25 April, 2007

"She Likes...Horses...and Tomatoes"

Very recently, Catherine, Erin, and BubandPie all wrote posts about body image. I'm not to quick on the draw here, but I thought I would 'weigh in' with my two cents. That's right, two cents from the pudgy girl.

I started writing this post in my head over the weekend and even put a few thoughts on paper, but at the risk of it being the longest post ever in blogging history, I think I'll just go with whatever is in my head right now.

I've never been a 'little' person. I think at birth I was average, but nevermore after that. I'm not fat, certainly not obese, but I'm not skinny either. In my small elementary/junior high school, I was always the biggest girl in the class. That had it's advantages at certain times: believe it or not, I never had the 'picked last for sports teams' problem - I was undeniably suited for defense, be it hockey, soccer, or football (and I loved it - it was my 'in' with the Boys). And although kids at those ages can be unbelievably cruel, they mostly won't mess with you when they know you can kick the crap out of them.

When I got to high school, I was already interested in boys, but whether because of my actual looks or just the way I perceived my looks, I was never hotly pursued by any boy. Okay, maybe one, but I wouldn't use the word 'hotly'; I would say more 'warmly' and then just when I was starting to think he really liked me (and at the same time realizing that I didn't really like him at all), he dropped a mutual friend off at home after my birthday party and they kissed. And that was the end of that. (Not of my friendship with the girl....you can check out her blog at......okay, okay, she's very likely cringing because I told her I would never let her forget that and I still haven't, so I won't put up a link - I'm nice like that).

My weight and how I thought of myself didn't change all that much in high school. I grew a little taller and dressed a little better, but I still always felt like the Fat Girl in the group. Don't get me wrong, I had plenty of friends, I was involved in choir and student council and I even played JV basketball for one season, but I was never truly comfortable in my own skin no matter much I excelled at any of those things (though I'll exclude basketball from the 'excelled at' category because it quickly became apparent that I was not cut out for a high school career in sports; choir was my niche).

The summer after high school I met my first 'real' boyfriend. Looking back now, I'm not entirely sure what I was thinking - he was rather geeky! But he was 'handsome' (at the time), he was musically gifted, and he was five years older than me which made him a good catch in my barely-out-of-high-school world. Whether he was actually legally blind or truly didn't care what I looked like, I'll never know, but I can't recall him ever once commenting on my looks. After almost six months, we broke up because he was all those aforementioned things, and he was spineless and whiny so I'd had enough.

Throughout my college career I fared much better. I had oodles of guy (and girl) friends and whether or not they thought I was pretty didn't much matter to me. I just enjoyed their company. I've never officially 'dieted' so I wasn't losing any weight, but I felt better about myself simply because I knew that they liked me because I was fun and cool and had a wicked-awesome-sarcastic sense of humour, of course.

Then my fourth and final year came along. There had been times in the previous three or four years that I hadn't felt well, but it hit with a vengeance early that school year. I was sick. I would eat a piece of toast for breakfast and be 'full' for the entire day. Lunch might occasionally be a tomato or a tortilla with just plain tuna inside. I finally stumbled upon my 'Dinner of Champions' when I mixed a plate of cooked potatoes with a hard-boiled egg and added a little s&p. It was flavourless, but I didn't feel horrible after I ate it, and I could keep it in me for a reasonable amount of time. I lost 35+ pounds between November and March.

It was at the beginning of this fourth year that I met the man who I now call Husband. He met me before I started losing any weight and we were 'dating' before I started losing any weight. I still remember when I told him I was sick and that I was being tested for all these diseases and nobody could figure out what was wrong with me. I felt horrible. I cried. He told me he loved me. He was still telling me he loved me more than a year later while he sat in the Pre-Op. room with me waiting for the nurse to wheel me away to surgery. The point is, he loved me when I was a size 16 and he was still loving me when I was a size 10. It has never mattered to him what size I am. He tells me (maybe not quite often enough to satisfy my girly tendencies) that I'm beautiful even when I complain that I'm ugly and I'm having a 'fat' day and everythingandeveryoneintheworldisuseless.

The surgery only fixed part of the problem. The 'mystery' was solved and I was only officially diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome about a year ago. I've gained back some of that 35+lbs, so I'm now relatively comfortable at a size 12 - at least on the bottom. I got me the family hips, so I get to be a pear-shaped woman! Ooohhh....And until this whole pregnancy thing happened, I could happily buy a small tshirt.

This pregnancy though, has been liberating for me. I started off by losing an entire pants size and I still don't quite 'fill' my maternity pants (we laugh when I do my 'Elvis' dance trying to keep them pulled up). It's the first time in my life when medical professionals have ever looked me square in the face and said, "EAT!" Even going so far as to 'prescribe' two of those canned supplemental beverages per day, emphasizing that they did NOT mean SlimFast. (Just FYI: I've not followed that advice. Those drinks taste awful and do we look like we own a money tree? I think not!)

