In response to Jian Ghomeshi

This letter was written by my husband and he has agreed to let me share it here. I hope it inspires you as much as it inspires me.

Connor,

You’re six years old. You’re in grade one. You’re sitting at the breakfast table eating Nutella on toast. You’re fidgety because you want to play with your Lego before you go to school and I’m making you finish your breakfast and get dressed before you do.

I’m reading a news article about a man named Jian Ghomeshi, a radio host that I admired and who we’ve listened to together in the car. He has been accused of violently assaulting women he dates. The article says that many of the women he assaulted didn’t speak up for fear that they wouldn’t be believed or that they would be blamed or that their careers or personal lives would be ruined. The article goes on to say that people acquainted with him may have known how he treated women and that one woman who did complain was largely ignored.

I can’t help but think of you.

Like every parent I’ve wondered about your future and what kind of person you will turn out to be. Will you be academic? Artistic? Athletic? What kind of friends will you make? Will you be happy?

Like every parent, I’ve thought about my role helping you become the person you are to be. I’ve thought about what I’d tell you about doing your best, about standing up to peer pressure, and about taking responsibility for your actions.

And, as the parent of two boys, I’ve thought about what I’d talk to you about before you started dating.

One of the first girls I dated had been raped by a past boyfriend. She went to court and wasn’t able to prove that he did anything they hadn’t consented to, so he wasn’t punished. At the time, she lived in a small town and the gossip forced her family to move away. Before her, I don’t think I was really that aware of rape or consent. I’m sure that I’d had the “no means no” conversation in health class but until her it didn’t really mean that much to me.

After university I worked for a year at a women’s sexual assault centre. It was a place where women who’d been assaulted could receive support and counselling. I was the first male who’d ever worked there and I worked on a project that taught teenagers that “no means no” wasn’t enough; that consent isn’t just about stopping when someone says no, but it’s about discussing your boundaries beforehand.

These experiences have been foremost in my mind as I’ve considered what you and I might talk about regarding dating and sex. I know that I want you to treat girls with respect. That, no matter what, she feels safe in your company and that whatever behaviour you engage in is something you both want.

And for the longest time that, plus a healthy dose of biological information, seemed to be good enough. But not anymore. I see now that it’s not enough to hope you don’t grow up to be a rapist. My vision for your future needs to be bigger. I want you to grow up to be a boy who stands up when someone makes a demeaning comment about a girl. I want you to be a man who speaks up when you see sexual harassment at work. I want you to be an example of how men are supposed to treat women. That you become part of the solution to violence against women and not sit silently by and be part of the problem.

Love,

Dad

 

 

Travel, Fundraising & Getting Old

I suddenly feel old. Maybe it’s because I’ve been sick for 6 weeks. (Have you had pleurisy? Oh lordy, that hurts.) Maybe it’s because I was recently in 6 time zones in a three-week period (I definitely feel too old for that). Or maybe it’s because I turn 40 in a couple of months.

Actually, no. The reason I suddenly feel old is that when I was in the airport last week I got accosted by a young woman in one of the stores who wanted to show me how amazing their eye cream was. I was early for my flight and she was really friendly and terribly earnest, so I figured I’d humour her. My attitude quickly changed when I found out the amazing eye-fixing system she was selling cost $300, but she did have a point. It worked well, which I know because she showed me all the little lines around my eyes (yes, I know, thank you very much) and then put this amazing cream around one eye. Whaddya know! Look at that! I looked 10 years younger (or that eye did, anyway). I very politely declined all her (many) sales techniques, but I wondered as I walked through security if anyone noticed that I had one old-lady eye and one not. And then I bought eye cream that doesn’t cost $300 when I got home.

My first trip in October was to Dublin and it was sort of spur of the moment. I only went for three days (and now you’re probably starting to understand why I feel old and tired) but it was totally worth it. Even with the pleurisy. I wrote about making the most of three days in Ireland (not just Dublin) for Family Fun Canada.

Irish doors

I had a few days at home and then went to New York City with a group of friends to celebrate our 40th birthdays. I had never been before and, while there’s definitely some very cool stuff to see in NYC, I didn’t like it. (I know. Blasphemy. Does anyone else not love New York or am I the only freak?) After that it was Seattle to speak at a conference, and now it’s November and I’m glad the crazy month of October is over.

view of new york at night

Speaking of October, Ethan just turned 2 and I missed his birthday letter. I need to do something about that.

In the meantime, my fundraising for Team Diabetes is underway. I had a jumpathon event at Springfree Trampoline on Saturday that was totally fun. We have one of these trampolines and they’re awesome, and Springfree has generously offered to raffle one off! If you’re in Calgary and you want to enter all you have to do is give a donation and I’ll add you to the draw, which will be done in a couple of weeks.

