Monday, 30 April 2012

april 29, 2012

i watched a two-minute video today called "beyond the timid middle", and it pretty much encompasses what i've been working on lately: reconnecting with my passion and purpose, making bolder decisions, claiming my desires, taking a stand when it's necessary or relevant, saying what's true, acting on it, and letting go of things that aren't working. essentially, it's about being actively decisive. living a life of passion and risk rather than timidity and mediocrity. if you're looking for some inspiration in any of these areas, take a look at the video. it's a great pick-me-up, and i'm hedging my bets that you won't regret watching it.

the reason this charming little video felt so relevant is because it spoke to an atrophied part of me that's in the midst of growing back: the part that knows and seeks out my wants and needs. the part that knows dreams are important and possible, and that they will probably come true (a little at a time) if i take the steps, do the work and listen to the road i'm walking on.

that said, there has definitely been some rockiness in claiming said wants, needs and dreams. especially the wants because a handful of people in my life have grown used to me being the one to make the sacrifice, be the listener, be the patient one, be friendly despite mistreatment, make the peace, let go of things, do something that's against my better judgment, be flexible, reschedule plans or meetings, be understanding no matter how something affects me, tolerate being interrupted mid-thought or having the topic of a conversation changed before i've said my peace even when the topic is really important to me. things like this become invisible when they're habitual, and it's difficult to break out of the patterns. i've done a lot of breathing through these moments in the last couple of years and called on myself for patience, but you know what? i'm done with that shit.

i'd like to underline, though, that i'm done with the shit, not the people. that's a distinction that has taken me years to articulate and apply, but i'm becoming fluent in it now. good boundaries often (not always, but often) get rid of the shit so you can keep the people. bad boundaries make space for the shit, which compromises the people. it's like mending a fence. everyone needs limits of some kind to have a healthy, happy life. this, of course, varies according to the circumstance: work, friendship, lovership, D/s dynamic, partnership, hook-up, creative collaboration, etc. there's lots of different kinds of healthy boundaries and, likewise, there's lots of different kinds of mending. for example, you wouldn't mend sudden damage from a lightning storm in the same way you would mend gradual, long-term wear. it requires different tactics and different tools. it requires thought and consideration of circumstance.

all this talk about boundaries reminds me of when i started working on this stuff. it was about a decade ago. i was living in montreal then, and i had an enthusiastic cheerleader-of-a-friend who helped me to practice saying what i wanted out loud. i know that might sound strange, but it was really amazing. i think everyone should have a coach that helps them grow out of their safe, limited bubble of experience. if i didn't have the energy to hang out with her on a particular day, i would say, "i'm going to cancel our plans today because i'm not in the mood to hang out. i don't want to." to me, this felt bratty and flakey and inconsiderate. (admittedly, as a beginner, my wording was often rough around the edges.), but she would always say, "that's a good reason, luna. why would i want to hang out if you don't want to?" it was a good starting cocoon. a semi-contained experiment. baby steps, right?

fast-forward to ten years later, and i find myself working to remember these things i already know. re-learning how to apply the knowledge i've earned. luckily, the awareness comes back more quickly each successive time i lose my way.

my mending today is patting myself on the back for all that work – for trying and re-trying and re-trying. it's so worth it. despite some backsliding in the past couple of years, i know i have a much better understanding of how and when to speak up. (at least most of the time!) these days, it's about honesty rather than pushing back against the past. it's less loaded. it's more integrated. i stand up for what i want and need and dream of so i can avoid the drama, pain, resentment and meaningless sacrifice that silence often induces.

i'd like to invite all of you to dump the bad boundary bullshit, too. because who wants to inhabit a wishy-washy-i-can-deal-with-it life? it chafes. except in very specific circumstances, there's a difficult, uncomfortable shame that sets in when you let go of things that are important to you...whether it's due to shyness or a lack of self-possession. this is especially true when it happens in little, everyday ways.

don't get me wrong...i don't think we should speak up in every circumstance about every aspect of every interaction or relationship. (sometimes it's not worth it, and sometimes there's no point. it takes discrimination.) nor do i think we should always expect to be indulged and get our way. that's not realistic or fair. but i do think it's important to speak up when the impulse to do so is strong. that's the backbone of integrity. it's a good way of nurturing and maintaining selfhood.

last week, while i was browsing through a bookstore, a sparkly fridge magnet caught my eye. (those of you who know me will not be surprised at this. glitter = a lifelong passion.) it's the one that's pictured at the beginning of this post. i liked it because it got right to the point with a fearless, unapologetic word: "begin."

it's good, simple advice: begin. begin small, perhaps, but begin. speak. speak up once a day about something that's important to you: a hateful joke, a desire, a dream, a whim. because wanting, needing and dreaming are the guts and brawn of a life. it's not about perfection; it's about process.

so begin!

april 28, 2012

you know what's really amazing? when two adults sit down together and sincerely apologize to each other for bad behaviour and talk about what's going on under the surface for each other and what's been hurting or frustrating them and then say a bunch of unsaid things that wipe the slate clean so they can exhale all the tension and crap and get back to the good stuff. it opens up space. it renews trust and respect. it restores clear sight.

this is exactly what i did tonight, with a friend of mine that i've been working with for the past couple of years. we sat across from each other in a montreal restaurant, sharing food and mending each other's hearts with the truth. (and mending our own in the process.) our hangout started and ended with a hug, and i felt the difference in the parting hug. the warmth and openness was back. no more block.

