Friday, November 19, 2010
Our American baby
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Baby clothes and gender roles...
Since we opted not to find out the sex of our baby we are in the unenviable position of finding 'gender neutral' clothes for newborns. This has left me less than enamoured with the offering of yellow/brown/mint green clothes, and so I have resorted to shopping for boy clothes that I'd dress a little girl in (because 'gasp' I think that girls can wear blue too). And this is where my real issue comes to light - not the lack of 'gender neutral' clothes, but what constitutes gender appropriateness.
When you walk into the clothing section of any baby store you will likely see a very clear divide. For newborns it's pale pink on one side, pale blue on the other. End of story. Then when babies are a little older, you are allowed to dress the girls in fuschia, purple and brighter shades. Boys are now permitted to wear dark blues, browns, red and oranges. Your options are expanding rapidly! But good luck trying to find an article of clothing not adorned with either a truck, football or catcher's mitt for boys, or hearts, flowers or crowns for girls. Your little son is 'daddy's little MVP' goshdarnit, and your daughter surely is a 'princess', or even better, a 'diva.' Might as well embrace it for it has been written.
There are surely clear genetic differences between the two sexes, and there is no shame in celebrating them. However, you don't have to look very far to see where certain aspects of our adopted gender roles break down and can create problems down the line. How many people struggle with self-image when they don't fit into the roles prescribed for them? How many are belittled and bullied because they don't fit in a box? I cringe everytime I hear the term 'ballsy' used to describe courage and gumption - suggesting that men have a monopoly on these characteristics. Furthermore, I am weary of the stigma that surrounds a little boy who shows interests in anything 'effeminate' (read this article http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/ct-talk-deardorff-halloween-1026-20101026,0,7874609.column for more insight).
My sister, Kristi, introduced me to an author (and friend of hers) Shauna Niequist. I'd like to share this excerpt from her book Bittersweet:
"My friends Brannon and Chris have a little girl named Emme, and before she was born, Brannon and Chris declared their house a princess-free zone. There could be pink, there could be dresses and lace and babies galore, but no tiaras, no wands, and no princes coming to rescue any little princesses.
I love this. I think maybe we should all live in a princess-free zone. I think the current cultural messaging that tells women it’s attractive to play dumb and fragile and hope that they’re saved by their beauty is incredibly destructive.
I’m not anti-feminine. I operate, in many ways, within squarely traditional gender roles. I love to cook, I hate to drive, and I’m terrible with technology of all kinds. I fit squarely within the stereotypes, and then also not, largely because I was raised by a strong leader who recognized aspects of himself in me. I wasn’t raised to play dumb, or play cute, or play princess. I learned to work hard, to develop my skills, to contribute on a team and in society, and it drives me bonkers when women depend instead on their sexuality or their fragility. I think there’s a better way."
There is a better way, indeed. For all of us. Instead of trying so hard to make a square peg fit in a round hole, let's take another look at the pigeonholes to begin with. Starting with baby clothes.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
full to bursting...
(This post will likely become uncharacteristically sentimental. Consider yourself warned).
It was 10 years ago this summer that Adam & I met and 10 years today that we started, well, all that brought us here. Our story actually begins even earlier when my sister sent me postcards in Sweden saying that she met the perfect boy for me working at camp in New Hampshire. He was cute, athletic, smart and musical she said... and also in high school in Boston (I was starting college in Canada). Great, thanks.
A year later we met. He with the (sort of) girlfriend and me with loads of (relationship) baggage. End of story, right? Well... not. The short version is that by the end of the summer we both realized that there was something there that was worth pursuing even though we didn't know exactly what that was. Although being in a relationship with someone who lived across the continent was both highly inconvenient and probably short-sighted we both knew that we had no choice. We had to see what came of this. So glad we did.
