Hypergraffiti

Where I spray-paint my thoughts…


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Definitely Not a Mommy-Blog

One of the problems I face as I approach the ten-year anniversary of this blog is that the more time goes by, the less sure I am about what my blog really is. Is it a writer’s blog about writing? Well, sometimes, but definitely not all the time. Is it a place for me to work through ideas and post about my views on political and religious issues? Sometimes. Is it a place where I write about my daily life and keep in touch with a far-flung community of friends and readers? It started out that way in 2006, but in the years since, most of that activity has migrated to Facebook, and blogging doesn’t serve quite the same social function it used to. It almost feels like if you’re going to post Facebook statuses about what you did today, you should save blogging for when you have something important to say.

I can tell you what this blog isn’t, that’s for darned sure. It’s definitely not a mommy-blog.

When I started blogging regularly, my kids were eight and six. And a lot of what I wrote about daily life ended up being about parenting. I never thought of myself as a “mommy blogger” because I also wrote about writing, and about faith, and about TV characters I had crushes onbut I did write a lot about parenting because that was my life and my focus at that time. In fact, my blog was one of several that got studied in a mildly infamous academic study of Canadian “mommy blogs,” so I guess at least some people thought that was what the blog was about.
kidspix

These days, I find I hardly ever blog about parenting. Those same two kids are now almost sixteen and (just as of this last week) eighteen. That’s right: my oldest child is an adult in the eyes of the law. Wow. Just … wow.

Even today, when the heyday of parenting blogs (and perhaps blogs in general) is several years past, you can still find a lot of people blogging about their day-to-day experience taking care of babies, or wrangling toddlers, or raising pre-schoolers or elementary-schoolers.

There aren’t a lot of “mommy blogs” (or daddy blogs) by the parents of teenagers. I wonder why that is?

When your kids are little, it’s so easy to write about the fun moments, the silly things they say, the days you want to remember — but also the frustrating times, the lessons you learn as a parent from the bad days. When they get older, there are still fun moments, still hard days, still lessons learned — but as the kids get older, I think most of us parent-writers are more keenly aware that our kids are not just extensions of ourselves, not just lenses through which we reflect on our own experience. They are their own people, with their own right to privacy. And even as the crazy stress of raising toddlers and preschoolers eases up (how wonderful it is to leave the house for work in the morning knowing that these near-adults will get themselves up and ready for school, and one can even drive there!), the struggles we face — because there are always struggles — are deeper and harder to resolve.

You can tangle with a tantrumming toddler for an afternoon and cuddle that same toddler, tired, at bedtime — and after they’re asleep, blog about what that whole hard day taught you. The struggle to help a teenager emerge into adulthood, and to stand back and not help when your help is not needed, takes months or years instead of hours. And it may be a long time before any of us figures out what we’ve learned from it.

So maybe those are some of the reasons we don’t blog so much.

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Fifty (Plus)

As many of you know, I turned fifty this year. I didn’t really blog about it at the time — what with social media these days, most of my celebrating, and the pics of the big 5oth bash I threw for myself, happened over on Facebook, so I didn’t write a blog post specifically about reaching that milestone when I hit it in September. But yeah, I’ve been alive for half a century, and I’m feeling pretty good about it.

I know it's essentially the same as the one in the header, but this is my official "turning 50" picture

I know it’s essentially the same as the one in the header, but this is my official “turning 50” picture

One thing I’ve commented on several times this year — including at my birthday party, bringing tears to a few eyes when everyone was supposed to be celebrating happily — is that it’s hard to reach 50 without thinking of the people you’ve lost along the way. Of course I think of the people from the generations ahead of me, like my mom and my Aunt Gertie, who I wish were still here. But what really gets me are the friends of my own generation who I thought I would grow old with. My friend Jamie, who never made it even close to his 50th birthday. My dear college friend Linda, who turned 50 already fighting the cancer that would take her life at 51.

Just this year, while I’ve celebrated turning 50, I saw one friend cope with the sudden loss of his beloved wife, still in her 40s. I’ve seen another friend of my own age wrestle with a frightening cancer diagnosis. Nothing is guaranteed, especially not long life.

So I will never be one of those people and complain about “Oh, poor me, I’m turning fifty, I’m going to get wrinkles and my neck will look weird!” I am so, so grateful for every year I am given to spend with family and friends, and having fifty of them is AMAZING. Anything more … will be awesome.

Earlier this year I posted a manifesto about turning fifty and, looking back at it, I feel like I have pretty much lived according to the guidelines I set for myself when I was forty-nine, and hope to keep living that way.

