Tuesday, December 16, 2014

"The best morale exist when you never hear the word mentioned. When you hear a lot of talk about it, it's usually lousy." -Dwight D. Eisenhower

My response to this article in the Windsor Star:

Morale is at an all-time low. It’s easy to point the finger at drastic budget cuts. But it’s more than that. Sure, it started with retracted pensions. Then it extended to requiring military members (in Halifax-only) to start paying for parking on-base (including low-wage daycare workers at the Military Family Resource Centre!); another money-grab that’ll earn someone another stripe on their arm. But it’s okay – it’ll secure him a one-way ticket to Ottawa where he won’t have to deal with the incessant complaints.

The stigma in the Canadian Forces surrounding mental health (hell, health in general) is embarrassing. Forces members are terrified to self-identify ANY issues for fear of release, ridicule, and alienation. So how does that translate? A lot of members requiring services, but not willing to access them. That’s certainly great for health and wellness, no?! Suicide killed more Canadian Force members than combat deaths during Canada’s ENTIRE Afghanistan mission. Let’s stop and think about that for a moment. Throw whatever (reclaimed) money you want at mental health support, but if members are terrified to access the services, how is that helpful?

The physical fitness of any remaining members is a joke. Just ask the officer who relieved a couple of Halifax fleet members sent to Ottawa to stand ceremonial guard – after arriving in the capital city, they were relieved of their duties because they weren’t “representative of the fleet.” They did not look “fit and healthy”.  They passed their fit-test, but clearly that wasn’t enough.

If you’re actually posted TO a ship, good luck finding the time (or support) for your (“required”) PT time. Sure, you have to pass a basic yearly fit-test. But don’t expect it to be overly taxing. And if you don’t pass? Don’t worry about it. You can try again.

Most recently – an embarrassing turn of events where upper brass, essentially, removed alcohol from all ships and instated a CURFEW. Sure, give them C-7s, multi-million dollar equipment, and ask them to defend the country…but make sure they’re in by 10. That’s a bigger PR catastrophe than was originally created by the handful of irresponsible individuals who created the perceived need for the testosterone-induced muscle flex.

And this doesn’t even begin to colour the very serious threat military members and their families face every day, here in their own country. We refuse to live our lives in perpetual fear, but we are certainly reminded regularly of the very real threat to anyone ‘supporting the troops’.

All of these issues are the tip of the iceberg. Talk to 20 junior-ranking Reg-Force military members (the bulk of the fleet) and they can rhyme off a diverse and varied list of issues with the current state of the Canadian Forces. But, they won’t. Because they all fear reprimand for airing any grievances; or they've become apathetic to repeatedly voicing their concerns to deaf ears.

There are many military members who are currently embarrassed to wear the uniform. They do not stop for groceries on the way home. They’ve been spat on and verbally attacked. Too often, they are not respected by the general public, nor are they respected by their own command.  So am I shocked recruits are decreasing and releases are increasing? No. Quite frankly, I’m surprised there’s anyone left.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Void When You're Done Having Children

A friend recently shared the following blog post. I read it and found myself on the verge of weeping. It communicates so well my feelings and experience. All compounded by the fact I never got a "normal" experience to begin with. 

I had my son, ten weeks early, on March 8, 2012. My husband also has a (now) 17.5 year old son and felt he was complete with two long before our little man decided to arrive early. After two months in the NICU, he was certain he never wanted to risk ever having to go through that again, especially with the uncertainty of why he arrived early. My husband scheduled a vasectomy for late November, 2012. While I understood his rationale, it was not an easy time or decision for me. My head knew we were likely done, my heart was just not ready to let go of "maybe." I've never been able to really articulate my feelings on it all. Until today.

It's a nicely bundled 756-word glimpse into a corner of my heart.