telling the truth and hearing it in return is a wonderful thing. no one is perfect, but everyone is responsible for what is created in the world as a result of certain actions or decisions. being accountable and being held accountable is one way to remember that you have a place in a community. put another way: as long as you care about your community and the people in it, you belong. but you gotta mend it when it tears.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

april 26, 2012

one of the things that causes the most breaking, i think, is harbouring secrets. and one of the things that causes the most mending is admissions. at least from what i've seen. that freedom of opening up, admitting things and talking about what's happening in your heart and your mind can be an amazingly expansive thing.

i've been reminded of this truth a lot lately. not in the sense of quietly carrying secrets, though more in the sense of the healing power of talking about things and being real with another human being. with no risk comes no intimacy, right?

interestingly enough, admissions have been coming to me rather than the other way around. maybe setting an intention of being more transparent and honest about what's happening in my own life has become magnetic? hmm...that's a fun thought. i've become a secret magnet!

whatever's causing it, i'm really loving it. i've had the most amazing conversations with people in the last few weeks about being broke or upset or sick or in pain, about having feelings or crushes or attractions, about living with chronic insecurities or doubts. isn't it lovely when the people we're talking to all of a sudden pull out a big secret? they automatically become more human in that moment because they're fallible and open. i love that...i think that's what helps us mend and stay connected in this crazy web of family and community. we find out where we overlap and where we don't and that we can still be accepted and loved from the outside of a secret, looking in.

it's hard to say some things out loud, though. in the moment when you're on the cliff's edge of admission, and you're about to tell yourself you're going to do're going to say this thing out loud! and then you do, and there's a sense of weightlessness and unburdening right before the anxiety drops like a lead anvil into your gut. usually, that's when you find out it's not such a big deal. that you're making a bigger deal out of it than anyone else might. in these moments, you find out you're alright. you're alright because you're human and imperfect not in spite of it but because of it, and we're all in this together in our imperfect, human frailty. for the most part, these secrets are just interesting facts to other people. just a passing lamppost of a moment on the road we're barreling down. a flicker of a moment that always seems bigger than it actually is until you get past the moment of confession.

i remember when i came out to my mom, i couldn't even say the words because i was so nervous. i was in such a state that she had to proffer guesses. was i pregnant? was i dropping out of school? was i addicted to something? ummm...sexual orientation? she had been counting things off on her fingers, and i pointed to the last one. yup, that's it. my heart was pounding in my chest, and my belly was flip-flopping like a load of clothes in the dryer. see, my dad is a total homophobe, but i had no idea how my mom would react. i hoped against hope that she wasn't going to be a jerk about it.

bless her heart, she continued facilitating the whole thing. "well, there are a few options..." she said, counting them off on her fingers. "heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual?"

i pointed to the last one. yep, that one. that's me.

you know what she said?
"don't worry about it chickadee. why would you think i would care?"

i had been stuttering and stammering for about 10 minutes leading up to this moment – not to mention the eight months that it took me to come out to myself and then sit her down. the actual talk lasted no longer than a few minutes. she had been sitting on the couch just long enough to warm it. she got up and kissed me on the forehead and said, "well, if that's it, i'm going to go to bed now."

i was left there, stunned and blinking. i was totally flabbergasted. did that really just happen? barely a blip on the radar after working up my courage for eight months! and it wasn't even that interesting to her! i was almost offended by how calmly she received the news. MY BIG NEWS! my big moment of telling her who i really was! and she was completely nonplussed!

but isn't that the best possible reaction? that your deep, dark secret ain't no thing. just another story to know about you.

mending presents!

lili just came back from her big vacation out west, and she brought back these delightful things with her! a cute 'lil dandy sewing, and amazing mendy pins!!! :)

there was also a really lovely message on the back that, while written in a state of semi-drunkenness, was utterly sincere and all about the friend love. 

lili-pants is the best

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

april 25, 2012

now that i'm past the one year anniversary of my accident, a lot of things feel less urgent.

it's not that everything is all better, but i'm okay.

i'm thoroughly okay.

and i'm even starting to accept this new reality of tiring more easily and having to manage varying levels of pain.

i think i'm at the point now where i accept that this saga will never quite be over. i'll need to mend things a little bit at a time; do pre-mending, preventative care and maintenance, and to be gentle with myself when my body isn't working right. i'll need to accept my need for care and adapt. maybe things won't return to the normal i knew before, which, on the physical level, was pretty fucking care-free. but that's okay. things change. things are always changing.

a few weeks back, i mended the jeans i was wearing during my accident last year. since then, one of the patches has come loose, so i'm going to mend it again. this re-mending feels like the work i'm doing with my body: returning again and again to the spots that need care, patiently surveying the damage and trying to figure out how to work with it. a little massage here, a little stretching there, more rest and some advice from a specialist. trying to put things back together...gently, with awareness.

i have a spare pair of jeans that i'm keeping around for my patching needs. so, tonight, i'll cut out a new patch, and...actually, you know what? i'm not even going to redo the whole thing. i'm going to add to the patch that's already there. all i need is a little right angle triangle of fabric to cover the botched part. why not let it all be visible? the layers, the attempts, the re-mends. as a kid of two workaholic perfectionists, this kind of transparency about imperfection comes as a relief. mending, not fixing. i don't need to begin again. just mend what's already there.