While I’m not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions, I did have a few goals I wanted to accomplish in the year I turned 50. Not exactly “bucket list” items, but things that made me say, “Hey, girl, you are turning half a century old, so why wait around to do that thing you’ve been thinking about?” Some of my goals were private and some are goals I could share here on the blog. None of them were exciting things, like “I’m going to climb Mount Everest” or “I’m going to swim with dolphins.” But some of my goals were:

  • Help my church start a hot-meal program for hungry people. We did this! I had been thinking about it for a couple of years, but the impetus of saying “I’m gonna turn 50 this year and I believe this is important!” is what inspired me to get the ball rolling. Fortunately some great people came on board and our small but successful program is going well.
  • Plan an event to celebrate the 90th anniversary of women in Newfoundland winning the right to vote. I’ve been interested in the history of women’s suffrage since researching A Sudden Sun, and I thought it would be a great event to be involved with. So after teaming up with the provincial Status of Women Council — yeah, we did that thing back in April.
  • Release my novel What You Want as a self-published book. Yeah, I know those of you who follow my blog are sick of hearing about this, but it was important to me. I’d been toying with the idea for years, and I really wanted to give it a try. Again, knowing 2015 was my turning-50 year inspired me to get it done. Was it successful? Mixed results, I’d say. I got the e-book out but not the paperback (still hoping to make that happen before I turn 51). Sales were … not impressive. It’s hard to market a self-published ebook! But I got the book out there, some people enjoyed reading it, and I learned a lot. I’m glad I did it.
  • Surprise my husband with an anniversary trip to Quebec City. We did this! And I kept it a surprise from him until the day before we were leaving. It was a great getaway weekend and it also included a long train ride, which is one of my very favourite things.
  • Pay more attention to nutrition and fitness. OK, I know eating better and exercising more is on everyone’s to-do list almost every year, but turning 50 has really made me focus on the fact that this is the body that has to take me though to old age and it’s very much in my interest to have it in optimal working condition. My success with this goal is hard to measure because this is not the kind of area where you can say, “I did it!” or “I didn’t!” There’s always room for improvement. But I am paying a lot more attention to what I’m eating and what’s in it, and I had  a great time out hiking on the East Coast Trail this spring, summer and fall — though I still struggle with how to get enough exercise in the horrible months of winter. But there are lots more years ahead after fifty to keep working on that.

So, what do I want to do in the year I turn fifty-one?

And would it be wise to share my goals on my blog?? Probably not!

Whatever goals you have this year, whatever age you’re turning — I hope you’re inspired to shoot for a few of your dreams, whether big ones or small ones. A birthday is an arbitrary marker you can use to motivate yourself — but so is anything else you might choose. The year your kid turns 18. Your twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Whatever makes you say, “Hey, as I’m hitting this milestone, it’s time to get moving on that thing I’ve always wanted to do.” And enjoy the ride.


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Broken

charliebrowntree

It’s a week from Christmas day. I haven’t had a chance yet to post a picture of my perfect family sitting in our perfect tidy house around our perfectly decorated tree. Well, I say I haven’t had a chance: what I mean is, I don’t have any of those things. I have a flawed family in a messy house where we haven’t yet put up the tree and when we do it will not look like anything you would put in a magazine. I promise.

I try not to get caught up in this pressure to create the “perfect Christmas,” but I did a little bit tonight, just for a few minutes, as we were getting ready to head off to church for the candlelight service. In some churches it’s Christmas morning or Christmas Eve service that brings everyone out; in ours it’s the candlelight music program held on a Friday night a week or so before Christmas that brings out almost all the members as well as their friends and relatives who never come to church any other time, and the former members who still want to show their face and say hi — the typical Christmas church crowd. It’s also a lovely service that our family has always attended and our more musical family members have generally participated in.

Now, you may notice that I don’t blog about parenting here as much as I used to when the kids are small. They’re teenagers now (one is nearly a legal adult, as he likes to remind me) and they have their own privacy to think about, and I try to respect that. But I don’t think I’m violating too many confidences here if I say that I was having a bit of a battle of wills with Nearly Legal Adult who was more-or-less willing to play for the instrumental music at the beginning of the service, but absolutely drew the line at sticking around for the rest of the program. Nope. Not gonna happen.

(Sample dialogue: “But it’s our family tradition! Everybody goes to the Christmas service — even atheists!” “I’m not an atheist, Mom.” “Well, then, agnostics! The place is full of agnostics at Christmas!!”)

And it’s a tough enough service anyway, as so many Christmassy things are, because even though this is the third Christmas since my mom died, every traditional family event is full of memories, and I now realize that continues not just for the year after you’ve lost someone but for all the rest of your life, in little sharp pangs of reminder.

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Pretty. Powerful.