The Void When You're Done Having Children
by Toni Hamer
On October 9, 2013, my husband had a vasectomy. Since we never planned on having kids in the first place, and now we had two which were born 355 days apart, it seemed appropriate to take measures against the possibility of us having any more. It was the right thing, and the best thing, to do for us, our family, and my uterus 
What I hadn’t planned for was “the void.” 
Let me tell you about the void. The void is formed once something is done to remove the option of you ever having children again. Once tubes are tied or organs are removed or whatever precaution is taken, the void emerges.
The void, though, is not an empty, desolate place. Many thoughts and feelings call this void home. 
In this space is where my desire to have more children resides. Wait, you think, I thought you didn’t want more children? I didn’t. I don’t. But it’s very strange when you realize that your body, which has housed and pushed out two pretty awesome kids, will never do that again. These woman parts of mine that were designed to make cute, squishy babies, now just hang out in my body without the option to ever be used in their proper fashion ever again. 
It’s true I don’t want more children. I can say that now. Following the months after Luke’s procedure, I wasn’t so sure. After the surgery, we were advised to use a back up method of birth control until Luke was deemed sterile. A few weeks after he healed, I talked to Luke about ceasing our use of condoms before it was confirmed he was shooting blanks because maybe we should leave these decisions in God’s hands instead of taking them into our own. He agreed. I then read story after story of “surprises” from vasectomies that didn’t work. I began documenting my ovulation time in hopes that maybe, just maybe, a little sperm would manage to break through and bring us another baby. 
A girl. I decided the child would be a girl and we would name her Trinity Grace.
But Trinity Grace never came to be, and it took me about six months to come to terms with that fact. 
It’s good, though. I don’t regret our decision. I love our little family and believe it is perfect just the way it is. 
But still… there’s a longing now that the void has brought. I will never feel my muscles tighten with contractions as my body preps itself for labor. I will never again hold a newborn that is my own. I will never again watch with joy and awe as a baby learns to roll over or crawl or eat for the first time.
These events, this sadness, take refuge in the void.
The void is now a part of me and I don’t believe it will ever diminish. As friends have babies and I hold them in the early days of their life, I will feel the void inside of me enlarge for a short time. As my children grow up and become more independent little people, I will silently long for the days where I was needed 100% of the time. Oh sure, it’s not always fun in the moment, but as I met my children’s needs, I was also meeting my own need to be needed. (Say that three time fast.)
In a few months, a good friend of mine will give birth to her third and I look forward to hearing her stories of coping with such a dramatic change. I will even find joy and peace in my own decision to not bring a third child into the world as most days I don’t feel I can handle the two that I already have.
The void, though, will fill me with just a touch of jealousy. Just a sprinkling of remorse that I will never know her journey. After cleaning her home or making her dinner, I will go to my own house, and she will stay cuddling with her newborn baby; an opportunity I will never have again. 
As I’ve said, I am very pleased with the two children I have. They are smart and funny and challenging in the best ways possible. And I’m coming to grips with the void. It is an integral part of my story. It reminds me of where I’ve been. It reminds me what I’ve done. And it reminds me of how silly and foolish I was to have thought I never wanted kids in the first place.
- See more at: http://www.scarymommy.com/the-void-when-youre-done-having-children/#sthash.VreaxcNJ.dpuf

Friday, July 25, 2014

"Everybody knows new mothers are exhibitionists..."

A friend from high school recently posted this to Facebook. 
I'm really sorry if I offend anyone with this post, but it's been showing up on my Facebook feed more and more lately and I feel like I'm entitled to my own opinion... If it isn't polite to show your breasts in public without kids, why do the rules change once Kids come into the picture? It still makes people uncomfortable. Shouldn't some things stay private and sacred? I believe in evolution and progress too, but some things should remain intimate and private. Again, I'm EXTREMELY sorry if I offend anyone, but it keeps popping up on my feed and it's hard to avoid. Just thought I could speak freely about my own thoughts.
I'm not going to lie, upon reading this I found myself, quite literally, seething. I debated ignoring the ignorance. I debated throwing around brilliant videos or articles on the subject. I debated a string of profanities. I debated listing a million reasons why she was wrong. Instead, I let my itchy fingers take to the keyboard and responded.