there's something about not giving up on these dilapidated jeans that's like not giving up on my body. surviving care of an acceptance of circumstance rather than a fog of denial. i don't want to strive for something that isn't possible. for example, people have been giving me a lot of advice on how to make my scars go away or get my old body back. a lot of movies are made about not giving up on the impossible, but i think that's a setup. most of the time, the only thing you're going to achieve with that kind of shit is heartache.

i accept the patches on these jeans. i accept the scars on this body. i accept my experiences. i am living, and life is never perfect. experience marks us in all kinds of ways some of them permanent. so, here i am: scars and patches and all. on display. and i think i like it better this way.

april 24, 2012

whoa, it's late. i guess i'm not doing so well on my commitment to sleep from midnight to eight! ah least tonight i had a good reason...

thanks to google, i found out that today was the birthday of the guy who perfected the zipper. his name was gideon sundback, and this would have been his 132nd birthday.

sundback didn't invent the zipper, but he significantly improved the initial design and made it more practical and functional. i guess you could say he's responsible for the modern zipper. its precursor, which was called the clasp locker, was invented by whitcomb judson.

after "unzipping" the google doodle earlier today (did you see it? it was so cool!), i decided that today was the best possible day to finally learn how to put in a zipper care of a lovely black and white strapless polka dot sheath dress that i inherited, sans zipper, from a friend in toronto. it took me a while to wrap my head around the process, though. thus, it is late late late.

i inherited the dress a couple months back. i hadn't gotten around to making a trip to the specialty store to pick up a dress zipper but i knew that, come hell or high water, i was going to sew a zipper into this dress. today! by hand! the girl at the sewing store was scandalized by the idea of putting in a zipper by hand, but i assure you, it went fine.

i love the zipper. literally and metaphorically. literally for obvious reasons it's a quick and convenient way to do up (and undo...) clothes and boots. it's also sexy. i mean, it has teeth that hold your clothes together for you! who wouldn't love that? beyond that, it's fun aesthetically. i love the zipper metaphorically because it's like a bridge that's constantly built from both sides. each side offers to go halfway, and that is reciprocated over and over again until the sides meet. each link builds on the last. there's a lot to be learned there.

in mending this dress, i started off with a backstitch, but i decided a regular stitch would be hearty enough so long as i was really consistent with my tension and stitch size.

my process involved using a lot of pins to anchor the zipper to the fabric as i sewed. the slow pace of hand-stitching pretty much necessitated that. i think i did pretty well the stitch could have been closer to the zipper, but this should work just fine.

check it out!

oh, and excuse the excessive amounts of cat hair on the dress. my cats wanted to "help" me with this project...and i generally humour them in all things :)

Monday, 23 April 2012

april 23, 2012

community is never an easy thing to navigate. the experiences of beauty and belonging are interspersed with high drama, judgment and betrayal...but, i think it's still a worthy project to commit your whole self to.

not long ago, i was having a conversation with my sister, who is a teacher, a mother and married to a man. she owns her own house, she's straight, she's got progeny...for all intents and purposes, this is a deeply successful human being.

as i've mentioned before, our relationship has been under strain the last year or so. she makes a lot of assumptions and doesn't speak up about what she wants until the moment has already passed. i find her hard to read and harder still to trust because she's not transparent and she gets angry with others when she doesn't stand up for herself. needless to say, the conversation we were having wasn't going very well. she was using her reasonable straight person voice to tell me all about my life and then was confused about why i was offended.

most of the hurt feelings have faded, but there was this one thing she said that absolutely floored me. she said, "well, it's not like you have any responsibilities." this is her view of my life because (a) i don't have any children and (b) she has never been part of a thriving community.

not only do i run my own business and art career, but i have responsibilities to dozens of people in my life. i have a partnership and a D/s dynamic to nurture, i care for people's cats and dogs, i cook for people who are ill or injured or are new parents, i scour the social media universe for worthy stories to write on and then work really hard to get all the facts and angles right, i do community organizing for a handful of local groups - most of which i founded or co-founded, i teach youth about poetry and politics, i donate money to art and community-based projects, i babysit, i volunteer as a mediator, i step in when i see a potentially violent argument happening out in the street, i offer to be a reference for people looking for work, i support and listen to and run errands for my friends and, when i can, i help an elderly friend with her farm. when i bow out of these responsibilities, it creates strain and difficulty. in some scenarios, that leads to greater isolation or struggle.

this isn't to hold myself up as an example; rather it's to show all the invisible, relentless work that it takes to hold together a community. and it goes both ways. in return, i've received food and lifts and care when i'm injured or ill, i've always been sheltered when i needed it, i get help when i'm moving, i've received oodles of vegetables from the garden beds i've tended, i have shoulders to cry on and offers of help with my projects, i get awesome feedback on my artwork as it develops and i've been loaned money to help me through tough times.

when we agree to rely on each other, it means undertaking commitment. committing to do the work of relationships. some of this is spinning, some of it is weaving and some of it is mending. while my sister sees my life as care-free and unstructured, it's just not the whole picture. there is so much more to the story.

there's this amazing series of "how to" posters by a group called syracuse cultural workers that was released in 1998. one of them is "how to build community". i thought i would post the text of it here tonight in the hopes of inspiring greater weaving and mending! making yourself available means more connections are nurtured and tended. there are some great ideas below!

