Thursday, 31 May 2007

BlogRhet Meme Again - reformatted

1. Go back to first or early post. How would you describe your voice back in those early days? Who were you writing to? What was your sense of audience (if any) back then?

My first post was only a few months ago, so please understand that I am quite new at this. I'm a grandmother and a senior citizen with a brand new 65+ designation. Because I am older, I have more time to read and write, leisure to think things over, time to research, fewer drains on my energy and time than the 'mommybloggers' with whom I decided to associate myself. And I need the time and leisure because my mind does not work as fast as it did thirty years ago, I tire sooner and I can't juggle a multitude of tasks and do them well, the way most of you do and the way I used to work.

When I started blogging, I had been reading and commenting for some months, and had been reading discussions about blogging and occasionally looking at blogs for several years. But the mommyblogs were introduced to me by a friend of one of my daughters, who had started one and gave the address to my daughter who passed it on to me. Justmakingitupasigo (N) is a journalist and writes amazing stuff. I had read her published pieces and started to read her blog daily. It was a revelation to me, a combination of letter writing, personal history recording and tour de force opinion pieces. From her blog I followed links into the mommy blogosphere and found other voices, all different and all compelling. I was hooked.

I was hooked and I soon wanted to be part of it. N encouraged me -- she said my writing was good enough and that I should go for it. I love to write, I always have, and I've always known I am good at it but writing has always come second to something else. I took a Community College course in advertising and revelled in the writing parts of the course, I wrote speeches, articles for newspapers and edited and corrected other people's work. In all of these, writing was a tool and not an end in itself. The writing I took most care with was done in the weekly huge letters to my mother and my aunt that I sent for many years, chronicling my children's progress, discussing current events, talking about my life. They lived a long way away and I needed to keep in touch.

So, when I started my blog, it was that voice I used. I wrote as if I were writing home. You need to understand that my mother and my aunt, my mother in particular, were highly educated and articulate women, from a generation where that was not usual. And I grew up as a somewhat precocious and precious only child, in a milieu where words and writing were highly regarded and erudition encouraged. My peer group always found me a bit much ('What's with you, did you swallow a dictionary?') and I learned to tone it down when I was with my peers, but I love well crafted conversation, either oral or written, almost more than anything else. And in the mommybloggers I found a whole community of women who were writing about things that interested me and writing with a craft and skill that I recognised and wanted to be part of. I realized that I could write at the very top of my ability level and that there was an potential audience that would appreciate it.

I was also going through a rough patch in my family life and I wanted to write about that. So the blog was going to be absolutely secret from my nuclear family -- in the same way that my letters to my mother were private. When I wrote to her I might omit something that might distress her, but I said what I thought. I did write about it, and it helped. And I started to get comments, which helped me think things through and gave me some needed support. My first reader was N, bless her. I told her about the blog because she had pushed me off the dock, after all, and I really wanted her feedback.

2. Do you remember when you received your first comment? What was it like?

On my very first post, which was essentially a 'Hello here I am', I got three comments. I was struggling with Google Blogger and these wonderful women dropped by, read my post and were kind enough to leave a compliment and advice on how to do things, like links, that I was struggling with. I had been reading and commenting on their blogs as 'anonymous' but signing the comments with 'Mary G' and I guess when they saw my name come up with a link in it they were curious enough (and generous enough) to follow it back. It meant a lot to me.

3. Can you point to a stage where you began to feel that your blog might be part of a conversation? Where you might be part of a larger community of interacting writers?

My fourth post, On Blogging (1), was about that sense of belonging that I was beginning to think I might have. I have linked it, but I am going to quote a paragraph here because it is key to this discussion, I believe.

I've looked on the internet before and not found the kind of interaction I wanted. News, gossip and information, lots of it. Political discussion ad nauseam. Lots of sex talk of a type that I find really boring. A lot of kids whom I find really incomprehensible. (I've got two teenaged male step grandkids; guys, I do try!) Then I found 'the mommy blogs'.


GingaJoy says " it would be very easy (and interesting) to do a content analysis
of our blogs to show that we are presuming a shared knowledge among our readers
(related to kids, breastfeeding, sex, etc). This will reveal a great deal about
our perceived sense of audience and also our community."
Even though I'm a senior grandmother, I still feel empathy with this group. I'm a North American, university degreed, privileged woman who is awed by the eloquence, depth of knowledge and feeling in the blogs I am reading. And I'm totally fascinated by the networking.The temptation to jump in and write comments was too much for me. That's where I started.


A few posts later, I wrote this:
And some of us shape ourselves with words. Some people do it in conversation or in diaries or in ritualized words of promise or prayer. Blogging, putting up the words on the screen, reading what others have said, responding to that, reshaping the thought pattern, refining the images, setting the words out so that others can read them, rereading the words in the light of the comments they receive,; all acts of defining self. If I have found a common thread in the mommy bloggers' world of words I'm learning about, that is it.

4. Do you think that this sense of audience or community might have affected the way you began to write?

Well, yes! I found I had readers, readers whose own blogs were wonders of tautly crafted prose, humour and well researched opinions. It was as heady as a glass of champagne. My main worry had been whether I actually could 'belong' to a group of women the age of my daughters or even much younger, but I found myself accepted. I mostly got a comment or two on whatever I put up and that was (and still is) plenty to keep me encouraged. I think the best day I had was when one of the wonder women nailed me on a usage error in a post where I was babbling on about good grammar and syntax. I loved it. When I was at university, my mother and my aunt would correct my letters in red ink and send them back to me if I made an error. I was home!