" I personally don’t think there’s anything private and sacred about eating. Sure, ideally, I like to have my meals at an “appropriate” table, but often while I’m on-the-go, I’m hungry and I still have to eat. So sometimes, I snack on the bus, while I’m at the mall, or I may even stop on a park bench and grab a bite. 
I don’t mean to offend anyone for eating outside my dining room. I don’t wave my sandwich around and announce it to the world. I’m generally pretty quiet and discrete about it; often people aren't even aware I'm eating. I’m sure no one else cares that I am anyway (or at least they shouldn’t…it has absolutely nothing to do with them). 
I have heard blankets are a perfect solution for making everyone else comfortable with me eating. Unfortunately, I tried that last July. The humidex was 37. I nearly suffocated. My hair was a mess. I got lettuce everywhere, and I looked like I had gotten in a tussle with a broad-snouted alligator. 
I do find it frustrating sometimes, though, when friends (who quite often participate in disgusting [IMO] PUBLIC eating competitions nonetheless!) are the ones who are very quick to tell me it’s inappropriate to eat in public, when I’m actually hungry. That’s what you’re supposed to do, isn’t it? It’s not like I’m doing it just for fun or the amusement of others; it’s the very core of why we even have hunger, no?  
And don’t get me started on the hypocrisy of people constantly posting those damn pictures of their FOOD (or other people’s food!), yet turn around and become furious when pictures are posted of people actually eating by themselves or with some girlfriends (do they not realize that’s what food is actually FOR?). A discrete picture of me in the act of eating lunch actually offends them; yet, they have no issue plastering their newsfeed with pictures of food-filled blankets at the beach, appetizers waving around at the bar, or even them with beautifully crafted sandwiches lazing around on a Sunday afternoon enjoying some sunshine. 
Now, make no mistake, I’m no militant eater’s rights activist. I’m not a card-carrying member of the Lunching Ladies League. But I do believe in the right of all humans to eat wherever they want, whenever they want, whenever they’re hungry."
I managed to resist posting a link to this video.

Interestingly, there were numerous responses; some uneducated and asinine (one mutual friend, A NURSE NONETHELESS, commented basically equating breastfeeding in public with having sex in public). Many shared the same views as me. Others were a little more vocally aggressive. Others where somewhere in between. I went back to add a last comment, but it seems she deleted the thread. I'm not sure whether I'm thankful, or sad it won't be there for anyone else's education. My final comment was going to be:

"The two cases in the original post are exactly that, two cases. Breasts in public without a child, and breasts in public with a child are two different circumstances. You cannot say that if something is wrong in circumstance A, it is also necessarily wrong in circumstance B.  Bearing your breasts to feed a child is not targeted at other people, whereas bearing your breasts to show off your breasts is (generally) targeted at other people. These are different circumstances.

Oh, and the laws say that public nudity is only illegal for a sexual purpose, which is why breastfeeding in public has never been illegal.
When you go into a public forum or a public place you go into a space that includes the complete spectrum of everything that is a part of the wider human community. If you wish to shelter yourself from parts of that wider community, it is up to you to leave that space. You cannot change someone else's (legal) presentation in a public forum. The only person you can change is yourself. "

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Make your meal count.

Today is McHappy Day and $1 from every Happy Meal, Big Mac, or hot beverage goes to support the Ronald McDonald House.
During our two month stay at the IWK we spent a lot of time in the Ronald McDonald Room – whether to escape the stress and emotional time of the NICU, empathize with other parents, or eat yummy baked goods and meals provided by volunteers (all free to the families with children staying at the IWK). We spent additional time there with NJ during his stay for surgery in November of last year.
PLEASE support this home away from home - I can appreciate it isn't the healthiest choice, but their coffee is great. Most of all - it's a great cause. We benefited greatly from this organization and so did many of our friends.

Friday, May 2, 2014

“To insure good health: eat lightly, breathe deeply, live moderately, cultivate cheerfulness, and maintain an interest in life.” W.Londen

About a month ago I committed myself to healthier eating and making smarter food and lifestyle choices. Not neurotically. I'd gotten to that point of being uncomfortable in your own skin. I'm lucky that discomfort can be alleviated with a little effort on my part.

I'm very, very grateful that a local hotel (across the street from my work nonetheless) is allowing me to use their gym...for FREE. This allows me to be able to increase my active minutes (more on those later) during the day (when I'm otherwise sitting at a desk from 8-4). Don't get me wrong. I hate the gym. I loathe every moment. I hate going. I internally whine during it. I push and taunt myself through the entire thing. The only satisfaction I get is when I'm DONE and exiting the building. But I know it's good for me. I know it's nice to be able to walk further than the refrigerator without getting winded.