♥ be the love that makes things better

turn off your tv
leave your house
know your neighbours
look up when you are walking
greet people
sit on your stoop
plant flowers
use your library
play together
buy from local merchants
share what you have
help a lost dog
take children to the park
garden together
support neighborhood schools
fix it even if you didn't break it
have potlucks
honor elders
pick up litter
read stories aloud
dance in the street
talk to the mail carrier
listen to the birds
put up a swing
help carry something heavy
barter for your goods
start a tradition
ask a question
hire young people for odd jobs
organize a block party
bake extra and share
ask for help when you need it
open your shades
sing together
share your skills
take back the night
turn down the music
listen before you react to anger
mediate a conflict
seek to understand
learn from new and uncomfortable angles
know that no one is silent, though many are not heard
work to change this

if you're interested in ordering the poster, you can find it here.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

april 22, 2012

tonight, i had a bit of revelation. nothing humungous, but it spread over me like a can of spilled paint. sort of thick and slow. it had weight to it.

at the time, i was sitting on a folding chair with my eyes closed and chanting a mantra. (hari om, if you're curious about which one.) as i was chanting, i was busy thinking about whether i would write about this on my blog tonight and, if so, what aspect of it. then i realized that i was cheating. i was reaching into my experience, even before i was done *having* it, and raiding it for writing material. i was trying to have A DEEP EXPERIENCE. essentially, i was trying so hard to hear that i couldn't listen.

the sneaky little revelation? it was a sentence that scrolled across my mind in the very next moment: listen so you can hear. a spaciousness opened up in my mind that felt like a physical widening, and i could think really clearly. perspective. a lack of worry. this, right now, and nothing else. this voice, this vibration, the insides of my eyelids. the opportunity to remember that mystery is a good thing. that life is wonder, and that being left wondering isn't actually a bad thing.

i've had this realization before, and i'll probably forget and rediscover it another hundred times before my life is through. that's the irony. but i don't mind. this is the science experiment of human existence, right? you test the same hypotheses, use the same bits of wisdom in multiple relationships, eras and environments. trying, always, to listen so you can hear. so you can be here.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

april 21, 2012

tonight, i'm thinking about and why they wear. the parts of a thing separate and, then, there's this yawning gap where cohesion used to be.

it's an interesting thing that our habits tend to determine where the wear happens. over time, wear leads to rifts. depends on what takes the strain. it's in those places that the seams are worn out, and it's those places that need to be repaired.

Friday, 20 April 2012

april 20, 2012

do yourself a favour and take a listen to this 5 minute piece on mending. it's a radio essay that appeared on an npr show called this, i believe, and it's so beautiful and uplifting.

the author, susan cooke-kittredge (pictured at left), comes to much of the same conclusions about mending that i have - very cool to have this stuff mirrored back.

mending as empowerment! mending as healing! mending as love!

if you'd prefer to read the essay as a text, it's available in written form here.

april 19, 2012

oh, the heart. it's more than just a blood pump.

there's a reason we talk about what's at the heart of things - it's our way of describing that plodding, electric source of life at the centre of everything we are.

sometimes, when we talk about people being heart-centred and earnest, we say that their heart is on their sleeve. well, i don't need my heart on my sleeve; i need my heart in my chest. front and centre and ready to read my life like a compass.

do you all remember the first mending project i did this year? it was on january 1st, and i mended a little felt heart. it was a loose mend, to symbolically hold my heart together while it started to heal. on february 1st, i cut out the original stitches and did a closer, tighter mend - one that i hoped would help to conquer my broken-heartedness. at least a little.

well, it's almost may now...and the sexy sunny warmth of summer is almost here. which means travel and summer flings and that feeling of expansive possibility. can you feel it? it's already in the air, and it's definitely caught my attention. that's why today, i'm going to put the little felt heart that could onto a halter top that i wear a lot during the summer months. above is how it's going to look after i'm done.

for me, one of the things that's at the heart of living fully is being more transparent about emotion and attachment and want and need. sadly, one of the side-effects of the shit-bomb formerly known as my relationship has been a shyness to express how i really feel.

so! with this mend, i'm putting my heart back in its place - right at the centre of my chest - and reminding myself that to be alive is to feel and embrace everything that comes with it.

hooyeah. bring it.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

april 18, 2012

this afternoon, i sat with a friend in the chilly sunshine of a beautiful park and talked about near-deathness while we sipped beverages. her: tea. me: carrot juice.

her scenario was very different than mine. she was in a coma in the hospital after getting an illness she was expected to die from. i was in a bike accident and happened to hit the pavement in a way that inexplicably prevented me from dying. according to doctors, i should have died from a head injury, and my friend should have died from the complications of her illness. technically speaking, neither of us should have survived. it's such a gift that we both did...true mystery at work.

that's sort of a weird purgatory, isn't it? to face death but not be taken by it. it feels, sometimes, like a veil has been lifted, but no one else sees beyond it.

today, in our conversation, my friend mentioned a much-loved but holey pair of socks that were made for her by a friend. she's neither willing to throw them out nor mend them without quite knowing how. they just sit there, in between being worn and being done. i think this is the best metaphor i've come across for the way it feels to cheat death. it really is a kind of waiting room purgatory - like life is a strange dream. do you know that feeling? like when spring comes after a long winter, and you don't quite believe in the greenery all around you; you can't quite believe that it could be real. it's a bit like that.

i remember talking to another friend who almost fell to her death while she was rock-climbing a while back. she walked away with barely a scratch, but she spent the days and weeks following her near miss in a strange haze. she explained it to herself in the exact way i did after my accident, which amazed me: she figured she had slipped into a parallel reality where she wasn't dead, and death would be coming back to get her one day soon.