I have learned about memes and Monday Missions which means that I have learned that you can also play in the blogging world. Doing some of these challenges has made me stretch myself in ways that I had not tried for years. I also found picture essays which inspired me to try a few of my own, and I found BlogRhet, which has pushed me into some research and precision in remembering and interpreting what I have read so that I could participate. I don't think my 'voice' has changed, but it's difficult to do self analysis on that. That could be because I am still very new at this and so I have not had time to develop my voice. It could also be that I am old and set in my writing ways. But I don't think so.

There's a common thread of childcare and related issues that runs through all of the blogs I read. Even though my time with young children is far behind me, I still speak that language and having a four year old granddaughter for whom I am backup caregiver has made me current once more with baby and preschool issues. Just as compelling for me and for the bloggers whose work I am drawn back to again and again are the issues surrounding parenthood, of the world in which these children live and which they will inherit, the role of women, the problems surrounding children with special needs. A second thread is that of self, of identity and self denial, of how the whole spectrum of career/home/family problems affect each woman (or man) who is juggling them all. So, yes, it's a kitchen catch-all drawer world in here.

I believe that in the writing I do here I am fully myself in a way that I can't be elsewhere. I can say what I want to say, and damn the torpedoes. With one exception, that I want to highlight. I started this blog assuming that it would remain completely secret from my family. Because of that I discussed something that would have rightly distressed them, had they known. I have now decided that I don't want to be that secret and so I have gone back through all my posts and removed all references to it. It surprised me a lot to find out that I had to edit only a few posts to do that. Clearly, the preoccupation I had when I started did not last. Probably because the problem has to some extent resolved itself, I think, but mainly because it has turned out that that was not what I wanted to write about at all. All along I have been careful to avoid identifiers of my family and I will continue to do that. But this is me, and anything short of broaching their privacy goes. So yes, that is a profound change.

I'm not out of the closet, but the door is open. For me, that's huge, and it has happened because of the world I have found here and the amazing people that inhabit that world.

I am tagging Justmakingitupasigo, Half ofthe Sky and Lawyer Mama.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

BlogRhet: The Blog on Blog Action Survey (And Yes. This is a Meme).

This link takes you to BlogRhet

The BlogRhet Meme

NOTE: I have reposted this material above (BlogRhet Meme again, Reformatted), because [censored] Blogger does not seem to want to let me reformat the end paragraphs big enough to read. Sigh.

1. Go back to first or early post. How would you describe your voice back in those early days? Who were you writing to? What was your sense of audience (if any) back then?

My first post was only a few months ago, so please understand that I am quite new at this. I'm a grandmother and a senior citizen with a brand new 65+ designation. Because I am older, I have more time to read and write, leisure to think things over, time to research, fewer drains on my energy and time than the 'mommybloggers' with whom I decided to associate myself. And I need the time and leisure because my mind does not work as fast as it did thirty years ago, I tire sooner and I can't juggle a multitude of tasks and do them well, the way most of you do and the way I used to work.


When I started blogging, I had been reading and commenting for some months, and had been reading discussions about blogging and occasionally looking at blogs for several years. But the mommyblogs were introduced to me by a friend of one of my daughters, who had started one and gave the address to my daughter who passed it on to me. Justmakingitupasigo (N) is a journalist and writes amazing stuff. I had read her published pieces and started to read her blog daily. It was a revelation to me, a combination of letter writing, personal history recording and tour de force opinion pieces. From her blog I followed links into the mommy blogosphere and found other voices, all different and all compelling. I was hooked.

I was hooked and I soon wanted to be part of it. N encouraged me -- she said my writing was good enough and that I should go for it. I love to write, I always have, and I've always known I am good at it but writing has always come second to something else. I took a Community College course in advertising and revelled in the writing parts of the course, I wrote speeches, articles for newspapers and edited and corrected other people's work. In all of these, writing was a tool and not an end in itself. The writing I took most care with was done in the weekly huge letters to my mother and my aunt that I sent for many years, chronicling my children's progress, discussing current events, talking about my life. They lived a long way away and I needed to keep in touch.

So, when I started my blog, it was that voice I used. I wrote as if I were writing home. You need to understand that my mother and my aunt, my mother in particular, were highly educated and articulate women, from a generation where that was not usual. And I grew up as a somewhat precocious and precious only child, in a milieu where words and writing were highly regarded and erudition encouraged. My peer group always found me a bit much ('What's with you, did you swallow a dictionary?') and I learned to tone it down when I was with my peers, but I love well crafted conversation, either oral or written, almost more than anything else. And in the mommybloggers I found a whole community of women who were writing about things that interested me and writing with a craft and skill that I recognised and wanted to be part of. I realized that I could write at the very top of my ability level and that there was an potential audience that would appreciate it.

I was also going through a rough patch in my family life and I wanted to write about
that. So the blog was going to be absolutely secret from my nuclear family -- in the same way that my letters to my mother were private. When I wrote to her I might omit something that might distress her, but I said what I thought. I did write about the rough patch, and it helped. And I started to get comments, which helped me think things through and gave me some needed support. My first reader was N, bless her. I told her about the blog because she had pushed me off the dock, after all, and I really wanted her feedback.

2. Do you remember when you received your first comment? What was it like?

On my very first post, which was essentially a 'Hello here I am', I got three comments. I was struggling with Google Blogger and these wonderful women dropped by, read my post and were kind enough to leave a compliment and advice on how to do things, like links, that I was struggling with. I had been reading and commenting on their blogs as 'anonymous' but signing the comments with 'Mary G' and I guess when they saw my name come up with a link in it they were curious enough (and generous enough) to follow it back. It meant a lot to me.

