Monday, October 31, 2011

Identifying Identity

I think I have struggled with the concept of identity and roles since I was a kid and they were just so confusing that I ignored them completely.

For example, as a kid I saw the world in a hierarchy. There were kids, and there were adults. There was a hierarchy within both, and the two together created a hierarchy. In the kid section (the underlings or peasants), the hierarchy was made up (as I saw it) by younger to older, and bullys and populars on top.

The adult section (or the overlords), was made up of a complex range of powers, all of which had control over me so I mostly tried to ignore them when I could,  and pacify when they noticed me. (There are a few exception to that rule. I had a sunday-school teacher when I was 8 that adored me and I adored her. She was more like a friend.)  There was a hierarchy of age within the adult section: older people were to be respected, they taught me that at church. But in practice I noticed that moms and dads didn't like being told what to do by their moms and dads, and teachers and people at the grocery store grumbled too. Complex and confusing.  There was tension in the adult world. I could feel it. I didn't want to have anything to do with it. I was very content to steer clear.  I did a very good job of training myself to live in a (mentally created)world that totally ignored it all. I tried not to think about it. Whenever they had those "What do you want to be when you grow up" days at school, I'd go in regular clothes and say "I want to be a kid!" Adults were at a 0% fascination level for me.

Well here we are years later and after the highschool and university bubbles, I am now full-fledgedly an adult; living, breathing, talking adultness. The hierarchy that I created in my mind is still back there somewhere, and still shapes, to an extent, the way I see social interactions.  And because of that I have been noticing myself in awe-like admiration as I recognize people breaking through all those lines, all around me, all the time.

In my congregation's womens society I just sit back and watch it happen. It is beautiful. Older women learn from younger women. None of them (yet) have claimed to 'know it all'. They share knowledge with each other and learn from each other, they don't judge each other on age. What a revolutionary idea for me. Not to be judged by age. I was judged that way for the first 20 years of my life. (or felt like it anyway).

"What does all of this have to do with IDENTITY," you ask? Everything. For me as a child, because I turned my back on the adult world I thereby created my identity as 'not adult.' Now as an adult I've been searching deeply for my purpose, which ties most intimately to my identity, I felt. The belief that has been shaping my search is that 'who you are is what you do, say, and think.'  And the question seemed to be: "what does being me really mean?"

I could figure out the unchanging basics, like Katniss in the third hunger games: I am Marzipan. I am a daughter of God. I have a dad and mom, brothers and sisters. I am married to the love of my life.  But then things start getting fuzzy... where I live changes, the jobs I have change, the people in my life change. Perhaps I also compute identity with stability. And on that thought, I had a revolutionary realization this morning.  My neighbor and friend told mentioned that the person we'll be in 50 years is totally different: our knowledge, experiences, things we do, passions we have, may all be different. We'll be a different person.  (!!??!!?!?!) Then what are we supposed to base identity on, I wondered? Perhaps I just worry too much about it and it really doesn't matter. The important things: child of God, my family, my husband: are the stability in my identity, and the rest can just keep changing, growing, developing and morphing into new and beautiful things!  

I realized that the hierarchy which protected me as a child was messing with my mind as an adult.  So now my real question is: does everyone have such transitions? And how can we help the youth today? I especially feel sorry for those kids who spend ten years wishing they were an adult and arrive at adulthood only to realize that the definition of 'adult' is a very loose one at best, and probably not as glamorous as hoped for. We're just people, after all.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Music burstin out my eyes... sort of.

We over-schedule our kids.

  Ok, so what of those things that they are over-scheduled with will they keep doing after high-school?

Sitting in a display of “hidden” talents with the sisters in my congregation tonight, I had a sad realization. People have told me that high school is a bubble, but I realized a whole new side of it tonight. The sports, the music, drama-teams, 4-H, clubs... these are incredible opportunities for people to have and be a part of. But after high school is over, unless you make money from whatever that talent was, it isn’t very likely you’ll keep it up! (I think it took me so long to realize this because I have been in a university bubble).