there's a lot to integrate in an experience like this. for one thing, what to do with your relationship with this body, which is so strong and miraculous and alive and, yet, is the site of such struggle and pain and need for healing? what do you do with the fear of physical pain and how it controls your day-to-day choices? or the fear of experiencing more bodily damage? or self-consciousness about your bodily limitations and scars? do you invite a new lover into your life or not? do you go to that dance party or stay home where everything is known and safe?

after an experience like this, fear competes with the desire for closeness and fun and sex and touch despite a strange, hard to understand lack of trust that has to do with the potential change and dissolution that exists in all of our circumstances, all the time. a brush with death tends to cement a person's understanding of changeability.

recently, a friend who i've always been attracted to approached me about doing some bdsm play and potentially being lovers. we've had really hot conversations about it so far, but it's left me anxious. what do i do with all the fear about pain and injury? and all the uncertainty about uncertainty? how do i mend something as abstract as trust in life? and how will i find a way to fully live my life again? to greet fun, new things with enthusiasm rather than feelings of doom?

life is a tenacious, delicate thing.
and, lately, that's exactly how i've been feeling.

i will find a way back to a technicolour life...i know that without a doubt. right now, though, i'm in the dark about how.

i have a feeling that this book (see picture above) is going to be a big help in the whole process. it comes highly recommended.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

april 17, 2012

tonight, i had a friend over for dinner for the very first edition of full bellies, full hearts. that's what i've decided to call these evenings when i have someone over to eat good food and spill our hearts to each other. i like the idea of making healthful food while sharing good company and opening up about what's really going on under the polite social veneer.

i left it up to the people i know (mostly readers of this blog and facebook friends) to let me know if they were interested in taking part in this kind of thing. so far, four people have responded saying they're interested in getting together to have some tasty food and talking about life. i guess i added the talking part. initially, it was supposed to just be about the food. but isn't this what happens over food? the stories come out, and friendships are formed or strengthened.

it was pretty awesome to have a long, gutsy conversation with someone i don't get to see all that often. we cooked and talked and laughed and caught up and shed some tears. it's been a pretty rough year for both of us, and we had a lot of stories to swap. amazingly mendful confessions tonight. lots of hugs and support and saying things straight-up, as they are. we didn't mince words tonight, and it was awesome. i think i'm going to like this series :)

as i was planning out what to make, i thought back fondly to the delicious cooking of a friend i haven't been all that close with in the last couple of years. she's an inspired, interesting chef and is passionate about cooking for people. more than anyone i know, in fact. she used to joke that food is her main way of sublimating love. i decided to use a recipe of hers tonight as a way of saying hello and bringing her into the room. she seemed like the best possible candidate to help get this thing rolling.

the food was DELICIOUS. it was a veggie bake with quinoa, kale, kalamata olives, roasted cauliflower, yellow and red peppers, button mushrooms, tofu and lots of lemon juice, sea salt and whole cumin seeds based on a recipe from my friend's cooking blog, kitchen dancing. attached to the recipe is a sweet post about gratitude if you're interested in reading it.

the next full bellies, full hearts should be within a couple weeks! keep your eye out and submit recipes here if you've got something delicious and healthful that you think i should make for a friend! thanks in advance, lovelies!

april 16, 2012

i've been thinking lately about the difference between tearing vs. breaking and how that relates to the potential for mending a thing.

for example, a hard, rigid thing is more likely to snap or shatter and need some kind of intense bond (crazy glue, etc.) to bring the parts back together if it's even possible. there's a kind of finality to breaking. often, there are several separate parts that need to be worked into wholeness again. it's more complicated: the edges are sharp and distinct and need to be puzzled together in a very particular way. the rigidity of form leads to limited options when it comes to putting something back together.

tears, in general, seem much more mendable. something softer and more flexible (like fabric) is likely to take the damage in a reparable way. there are more options as to how to bring the edges back together: patching, stitching, gluing, darning. there may be some delicate, compromised areas around the place where the tear happened, but there are ways to do a good, solid mend nonetheless. and, even if mending isn't possible, there's a chance it's still a functional thing, a pair of pants or a shirt or tights or whatever.

anyway, i'm thinking that all of this probably applies to relationships, as well. what doesn't bend, it breaks. and what breaks is harder to repair.

Monday, 16 April 2012

april 15, 2012

this fabulous thing is a femme-me-down (aka: a hand-me-down from another femme).

i love this fishnetty thing of wonder, but the bottom seam of the inner turquoisey skirt has gotten a little rough around the edges...

i don't have a serger, so i'm going to have to improvise a serging stitch by hand. we'll see how it goes!

not bad:

now i've got another outfit option for the fabulous warm weather. mmm...halter tops and pencil skirts! :)

Sunday, 15 April 2012

april 14, 2012

it's been a day full of thinking. this afternoon, i attended a conference called no more apologies, ottawa. it was a spinoff from the original conference that took place in toronto in january, which was all about queer women, both cis and trans, coming together to talk about romance and sex and dating and the social exclusion that trans women so often face in queer women's communities. i was discouraged, at first, to see that so many of the usual suspects (who tend to end up at everything queer) didn't bother to show up. but that didn't last long because it was an awesome day.

