March 22, 2010

Mommies in the ‘Hood

Keeping up with my last post about mommy communities, I’d like to celebrate the fact that I just found out about a website for Vancouver mommies. No idea how I missed this before, but one of my friends and fellow moms pointed out one of their articles showcasing great local mommy blogs. Funny enough, a few of them are blogs I read/lurk on regularly (shout out to Crunchy Carpets, Mother Woman,, and all the others who got mentions) and it sure brings our community closer to reality.

I started poking around the site and found some great articles, reviews, and resources for local events, advice and everything else under the sun. I’m impressed. Many more locally driven sites often tend to be quite thin and narrowly focused. I like to find something a bit more beefy.

Then I started wondering how micro can you get before the appeal or value is lost? Do I even qualify as a Vancouver mom if I live in a veritable suburb? Would there be value to my fellow mommies in our community if they had an online resource such as this, but focused solely on our local community? I know there is a thriving demographic up here, but I don’t know that there would be enough to sustain interest in a small, regionally specific online community. I think for now I’ll hang with the “big city” mommies and try to leverage the community there.

I’m very proud that our local Vancouver mommy bloggers have reached such levels of sophistication in the North American ‘scene’. Most of those that I read, I found through reading some of the other well-followed blogs out there, without even knowing I was reading a Vancouver mom. In fact, one of my favourites (Mr. Lady from Whiskey in My Sippy Cup) just moved out of the Vancouver area – who knew we were fortunate enough to be in the presence of such greatness for years? I’m only sad I never got to meet her while she was so close by.

I look forward to learning about more and emerging local mommy bloggers, and will continue to read those that exist with interest and enthusiasm. But would we ever have the chance to come together in person? Would that make this community stronger or would it just be weird, like a bunch of stalkers that finally get to meet their objects of attention in person? Would we get shy with each other or would we finally be satisfied that there is a whole truth to that person you follow every week? Would our inhibitions become real? Would we get awkward?

Personally, I’d love a Vancouver mommy bloggers meet up. While I get alot out of what I read, I’d also love to round out my experience and membership in this community. If I don’t have 100 readers a day, am I even allowed to say I belong? I think I do. I write, the occasional person reads, I follow and comment and feel some type of kinship with the authors.

What do you think? Am I sounding like a stalker or is this like online dating, where eventually meeting in person takes the community to a new level? Or would it fall flat on its face, never to be the same afterwards when the person you envisioned turns out to talk differently or walk differently or just be different in some way than how we imagined? Are we better left to our imaginations, just like so many blind dates should have been?

March 18, 2010

Mommy Communities – Online and Off

I’ve been collaborating with a woman I met last year who had been the visionary behind a local group for women who were all moms (and often working professionals) and were looking for a community of their own within which they could seek to engage in dialogue and discussion with each other around topics of interest, issues of interest, events, and projects that they wanted to undertake. The group had evolved into something slightly different after she moved out of town, and we are, together, hoping to restart the group with the original flavour and some new takes on the implementation.

It’s been exciting and interesting to hear how the group has grown where she is now living in the eastern US, and I look forward to meeting some motivated and intelligent women as we kick off the group at the end of this month.

(If you are a mom in the Vancouver area, and are interested in coming out to see what this is all about, please leave me a comment and I’ll contact you directly.)

I’m curious to see what kind of turnout we get, and who becomes engaged with the group. It will be largely participant-driven with sessions facilitated by the group leaders, based on demand from the participants. I used to run a group for youth that followed a similar format – facilitators that brought together resources and speakers and activities and projects based on the interests and desires of the participants – and it was a very successful and rewarding model.

I also participate in a few other communities, online, such as Babycenter Canada where I’ve been able to find excellent sources of information, resources, and perspective from other moms who have either been through it all already, or who were going through it at the same time as me. While the articles and resources provided throughout Babycenter are great, it was the knowledge from “the horses’ mouths”, so to speak, that was the most valuable to me.

I guess this is why person-to-person communities exist and flourish. We have access to bajillions of bajillions of advice and practice documents and articles and texts and whatever else is published on the intertubes, but we know there is always either a bias, or careful advisory literature is often skewed to make sure it is as safe as possible and doesn’t leave the author vulnerable to litigation should things not work out as described.

But when we can ask questions of real people who have been there, or who have experienced things we are experiencing, and there is no reason for those individuals to misrepresent themselves, that honest and personal experience can do wonders for making us feel more comfortable, less alone, more accepted, less fearful than we would be if we didn’t have that camaraderie. Women are extremely good at supporting their peers unconditionally in affairs of the heart and in traditionally women-centric domains such as motherhood.

(We’re also very, very good at alienation, being judgmental and inducing fear, but that’s for another post.)

The other interesting thing about being part of a community is that the value one gets from that community is directly related to how much one contributes. I can lurk on boards and watch dynamic conversation unfold until my eyes turn red, but the moment I engage with the group, and start to get responses or discourse that is more directly related to my own perspective, the more I become invested in that community and my interest in and willingness to participate increases.

