Wednesday, October 31, 2007

monsters on the inside

For my entire life, I have loved dressing up – when I was a kid I would start planning my Halloween costume for the next year somewhere around November 10, the candy not yet eaten from the previous event. This year, despite Halloween falling on a Wednesday (a prime positioning for 2 weekends of activities), I don’t have a single costume event lined up – nor have I looked that hard. There are various people in various levels of fancy-dress walking around work today, but I didn’t give any serious thought to joining the ranks when I stood in my closet in my bathrobe this morning.

I had been clinically observing my own detachment from the festivities, thinking “heh, that’s strange . . .” until I came across an article in today’s Globe about sexy Halloween costumes. I, for the record, have never dressed up as a naughty nurse or a French maid for Halloween. However, there always was that pressure to look somewhat sexy or cute (while not wanting to be over sexualized).

At this moment in time, I am not feeling awesome about my body – the body monsters that tell me my butt is too big have been buzzing in my brain, so that every day dressing in normal clothing can be enough of a challenge for the psyche . . . who would want to add the pressure of a costume for an occasion in which most women (while eating candy and other such junky treats) show off their ass(ets)? So this Halloween, I’ll go and listen to scary stories with my sweetie, while the monsters are on the inside, and there’s no need to dress up to bring them out.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Today, when I should have been doing other things, I was thinking about an idea for an Ecclesiax project. The other week, our Sunday service focused on annual work trips that members of our community take to a Cree community in northern Quebec. As we were talking about the poverty that affects many first nations people, one of the girls who had been up north suggested that maybe we could dovetail with our sustainable gift workshops and make toys for Cree children for Christmas. I was kinda thinking about that, and then today Sen Smith sent an e-mail around to the board on the subject of the Good Samaritan (inspired by my favourite Christian book – Unexpected News by Robert McAfee Brown) – he had found a sermon that talked about how being a neighbour was an active pursuit – and that the Samaritan is a neighbour because he puts caring into action. So, this swung me back to the thoughts of doing something – and a toy bee.

All of the above is background to explain how I stumbled upon "One Red Robin" . This crafter’s blog (which has a doll pattern that I think would be easy to amend into a teddy bear if the toy-making actually happens) is stunning. This woman, who is a mother of 2 and works fulltime, makes amazing things which she has photographed beautifully on her site.

I am totally inspired, and just want to go home and sew and knit and collage and quilt! I have been trying to figure out what this fall’s baby quilt #3 will look like (and I’m not even done #2 yet!), and this is giving me some ideas . . . we’ll see what it turns into. This inspiration also has me thinking of how awesome it is that women (and some men too!) continue to work in textiles, making beautiful things, just like women have for generations. Another pipe dream of mine is an exhibit of “women’s work” in the Ecclesiax gallery – all modern textile art. . . .

Monday, October 29, 2007

Parents and other Saints

As many of you will know, we are not too sure about this parenting thing – we don’t know if having children (or adopting children, or any other form of building a family that involves children) is going to be in our future. Many of our friends, on the other hand, have taken the parental plunge in the past few years, and are bravely raising amazing young individuals from baby to toddler and beyond.

I’ve been thinking of parenthood, because I think that raising children is one of the bravest and scariest things you can do. I guess this week’s entry is an ode to the young parents in my life – you are all amazing and I am so proud of you.

I talked to Beek yesterday. Her 2nd child (just born last June) is going to have surgery on his skull this Wednesday. Naturally, she’s terrified. But in the meantime, she’s continuing to be a wonderful mother to her older boy – to try to think about his needs in the back and forth to the hospital and the general disruption of their lives. She is so philosophical – she has tried to be very intentional in her parenting, and to incorporate her ideals about how she should interact with the planet and people into raising her children, but is managing to give herself the grace to make the compromises necessary to get through the day during this crisis.

Meanwhile, Sen Smith and wife have just had kid #3 – their first girl. The Senator, who is definitely a guys guy, is nervous about having a daughter – he feels like he could relate to his boys, but isn’t sure how he’s going to relate to a girl, and is worried about a whole world of new problems. But I know he’ll be a great dad to his daughter, because he’s a great dad to his boys, and he’s going to love this little girl just as much. I am sure that when #1 was born, he was nervous about being a father at all . . . and he’s done great.

I used to go to weddings and think of how brave those people were – making the decision that they were going to spend the rest of their lives with one partner, and publicly committing to form a new family. Well, many of those people are growing those families, and I guess what is on my mind this week is that I am still so proud of them and all they’ve accomplished.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Mini-Skirts Need Not Pray

I've read "Infidel" and, as anticipated, it was a bit more thought-provoking than your average Tom Clancy. There were a pile of themes, and I might unpack more of them in subseqent blogs (we'll see where the conversation goes when we have our book club). Not knowing much about Islam, I found that I read the book through my Christian experience - drawing parallels between Christian and Muslim fundamentalism.