3. Can you point to a stage where you began to feel that your blog might be part of a conversation? Where you might be part of a larger community of interacting writers?

My fourth post, On Blogging (1), was about that sense of belonging that I was beginning to think I might have. I have linked it, but I am going to quote a paragraph here because it is key to this discussion, I believe.

I've looked on the internet before and not found the kind of interaction I wanted. News, gossip and information, lots of it. Political discussion ad nauseam. Lots of sex talk of a type that I find really boring. A lot of kids whom I find really incomprehensible. (I've got two teenaged male step grandkids; guys, I do try!) Then I found 'the mommy blogs'.
GingaJoy says " it would be very easy (and interesting) to do a content analysis of our blogs to show that we are presuming a shared knowledge among our readers (related to kids, breastfeeding, sex, etc). This will reveal a great deal about our perceived sense of audience and also our community."
Even though I'm a senior grandmother, I still feel empathy with this group. I'm a North American, university degreed, privileged woman who is awed by the eloquence, depth of knowledge and feeling in the blogs I am reading. And I'm totally fascinated by the networking.The temptation to jump in and write comments was too much for me.

A few posts later, Iwrote this:
And some of us shape ourselves with words. Some people do it in conversation or in diaries or in ritualized words of promise or prayer. Blogging, putting up the words on the screen, reading what others have said, responding to that, reshaping the thought pattern, refining the images, setting the words out so that others can read them, rereading the words in the light of the comments they receive,; all acts of defining self. If I have found a common thread in the mommy bloggers' world of words I'm learning about, that is it.

4. Do you think that this sense of audience or community might have affected the way you began to write?

Well, yes! I found I had readers, readers whose own blogs were wonders of tautly crafted prose, humour and well researched opinions. It was as heady as a glass of champagne. My main worry had been whether I actually could 'belong' to a group of women the age of my daughters or even much younger, but I found myself accepted. I mostly got a comment or two on whatever I put up and that was (and still is) plenty to keep me encouraged. I think the best day I had was when one of the wonder women nailed me on a usage error in a post where I was babbling on about good grammar and syntax. I loved it. When I was at university, my mother and my aunt would correct my letters in red ink and send them back to me if I made an error. I was home!

I have learned about memes and Monday Missions which means that I have learned that you can also play in the blogging world. Doing some of these challenges has made me stretch myself in ways that I had not tried for years. I also found picture essays which inspired me to try a few of my own, and I found BlogRhet, which has pushed me into some research and precision in remembering and interpreting what I have read so that I could participate. I don't think my 'voice' has changed, but it's difficult to do self analysis on that. That could be because I am still very new at this and so I have not had time to develop my voice. It could also be that I am old and set in my writing ways. But I don't think so.

There's a common thread of childcare and related issues that runs through all of the blogs I read. Even though my time with young children is far behind me, I still speak that language and having a four year old granddaughter for whom I am backup caregiver has made me current once more with baby and preschool issues. Just as compelling for me and for the bloggers whose work I am drawn back to again and again are the issues surrounding parenthood, of the world in which these children live and which they will inherit, the role of women, the problems surrounding children with special needs. A second thread is that of self, of identity and self denial, of how the whole spectrum of career/home/family problems affect each woman (or man) who is juggling them all. So, yes, it's a kitchen catch-all drawer world in here.

I believe that in the writing I do here I am fully myself in a way that I can't be elsewhere. I can say what I want to say, and damn the torpedoes. With one exception, that I want to highlight. I started this blog assuming that it would remain completely secret from my family. Because of that I discussed something that would have rightly distressed them, had they known. I have now decided that I don't want to be that secret and so I have gone back through all my posts and removed all references to it. It surprised me a lot to find out that I had to edit only a few posts to do that. Clearly, the preoccupation I had when I started did not last. Probably because the problem has to some extent resolved itself, I think, but mainly because it has turned out that that was not what I wanted to write about at all. All along I have been careful to avoid identifiers of my family and I will continue to do that. But this is me, and anything short of broaching their privacy goes.

So yes, that is a profound change. I'm not out of the closet, but the door is open. For me, that's huge, and it has happened because of the world I have found here and the amazing people that inhabit that world.

I am tagging Justmakingitupasigo, Half ofthe Sky and Lawyer Mama.

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Jen(Ponderosa)'s Monday Mission - verse or worse.



Oh it's Grama this and Grama that and Grama! Come and play!

We have the grandkid for a week -- her parents are away;
She likes to come and stay with us because she gets to play,
And look at all the birds and bugs and chipmunks eating bread,
And watch the squirrels and butterflies and squash mosquitoes dead.

Grama? Grama, Grama! Look at this!
I found a little turtle -- hear him hiss?
Grama? Grama, Grama! Here's a snail!
I'm gonna put him in the water pail.

There's a box with colour markers and some paper and some glue,
There's a bag of plastic dishes and some rubber froggies too.
There are china birds for let's pretend -- a good one and a bad.
And in the yard there's rocks and weeds and neat stuff to be had.

Grama? Grama, Grama! See me run!
Come on Grama! Run too. We'll have fun.

Grama? Come and play with me, make the birdies talk.
It's a sunny day outside, let's go for a walk.
There's a LOT of bugs out here, put my bug stuff on.
I saw a chipmunk over there, oh look, oh now he's gone.

Grandma, you look funny in that hat.
Grama, look, your tummy's kind of fat.
Grama? Grama, Grama! Where you're at?

The stars are twinkling overhead, (Grama, there's the moon!)
All the toys are put away. It will be bedtime soon.
Grama, read another book? Where's my bedtime snack?
It may seem like forever, but her parents will come back.....
It won't be long enough until her parents take her back.
Mummy? Mummy, Mummy! I had fun.


with apologies to Rudyard Kipling

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Grandma is grossed out.