I will be interested to watch and see how my online and offline communities reflect or oppose each other. Will we see similar levels of engagement in the offline group? Is it easier to participate if you’re behind a screen, than in front of a group, thinking and speaking in real time? How do we create an environment offline that encourages participation and contribution as much as we get online? How do we keep personalities and all the non-verbal communication from influencing the character of the group?

What are your thoughts on the value (or not) of offline and online communities? Are they strong? Artificial? Is the representation in the groups always skewed? Do they encourage us to be ourselves, or do they force us to be something different? Does everyone find them supportive or are there groups or personalities at risk of being abused by them, or abusing them?

I’m looking forward to my experience as a group leader and facilitator, and encourage feedback to help us grow and provide an a resource that helps moms find tools for development, personally and professionally, through dialogue and exposure to new peers and experts.

March 7, 2010

Impending Doomcitement

DSC00118 I had a bi-weekly visit with my doctor on Thursday (yes, we’re down to bi-weekly visits now), and expected another uneventful drive-through dismissal as I don’t have much to complain about (wait! yes I do!… just nothing that the medical professional would cease to roll their eyes heavenward at), and I have typically text-bookish pregnancies.

For the most part, this was the case until he turned to announce I was going for another ultrasound, a bit late this time. Apparently I am measuring significantly below where I “should” be at this point, which didn’t faze me much as I was always “measuring small” last time as well. However, we compared how big I was last time at this stage and I’m 7 cms smaller this time. Huh. Well, he’s not really concerned as it could very well just be the way baby is lying, or I could just be a late popper (like his wife, he explained to me. Come to think of it, I did see her at the store when she was about this far along, and she was indeed tiny, but had certainly caught up in the week before she gave birth).

Anyway, long and short of it, I have to go for an ultrasound tomorrow to ascertain what the dealio is with baby. My doctor explained that most likely it’s nothing, but if they find that it is due to low amniotic fluid vs. small baby who isn’t eating his Wheaties vs. nothing at all, I may be put on – deep breath in! – bedrest. For the remainder of my pregnancy, or until conditions improve. Um, that’s like 8 more weeks, yo.

Besides that, if you are someone who knows me well, the concept of bedrest is pretty much like my kryptonite. I’m an… active and busy person. Not exactly high strung (although perhaps The Hubby would argue this), but just…. busy. Lots going on. Full calendar. No plans to stop/slow down. My people call your people, you know what I’m saying? Bedrest would be something like, um, the dentist. Wait, that may be a bit melodramatic… dentist equates with hell. Bedrest would be a slightly more acceptable version of hell, something akin to purgatory.

I do admit to harbouring these images of a litany of pool boys and french maids and nannies buzzing around me, on salary to my insurance company, rubbing my feet, serving me food and bonbons, bringing me whatever it is that strikes my fancy at the time, and generally making my life lovely for my final weeks of gestational activities. We all know this is a nice fantasy, though, and more than likely I would become excessively frustrated and unable to relax. So, really, is it useful?

The whole bedrest thing both surprised and astounded me. Surprise because when I asked my doctor what may be causing my fluids to be low, if that turns out to be the case, he said “well, you may be too busy”. Busy? Being busy can cause low amniotic fluid? Is that like, a full schedule requires fluid to be executed? Weird. That was certainly news to me. I was also astounded by the suggestion of bedrest because it reminded me of how close we are to being the parents of another child. So far I’ve kind of waved that reality off as a distant future and not really all that … well, real.

So I watched a few TV shows about newborns (man, do they ever pack the airways at a certain time of day), babysat an 8-month-old baby (whoa, babies are a cake walk vs. walking, talking toddler) and started paying closer attention to new moms around and about and HOLY CRAP, Y’ALL, I’m going to be giving birth again soon. 8 weeks max. Well, maybe 9. But STILL. At first, this made me breathe heavily, and not in a way that excites The Hubby. More like paper bag heavy. Then my chest got painful. Then my good friend who just recently had a new baby said “Dude, it’s hell. Two is hell. Prepare yourself.” That helped. Doom.

But also, concurrently, I became enamoured by the tiny, fragile newborns I was noticing everywhere. Like little dolls. I admit to never having been excited by another go at the newborn phase – the crying and colic and not sleeping and 24/7 bleariness, the mood swings and OMG nothing in return. But now, while I recognise those will still be distinct realities, I know I will have Version 1.0 to distract me and remind me of what we have to look forward to – what this child will grow into. We’ll be a family. Version 1.0 will have a sibling (whether or not she likes the idea to begin with). I think I’m even a bit excited.

So here I sit, wondering and waiting, with perhaps a bit of fear but vastly more excitement, and knowing I have no control over the little one’s entrance into the world. It could be sooner than we expected. Or, we could have the whole remaining time to adjust to expecting our second. Regardless, it’s going to go quickly, as this whole pregnancy has. I’m ready-ish, but holy crap. And woohoo!