For once in my life I'm allowed to have a belly that sticks out over the top of my pants. I'm supposed to be round in front and gain weight in my arms and my thighs and my butt, and though I've not gained nearly as much weight as I'm 'supposed' to, I FEEL GOOD. I love how I look. Very rarely do I look in the mirror and gasp at my roundness. Instead, I look and I'm pleased with what I see. Because I'm pregnant and damn it, I'm hot! I wish all my friends could see me now! (This is probably that part of the post where I should be including a picture of my pregnant self so you can all congratulate me on my hotness in the comments section, but alas, the house photographer is at work. Too bad.)

Having said all that (and it feels good to have said it), I do wonder how I'll feel about myself after the Mystery Baby has moved out of the womb and into the nursery. I'm sure I'll have my share of crappy self-image days just like all new moms. Either way, I know Husband will still love me and will still call me beautiful.

This leads to an interesting observation though and I'm sure you've noticed it in having read all of this: why does our self-image so thoroughly revolve around what other people think of us? Why is it so different for a girl to have her beauty validated by some random boy when her parents were likely validating it all her life? We all know the opinions of strangers and even friends and family shouldn't matter as much as our own. Many of us know that our value and self-worth isn't about how we look at all, but rather about our identity as its found in Christ. Yet, we're still caught in that validation trap. (I'm wondering out loud here; I really don't have much to offer by way of explanation).

Interestingly enough, with all these body image blog posts still whirling in my head, this past Saturday, Husband and I attended our first ever pageant. Oi. Vey. This was a pageant in a town of maybe 500 people to choose their Little Miss, Pre-Teen Miss, Junior Miss, Teen Miss, and Miss representatives for the 2007 pageant (read: parade) season. We went because the daughter of one of Husband's coworkers was competing for the Junior Miss title. She displayed her dance talent well (albeit in a very disconcerting costume), she is beautiful, and she won. All of the girls did well. We found ourselves (to our horror) rather sucked-in by the end. We had our favourites and knew who we hoped to see win in each category (two categories only had one contestant so that made it easy). With the exception of the coworker's daughter, we sure wouldn't have won any bets because even in the Little Miss category, the cute little brunette who likes horses and tomatoes lost to the tall, skinny, blond and annoying girl who "would describe herself as tall, skinny and pretty," and who, they forgot to add, 'has an ego the size of Delaware.'

What drove me crazy wasn't the pageant itself, but rather the idea that simply by doing a little dance, answering one question about 'Life in (Small Town)' or your favourite subject in school, followed by the casual-wear competition and the evening gown competition can net you a year of flowers, parade appearances, and other assorted privileges. It's just silly. And has it not just reinforced that the slim girls with the nicest clothes win?

Before my wee rant here is finished, let me share with you three of my biggest weight-related pet peeves.

1) I hate when people assume that because I'm 10, 15, or even 20 pounds over my 'ideal' weight, I must hate myself. I must absolutely dread looking in the mirror every morning and I must've already come up with at least a dozen different plans to end my weighty agony by suicide. Does it ever occur to you that I might be well aware I'm slightly overweight, without your stares or comments to remind me? or that I might even be well aware of it and not ready to kill myself because of it? Did it ever occur to you that I don't spend every waking minute thinking about my weight and how I look in the size 12 shorts I have - compared with your exact-same-pair of size 6 shorts? I. am. not. a. monster.

2) It drives me crazy when people say 'Oh, you're not fat' or 'Oh, but look at you, you're so skinny.' Regardless of the fact that I'm pregnant and I'm supposed to look like this, I'm no idiot. I know I'm not fat, but I also know I'm not skinny or tiny or any of the 10 other adjectives you can use to describe me in a way that you hope will earn you brownie points while simultaneously boosting my weight-related ego. Really. I'd rather you just not say anything at all. Or how about just saying, 'Hey, you look really nice today.' Or 'Wow! Those pants make your ass look fabulous!' Please, do not patronize the weight-bearing woman.

3) This has got to be the weight-related pet peeve that most makes me want to slap some women: DO NOT complain about your weight in front of your young daughter(s)! I once saw an episode of Oprah where she was interviewing young girls with eating disorders. She talked to one young (and VERY normal-sized) four year-old who was convinced she was "FAT!" The core problem? Mom talked nonstop about how "fat" she was and how she should be counting her calories so she wouldn't end up fatter and looking like a bloated cow, etc. Every idea this mother had about her weight was being absorbed by the little girl without the mother even realizing it.

I have nothing against health-conscious moms. I know one or two of them. They have eating standards for their families that will, I'm sure, some day put me to shame. But they don't obsess about their weight or their children's weight; they are simply mindful and careful about what they eat. And their children are healthy confident children.