it took us a while to warm up and talk to each other on an authentic level rather than using jargon and making blanket statements and avoiding risk...but we got there. at least a little. i would say it was a good first conversation to have on the topic (locally, en masse). we spent the first part of the day together, talking about things like safer sex and language about body parts and consent and negotiation of consent. then, we broke up into two caucuses - cis and trans - to explore the topic of social exclusion. we were in a gym-like room, and we created a wall to separate the two halves of the room and give each group privacy to talk openly.

i was obviously only in one of the caucuses, but i was impressed that, within an hour, we were expressing some really intimate things to each other about our hopes and fears and experiences related to the topic of the conference. (sorry to keep things so general - we agreed to respect the confidentiality of the women there.)

after our separate caucuses were done meeting, we worked together to take down the wall between our two groups. that was kind of an amazing moment, symbolically. cis and trans women working together to literally deconstruct and put away a wall that had been separating us. i don't want to be melodramatic about it, but it felt pretty powerful.

of course, there were other symbolic moments that showed me there's still work to do. like when the cis women's caucus needed a little longer to talk about emotional stuff, and we asked the trans women's caucus (who were already done and ready) to wait an extra five minutes until we were finished talking about some pretty emotionally charged issues. speaking of symbolism! "please wait until we're ready to join you. we need to work through some stuff first." gah. i wish i had realized the weirdness of that in the moment. but, all in all, i think it was a good first step in mending some hurts and assumptions, as well as bridging some of the distance and fear that's been plaguing us on both sides.

thanks to everyone who helped to organize this conference, especially jade and allison and the keynote speaker, morgan page. thanks also to everyone who brought forward her / their experiences and gentleness and wisdom. there was a sincere desire to understand and move forward today - even if we didn't know where to start or what to say or do. moving into the unknown with no clear answers is one the hardest things to do in life. today, it was done with a lot of grace and honesty. may we continue to find the way!

Friday, 13 April 2012

april 13, 2012

tonight is another edition of mending for others. my dearest lili-pants is heading off for a vacation, and i wanted to send her off in a good way by mending a pair of her cutest underpants, which were missing a button.

lili is all about the mismatch, so i attached a big black button in place of the missing white one and stitched it on in a parallel pattern rather than in a "x". while i was at it, i also reinforced all the other buttons with a little more red thread.

yay! now they're ready to be packed!
(perhaps in more way than one! *laugh*)

Thursday, 12 April 2012

april 12, 2012

today is another vocabulary mending day!

this makes vocabulary post #3.

update on my previous two posts: i've had a lot of success with removing the self-diminishing uses of just from my vocabulary - they've pretty much been phased out. yay! *happy dance* i'm having limited success with getting rid of the you knows at the end of my sentences, though. it still happens constantly. the work on that one continues.

here's a blurb about what these posts are all about, in case you're a new reader...

recently, i've been sifting through my vocabulary. similar to a pair of jeans that develops holes from consistent wear, there are words that wear on us, culturally speaking, and they need to either be mended or thrown out. today, i'm mending my relationship to the word like, and i invite you to join me!

today's vocabulary post is about cutting out two specific uses of the word like that have been annoying me lately and making me feel immature, linguistically speaking. i think this is one of the small details of my language usage that affect how seriously people are willing to take me.

icky usage #1:
when i'm recounting previous conversations: "i was like, 'it would be better to give a clear yes or no.' and she was like, 'yeah, i agree.'" i'd like to simply use the word said instead.

icky usage #2:
when i insert like into a sentence during a moment when i'm thinking of what i want to say next. "it' much to take on for that day." in this case, i think a silent pause while thinking would be a better choice.

as of now, i'm pledging to only use like in accordance with its two other (very functional and appropriate!) definitions:

1. comparison. (i.e.: her writing is sort of like trish salah's.)
2. similes. (i.e.: it's like a bright spring day to hear you say that!)

anyone out there want to join in on the challenge?

april 11, 2012

today was the international day of pink - the day to stop bullying, discrimination, homophobia and transphobia. i went to the day of pink gala in ottawa tonight, which was put on by jer's vision - an organization that does anti-bullying education and advocacy work in schools, community groups and government. their work takes place mostly in canada, centred around the mistreatment of queer and trans kids. the gala was pretty inspiring.

i was struck by the sheer amount of fabulous pink around me today, the power of being able to identify each other as allies as we walked around because of wearing said pink, and the strength that i saw in so many of the teens at the gala tonight. one of them wore a t-shirt that said, "bullying? child, please!" some of them gave speeches about their experiences, including a close friend of jamie hubley, who was a 15-year-old gay boy from ottawa who committed suicide last fall.

listening to them, i was near tears a number of times - sometimes because of inspiration and delight in hearing their thoughts or hearing about their projects, and sometimes because of a sadness that they should have to access so much strength and courage to get through the crap that they're living in their high schools - those small enclaves that feel like the whole world while you're in them.

rick mercer was there, accepting a role model of the year award, and he talked about how most of us don't think about high school after we leave it. about how, if we were queer or in any way "different", we are likely to want to never think about the experience - or the school system - ever again. but this is the main way that we're failing the kids that are coming through the schools now. if we leave them hanging like other adults before us left us hanging, all this crap is never going to stop. we need to go back to high the sense that we can't just forget about these kids and their isolation. we need to take responsibility for what's happening to them and support the process of change.