There is a time and place for everything, sure. But does that mean after high school/university all your life will consist of is work/family? That is a pretty dreary life to look forward to… Sadly, though, it seems to be too normal.  As I talk with mothers and I ask them what else they do besides work/stay-at-home-parent, and what else do they do to add balance in their life or provide meaning, more than one woman has responded with “That’s the million dollar question,” with a regretful/reproachful laugh. 

There were women at this forum who sang beautifully, played instruments, recited poetry, etc, albeit a bit rustily. Some talents you can easily incorporate into family life: sewing, baking, genealogy, painting, quilting, and knitting. But what of the soccer teams, gymnastics and dance classes, bands, private music lessons, language clubs, team sports? (Don’t tell me to just be a soccer-mom. That doesn’t fix MY need to play the sport.)

I vividly remember as a teenager wishing for kid toys that were built to adult-scale. How come the kiddies get all this fun stuff, but not older people? Didn’t seem fair.

I am a swimmer. Was in high school, kept it up after, and I still consider myself as such. It is easy enough to find a pool open for lap swim in the mornings. Ok, I can keep that up. But what about music?

I have been involved in the creation of music since I began taking piano lesson at age 8. I didn’t love it then. That came later. By the time I had a full ride scholarship to University on my musical abilities and my good grades, I was becoming aware of the ties that bind my soul to the need for the creation of music.  Playing music alone is only for practical purposes- to master skills (the exception to that rule is piano). The real beauty of playing an instrument comes when you combine multiple instruments. This creates an explosion of harmony and depth that carries you away on crashing waves and then gentle breezes. There is an indescribable emotion that catapults my heart into a musical universe of bliss, where emotions are felt so acutely, described so clearly and intensely, in a language that transcends words, that you feel them all as though they were your own. They do, in fact, become your own through such an experience.  It wasn’t until I had a semester break from bands and orchestras that I realized the desire, and need, within me to be a part of it. As the saying goes, depravity is the greatest motivator. Every time I return my horn, it doesn’t take very many months before I’ll be in some audience where a piece of orchestrated divinity is played that entirely wraps me up, fills me up, and bursts out my eyes in tears of bliss that remind me… I am tied from the very innermost part of my being to the need for, and love of, creating and appreciating music.

But I don’t own a horn. It isn’t my job, and it isn’t my child, lol.  As an adult trying to look into the future, I squint into the bleak unknown and am decidedly sure that what I see doesn’t fit me into playing a horn. Well I guess I need to change the precedent, then. Perhaps I can’t continue all of the hyper-scheduling I could have enjoyed as a kid and wanted to enjoy in university: the gymnastics and ballet and musical theatre and singing lessons and tai chi and …. you get the picture.  Who knows, all those things might have a place in the future. But I am sure that I don’t want to “live my life through my kids” aka put them in musical theatre because I wish I could be in it. 

I think parents can still be involved in ‘extra-curricular activities’, (our curriculum now being our work and kids? Lol). Obviously there must be balance, and the point is absolutely not to make mothers feel even more overwhelmed, but from the discussions I’ve had so far I think that mothers do very well to have an ‘other’ in their lives, and that that ‘other’ can be of great worth and value to them personally. 

Will my ‘other’ be playing the horn? I’m not sure yet, but tonight was another one of those ‘I’m lacking music and music just reduced me to tears’ moments, which was, interestingly, a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

What are the ‘others’ that keep your lives in balance? I hope you have one and didn’t leave them all behind in highschool! (But don’t worry if you did, it’s never too late to start up again, as I continue to realize). J

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

On the Job Hunt

I am a hairstylist by trade. So I move to Canada, get it in my head to work as a hairstylist here, and go about trying to find a job. This job hunt turned out VERY different from the one my civil-engineer spouse experienced. It took about 3 days. His took about 5 months. Well they are different trades, for sure, but I just thought the whole thing interesting enough to warrant a blog-post.