Let’s just hope (for everyone’s sake and health) I don’t end up a miserable, laid-up wretch for the remainder of the term.

March 1, 2010

What Makes Me Happy…

Life has been nutty around here lately. I literally have not gotten a moment to rest, due to lots of travel, birthday parties, out of towners (freaking foreigners!), Olympics, my newfound love for yoga (which I haven’t been able to attend for a few weeks), and generally waddling around feeling sorry for myself and my man-cold.

Last week I was away for the longest time yet – four days/three nights. Though I was very busy the entire time, which helped me not focus on missing my little girl, once I was en route to get home I couldn’t get there fast enough. Once I did get home, it was the strangest reunion. Version 1.0 approached me in the front entrance, tentatively, as if she wasn’t sure who I was, then reached out and touched my face and said “Mommy?”. I nearly died of a broken heart. We were back to normal in a few minutes, but those first moments together were so strange, like she had somehow grown up again while I was away. I seriously don’t know how people do it, those who have to travel extensively for work with young children. But, I digress.

I was speaking to a client today who works in an organisation that has undergone a tremendous and tragic change in the last 6-12 months, resulting in mass layoffs and reorganisations. Mostly everyone there is feeling quite down and fearful, as is to be expected. However, this gentleman (who is in no less a secure position than the others) said to me today, when I asked how things were, “You know? I’m actually very good. I just am. Nothing has changed, but I feel great and am choosing to just be fine.” I was inspired and thrilled to hear someone choosing to be so positive. He’s not even really a traditionally optimistic or happy-go-lucky sort, so I was that much more impressed with his candour.

Nora from Non-Linear Girl wrote a lovely little post recently called “Happy Days Are Here Again”, in which she lists succinctly some things that are currently making her smile. Nothing world-peace-inducing or requiring much formal deep thought, just a sweet reflection on the nice things in life at this very point.

I figure we’ve got lots of not nice going on around us all the time, and the thought of taking a few minutes to reflect on what is currently making me smile would be like holding a nice cup of tea (or vodka) before bed, and drifting off to a peaceful slumber (without little feet burrowing into my spine).

Without further ado (and I hope you try this too), my happy list.

Currently what’s making me smile:

  • Version 1.0, completely, in general and specifically her newfound love of telling me how much she misses me when I go away, and that she “likes me alot”.
  • Also, the fact that I can put her hair in ponytails every now and then when she allows it.
  • Version 2.0 kicking like a crazy little alien 24/7, and the brief moments he/she lets me rest a little bit.
  • Finally getting all my papers organised after months and months of piling up in unorganized chaos on my desk. Unfortunately, one of the unopened letters included Hubby’s new bank card from, uh, last summer, but that’s thankfully all been dealt with already.
  • My hair is growing out and letting me feel a bit more feminine in a time of much needed contributions to my external self-worth (read: big fat hog growing by the day).
  • Cupcakes. Altogether too many of them in a short period of time, but hey.
  • An unopened Lego Star Wars set that is waiting to be built. So it belongs to the Hubby, but I am certain I can convince him to let me help.
  • A friend has let me borrow Seasons 1-3 of Lost to watch in my upcoming burrowing phase as the impending birth gets closer.
  • GOLD. I didn’t expect to get caught up in the Olympics craziness, but seeing that I live right smack dab in the middle of it all, it was hard to avoid and now I am reminded of my tremendous pride in my country for its personality, friendliness and success. As I drove home on Thursday night, intent on seeing my child and husband, I ended up right smack in downtown Vancouver in the final minutes of the women’s gold hockey game. The minute it ended, the streets erupted in cheers all around me. There wasn’t another car in sight, but I was surrounded by ecstatic pedestrians, all cheering for the same reason. My favourite moment of the Games.
  • Spring is in the air. Always a time for renewal, but the weather has been unusually warm, and I’m feeling change afoot.
  • Family. We spent yesterday at my parents’ house with my immediate family, watching the cousins play together and cheering together, fuelled by national pride. I love the comfort of our family, and that our husbands feel the same.
  • Foodie blogs. Perhaps the greatest thing to emerge from the series of tubes which we know as The Interwebs. The perspectives and experiments and beautiful photography give me the courage to try new and delicious things (provided I am actually at home to try them).
  • Great customer service in a great hotel. The hotel I stay at when I am away treats me like royalty, has big, deep bathtubs and spa treats and chocolate and nice towels and always remembers what I like. Makes being away that much more manageable.
  • Meeting new people. I’ve been making a point of getting introductions to new acquaintances, business contacts, friends, anyone. I’m so energized by new stories and experiences and look forward to connecting them all together.

What’s on your list? Is it harder to come up with a happy list than a gripe list? Once you get started, I prefer to think not.

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