Sunday, May 20

Deal with it.

I hate that I am one of those bloggers with five posts asserting that they are going to start blogging more frequently (promise!!). That said, I am srsly going to start blogging again. Or maybe I won't. That's just how I roll.

Deal with it.

Friday, February 24

signal test

oof! It has been AGES since I have blogged.

I am jumping back in with both feet. I am working through The Artist's Way with a fantastic group of creatives and I keep coming back to the fact that I MISS blogging. A lot.

So a few notes - I'll get all caught up with the news from my life, but I feel I should warn everyone that there will be talk about my "inner artist" and "flow" and "synchronicity" "artistic recovery" and other new-agey (and not very Kate-sounding) stuff. It's still me in here, but there's also all this new and blossoming stuff coming up, too. [For those out there who are already convinced I am a dirty hippie, this will all serve to reinforce that perspective].

My blog will follow both my creative journey as well as my journey as parent to two exceptional humans. We're giving unschooling and unconditional parenting a go (see note above), so you may find yourself shaking your head wildly as we navigate these waters. Bear with me, or don't.

More to come as I resume semi regular blogging.

<3 kate

Monday, December 13

what a difference a year makes

I took a long, unintended sabbatical from writing and blogging.

Life, as it does, got much too far ahead of me. Funny, thing, though - as I think back, I have trouble remembering what went on that had me so busy.

Raising, playing with, making a home for and loving my kids has been the most time-consuming and draining-yet-gratifying thing I have been doing lately. Rigby, my smart and charming daughter, is now THREE and Sebastian, my clever and curious son, is FIVE (and a half!). No longer tiny and incoherent, my children are now incredibly engaging and self-sufficient.

I suppose the other thing that kept me busy was preparing to move from Vancouver, BC to London, England. Kind-of a big deal. The process was all kids of difficult and uncertain - Andrew (aka, my husband), had been working on the Vancouver 2010 Olympic games and was offered a short-term position here in London, in essence to see if he and his team would come over semi-permanently or be replaced by locals. The decision was not made until very late - so I spent a lot of time packing, unpacking, repacking, wondering, wishing, hoping and missing Andrew. We also moved to the basement suite of our rental house to save some money.

When we finally got here, our expectations were a wee bit overblown. Andrew had not been parenting for nearly six months and I had gotten into some unfortunate habits being alone with the kids (like screaming at the top of my lungs). So, we adults had/have some serious learning and re-learning to do. The kids were also so excited to move here, and the reality of living in a  flat (no yard), in a new city (no friends), during the winter (no sun) has taken a toll. One month and a bit in, however, and some of our original excitement is returning.

We are incredibly lucky to know another home-learning family nearby and to have other wonderful adult friends a short walk away.

On the subject of home-learning, I am still on the fence a little - I have not sent either child to preschool and we have subscribed to to idea of unstructured, child-led learning. If you look at my children and their various interests and skills, this is obviously something that works for us. BUT - here's where I sit on the fence, school could be a great place to make friends AND would give me some child-free time.

We will see.

Sunday, August 16

Taking Stock

Recently, I got out of an abusive relationship. One designed by circumstance, by chance, perhaps by a naieve blindness. When we moved into our new home, we knew there was a young family living in the basement suite. This felt like a good thing, the daughter was about my daughter's age and from our brief talk, the couple seemed nice.

A few weeks after moving in, during which it was necessary to de-skeeve the home formerly occupied by drug-users and sellers, as well as stare at the piles of belongings ad trash that were very, very slowly making their way off the property, the couple parted ways. She found a new place to live and he found a new sense of freedom. Soon, we were not only listening to his obnoxiously loud music, but our yard was regularly overrun with his equally obnoxious and loud friends.

We were good sports, we also were clear about our expectations and boundaries - we know from experience that living underneath an active young family can be a unique and not always pleasant experience. We did our very best to open the lines of communication and picked our issues mindfully. Things got better - briefly.