I typed up my resume for Hairstyling, printed out a dozen copies, and set aside an afternoon to scour the neighborhood salons, handing out my resume everywhere they might be hiring.

I am a bit of a special case, however. Because I was awarded my license in the USA, I have a bit of a process before I can get it in Canada, including being an apprentice for a year. Well usually when people hear 'apprentice' they think: cheap labor. I had no desire to settle for being cheap labor, but I also didn't know what good pay is, so I sort of just hoped people would give me a good deal. chuckle.

After handing out the resumes, calls began coming in the next day. By the end of that day I had two or three interviews scheduled.

Thursday, 4:30pm. Mall salon.
I met the couple who run the salon and sat down for an interview with them. Well I absolutely loved them. Italian couple, very fun; upbeat about the salon and how busy it is. They offered me $10/hour or 47% commission, committed me to not discuss wages with any of the other stylists (which made me wonder if they were ripping me off or the other stylists [and minimum wage is 9.50 in Canada, so this wasn't a great offer), and offered for me to start work on Saturday. A plus: there was a francophone lady and two Chinese-speaking ladies working there, all of which I had conversations with in their respective language and was feeling like this would be a match made in heaven of a job. The downsides: Mall hours are horrible. Every other Sunday at least, and they are open EVERY holiday.

Friday, noon, another mall salon-- phone interview.
The manager is from Figi this time (cool!), and she was all business. "You'd work maybe one Sunday a month, two nights a week besides your regular days, and pay is good. $12/hour or 50% commission, but everybody makes commission b/c our shop is so busy." And she'd work with all my requests for vacation time. Also open Mall hours, meaning all holidays. yuk.

Friday, 5pm, private salon.
The manager is from I don't know where, my best guess is the Middle East somewhere. He had somewhat broken English and was a man of few words. I was a bit worn out from the pressures of wanting to work lots of hours but not Sundays, and earlier that day I had listened to a devotional which was all about getting a job that works for you: allowing you to serve the Lord. Ok, ok, I get it, I won't take a job that makes me work on Sundays. sigh.

This salon was only offering me part time, but I wasn't too worried about that. The main thing is that they're not open on Sundays, right? Well he offered me $12/hour or 55% commission, and said that I probably wouldn't make commission right away, needing to build up my clientele. Well, ok. I said I'd take the job and he said, vaguely, that he'd call me sometime Monday... not many details out of that man, or any formalities or paperwork. (?)  I felt a bit odd about the situation during the interview, like perhaps there was something creepy about this guy, but it was the first place offering me no Sundays and the pay was as good as or higher than elsewhere, so, that's what the heavens were trying to tell me to do, right??

Earlier- Private Salon:
I first went to a salon offering booth rent. $60/day - per day you work there. Everyone that works there has their own clientele, so it works great for them. He offered to cut me a bit of a break on the booth rent for the first 8 months or so, while I built up my clientele, but we both acknowledged that it'd be a pretty difficult stretch.  Darn it! If I just had a great clientele already that'd be ideal! but I don't.

So two or three days after having NO leads and handing out my resumes, I had a job.
Two or three days after that I'm still wondering if it is the right choice.
I go to work for the first time today, so we'll see how it goes!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Book Review: Babywise

On Becoming Babywise

By Gary Ezzo, M.A. and Robert Bucknam, M.D.

On Parenting

Great Marriages produce great parents.  A healthy husband-wife relationship is essential to the emotional health of children in the home. When there is harmony in the marriage, there is an infused stability within the family. Healthy, loving marriages create a sense of certainty for children. To improve the quality of the parent-child relationship, parents first must continue to evaluate the quality of their relationship with each other. Would it stand alone without the baby? Too often when a child enters a family, parents leave their first love: each other. The spotlight shifts to illuminate the children, and marriage gits lost in space. (Child-centered parenting. Setting up to fail) (quotes from pages 20-21).

To excel in parenting, protect your marriage.