I bought my four year old blossom a Happy Meal the other day. Her mother lets her have one very infrequently for a treat and since I was babysitting, I thought I would indulge both of us. (I have a low taste for cheeseburgers -- tsk!)

This is what came out of the Happy Meal box. It has a battery. It cries and says 'TA TA'. The mind boggles.

Little Stuff loves it.

Lilac Watch




The lilac is now in full bloom. The purple ones are everywhere -- we passed two fields of them this afternoon. That's an unusual sight, as lilac usually only spreads by putting up suckers at the planting site in eastern Ontario, but in places where there is limestone close to the surface it really thrives and will spread. It was absolutely beautiful.

My white is a new plant from a very old stock, a bush planted somewhere around 1900. I have purple ones of the same vintage or even older, but the white I am nursing along, as I love this kind the most. Almost as much as the hybrid double purple which is really not hardy in Zone 4, but is doing its best.

The blackflies and mosquitoes are also in full presence, which is why Little Stuff is done up in netting. She is also glaring at a bee that was investigating the blossom nearest her. She does not like bugs. So her mother bought her this netting suit to make her stay with her grandparents a little easier.

She goes home tomorrow, to her 4th birthday party. I am slightly limp, but it's worth it. Only, what do you say when the kid comes up with "Grandma, how do you make water" as we are putting along in the fishing boat. I ducked. "Grandpa will know," said I.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Preoccupied, one and two.

This week I am looking after Little Stuff while her parents are at a conference. This is fairly high intensity work, as she is convinced that Grama is a full time playmate. So far to-day we have planted some of the planters, trekked around the yard feeding birds and deer, picked several bouquets of wild flowers and gone swimming. It is still not suppertime yet.

Just at this moment, I am trying to explain how mosquitoes and black flies operate. The comment I just got is that 'An itsy bitsy teeny drop of blood is all they get. They can't get all the blood in my tummy.'

I am now getting demands to colour on the computer. Her parents have a drawing pad and a colour adapter. Little Stuff thinks this rig is pretty primitive. But she needs to do it *now*.

How you mothers of little ones do this all the time is beyond me.

Further comments - 10:45 pm

Little Stuff is now sleeping peacefully. Phew.

My girls were fifteen months apart, and they played with each other. I would set up an activity for them, or start them on something and they carried on. They also watched television, probably far too much television. Sesame Street, daily. Mr. Roger's Neighbourhood, daily. It didn't seem to hurt them -- and they learned a lot, especially from SS. When they were four and five we moved into a neighbourhood that had a lot of other children their age. We had a big, fenced yard, and they played outside in a big group, under my eye through the kitchen window, or in a playroom in the basement if the weather was bad. I think I was very lucky, in hindsight.

I was an only child of an older mother myself, and my mother played with me a lot. So did my grandmother because I stayed with my grandparents often. I clearly remember her making me doll clothes, singing to me, taking me for walks. And so I am applying this model to Little Stuff, who is an 'only' in most senses of the word as her brothers are 14 and 17. I will be looking after her for three weeks this summer and am using this week as a trial run. She will play by herself if I am doing something obvious, like cleaning the kitchen, but working at the computer, reading or just taking a break are not activities she recognises as legal for grandma to do alone.

It's the constant chatter that may drive me demented by Friday. I don't remember my daughters doing this, but maybe it's protective amnesia. The child is a talking machine. Best score on grandma today -- we were talking about raccoons going out at night, and I was trying to explain this. 'Do you mean they are nocturnal, Grama?' says the precocious brat.

Oh, my.

Friday, 18 May 2007

Cogito (deinde scribo), ergo sum

Slouching Mom has tagged me to participate in a meme, the instructions for which are to write several statements beginning with "I am".

She begins her compilation by saying '…this, by the way, is not unlike one of the most widely used personality tests known as the "sentence completion" task. I’d recommend not drawing conclusions about personality on the basis of the sentence completion task, because as an assessment tool it is neither valid nor reliable. And with that I’d like to conclude today’s lecture on personality testing.'

Thinking up 'I am' sentences is turning out to be a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. It may not be a good test of personality but it is testing. Ah, well. Here goes:

I am thinking. I am writing. I am thinking some more.

I am a procrastinator.

I am sitting in my office, surrounded by piles of paper, on the floor, on the desk, on the worktable, each pile representing a job that I need to get done.

I am not doing these jobs.

I am thinking up sentences starting with 'I am', wasting valuable working time. Um, that's not true.

I am wasting valuable time I could spend reading blogs.

I am convinced that I am blowing this.

I am.


Cogito {deinde scribo}, ergo sum.
I think {then I write}, therefore I am.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Under the Mad Hat's comment group inspired me to do this.

Two drunken professors were leaning on a bar arguing about the relative merits of their favourite poets. The rest of the patrons joined in and challenged the profs to make up a couplet in the style of their favourite, winner to be given the right to call his poet the best.
The subject was decided on -- a man with bowed legs walking down a road.

Prof #1, who taught the Romantics, declaimed
'Over the hill and down the road
Walks a man whose legs are bowed.'

He received much acclaim, but the Shakespearean prof was declared a winner with this submission:
'Lo, what manner of man is this
Who wears his balls in parenthesis'.

Sorry!

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Pants on Fire?


I have just read a really good op. ed. piece by a woman who writes for our local paper on raising kids which discusses, among other things, the lies we tell our kids. One thing I promised myself when I became a mother is that I would not tell my children 'white' lies, the untruths that adults supply to keep the little ones tranquil. This determination was sourced from an experience of my own childhood.