Then the 'others' moved in - people who would couch-surf, or simply crash at the neighbour's place. People whose names and faces we did not know, people who often appeared intoxicated and spoke with a vulgar and sometimes violent flair. People who smoked inside the house then lied about it. People who threatened us with physical violence. People who not only knew where I lived, but had easy access to my home and intimate knowledge of my comings and goings.

I felt trapped and frightened.

Calling the cops was an option, but what would happen when the police left? What about my kids? Was it really as bad as I imagined, the nights I lay awake listening to them party? Was it just me being paranoid?

We complained to our landlord, as did a neighbour. Another neighbour called the cops. The landlord, who is forever trying to help people out of difficult situations, finally evicted basement-dude. It was only then that I realised how frightened I'd become.

Now that he (and company) were at the end of their time here, what was going to happen? Would there be a last act of retaliation? Were we safe?

The month of July was difficult and largely sleepless - I feared every night that something terrible might happen to us. When I left the house I wondered what I might come home to. When we went away for a week, I lost my head with worry.

They moved away over two weeks ago, but have left a pile of stuff and have therefore been back a dozen times. Every time, I get the same tightening in my chest, the same anxiety, the same sad fear. Sadness for the man whose life temporarily ruined mine - he's a sweet guy, but his judgement stinks. We hope that his new life will be a good one and we are happy to wash our hands of him and his friends (mainly his friends).

And now that my life is mine again, no more fear, I am taking stock. How did I get so wrapped up in these remote possibilities? How far does my mama-bear protectionism go? Did I do enough? (I believe I did, WE did - I can not ever discount my husband's role in looking out for our family). How would we handle the situation differently? What did we learn?

And how do we get balanced when we're so mired in our inability to control anything?

Tuesday, May 26

the mistakes we make

Every day, every single one of us makes a ton of mistakes. We speak out of turn, we cut a guy off, we forget to be gentle, we leave our travel mugs at home, we do any number of little things that we might wish we'd done differently.

Some of us have an easier time of mistake making than others, I am one of the others. Small mistakes linger in my head, taunting me with their un-do-able-ness, I worry long after the repercussions are past. This is a part of the mental illness that I take medication for (OCD), but it doesn't need to be as powerful as I allow it to be.

I am slowly (and deliberately) learning how to make mistakes with grace, but it feels so counter-intuitive. Somehow I've got it in my head that if I am going to do something, I must do it flawlessly. This backwards thinking paralyzes creativity, because it leads me to believe that there is one "right" answer and many "wrong" ones. It is nearly impossible in creative ventures to know if I've got something "right" until it is completed, so if I consider that the chances of getting it "wrong" far outweigh getting it right and I won't do it unless I know I'll do it flawlessly, you end up here - where I barely do anything.

And when you further consider that I am a very creative person, you can better understand why I've spent so much time unhappy.

That voice of wrong is the main reason I have so many UFOs in my studio, it is also the main reason I have had an empty Etsy shop for as long as Etsy's been in existance (I shit you not), it is also why I feel ineffective as a parent. I fear doing things wrong.

Last night I made a small something for my son, a felt and fleece eye-patch for his wandering eye. I was down to three sticky patches and was tired of the battle to get them on, tired of the daily layers of waxy paper trash they create, and tired just thinking about sourcing the neat-o printed ones he likes in our new city. I did a little research and found a lot of uggo patch styles before finding the style I went with, it was easy, so I styled it up with an embroidered rocket ship and blanket-stich border.

It wasn't perfect, but I remided myself of its purpose (to cover the eye) and that it would be the first of many and decided I'd done well enough. It took me an hour to get to that point of acceptance, but I did!

Today, I sewed my son a skirt from old curtains, at his request. It had been so long I had forgotten how to use my sewing maching (thank Maude for manuals) - and even though I could list every little imperfection, I am doing a decent job of letting them go. He loves it and wore it all day, even to the park!

And tonight I am writing this, it could be full of errors (I have decided not to proofread it because my battery is almost dead) but I am posting it anyways.

Take that, perfectionist mentality!!

Tuesday, May 19

it is what it is

I used to be so angry. I was like a bomb, ready to go off at any sign of life not fulfilling my innate sense of entitlement and when I went off - oh man, I can only imagine what it would have felt like to be on the other end.

