STUDYING IS SELF-INDULGENT

Being a student is so self-indulgent. Full-time students (myself included at one time) love to work the pity: so much studying, so much reading, so little sleep, so little food. Two words: yeah right. How about: sleeping in, reading at coffee shops, engaging in discussions with peers, having time to self-reflect/ponder the problems of the world, etc., oh, and being master of your own schedule–no one else to work around. Really, it’s what I dream of doing on vacation.

Don’t get me wrong, having a family and a career blows the stinky-socks off of inhabiting a stuffy cell called a library while attempting to make sense of the world through a stack of incomprehensible academic rhetoric (only to explain one’s life work through more academic rhetoric that the average person could never hope to understand). The personal sacrifices necessary to having a family are far outweighed by the rewards. I would never and will never trade relationships for letters after my name, no matter how much I pretend to justify them by claiming they will help society.

Nevertheless, having the opportunity–for it is an incredible opportunity–to spend time studying while being a mother, wife, etc., feels self-indulgent. I don’t know that I, or any other eighteen to twenty-two-year-old for that matter, ever appreciated this opportunity as much as I do now.

Hooray for student-slash-parents! Hooray for books and learning and preschool and crayons and story-time and text books. Hooray for balance and for encouraging, through example, a life-long love of learning!

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BALANCING BALLET

Okay, so I’ve missed a few blog entries, but I have a really good excuse: ballet. “Ballet?” you say. “As in, tutus and inhuman displays of grace and flexibility?!” Yes, ballet. (Only, minus the tutus, and severely lacking in grace and flexibility…)

I just finished my third Thursday morning class of adult beginner ballet. It’s been a dream of mine for several years, which is funny, because I’m so not a ballerina. Growing up, my sister was the beautiful, skinny, girl-y ballerina. I was the downhill ski-racer. Enough said. My thunder-thighs are excellent for many things; pretty pas-de-bourrees is not one of them. But that’s kind of the point.As mothers, especially mothers juggling careers and/or school and goodness knows what else, it is easy to fall into patterns of what we “know” and what we consider ourselves to be good at. Children suffer the perils of being labeled all the time, but what about their parents? Have we labeled ourselves? Do the labels we bear get passed on to our children? All too often, yes. Everyday we challenge our children to do things they don’t know how to do, but how can we, if we don’t challenge ourselves?I think there’s a common belief, among moms especially, that motherhood must be completely “about the kids.” Sure, our children are our number one priorities, but how important is it for our children to see us trying new things, learning new skills, and developing skills we already have? VERY important, says I. Being a mother doesn’t have to mean abandoning our passions for the sake of full-time taxi driving, lunch making, and home-work assisting. I think balance makes for happy families.

… and plies and releves make for sore calves. (Excuse the lack of accents.)

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SNIFFLES AND THE ELBOW-COUGH

First week down. Homework done? Check. Excitement about school extended past the first week? Check. Matching mother/daughter colds? Check. Awww, isn’t that cute? Yeah, welcome to the germs of preschool.

I phoned the school yesterday to ask if my daughter should still attend when she clearly has a cold. “She’s been sick for a few days and is completely her usual self now, but is definitely still coughing and sniffling,” I explain. “Does she have a fever?” they ask. “No.” “Diarrhea, vomiting?” “No, no – it’s just a cold.” They laugh. “If we didn’t let kids come to school with a cough and a sniffle, no one would be here.”
Great! I think … ?Time to stock-up on vitamin D. Here’s hoping that other parents have been nagging about the elbow cough as much as I have. And, here’s hoping that my nagging will actually pay-off in my absence.
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FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL

I couldn’t decide what was more important: taking a picture of my daughter, ready with new shoes, new hair-cut and a “I’m so grown-up” grin, or actually getting her to her first day of school on time. In the end, I managed both.