some of you may remember a time when there used to be block parents - a safe home that you could go to if you needed help. i don't really see those signs up in people's windows anymore, and i think that's partly because of a shift in culture: less trust, more isolation. as older queers and genderqueers and trans people, we need to be those block parents. we need to be safe places for kids who don't have a community yet - or even believe they might find one someday. they need to be able to see us out there, living our out queer lives - a multitude of adults who have made it past high school. the "it gets better" campaign is too neat and tidy and hands off. we need to show kids that we exist - flag ourselves to them as their people; as people that might understand what they're going through. we need to flag that we're safe places and in this together, like we did by wearing pink today. we need to start doing more to create visibility about who we are. and the only way we can do that is if we're present out there, volunteering or teaching or leading activities for youth.

i can't stand the idea of even one more suicide of a queer or trans kid who feels totally alone and like life isn't worth living because of who they are and how this world is for them. so much sucks, and so much needs to change. that change is so slow and, sometimes, we need understanding company on the way there. we need to be that company.

there are so many kids out there who need help mending their ideas of themselves because of the garbage they've been fed about who they are and what that means about their worth. to do that, we need to be able to make contact with them - or help others to make contact with them - to let them know that real humans care about the fact that they feel so alone. then we need to be there for them. we also need to talk about cruelty and hate and phobia so that the effects of bullying are more clear to kids who aren't gay or trans or poor or people of colour or disabled or or or... we can either do that by volunteering for community projects - like jer's vision or support our youth or some other similar initiative - or we can give our money to organizations like these so they have the resources to reach more kids.

i just committed to a monthly donation. what are you going to do?

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

april 10, 2012

i rediscovered this amazing song tonight that used to be a lay-back-and-listen-on-repeat kinda song for me. it's called simple by the bourbon tabernacle choir. amazing lyrics. amazing music. i'm going to post the lyrics, and then put the link at the bottom of my post. i hope you enjoy - and if you ever want to get together to listen to some of the best 10 minutes of music that you'll ever hear, come on over for a listening party. i'll gladly oblige. what a ride this song is! definitely fills you up and puts you back together in all the right ways

by the Bourbon Tabernacle Choir

Let's keep this simple
Let's not compete
An ending's beginning
A body's retreat
There's no perfect silence
And no selfish sound
This pain we can share it
There's enough to go around

So let's keep this simple
And space won't defeat us
No pity, no pedestals
No distance to cheat us
We're right at the edge now
And ready to fall
From instinct and reason
To nothing at all

And here's where the experts must suffer
So much wiser to stay dumb
And pay attention to our heart beats
Here they come, Here they come
Here come the bullets
And here come the nails
The shots that we fire
Attachments we wail

So let's break this right down
I know the changes sound wrong
It's time to dispose all arrangements
And time to get down to song

And our hearts are made stronger
But tell me when this trial ends
Is this some sort of rehearsal?
I think I'm missing the point

Now fill our heads up with details
When all methods disappoint
Oh there really ain't no purpose
There really ain't no point

So let's keep this simple
And space won't defeat us
Rest your beautiful face now
There's no death between us

here's a recording of the song from the album shyfolk. such a yes! and a good reminder of so many things.

Monday, 9 April 2012

april 9, 2012

i've been thinking LOTS about concepts of success. what it looks like, what it feels like, whether it's possible to accept a success has occurred in the absence of positive feedback, what other people think vs. what you think, what the markers of true success are vs. flailing around trying to do what you should, etc...

pretty much all of the markers of success i can think of - confidence, integrity, insight, self-education, beauty of mind, honesty, taking action, vision, intelligence, humour, groundedness, compassion and passion for what you're doing - are present in the open letter from ashley judd that i read online today.

i didn't even know how much i loved ashley judd until today!

i found her letter by chance, by way of a friend's facebook post. i'm going to share it here as an example of what i think success looks like. she is so strong and insightful and smart. read her words and remember your unchangeable worth. i love how she makes it a practice to protect her mind and heart and quality of life from the cruel wolves. i think she's onto something here.

april 8, 2012

oooh, passion. i guess it's the sexy, life-filled buzzing of spring that's bringing all of this stuff to the fore, but i feel like i'm engaging with my passions for the first time in a long time. including my passion for food. like whoa.

i was so spoiled tonight. i got the chance to review one of my favourite restaurants, zenkitchen, for a local publication. the smattering of dishes she served us really inspired me and stirred up my love of cooking. the way she combines flavours, and the unexpected spice blends. so beautiful!

the appetizers were the best, hands down...polenta fries with a chipotle-tequila sauce, nut-encrusted mushroom tempura, homemade pickles, a skewer of grilled tofu marinated in apple butter and miso - let me tell you, i'm going to be trying that miso-apple combination at home. on pretty much everything. and the sope! it was topped with a vegan lime-flavoured creme fraiche that blew my mind.

the other thing is, the food is so healthy! whole foods, lots of vegetables, no gmos, no preservatives, homemade everything. i was raised by slow foodists, so it really feels like going back to my roots.

in the spirit of sharing this inspiration, i'd like to offer to make a really healthy, tasty, fancy meal for someone who is feeling not so excited about food or cooking or eating these days. i will work around any allergies or limitations - no problem at all. it can be in toronto, montreal or ottawa. are there any takers?

april 7, 2012

last night, i watched the tree of life by terrence malick. i spent a good part of the movie rolling my eyes at all the exploding plasma and volcanoes and steaming geysers and images of the cosmos, which were (indulgently) paired with the voices of various characters whispering their questions to god in desperate tones. it was a bit much. i remember turning to n at one point and saying, "wake me up when the humans come back." all the abstract imagery was over-the-top, but i found the family's story really compelling - if heartbreaking and a bit hard to follow.

