Thursday, May 31, 2012

self portrait thursday: brand "me"

Right now I should be promoting Brand Me (there! i did it) but to be completely honest, I'm extremely reticent at pushing myself forward. I am OK with appealing to readers who stumble on my blog posts, and OK about tooting them out randomly on my twitter feed ... but mass emailing and plugging every Facebook group I belong to? I just can't bring myself to push 'me'. And I haven't mentioned it much outside my online life either.

the letters have shrunk
who am i?

Although I'm not a complete social media hermit, and no no-friends nellie, pushing this particular Brand Me means opening up my sordid internet life to people who are completely unaware of it ... and even with a few votes at stake, I'd like it to stay that way.

is this me?

Part of my reluctance is defining Brand Me in the first place. My blog defines me as a ranting midlifer with obvious depressive tendencies and domestic woes, but is that all there is to 'me'?

orbital weave and serpentine choker
hiding from ...?

graduation day for my PhD
or is this me?

I'm a daughter, a big sister, a wife, a mother to a son. I'm also a mature mum, an ex-scientist/ex-veterinary surgeon, a trailing spouse who gave up her career to emigrate with her husband, a volunteer, a mixed media artist, a writer or at least a writer-in-training ... does this mix make me 'me' or should I choose one track and stick to it?

I'm not ready to decide just yet but once I know what Brand Me is I'll start the promotion stuff; until then, you're welcome to stick along for the ride.
us c1992
or maybe this is?

Each Thursday, for a great number of years, a bunch of Etsy sellers have been taking self portraits and posting them on flickr. It started as a way of staying in contact, and has continued with Etsy Self Portrait Thursday.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

not really wordless enough wednesday: fifty shades of oh my!

After this, no I won't be downloading it to my kobo ... NB: possibly NSFW

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

ages and stages: futility

the dragon that was

Every child grows at a different rate. Some mature fast, some slow. Some run fast while others are still coordinating one foot in front of the other. Some read whole paragraphs in books without pictures while others pick out words one finger at a time. Each to their own.

And so it goes with temperament, behaviour, reaction, response ... all the emotional brain chemistry that goes into making a personality and ends up as a packaged human being. Some children get it quickly, that there are certain norms of behaviour required for living easily in society. Others struggle.

We have a struggler.

My Wee Guy has a strong sense of justice, and, as with a lot of little children, it centres around himself. "Why does it always happen to me?" is a frequent wail, as he battles against another wrong. And oh boy, does he battle.

Though lately I've noticed he's quicker to reach tears at home than prolong the fight. Instead of a whole day/evening of stubborn illogical shouting he will now burst into tears ... and it will be over. Resignation. Recognition of that which cannot be changed. He seems to realise the futility of his actions against squeaky beans for dinner, or "no, we're not going to x, y or z", and the tears splash down his cheeks. Is he finally accepting the finality of, "because I say so"? Does he at last understand that he is the kid and we, the adults, usually have the final say in matters of safety, nutrition, homework ...?

Neufeld and Maté talk a lot about registering futility in their book, Hold On To Your Kids, describing it as essential to adaptive learning.
"Not until we accept that what we have been trying to do cannot be done and fully experience the disappointment and sadness that follow can we move on with our lives."
At one point in our quest to understand behavioural issues in school, we were told that the Wee Guy needed to appreciate futility before he moving forward. Neufeld and Maté write about moving from "mad to sad", from frustration to acceptance that it's not working, as a key step in child development. A child needs to understand that not everything works, and to accept this before learning how to cope.

Much as I love his feistiness and his stubborn belief in being right, it doesn't equate to an easy ride - at home, at school, with friends. Much as I love this new vulnerability in him, because maybe just maybe he's ready to learn how to share life with others, it also saddens me. Does he really need to know how futile life is? Accepting futility means surrendering invincibility. It means facing up to not being able to do everything, not thinking you can conquer the world in that lovely way kids believe in themselves. Yes, it means a step closer to being adult, but with all the questioning, second-guessing, no-you-can't stifling of creativity that being a grown-up entails.