Much of the time I marvel at how lucky I am. There is no one in the world with a bigger, purer or more tender heart than Adam. To be the recipient of his love and grace on a daily basis makes me no less than the luckiest girl on earth. To have someone who loves me so deeply, and so unconditionally is such a tremendous gift. One that I pray I will never take for granted.
To so greatly admire the character and integrity of someone you share your life with is a beautiful thing. And to so enjoy every second you spend together (most of it laughing) is yet another. I'm sad to let go of all this time together that's just us, but I simply cannot wait to see Adam as a dad. What kid should be so lucky??
On our five year (dating) anniversary, Adam wrote me a card that said, 'thanks for the best five years of my life." Well, thank YOU for the best ten.
Indeed, my heart is full to bursting.
Saturday, July 3, 2010
We live in Idaho... (typing it might make it feel real)
We arrived in Boise late Sunday night and crashed at a fellow resident's house before moving in Monday morning. Since then most of our time has been spent unpacking and trying to fit a lot of stuff into a small space. Adam started work Thursday and is back full swing now. Exploring has been limited thus far, but here are some of my initial observations of our new 'home'.
- the Capitol building is gorgeous.
- the weather is HOT. Apparently high 90's all summer with 2 weeks averaging at 105 is NORMAL. The day we unloaded the truck it was 98. awesome.
- parking is free downtown for the first twenty minutes and doesn't seem to be too hard to come by.
- there is no traffic - at least by my standards.
- I didn't know I was downtown the first time I was downtown.
- It is not a stressful place to live.
- People are friendly - really, really friendly. Also, people seem to really love pregnant women.
- When we asked about crime where we live the manager cited that occasionally at the bars downtown fights can break out between unruly drunken men.
- We shouldn't let Jack outside (not that we would) because there are foxes and other wildlife that live on the hillside that our patio backs onto, not to mention that we drove by the International Birds of Prey park on the way in to town.
- The property manager apologized for some very distant hammering noises when we moved in and made sure to let us know that the disturbance was both temporary and uncommon, phew!
- Strip malls are the great city equalizer. I ventured to the shopping district yesterday and felt like I could have been in any suburb of any city in the US (the difference being of course the quality of stores present).
- I added to my list of places I'm homesick for. Currently I'm missing Seattle, Calgary, Chicago and New England (West Island, Cape Cod and Pilgrim Pines!!!)
Back to unpacking! Or at least pretending to do something while I wait for Adam to get home. :)
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Along with intense joy and anticipation there can be much fear during pregnancy. So much could happen to the baby, to you. And I know that the worrying really begins once the baby arrives, and never, ever ends. This alone could be enough to send this selfish girl into a panic attack. I really, really love and cherish our lives right now, and our marriage. We're in such a good place. Changing it drastically scares me just as much as it excites me. Then there's the realization that as parents we are responsible for caring for and raising a human life. Is anyone really up to this task?
I discovered this quote while babysitting at a catholic retreat center. These words resonated and calmed me, especially during those early days while we were still processing the news. In the truth of these words I find the courage that I need every day for pregnancy, parenthood and simply for life. To choose to dwell in joy and hope and not to succumb to fear.
"Do not fear what may happen tomorrow. The same loving Father who cares for you today will care for you tomorrow and everyday. Either he will shield you from suffering or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace then and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginings."
St. Francis de Sales
Monday, May 31, 2010
Europe - a year later
The best piece of advice I could give anyone planning a trip like ours is to not take anyone's advice. We didn't! We packed a lot into our trip, despite much advising otherwise, and wouldn't change a thing. We visited 9 cities in 8 countries in 20 days. We backpacked and traveled via train, stayed in hostels, hotels and with friends, walked pretty much everywhere and took public transit where we couldn't, and pretty much just did what worked for us.
Our trip started in London with a brief 2 night, day and a half stay. We were fortunate enough to stay with and reconnect with a high school friend and her fiance and also meet up with an old CBC classmate of mine. Those familiar faces really helped us start our trip off right... and we LOVED London. Of course the sites were amazing, but it was the vibe of the city that we loved the most. I only wish that we had more time there and that the weather had been a little nicer.
