Archive for the 'Happy' Category

Good feeling from 43 things

I got this in my email this morning from 43things and it gave me such a good feeling. One week ago today I handed in my last exam and met with my advisor to discuss my major paper. Here’s what the email said:
flower collage

Dear future self,

I’m reminding you about your stated goal on 43 things, to
“finish school”.

How’s it going?

Your past self

I’m done! And getting this email reminded me that I’ve accomplished a major goal. It hasn’t been easy juggling school, work, and parenting, but somehow I managed even if it is all a bit of a blur now. I’m soaking up time with Rob and my kids now and catching up on projects that have been sitting a bit too long. I’m spending a lot of time gardening and it feels so good to see the sunflowers, anemones, nasturtiums, and morning glories coming up. My eczema has all cleared up and I’m exercising again. It isn’t ballet four times a week like it was in first year, but it’s something. Life is good.

photo by RaeA


The semester’s over here. Know how I can tell? The eczema* on my right hand, specifically my thumb, index, and middle finger has cleared up. Completely. It’s wonderful to be able to touch things again, to work, to hold hands, to give a massage, to shake hands without pain and without wondering if anyone’s grossed out.

*from Wikipedia:

Eczema is a form of dermatitis, or inflammation of the upper layers of the skin. The term eczema is broadly applied to a range of persistent or recurring skin rashes characterized by redness, skin edema, itching and dryness, with possible crusting, flaking, blistering, cracking, oozing or bleeding. Areas of temporary skin discoloration sometimes characterize healed lesions, though scarring is rare.

It was bad this semester, the last four months of my undergrad. I didn’t feel more stressed than usual but maybe I was. Compounded by the furnace running all winter. And not consuming enough water. I tested negative for a bunch of allergies although I discovered that the dishwashing brush that I use was making it worse. I’ve used one for a few years, since my last run in with eczema because getting my hand wet to do dishes left me cracked and bleeding. Turns out the grippy rubbery handle on the brush triggered a reaction, same with gripper pens. Now I wrap it with a dishcloth and it helps a lot.

I wrote an exam with a Papermate “flex grip” pen, all soft and anti-slip and again: cracked and bleeding right hand by the end. For my final I actually considered asking Special Needs if this would be enough to get me a computer in the special needs office. I didn’t ask though. Instead I found an old fashioned hard plastic pen by the time I needed it. Who would have thought?

My usual remedy of calendula cream did nothing this time. I went in for the stronger stuff. My nurse practitioner gave me some cortisone cream which I used for 2 weeks, no improvement. Then I saw a dermatologist who prescribed a stronger steroid cream for morning and an ointment for night. The ointment was unavailable but I used the cream twice a day for 2 weeks: no improvement. I went back again and she prescribed protopic which I’d read about and caused me some apprehension. Each of these treatments has long-term side effects: adrenal system for the steroids, cancer for the protopic. (These studies are readily available so I’m not going to quote them here. Anyone who wants to read more can use their favourite search engine. And yes I know we’re talking reeeeally long term use and in high quantities, but too much risk for me right now.)

I took the prescription but never got it filled. I wrote my exams and got several extra bottles of Aveeno fragrance free skin relief moisturizing lotions. I started using only Aveeno skin relief body wash for handwashing, showering, and shaving. I put one bottle of lotion at the sink, one by the washing machine, one by my bed, and one at the computer. I put it on All The Time. I’ve used mild and envrio friendly washing products for years but I made an extreme effort to stick to Aveeno this time. And I found a pair of gardening gloves that are cotton on the inside. It may be that the same thing that’s on the pens and on my dishwashing brush is also inside rubber gloves because rubber gloves have always made my hands burn. I’d rather take the extreme cracking from working barehanded than the burning that comes from rubber gloves.

Then exams were over. By the day after my last one, no more eczema. And now my hands are very very soft. Someone told me so.

Last time I had eczema I had another similar cure: my ex moved out. Within a week of him leaving, the eczema I’d had for 2 years was gone. Coincidence?

I got a small patch again yesterday from a long day of many kids (PA day here), lots of gardening and lots of dishes without covering the handle of the brush. It’s mostly gone already. I’ll need to come up with a way to manage my stress better before life gets crazy again. For now I’m off to knit at The Coffee Exchange with a bunch of Actiongirls. We’re planning some more radical cheerleading!

Bucking the System

When you decide that things aren’t quite right and that you have the power to make changes in the world, however large or small those changes might be, you leave the path. You can no longer follow the map of your youth, the instruction book your parents gave you, or mimic the decisions made by those around you. Breaking new ground is just that — you’re on your own.

