a breech birth and a multiple birth. I have been able to feed my children from my breast and grow them into healthy, chubby wonders. I have experienced, without even asking for it, the natural and peaceful births that other women fight tooth and nail to have. My body is truly fearfully and wonderfully made. When people ask me if/when we will get “fixed”, I always answer “We’re not broken!”

4. Privilege. I received an inheritance I did nothing to earn when I was born white, healthy and loved in Canada. Every day I am reminded of the little things that are made easier for me just because I was born in a privileged situation. As I pass this inheritance down to my children, I try to remind them that to whom much has been given, much will be requested. We do not feel guilty for our privilege, but we honour it by recognizing it and spreading it around.




Random Bullets

– Have you been following Senator Mike Duffy’s expense claim kerfuffle? The claim form confusion seems to be affecting many Senators and, if I may add, their staff. Because who are we kidding here? It’s not like Mike Duffy fills up his own claim forms. But a mistake was made and monies will be repaid. The same week Mike Duffy was ducking TV cameras and avoiding embarrassing questions, I received a letter at work. It’s a letter I receive all too often, coming from a desperate taxpayer who suddenly finds him/herself in the cross-hair of the Canadian Revenue Agency. They owe taxes, in small or large amounts. They got confused filing their forms, like the Senators. They never tried to evade the taxman and that’s probably why they are in such trouble: if they were professional tax-evaders, they would know how to stay out of CRA’s radar. But no, they paid their money, or rather what they thought was their money, and sent it to CRA with their home address and vital information. Only they didn’t send enough money. And last week, they received a letter asking them to pay their taxes before close of business or else. Or else. And the “or else” is not trivial. Unlike Duffy, they never had the option to repay. They are not only taxed but fined, threatened with a garnishing order – which in some businesses, like bank employees, means a loss of employment – or foreclosure. So make my day Mike Duffy. While Senators think they are doing the honorable thing by repaying pocket change and keeping their jobs, the bureaucracy is putting the tax base through the ringer. And nobody bats an eyelid.

– Speaking of taxpayers’ dollars, my city was hit by a major snow fall. The quantity of snow was significant and the mild, slightly above zero temperature, made it heavy and water-logged. More than 200 city buses got stuck and jackknifed in the white stuff.  Even my minivan with its kick-ass winter tires got (shortly) jammed in the fluff.

Two days later, it was time for the giant snow blower to remove the snow from the main arteries. I have readers in tropical climes — or so my statistics tell me — so let me educate you.

When a Canadian city is hit by a major snowfall, the roads need to be cleared progressively while the snow is still falling. The snow is first pushed to the sides of the road by snowplows driving up and down major arteries.

Snow plow pushing the snow to the side of the road.
Snow plow pushing the snow to the side of the road.

All this snow creates big walls of snow on each side of the road and must eventually be removed by a snow blower.

Snow blower blowing snow in a very big dump truck. It has a big, gas-guzzling engine.
Snow blower blowing snow in a very big dump truck. It has a big, gas-guzzling engine.

The snow blower blows the snow into several very large dump trucks who then take the snow to a snow dump.

Another day at the snow dump...
Another day at the snow dump…

Because it takes more time to make a round trip to the snow dump than to fill a dump truck with snow, several dump trucks take turns filling-up while the others go to the dump and come back. It’s like a giant snow-removal-tag-team operation. When the City removes the snow, cars cannot park in the streets. So the City puts snow removal no-parking signs to warn people. And people don’t pay attention and park in the streets anyway, hence the need to tow cars out of the snow blower’s path.

If the little no-parking sign doesn't make sense to you, this is what will happen.
If the little no-parking sign doesn’t make sense to you, this is what will happen.
Does this make sense to you?
Does this make sense to you?

Last week, I drove past 4 giant dump trucks idling on my way to the vegetarian restaurant.  As I got near the restaurant, I saw two more giant dump trucks idling behind the snow blower. The snow blower sat empty, on a forced coffee break, while the tow-trucks were towing one car after the other. And as if the waste of taxpayers’ dollars wasn’t mind bending enough, a pick-up truck from the City of Ottawa was accompanying the tow-truck, no doubt to deal with disgruntled car owners.  In front of the all-organic-all-the-time vegetarian restaurant, a Toyota Echo and a hybrid Ford Focus were being towed. How’s that for a lifetime of greenhouse gas savings blown away over lunch? I hope that the irony of having half-a-dozen heavy-duty diesel-powered engines idling while their energy-efficient matchbox dinkies were being towed away wasn’t lost on them as they digested their local organic kale.