Who would wish self-doubt on their child?

Monday, May 28, 2012

midlife monday: cut and paste

It's been a cut-and-paste kind of day, repetitive and somewhat tedious. The grunt work is necessary but I agreed wholeheartedly with my computer when it froze after six-and-a-bit hours.

We got the work done after a quick reboot.

... a bit like being a stay-at-home parent ... (yes, it's Swiss Toni moment). If I remember to insert the creative reboots throughout the day, then life flows a little better and the tedium is less tedious.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

His first chemistry lecture; enduring the big bangs at SFU open house

Saturday, May 26, 2012

fibre friday: con.text

Yesterday's fibre friday from the other blog - gearing up for a creative summer? I hope so :)

fibre friday: con.text:
Have at last started work on a series of pieces for a gallery show this July - the working title is con.text or con:text (whichever I think has the typographical clout) and will be work inspired by chunks of text. The title is a play on words around the first project.
This morning I heat-transferred a 419 email contents onto a thrifted remnant of cream silk ... hence con text!
If you need any more clues, try googling Nigerian scam :)

Friday, May 25, 2012

friday forte: a centre for men

our last morning

Why yes - I do support setting up a men's centre on Burnaby Mountain. As the mother of a son, I think the idea is worth thinking about, and I don't think it can be dismissed casually by saying that we still live in a very male-dominated society (or rape culture as I've seen it referred to in its most extreme). Certainly society has a long way to go before gender equality, but excluding a men's centre just because they are the 'dominant sex' is not a valid excuse.

man and boy and bird

No, I'm not advocating a men-only gentleman's club arrangement, where there are token ladies' nights for the little woman at home, and men can sit around practising their chauvinism. I'm suggesting that young men need a safe space to learn what it does mean to be a real man, to get away from the media stereotypes forced on them, where their gender are the inept buffoons, or the laughing stock butt of every jokey commercial.  They need to know that not all women think they are the enemy - that most are willing to give them a chance and not automatically label them as sexist - and that women are neither inferior nor superior.

They also need a safe place to explore their own feelings, to share their fears and know that this isn't a sign of weakness, before a health problem becomes untreatable or a mind gets set on suicide as a way out.

Nellie: Gowland Point, Pender Island

I read the "men are the enemy" diatribes online and see the frankly sexist rants about how only women are the good sex; it makes me sad. Most of these young men you talk so disparagingly about were raised by mothers, many of whom try to raise thoughtful, compassionate individuals who are concerned about equality as much as their sisters are. Society might be biased against our efforts but things will only change if we do give new generations of young men a chance to practice this equality rather than condemning them to repeat the cycle. When you offer up some jaded half-baked and generalised observation pushing men back into their cave, you offend the parents who are trying to make a difference and yes, you push the boys back in the cave too.

one step at a time

I would like my son to grow up and leave home into a welcoming world which values him as a man without automatically labelling him as sexist, misogynistic or flawed by nature of his gender. It's not just daughters we need to make the world a better place for.

As the mother of my son, I think the world I'm about to send him off into needs more men's centres.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

self portrait thursday: such a lot has happened to me

For one thing, the little dude sitting on the chair with his back to me has happened.
And that's quite a big deal - he acts like the glue in my life, holding a number of other happenings in orbit around us both.
And self portrait thursday happened. It used to be something that a bunch of Etsy sellers would do back in the good old days when Etsy actually had a community. We'd take our portraits, post them to the flickr group then stop by to 'chat'. Good times.
Since then SPT has evolved into a snapshot of what's going on inside my head - sometimes it's ranty, other times just vacant! Occasionally it's contentment.
But always a reflection on life so far.
As I said, a lot has happened to me.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

wordless wednesday: new shoots and lichen

Spotted on my lunchbreak
more lichen and moss here and here  :)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

one day post barf

unpaid stuff includes photography of the display case at Port Moody library
... and after yesterday's explosive back-of-seat decorating fest en route back from May parade celebrations in Fort Langley, I truly thought today would be a child-minding snoozefest with added lysol and GETTING NOTHING ACCOMPLISHED.

other unpaid stuff includes taking macro photographs
(detail from work by Val Simons) ...
today's crafty exploits
... and varnishing tigers ...
But it wasn't.