Here I am, as never before, with the whole day to myself. I hope she’s having fun …
“Aurora goes to school while Mama works on school.” Yes. Can you see how hard I’m working? Blogging = procrastination? Well, yes, perhaps, but less so when your education is in professional communication and you dream of one day being a writer. The cloud-filled sky of the rainy west coast: not the limit.I have fourteen hours over two days to get a week’s worth of school work done. My six-plus-year career as a music teacher/entrepreneur is entering its coda.Goodness knows what lies around the corner — a pair of dirty pajamas, actually.I hope she likes her lunch, and I hope she remembers where the bathrooms are.
I miss you Aurora.Hello Communications 345!
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EVE AND THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

Figuring on jotting down some notes about a children’s story I’ve been inventing for my somewhat insomniac daughter, I pulled an old scrapbook off the back bookshelf. I assumed it was empty. Instead, I found one lone journal entry, written obviously with great expectation of having successors, but alas, followed by condemning white pages (albeit, with pretty dried flowers pressed into the recycled paper). So apparently I am about as good at consistency when writing in journals as when writing in blogs. A-hem.

Though the journal entry was written some years ago, it poses questions to which I haven’t yet an answer, and questions which, surprisingly, I still find relevant. Humor me. Give me some answers, thoughts, anything! And, guys, though the topic may lend itself more readily to a female audience, please don’t shy away from commenting. Your input would be much appreciated. Oh, and by the way, don’t mind the overly “poetic” title, never fully realized or explained. As I say, I had great intentions.

Eve and The Eye of the Beholder
Discussions with Beautiful Women

Forward: My StoryIn high-school I was never one of the “pretty” girls. I didn’t think I was ugly, or anything, and I certainly didn’t wish I looked any different. There were simply those girls whose hair was all done up, whose make-up was precise and whose clothes distinctly advertised the latest in teen fashion. They were those whom every guy was obsessed with, and whom general opinion had declared were beautiful. And, more importantly, they were those who cared. I wasn’t one of them.There were plenty of things I did care about, and chose to measure my self-worth by: music, academics, being in the spotlight … I had plenty of self-imposed expectations. Being “beautiful” just wasn’t one of them. I was one of those kids who had to be taught about personal hygiene. I can still remember running out of the house with my mother and the hair brush in hot pursuit. You’d think the onset of puberty would change my out-look somewhat, but no. Throughout my teens, I chose to dress in clothes I liked, not necessarily those that looked good on me. On the few occasions that I put on some make-up, I did so more as an artistic exploration than in efforts to “look good.” Having lost the hair-brush battle to a pair of scissors, my mom offered some advice in response to me painting my eyes with thick black liquid eyeliner that extended past my eyelids to form intricate swirls on either side of my face.

“Oh, Bronny,” she said, “I wish you wouldn’t. Your eyes are your best feature, and that really doesn’t flatter you.”

“Mom,” I replied, “That’s really not the point.”

Nor was it ever the point in any of my quasi-Gothic explorations, my multi-coloured hair, my rainbow eyelashes, nor my huge orange “raver” pants (that never actually made it to a rave).

In small town suburbia, “beauty” was very tightly confined, defined by an ideal with very little margin for error.

“You could have soooo been one of the popular girls, Bronwyn,” a friend/acquaintance once told me while marveling at (or perhaps attempting to de-tangle) my then long, thick blond hair. I believe my response came in the form of a horrified look suggesting, “How dare you suppose that I would ever wish to be?!”

“But, I like you just the way you are,” she concluded, which was good, because that’s just the way I liked me too.

I often long for the days when I didn’t care how “beautiful” I was, but was simply what I was: fully content. I remember listening to another high school friend lament over having not done fitness for the past three days, and about how concerned she was that she looked fat. “Really, honestly, I thought, “this is ridiculous.”

“Don’t you ever feel self-conscious about that sort of thing, Bronwyn?” she asked.

“No,” I replied, despite having been one of those girls who had gained over 25 pounds between the start and finish of high school. “If any guy is going to be interested in me, I want it to be someone who doesn’t care about stuff like that, but who will like me for who I am, ” I declared, and really honestly, I believed it.