Springfree trampoline

I’m also doing an online auction along with a couple of friends who are also participating. We’ve got some great stuff up for bid and it’s open until Nov. 7. Check out some of these cool things! (I really want to bid on some of them but don’t want to have it look like I’m trying to inflate the bids…)

auction-items

Top row, L-R: MantraBands, 16×20 watercolour, $100 Fit Chicks gift card

Middle row, L-R: weighted owl, handmade glass bead bracelet, organic food gift basket from Highwood Crossing

Bottom row, L-R: Amazon gift card, Calgary Stampede bolo tie, Jamberry gift set

We’ve also got a pass for four to the Banff Gondola, tickets to Ballet Jorgen’s production of The Nutcracker in Ottawa and lots more, so come and do some Christmas shopping and support a great cause.

Ok, that’s a lot of random craziness. No wonder I feel old!

How was your October?

On the Road to Reykjavik

After dipping down below the acceptable depression threshold a few too many times recently I did a little thinking. It started out primarily as a WTF attitude (as in why me? Why again?!) but perspective comes from the strangest places.

What are you doing to take care of yourself? people often ask. Do you get enough sleep/exercise/time to yourself? And the answer to all of those is, mostly, yes. I mean, yes and no (because does any parent of young children really get enough?) but I think I do okay in those areas.

The trouble is I haven’t been doing the right things. I’ve become really good at sitting on my bed after the boys are (finally) asleep and browsing through Facebook. I can read status updates and comment and click that like button with the best of them. It’s definitely a retreat, but it’s not exactly fulfilling.

That realization (as obvious as it might be) didn’t really become clear until I was talking to a friend recently. This guy — a firefighter, sort of a guy’s guy — asked a simple question: “What’s your outlet?”

What’s my outlet? Um, gee. That’s a good question. I like to write and I like to run, but have been doing neither on a consistent basis.

“You know that giant LEGO Death Star in my basement?” he continued. “Yeah, that was an outlet.”

I pictured him escaping his three kids or a long day at work by going to the basement and slowly, literally piece by piece, putting that together.

That’s what I need – not a LEGO Death Star, but a project.Team Diabetes

In my last race package was a brochure for Team Diabetes and, unlike most of the brochures I get in race packages, I had kept it. I’ve supported the Canadian Diabetes Foundation in various ways for a long time because I’ve had several family members affected by diabetes. Most personally for me was my Grandma, who was legally blind after losing much of her sight to the disease.

True to my largely impulsive nature, I had a look at the Diabetes Association’s website and found myself signing up for a Team Diabetes race in Reykjavik, Iceland next year. I registered without worrying too much about the slightly intimidating fundraising requirement, because I needed a project and this would be it. (Or one of them, anyway. I’m nothing if not ambitious when it comes to finding projects to distract myself with.)

Islandsbanki Marathon

Photo credit: Islandsbanki Marathon

I’ve already got some fundraising plans and some donations from supportive friends. And I’ve got a bit of a posse too. After I signed up, 6 friends (so far) did as well, and more are thinking about it.

Fundraising for this event will be a challenge and a bit outside my comfort zone (especially because I hate asking for money), but that’s sort of what I like about it. It’s something to focus on other than who has posted a new photo to Facebook. I’m excited about it, so that qualifies it as an outlet, don’t you think? I do, so here I go on something that is just for me – not me as a mom or anything else. Just me on the road to Reykjavik.

If you want to support me in my fundraising goal, you can donate here

A #GreatList and Giving Back

I have friends who are teachers, and friends of friends who are teachers, and family members who are retired teachers, and I’m so glad there are people out there who can do that sort of thing. I certainly don’t have the patience. Heck, I can barely handle my own two children sometimes, never mind 22 others. But despite (or perhaps because of) this gratitude-at-a-distance, one of the things that has always completely annoyed me is how much of their own money teachers have to spend to get some of the basic supplies they need for their classrooms.

I asked some teacher friends about this and here are some of the examples they gave:

The teachers get a classroom budget based on a per-student amount. Then I get $50 to buy my teacher supplies (pens, tape, post-its, chart paper, whiteboard markers, staples, etc. etc.) For the whole year. Obviously it’s never enough and I always spend hundreds of my own $$ on my own supplies each year. Ditto for students’ supplies. I have already bought some stuff for my students next year, plus replenished some of my own stuff on my own nickel, and it’s only July!