The Wee Guy woke up barf-free and announced he would be going to school. Off he went; I did some work, some actual paying work too courtesy of my paid internship work experience semester gig for which I have paid fees to do. I even fitted in some of the unpaid stuff between emailing off My Very First Interview Profile (written after many hours of delete and some much "i can't do this" angst) and wrestling my way into Adobe CQ5.

I am completely weirded out at a. how productive I felt, and b. how much I enjoyed hanging out with the Wee Guy after school after being productive. We snacked, shopped at Value Village for new jeans because his legs are growing (!) then went to piano ... and not once was I on a different planet wondering why I felt so unsettled. This has not happened in a long time. Is this the work/life balance I've been searching for?

llama farm dream
... and dreaming about llama farms
... which leaves me wondering, is it the money or is it just having something new on the agenda, or am I finally getting somewhere in, around and in spite of my family?

Monday, May 21, 2012

midlife monday: nominated

at work

Yes - it's true. I've turned up on the Vancouver Mom Top Thirty Mom Blogger list for 2012.

I am a mum, I do blog with regular and active posts (!), and no - I did not nominate myself; I have no idea who did*, but it wasn't me (see previous post for explanation).

My profile will be posted on Vancouver Mom on Wednesday (of course I'll post a link, best beloved) and voting opens May 28th ... and therein lies the dilemma.

I don't want to promote my blog.**  ***

It's not an easy read. There is nothing lovely about my take on parenting, and at best I sound like a grumpy, ranting and whiny old bitch. My voyage through midlife is more an uphill thrash through zombie piranhas with open sores than a cruise. I've lost sight of who I am and finding myself again is, at times, a painful journey (which I inflict with relish on you, dear readers). I don't always enjoy motherhood and I don't see I should feel guilty about it. Ditto mr ebb. Although does fulfil the mandate of "the personality of the blogger should shine through", how many more people I know IRL do I want knowing what I'm really like? I do a  damned fine job of covering it up most of the time. It's fine if you stumble on the posts through googling "shots of pussys" or "yoga fall over" (true search terms, I kid you not!) and stay, if that's what floats your boat, but asking acquaintances to read my blog?


* thanks, big thanks
** OK - i'll tweet about it a bit ... and i am going to the party :)#
*** of course, i want you to go and vote for it :) duh!

# this makes me hypocritical and shallow
photo silly d2

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Port Moody Library Display Case May 2012

Port Moody Library Display Case May 2012:

tiles by Pauline Doyle,
glass leaf by Margret Billings
pendant by Luci Gimenes

The Blackberry Artist's Society is primarily a local artist cooperative which strives to bring unique, handcrafted work by our members to our community through our gift shop in Port Moody Arts Centre . One of the ways we promote this is by getting out there into our community.
vase by Jacq Sheridan

Our members display their work every month in the mezzanine display cases at City Hall (just up the stairs on your way to pay business licences, dispute traffic fines and so on ...).

Another display venue available to us (and other Tri Cities artists) are the display shelves beside the Port Moody library reception desk. This area is primarily used for showing smaller scale 3D works in a secure but accessible venue.

All items on display are for sale. All you need to do is make a note of any details, e.g. artist, title or description of piece, price, and then phone the gift shop on 604 931 2008, ext. 102, to reserve your prize and arrange collection.

PS: Don't forget about our current exhibition at Port Moody Arts Centre, Inspiring Each Other
running until May 27th!
watercolour by Elizabeth Wallace, jewelry by Amanda Maxwell
Our artists will also be on hand with demonstrations of their art at the new Port Moody Art in the Garden tour, July 15th.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Vancouver International Children's Festival

art in the afternoon

What are your plans for the summer? After all the excitement of the long weekend a.k.a. the unofficial start to summer when all the water parks magically switch on, what else is there left do?
Well, there's plenty - especially if you have kids (or can borrow some).