One of the things that caught my attention is the focus in the devout end of both religions with controlling sexuality. Ali, the author of Infidel, grew up honestly believing that the trains would all crash and the country would descend into chaos if women showed their necks (until she left Somalia for the Netherlands, and realized that the transit system was quite effective, tube-tops notwithstanding . . . .). Earlier this week, I was reading the homesite of "Ladies against Feminism," a right-wing Christian organization, and there was an online forum on the question of whether it was sinful for a woman to marry if she didn't want children (the general consensus being that it was).

Another common thread is the belief that women are responsible for the sexual purity of the community - that men cannot control their sexuality, and women are responsible to not tempt them. I have always found that to be an interesting argument, considering that it is generally advanced by people who also believe that women are the weaker sex in every other area of life, and must be protected by men.

I am not a hedonist - I believe that there is sexual morality and immorality. However, this is only one aspect of morality, and I think that it is a shame that it has become such a focus of two of the world's largest religions. It does not seem that monitoring sexuality has generally helped people to be kinder, more loving, individuals.

I don't know why sexuality has become such a huge focus of religion - on the one hand, I could argue that religions, as hierarchical power structures, can only allow a certain number of people at the top, and by conveniently dismissing half of the population as defiled, the number of people vying for power is severely reduced. This answer, though, only gives a reason for why women are subjugated - it doesn't answer the general issue of rejection of sex, which is ultimately unhealthy for both men and women. Maybe it's because sex is about bodily pleasure, and in religion, ecstasy is supposed to be spiritual? I don't know . . . but these threads run deep, and they're troubling.

Friday, October 12, 2007

In Praise of Frivolous Books

After much back-and-forthing, I finally ordered "Infidel" from Chapters. It’s our next book club book, and I am looking forward to it. It’s the story of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who is a refugee from Somalia who became a member of Parliament in the Netherlands. She is, from what I’ve heard of the book, and read about her in other places, pretty harsh towards Islam and its treatment of women. I am looking forward to reading this book and engaging with her controversial take on multiculturalism.

But in the meantime, I have about 100 pages left to get through “Clear and Present Danger”. Generally, I go for John le CarrĂ© or Robert Ludlum for my spy lit, but I picked this up at a book sale at some point, and figured I might as well read it. Tom Clancy is not exactly high literature (I’m not picky, but I prefer books where the language either a) enhances the story or b) doesn’t get in the way of the story – Clancy, like Dan Brown, tends to stray into category c)).

Despite the language, though, this book has been interesting. Written in 1989, it’s about the “war against drugs,” the idea being that the President of the United States decided that cocaine being shipped into the United States is a “clear and present danger” to the people of his country, and therefore wages a covert war against a Colombian drug cartel. And so, it’s all about the issue of waging a “war on drugs,” and the soldiers and intelligence agents who go through the moral quandary of what they are doing – how to define an enemy, when the ends justify the means, etc etc.. I never understood the basis for the “war on drugs” rhetoric, and while I still think that it’s dangerous to go around waging “wars” on amorphous enemies, I at least now understand how it could possibly be characterized as a war.

Generally, I find spy books fascinating because they always reflect the paranoia of the age in which they are written. If you read through le CarrĂ©’s career, for example, you’ll start with the cold war, and move through state-sponsored terrorism, drugs, and finally multi-nationals as the bad guy of choice. These books, as much as a memoir like Infidel, can reveal things about the world we live in. Another recent thriller I read was “the Odessa File” by Frederick Forsyth. Under the cat-and-mouse Nazi-hunting plot was a fascinating theme of the German population’s inability to deal with the collective guilt of the Holocaust. Even the only Danielle Steele book I’ve ever read gave me a solid introduction to tsarist Russia.

So, I am looking forward to sinking my teeth into the weighty issues in Infidel, but I don’t think that it’s been a waste of my time to read Clear and Present Danger – if we read with our brains turned on, even escapist literature can challenge and teach.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Thank God I'm a Country Girl

Today someone at work said he was surprised I was from a small town, because I seem like I would be from a big city. Funny, because just yesterday I was ordering merchandise from the Ontario Cattlemen's Association and telling another friend all about the glory of Big Bruce .

On Sunday, we will be doing our annual Thanksgiving dinner. I am excited about it, and I am glad to not be driving 8 hours this weekend, but I do miss Walkerton at this time of year. Thankgiving was always the time for walking out at the lake, taking fun pictures among the hay bales. Every year at church, Rev. O. gave the same sermon about "thanksliving", and there were usually corn stalks on the altar brought in by one of the farmers in the congregation.

I really don't think I will ever live in Walkerton, or any small town, again, but it is still home. Even if I don't seem like I am from the country to the casual observer, I know that my rural upbringing has affected the way I see the world. Back before Walkerton was infamous, it was the place that I couldn't wait to leave, but it was also the place I lived for 19 years. There are opportunities that I didn't have when I was growing up, but overall I think that having lived in a small town, and then moving to a city, has enriched my life. Not many people do it in the opposite direction, so it's given me a diversity of experiences that city folk (strangely, in more multi-cultural settings) don't experience.

So, it's Thanksliving this weekend, and I will spend it in the city (we still don't have a car, so can't even escape to the Gatineaus tomorrow) before flying off to Washington on Monday night - but if you're wondering what I'm thankful for - I thank God I'm a country girl.