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.

LEGO vs. the Flood

We sat on the floor in Connor’s room for a while this afternoon. I sorted mounds of LEGO while Connor built things and Ethan chewed on the body of a T-Rex.

Earlier, we had gone down to a community devastated by floods to hand out food and bottles of water.

“What did you think about that?” I asked Connor as we sat in his clean, dry room. “All the mud? All the ruined houses and the people throwing out all their stuff?”

“It was pretty cool,” he said, in his five-year-old way.

Ok, I think. So he wasn’t scared by it.

“What did you think was cool about it?”

“I dunno. It was just cool. And it was sad.”

So there’s that, at least.

*****

Today marks five days since the river banks broke and the floods destroyed so many parts of Calgary. 100,000 people—10% of the city’s population—were evacuated; some of them are home again, many are not. But it’s not like any of them can simply unlock their front doors and walk in as though they had been on vacation.

In the worst areas, there is mud everywhere – contaminated mud that drips from the couches and lamps and appliances that sit on front lawns. People have had to rip flooring and carpet and drywall from their homes. The streets are now full. There are huge trucks blocking streets as they pump water from basements. They are loud. The people doing the clearing are wearing rubber boots, gloves, and masks. They are covered in mud.

Bowness-flood3

Having two small kids, one of whom is still breastfeeding, makes it difficult to help as much as I feel I should. As much as I want to. I feel as though I should don old jeans and put on my boots and take some gloves and a shovel and just start digging people out. And not stop until all the mud and guck and crap is gone.

But I can’t really do that, so I have done other things. I’ve dropped off supplies in three different parts of the city. I’ve tweeted out information trying to connect people who can help with people who need help. I’ve donated money.

But I needed to do more, and I wanted Connor to help. So this morning we went over to an affected community not far from where we live and walked the muddy streets where homeowners and neighbours and volunteers are trying to clean up.

We went with my friend Erin and her two kids, who had loaded up their wagon with fruit and water and granola bars. Connor and I baked muffins and took those along with apples, bottles of water, and protein bars. We stopped every person we saw to ask if they needed something.

Bowness-flood1

It’s hard to help a five-year-old understand what has happened and what it means for the people affected. A big pile of soggy drywall is meaningless to Connor. We’ve told him people have had their houses ruined and have to throw out most of their things, including their toys. He knows that, even if he doesn’t entirely understand it. In one breath he’s talking about how wet things are and in the next he’s asking to go to the toy store to browse the LEGO aisle. To him, “going without” means not getting the new set he has his eye on.

I don’t expect (or even really want) him to understand the level of devastation we’ve seen here. But I did want him to be involved in helping. So we went.

He was entirely nonchalant, no matter what we saw. He insisted on being the one to give people the bottles of water and he wanted to hand out the muffins. But he was unfazed by the mud and the piles of rubble. Such is your perspective on natural disasters when you’re five, I guess.

*****

LEGO sorted by color

At bedtime, after we brushed teeth and read stories and turned out the light, I looked over at the bins of sorted LEGO. They looked bright and clean and perfect, unlike the muddy dollhouse I saw this morning sitting atop of a pile of rubble. Clean LEGO, dirty dollhouse. What a world of difference a few kilometres makes.

“How was your day?” I asked Connor, beginning the nighttime ritual.

“Good!” he said. I could tell he was deeply satisfied, though I wasn’t sure whether it was from being a helper or because I (finally) sat with him to sort LEGO.

“What was your favourite part?”

He thought hard.

“That we got to stay home this afternoon.”

Ah, I thought. It was the LEGO.

“That was your favourite part?”

“Well, no. I just said that to make sure you knew. My favourite part was giving people water.”

He looked almost embarrassed. He likes praise, but often shies away from it.

“That was my favourite part too,” I told him. “I’m really glad you came with me. I was really proud of you today.”

He rolled over and then over again, burying his face between the bed and his wall. This is his way – hiding and playing rather than acknowledging.

“Were you proud of yourself today?” I prompted.

“Yes,” he admitted with a smile.

So there’s that.

The pride, the knowing – it’s there. He has taken it in, in his five-year-old way. The carefully sorted LEGO will be scattered again, but this—the feeling of being there and knowing he helped—will remain.

 

 

Influencing Girls as a Mom of Boys

Some day, a young girl will be sitting in my kitchen thinking she’s not good enough or smart enough or strong enough. She may not be my girl, but I will see myself in her and I will say this:

“I know. Me too. But keep going. Do it anyway. Do it because you can. Do it because you love it. Nothing else matters.”

Influencing girls and helping them be strong—unstoppable, if you will—is really important to me, which is what my latest post at Yummy Mummy Club is about.

Have you felt like this? I’d love it if you’d come and share.