Next we were off to Paris via the Eurostar. Our day got off to a rough start as we decided to walk the 5 or so miles from the train station to our hostel with our backpacks rather than take the Metra. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but once we got to our hostel we were exhausted, and had MUCH more walking ahead of us. But walking everywhere in Paris was one of the best decisions we made as we saw so much of local life there that we would have missed otherwise. We ate a lot of crepes, saw a lot of art, endured a lot of cold, stayed in separate rooms in our hostel and loved every minute. I mean, it was Paris - it's magical.
Switzerland came next. We stayed in Interlachen and spent our one short day up in the Alps in Gimmelwald and Murren. It was a perfect day, and by that I mean that it was PERFECT. We wandered and walked and plain old marveled at the beauty of the Alps. I've been to many beautiful places but this was something else. As we were roaming I truly expected to see Heidi roaming the hills with her goats while singing the Sound of Music. We couldn't have loved Switzerland more.
Off to Italy! We started in Cinque Terre, and this was the 'vacation' part of our trip. We spent three whole days and nights in Rio Maggiore, laid by the beach, hiked the path through the 5 villages, had the best gelato ever, sat on the rocks with our wine and pizza and had the best. time. ever. From there to Rome, which surpassed all my expectations! From the Colosseum to Vatican City, night walks through downtown, the Roman Forum, super hot weather and the best food ever, we fell in love with the city, as I imagine anyone would. Our last Italy stop was Venice and it was all that it's sold to be. We spent our time there getting lost walking around and drinking (wine) our way from one cafe to the next all night. We heard that getting lost was the best way to experience Venice and I would have to agree!
We overnighted to Vienna, which was a stop that we fit in last minute. We had one short day there but it was more than enough time to get a taste for that amazing city. The culture pervaded everything and I felt that outside of London it would be the city I could most see myself living in. Plus, the architecture was outstanding.
Prague was our last real stop, and one that we had really been looking forward to. We were lucky enough to stay with missionary friends of my sister and at this point of our trip it was so nice to be in a home again. Prague was like a fairy tale. The Prague castle, Old Town Square, the Charles Bridge, the Meteorological clock, the eastern European influence and communist background combined to make it such a fascinating city. And, oh so beautiful! Finding the John Lennon wall, joining the national marble tournament and taking a sunset boat tour made for a perfect end to our time there.
We flew out of Munich and only had one short evening to enjoy it. We wanted to get to Germany and Adam was very excited about the beer gardens and Hoffbrau Haus, but Munich offered so much more than that. It was a nice bonus to enjoy our last stop so much.
I would have packed some warmer clothes, brought a pedometer and a hat, but otherwise wouldn't have changed one thing about our trip. It was that great.
I was nowhere near ready to head home, and don't think I ever would have been. We were somehow able to leave the chaos of our lives behind and truly live in every moment - together - and in many ways that was the very best part. It was so much more than what we saw, what we did and what we experienced. It's hard to believe it was a year ago today that we were getting ready to return to Chicago, and so much has changed since then. I am incredibly grateful that we committed to making that trip happen and to take that pause from our lives while we had the chance. Our lives are so different now that the whole thing feels like a dream, but the very, very best kind.
Monday, May 3, 2010
We came to leave: Covenant Bible College
It's hard to describe the impact that CBC had on my family, and the role that it played in my life. In many ways, CBC was home away from home.
As a third generation CBCer I was so excited for my very own year there - I counted down from 7 years. Eventually my time came. And for now, that experience evades words. Another post, perhaps. Suffice it to say that I know with all certainty that I would not be the person I am today without that year, those studies, those friends. I am eternally grateful.