That was 10 years ago, since then I have quieted my anger with compassion and perspective. I still get riled up over things, but now they tend to be the things a person should get angry about - world hunger, the systematic poisoning of our planet, green-washing - as opposed to the occasional tomato on my sandwich when I am 100% positive that I requested none.

My life is better. It is nicer, calmer, happier when I stop keeping score and make the sometimes difficult decision to drop the rope and let people worry about themselves. I still prefer to be right, but as my wise old man put it, the trick is to realise that being right doesn't make everyone else wrong.

This isn't how I grew up. My parents were angry for most of my childhood. They'll deny it, but I remember the tantrums, the snide remarks and most of all the feeling that there was no way I could ever be right enough or do well enough. I spent my twenties working through that and will likely spend a lot more time convincing myself that I am capable of more than I feel I am.

I went to the mall the other day to renew my license. I took the opportunity to window-shop, checking out trends in both fashion and marketing, because evil or not, it is a huge part of who I am. Something I also checked out, though somewhat involuntarily, were current trend in public parenting. Basically, I witnessed a whole lot of grown-ups treating a whole lot of kids like shit. I didn't witness any overt abuse, instead I saw parents treating their kids like disobeying puppies. Kicking them with words and looks and loud sighs. As I broadened my scope I saw people all over doing this to others, to partners, to staff, to strangers. And I went one step further and though of my own recent behaviour, came up with a few examples of my being cunty to my kids, to Drew and to the world at large - where did it stem from?

Believe it or not, I am not judging any of the parents I saw - I am a firm believer that it is rare that we can get the whole picture from witnessing an isolated interaction - I reserve judgment for myself. Do I generally treat people well and where could I stand to improve?

Generally, yes, I am a nice person. A little narcissistic and impatient, for sure, but I am a benefit-of-the-doubt type and a see-a-need-fill-a-need type. So where can I improve? It almost always comes down to compassion. Compassion for the person who makes an ignorant remark, compassion for the person shooting me an angry glare, and compassion for myself, a woman who is trying very hard to do right by her kids and who is mothering without a map.

With that compassion I can cut everyone else slack and truly let things go. This gives me the mind-space to look at what I am feeling that is manifesting itself as this bitchiness and what I can I change? Often, reflecting is hard. So hard that I have done as little of it as possible this past year. I do the easy stuff, like ensuring I get enough sleep, eat well, de-clutter, get a little exercise and drink my water - and then I stop. It has been a band-aid solution, but it worked while it worked.

And here I am today. Full of compassion and optimism like I haven't felt in ages. It will take some work and time to train my brain away from negative thinking, but I am ready for the challenge.

Wednesday, April 29

this post is hardly worth reading

In two and a half weeks, I am turning thirty. After some reflection I came to the realisation that I am not as calm about it as I outwardly project. My anxiety doesn't stem from the expected sources, I am happy with my body, happy with my family and really falling in love with many aspects of my life. My major anxiety comes from the memory that keeps popping up of my friend who killed himself last year, right after he turned thirty.

This will be a tough birthday, it coincides with our 5th wedding anniversary and bring up all these mixed-up memories. Sean introduced Andrew and I, Sean was Andrew's best man, Sean was Sebastian's favourite uncle and his godfather, Sean was thirty. At times like these, I still get so angry that he wouldn't consider how his death would taint every special moment for me (am I selfish, or what?).

Friday, December 26

To do.

Figuring out how to post here via iPod.
Chrismas albums for the grandparents. (One down, two to go)

Blog post.
Post sock monkey instructions.

Thursday, December 25

holiday gratitude

On this night, in this place, I am grateful for so many things. Like so many things lately, our plans this Christmas were complicated by forces out of our control. Vancouver got a dumping of winter like none we had seen. Canadians to the east of us laugh when we're forced to show how ill-equipped we are to deal with weather the rest of the country calls a season, and we are so ill-prepared. When it snows the city shuts down - when it snows a lot, we Vancouverites go a little crazy. We take our sports cars out and spend more time stuck than not1. We trudge three kilometres through mostly un-shovelled neighbourhoods, pushing a bored toddler in a weather-inappropriate stroller2. We spend hours being "good samaritans" and shovelling our neighbours' walks, our only reward being a full body workout and lots of wet pant legs3.

