Archive for September, 2006

Thinking about next year: Breast of Canada calendars

breast of Canada calendar photo of women lounging in a tub outdoors

Sue Richards of The Calendar Girl Blog, My Menopause Blog, and The Breast of Canada Calendar is an amazing woman. I met her at BlogHer 2006 in San Jose but I’ve known of her for years. I have (somewhere in my house) the very first Breast of Canada calendar and framed on my bedroom wall, is the photo for November 2002 of a woman with a baby on her shoulders. I love her asymmetrical breasts, as though one is full of milk and the other just emptied.

What I love about the calendars is that at last women’s breasts are positioned in a way that is realistic, non-sexualized, and beautiful. I love the diversity: skin tones, sizes, colours, ages, shapes, settings. This is how women’s bodies look and they are beautiful.

Breast of Canada guitar photo

Here are three great reasons to own a calendar, from

One. The Breast of Canada calendar is educational. Being proactive and self educated about your health is an important step to take. The 2007 calendar helps you take that step.

Two. The Breast of Canada calendar is about health. Maintaining and improving your health and cultivating a positive body image stimulates a higher quality of life.

Three. The Breast of Canada calendar raises profile and funds. Net proceeds for the 2007 edition will be directed to the Canadian Breast Cancer Network.

Gelatin in Becel??

Since when is there gelatin in becel margarine? The kids like margarine on a bagel now and then – or on corn on the cob. A container lasts us a really long time so I don’t mind spending a bit more to get something with ingredients I can pronounce. I read labels today at the grocery store to try and remember why I got Becel last time and was blown away to see the ingredients have changed to now include gelatin. Gross. Horns and hooves is what that means…absolutely gross. I don’t think it should be that hard to find an all vegetable based spread but I read labels for several minutes before I found one that had no animal products in it. Even Canola Harvest which I’m sure used to be vegan now contains whey. I found some brand I’d never heard of with all veg ingredients and it claims to be dairy free. It’s also calorie-reduced which my kids don’t really need but maybe I’ll be tempted to put some on some popcorn and share with them.

Spread ’em

There may be too much information here but just know that you’ve been warned…

I’ve been having irregular, unexplained pain in and around the area of my ovaries and uterus – completely incapacitating pain to the point of tears – for the past ten months or so. It used to only last a few hours so I’ve managed it with ibuprofen and ice and sleep. I talked to my nurse practitioner (NP) and we were both willing to call it dysmenorrhea – painful periods – and I was just going to eat better, sleep better, and get more exercise and it would go away. This month it came two days after my period ended so I can’t call it dysmenorrhea anymore.

I went for a pelvic exam last week and the nurse practitioner really blew it. It didn’t start well from the time I got to the clinic, where I’ve been going for six or seven years; I wasn’t on the day’s schedule. Then they couldn’t find my chart. Then they couldn’t find the NP. Finally I was called and while the registered nurse was bringing me back to the exam rooms and starting to steer me into the first empty one the NP says, “No – we need #4 [room] – we need to do a [in a Very LouD WhisPER] PAP SMEAR And EverYThING.” Good grief. Why announce this in this way? Surely the NP does them all the time, the reg. nurse has certainly seen them, I’ve had babies, the staff in the office all know they happen there regularly – what’s the big deal? It’s not like the NP was keeping it confidential to protect my privacy – a loud whisper attracts a lot of looks – everyone in the office this time as a matter of fact. I just thought, ‘whatever’ and proceeded to say no thank you to a weigh-in and also declined the yucky gown since I’d worn a skirt just for the occasion. I remember reading this waaaay long ago, probably in Our Bodies, Our Selves and think keeping on her own clothes is the least a woman needs when she’s going to be in such a powerless situation.

So it wasn’t long before I was opening wide for the exam (no stirrups at least) and the NP is getting ready for the pap. I am covered from waist to thighs with a white sheet and have a pretty good view of what’s going on – including the look of disgust on the NP’s face. If ever a woman has been sensitive or insecure of her sexuality, or the ‘normalcy’ of her genitals, or the skid marks from childbirth three times over, a look of disgust on the face of the NP is not what she needs. I asked what the face was for and the response was “Some women have more mucous than others.” Then I see the swab come out of me (indeed covered with what I recognize as egg whitey highly fertile mucous – not yeasty or anything) and the NP drops it in the waste basket with a shudder.

