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

Science for Kids: Groovy Lab in a Box

Review of Groovy Lab in a Box
Last year Connor’s kindergarten class had library day every Wednesday; they could choose two books to take home for the week and the following week could either bring those back and exchange them for two new ones or keep the books for another week. I think 98% of the books he brought home were science books, and that’s not even an exaggeration. I think we saw a handful of story books or books with TV characters (and for a kid who loves TV that’s remarkable). Everything else was science.

He had books on the planets and books on bugs; dinosaurs made frequent appearances as did books about animals. He just really, really likes science and, I’ve got to admit, I was surprised.

I took biology through grade 11, I think. I know I took Physics 11 and barely passed. Like, barely. I think my teacher may have passed me out of pity, in fact (either that or because she didn’t want to have to deal with me again the next year). The experiment we did with the wave tank still brings back that old feeling of absolute confusion. And I never did understand chemistry.

I think it’s safe to say Connor didn’t get his science gene from me (or his art gene or his LEGO gene or, oh god, I hope he can at least write so there’s some evidence beyond his eyes that I’m his mother).

Despite my lack of knack for science and my perfectly understandable dislike of bugs, I have tried to nurture his interest in science. (Did you know there are 10,000,000,000,000,000 ants in the world? According to his National Geographic bug book, anyway.) When we got a chance to try out Groovy Lab in a Box, I said yes, figuring Connor would love it.

One thing about their approach to science for kids – this is more than just kitschy science experiments. They use a STEM approach (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and with the subscription service kids get a new box every month with a fun, hands-on projects and an engineering design challenge, all focused on that month’s STEM topic. This line from their material really stuck out for me:

Our core belief is that we want to bring this generation back to the NASA Apollo era when children wanted to be scientists and engineers and science was at the forefront of the media.

When we got our box, it came with supplies for several different experiments, an observation notebook, and instructions (thank god). We started with the sun print paper experiment, which was the perfect level of complication to start with (i.e. not very). This one involves using light-sensitive paper to make pictures and designs using only sunlight and water.

We placed the black cardstock on the bottom and the sun paper on top, and both went into a plastic bag (also supplied). Connor chose a simple shape to start with because he wanted to see how it turned into a picture, so we placed that on top of the bag and put it all in the sun.

LEGO picture

After a few minutes, the blue paper turned really light, so we took it inside and rinsed it.

rinsing-picture

It worked!

result-sun-picture-experiment

So then he got really serious and tried a few more times with different shapes and designs.

setting-up-sun-picture-experiment

That one was a hit, but when Connor saw there was an experiment that involved a battery he almost lost his mind. (Okay, that part might have been a slight exaggeration, but he was very excited.) conductivity-experiement-with-battery
This one involved putting together a conductivity sensor to determine the electrical conductivity of salt water. To start, we hooked up the battery to a buzzer and put it in a cup of water. Nothing happened. (For the record, that result matched my hypothesis.) Then we added a salt packet and tried again.

conductivity-sensor-experiment

At this point we weren’t really sure whether anything happened or if we had even done it correctly. The next step was to add more salt, so we did that and got a clear buzz.

My response was, “Yay!” And then my husband piped up from the kitchen. “Did it conduct electricity when there was no salt in the water? What about when you added salt? What did you notice?”

Damn husband. Fine, be all science-teacher-y. At least one of us was watching to see if the child electrocuted himself. (I don’t actually know if that’s a possibility, but that’s totally not the point.)observation-notebook

Despite my lack of science knowledge (I think I’m going to contact my grade 8 chemistry teacher and ask for my parents’ money back) we had fun playing scientist, and we still have a few more experiments to do (which is good, because little brothers like this too).

mini-scientist

I’d definitely recommend this for kids who are interested in science. I’d just suggest a cheat sheet for parents who might need a little help correctly identifying the results.

Want to win a Groovy Lab in a Box of your own to try? Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Robin Williams, Suicide and the Effect on Others

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the few days I spent in my friend’s basement suite in April 2011. I don’t know why that time keeps coming to mind, but I think about it as I walk up the stairs, as I sit at my desk at work, when I walk the dog. I don’t remember much about the period of time when I hit rock bottom, but I remember exactly what those days felt like.

alarm clock

I remember sitting on the couch until 2 or 3 a.m., writing or watching movies or just sitting in the dark trying to breathe. I (not a night owl) stayed up as late as I could, then took the pill that knocked me out cold for 12 hours straight. I know a lot of people find nighttime really hard when struggling with depression, but for me it was easier than being awake during the day when everyone else was functioning like normal human beings and I couldn’t. I remember seeing people walk around the grocery store one day as if everything was completely normal when it so clearly wasn’t.

I don’t know what has caused those days to be so present in my mind lately. Maybe it’s because life hasn’t been entirely easy lately and I remember when it was so much worse. Or maybe it’s because at that point every moment was devoted to getting out of that horribly dark place and these days the struggle is just an item on the agenda between commuting and putting kids to bed, between brushing my teeth and thinking about what to have for lunch. It’s there, almost all the time, sometimes less, sometimes more, but I don’t have the luxury of focusing solely on what to do about it.

The thing that’s different between that time and now is that then I thought the struggle was temporary. It was an enormous, pothole-laden hill that I had to get up and over, but if I got over it, I thought, I’d be in the clear. Now, I know it doesn’t work that way. At least not for me.

Lately I am reminded, on an almost ridiculously regular basis, that this is my lot in life. I’m fine! I think, and then I wake up one day and observe I’m a little bit less fine than I thought. I find strategies to feel okay, and then realize those strategies are fine when I have the house to myself for a weekend but a lot less realistic when there are three other people and a dog there. I rail against the permanence of this struggle in my life but figure I’m making it through and one day things will probably be easier.

And then a celebrity dies by suicide after battling depression for years and all those things I think I believe seem a little less true.

I saw the news about Robin Williams as soon as I got home from work yesterday, and suddenly it was hard to breathe. I cried a lot last night, and this morning, and I know I’m not the only one. But as much as I loved him as an actor, I’m not really crying for the loss of the man; I’m crying because I know how he must have felt and the simple truth that I could very well end up feeling that way again is staring me straight in the face. And it’s not wearing a red clown nose to soften the blow.

I didn’t go to work today, because I needed to not be sitting at my desk trying not to cry and having to explain that, no, I’m not that sad about Robin Williams, it’s just that it makes my ongoing strategy of just treading water feel a little bit hopeless.

I think I have more to say about this, but there are already so many posts about what this all means and how we should react to it. I don’t know that I can contribute anything useful to that conversation, so while I think about how my story—and all our stories—can best help keep this conversation going, I’ll leave some links to perspectives I especially appreciated:

Be The Light – Finding Walden

When Reaching Out Isn’t Enough – Truthfully

We Lost One of Our Own – Learned Happiness

Put On Your Happy (Yet Sometimes Really Depressed) Face – That Tam I Am

A simple but true graphic: Nest (Because honestly, sometimes this is the only thing we can think of that will help)

And Huffington Post put together a piece called What Facebook Statuses Would Say If We Were Honest About Mental Health. They asked me to contribute, and I did, gladly.