“Must be nice,” my friend muttered sadly.

“Yeah, it was nice,” I recall; what happened?

***

Today I can identify all too well with that high school friend whom I can remember having confessed,
“I am aware of every pound gained, every pound lost. I know exactly what my body looks like, and everyone else’s around. If anyone gains or looses weight, I notice. Every day, every moment, I am comparing my body to others and am discerning how each activity I do, each thing I eat affects what I look like.”At the time, I felt genuine sympathy. I imagined that what my friend described must be like struggling with some awful disease. Now, I don’t imagine. I know it’s true. Some days I feel great, others, I don’t. At times I can forget about it and live “freely;” at other times, I am obsessed.I often look back on my high school attitude with fondness, and yet, there are aspects of my former attitude that I no longer condone. I had little respect for the beauty of my body and took little, if any time to celebrate my femininity. It is admirable that I did not worry about my appearances, but perhaps not so admirable that I didn’t care (period). I didn’t care much about strength, health, or simply appreciating my physical qualities.

Imagine a father who has many children. He gives them each a beautiful, unique potted flower and entrusts them to care for it all on their own. I imagine he would be quite sad to see some of his children silently fretting over each petal, leaf and stem while looking at each other’s flowers and wishing that theirs was different. I imagine the father would feel as if his gifts were received ungratefully if his children were constantly wishing that their flowers looked more like someone else’s. On the other hand, it may also seem ungrateful were one to take the flower, say “thank you,” and promptly place it in a dark room with little light, often forgetting to water it. To allow the gift to wither and wilt rather than to place it on display and make it look as beautiful as possible would surely disappoint the giver as well.

It appears to me that the path from neglecting to celebrating to obsessing over one’s body and self-appearance is a slippery slope that many (perhaps most) women have struggled upon at some time in their lives. What are the triggers that cause us to lose our footing? Can we reach out to others for support? Who or what will help us, and is the problem only considered a problem when extreme ends of neglect or obsession are reached, thus risking our lives? What will cause us to fall? Do we know when we are pushing others down, or dragging them with us?

I cannot answer these questions, but I can only reflect on things past that may have caused me to lose my footing and give in, in some way or another to vanity’s forces.

In my first year away at University, I decided, with the purest intentions only, to start running. I knew it would improve my health and mental clarity. I also began to eat better, no longer in a state of teenage-rebellion against my mother’s oh-so-organically-wholesome cooking, but in a place whereby I longed to be responsible and as true to my upbringing as possible. I went from a casual runner who enjoyed the “social drinking” of slurpees to a stir-fry and granola nut who trained daily for triathlons. Needless to say, I lost weight. I may not have even noticed, myself, but others did. I heard no end of, “Bronwyn, you look great!”. People who grew up with me, family members, old friends: all seemed impressed by my new figure. Personally, I was just impressed that I could do a triathlon and enjoy it, but with some persuasion from the compliments of well-meaning “others”, that eventually changed.

Rather suddenly it came to my awareness that I could be “one of the pretty girls” and soon that sense of attainability had me obsessed to the point that I no longer even appreciated who I was, but wanted to look just like an image – an image that I had so recently despised. Curious. It’s like a poor but content man being given some money, and suddenly having a little makes him unsatisfied by the desire of always wanting more. But that’s money. Everyone knows that money is the root of all evil. But beauty? Innocent, enchanting, angelic beauty? Could such a delicacy really cause such harm?

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TEMPTATION, GUILT, AND THE AWESOME POWER OF GOD

I’ve been wrestling with this nagging temptation for quite some time. By wrestling with, I don’t mean the struggle of not succumbing to the temptation, the struggle not to sin, but merely the struggle of havingthe temptation in the first place, and of wanting it gone. Over the past few months I’ve felt just about every possible feeling of guilt as a result of having this temptation: I can’t believe this; I thought I was passed this; this is so terrible, if people only knew, they’d think I wasn’t even a Christian; I am such a horrible person; I’m obviously straying from God; try as I might to draw on his presence, I have failed. What a failure I am.