Honestly, a NP shouldn’t be doing pelvic exams if they can’t do it neutrally. Wanna know how sexual/desirable I feel these days? Besides the worry of what’s wrong with me, which is tied to the whole aging fear, which is tied to the ‘what do I want to do when I grow up’ anxiety now I’m having flashbacks to how ‘gross’ I am.

The rest of the exam was uneventful except that there were some areas of concern from the visible exam. The NP told me this after I sat waiting for 30 minutes in the exam room – I’d been forgotten. Luckily I had Feminism in Twentieth-Century Science, Technology, and Medicine to study for school while I was waiting. How completely ironic. Another nurse found me and asked why I was there, then went to find the NP again. It’s a busy place and I don’t begrudge anyone this but the combination of circumstances of the afternoon left me feeling kind of worthless.

I’ll definitely be talking to the NP for the sake of the women who might follow me, and I’ll request a different NP for next time. And maybe I’ve happened upon a project for my research class – improving conditions for pelvic exams.

Stupid. Custody. Orders.

Their father picked them up this morning for his every-other-weekend and started to pull away from the curb. He paused a few feet up the street and my daughter (12) opened her window and said the youngest (5) forgot to hug me. I could hear him in the back seat saying “Mama – I didn’t get to hug you – – ” And then his dad drove away.

Totally, totally fucked up way to live. I feel it in my stomach, my arms, my eyes, my throat.

The F-word again: what’s the diff between ‘egalitarianism’ and ‘feminism’?

An egalitarian believes in equality for all people: equal opportunity, equal access to resources, regardless of their gender, age, skin colour, language, culture, sexual orientation, religion, ability, etc.

A feminist shares this belief but takes it further and says that women’s oppression must be acknowledged and eliminated before an egalitarian society can exist. We cannot discuss ‘equality’ without discussing women’s lack of equality. Thus, a feminist is a specific type of egalitarian (thought ‘feminist’ can be broken down further, into different ‘types’ of feminists), and feminism is a branch of egalitarianism. Of course there will be overlap: many feminists will also be LGBTQ activists, many LGBTQ activists will also be animal rights activists, many animal rights activists will also be feminists and so on go the circles.

Cleaning, Purging, Finding, Remembering

I have been trying to make the house more functional. When we first moved here years ago the house was gross – a real fixer-upper but all we could afford: fillled with mouse poo, dog pee in every room, angry holes had been smashed in the walls, graffiti was everywhere and these were just the cosmetic details. Every carpet had to be torn up, new plywood put down on all the floors, the pipes literally scraped out. There was never any real plan to ‘decorate’ or ‘set things up’, it was more of a “we have stuff, get the boxes in and shut the door fast.” The walls got painted white and the boxes got piled in the first room we finished but that was as far as it ever got.

It was about a year and a half later that the kids’ dad left. The place was still a disaster. I needed to do something to clean the air and make start making a home. The entranceway had wood on the lower half of the walls making this the smallest project and so I painted the upper half with paint I got from the Habitat Re-Store for $5. I used garbage bags to apply the paint and created a truly “faux” frottage finish. I put my rocking chair in that space and spent many days there nursing the newborn with the other kids on my lap and looking for designs in the paint. It was my first glimpse into making a house into a home, not just a shell for hiding stuff.

I got some hand-me-down furniture and slowly the house developed some character. There’s no theme since most of the paint was whatever colour the Re-Store had the day I could get a ride there, but I’ve enjoyed doing what I have been able to do. The attic has been the hardest. The kids’ rooms moved up there a few years ago and it’s finally starting to get homey. This was their dad’s space, where he locked himself for days at a time. I wasn’t allowed in there and it never occured to me that this was screwed up. Really bad marriage. I’ve just about managed to whiddle the junk down to the stuff I really really really want to keep – some high school artwork, my first ballet shoes, a special box of baby clothes, including some that I made for the kids. Through doing all of this I am finding lots of things: little notebooks from high school where I wrote down random thoughts or when I was at university the first time before I dropped out to move back home and get married. I’ve found clipping from magazines and papers, of theatre reviews from shows I did or saw. And I found things copied out of books – things I took the time to write by hand in a notebook or on scraps of paper. I found the ones below during the nursing days when I wanted to build an element of celebration into the hard days I had with the kids when we were first getting the hang of family restructuring:

from A Child’s Book of Blessings compiled by Sabrina Dearborn

We used this one regularly at dinner time for awhile while lighting a candle. We used it again at the end of the meal. The kids got to take turns blowing it out which helped them stay in their seats longer too.