I have no new conclusions or observations to add here. I don't read People or Cosmo or any of those magazines and I sure hope I can dissuade our children from ever reading them. They are, at best, good for a laugh every once in a while, and at worst, trash. Even the Victoria's Secret catalogue is a lark (yes, hello, I'm married now - I can shop at Victoria's Secret without shame). I have to laugh when I can plainly SEE just how airbrushed most of those pictures are!
We eat as well as we can afford to eat and we're not unhealthy people. We exercise without as much regularity as we should, but we're trying. When the Mystery Baby comes our goal is to avoid refined sugar at least until she's two, but we're not going to deprive her of it forever; a kid should have the luxury of a good piece of birthday cake or a cookie now and again.

And that's all I have to say about that, at least for now.


In other news, we can now hear the Mystery Baby's heartbeat with the stethoscope Husband gave me for Christmas! Very cool!

My ultrasound on Monday went well. Husband talked to the Radiologist after I left (how handy to have an 'in' and not have to wait a week for results) and everything looks normal and simply related to the "joys" of pregnancy - and the expense of needless tests. Good grief!

We are celebrating our fifth anniversary on Friday so we'll be gone all weekend. No posts from me until next week. See you then!

21 April, 2007

A Different Sort of Appointment

I'm hesitant to post anything about this, but since a good portion of you are my friends (whether in real life or just in the Blogosphere) and I usually get this feeling that you love me, I think I'll talk about it. (Also, I don't want you to think that I'm just posting about it to get sympathy....except maybe deep down that's really what I want....)

Anyway, I had a regular prenatal appointment yesterday. Everything with the baby sounds/looks fine. I'm "quite nice and round" but courtesy of my "lagging weight gain" will be getting yet another ultrasound in two weeks (if anyone's counting, that'll be my fifth). Yes, I was 'this close' (thumb and index finger mere millimeters apart) to getting the "EAT!" lecture yet again. I'm trying, I'm trying! (A very humourous conversation about bra shopping ensued. I'm convinced that in another lifetime, my Midwife and I would've made excellent roommates.)

Then my appointment took a different sort of turn when I mentioned a wee lump I found in my right breast earlier this week (April's almost over - have YOU done your self-exam this month?). My Midwife poked around a bit and asked a series of questions. I guess my very cheerful and positive answers were the wrong ones because I'm going in for a breast ultrasound on Monday afternoon. She said it definitely did not feel like anything mammary-gland related . So there. That's it. I'm not super-worried, but it's still 'there,' you know? On the back burner of my thoughts. If you're so inclined, thanks in advance for your prayers.

Oh! I almost forgot! After said appointment, Husband and I were both having a hankering for a Slurpee. We have no 7-11 anywhere around and have had no luck hunting down a slurpee/slushee/whateveryouwanttocallit since we moved here. Yesterday though - oh what glee! What excitement! On our way to the gas station, we passed the Dairy Bar - the queue at the Dairy Bar. Hooray! We had our first swirl cone of the season and guess what else! Wait for it....we weren't even wearing jackets! FINALLY!

20 April, 2007

Oh! Oh! Guess What!? Guess What!?

It's SUNNY out!

It's 13 degrees (CELSIUS) outside!

AND, the mail guy was wearing shorts! (Accompanied by a very funny 'safari' hat.)

AND, I saw two robins on the way into town this morning.

AND, to celebrate the official arrival of spring (FINALLY!!), we ate strawberries with whipped cream on angel cake last night. Yum!

18 April, 2007

Hold On to Your Socks!

I know, I know, the colour is all different. What have I done? How will you cope?

In the interest of some of my "Older" readers who have been expressing concerns about their inability to read the blog properly because of the black background, and in the interest of ME having the same complaint, I've decided to change the colour scheme. These changes aren't set in stone; I might change the colours again, so prepare yourself.

In other news, I know a lot of you out there like to cook, so this is your chance to pass along some tips and recipes. I have this plan wherein I'm going to try to make a bunch of casseroles or meals that I can put in the freezer to be pulled out in the days following the Mystery Baby's arrival. If you have a good suggestion or recipe, you can email it to me: brenhamm(at)U2email(dot)com. Or you can just post a link or web address in the comments section.

(NB: I've already got turkey lasagna, turkey pot pie, and vegetarian chile in my Freezer Dinner repertoire, and we don't eat pork or much red meat.)

Consider this your contribution toward the promotion of our Postpartum Sanity! And also be warned that if I don't get at least one suggestion, I might revolt and not post anything new for weeks, and we can't have that now, can we?

13 April, 2007

Put 'Em Up, Suzuki!

So the other night, Husband was working diligently on finishing up our state taxes. The forms were a pathetic mass of confusion and when he finished inputing all the data, he was done for the night. Well, he shouldn't have stopped there. He maybe should've finished reading about all the things the need to be sent in with the tax return. So we only discovered last night that we also need to include copies of our federal tax return and several W-2s (like Cdn. T-4s). So we started to print it all off. The printer ran out of ink. Consequently, I had to drive Husband in to work today so I could pick up more ink. Then when I go to pick him up, hopefully I'll have printed all the right papers and we can get everything in the mail.