Almost two weeks ago I discovered a new gadget - the FitBit Flex. It's a band you wear on your arm and it tracks your steps, kilometres, calories burned, active minutes, and sleep. You can get it in a bunch of fun colours. Of course I'm painfully practical and got black. You leave it on 24/7. Bonus? It synchs with myfitnesspal and gives you a recommended caloric intake based on your up-to-date activity for the day and your goals. The preset goal it gives you is 10,000 steps a day. Which is challenging for anyone with an 8-4 desk job. But, I've been hitting and exceeding the mark. Sometimes that means at 10 pm I'm doing laps around the inside of my house. But hey, motivation is motivation. So far I love it. I love the data, I love the accountability, but mostly I love the motivation.

I do need to crack down on meal-planning. My husband hates meal planning with the logic of "What if I don't FEEL like having fajitas on Wednesday." So, I usually plan without him. I need to make healthy living easy and meal planning and prep for me is a big part of that. I love planning. I love spreadsheets. I love organized anything. And I hate chaos. This includes the chaos that ensues when we rush home after a full day at work and a ravenous two-year old just wants time with Mama (and perhaps a full belly!), but Mama has to figure out WTF we are going to eat for supper. And prep it. And wait for it to cook. Just so you know, two-year olds are not patient. So planning and prep saves my sanity.

What are YOUR favourite guaranteed-to-love-it healthy recipes?

Oh, and how many steps is a piece of birthday cake?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Strike 1

A local nurse strike is filling the news today. NSGEU (Local 97) Nurses were in contract negotiations and the sticking point were patient-ratios; neither side would bend on the issue. So, after passing essential service work legislation, Nurses are participating in an illegal strike. Kudos, I say. I have a friend participating in the strike. She's a charge nurse for the ER in our city; the largest level 1 trauma centre east of Montreal. She is, understandably, passionate about advocating for patient safety and keeping the ratio issue on the table. She is also gutted at the notion of striking, but does so with a whole heart and a commitment to ensuring patient safety is not compromised. I asked how I could help. She directed me to write. So I furiously wrote (I didn't edit, so remove your grammar judging hat).

April 1, 2014

Please include the following as a written statement for Law Amendments: 

In March 2012 my son decided to unexpectedly arrive ten weeks early. We spent two months at the IWK in the NICU. While in NICU 1, there is one nurse for one baby. At the time, it boggled my mind that my little 2.5lb boy had one nurse designated to watch HIM and him alone. But my son, and all of the other children in NICU1, were in for the fight of their lives. Some of the little fighters were not so lucky. But those who were lucky enough to move on to NICU 2 did so because of the constant care; their nurse literally watched over them and fought for them just as hard (if not harder) than I did as a mom.

As we progressed through the NICU, ratios climbed. Patients became less critical and with that came increased workloads. As parents, we felt the shift immediately. One nurse was now responsible for two or three babies. When their colleague went on a break, they were responsible for double that. It was during these regular breaks that my heart would race and I would be on high alert. Bells and alarms would sound simultaneously. Babies would have apneas and need stimulation to restart their breathing.  I’ve seen babies turn blue. Regular medications needed to be dispensed. Beds needed to be changed. Babies needed to be changed, fed every three hours, bathed. Not to mention the constant barrage of questions from worried parents. And I’m certain that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve seen nurses juggle it all with expert skill and composure.

While I appreciate the IWK nurses are not affected (today!) by this strike, the same sentiment extends to all corners of healthcare - I cannot fathom ratios being compromised. If my son did not have the constant care he received, he literally might not be here. I know the same holds true for the remainder of the hospital and care we all receive. This isn’t a casino where the guest service agent is responsible for helping to make your stay more enjoyable. These are nurses and care that is keeping the people in our lives ALIVE.  Patient ratios are worth standing up for; they are quite literally the difference between life and death. I commend the NSGEU for being outspoken advocates for patient safety and demanding an adequate standard of care. Taking away their right to collecting bargaining to advocate for that safety is certainly not appropriate or cooperative action.  

My friend's piece she submitted to the paper also illustrates the importance of ratios and how that translates to the care we receive. Why we sometimes have to wait 9 hours in an ER when there are beds available. Why some patients are sitting on a stretcher in the hallway for hours. 

It is quite amazing there aren't more deaths, truthfully, when you consider all they are juggling and the resources and support that keeps being taken away. You can periodically run on burnout, but just because it CAN be done, doesn't mean it should be the new normal. The expectation should not be that nurses perpetually have to work at 150% because they are terrified someone is going to be missed and potentially die on their watch. Demanding that intensity of work is a recipe and guarantee for mistakes and misses. 