Blessing to Start an Activity – Steiner
Candle Fairy burning bright
Come and share with us your light.
May we always learn to share
With the Children everywhere.
Candle Fairy burning bright
Come and share with us your light.

I never learned this one probably because the ‘Goddess’/deity language isn’t my thing but I like the last line about meeting, parting and meeting again. It looks to the future like the French “à bientôt” – until next time. Maybe this is why I prefer “See you later” to “Goodbye”. And all the merry’s remind me of the traditional East Coast tunes I love.

Blessing to End an Activity – Starhawk

May the circle be open, but unbroken.
May the love of the Goddess be ever in our hearts.
Merry meet and merry part and merry meet again.

This one I don’t even remember but I think I will try to find some way to work it into my life. I’d really like some peaceful comings and goings, I think that’s my goal for the year: to look at things but not let them overwhelm me, to pace myself so that I can enjoy what I’m doing instead of always looking at all that needs to be done, whether that’s in my own life, in my family, in my house, my neighbourhood, on campus, in the city, or the world. Goodness knows we need social change but is me jumping up and down at the people around me and not sleeping because I’m trying to fix everything really the way a person should live their life?

I wish this to you as well:

New Year Blessing – Chinese
May you have success in all endeavours.
May you have peace and health in the four seasons.
May your happiness be as wide as the sea.
May all your comings and goings be peaceful.

Environment(s): Women’s Studies vs. Philosophy (or choosing classes again)

I signed up for more classes than I need, figuring I’ll check them all out, get a feel for the profs’ attitudes, take a look at the reading and assignment lists and then make my decision of which to take. My degree requirements are pretty much filled, save for a feminist research credit, a programming credit, a senior history, and one more (minimum) from somewhere beyond the Women’s Studies Department. Mostly I’m just filling electives. If all goes well, in April I will graduate with an honours B.A. in Women’s Studies with minors in History and Applied Information Technology.

I had planned to drop either Women, Power, and Environments (WPE) or Environmental Ethics. I really thought I should keep the Ethics one because it takes me outside my department, expanding my view as it were, meeting people with other majors, stretching my mind, etc. but after going to the first class of each today I think I’ll be dropping Ethics and keeping WPE. The Ethics prof smiles a lot and almost seems like he’s ready to burst into laughter at any moment – this is interesting. The readings seem few but with detailed analysis planned making the quantity seem much more manageable. What makes me lean toward the other course is that the Ethics syllabus holds only one week, possibly two to discuss ecofeminism. When I look at all the other topics for the other weeks of the course I can’t see how you could begin to discuss them without feminism – and then I realized: women’s studies really is different. Feminist standpoint is *not* universal omg. Really, I know this, but having it hit me in the face like this today, and realize what I might be facing for the next three months… Next I wondered why none of the readings or authors from WPE were on the syllabus for Ethics. and none of the writings from Ethics are in WPE. hmmmm.

Looking at the assignments – WPE really wants the student to consider their place in their environments, as well as looking at the issues in a local, national, and global perspective. The assignments include reflection, group work, discussion, as well as research. Lots of assignments, but a variety of styles. Lots and lots of readings – and with a conscious effort by the prof to include voices from a variety of perspectives: genders, cultures, etc and from a variety of sources (there’s even a youtube clip we have to watch). Ethics has one textbook and two assignments: an expository and an argumentative essay plus two exams (definitions, short answer, essay). There’s nothing about the students’ environments anywhere in the syllabus that I can see. Nothing that suggests multiple points of view or variation in experience. Maybe it’s there but it certainly wasn’t highlighted today. It seems very narrow in comparison to WPE in its scope.

So although I’m often critical of the Women’s Studies program, stepping away from it (even if it was just for the introductory lecture of a philosophy course) has helped me recall some of the strengths and appeal of the program.

If I had more time and energy I might consider keeping both, just to see how the two professors present the topic. I’ll go to both a few more times probably since I don’t have to make a final decision for a week or two.