Only, you know how large "surprise" amounts of snow make me really grouchy? Well, I peeked out the window and THIS is what I saw:

For the love of all things sunny and spring-like?!?!?
If David Suzuki was standing here right now? I'd kick him in the shins!

12 April, 2007

Hold the Pink...

...and the frills...and those heinous little Brain Cell Destroyers that some mothers feel compelled to strap around their girls' foreheads in a futile attempt to make sure other people identify them as "GIRL." (Other than killing braincells, do those things actually serve any purpose? Even with a fake flower half the size of Pluto, I doubt it's going to work as well as a helmet.)

So. Yes. "It," our Mystery Baby, revealed herself with an ultrasound picture even I can't construe. We're maybe still a little disappointed because some of you know how much we had our collective heart set on a boy and I in particular, had been holding on to a shred of hope these past two and a half months while we waited for this last ultrasound. But God has been working on us (as usual) and we are now really quite okay with a girl, maybe even a little excited, though we are, in general, stumped for a first name (you can't name a girl Ben so we'll have to put that one on the back burner for next time).

Also, we are not in the mood for any "I told you so's!" or "I knew it's!" so kindly keep them zipped up for now.

And we're seriously serious: No pink.

In other news, check out Erin's answers to my interview questions. They're funny, sweet and beautiful, all at the same time. And I got to talk to her on the phone today. How lucky am I??

11 April, 2007

They're Alright!

So I went to my very first La Leche League meeting last night. Incidentally, it was the very first meeting ever in our area (which would explain why when I tried finding a local meeting online a month ago, the closest group was three hours away). There were four of us that showed up. I'm the rookie, the other three actually hang out all the time and they all have kids. Two of the women gave birth only 7 weeks ago. We talked about the benefits to Mom & Child from breastfeeding, which I had heard the majority of before, but it was good still to hear the discussion and opinions of these other moms. The meetings are once every month and the best part? These mom are really cool! I LIKED them. There is definite Friend-Potential (tm) here and I am excited! So there are several reasons why I will go back:
1) Combined, these three women have roughly 15 years of experience between them (the group leader, who just finally had a girl, also already has FOUR boys!), so there should be no shortage of advice to draw from.
2) I like them and I think they liked me too. They kept saying things like "you aren't seriously due in June?!" and "you are SO tiny!" With compliments like that, how can I NOT go back? (Maybe I should be taking some pictures so I can look back on how 'tiny' I was during pregnancy....) Also, two of them get together every week to scrapbook and after meeting me once, they already invited me over tonight. (Except tonight is the 5th installment of Childbirth Ed. so that's where we'll be. *sigh*)
3) They fed me. Chocolate chip pumpkin bread and zucchini bread. Yum!
4) They are funny. <- I can tell that because we laughed a lot.

There's a little bit of rigidity in their view of breastfeeding as far as I'm concerned, but I think I can handle it. I understand that some women don't want to still be breastfeeding when their children are old enough to talk. I also understand that some women can't breastfeed for one reason or another and I refuse to look down on those people because the decision to breastfeed in the first place is personal. We already have a good idea of what we want to do and what goals we want to set for ourselves and I don't see myself being negatively influenced by these women because I'm just stubborn like that. So that's your update on that.

This morning I woke up at 5:15 when Husband's alarm went off (for the first time anyway). I could hear the neighbour down the street revving the engine of his truck a billion times before he leaves for work. For a fleeting moment, I felt like I would get up and look out the window and there I would see the view that greeted me outside my bedroom window everyday from birth until I went away to college. As I so often have throughout this pregnancy and since we moved here, I laid there craving that familiarity. I can close my eyes and see all the houses on My Street. I can see them as they were when I was three (let's face it, I can barely remember that far back sometimes, nevermind to infancy), then five, then 10, and so on. I can see all the cosmetic transformations of each; when the house across the street got a repainted fence (it's always been the same colour), when the house in the corner had the pool filled in after more than two decades of pool parties and laughing, screaming, wet children, and when my friend LeeAnn's Dad finally finished building her Cabbage Patch Playhouse, subsequently the Ultimate Archie Comic Lending Library. I can remember when the tree in front of that playhouse was only six feet tall. I can remember when the evergreen tree on our own front lawn was planted.

Now when I go home, I see how all the trees have grown. I am constantly amazed at how tall they've become. Where they used to be too short to give any comfort from the hot summer sun, they now stand towering over the backyard, shading backyard barbeques and blocking out noise from the park behind our house.

My relatives celebrated Easter at my parent's house this year. My cousin had her little boy there and he got to go out to the park to play. When we talked, we remembered how we used to go out there to play when we were little and they would come to visit. The toys in that park haven't changed since my infancy. Oh, they've gotten new paint and new dumps of sand around their bases, but the structures are still the same. The same slide that we played on and dumped rocks down (and fell off of), is still making kids squeal even now. There's still a summer program every July at the paddling pool and they still use the baseball diamond for little league games. When I walk through the park in the summer, I can still see remnants of forts we built in those trees when I was eight; or maybe they're just remnants from last summer and a new crop of eight year-olds. And thinking about all this makes me long for a place where we can be content and planted. A house our kids can grow up in. The sense of security that comes from watching a neighbourhood grow and evolve.