When I was eight, my grandfather, who shared a house with us and who was my best buddy, suffered a traumatic stroke. This was the 1940's, and so he was nursed at home. I vividly recall being taken in to see him in his bed, with his face all slack, and that he could not speak. I was there because I had demanded, insisted, nagged and whined to be allowed to see him. Within the next couple of days, he died. I was in bed but when I heard thumping and footsteps on the stairs leading to his upstairs apartment, I called out to my mother to ask what the noise was. She told me that Grandpa was worse and that he was being taken to hospital. The next morning my parents told me the truth. I still vividly recall the outrage I felt. I was convinced that I should have been there and that my mother had unjustly shut me out.

Believe me, I am not the most truthful of souls. Ask me how I like your new haircut or whether the colour of the house trim looks good with the brick and I will string you a line with the very best. If I'm late to a meeting or late with a report, I can (at my age!) come up with a fine and figmentary story. But to my daughters, if the dog had to be euthanized or their father hospitalized, I told the unvarnished truth. Last fall we had Little Stuff staying with us for a few days and one of the morons from the Hunt Camp next to us fired at a grouse from the road in front of our house. (Illegal in Ontario to shoot from the road, by the way.) I told her the truth, which was that the man had shot a bird. When she asked me why he had done that, I told her that he wanted to eat it. I was not sure that this was true, but the guys at the Hunt Camp eat what they shoot in the general way of things (and gift us with stuff like spiced bear sausage), so I thought that was justified.

Her three year old self took this very calmly. We had, in fact, had chicken for supper and she happily gnawed on a drumstick. The concept of bird as food was not a big issue. In my experience, children hear the truth with respect and process it better than the white lies told to protect them. If the cat is run over by a car and you tell a preschooler that it has gone away, I would just about bet that the kid will bring the matter up day after day after day -- 'is kitty back yet?' -- until you want to pound your head on the kitchen counter.


It's a big issue. It goes into a lot of areas where we all have our fortresses and out insecurities. ('What is truth? said jesting Pilate. And would not stay for an answer.) And I am pretty sure I would be lying if I said I had *never* told my children a lie. But I did try. And I still do.
Your haircut? It looks as if it would be really easy to take care of in hot weather. And the paint is truly dramatic with the brick.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Monday Mission

Jen at Under the Ponderosas has undertaken to set up the new round of Monday Missions. There are some challenges that are really hard to resist! This week's task is to write a post in the form of a weather report. I have modelled mine after the Environment Canada graphic.




Lilac Watch, May 13

Pussy toes, strawberries, trilliums and lilac,
Sunlight in the woodland, blackflies on the breeze,
Shivering quivering the warm breath of spring.....
(Sorry Gord!)

Trillium patch

Lilac


Flower buds are moving right along


Strawberries

My yard, where the flowers are.
The trillium patch is to the left of the leaning birch tree. The pussytoes are not open enough to photograph yet. I'll add them later.

Just in passing: 'The National Post' carried an article on mommyblogging on Saturday. Rather a different perspective!












Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Portrait of the Artist's Mother -- Part I

Because this came out so long, I have posted it in two parts. For the second half, look below this one.
It's the run up to Mother's Day, right. Good time to write about your mother, since every other day of the year you are writing about being a mother. Yeah, I know it's commercial crap and all that, but I want to write about my mother anyway, so indulge me, okay.
First off, if my mother knew that I was out in public writing like that she would be a bit peeved with me. Her writing could be informal, but it was never colloquial. All her life she was a student and a reader, with a mind like a steel trap that retained everything she read. She read voraciously, she wrote the world's most amazing letters, she could discuss anything under the sun in meticulous polysyllabic periods or in plain words, she could produce apt quotations at the drop of a hat. She told wonderful stories, her sense of humour was rapier sharp but could be fired up by almost anything and she never descended to malicious gossip or mindless chatter. All of this she tried to pass on to me, with limited success, although I did get one of the two big words in this paragraph spelled correctly the first time. She was in love with language.

It was not easy for my mother to make herself into an educated person. She was sick a lot as a child, with rheumatic fever among other things, and missed a lot of time in the one room school she should have been attending. But she 'passed her entrance' at eleven and, because her father had decided that education for his daughters would go beyond Grade 8 (and this was unusual in 1921), she rode a bike and then took a tram from the family farm for the eight mile trip into the city to attend a Collegiate Institute. Here she was an academic success although, as a self described country mouse, she took a lot of teasing. A very bright eleven year old in sausage curls and a home made dress is going to get attention, especially when she uses big words and always knows all the answers.

This photo is from her high school yearbook -- tennis team -- mother is on the right.

Continuing to know all the answers, and getting healthier from all the exercise, she cut a brilliant path in both academics and sports through five years of secondary school and earned a good scholarship for university. Here my chronology gets a bit vague. She enrolled at a good university about 120 miles from where she lived. My grandfather was a skilled farmer and good manager and was able to help her with funds for her board and expenses. She passed her first year with excellent marks and went home for the summer to help him tend a big crop of specialty tobacco, the sale of which would pay her expenses for her second year. But there was a mini depression before the big crash of '29 and my grandfather had to sell the crop at a loss. She could not go back to university.