Vancouver International Kids Festival kicks off on Tuesday, 29th May whooping it up on Granville Island for a whole five days. There is indeed something for everyone, big kid or little, with performances, puppetry, hands-on activities and even a cooking class so it's not just for the pre-school crowd (but shhh! you might have to play hookey from school to attend; you didn't hear it from me).
And for adults too, even the most jaded among you.
May I recommend going to a screening of The Itch of the Golden Nit?

"11-year-old Beanie’s boring life changes forever when he must save his parents from Evil Stella and return the Golden Nit to its rightful place at the heart of the sun, thereby saving the universe.
Created for the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad by the Tate Modern with Aardman Animation (who brought us Wallace & GromitCreature Comforts and other incredible claymation), this remarkable project involved more than 34.000 UK school children to create the artwork and conceive the storyline for this 30-minute animated film.
The 30-minute screening is accompanied by a 10-minute behind the scenes short film that focuses on the creation of this incredible film.
We’re thrilled to present the North American premiere of this delightfully funny – not to mention groundbreaking – film that’s made with kids, for kids.
from the Vancouver International Children's Festival website

I was very lucky to be invited to an advance screening of this Aardman Animations mini-movie, along with my boys (one 9-year-old, one 46-year-old) ... and we loved it - for its ridiculous plotline, for the voices, and for the cutest louse ever, but mostly for the images!

Created by the Tate Movie Project (an excellent DIY website for the budding animation expert in your family, btw) for the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, the entire movie is crowd-sourced from drawings by hundreds of schoolchildren around the British Isles, and the storyline drawn from their suggestions. From covers of magazines on the cartoon newsstand (who else but kids would come up with a magazine titles, Dance Like A Dad  or Hamsters Gone Wild) to the amazing scenery backdrops for the action, the artwork was utterly enchanting. I have never seen so much felt pen and marker art ever, all lovingly created and skillfully combined into the story.

artist at work

My most enchanting moments however, were watching my son watching the film. From the start he was riveted; his eyes never left the screen even when helpless with laughter at the (often corny) jokes. As image upon image of children's art scrolled across the screen and their characters were brought to life, I could see him thinking, this is stuff like mine and it's in a film!

Entertainment aside, The Itch of the Golden Nit is a source of inspiration for children. It shows how valid and creative their own art can be. Art is no longer something simply hung on the walls of lofty institutions - it is accessible and relevant.

Artist at work

So go on - take the budding artist in your life to a screening; tickets include admission to the whole festival site so make a day of it (and play truant, i dare you!)

Disclosure: my family and i attended a special advance screening arranged by Limelite PR to promote the festival. I have been asked to review our experience and broadcast it to my social media network. The words however, are my own.

Friday, May 18, 2012

friday forte: Mother's Day

Jason - such a little plane
Jason - such a little plane

It seemed quietly appropriate that as I sipped my Mother's Day morning coffee swaddled on the bench on the deck, basking in the morning sun, I finished reading The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. Through reading her book, I've learned about what the women's movement accomplished before feminism became a dirty word, and also the source of my own niggling dissatisfaction. Ironically, if I hadn't become a mother nine years ago, a lot of what Friedan wrote would have completely passed me by and yes, I'd be one of those unencumbered women wondering what the childful were complaining yakking on about this time (and why did it always have to be about poo/useless husbands/sleep?)!

No - you don't know how it is if you don't have a child. Sorry but it's true. No matter how many of your friends possess a nuclear family, it still doesn't give you that deep-under-the-skin 'a-ha' recognition of what it really is all about. And you only realise what an absolute prig you once were (unsolicited expert parenting advice anyone?), when you have responsibility for that child.