If you’re lucky you’ll find like-minded people along the way and together you can chart this new territory, consult before making brave new choices of your own, or stumble along, helping each other pick up broken pieces from the mistakes that come from any learning experience.

Love and relationships are a site of potential change as gender roles and relationship power dynamics are being navigated and changed by more and more couples. Heteronormativity is no longer the only relationship model, but what’s an individual to do when they are conscious of historical imbalances and there is a desire to leave hegemonic power differentials behind, but yet there really isn’t a clear cut working model to follow?

Start with divorce. In North America right now anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 of marriages end in divorce. So many people are divorced which means their fantasy picture of the happy nuclear family with white picket fence, etc. is not their lived reality. I’m divorced but most of the people I know who are divorced are close to my age. I don’t have a whole lot of elders to look to for help navigating the fallout of divorce (like co-parenting with someone when we’d rather never see or speak to each other again). It’s not possible to just walk away from that person forever, in a way that it once was. Where is my role model? Someone to tell me that “one day this will be ancient history and here’s what worked for me”?

And single parenting. Where are the supports for parents who are doing it on their own? Shouldn’t this be worked out by now? If so many families in Canada are managed by single parent head of household and most of the families headed by single mothers are living in poverty why hasn’t it been dealt with? We’re doing things differently than our parents’ generation and there is no one to drive the soccer team around, bring cupcakes to school, or even attend PTA meetings. Time for basic family maintenance and survival is precious. There are no extras.

Regarding fathers, many today are more than breadwinners. Divorced or not, how many of them are following their own father’s parenting style? The supports and guidance for these men are minimal and those that are around are underutilized. Whether for lack of time or anxiety/inexperience with the support structures that do exist, there are lots of dads who are winging it.

Next, more and more adult students are turning up in university classes. Many of the ones I’ve encountered are women post-divorce who hope post-secondary education will be a way out of poverty for themselves and their families. The supports for us, the roadmap for how to study and parent and juggle work (sometimes more than one job) has yet to be drawn.

People are redefining what a relationship entails. Sex in a culture of AIDS and STIs (on top of the fear of an unwanted pregnancy) has to be negotiated. Rape and sexual harrassment are real things that could happen to you and could come from the people around you. It really could (or really has) happened to you.

Dating can now include all kinds of technology: emails and text messages and messenger clients. Profiles on myspace, facebook, and other social sites can lead you to potentials as well as the older sites specifically for finding a match. Some people still think it’s wrong to look for a date through a matchmaker site, others wouldn’t dream of going out with someone until they’ve sussed out their language skills and interests via the distance and safety (perceived or real) of online communication. Each person has to navigate this themself; there is no consensus as of yet.

More re: dating: the question of who pays for what on a date is no longer such a big deal — for some people. There are still traditions in place about who drives, who opens doors, who sits first. For some couples, these things are reciprocated but for others old habits die hard. For those in the new water, it can feel good to know your relationship is on equal footing and that a gift of kindness is just that: a gift, given and accepted altruistically, not in order to create debt.

Couples use language to show they are part of this new movement: descriptors like “partner” and S.O.for a significant other show real effort to reflect how we feel about another person. Gender-neutral language is a big part of this. Calling someone your partner reflects that they are truly an equal: equally responsible, equally knowledgeable, equally capable for maintaining the relationship and all it entails. It shows that a couple is committed to working together and is helpful in preventing one part from blaming the other for any difficulties. You are partners.

It can also be a way to reject the traditional marriage model of husband who rules and wife who is chattel and obeys. Rewriting the language helps us to reflect the true nature of our relationships. The term partner is also useful for describing same sex relationships since there is no implied gender in the word. The term partner opens up minds as to what a relationship can be, in an attempt to breakdown heterosexist culture.

Language isn’t the only changing thing in relationships today. Choosing cohabitation or longterm dating with each partner maintaining their own residence are practical alternatives to marriage for a lot of couples. Having children or not are greater options as methods to control fertility and prevent pregnancy are further developed. If a couple does decide to marry for legal or religious reasons there are a greater number of choices for language used in a ceremony to reflect equality between the individuals and the diversity of couples marrying. It’s no longer assumed that a woman will change her name when marrying a man — many couples choose a hyphenated name for all or a hybrid name.

We are an individualistic society. We have a lot of choices to make and there aren’t a whole lot of examples to follow. We do the best we can, with the information we have at the time, but are we really making informed choices? Do we just rationalize when we make a choice that follows a tradition?