My mother was nothing if not determined. She took the remainder of her scholarship money, enrolled in a business course in a local school, graduated with top honours and managed to land a job as a stenographer in 1929. Although there was no university in her small city, there was a college, affiliated with her university, where she could take courses. Which she did, and took more by correspondence and managed to get both her BA and an MA, majoring in English, over the course of the next ten years, while holding down increasingly responsible jobs and putting her younger sister through Teachers' College. Mother as a babe, circa 1938, while dating my father




MA graduation photo, 1940


My father's BA grad photo, circa 1936


She had known and had been dating my father for some time, but with the outbreak of hostilities in 1939, he decided to join the armed forces. This took some time to arrange, but he was successful and they were married just before he reported for RCNVR (Navy) training to Royal Rhodes. As a married woman in 1940 my mother was asked to resign from her job. She never talked much about those years. Naval officers get back to their home countries for short stretches, unlike the army, and I was born in 1942. My father saw me when I was three weeks old and not again until I was three years old. He was posted first to corvettes and then to destroyers and fought in the Battle of the Atlantic and in the Mediterranean. He was returned to inactive status in 1946.

He came home a changed man. My mother once said that the man she married did not come back to her. By all accounts he was what was called a 'golden youth'. Bright and articulate and fun loving, he took a degree in economics and then went to law school. He was working as a solicitor for the city when war was declared. After the war he decided he had to make up for lost time and set up his own law firm. It prospered and my father set out to provide his family with economic security and himself with a good reputation. We didn't see much of him. And my mother took on the role of the wife of a professional man (we're talking late 1940's and 1950's here). She said to me many times that women's rights went backward after the war. It was picket fence and pearls time.

Mother and daughter, circa 1944

As I remember her, there was nothing my mother could not do and do well. She could sing. She knew the names and habits of birds and plants and baseball players and all the neighbours. She was a whiz at first aid. She could run and play tennis and make amazing pickles and preserves. And move house. We did that a lot. We started out in a 'war time house', but as my father's client base grew we moved, and moved again, ending up in a big brick home in a 'good' neighbourhood when I was eleven. My mother sewed and gardened and joined the Home and School, ironed endless starched white shirts and read. We went to the library every week and came home with as many books as we were allowed to borrow. Neither of my parents wanted the golf club, bridge club kind of life. So my mother's world was my father and me and her home and neighbours and sisters. And her books. Compared to what she had done and whom she had been, however, I think she saw her life as a cage. (See last para of this reference)

Portrait of the Artist's Mother - Part II

I can't remember when I didn't know that my mother was unhappy. I think she was bored and mourned the waste of her education and skills, but believed it was not appropriate to break out of the mould as unusual behaviour on her part would have done damage to my father's reputation and thus to his livelihood. She 'had everything a woman could want', didn't she - a good home, a husband who was a good provider and a serious man, a child. Maybe she would have been more fully occupied with more children, but my delivery had been botched and she did not conceive again. I became her full time project. I was to be healthy and happy and free, in a way she thought she could never be again.

Don't misunderstand, please. I loved my mother dearly. But from and early age I knew, at first almost from instinct, that to help her cope I had to do well in school, do well in sports and activities, be polite and charming and sunshine happy. I learned big words, I self corrected my speech, I was never any trouble. I didn't complain or sulk. My manners were impeccable. Fortunately, myopia excused me from being the star of the baseball team and tennis court as my mother had been and I loved story books. My one rebellion was a refusal to take piano lessons. Sad, that, as I later learned that my mother, who could play well, would have loved a piano but would not justify buying one just for herself if I were not taking lessons.

By the time I was in my teens, my mother was menopausal, depressed and physically ill. An inspired doctor recommended that she take up a hobby, and my mother pulled herself together, rejected ceramics and dress design and enrolled in what was by now a full fledged university in the city. And she soared. She ended up by taking a second MA, this time in Dante studies, and only stopped after this degree because she had been asked to be a lecturer in the English department. She threw her whole heart into it. Several of my friends took one of her courses and still remember it as a high point of their university life.

And then it all crashed down on her. Her eldest sister killed herself and left her young daughter to my parents to care for. My father had a massive heart attack. And my grandmother became very ill and progressively demented and required more and more care. I was away at University by the time this all happened. And then newly married with a husband whose job kept us 600 miles away. Mother resigned her job, took on her very damaged niece, helped her husband pick up his life again and looked after her mother. By the time this all got squared away she was worn out.

With her first grandchild. Age 56


I wasn't much help. But I did provide her with two grandchildren whom she adored and whose antics and bad grammar and deportment and clothes and shoes provided her with a lot of pleasure. She helped with their projects and essays by mail and phone, bought them lovely surprises, and she and my dad gave them wonderful vacations. She glowed when they did well in school. I wish she had been well enough to appreciate it when the elder daughter graduated first out of her university, earning a Governor General's medal and a scholarship which took her to Cambridge for graduate work. But by then her mind and body were both letting her down and she died shortly thereafter.

I also wish sometimes that she could have been born even ten years years later. Friedan and her peers would have had a strong colleague. She said of herself that her life had not been a waste since out of it had come these remarkable grandchildren. The night elder daughter's daughter was born, I remember looking at the stars and wishing my mother could know that another generation was launched. Her family was so important to her. Almost as important as her beloved English.

I miss her often. I tried to be the daughter she wanted, but she sure was a hard act to follow. On top of everything else, she was always beautiful, everyone she met became her friend and she was cracking jokes about Dostoevsky while wheeling her IV down the hospital corridor a week before she died. Hey mom, if you're listening. Little Stuff is still making an 'ƒ' out of the 'θ' in 'three' but she has a huge vocabulary, she can sing in tune and remember all the words and she's a champ at breaking eggs. And sometimes she reminds me of you.

Monday, 7 May 2007

I'm volunteering for a meme


The question was:

What is the most weight you gained with a pregnancy and do you dare post a picture.