Ultimately, the argument against keeping the ratios on the table is the cost to do so; the cost of hiring more nurses and keeping the staffing levels where they SHOULD be. Of course the total cost is drastically inflated for argument sake. 

Interestingly enough, our healthcare system is about to get hit HARD. The baby boombers who all hit the education system and created the need for additional schools in the 60s/70s and the shortage of jobs in the 80s are now just STARTING to stress the healthcare system. With an ageing population that are living longer than ever before, they are entering the system with a MUCH more complex care plan. With an onslaught of retirements and the increased demand for services for the next 20-30 years, the healthcare system cannot afford to alienate and put unrealistic expectations on staff...therefore putting everyone at great risk.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Today, I needed this.

Today, I needed this.

Like every day, today I opened up Facebook. Like every day it was flooded with updates and shares and pictures with inspirational sayings. Occasionally something catches my eye and I'll open it. Sometimes it is a post in the midst of becoming viral. I'll see it a million times in the coming days. Sometimes it's a story I've seen periodically posted and after the 1,000 post, I finally click.

This morning, with a death grip on my coffee, I clicked.

Today, I needed this.

My husband has been sailing. A lot. And not a standard sail where he is gone for a couple of months. Since November, essentially, he has been gone Monday-Friday. Home on the weekends (for the most part). A couple of longer stretches where he was home for a little while. It's very unpredictable. I get it; he's in the Navy. It's what he signed up for. Sailing is as much a part of our lives as grocery shopping is for most families.

Shorter unpredictable sails are harder than the long ones. It's constant disruption. And surprisingly for some, the shorter sails are much, much more trying on a relationship. There is a light at the end of our current short-sail tunnel; he is preparing for an upcoming long sail. A very long eight-month sail. I'm equal parts preparing and in denial about this impending sail, but I know (despite how prepared I will be!) it will come on us like a freight train.

I'm very fortunate that my husband is an involved dad and partner; he pulls more than his fair share around the house. I do not do laundry. Period. I do not touch the floors in our home. Or the garbage. Or the green bin. He does bath time. And he builds a killer block-tower and makes a mean lasagna. And that's wonderful. But it does mean that when he's away...it's a bit more of a shock to our house. It's a LOT more on my plate. The adjustment is exhausting. I'm it. I'm on 24/7. Our closest family member is four hours away. The bulk of our family is an ocean away in another province. There is no one for me to call at 3 am if the shit hits the proverbial fan. I mean, there are friends, SURE, but I'm a little reticent to call my fellow mommy friends at 3 am when they have lives and families of their own. I manage to figure it all out along the way. 

My son will turn two in a week. Every night usually around 330 am he will wake and ends up in my bed. I'm too tired to fight at 3 am and I have to get up at 6 and head to work for the day. And function. Like a normal human being. Like many parents, I'm no stranger to waking up with feet in my face or almost falling off the bed because of toddler-sprawl. But somehow, when you wake up at 6 am to a grinning almost-two-year-old who grabs your face in his hands and plants the sweetest kiss on your nose, the 3 am wake-up call is almost forgiveable.

I don't feel like my experiences or circumstances are any more difficult than anyone else's. Hard is hard. Tired is tired. I AM awesome. Some days I'm not-so-awesome.

Today, I needed this.

to the tired mom

Rachael M. Martin

Last night my 4-year-old decided to sleep next to me.
He slept amazing.