On Feeding

Demand-feed or clock-feeding or parent-directed feeding (mixture of need/scheduling). I had no idea there were so many theories about feeding a baby!  The Babywise suggestion is to get on a routine with a cycle that looks like this:  Feeding/Waketime/Naptime.

-The parent helps the baby establish a stabilized hunger-pattern by keeping them on a routine. Their prescribed feeding times are: every 2 ½ to 3 hours. Make sure the baby gets FULL. = no snack feedings

On Sleeptime

Lack of healthy sleep can lead to attention disorders. “Infants, toddlers who suffer from the lack of healthy naps and continuous nightime sleep may experience chonic fatigue. Fatigue is a primary cause of fussiness, daytime irritability, crankiness, discontentment, colic-like symptom, poor focussing skills and poor eating habits.” (P.54)

-Babywise cautions against Negative Sleep Props: nursing a baby to sleep, Rocking to sleep, Sleeping with baby.

Sleeping Patterns:

Newborns: six to eight naps in a day. 2 ½ hr cycle: feed(1/2 hr) waketime (30min-1hr) sleep (1-1 ½  hr).
2 Months: this is when baby begins sleeping 7-8 hours at night. Daytime naps should be 1 ½ hours long. Move to a 3 ½ to 4 hour cycle. (Note: it’s not unusual for two-or three-month old babies to awaken at around 5am and talk to themselves for up to an hour. Afterward, they usually go back to sleep for another hour or so. If you start to respond each time you hear a noise from the cradle, then 5am will become your baby’s waketime—and yours, too.) (P. 132)
3-5 months: 4-6 feedings during the day, three daytime naps between 1 ½ to 2 hours, longer waketime in between. Nighttime sleep will average 10-12 hours.
6-16 Months: your baby will drop his late-afternoon/early evening nap at around 6 months of age, leaving two naptimes—one in the morning and one in the afternoon, 1 ½ to 2 hours in length.
16 months and older: the morning nap is dropped. Your baby should be sleeping 10-12 hours at night and 2-3 hours during one afternoon nap.

On Crying

“All babies cry…newborns routinely cry a total of one to four hours a day…” -American Academy of Pediatrics
-Listen for the type of cry, learn to recognize different crys, and assess the need.
-A Fussy baby can be caused by your milk: too much dairy or spicy foods in your diet.
-Don’t condition your baby to expect immediate gratification. (As that will cause problems when the child gets older, or when more children come into the family).


Abnormal Cry times: During feedings; immediately after feedings; when baby awakes early out of a sound nap.
Normal Cry times: just before feeding; when baby is put down for a nap; during the late afternoon/early evening period.

I'd love to hear the mothers' thoughts out there about if this works/ what has worked for you!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"Big Girls' Club"

Last week I discovered the world of the "Big Girls' Club". The complementary counterpart of the"Mens Club" - that mysterious place where only men are allowed and I imagine socializing, relaxing, having a smoke and talking about politics are the main functions. Or for the younger not-so-buisnessmen guys, going to the gym might fill that role - socializing, exercising, feeling macho.

Well the Big Girls' Club has a female twist. I walk into an exercise dance class I'd been recommended to, and as we began warming up I began cluing in. It was while we were all lying on the floor doing reps of ab crunches...

...that I looked around me and the realization dawned on me that here, in fact, was a Big Girls' Club. We socialize, but mostly the point is to keep our bodies beautifully fit while looking and behaving beautifully feminine. --I guess I didn't expect to find that at a workout dance class. Silly me.

We arrive in chic workout clothes with beautiful hair and carry ourselves like beautiful dancers. We stretch, we run to warm up--aka beautiful stylized leaps across the floor-- critiquing our beautiful technique in the mirrors. We do ab workouts, but no way is there any grunting or moaning or making noise to get through all the reps, as I have so often been a part of in other workout groups. *chuckles* Oh no, here we are silent in our beauty, doing reps to the beat of the music playing. One looking in on us might think we were relaxing, for all the beauty and silence we displayed. But upon closer inspection I noticed the signs of actual exercise. As we lay on the floor stretching-- pulling our legs towards us, I could point out the girls who were working the hardest- their legs were shaking, almost seizure-like as they defied gravity and muscle tension and willed those legs to stretch even farther.