We don't have that here, but maybe some day.

10 April, 2007

One Tuesday a Month

So the celebration of Easter weekend is over for another year and here's hoping you all had a wonderful Easter. I was lucky enough to get a phone call from Home wherein we played 'pass the phone train along' and I got to talk to all my relatives. Such a good treat!
Then on Sunday - "springtime" in Maine does strange things to people - we got not just one but TWO invitations for lunch after church! We accepted one from Lester (well he asked first). His wife is down in NC visiting their daughter who just so happens to be due with her first child in June - just like me - so we already have a connection. Lester had leftovers already in the oven when we got there and we had a great time. An unusual, but perfect Easter celebration.

Tonight I'm going to my very first La Leche League meeting (meetings are the first Tuesday of every month). Erin over at Whitekirk (check soon for an updated post from Erin because I just sent her some interview questions) assures me that LLL participants aren't breastfeeding nazis, and the lady I talked to on the phone yesterday did sound quite nice. I'll let you all know how it turns out.

We haven't caught any mice in the last couple of days. Maybe they're away for Easter. Otherwise, nothing else is really new around here. Sorry to disappoint. We spent Saturday working on our baby registries. It was fun and we only have, supposedly, 10 weeks to go! We have so much painting to get done! Yikes!

06 April, 2007

The Continuation*

*Or: "Sure, B&P, Make Me Get All Insightful and Such"

Before I continue with BubandPie's interview which I started yesterday, let's pause for a note to the Mouse Family:

Hah! You dastardly rodents! We have no idea how many of you there are, but you're one less this morning than you were yesterday! We defy you, evil miscreants! (Seriously though – the cupboard under the sink? What were you expecting to find there? Are you really looking for soap? Is it spring cleaning time for you then?


Okay, and moving right along. Yesterday, I said I would come back to this question:

2. What do you perceive as the biggest cultural difference between Canada and the United States? If I could tally all the time I actually spent thinking about this yesterday, I think we'd all be shocked. I even used some of my Talking Out Loud to Myself in the Shower Time (tm) to mull over some ideas for an answer. Finally, as I was drifting off to sleep last night, the answer finally hit me. And then I spent about five or more minutes just repeating the basic idea to myself, hoping I wouldn't forget it by this morning. I didn't; at least not entirely, and I was even awake at 6:30am making notes which I will now try, haphazardly, to string together, knowing I am about to offend at almost all of my American readers.

So, in a nutshell, the biggest cultural difference I perceive between Canada and the U.S. is their differing approaches to the idea of what ‘being Canadian’ or ‘being American’ really means. So my answer begins by going all the way back to Grade 9 Social Studies to draw on the age-old comparison of the Melting Pot (U.S.) versus the Mosaic (Canada).

[I should pause to put my answer into context here. I was born in Canada. I am Canadian and I always will be (but I don't say 'eh' and I hate watching hockey). I have no desire to ever become a U.S. citizen. (I will not pledge allegiance to a flag not my own, particularly when I disagree with the whole idea of pledging allegiance to anyone/thing not God.) I grew up in Manitoba and lived there until I got married. That was in 2002. Husband and I lived in Central Washington (state) until last September when we moved to Maine. So I've only lived in the U.S. for just under five years. I am quite obviously, biased.]

Melting Pot Vs. Mosaic: In general, when a new immigrant comes to Canada, he or she must be in possession of some English language skills. If not, I think it's usual for some sort of classes to be provided to facilitate language acquisition. New immigrants are not expected to come to Canada and immediately abandon their own culture and immerse themselves in "Canadian Culture." Rather they are encouraged to retain their cultural beliefs and practices (religious traditions, etc), because this is what makes the mosaic beautiful. All these cultures coming together, presenting a united front, while still maintaining their individuality. (This is one of the main reasons, I suspect, that so many big cities end up with so many excellent ethnic restaurants).
J So to be Canadian truly means to be unified in our diversity.

In the United States, on the other hand Americans generally expect that new immigrants will quickly assimilate to American culture: Retain your culture-specific beliefs and keep your traditions alive, but do that on your own time; in the day-to-day sense, just try to be American. You’re not Caribbean or Jamaican or English or African or Mongolian anymore; you’re American. Period. Yet when I observe how this plays out in ‘real life,’ I think Americans are deceiving themselves. I think the overall picture turns out the same, but with regard to certain cultures, gross exceptions are made.