the dad, played by brad pitt, is a talented, passionate musician who decided not to follow his dreams so he could better provide for his family. he spends most of his time disciplining his boys and yelling at his wife - totally miserable and full of grief and regret. at one point, his sensitive and artistically-inclined son dies - i think he took his own life? and it breaks the father character open in some ways. he questions his choices and, though he doesn't come to many transformative conclusions, he is shaken irreversibly by his son's death.

brad pitt's character reminded me a lot of my dad, who was a radio dj before he decided to be practical and get into computers. it's not that he dislikes programming; he's interested enough by it. it's more that he LOVED dj-ing. he loves music, and loves talking about it. it's a passion, just like his motorcycle. but, before my sister was born, he also gave that up. my mom demanded it - she said she didn't want to be a single mom because of something totally preventable. turns out, she was a single mom anyway - before either of her daughters reached the double digits.

i'm not sure where we get this sticky notion that it's a better service to your kids to only do things that are widely considered stable and responsible rather than doing things that make you happy. because, i'll tell you something: we were totally broke despite his sacrifice. the change in career didn't wipe out our poverty. also, after the marriage didn't work out, what was he left with? a career he's lukewarm about and two kids with whom he has no relationship because he resented parenthood. the initial gestures were in service to us. it's just that it wasn't the right kind of gesture to make; it didn't have any integrity. not in the sense of him continuing to be a whole person while being a parent.

at the end of each workday, i remember him needing a lot of space. i remember feeling like it would be a bother to him if i were to approach. i don't mean this in a self-pitying way...more that my analysis of the situation led me to that conclusion - and i think i was right on the money. i remember a level of tension, exhaustion, irritability and alienation in him most of the time - one that could not be explained by the demands of the day's work or our home life. i think he was carrying around a shit-ton of grief at what his life had become.

late in my teens, he once confessed to me that he felt like a gerbil running around on a wheel. at that point, he was in his second (and current) marriage, and he was having trouble sleeping. he said it was because he felt like the money he made would never be enough for her. he worried that he would never be enough to fulfill her dreams for their life. see how that's the same trap? doing the sacrificial thing without thinking about whether you're making the kinds of sacrifices that will allow you to remain connected to your individuality and personhood in the long-term. after all, being responsible includes responsibility to self - it's what makes long-term commitments possible. period. what's the point of a commitment if there's no person at the core of it?

i'm telling you about what my dad said to me that day because there were these sober moments of confession in the movie that reminded me of moments like that...moments when my dad caught up with himself and reflected on his life. they gave me hope about his ability to change. in the end, he wasn't able to gather the courage to take his dreams seriously and act on them. he wasn't able to become a happier person and change some of his worst habits and traits - which i maintain are primarily rooted in his unhappiness. instead, he indulged his chameleon nature and did what he needed to fit into the life he was living. he gave up atheism and became a catholic, gave up baseball and became a curler and - most bizarrely - started wearing a lot of turtlenecks. i don't think there's much left of him, really. if i knocked, would he even be there to answer?

mostly when i speak of my dad, i speak of his shortcomings - if he comes up at all. but this movie made me think about how much he gave up, and how much he shouldn't have given up. watching brad pitt's character struggle with shame and disappointment and feelings of inadequacy and disconnection gave me somewhat of a new perspective on my dad. it's good. lots to think about.

on the flip side, all of this is making me think about how many enjoyable things i've given up in recent years because the money or the time it requires is "impractical": learning to knit, making homemade massage oils and body scrubs, making my own toothpaste, taking singing lessons, farming with eleanor, playing music, camping, doing ritual, taking yoga and dance classes. the list is long.

i'm going to take this movie as a cautionary tale for the wrong kinds of sacrifice - the misguided kinds. i've already started inviting ritual and music back into my life, and i'm deciding, here and now, that the others will have to follow. in the spirit of side-stepping my father's biggest mistakes, i vow not to leave passion and fun behind.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

april 6, 2012

this weekend, n.h. and i are housesitting for a friend. we met up in ottawa and, as i was packing to head over here, he asked if he could bring my guitar. i said sure. he asked where it was. i said, "in the basement." he gave me a curious look i couldn't quite read and went to grab it from downstairs. i just put it down there yesterday, in fact, because it was hanging around, not being used - basically gathering dust.

it's a beautiful guitar - a norman that was made in quebec. it has such a sweet, full sound...i'm not sure why i don't play it anymore. sadly, n is the only one who even takes it out of its case.

music has always been important to me but, in the last couple of years, it's been a waning presence in my life. i've been singing less, writing less music and it's rare that i listen to music or the radio. i don't even know where my ipod is these days. it's been missing for a while, but i haven't bothered to look for it. it's in a box somewhere, probably?

anyway, tonight, in an idle moment after n had gone to bed, i looked at the guitar case to see if it needed to be repaired. like an apt metaphor for how much i've been neglecting my music, the case was in absolutely terrible shape. as you can see from the pics below, there were all these loose threads and worn parts and frayed bits...

...and a gap in one of the seams where the edging had pulled away from the original stitching:

i started by trimming all the threads and frayed bits with a pair of scissors...

...and then i took this handy barbecue lighter to the nubs that were left, to prevent more fraying.

once that was done, i stitched up the gap in the seam and called it a night.

here's hoping this gesture opens a door - i think music has been at arm's length for long enough.