It was so bizarre.

All those beautifully manicured girls, lying in our beautifulness, shaking from physical exertion while never a peep was made. Well I take that back, at one point I grunted into my last sit-up, but immediately felt the awkwardness of the beautiful silence I had broken, lol. Welcome, my dear, to the "Big Girls' Club".

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dentists ARE scary

Remember all those childrens' books you read as a kid helping you understand that going to the Dentist isn't scary?

Classic Example:

Well they were wrong and going to the Dentist IS SCARY! Well, walking in is ok... it's what happens and the walking out part that is really the kicker. I think kids have every reason in the world to be scared of the Dentist.

I went to the Dentist today, they told me I needed a filling. So I go in knowing I'm there for a filling, assuming they know I'm there for a filling, but nothing was said except "Have a seat," and "Open wide for me." Out of the corner of my eye I see this enormous needle coming at me, no warning, no pep talk before hand to make sure I'm calm and ready, no explanations. Just "open wide" and incoming needle! Yikes! Well I mentally gave myself the much needed pep talk to "relax, take a breath, un-tense your muscles..." Luckily they had to wait a few minutes for the numbing to take effect so I asked a few questions about the procedure. Don't think they would have said another word if I hadn't gotten them talking... eventually the left side of my mouth became numb and they began drilling... (here's where I close my eyes and try to morph myself out of this dental chair until the procedure is over).

So in general my body (my head, mostly) endured some intense pressure (I'm serious here, he was pushing really hard into my jaw/skull!), along with intense localized trauma to the mouth, gums, inner cheek, and teeth. It is not a normal occurance to send 4-inch long needles into the gums, for instance, or to be drilled into like bolts into a steel building.

When they were done the dentist told me to swish and then left. The dental-hygienist motioned toward the sink for me to swish, and said that I could get up. Maybe what she meant was that I was allowed to get up, but the actual ability part... She made it sound so normal, no problem, so I stood up like no big deal and immediately was hit with a wave of dizziness, my legs went limp and my vision blurred just a bit. I leaned on the counter to steady myself, and my legs began shaking. I tried to swish whatever was in the little cup but it mostly poured out of the left side of my mouth that I now realized was also hanging limp. What a sight I must have been! Nobody else seemed phased though. I continued to shake and thought about mentioning that I was going into shock, but the dental-hygienist didn't seem to notice anything was wrong and was walking away, after having mentioned that I could leave. I slowly made my way down the hall to the front desk and looked in the bathroom mirror to see my limp-hanging face. All the sudden I had infinite compassion for stroke-survivors who have lost control of one side of their face, whose mouth and eye leak and who have that half-frown, half normal mouth. I about freaked out, but at least that part was to be expected.

At the front desk I don't remember much. My mind was pretty fuzzy, focusing mostly on remaining standing on my shaking legs. I do remember wondering if anyone else goes into shock from getting fillings and how I should be treating the symptoms. The only thing that came to mind was from Lifeguarding: lie down and wrap the victim in a blanket.

I focused my fuzzy thoughts, more just instincts now, on getting to the car. (I realized later that I had NO idea what the paper said that I signed my name on... they could have billed me a million dollars for all I knew.) Once in the car I tried to calm down, take deep breaths to calm my shaking legs and clear my fuzzy brain. I called my husband to try to explain the indecency I had just gone through and the shock I was suffering from it, but, getting a filling is a normal thing to do, right? What's all the fuss about?

He was kind, and I tried to laugh it off, but driving home I began leaking all the tension, stress and physical trauma out my eyes. The downpour didn't let up for quite a while and my legs are still shaking slightly as I type this, just after getting home. Physical and emotional exhaustion are setting in and bed sounds like the safest and most divine place in the world.

Who says going to the Dentist isn't scarey?!