I’m not going to say much about the politics of the Canadian election — I said enough in the weeks leading up to it — except to say that I’m OK with the outcome and I look forward to what the Liberals will do over the next four years to fulfill their promises. I sincerely believe they will do less than we hope, but more than Harper would have done, so call me a cautiously contented Canadian. Instead of politics, I want to talk about the real issue that’s on the minds of Canadians in the wake of last Monday’s election: how incredibly hot our new Prime Minister is.
justintrudeaucpAnd why it’s problematic to talk about that.

Let’s face it, “the leader of our country is so attractive we’re afraid we might be objectifying him,” is not a situation that arises really often in Canadian politics. Or in the politics of most countries, since the people who rise to leadership tend to be middle-aged men who are not distinguished by their handsomeness. There are exceptions, of course, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but let’s be honest: when Stephen Harper became Prime Minister of Canada in 2006, we were not bombarded by a barrage of shirtless Harper photos and a corresponding barrage of articles analyzing whether it was OK to crush on the leader of our country in this shameless fashion.

But now, it seems, we have a problem.

It’s a problem for us feminists because we’ve spent years telling men that they shouldn’t comment on the appearance of women in politics, in business, and in other area of public life. We’ve told them that it demeans a woman in the public sphere when we comment on her clothes, her hairstyle, or her body. Women are so often reduced to their physical appearance, and to comment on, say Hillary Clinton’s hairstyle, is to suggest that her appearance is more important than her policies, her intelligence or her abilities.

As feminists, we’ve sent the message loud and clear (not that everyone has accepted it, but we’ve certainly said it enough): It is completely unacceptable to comment on a political leader’s physical appearance.

Oh. Except. Justin Trudeau.


justintrudeau
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A tale of Two Muslims (and Two Canadas)

twomuslims

Lately, because I don’t know what’s good for me, I’ve been sharing political articles on my Facebook wall. I get an interesting response from American friends. They seem a little let-down to hear that we have dirty political fights, and politicians who call on our worst prejudices to score votes. “I thought Canada was better than that,” they say.

A lot of Americans seem to cling to the idea that Canada is a kinder, gentler country that their own — and, to be honest, a lot of us Canadians think that of ourselves, too. We’re good people, aren’t we? We’re supposed to be the world’s good guys, with our peacekeepers and our multiculturalism and all the things that make us so, well, Canadian. The very reason so many of us are anxious to see the end of the Harper administration is because we believe that under the leadership of this particular Conservative government, we’re becoming less and less the country we’d like to think we are.

The sad truth is, we’re better than that — and worse than that. Canadians are not inherently different from anyone else. Like all human beings, we are made in the image of God and yet we are dogged by original sin. Or else, if you’d like a less Christian analogy: we are like both The Force and duct tape: we have a light side and a dark side. And both have been on display in this election campaign.

To me, the two photos above encapsulate something important about what’s happening in Canada during this election: about the two visions of who we might be as a country, which are really about two ways of viewing The Other, the outsider. the immigrant.

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Because of My Religion…

religion meme
I think I was probably about nine years old the first time I asked to be exempted from something for religious reasons. Like most Seventh-day Adventist kids, I was taught early how to do this: to say respectfully, “I’m sorry, I can’t do that because it’s on Saturday. I’m a Seventh-day Adventist, and we observe Saturday as the Sabbath.”

I got, as I have done most times since then, a blank look. If I remember correctly the person giving me the blank look was my piano teacher — I believe I was explaining why I couldn’t play in a Saturday recital. She said, “Can’t you just ask your minister or your priest if it’s OK for you to play on Saturday?”

I wrestled with finding the right words — how to explain, as a child, something that I intuitively understood but an adult did not? How to put into words that this had nothing to do with obeying a religious authority figure or getting permission, but with inner conviction that would make Sabbath a special day regardless of what any clergy person said? I told her that wouldn’t work and I wouldn’t be able to play, and I missed the recital.

It was the first of many times I was to enact this tiny drama. Since I went to a Seventh-day Adventist school and eventually to a church-run college, I had to do this far less than Adventist kids who went to public school did, but I had to explain over and over why I couldn’t attend everything from piano recitals to final exams (the year I attended public university) “because of my religion.”

Ah, the things we can and can’t do because of our religion. Is there a hotter topic in the news right now? Kim Davis can’t have her name appear on the marriage license for a same-sex couple because of her religion, even if she goes to jail for it. Zunera Ishaq needs to appear in her niqab at her citizenship ceremony because of her religion, even if it means going covered-head-to-uncovered-head with a prime minister desperate for a distracting fake-issue to save his campaign. Ranee Panjabi won’t wear a recording device to broadcast her lectures to a hard-of-hearing student because of her religion, even if it earns her the incensed derision of the entire province of Newfoundland.

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