For example, in the town where we lived in Washington, the population was made up primarily of Hispanic immigrants – legal or otherwise – and thinking about the way they are catered to makes me ill. School district employees are strictly prohibited from asking any students about their legal status and I believe as of last year, a new unwritten rule came into effect: all new hires in the S.D. had to either be bilingual or be certified to teach ESL. And that’s the case with most jobs in that whole county: non-bilingual applicants need not apply. So unless you speak Spanish and English, you’re hardly qualified to do any job that might actually enable you to make ends meet. Call me crazy, but if I moved to France (heaven forbid!), I wouldn’t expect the whole country to learn English just to make my transition easier. I would expect to have to learn French. All manner of services are provided to these immigrants that require hardly any adaptation on their part whatever. I could get into a whole host of other issues I have at this point that pertain specifically to immigration, but that doesn’t really answer the question, so I’ll save that rant for another time. So while America may view itself as the melting pot, reality would suggest that at least for Hispanic immigrants, the melting pot ‘rule’ doesn’t seem to apply the way it traditionally has when assimilation was expected and necessary.

In addition to the idea of the mosaic vs. the melting pot, there are some other unique ways that each country gives its cultural impression. There's something about Canada that makes it seem smaller, maybe more close-knit. (Our landmass is certainly not smaller than the U.S., but our population is.) When you travel abroad, finding another Canadian is like finding the perfect cup of coffee on a cold day or getting a package or your mom’s baking during finals week. It’s a relief. It’s refreshing. It’s a taste of home. It doesn’t matter what part of Canada they come from, the very fact that they’re Canadian has already solidified a bond that can’t be broken. They could be opposite from you in every way, but because they’re Canadian, you feel like you could talk for hours. You’re on the coast of Scotland lamenting that it’s windy and cold and you forgot your touque; your new Canadian friend knows exactly what you mean.

Being Canadian means our Canadian ‘cultural’ icons - mounties, touques, poutine, beavers, killer whales, mountains, igloos, ketchup chips and Pirate cookies - seem almost universal. While every province seems to have its one particular claim to fame, Canadians are much quicker to draw on common icons. Poutine may be 'native' to Quebec, but every Canadian knows poutine. Every Canadian knows what an igloo is. Americans make fun of Canadians for always having to prove we're different, but it seems to me like Canada has been bandied about by the U.S. for so long (I actually thought I would see a fight once when a friend of mine and I met an American who, in actual fact, called Canada "a little America." <-EK: ask JK if he remembers this in Cambridge...), we've developed a general defensiveness. We Canadians have banded together to defend our Beloved using whatever common bonds we can come up with.

In America, I can't discover anything similar. While every state does for sure have its claim to fame, there isn't much that everybody has in common. Washingtonians can grow apples, but forget about growing citrus trees. Disney World is perfect for the climate of Florida, but transplant that to Maine? It becomes a tourism disaster. You can mention a lobster roll to an Oregonian and all you’ll get back is a puzzled look. Cultural icons in America come across with a distinctly more regional flavour.

Then there is, of course, the issue of friendliness. I cannot address the issue of cultural differences between Canada and the United States without mentioning this important characteristic seemingly inherent to one country but decidedly lacking in the other. It’s difficult for me to explain it, but I'm sorry to say, it's true: to be Canadian is to be friendly. Certainly, there are pockets of friendliness in America and we lived in one of them when we lived in Washington, but in general, I have definitely found Americans to be less friendly than Canadians. It's not that the average American will look at you and wrinkle his/her nose, it's that the average American will only go so far as an acquaintance. Greeting you in the store or on the street is one thing, but actually inviting you into his/her life is a completely different story. Traveling across Canada, there’s just this sense that you could stop in any little town and strike up a conversation with the local gas station owner or waitress. My experience in America is vastly different. You walk into a restaurant and if you're 'not from around here,' the eyebrows go up and the stares can be unbearable. Nobody seems to care much about finding out anything about you. It's more of a 'You're upsetting the delicate balance of locals here, so what can I do to get rid of you faster?'

It’s almost like Americans are more suspicious of outsiders. While Canadians seem generally more ‘curious,’ whereas Americans seem generally more suspicious. I don't know if there is any one specific reason for this behaviour. It's possible, that America is still suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder associated with 9/11. Since I didn't live here before that, I don't know if there's been a change. It’s not that I think Canadians are na├»ve, but I think we feel like we have less to be suspicious of. We don’t have as many enemies roaming around out there (at least not that we’re aware of) so we’re not as ‘afraid’ of strangers. (While I can think of exceptions to this rule too though; you can observe the same dichotomy of behaviour when you compare a rural vs. urban mentality, it doesn’t change my general observation.)

So I think that about covers all I had to say about that. If you’re still with me and haven’t fallen asleep yet, kudos to you! It’s taken me – off and on – since noon to write this today.

Now if anybody wants to be interviewed by ME, let me know in the comments and I’ll come up with five questions – because I suspect thinking up questions would be much easier than answering them.

Note to B&P: I haven’t written any sort of essay or paper in since college. Did I pass??

05 April, 2007


AHA!! We got you, Vile Vermin! (bwa-ha-ha-ha-haaaa) Well, okay, we got ONE of you! The bravest one! But why the plastics storage cupboard? Why the kitchen utensils? Why the cutlery?