So I celebrated Mother's Day feeling great joy, but a good deal of angst, self-exploration and self-doubt, discrimination and injustice came along for the ride. What should be a joyous rite of passage for women has indeed been tarnished by the ongoing failure of society to support parents.

In the final two chapters, The Forfeited Self and A New Life Plan for Women, I recognised a lot of what Friedan wrote, even though her words were written for an age before I was even born. Her description of busy-work, the tasks a woman invents to keep her occupied and validate her stay-at-home existence, is something I've gradually become aware of in my own ten-plus years out of employment. Although with volunteering and self-education I'm now a software, social media whizz kid and know a lot about my community, so far it hasn't really added up to anything apart from stopping me watching afternoon tv.*

Even now, in the 21st Century, being a stay-at-home parent is a demoralising occupation if unsupported, without external stimulation, and seemingly without end. Much as I love being the mother to my son, no matter how much I adore him, and no matter how much mr ebb shares the load (which he does, quite wonderfully) staying at home to parent and run a house is not a fulfilling career for anybody, regardless of gender. Times have changed and the pressures on today's parents to get it right, work in isolation without feedback (unless it's negative) and somehow be satisfied, are immense.

The answer is, of course, external stimulation, to get out into the working world again but, as the CBC recently reported along with so many inequalities, a woman's responsibility for childcare seriously impedes her progress toward meaningful employment. There simply aren't enough opportunities for mums to get back in the running career-wise because there isn't anyone available to look after her children. Before taking on any out-of-the-home employment or higher education, her first thought is "who will look after my kids?" And this is what brings her world crashing down - there is often no way out, or the jobs available are little better than the mundane, monotonous, tedious chores she would be rushing back to do with her meagre pay packet in hand. Dreams are crushed; hope dies; occupation: housewife.

* I should acknowledge here that I don't consider my volunteer work wasted; a lot of it has gone into my resumé and my portfolio. I used it as a way to explore my new life and once I knew what I wanted to do I focused my volunteerism into areas which would benefit me in the future. I just haven't quite reached that future yet ...

Thursday, May 17, 2012

the eye of the beholder: Wednesday hike

Yes, I know this should be a self portrait thursday post.
self portrait thursday 17th May
I was going to post this pic of me, after work on the deck (yes, I said work as in paid employment out-of-the-home)
self portrait thursday 17th May
or this one, ditto ...
self portrait thursday 17th May
or this surreal one
but no, i chose the eye of the beholder because it's awesome ... and that's how i like to think of life these days for a little while :)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

wordless wednesday: oh my word

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day Weekend

(yes, i made a weekend of it!)

Seen, heard and done this weekend:

  1. Date night with my Wee Guy on Friday evening, watching the new Aardman Pirates movie then moving on to iHop for dinner. The movie was an animated laugh-a-minute, though I'm not sure whether I enjoyed laughing at the antics on the screen or chuckling at my date's mirth!
  2. Finished Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique - an oddly appropriate read for Mother's Day
  3. Mother's Day brunch at Camp Sasamat, where the Wee Guy and I were the only mother/son combo there. All other guests were in huge extended family groups except for two women who came together without kids "to celebrate each other".
  4. on hearing sounds of sobbing in the back of the car
    Me: "Hang on, I'm pulling over. What's the matter?"
    Wee Guy: "Nothing. Can we listen to something else now please?"
    Me: "Did the story on the radio upset you?" reaching back to his seat
    WG: "Yes. I'd never want to let my dad die." sobbing
    Me: "I know you wouldn't, but sometimes you just have to let someone go, when it's too painful to keep them alive you have to let them die."
    WG: "Whoever invented death should be put in jail."
    Me: struggling for words and crying too "Yes, it isn't fair but death happens, even to people you love. And sometimes you just have to let it happen."
  5. mr ebb did most of the housework and all of the laundry (including the towels which had been washed on Wednesday). 
  6. Dinner out, to give mr ebb a break :)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

that risotto recipe

I've raved about it. It's appeared in every single month-of-eats post so far. So what is this holy grail of easycare rice dish recipes?
Well - in a nutshell, it's an oven baked risotto. No stirring required, which I must admit is my least favourite activity at the end of the day.
I have no idea where the recipe came from; it is important to use arborio rice; it's a great vegetarian use-up-whatever-is-in-the-fridge stand by.
Bon appetit!