When CBC closed its doors, I was not only an alumna, but an employee. As a recruiter I had to call students I'd helped admit and tell them the news. Their plans for next year had changed. There would be no CBC for them to attend. My tenure there was short, rewarding and painful, but I consider it a privilege to have been part of the CBC family through that tumultuous time.
I wasn't able to be in Strathmore for that final Commencement, and I am still immeasurably sad to think that there will never be another one. No more final Vespers in the gym, choir performances, Christmas concerts, Xtreme Impacts, Kids Kollege, retreats, or Spiritual Formation Group. No more late night runs to Coffee Time, hockey games, Sno Jos, laughs, talks, cries. No more CBC. But there was one, and it blessed my life.
If I'm honest, it's still hard. I don't know if that will ever change. But if I learned one thing at CBC it is this: God's faithfulness is bigger and greater than I can comprehend. CBC's time may have ended, but its legacy lives on. And it was never really about CBC itself.
I am reminded of the term Sankofa: to look backward to move forward. Looking back at God's faithfulness over the ages and through CBCs tenure, we are able to anticipate and trust in the certainty of his faithfulness going forward. As students, we were constantly reminded that we came to CBC to leave. I thank God for that.
Friday, April 16, 2010
I was hired to do data entry for two and a half weeks back in December. I jumped at the chance, simply happy to be working, to make a paycheck and get up and out of the house every day. I loved every minute of those short weeks, bored as I was, and two and a half weeks turned into three months of the best job I have ever had.
I miss it.
I worked for the Public Policy department of Community Health Plan, specifically with their grassroots advocacy program, Save Health Care in Washington (savehealthcareinwa.org). The data entry I did functioned to process the messages that over 25,000 Washingtonians sent to their legislators regarding the state of the safety net health care programs that cover over 100,000 people who otherwise have no health care. Because of this, the first few weeks that I spent doing mindless data entry were so much more. I cared deeply about what I was doing, and realized the impact it had. When they hired me on for the rest of the legislative session my responsibilities expanded greatly - mostly involving writing and communication work. I helped film, edit and produce a video that told patient stories to legislators and lobbyists. I wrote letters to the editor on behalf of my Assistant Vice President. I created communication plans, talking points, powerpoints etc. I also stepped far out of my comfort zone by being the 'cell phone person'. During critical points of the session, I went to various community health care clinics throughout the state, met patients, heard their stories and encouraged them to phone their legislators right then and there. I was that girl, cell phone in hand, asking people to call.
Before I started the cell phone program I was intimidated. But from the moment I approached the first patient my anxiety disappeared. I wasn't asking for money, nor was I coercing them to do something they didn't want to. What I was doing was educating and empowering these people. I would explain to them the proposed budget cuts, answer their questions and inform them that contacting their legislators actually made a difference. I would encourage them to call - about anything. It may sound silly and obvious, but to many of these people the idea that they have a voice is new to them. This is the root of democracy, and democracy is a beautiful thing. So while many days were largely discouraging in numbers, I loved what I was doing.
My team and I spent two days down at the Capitol in Olympia, coordinating meetings between clinic managers, patients and their legislators. We also attended rallies, town hall meetings and the like. All this to say, this job was right up my alley.
But alas, nothing lasts forever. Once the legislative session wrapped up, so did my time at CHP. I will still do the occasional marketing event for them, but I'm no longer heading downtown every day. I miss working, I miss the office, my coworkers, the direct-trade and organic coffee, the bus ride and walk downtown, the lunch breaks, coming home after a long day at work, the intellectual stimulation and the paycheck. But most of all, I missed spending each day doing something I loved and knowing that I was making a difference.
When the regular session ended, both the house and the senate had restored most of the funding to Basic Health (health care coverage for the working poor - those who don't have employer provided care and who can't afford it otherwise), GA-U (temporary assistance to those deemed unemployable due to mental health and disability), Medicaid optional services (dental and other), maternity support services, interpreter services and health care for kids. They headed into special session to iron out the details of the budget and the revenue package. Yesterday I learned that it is finalized. These important services have been maintained at current levels (took huge hits last year) preserving these basic health services for over 100,000 Washingtonians.