Can't remember the weight gain, but here's the pic. taken ten days before Her Birthday. My mother was quite nervous. 'Go home,' she said, 'and do not have the baby on the way!' I was, on the day of birth, ten days overdue.
Oh, yeah.
What did you like the most about pregnancy? I felt wonderful, I was never sick, I even looked great.
What did you like the least? Getting kicked in the bladder, the ribs, the stomach. Well, you know the drill. The nightly gymnastics display even kept my husband awake.
My best pregnancy kick story: I was invigilating an exam for a bunch of adolescent boys and was sitting on a desk with my arms braced behind me and a stack of foolscap on what was left of my lap. The gymnast gave a good kick and the paper shot off my lap and flew all over the floor. I leave it to you to picture the expressions on the faces of those 14 and 15 year olds.
Edit: If you want to see one gorgeous pregnant lady, go to GingaJoy's post 'And Speaking of No Shame.' That's beauty!

An unconscionable time

Take a look at this website to see what can be done for dogs.



My husband just threw a suitcase into the truck and is headed off to his mother's bedside. Last evening she suffered a mild heart attack, her younger son with whom she lives took her to hospital, in the emergency room she went into cardiac arrest and was resuscitated twice. She then had another heart attack and is now in the ICU with four intravenous needles stuck into her.

My first impulse when my BIL phoned me with this news last night was rage, rage that this fragile ninety year old lady with many problems coping with daily life had been subjected to such drastic medical procedures. Since I was not there and therefore do not know the exact circumstances, I have talked myself down. Her family members who were there did their best, I am sure, to decide things under emergency conditions. But I am left feeling very sad for her and worrying a lot over what will happen to her now.

I have thought more than once that we treat our animals better than we treat our old and terminally ill. A friend's nephew died last week from colon cancer, died slowly and in agony when the morphine that was being administered failed to control his pain. My mother was extremely fragile both mentally and physically in the last year of her life but when she started to bleed from the bowel my father and I authorized surgery that was successful in the short term but neither brought her comfort nor prolonged her life. Looking back, I see that it was not necessary to subject her to all that. It frightened her and hurt her. When the family dog suffered from a similar problem in her extreme old age we had her quietly and mercifully put to sleep and euthanized.

As a society, we do not deal well with extreme debility and death. As individuals, I believe, we put off thinking about the extremely emotional and divisive issues surrounding mortal illnesses. It seems to be easier for people to let things slide until their loved ones are in terrible pain or fear. By the time the crisis hits, I strongly believe, it is too late to manage it rationally. We go into crisis mode, we deal with things piecemeal, and we screw up. I did, for my mother. I also had to deal with the final illness and death of two of my childless aunts, and by the time I got to my aunt Marion, who had terminal cancer at age 79 and was afflicted with dementia as well, I had learned enough to manage things so that she died peacefully, early enough to prevent the worst ravages of her illnesses. I had learned!

One of the things I learned is that it is essential to speak to the medical people ahead of time, to have the paperwork (in Ontario, a Power of Attorney for Personal Care and a signed Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order) in place. You need the names of all of the contact people -- for home care, placement in nursing care, specialist doctors -- on file and it is best to discuss with them what they can provide specifically for the person you are in charge of. I did research on nursing homes and, and this is vital, found one where staff members understood what I wanted for my aunt and were prepared to work with me. Other things that are useful to know include what drug regimes are available and what are their side effects. But, first and last, you need to know what you want done. And not done. When they come in with the cart and the paddles you need to know what the person would want and what you are going to do.

I so wish that we could have options for people who are dying in pain. As long as our doctors are subject to criminal procedures if they help, as long as relatives who help are prosecuted and sent to jail, as long as the drugs and regimes that would help are hard to find and expensive, as long as nursing homes are poorly funded and understaffed, we will continue to fail our loved ones when they need us the most. And as long as we as a society fail to address these problems rationally and with respect for differing points of view, we are contributing to the failure. It's a hard thing even to discuss, but it needs to be done.

There's a weird cartoon here with quite an interesting discussion on the topic. You want an euthanasia teeshirt? Look here. There's so much internet debate and info, that I'm not even going to try to filter it. I do however draw your attention to this statement, from the Ethics Committee of the College of Family Physicians of Canada. It says in part (paraphrased) that your loved ones may tolerate the seemingly intolerable if they know you love them. Other parts of it make better reading. I am not about to lead a crusade, but I wonder sometimes if I should.

May 8 update: MIL has survived all the nonsense with no cognitive damage. In fact, JG says she is 'cranky' , an adjective which speaks well of her state of health. If she has enough energy to crank over monitors, IV's and catheters, she'll make it.

Saturday, 5 May 2007

Lilac Watch, May 5th.

There have been a lot of popping noises around the place this last two days as the buds unfurled at manic speed, responding to sun and warmth. And the first trout lilies are here -- JG found them for me yesterday afternoon. So, for Andrea, here they are, as well as a shot of the tiny leaves. Unfortunately they are maple leaves and they are pinky/green, so the 'mist of green' effect she wanted is not yet available here.

aka Dogtoothed Violets. Had to take the picture today as her mommy is bringing Little Stuff out tomorrow. She demanded to be taken to Grama and Grampa's house 'to pick flowers'. How did she know?



And here is the lilac, with its leaves just out and one future blossom plumping up.














Also, it's windy enough that the [censored] flies are not biting. Who could ask for anything more.

Yike!