This is the recipe as copied - I usually vary it to include whatever is to hand/dying in the fridge.

2 tablespoons olive oil
3oz butter
3 leeks, sliced finely
zest of on lemon, shredded
14oz arborio rice
2 pints veg stock
8oz frozen peas
8oz asparagus
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4oz grated parmesan
1 bunch mint, chopped
1 bunch basil, chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 400F/200C.
  2. Fry leeks and lemon zest in the olive oil and 1oz butter until soft (about 5 minutes).
  3. Place leeks, rice and stock in oven dish. Cover tightly and bake for 20 minutes.
  4. Add peas and asparagus then bake for another 15 minutes with the lid on.
  5. Stir in lemon juice, parmesan, mint, basil, remaining butter and season.
  6. Stir for two minutes to thicken then serve with additional parmesan 

Friday, May 11, 2012

friday forte: monetise?

Today may 5th :)
midlife - sharp in tooth and claw

I'm not a real blogger - I don't post awesome and erudite; I don't attract millions of comments; I'm not a commenter on up-to-the-minute social matters or on the radar for any interest group. I'm also not a mom blogger either; I'm a mum who posts on a blog. However, recently I seem to be flirting with those two labels.
Last week, someone whose writing persona I greatly admire, described me as a real blogger. Then later that same day I attended an event solely because I am active on social media and a mum who blogs.

The rise of mommy bloggers in marketing, reviews, promotions and social media brand PR has been awesome. Most mom bloggers by now are very familiar with spreading news of events, products and so on via their social media networks, tweeting everything from shout outs to blogging freebies and reviews. It's even become a bit contentious out there online, with questions raised on topics ranging from integrity to implications that kids are being ignored while mommy tiptaps at the keyboard. Whether or not anyone takes them seriously, they're here to stay for the forseeable future as useful adjuncts to the advertising industry.

So, as a mum who blogs, I was asked by Limelite PR, who are handling the promotion of this year's Vancouver International Children's Festival, to attend a preview screening of an Aardman animated film, The Itch for the Golden Nit. I checked online for some details then cheerfully accepted the mission for myself and two boys (one 46-year-old; one nine-year-old!). In return I was asked to spread news of the event (tweeted) and my review of the film (in the works - it was fabulous btw, you should go see it) through my social media channels, something which of course mom bloggers are incredibly familiar with but not me so much. 

So far, I've reviewed a piece of ski wear for Vancouver Mom and a book on expat life for women, netting me an ebook and the item of apparel. My blogging is not lucrative; I'm not in the new auto test drive or the expensive family holiday bracket, or even net the freebie coffees or giftcards (though I am looking for a tablet/gadget/travel sponsor for next summer's trip round Europe with the Wee Guy ... any takers?).

While I would like to make money by writing, I'm not convinced that the mum blog route is one I want to travel. I can't see me offering give-aways; neither do I wish to review everything under the sun child-related. I reviewed the ebook because I am an expat trailing spouse, the film because I adore Aardman and like to support local events/industry, and the ski apparel because I am an avid snowboarder. In other words, they fit in with my life, my personality and my values. At midlife I'm feisty enough to say no even if it means shutting the (wrong-for-me) door.

So it's unlikely that I will be offered many reviews; have you checked out which niche my blog falls into? How many products are targeted to expat midlife mixed-media artist mature mothers of a singleton, struggling with depression/relationship issues and carving out a work/life balance as they attempt a return to paid employment/certification after over ten years of unemployment overseas?

Not even Meryl Streep can pull off that many characters.
ebb and flo by pomo mama design click to shop pomo mama design online!