I was going to go further into my diatribe about Climate Change and the CBC today, but I'm being interviewed by one of my favourite bloggers today (see below) and I'm excited! She sent me questions and I get to answer them, it's very simple. But before that, I will at least attach pictures of our Return to January "wonderland." Today's predicted accumulation is 12 inches - approx. 30 cm - and this only started after 7am this morning. Before that, our lawn was almost completely bare. Oh Winter! Please! Please! Go away! Alas. On to the interview!


1. How is it that reading mama-blogs (or mine, at least) has not scared you away from parenthood altogether?
Mostly, I've tried to keep my expectations of parenthood realistic, so I understand that it will be difficult, but I'm also encouraged when I read the sweet stories and the funny stories and I get glimpses of how rewarding it can be. As well, perhaps by Godly intervention, I didn't start reading them until after I got pregnant, so it was too late. :)

2. What do you perceive as the biggest cultural difference between Canada and the United States? Sure, start me off with an easy one and segue right into THIS question. I'll come back to it. In fact, I think I'll come back to it tomorrow.

3. Do you have your baby names picked out yet? Are you interested in doing an in-code baby-name poll on your blog (in which you devise historical and literary clues for the names that you’re considering, which we decode and then vote on)? (I’ve been dying to do this again ever since Veronica Mitchell did her poll at Toddled Dredge.) Answer to Part A: Yes and no. The boy's name was never really up for much discussion so it's been picked out for about three years already. Any names for a girl are at this point still only in the thought stage. We've thought of several but nothing sounds 'right' to me yet. Answer to Part B: I hunted around to see what Veronica's poll looked like so I could be sure I was understanding correctly, but I couldn't find it. However, being that the names we've thought of aren't ones I can connect to anything literary or historical (except my formative years which could hardly be considered worthy contributions to the annals of western history) and at least three of them are simply spelling variations based on cultures near and dear to our hearts, I think my readers would lose interest in that poll faster than they lost interest in my dream interpretation contest. I would, however, be willing to accept submissions for possible girls' names and then open it up for discussion or voting. I'm not sure there are enough Stranger readers out there to make it very fun though.

A fun alternative could be if you, B&P, pretended that you were pregnant again (perhaps also a funny trick to play on your husband?) and then you could set up your own poll. Having the advantage of being well-read AND English professor would certainly make for an intriguing poll.

4. What trait of yours would you most like to pass on to your child?
I so wish you meant a physical trait, but I'm sure you don't and that would be too easy anyway; I'd choose my hair. On the personality end of things, that's a tough one. I don't mean that to sound conceited - like that I have far to many fabulous traits to choose just one - but you are asking for 'a' 'trait', singular. Hm. I'm sure, should the Mystery Baby inherit this trait (and with my family history at work here, it's pert near guaranteed), I will regret saying this at least once a week from now until the Mystery Baby's adulthood, but I'm going to say my stubbornness. (My Mom is either laughing right now or starting to pray...)

Over the last several years, I've grown to truly appreciate my stubborn nature. Perhaps most people would call me crazy and say that being stubborn is a bad thing, but I'm convinced it can be both a good and bad thing. It's a bad thing, for example, if your house is burning down and you're too stubborn to jump out the window. But if your stubbornness causes you to refuse to back down on convictions based in Truth, I see that as a great advantage. I'm probably missing the right word to really describe what I'm trying to get at, but I want this child to be discerning enough and then stubborn enough to recognize a pile of bullsh*t from a mile away and refuse to believe it; to be stubborn in pursuit of whatever goals God lays before him/her. I hope that makes sense. It does in my head.

5. What is the best television show on TV right now?
Do you mean 'right now' as in just this minute or 'right now' as in being broadcast on TV in this general time period of 2007? At this exact moment, there's nothing good on because PBS no longer comes in well enough to see a picture, CBS is generally crap no matter what time of day it is and comes in so poorly, people are hardly distinguishable from fuzz; and CBC is complete fuzz today also, presumably due to the weather. In the other 'right now' category, I'm really not sure. A year ago, it would've been ER, but we don't get NBC anymore and haven't seen a new episode since last October. Now I suppose I'll have to pick something on CBC. We very much rely on The Rick Mercer Report to fill our political satire needs, but the British import Hustle is also like watching a mini movie every week. What's going to win out today though, is Coronation Street. I'm not sure it's really the 'best,' but it's the one I most like to watch. (Again, my apologies to my Uncle Robert.)

03 April, 2007

Why I Hate Almost All of April

So remember how I said that March didn't really go out like a lamb? And remember how I said that it was windy but relatively warm and sunny outside last week? And remember how that meant that we hardly had any snow left on the lawn - or anywhere for that matter? And then remember how when we went to bed last night it was snowing and this morning it looks like winter has come all over again? (No, I didn't remember that either.)