Somehow, I believed that if I kept earnestly praying for God to remove the temptation, He most assuredly would, and as long as the temptation was still there, it was an obvious sign that I didn’t truly want it gone. Some part of me was failing to give this over to God. And so, in distress, I continued to pray – and felt guilty all the while. The odd thing was, the more I turned to God, the more the temptation seemed to show it’s ugly face. To me, this was utterly confusing, and left me feeling frustrated and powerless.The other day I was in the car on my way to do an errand, when a harmless bit of everyday life triggered the temptation and BAM! This huge overbearing cloud of guilt and confusion suffocated me once again. I cried out to God, and out of desperation started reciting the first verse that came to mind concerning temptation: 1Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man, and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also that you may be able to endure it. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is … ” I repeated it over and over, all the while wondering why my “memory cards” entitle this verse “Assurance of Victory,” and yet, I was feeling everything but victorious.Finally, in the midst of my frantic speech (fully out-loud, by-the-way. I’m hoping people assumed I was just one of those bad drivers talking on a speaker phone in traffic, rather than a nut-case shouting into thin air), the “still small voice” managed to reach me through my hysteria. “Is temptation a sin?” I stopped: Wait… Think about it… No, of course not. The very verse I was reciting does not even assure that God will completely remove temptation for those who ask. It assures God’s power to keep us from sin as a result of temptation. After all, Jesushimself was tempted. To havetemptation is NOT a sin. To act on it is – and THAT is what God promises to save us from when we draw on Him. The still small voice was suddenly louder, “Are you afraid you might act on this temptation, Bronwyn?” The question itself seemed almost ridiculous. “No way!” I confidently proclaimed. Suddenly, it seemed as though victory was mine, even in the midst of temptation. The cloud of guilt was lifted from me by the powerful hand of God. I was sure, if it weren’t for my seat belt, that I would float right off my seat.It’s funny how this revelation was no big news to my intellectual self, and yet, somehow, I had allowed Satan to make me feel guilty for having temptation, as if Satan himself was the cause of my temptation, and that merely having it would keep me from God’s presence. In reality, I think God allows us to have temptation in order to draw us closer to himself. The only thing Satan had the power to contribute (and the ultimate cause of my frustration and spiritual repression) was the guilt – and, at that moment, God empowered me to take that from Satan as well. Praise God!

As I thanked God for breaking me free, and as I celebrated the fact that my temptation could be used by God to draw me deeper into His presence, I was reminded of a song by one of my favourite Christian music artists, Rich Mullins. It’s called Hold Me Jesus, and he wrote it after facing some pretty serious temptation when visiting the Red Light district of Amsterdam. I sang it to God, loving the fact that I could so well identify with another Christian whom I so deeply respect.

Eventually, I got to where I was going, completed my errand, and returned to my car for the drive home. I was still “floating”. On the way home other thoughts of daily life started to occupy my brain, but I wasn’t ready to leave the spiritual mountain top yet. Determined to stay focused, I turned my radio to Praise 106.5 – which, if you know me well, you would know is a VERY bizarre thing for me to do. Even when desiring worship music, I generally loathe that station, but anyway – I turned the volume up just in time to hear the radio announcer say, “This is Rich Mullins.” I recognised the intro right away. It was Hold Me Jesus. I almost had to pull over, as I could barely see through the tears streaming down my face. It wasn’t as if I needed more confirmation, but God, in His infinite love, decided to bless me with it anyway. And so, I just HAD to share this experience, as it was too overwhelming to keep to myself.

So there you have it. I am a Christian currently experiencing a great spiritual high while in the midst of nagging temptation, and I am a crazy nut-case who shouts Bible verses on repeat and sobs while driving her car.

Love to all.

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ONLY IN VICTORIA!