I didn't sleep. Sleeping with a 4-year-old is like sleeping next to the hands of a clock. As the night wore on I was inevitably met with feet in my face then hands and then back to feet.
I woke tired. More than tired. I woke wondering why I don't have my red mini Keurig set up in my room waiting with a mug underneath and all I have to do is hit brew.
He woke up happy.
I love you mommy.
He had no idea how tired I really was or how my back was sore or how I really just wanted to sleep for five more minutes -- he just was grateful to see me.
And you?
Are you a tired mom?
Are you waking up wishing for more hours in the day? Are you pushing yourself to limits that you didn't have? Working? Cleaning? Mothering? Wondering? Dealing with kids that are fighting over whose turn it is to play Club Penguin on the computer? (or maybe that's just me) Are you wondering whether what you're doing every day makes a difference? Are you tired of the same routine?
Sometimes being a mom means simply being tired.
Sometimes being a mom means feeling a bit lonely. Like no one else notices what we're doing. After all, no one would know that I had maybe a solid 42.4 minute chunk of sleep last night except that I wrote about it. Well, the gals at Starbucks might know when I come in and ask for a venti caramel macchiato. (Be ready, my Barista friends.)
Motherhood is so often this giving of self in our homes that no one sees. We work. We make macaroni and cheese and forget to take the noodles off and so they become mushy. We pick up Little Tikes toys in the backyard again and again and wonder why we have so much plastic. We fold frayed towels, match socks, call doctors, wash walls that have handprints on them, wash sticky faces, help with long division (is it ever easy for any child?), clean the kitchen, wipe down the microwave after our 9-year-old decided to zap something for too long, we go to work, come home from work, we work at home, we mother all day, we do whatever that each of our stories are, and then we go to bed.

Yeah, we could argue that it's just motherhood. And it's just what moms have had to do forever.
You know what? We have. Since the beginning of time moms have had to get up, had to deal with kid issues, money issues, teaching issues, health issues, and so on.
But, just because we've always had to do something doesn't mean it doesn't need to be celebrated and honored. Motherhood, parenthood, they're amazing things. It's not just roses and sunshine and skipping though the meadows holding hands. It's real hard stuff. Stuff that doesn't seem like it will push us to our limits and yet it does. Stuff that gives us great joy and puts a smile on our face and an hour later has us wondering why in the world the 4-year-old is making us want to pull our hair out.
We go into the world and do our jobs and smile at the other preschool moms and order our lattes and drive down the interstate and get groceries and we smile.
You're not alone. Do you hear me?
You. are. not. alone.
The other moms in preschool, at the grocery store, at work, at school, at co-op classes, at the doctor's office, at where ever you may be, well chances are that they might feel tired as well. Wondering about all this motherhood stuff. Yet, still giving of self for those kids that you love.

So today, today, I stand up and salute you the tired, and yet amazing, mom. You, the mom with no sleep. You, the mom who needs encouragement. You, the mom who works and works and works for her family and it feels like no one notices. You, the mom with those three kids under 5 who never gets a break. You, the mom with the newborn who never gets sleep. You, the mom staying up late waiting for the teen to come home. You, the mom. Plain and simple. You, the mom.

Motherhood is a brave journey. It's always been this brave thing to raise another independent, pushing the limits, melt your heart at night, love them forever even when they drive you crazy, human.
That's what you're doing. Even on those tired days.
You. The amazing, brave, empowered, no sleep yet fighting, awesome, cool, mom.
Who needs sleep anyway, right? (Oh yeah, and get that extra shot at Starbucks.)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

This is what 30 weeks looks like.

Someone I know recently had a friend who was only 30 weeks into a pregnancy (and knowingly high risk for preterm labour) trying to encourage labour and wishing her baby would arrive. Obviously someone grossly ignorant and immature. But it made me angry. And, when I'm angry I write. I just came across what I wrote in response...


Tell your friend this is what 30 weeks looks like.  30 weeks is two months (if you're lucky!) living in a NICU cubicle that barely has enough room for a chair. It's not eating for days on end. It's perpetual crying and worrying. It's watching your baby stop breathing and hoping they start again. Watching nurses start a central line in their head because their little arms and feet are too tiny to find another vein. It’s waiting with baited breath every night to see how many grams they’ve gained or lost; celebrating every gram gained and mourning every one lost. 

It’s being terrified to hold your own baby. Scared of unhooking a wire or misplacing a tube. It’s watching your partner gently lift your tiny bundle with four fingers so the nurse can change the bedding underneath. It`s a baby diaper that is smaller than any cell phone you`ve owned. Fingers that can`t quite wrap around your pinky finger, but have strangulated your heart. It’s watching babies around you go home and feeling your heart both swell with excitement and turn green with envy. It`s sometimes watching parents learn their baby will never go home. 

Thirty weeks doesn’t end on discharge. It follows you home. It makes you twitch and frantically look for your baby when the microwave alarms. You are perpetually terrified. Of apneas. Hernias. Asthma. Heart conditions. Cystic Fibrosis. Blindness. Intestine development. Cardiac disorders. Mobility. Cognitive development. Motor development. Colds. Influenza. Pneumonia. 