I always spend a ton of money on extras and supplies for things like dance costumes, building supplies for big projects like mousetrap cars or trebuchets. I also buy things for myself like baggies, alligator clips, a paper cutter, special paper, sharpies(!), magnets, etc. those things add up but make a significant difference in my quality of life as a teacher. There’s a lot more… I ended up expensing over $900 in supplies that my admin insisted I do and they found money elsewhere because they knew how much I had been spending.

I spend more on “luxury items” (my term). Most of what I spend is for books for my classroom library.

Books! I mean, c’mon. Books! Yes, some of the items in the above lists are more nice to have than absolutely essential, but I just don’t understand how we think it’s okay that a teacher is given only $50 for supplies like pens, staples, whiteboard markers, etc. How are these things not supplied by the school with care taken to ensure the very basics are available? On average, teachers spend $1,000 of their own money just to make sure their students have the resources they need to learn. 

(You’ll have to forgive me somewhat for being so indignant. It’s been that sort of week.)

In any case, there is a reason for this rant. I had an opportunity to partner with Great Clips, who have teamed up with AdoptAClassroom.org to help deserving teachers AND give families some help with back-to-school needs. (I know, I know, it’s only July. Stick with me here.) 

Great Clips did a classroom makeover for two teachers, fulfilling their wish lists and helping their classroom vision come to life. If you need a pick-me-up, check out the video (though you might want to have some Kleenex handy, because oy).

Before and after classroom makeover

Help teachers

If you want to help more teachers, Great Clips is giving you a chance to do that simply by downloading their check-in app. With every download, Great Clips will contribute to AdoptaClassroom.org (up to $20,000) to support teachers and students. You can get info about the app on their site as well.

We take the boys to Great Clips to get their hair cut, and Rich discovered their app a while ago. It’s totally awesome, especially if you have fidgety kids, because it lets you add your name to the waiting list. It’s not an appointment, so there’s no pressure if someone has a meltdown as you’re trying to get everyone in the car. It just lets you put your name on the list so you don’t have to wait as long (or at all) when you get there. You can also look to see how many people are in front of you and time your departure appropriately.

Help yourself

Support teachers and win your school supplies

And that’s not all! Between now and September 5, 2014, you can upload your school supply list to the #GREATLIST site for a chance to win your supplies. Daily winners will get their back-to-school supplies shipped free to their front door (up to $100 value). The contest is open to individuals 18 and older who are legal residents of the United States (including the District of Columbia) or Canada.

As well, if you enter you’ll get a coupon for $2 off at Great Clips with your confirmation email the first time you submit a school supply list.

Good deeds and good deals for everyone, wouldn’t you say?

 

Thanks to Great Clips for sponsoring this post and giving me another way to do a little bit of good in this world.

Postpartum Progress: 10 Years of Magic

“Dark and difficult times lie ahead. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy. But remember this – you have friends here. You’re not alone.”

- Dumbledore in Harry Potter

postpartumprogress10

This week, a group of Warrior Moms and bloggers is celebrating the 10th anniversary of Postpartum Progress. I’ve written about the site and its founder, Katherine Stone, before, because this site, and by extension Katherine, was an integral part of recovering from my experience with postpartum depression. It wasn’t the first source of help I found, but it was one of the most important.

Looking at things now, as we celebrate this milestone anniversary and all Katherine has done, it’s perfectly clear to me: Katherine Stone is basically Dumbledore.Katherine Stone compared to Dumbledore

This is no simple comparison. She’s not merely magic (though certainly there is an element of the magical about her). Like Dumbledore, Katherine isn’t afraid to say it like it is while at the same time providing much-needed reassurance.

The struggle with PPD (and other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders) is a dark time in any new mom’s life. Time and time again I’ve seen Katherine reach out to a new mom and acknowledge her experience, saying Yes, this is a horrible thing. It feels dark, and it will continue to be difficult for a little while yet. But you are not alone.

There’s a reason Katherine refers to struggling moms as Warrior Moms. Fighting PMADs is tough, and it involves choices that are sometimes difficult and definitely not always easy.

It would be easy (relatively speaking) to ignore your distress and try to carry on. I tried that and it didn’t work. It wasn’t the right choice.

It would be easy to choose blind trust that a small, white (or orange or blue) pill will make everything better without doing any of the hard work that must go with it.  That was another choice I made that was the easy, but not the right, path.

It was when I finally realized I wasn’t alone and that I did, in fact, have friends in that dark place that the hard choice to fight became easier.

These are more words of Dumbledore’s that I find inspiring, and that I think link him to Katherine and her work with Postpartum Progress:

“Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

Katherine, thank you for being the source of that light for so many. Congratulations on 10 years.