“Only In Victoria” could no doubt be the title of a large volume of anecdotal stories, all of which would leave readers shaking their heads, laughing and/or exclaiming, “I know exactly whom you are talking about. I met him last week!” Presently, however, I desire to share but one Only in Victoria account for the sole purpose of launching into a full-fledged rant about Victorians and their insane views on “friendliness” and traffic rules. Prepare yourself.

My daughter and I were on our bike, positioned in the left turning lane of a through-street. I awaited a break in the oncoming traffic, left arm diligently extended, when, sure enough some well-meaning driver of an oncoming car stopped (in the middle of traffic – no stop sign, no light – nothing!) and started waving his arms out his open window, apparently indicating that I should go. “It’s your right of way!” I shouted, to which he impatiently implored “Just go!” Meanwhile, the driver behind him had honked her horn, and was frantically trying to navigate a passage by which she could roar her SUV around the wrongly stopped vehicle, and likely plough into some cyclist less adamant about maintaining traffic laws (and my daughter’s and my safety) than I. “I obey the rules of the road!” I declared, and planted both feet firmly on the pavement. Finally, the “friendly” driver ceased to be “friendly” and carried on. The SUV driver followed, and to my surprise declared “Good for you!” as she drove by. Through her open window I saw that my supporter was a fully uniformed cop. The number of times I have come across this exact situation (minus the gratifying affirmation from law enforcement) is, in my opinion, obscene.

Dear “Friendly” Drivers:
Since when have hand gestures and shouting been the proper way to determine who has the right of way at an intersection? I know we’re polite Canadians who wish to be generous and all, but if we’re generous at the cost of maintaining the predetermined order of proceedings, we might as well all pull over and discuss matters of how to proceed over tea and crumpets every time we encounter a potential conflict of space. I understand that there are many cyclists who do not obey the rules of the road. Drivers therefore see cyclists as unpredictable, and would sooner get them out of sight/out of mind than face the risk of sharing the road with them properly as though they were any other vehicle. I’m sure you think you are doing us a favour. You’re not. Though you may think that it is obvious why you are motionless when you clearly have the right of way, it is not. Your hand gestures cannot be seen by all the cars behind you, nor the ones in other lanes, nor the ones approaching from other streets, etc. Furthermore, many of the tens of other vehicles on the road cannot see me, the cyclist. As soon as I obey your wish and do something unpredictable (i.e., stray from the governing traffic laws), I put myself in great danger. I will not do it. (But thanks anyway.) Regardless of the fact that many cyclists will probably let you down, PLEASE assume that we will all behave as regular law-abiding vehicles, and PLEASE drive accordingly. Should it happen that some reckless cyclist causes you to have an accident, I can assure you it will be to his or her loss, a price well worth it for the sake of keeping the rest of us safe on the road.

Dear “Reckless” Cyclists:
Whether you don’t know the rules of road, or you simply think they don’t apply to you, I’m sorry, but you deserve to be hit. What’s that you say? You weren’t wearing a helmet? Well, stupid is as stupid does, I guess. I know I’m being insensitive, but I’m sick and tired of people like you ruining it for the rest of us. Don’t think that disobeying the rules, and riding recklessly in traffic only puts you at risk. It gives cyclists a bad name, causing cars to behave impatiently and unpredictably around us all, not to mention the extra difficulties your behaviour places on hard working lobby groups attempting to gain more rights for law abiding cyclists on the road. I see you running stop signs and red lights, swerving in and out of parked cars, and apparently suffering from a duel personality complex as you haphazardly switch between vehicle and pedestrian rights. I don’t know if it’s that you don’t care about your safety, or, that you’re ignorant, or that you’re just plain stupid. Quite frankly, I don’t care. Learn to ride, or get off the road (and NOT onto the sidewalk)!

Dear Road-Users-of-all-Kinds:
Whether you are in your fancy BMW, driving a semi, riding a bike, or hopping on a pogo-stick, if you are on the road, KNOW the rules of the road, OBEY the rules of the road, and if it is your right of way, shut-up and TAKE IT! If you do, we will all get to where we are going faster, not to mention in one piece!

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