I looked at myself in the mirror this morning -- not the bathroom one where I check that there's no green in my teeth and my hair is more or less brushed, but the big one in the bedroom that shows me myself from the knees up. It was not a pretty sight. I am a blob, with rolls of fat where there used to be a waist, a pretzel with a curve and some stuff hanging where there used to be shoulders and a neck, a mottled mess of red spider veins where brown thighs used to be, and a quite scornful brown eye peering out of puffy lids with wrinkled corners. The whole picture, as they say, almost sent me off to the kitchen for some comfort food.

I've never been particularly body conscious, I guess because I have never been very impressed with how I look. I've been pleased to be strong, happy to have a lot of endurance, lucky to have good skin that doesn't break out in blotches and tans when required. But I have always been flat chested and muscled enough that my waist and hip measurements do not vary a lot, and I was a teenager when the body to have was one that resembled Marilyn Monroe's. My nickname was 'Mary Slat' and what I required of clothes was that they were neat and fairly appropriate and not get me laughed at.

The thing that drove me to the mirror is that none of my summer trousers are fit to be seen except for a few that do not fit. So I have to forge off to town this afternoon and buy something that looks at least neat and somewhat put together. Intellectually I knew that the situation with the bod was pretty dire. I do shower every morning, and there is more to soap and rinse than there used to be. But I can manage not to think about it, mostly. I can put off the necessary exercise because the arthritis is bad this morning and going out into the cold will make it worse. I have been deliberately not thinking about the whole subject.

Well, no more. I am going to come back from this shopping trip chastened enough that I will exercise. I will not replace the cold weather excuse with the black fly excuse. I will stop eating cookies whenever I need a boost. I will get off my flabby butt. I will look in the damn mirror every day.

I suppose I could also promise to get my sorry self out of this computer chair and do something active. But one has to draw the line somewhere.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

My Mother's Violets


When I was a little girl, the house where I lived with my parents had a big patch of violets in the back yard. Simple, violet coloured, tough and untended, they bloomed each spring and my mother loved them. When, in her senior years, she became very fragile, my father and I decided that the house should be sold and a smaller one bought close to where I lived so that I could help with her care. We dug up some of the violets, potted them and transported them to a suitable spot at the new house. We also brought along a pot of them for my aunt, her sister, whose home was near the new house.


After my mother died, my father decided to move to an apartment in a seniors' housing complex. I forgot all about the violets. The patch my aunt had flourished, however, and when we built the house we now live in she suggested that I dig up some of them and transplant them here. They are doing fine and have spread out to occupy a patch about 8' square. They are blooming as of yesterday. My mother would be delighted. She loved growing things, especially the spring flowers. She even loved these.
Below are two of the American Goldfinches that visit my feeder every morning. These are the guys, in their fine spring clothes, visiting. The olive drab ladies are off working on their nests. They make a short visit around noon, grab a few seeds and get back to work.

I have to confess that the tulips I just added at the page top are potted and sitting in my living room. I have one Daffodil and one squilla in bloom outside. And no trout lilies yet, although I am checking daily, camera poised. But if you look very carefully at the apple tree branches where the goldfinches are sitting, you can see the tiny start of leaves.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Last week her mother and I took Little Stuff shopping for her own clothes, a rite of passage because she will turn four in a few weeks. Her first pick was a pale purple sweater, very light mauve in fact. At a second store we visited I spotted a pair of trousers in exactly the same shade and her mother, although dubious, was persuaded to add them to the pile. They were a very trendy pair of pants, with cargo pockets and fold up hems.

Of course, Little Stuff had to wear all her new clothes as soon as possible. In fact she woke her father up the next morning at 6:00 am to admire the new pjs that were part of the swag. And for daycare she chose the purple outfit. After all, the sweater was the first thing she had taken from the rack her very own self.

That afternoon at daycare, during the painting time, her caregiver noticed that Little Stuff had disappeared. She was tracked down to the washroom where, in her undies, she was sadly rinsing out her beautiful new pants on which a large pot of turquoise paint had been spilled by her best friend. She had even got some of it out, but the cargo pockets and foldovers had retained a lot of turquoise. Her mother reports that it took a lot of washing to remove the rest of the evidence, but that the pants are now almost like new and Little Stuff has been restored to cheerfulness.

On Saturday her father took her out and bought her new runners, sandals and a nifty pair of 'Mary Janes'. I can only hope that the Ladybugs are not using pot paint this week.

Her mother's report of this incident amused me highly, as mother herself was some persnickety about her clothes as a little girl. She was a slim, light boned wisp of a kid whose younger sister matched her in size by age five and from then on was always a size ahead of her. Because of this it was she who got the hand-me-downs. And if younger sister had a tee or blouse that she especially liked, she rode herd on the YS's care of the garment quite sternly. ('Be careful with the catsup' she would say. ' I like that shirt and I don't want it to be stained when I get it.' )

Here are the two of them at the same size stage, wearing new dresses made by their grandmother. Note the size of the hems -- my mother always liked to give them room to grow. And there were matching bloomers underneath. Miss Clothes Conscious is on the right here. Soon after this she asked her grandmother, very nicely, not to make both dresses in the same colour, as she would then not have to wear it twice.
Funny about the changes that happen as a kid grows up and the things that stay the same. Although the YS has turned from oblivious into a bit of a clothes maven as an adult, the elder sister has remained very neat and a bit obsessive. Her tee and socks always match or co-ordinate, and her shoes tone in. Her trousers and skirts have always had to fit just perfectly -- which made shopping with her as a young adult a marathon that I dodged, if possible. You would find me in the food court sucking back a large coffee and waiting. And waiting. It rather pleases me that Little Stuff, when confronted with her first opportunities to choose, liked most of what we deemed appropriate and did not dither. And did not allow mommy to dither. Although we did manage to tour every children's clothing store in a three story shopping mall.