*pulls out hair*

I can't take it anymore! I am so stinking sick of winter! But 'funny,' this: last night on CBC, since they can't go more than two minutes without some CBC personality mentioning those insidious words "climate change" or "global warming," they began a new series discussing how climate change is already affecting the world. (They also listed three benefits of it; one being that tourist season will last longer now. Okay....) So after a half hour segment about melting polar ice caps, intense flooding in BC's Lower Mainland, and that dubious critter the Pine Beetle, we cut to commercial. When we come back, there is poor Claire Martin (who's job is undoubtedly now hanging by a thread after such an incongruous forecast) all set to give the forecast; a forecast which consisted primarily of well BELOW seasonal temperatures, frigid weather (for April), and copious amounts of snow, not only in the prairies, but also in parts of Ontario, Quebec, AND the Maritimes. They didn't even show the northern territories (there were probably blizzards everywhere)! I'm sure there was some producer in the back saying "Martin! Cut it short! CUT. IT. SHORT!"

I wish somebody would start explaining why global warming is causing it to SNOW in Northern Maine in APRIL.

On top of that we were finally looking forward to not having to buy so much heating oil so that for once, we could get through a month and nevermind the ends meeting, they could at least see each other. Evidently no dice.

And on top of that: this will probably seem quite minor to most of you, but having been sucked into the propaganda machine that is the CBC, we have found ourselves in the strange position of actually caring about the characters on Coronation Street. (Yes, Uncle Robert, I'm sorry...) Truly at first we hated it, but then because there was nothing else on....AND NOW, oh stupid stupid NHL! Oh I can't stand hockey! (I know, I know - what kind of Canadian am I??? One who hates watching hockey, that's what kind!) A once-a-week triple header on Saturday night is already too much, do we have to preempt Coronation Street for the NHL playoffs until JUNE?!?!

June. Not 'the end of April' or 'the beginning of May,' but JUNE!

[Is there a reason why they never show lacrosse on CBC? The national channel, you'd think, would be interested in promoting Canada's official national sport. ]

I'm going to drown my Coronation Street blues in orange juice and early Easter candy. Then maybe I'll spend some time plotting my takeover of the CBC.

02 April, 2007

The First Post of April

I feel like I haven't posted anything new in weeks, but it hasn't even been a week. We took my SIL to the airport on Friday afternoon and she made it home safe and sound. We also did some hunting around for supplies for the baby announcements but didn't come up with much. It seems those Scrapbookers are taking over the world and now craft stores only cater to them. They can't even provide a decent cheap paper selection for the rest of us. We were also able to replenish our rather sorry looking spice rack, using up all the small bags left in the bulk food department while we were at it.

Now it's back to all things regular. We did a lot of cleaning and little projects on Saturday. We finally got some more boxes unpacked which is always enough to make me feel good. Saturday and Sunday also saw us blessed with plenty of sunshine, but more than two days in a row would just be a travesty, wouldn't it? So now we're back to grey and cloudy with wind. Last week was CRAZY windy. March came in and OUT like a lion - no lambs in sight.

Thanks to Beck over at Frog & Toad for the inspiration that is making our kitties alternately very happy and very upset with each other. I'm hoping to find another box today so we stop the turf war. As you can see, our Girl, Bean, does NOT fancy being disturbed in her new house.

I'm sure there were other things I was planning on blogging about today, but my brain has been having much difficulty functioning in the last two days! Oh wait! I remember! Childbirth Class. Whoa! I can't believe I almost forgot the update! For last week's class, we ended up not having the cool teacher we did the week before, AND we ended up having to watch the other video (yes, the one we had been promised we could skip). Thankfully, this video was MUCH more benign than the first one; they took great pains to cover up anything offensive. It covered different methods that various women used to get through their labour pain. The most disturbing was the moaning which made it sound like these women were giving birth on the campus of some cult in Southern California.

Then we practiced the breathing. It's not getting any better. She didn't give us any review at all. And then she started the music. Call me crazy, but listening to music that only reminds me of a funeral durge and the scene in Amadeus where they're transporting his body through the streets in a horse-drawn cart and then dumping it in a mass grave, doesn't exactly inspire either relaxation or focus. Then it was all over. So maybe this week will be better.

Also (boy, now I'm remembering all sorts of things), yesterday I had a rather bizarre experience. We were over at our friends' house for a Pre-Easter Egg Hunt and Egg Dying Extravaganza (and strange hollow bunnies that tasted like gasoline) and we were sitting at the kitchen table enjoying the spoils of the hunt. I had my left foot resting underneath the chair on one of the chair support bars. I dropped something on the floor and got up to get it, but I couldn't move my leg. From the knee down, I could FEEL my leg (it wasn't quite painful enough to cry, but I sure couldn't quit laughing at the absurdity of it), but I couldn't bend it back to a normal un-gimped-up position. It was the strangest thing! We were all baffled and it took several minutes of Husband massaging my leg and foot before I could bend it back to normal and stand properly. Maybe my leg had gone numb from so much chocolate. It seems better today though. Weird.