If we were truly lazy we wouldn’t do anything differently. Because we do endeavour to make changes, to reconstruct our families, our language, our ideologies we mustn’t t be lazy. Doing things differently takes effort, but it’s worth it: for us, our families, other people breaking ground along side us, and those who will follow.

Winter Projects

I turned in my application to the MA history program with an exciting proposal to collect oral histories from the last women to give birth on Pelee Island,Ontario, back in the 1950s. By then most women were relocating to either mainland Ontario (Leamington or Windsor) or to Ohio to give birth. Pelee Cottage SunsetI’m excited because there’s a personal connection – my grandmother was one of the last women to give birth at home on the island (to my father). Even though she died over 10 years ago from breast cancer, I feel connected to her through this project. It also means I’ll get to go to Pelee to talk to people and talking to the older generation of islanders is always a hoot. (photo credit Jonath, Click the image to go to the photo’s flickr page.)

I’m working on a directed study this semester, cross-listed between the Women’s Studies and History departments about how the emerging technologies of blogs and user-generated media have changed the form and content of communications between mothers and information about mothering. I’m not a mommyblogger but I’ve followed the flurry with interest since BlogHer 2005 where it was identified as a radical act by Finslippy. I’ve watched La Leche League change from a personal mother-to-mother organization for breastfeeding help to an organization with a strong emphasis on online helping and information sharing – including providing mothers and health care professionals with links to Dr. Jack Newman’s video clips for help with latch and positioning and the online Community Network for leaders, and forums for mothers. It’s still mother-to-mother, but it’s changed. Online communities help with the sense of isolation mothers can feel after having a baby, but the technology changes the style and who has access to helping. The project is still too large and it’s hard to cut out pieces of the research in order to make the project more manageable, but it’s getting there.

I’ve begun writing a summer project grant that will (hopefully) allow me to make podcasts of historical Canadian texts in the public domain. I’m excited about it and hope to work with Toronto’s Mitchell Girio for production quality and also hoping for some original music from Mitch and some local Windsor artists. I’ve had some skeptical response to the idea from traditional historians who wonder if people would actually be interested in downloading and listening to Canadian history on an mp3 player — but I see it as a great way to encourage interest in our past — and to give attention to works that maybe haven’t been included in the traditional canon of what is Canadian History. I think it’s incredibly exciting and of course, you never know until you try. I know I would do it, and I know my kids would be into it too. That’s enough for now, for me.

Actiongirls is getting busy too. We’ve planned a pile of Stitch n Bitch sessions with more to come. This project is slowly attracting community interest. There was a reporter from the Windsor Star at our meeting yesterday who asked plenty of baited/leading questions. No doubt there will be an article filled with misquotes in the paper on Monday. /sigh/

So… I’ve discovered that there are places where people with ideas like mine gather and brainstorm and plan and Norther Voice Banner develop and change the world. One of the conferences I’m trying to get to is later this month: Norther Voice 2007. They’re offering a travel subsidy (deadline today, Feb 2 at 12 PST). I never considered that I might be able to go to this since travel across Canada is crazy expensive but when I found out about the funding assistance I decided I should try. With the bursary I could get there and learn and contribute my experience as a women’s-studies-history-IT-student-mom-activist-artist-geek. Without it, there will be nothing but homework and dishes and laundry for me until I save more pennies. Maybe it will help me sort out where I’m headed, trying to combine computer science, history, feminism, activism, and art. Either way I’d get to see the Rockies.

Good things

I am in such a wonderfully good place right now. There are still enough days between now and due dates that I’m not yet in full freakout, and I am surrounded by the most wonderful and caring people anyone could know. It began yesterday with some sweet things my kids said, then I was surprised late at night with warm sticky rice in coconut milk topped with cashews and a glass of good wine. Today this was followed up with kids who are excited to be learning to write secret codes in binary/ascii, who laugh, joke around and tell me they love me, and finally an end of semester party with Actiongirls and the Women’s Studies Student Association. These men and women are fun, intelligent, committed to social justice, the environment, feminism, and friendship. It feels so good to be a part of the group. Thank you Carol, Aubrey, Tina, Mike, Edith, David, Allison, Catherine, and Korinne. As for the party: good food, soooo much garlic, and a great theme picked out for next semester’s art-performance-extravaganza: Cliterature! Call for submissions coming out supersoon… stay tuned.

Site update: new look for femilicious

It’s been almost a year and a half since femilicious was born and I felt that it was time for a new look. This new theme is based on Freedom Blue by Frank Helmschrott. I chose this theme after searching off and on for a few weeks for something that wouldn’t need too much tweaking to get a look and feel I like, and in one afternoon I have something I think I can live with for awhile.