We do all that and we have a ball. I am so grateful to live a life where no amount of bullshit can keep us from looking out for one another.

Other things I am grateful for:
  1. BC Ferries and portable battery packs
  2. dala
  3. our neighbour shovelling us out this morning as we left to catch a ferry
  4. my amazingly tolerant and adorable children who have rolled with every change in direction with as much grace as I could ever hope for, despite both feeling less than great (two words: snot city)
  5. my incredibly determined father who wouldn't let a little thing like 50cm of snow stop him from bringing dinner and family (two of my younger sisters) to his much less determined daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren, even though it took two hours to make it 3.2km
  6. my three wonderful, beautiful younger sisters who get all the fallout (and benefit) of my missteps, mishaps and random acts of rebellion
  7. my patient, loving, amazing husband who spent his days off work keeping our neighbours' sidewalks as clear as our own
  8. my generous in-laws, who showered us in food, love and gifts and who kept the faith that we would make it here eventually
  9. my faith that there is nothing out there we can't handle
  10. my mother, who always told me that there was nothing out there I couldn't handle
  11. and finally figuring out that being able to handle things doesn't mean I handle them alone.
1. see #5
2. that was me after the first big dump - after we got home I unearthed our pull-behind baby sled. The only issue now is figuring out who gets to ride in it.
3.see #7

Sunday, December 7

looking backward

Oh man, is there really anything left to say?

I went through a bunch of my unfinished posts, there's some good stuff in there. Most of the stuff that made it up onto the blog consisted of proving that I am still alive and reasonably sane.

My life's been like that, too - just seeing people enough that they know I'm still here. And boy am I here - I've gained a load of weight since July... plus I was drinking too much and smoking ½ a pack a day. I've been miserable.

Having Andrew home all the time was more trying than freeing, mostly because I am pretty Type A and having him home threw what was already household chaos into a thrilling, but exhausting exercise in the unknown.

We were contemplating both working, or me working, or him working, or not working at all, and when the dust finally settled, Andrew will be the main bread-winner and I will try and contribute as much as I can. I don't want to get him canned by talking about anything (you never know these days) - but this is a pretty effing awesome job. There is some guarantee that the position will last until Winter 2010; the pay is less than market*, but it's a high-profile gig that'll look wicked on his CV; and we'll get benefits after 3 months.

I have postponed the possibility of paid work, but Sbux liked me enough to want me to call them back when we know that we could swing some kind of child-care arrangement. It is good, I wasn't sure we'd make it work as a two-job family. I have a feeling my kids would attach pretty strongly to the people in their lives not stressed out and irritable. Besides, I was really rocking this homemaker gig until Sean died.

Yeah, it is still bothering me.

Back to my rocking. I have been working hard on a few things, like a control binder, based on the FlyLady zone system, but adapted to our family and printed up nicely in a pretty binder (even the section tabs are lovely - this has been a year-long labour of love). I've also been thinking about a curriculum for my intrepid explorer - he is not in preschool, yes, we will likely put him in next year, (if we can afford to - that's the one bit I leave off when talking to the parents at the playground) - I want to dedicate an hour a day to "school" which will be a time to discuss the things we've seen on our trips out (every day), do crafts, practice writing & reading, et. cetera.

Oh and, we've been eating all kinds of crapola - so that's another bit I'm working on. Meal plans, I always start out with the best of intentions - luckily, we are WAY broke, so it is home-cooking or nothing.

Speaking of broke - let me tell you how much I loved Circle Craft this year. I got most of my gifts, or what I need to make gifts, at the fair this year. I spent (very) modestly and had a great time. Plus I feel warm and fuzzy about my purchases.

Hmm... I guess that sums things up.

Mom, if you're reading this, send money!!

*or it would have been a few months ago, with all those lay-offs I suppose we don't have a clue what the market is going to look like going forward.