– I started writing this post 3 week ago. That’s how slowly I write, in case you are wondering why I am posting about the last snow storm on a beautiful sunny day. Not only that, but why would I be posting about manly trucks on International Women’s Day? I listened to a few radio interviews today in between hosting a weekly meeting for my local babywearing group. Yes, women who choose to be attached to their babies as much as possible. From what I heard, Women’s Day is all about abortion and contraception and how hard it is to get either. Isn’t there more to being a woman than to be sexually available and artificially infertile? Because my experience as a woman who raised and gave birth to 8 children, running a home and occasionally a slew of volunteer activities is worth nothing in today’s economy. My degree is outdated, I am unemployable to most but the friend who gave me my part-time job, and I can’t even get a biology credit to return to University without going back to high school. As if I hadn’t learned more putting my kids through school than is required to enter the midwifery degree I so long to get. But hey, what is really keeping women down is not having enough pills. No: What is keeping women down is the belief that women have to be barren like men to succeed and that childbearing and child-rearing are impediments to equality. So that’s your International Women’s Day reflection from a women who is not using artificial birth control out of principle. And while I call myself a feminist for my radical view on the beautiful integrity of the feminine body, ovaries and all, I know that most feminists would be ashamed to count me as their own. Cheers!

Faits divers

1 Un bien méchant virus: L’influenza, cuvée 2012-2013. Nous y avons trinqué pour le jour de l’an. Nous voici tous les trois avec nos pompons et notre champagne…

Écrasés sur maman pendant 3 jours
Deux bébés malades, c’est beaucoup de bébés!
Dieu merci pour le portage: les bébés n'ont pas voulu être déposés pour 3 jours!
Dieu merci pour le portage: les bébés n’ont pas voulu être déposés pour 3 jours!

2 Deux manifestations de mécontentement: Le mouvement Idle No More et les moyens de pression exercés par les professeurs ontariens. Qu’est-ce que j’en pense vous vous demandez? L’ennemi de la démocratie, ce n’est pas Dalton MacGuinty (Premier Ministre de l’Ontario) ou Stephen Harper (Premier Ministre de Canada). L’ennemi de la démocratie, c’est l’apathie. Je suis donc contente de voir les gens se sortir de leur torpeur et se soulever pour tenir tête au gouvernement. J’ai une opinion nuancée sur les revendications autochtones du Canada et une piètre opinion de la Chef Theresa Spence, dont la grève de la faim est d’une cruelle ironie lorsqu’on apprend que le taux de suicide chez les jeunes autochtones est 6 fois plus élevé que chez les non-autochtones. Je ne suis pas assez éduquée pour vous offrir une solution sur les “affaires indiennes” mais je ne suis pas certaine que se laisser mourir de faim avec grande fanfare est le meilleur moyen d’inspirer une génération qui est déjà désespérée. Les professeurs ontariens ne sont pas contents non plus, ayant été allégés de leur droit de grève le temps que le gouvernement leur impose un contrat qu’il n’arrivait pas à faire passer par la négociation. Certaines écoles sont fermées aujourd’hui et j’ai vu plusieurs grand-parents prenant un petit café avec leurs petits-enfants au hasard de mes promenades. Ça m’a fait sourire.

3 Trois outils pour vous aider à garder vos bonnes résolutions. L’application MyFitnessPal vous permet de garder un “journal alimentaire”, un peu comme Weight Watchers mais gratuit! Je ne documente pas chaque bouchée à long terme mais une ou deux fois par année je garde un journal alimentaire afin d’avoir un point de référence. À chaque fois, je réalise que je mange (1) beaucoup trop, et (2) pas aussi bien que je ne le pensais. L’application RunKeeper est une excellente manière de suivre la progression de votre entraînement. Je l’utilise depuis 1 an. Et finalement, si vous ne voulez pas payer pour les meetings Weight Watchers, rien ne vous empêche de tirer avantage des média sociaux comme Facebook. Si vous n’êtes pas du genre à partager vos exploits de par le monde, vous pouvez vous créer un groupe privé ou secret (qui n’apparaîtra pas sur votre ligne de temps) avec des copines et vous en servir pour partager vos conquêtes, vos défaites et vos défis. C’est beaucoup plus amusant en groupe! Voici mon défi: le bol sans fond d’amandes au chocolat et son partenaire, le bol sans fond de Jelly Belly que mon excellent patron met à notre disposition. J’ai pris 17 livres cet automne (oui!), 15 venaient du bol d’amandes, j’en suis persuadée! IMG_2183

Berger allemand mangeur d'homme
Berger allemand mangeur d’homme

4 Quatre pattes, ça aide les grandes filles avec leur devoirs… Et ça aide à nettoyer le plancher après une “recette”…

Berger Allemand mangeur de Corn Bran
Berger allemand mangeur de Corn Bran

5 Cinq doigts bien haut pour le groupe de portage d’Ottawa et la boutique The Extraordinary Baby Shoppe, qui m’ont aidé à acheter et embellir ces deux porte-bébés pour mon amie Johanne et sa famille.

Deux Manduca pour deux bébés bien spéciaux...
Deux Manduca pour deux bébés bien spéciaux…