Besides changing some colours, one of the changes I made to get this theme up was to change the German text to English. I doubt it would slow down an avid blog reader but I’m not sure how many people understand the German for “submit a comment” and “email required”. I didn’t know I did until I was doing it. There are still a few words here and there that need translation to English and I’ll get to these soon. It’s just a matter of hunting down which files hold the text and editing them.

There was also an error in the Archives.php file – I had to change the id to match the other pages so that the content would wrap inside the left-hand div. The id is misnamed so if you’re trying to get this theme working on your own site change

<div id="content">


<div id="contentwrap">

in the fourth line of code. Once this is changed the body will sit in the left div and the sidebar will return to the right.

One of the things I like about this theme is that the divs set the main content first and the sidebar information follows. This is really important for browsing without a stylesheet. It’s not just for Naked Day anymore; people browsing from mobile devices or with a speech reader don’t want to scroll through/listen to your entire blogroll, archives, and categories before they get to your new post. If you want to see how your divs are laid out, one easy way is install the Web Developer Toolbar for Firefox, then on the CSS tab select Disable Styles then choose All Styles. You can get a pretty good idea here of what your site will look like to someone with a text only browser. If things are not good you can fix it by rearranging your divs so the most important content comes first and controlling presentation with floats.

I decided to try out a random html flickr badge for some colour and life. It’s also for my own benefit as a happiness generator. It makes me happy to see pictures that I took on vacation or somewhere else fun. There were some problems finding a placement for the badge that didn’t throw the entire site presentation out of whack. I had originally thought to place it in the header but had a much easier time setting it at the top of the main style template after the call for the get_header function. Opera and MSInternet Explorer didn’t like the having CSS information in the php file so I had to cut it out and move it into the stylesheet. Now that I’ve done that it’s looking good in Opera but MSIE still needs a bit of tweaking. MSIE is a nightmare for incompatibilities. For that reason, if you’re not already using it, you might want to get firefox – it will make your life so much better, and not just if you’re developing for the web. For added browsing pleasure, install AdBlock Plus and you can take advertising right out of your life.

I still want to bring back the categories list and the blogroll but those need a bit more work so they’ll have to wait for another day. If you find a glaring mess in any browser please leave a comment.

Update: Right above the comment text box are some buttons whose labels were in German until an few minutes ago. The values for the buttons were in a separate javascript file, sitting in wp-content / themes / this theme and lo-and-behold there it was. I knew it was javascript and that it was somewhere but it took me awhile to find it. I’ve changed those to English now as well. If you mouseover you can read the German. Enjoy.

Say thank you

I found this post in my draft folder. Since I just lost the wonderful post I’d written about citing wikipedia I decided to look back and see what’s just sitting around getting stale. I opened this one because it had an interesting title and I wanted to see what I was so happy about that it got a post. It’s especially good to read since I’m at the end of another semester. Here it is, from last April 13, 2006:

I’ve been sick. Sicker than I can remember being in a long time. I seem to catch a cold or something every end of semester. Between the due dates and not having time to eat right or take care of myself, something always gives, and that is usually me.

But even when I’m sick there are responsibilities. The kids can make cold cereal and hot pasta but haven’t really had to figure out broccoli yet. I somehow managed to keep them fed and clean but it’s all a bit blurry now. I’ve been lucid for a few hours in between fevers so that’s when it must have happened.

The most wonderful thing happened on Tuesday night though. I had classes at the U all afternoon and then I taught my ballet lessons. This was actually just before I realized how sick I was going to get. I headed to Rob’s after my last lesson and when I got there he had a hot bath waiting for me. It was exactly what I needed. Thanks Rob.

So I feel bad I never posted it back in April, but I must have gotten pulled away by child or chore or school. Here it is now, better late than never – and thanks again. I still remember that day.

What my awesome kid did today

Between meeting his schoolbus, eating dinner and taking my daughter to aikido, my youngest son (5 years old) came up to me for a hug and noticed I was wearing the bead necklace/hairband he’d made me last week. He was so happy to see it on me – to know that I really and truly liked it enough to wear it. He said, “I love you so much mama and all the things you do for me.” I was thrilled – I don’t think I’ve made the request for help and cooperation for at least a few weeks so this was really coming from the heart.

Later when he emptied his lunch bag he showed me that he’d saved me the chocolate chips from his cookie. He likes the dough but not the chocolate so – I win! Love and chocolate, who could ask for more?

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.

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.

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