There are still roughly 900,000 people in this state who have no health insurance, and much remains to be done. As for me, I'm just grateful. Grateful for the job, the paycheck, for the expanded horizons. How great to have a job that merged my passion for politics and advocacy. It's too bold to suggest that I have a clear view of my future career path, but perhaps not too bold to say that I'm starting to dream.
Monday, March 8, 2010
with glowing hearts - a repost
And I want to add this for those who wonder why Canadians get so fiercely proud during the winter Olympics: we are always that proud, we just take this chance to be loud.
I spend most of the Olympics being lovingly harassed by my American friends, particularly the hockey fans. Suddenly, Canada gets attention - we are rivals, we are annoying, we are disliked, we are noticed. We love it.
In my experience, Americans like to pretend that Canada doesn't exist, or at least doesn't matter. Hence all the jokes about being the 51st state or "America's hat." Nevermind that we are the USA's biggest trade partner, largest provider of oil, a member of the G8, a strong presence in the UN, NATO, NAFTA, the Commonwealth, were a crucial presence for the entirety of both world wars, the US's strongest and most loyal ally and share the world's largest unprotected border. We have one tenth the population of the US, yet have a fairly pristine and highly respected reputation internationally. We are peaceful, peaceable and peacekeepers. We are not a superpower. We aren't perfect, but we are great. We are a country that is deserving of tremendous respect, even when we don't receive it.
As a nation we tend to be quiet and humble, not willing to engage in culture wars. We're not trying to be better than the US, we don't want to be the US. Please understand: we have nothing to prove. We're not your jealous little brother. We are Canada.
Every once in a while we get the chance to shine in our own way on a world stage and we make sure to take advantage. And Americans are starting to take notice. Not even willing to let us have our hallowed sport, we get under your skin with our hockey gold. And frankly we love it.
Not always loud, but so very, very proud.
I'm a proud Canadian.
8 days ago I watched Canada's men's hockey team win the gold medal against the US on home ice. I watched with my hands over my eyes, pacing the room, and developing ulcers, but I watched. I wasn't sure I was going to. We were on vacation in northern California that week and were heading to wine country that day. After the heartbreak I endured a week before (Canada lost to the US in the round robin) and the vivid memories of the stress I felt watching the same game 8 years before in Salt Lake (Canada won gold then also), I felt like it might be in the best interest of my mental health to avoid the game and to drink some wine. At least that was the plan. I woke up with a nervous stomach, and the nerves only escalated through our drive, my frantic search for radio coverage of the game and our eventual arrival at my aunt and uncle's hotel room in Sonoma during the first intermission. Not watch the game? Who was I kidding?
I couldn't miss that game. As Neil put it, it was a life event. I'm sure you're rolling your eyes at the hyperbole, but I assure you I exaggerate not. It wasn't just a hockey game, and it wasn't just that our collective Canadian pride was on the line, it was that and more. It was the culmination of a two week celebration of my country, my home that I miss so much.
After Canada's loss to the US in the round robin, I was inconsolable. No, it wasn't anger at the taunting text messages I received (I know they were all sent in love), and it wasn't just the loss. I was having a hard time putting my finger on the source when Adam (oh how I love him) did it for me. I hated that I wasn't in Canada to watch that game. I wanted to be in Vancouver still, surrounded by fans as fervent (or more so) than I. I was missing home, and it all came crashing down on me then.
Our Olympic experience was amazing. We spent 6 days and nights total in Vancouver. We watched the Opening Ceremonies (which I LOVED) with some of my closest family and friends. We saw the fireworks outside Kara & Tyler's front door as we were watching the coverage on TV. We went to Robson Square, saw the torch, the Olympic rings, and the general pandemonium that was Vancouver. We went to a men's preliminary curling match - and were overwhelmed by the flags, the spirit, the curling savvy and the NOISE of the fans. We are the proud owners of the autographs of the gold medal winning men's curling team. We went to hockey games and cheered at the top of our lungs, even though we didn't care who won. We sensed the excitement and were part of it. The 'Olympic spirit' isn't just a cliche and it was palpable in Vancouver.