The discomfort of pregnancy does not compare to the gut wrenching, life-changing reality of a thirty week baby. Any mom of a premature baby would happily take on stretch marks and hemorrhoids for full term pregnancy. Any mom wishing away the discomforts of a 30 week pregnancy should go and spend a day, an hour, or five minutes in a NICU and ask if they still wish their baby would come early.

As we near NJ's second birthday, I still find it emotionally hard to think about our NICU days. He's a busy, happy, healthy boy now, but I can still smell the antiseptic handwash

Thursday, January 30, 2014

"I show up. I listen. I try to laugh." - A. Quindlen

Excuse me while I blow the dust off my keyboard.

I wish I could offer an inspiring story of blog-neglect because I was off making change in this beautiful world.  I’m happy my excuse isn’t a sad story of devastation and shitty circumstances. Like so many of you, I’ve been knee-deep in…life. Being a mom. Being a friend. Being a wife. A sister. Daughter. Niece. Making efforts to be present and give my time, love, and energy to those in my inner circle.

Sure, we’ve had shittiness.  I’ve had many nights (and a few mornings!) of sobbing in my bathroom. But it’s all relative. In the grand scheme of things, I’m pretty fucking lucky and life has been pretty fucking awesome.

My pint-sized boy wonder is nearing his SECOND birthday.  Boggles the mind. NJ will be my one and only little. I feel like this decision has made me a more patient parent. Any stage I’m going through is literally the only time I’ll be going through it. Don’t get me wrong, I still get frustrated and tired and end-of-my-rope-ish. I wrestle with being good mediocre at everything – wife, mom, employee, friend. 

Knowing he is the one-and-only slows me down in a stop-and-smell-the-flowers kind of way. We laze in our pyjamas. I let him walk at the grocery store. Stickers periodically cover my back door window. We sit and play with pots and pans when I’m supposed to be getting supper.  I only momentarily seethe when I get my fifth night wake-up at 3am. I scoop him up and sometimes we fall asleep in the comfy red chair next to his crib. I’ll wake at 430. Hoist him over my shoulder and snuggle him in our bed until we have to start our day. I’m tired 90% of the time. But I try not to whine about it. He’s a great reason for a sixth cup of coffee during the day.

january life notes

- Blizzard warnings give me anxiety more than anything in my life right now (my husband is currently in the middle of the Atlantic). It would be fine if I didn’t have to actually DRIVE in them.  I am crippled by fear I will get stuck at the office unable to pick up NJ. Or stuck and stranded in a snowbank WITH NJ. Or hit by another vehicle. OR…god help us all STUCK AT HOME AND UNABLE TO GET TO WORK. I don’t actually mind the latter, but despite the fact it is easy for me to work from home, I am overwhelmed with guilt for not attempting to try to get to work.  My boss HATES when anyone is not at work (whether for legitimate reason or not-so-legitimate reasons. SHE doesn’t have a commute in the am (she lives 5 minutes from the office). So, yes, enter severe anxiety when we get shitty (driving) weather. We live in Atlantic Canada. This should be expected and not cause me eczema flair-ups and canker sore outbreaks.

- Three years ago on January 20th A and I started a lifestyle reboot. Going to the gym every.single.day. and eating very healthy. I LOVED it. I mean, I hated the gym, but LOVED how I felt. By May of that year I had lost over 45lbs. It was awesome. By August, I was pregnant.

I’ve been struggling to get back to a more active and healthy lifestyle. I managed to pull the reins back in on my eating in the fall. I went a little astray during the holidays and ultimately decided to reboot on my previously successful date of January 20th. I’m trying to figure out how to realistically fit-in the activity portion of the equation. But I’m back in full force on myfitnesspal. I love meal planning. Admittedly, I like planning ANYTHING.

- I will likely do a more elaborate post on this, but my friend, Natalie, has had somewhat of a life refocus. A single (significant) loss shook her world in 2013. She has refocused 2014 on changing the world; one small random-act-of-kindness at a time. She has fully committed to making her little corner of the map a little more thoughtful and positive. Her commitment to this “be the change” initiative is inspiring and has certainly made me much more conscious of my attitude, thoughtfulness, and energy. I love having people in my life that inspire and encourage me to be a better person. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

"You'll get your turn in the center ring. You can count on that."

