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I am a new parent. My interests are secularism, learning, parenting, religion, career planning, and adult education.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Six Months

Dear Boo Boo,

You've come a long way in six months, baby! In short six months, you have gone from this

to this

You've reached that magical age of babyhood where smiles, giggles, laughs, babbling and playing are the epitome of baby cuteness and you bring joy to everyone who encounters you. We often go to Tim Horton`s to meet Grandma, Grandpa D, Great Auntie June and Uncle Ray for coffee and all their friends and many strangers come up to tell us what a good baby you are. You never cry there, and enjoy playing with a paper cup and having Grandma make you laugh while Grandpa D gets to make funny faces at you. You always have a big smile for Grandpa D.

You're eating habits have changed now that we have introduced you to solid food. Your favourites so far are banana, apple, mango, and peas. Sometimes you would rather just chow down on your bowl though!

Your Grandpa E. likes to come over some mornings to help me feed you. You melt his heart every time.

Grandma often reminds me that each baby is unique and personality traits displayed now will continue to become more apparent as you grow and that I should try to remember as much as possible from your baby days - and oh - I so want to remember every bit.

You are a very sweet-tempered baby - really only cranky when you`re tired, which you probably get from me. You are cautiously willing to try anything so far, all the food you`ve been presented with, the toys from the exersaucer to the jolly jumper, long car rides, etc. You are happy and seem to be content with your life - a quality I hope remains with you. You already have the ability to exercise patience, a trait you have probably received from your father who is the king of patience. You are very bright and curious as well, which is a common baby trait, but one I hope to nurture anyway.

Recently, you have become quite interested in people, particularly other children. Whenever you see another small person there is always a smile, a hand reaching out to connect, and a watchful gaze as you grasp that there are lots of little people in the world.

You`ve become more independent in the past few weeks, which is making it easier for me to get more done around the house, although you often find me at your side to play and laugh with you. You love patty cakes, and kisses behind your ear that make you laugh. You are sitting independently now and we have built you little play nests in the living room and office where you and sit and examine your toys.

You have also been trying to get into the conversation with shrieks, coos, and babbling of which na,na,na and da,da,da have become frequent. It's so adorable and a welcome addition to the cozy noises in our home.

Continue to grow, learn, and love.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Parenting and Feminism with Humour - A Review of BossyPants

When I first picked up Tina Fey's new book Bossypants, all I expecting was a good laugh and an insider's view of working at Saturday Night Live.

What I did not expect was an inside view of an intelligent, successful woman who has the ability to speak about important issues like feminism, equality in the workplace, the stress of "having it all" in terms of working and motherhood, and parenting with humour, compassion, and honesty - all without being preachy.

I think comedy takes the edge off when discussing important issues - even when she's being snarky. She explains it well when describing her first sketch as Sarah Palin:

This sketch easily could have been a dumb catfight between two female candidates...however [it] was two women speaking out together against sexism in the campaign. In real life these women experienced different sides of the same sexism coin. People who didn't like Hillary called her a ballbuster. People who didn't like Sarah called her Caribou Barbie. People attempted to marginalize these women based on their gender...Not that anyone noticed. You all watched a sketch about feminism and you didn't even realize it because of all the jokes.

And that is pretty much how she handles discussing many of her views in the book. I was particularly touched by her discussion about experiencing sexism in the workplace, how she handled it, and how it changed over the years. She showed through humorous stories that sometimes sexism and inequality exist because some people do not actually think that women can do what men do as well (eg. women aren't as funny as men), or they just do not understand what women are talking about (eg. a hilarious account of getting a Kotex Classic sketch produced, but men didn't know how it could be produced because they didn't know that women used to wear belts to secure their pads!). Although I haven't experienced much sexism in my places of work - with the exception of a board member who seemed to think it was my job to make his coffee because I was a woman - it was an interesting part of the book to read. Her advice is to ignore it if that particular person isn't acutally standing in your way of getting what you want, and to go over, under, through if they are. Her view is you can't change people, so don't waste your time. Focus on your goal, your talents, your accomplishments and prove you value that way. Then when you get to the top - don't hire the assholes who are stuck in the past.