Undoubtedly my highlight was the VIP room of Molson Canadian Hockey House. As the lucky recipients of unused VIP passes, Kara, Tyler, Carter, Adam & I spent the night enjoying free drinks, food, and one of the poshest lounges I have ever been to at one of the most coveted venues in Vancouver. The night before all of team Canada plus Gretzky were in the VIP lounge post win, and although they weren't expected that night, the thought alone was enough to make me permanently giddy. They didn't show up, but Lanny McDonald did (Calgary Flames Stanley cup winning captain in 89). Meeting him was... maybe the highlight of my life?
Point is, we had the best time. We were able to see and do so many cool things. But the best part, the essence of it all was being in Canada, with Canadians, watching Canadian TV coverage and unashamedly reveling in all things Canadian.
For me, the Olympics was two weeks of celebrating Canada and bursting with pride. We're back in the States now and will happily live here for the foreseeable future, at least the next few years. This is Adam's home, and it's mine for now - and you know what, I love this country too.
But when Crosby scored the game winning goal and I stood singing "Oh Canada" with my aunt and uncle there was nothing but pure unadulterated joy (and yes plenty of pride) even from afar. Sure, it was just a hockey game, but it was so much more. It was a celebration for Canada, of Canada, in Canada. With glowing hearts, indeed.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
everything in between
- We had a wonderful but all too brief trip to Chicago over Thanksgiving. There was time for celebrating and relaxing with family over the holiday and then a little time for fun and merriment with friends in the city (for me, poor Adam had to head back). It was great to be in Chicago and thankfully my previously mentioned homesickness had long since passed. :)
- Both my sisters and nephew came for a weekend visit shortly after my return, and as always we had a great time being together and shopping and eating our way around Seattle.
- My parents made their inaugural visit to our new place in Seattle. They just couldn't abide the thought that we would be all alone on Christmas. They came to our rescue and it was such a blessing to have them with us: to show them our lives here, to celebrate Christmas together, to enjoy mom's delicious Christmas dinners AND baking, and to simply enjoy each other's company in a relaxed setting.
- Because I'm perpetually homesick for Calgary I returned with mom and dad for a week. I just loved spending time at home and in the house I grew up in. It's always so good for my soul to be there. I got to spend time with family, friends, enjoy some Calgary shopping and, of course, a Flames game. I was also really happy to see some snow and have some more seasonal weather. While I love the mild climate here, it just didn't feel quite as Christmas-y wandering around Seattle with no coat on the 25th of December.
- It's been less than three weeks since I returned to Seattle and it feels like forever - in a good way. I love this city, and I love our life here. I was very happy to return to it. Since then, I turned 28 years old, celebrated birthdays and engagements with friends and have spent entire weekends with Adam (the first in a really long time). It's been a really fun three weeks!
- This last weekend my amazing friend, Sarah Zimmerman, hopped on a plane last minute and came to visit. I love every minute I get to spend with her and it was so much fun showing her Seattle for the first time and a good excuse to check some new things off our list. Highlights include a trip to Bainbridge, some great food, a hilarious karaoke bar and an award winning performance by Adam, and some beautiful weather and sights. My goal is to get everyone I love to move to Seattle and I think I made some progress with Sarah.
- We're heading out of town this weekend (for my birthday) and anxiously anticipating our three weeks of vacation in February and March. We'll be in Vancouver for a few days during the Olympics, heading down to Northern California to visit Angie, Neil & Sharol and see some sights, and meeting up with friends in Vegas. So much to look forward to, and so much planning to do!