A friend of mine recently had the very unexpected passing of her father. A mutual acquaintance decided to somehow turn this around and make it about her. Bizarre.

However, it did immediately remind me of the Ring Theory. I'll admit, I'm not perfect (shock!) and likely guilty of dumping in, too; I'm human. But, I try to check it when I catch myself being a little "dumpy."

So, in my pattern of internet regurgitation (don't worry, I still have at least one more regurgitation post planned!)...I present you:

How Not to Say the Wrong Thing. 

It works in all kinds of crises – medical, legal, even existential. It's the 'Ring Theory' of kvetching. The first rule is comfort in, dump out.

April 07, 2013|Susan Silk and Barry Goldman

When Susan had breast cancer, we heard a lot of lame remarks, but our favorite came from one of Susan's colleagues. She wanted, she needed, to visit Susan after the surgery, but Susan didn't feel like having visitors, and she said so. Her colleague's response? "This isn't just about you."

"It's not?" Susan wondered. "My breast cancer is not about me? It's about you?"
The same theme came up again when our friend Katie had a brain aneurysm. She was in intensive care for a long time and finally got out and into a step-down unit. She was no longer covered with tubes and lines and monitors, but she was still in rough shape. A friend came and saw her and then stepped into the hall with Katie's husband, Pat. "I wasn't prepared for this," she told him. "I don't know if I can handle it."
This woman loves Katie, and she said what she did because the sight of Katie in this condition moved her so deeply. But it was the wrong thing to say. And it was wrong in the same way Susan's colleague's remark was wrong.
Susan has since developed a simple technique to help people avoid this mistake. It works for all kinds of crises: medical, legal, financial, romantic, even existential. She calls it the Ring Theory.

Draw a circle. This is the center ring. In it, put the name of the person at the center of the current trauma. For Katie's aneurysm, that's Katie. Now draw a larger circle around the first one. In that ring put the name of the person next closest to the trauma. In the case of Katie's aneurysm, that was Katie's husband, Pat. Repeat the process as many times as you need to. In each larger ring put the next closest people. Parents and children before more distant relatives. Intimate friends in smaller rings, less intimate friends in larger ones. When you are done you have a Kvetching Order. One of Susan's patients found it useful to tape it to her refrigerator.
Here are the rules. The person in the center ring can say anything she wants to anyone, anywhere. She can kvetch and complain and whine and moan and curse the heavens and say, "Life is unfair" and "Why me?" That's the one payoff for being in the center ring.
Everyone else can say those things too, but only to people in larger rings.
When you are talking to a person in a ring smaller than yours, someone closer to the center of the crisis, the goal is to help. Listening is often more helpful than talking. But if you're going to open your mouth, ask yourself if what you are about to say is likely to provide comfort and support. If it isn't, don't say it. Don't, for example, give advice. People who are suffering from trauma don't need advice. They need comfort and support. So say, "I'm sorry" or "This must really be hard for you" or "Can I bring you a pot roast?" Don't say, "You should hear what happened to me" or "Here's what I would do if I were you." And don't say, "This is really bringing me down."
If you want to scream or cry or complain, if you want to tell someone how shocked you are or how icky you feel, or whine about how it reminds you of all the terrible things that have happened to you lately, that's fine. It's a perfectly normal response. Just do it to someone in a bigger ring.
Comfort IN, dump OUT.
There was nothing wrong with Katie's friend saying she was not prepared for how horrible Katie looked, or even that she didn't think she could handle it. The mistake was that she said those things to Pat. She dumped IN.
Complaining to someone in a smaller ring than yours doesn't do either of you any good. On the other hand, being supportive to her principal caregiver may be the best thing you can do for the patient.
Most of us know this. Almost nobody would complain to the patient about how rotten she looks. Almost no one would say that looking at her makes them think of the fragility of life and their own closeness to death. In other words, we know enough not to dump into the center ring. Ring Theory merely expands that intuition and makes it more concrete: Don't just avoid dumping into the center ring, avoid dumping into any ring smaller than your own.
Remember, you can say whatever you want if you just wait until you're talking to someone in a larger ring than yours.
And don't worry. You'll get your turn in the center ring. You can count on that.
Susan Silk is a clinical psychologist. Barry Goldman is an arbitrator and mediator and the author of "The Science of Settlement: Ideas for Negotiators."