I also appreciated her honesty about the struggle to balance being a mother and a career woman. She openly admits that there are tradeoffs - that there are times (approx. 3 times per year) she sits in her office sobbing when she realizes what she's missing at home. But then she remembers,

This was interesting to me because I am currently in the process of looking for child care when I return to work and I fully expect to be sad some days while I'm missing my little girl. But, like Tina Fey, ultimately this is what I need to remember:

"There are many moments of my work that are deeply satisfying and fun. And almost as many moments of full-time motherhood that stink like Axe body spray on a brick of blue cheese."
Having introduced Boo Boo to solids, I think I get the reference!

Anyway, I found the book  not only full of laughs, but interesting and thought-provoking too.
"Of course I'm not supposed to admit that there is triannual torrential sobbing in my office, because it's bad for the feminist cause. It makes it harder for women to be taken seriously in the workplace. It makes it harder for other working moms to justify their choice. But I have friend who stay home with their kids and they also have a triannaul sob, so I think we should call it even....Also my crying three times a year doesn't distract me from my job anymore than my male coworkers get distracted..."

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Grief and Atheism

I have experienced grief on both sides of faith. On one hand I can totally understand the comfort faith in an afterlife can be; but on the other hand, there is an equally comforting belief that there is none. We are born, we live, and we die as part of a process that has no director, no meaning but that which we give it, and that death and disease is just a part of life.

I have lost people dear to me both when I was fully convinced there was a God and an afterlife and now that am fully convinced of the opposite (no God, no afterlife). I have actually found grief to be more straightforward now. People die, can die at any time, and there is no reason for it except that it happens to everyone. I can be sad and I can rejoice in my memories of the people I love who are gone. I don't have to wonder where they are; if they were "good enough" to be in a better place; if they are watching over me. They are in my heart and in my memories - and when I miss them, that is where I will find them - always.

As an athiest, I no longer feel the need to reconcile with God when I lose someone. I don't question why young mothers are taken from their families who need them so badly - I no longer have to make sense of why God would take them, when it seems so unnecessary and God presumably has a reason for doing so. I don't have to wonder why God wouldn't step in and save someone from a crippling depression that caused her to take her own life. These things just happen and they are sad.

After I left faith in God behind me, I often wondered if perhaps I would miss it in hard times. If I would wish faith back into my heart when I experienced pain, loneliness, or grief. When I finally experienced grief as an atheist, I was surprised to find that my lack of faith was actually a relief. I no longer have to try to understand why a supposedly loving God would let bad things happen to good people. I don't have to assume "He" has his reasons. Now, I can just accept that bad things happen, without reason, and be grateful for the people who touch my life, for the love that we shared, and be sad without feeling guilty for wishing they were still here, instead of some kind of paradise.

As an atheist/agnostic, I find death and grief more straightforward now. All I need to deal with are my own feelings and the feelings of those around me. My comfort is my memories and the hugs and community of those who also loved the people I've lost. I no longer feel the need to understand tragedy, but have just accepted it as a part of life. I find my heart comes to peace easier as an atheist than it ever did as a believer.

Last night, I read a blog post that a friend of mine linked to on facebook. It was written by Derek K. Miller who died of cancer. He intended for this to be posted on his blog when he died. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2007.

He was an atheist and wanted to leave some final thoughts regarding his beliefs and love for his family and life. I found it very moving, courageous, and poetic.

It turns out that no one can imagine what's really coming in our lives. We can plan, and do what we enjoy, but we can't expect our plans to work out. Some of them might, while most probably won't. Inventions and ideas will appear, and events will occur, that we could never foresee. That's neither bad nor good, but it is real.

I think and hope that's what my daughters can take from my disease and death. And that my wonderful, amazing wife Airdrie can see too. Not that they could die any day, but that they should pursue what they enjoy, and what stimulates their minds, as much as possible—so they can be ready for opportunities, as well as not disappointed when things go sideways, as they inevitably do.
Anyway, I thought it was beautiful. He obviously lived life believing it was his only shot, found love, enjoyed family and friends, and pursued his dreams and goals. And then he faced disease and death without fear or even hope for more.

What I found even more interesting though is the comments section of this post. As we all know, those who believe in a god vastly outnumber those who do not. Some of them loved and knew Derek, or just read his blog. Many people expressed their condolences, but also added their own hopes and beliefs that Derek perhaps discovered he was wrong, having now "arrived" on the other side. Inevitably, those who share Derek's beliefs were offended on his behalf, finding it disrespectful for Christian to now imposes their beliefs on Derek's experience, his goodbye, his final words. I think its too bad that a feud is now tarnishing Derek's final goodbye.

Some say there are no atheists in foxholes; Derek is just one example that they do indeed exist.