Saturday, August 30, 2008

Wascana Hotel - Part II (Vote below!)

People emailed me after that post. At home, my personal account.

People in the know said it's in the works.


Effing fantastic.

There was talk about red tape. Getting through oodles of government. The levels of difficulty.

Um, didn't we empty a lake, dig the bottom deeper, and then fill it back up again?

I think we can build a hotel. With a pedway. To the Conexus Arts Centre.

Let's get on it, people.

Scroll down to bottom of page to vote!

Email one of the options below to let them know this is a great idea.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Shameless plug

If everyone in the world did yoga there would be no war and everyone would be healthy and happy. Bold statement, I know.

Yoga is like a shower for your insides. When you are finished your practice, it's like you took your internal organs and all your muscle tissue and fibers and soaked, soaped, and scrubbed them, wringing them out.

It's like a re-set button. The beginning.

Yoga Mala, in Regina, is quite possibly the most supportive environment to do this.

Check it out.

I've been reading about yoga and doing it for quite some time. Only recently, however, have I invested the time to truly tune in to my body and mind.

It has been amazing and liberating and special.

One of the things I read before and understood on an intellectual level is that all of what we experience emotionally is stored in our bodies physically. Like, we have a memory of it in our mind, but we also have a memory of it in our body.

Made literal sense to me, but that was the only level I understood this.

A deepening practice of yoga, however, has really brought the idea to life.

I've been flooded by memories that I have then been able to let go. I have felt my physical body change at the same time that my emotions have stabilized. When I took the class initially, it was work to keep up with the flow and to understand how the poses worked. As the poses became, I wouldn't say second nature, but more easily accessed, maybe, I think I was able to go some places I hadn't gone in a long, long time.

At then end of a few classes I lay in savasana, tears rolled out of the corners of my eyes and down my face toward my ears. I was surprised. I hadn't felt sad entering the class, nor at any part. Why tears? Why the overwhelming sense of emotion? It was only later that I caught a glimpse of understanding. Yoga had touched me deeply, somewhere inside.

Sometimes we do call and response. About the third line in I choke up. I don't know the words, nor do I understand the language. But something catches me and evokes emotion.
If you want life changing, on any level, try this. And if you want to do it in a beautiful space, befitting the practice, try Yoga Mala.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

There's a new kid in town

The questions used to be easy to answer. That’s not to say they were not tedius, don’t get me wrong, but they were definitely easy. “Why do you stop at red lights?” and “How do the lights change colour?” and “What are we having for supper?” and the like. Boring, maybe, and sometimes I’d turn up the radio a little and ask if we could just all be quiet for a few minutes. She’s a good kid, pretty receptive, and her sister is only one so she can’t talk. I’d get a minute or so of relative quiet and then the questions would start up again.

For the last month or so, though, it’s like a different child is sitting in the back seat. For starters, it does look a little different back there. She’s on a booster seat now, no longer in the toddler car seat. Little sister gladly traded up and out of the bucket seat that had her reclined and backwards facing, now happy to face forward like a big kid. Can’t talk, but if she could I know she’d be telling me she wants to be just like that older sister.

So she’s taller, and can see out of the windows better. But that’s not the big difference. Nope, it’s this whole new style she has, a way of talking, thinking, and asking questions that has me up in arms. It started after a friend’s daughter came to play. At five, and entering kindergarten this fall, Hannah Montanna is apparently all the rage. Until recently, all I knew of Hannah Monntana is that she is Billy Rae Cyrus' naked posing daughter. Not exactly the role model I dream of...

Along with barely dressed teen pop stars, she also loves to sing along with the summer anthem "I kissed a girl, and I liked it," telling me she's only going to kiss girls, boys are, and I am quoting here, "too loud."

But maybe the worst is that she has also discovered the computer. For the longest time, she thought that and polly pockets were only available on grandparent computers.
(def: grand·par·ent (n): person, older, with oodles of patience, sole purpose of which appears to be making parent look like frantic, no-saying, fun police. i.e. "Would you like to play dress up Barbie on for two hours? That sounds great. I have nothing else to do today, because I made dinner for tonight already; I just have to toss the fully balanced and delicious meal in the oven. I keep up with the laundry and the house is spotless. And you know, I love Maybe next we can look at pictures of baby girl monkeys on Google Images.")

"Nope, we don't have that here," I would say, making my face a mixture of consternation and empathy.

Her dad, always trying to one up me (and aspiring grandparent in a very distant future), says things like "Oh, of course, honey, let's go play!" and now my WORK computer is in constant jeopardy of the horrific viruses. Who knows, I fear all my serious documents will be replaced with chippy sentences. Instead of formal, accountant prose, it will now read "and then the accountants found their really cool clothes, for the fall conference, and they all got dressed up really fun. Two really good friends actually skipped the boring conference and went shopping. How cool is that!"

I'm sorry, I just don't think I can do these sites justice for how excruciating painful they are. Somehow I will have to have them, ahem, removed from our computer. "What? omigod, barbie isn't here must be broken."

Monday, August 25, 2008

Living a lie

I've been living a lie. Let me tell you about it.

For the last ten years or so I've thought of myself as a fat person.

What's the lie?

I know - it's crazy. Not what you expect.

I'm not fat.

How did this happen? Let me break it down for you. Get a coffee, this might take a while.

When I was in about grade four, something funny started happening. (For the record, I was far, far, far from overweight. I'm not certain of my grade four weight, but I do know that when I was in grade one I weighed thirty seven pounds. That is three pounds less than my four year old weighs. Granted, she is also nearly as tall as me. My point is, though, that I was a tiny little person.) Back to what started to happen.

Christine and I (she was my best friend, and was she ever a gooder. I was lucky.) would be walking to school and suddenly, for no reason at all, my right leg would give out. It happened all the time. I became known for it, much like in grade one I was known for my ability to do the splits both ways and in grade three I was known for my box hockey prowess. At any given moment I would collapse to the ground as though I had been shot. It hurt, but the pain receded quickly, and it never seemed terribly earth shattering to me.

The older I got the more it started to hurt when it happened, and the more inconvenient it became. But the real doozy happened at Checkers.

Dancing away (oh, I thought of myself as a dancing queen), my kneecap slid off my knee and my leg buckled. This time, though, my kneecap stayed stuck in the wrong spot. My leg bent at a horrific angle, kneecap pointing off in the distance, the pain was unbearable. Some thoughtful guy gently pulled my foot out and the kneecap popped back over. My poor brother carried me out of the bar.

The pain was unbelievable and the knee swelled up like crazy. I had to have it drained a few times. That was when I started putting on weight. I was twenty three, I think, and it hurt terribly to walk, I was living on my own and eating a lot of burritos, and I couldn't do anything remotely athletic. No one suggested physiotherapy and so I wallowed in my achy leg and comforted myself with late night burgers.

At this point, from a comfortable one hundred twenty five pounds or so, respectable on a five foot four inch frame, I ballooned up to one hundred and fifty two poungs. Ironically, I worked at a gym (they must have hired me as a reminder: Look: this too, can happen to you!) and it was there that I stepped on a scale and immediately told my co-worker that it was broken. I really thought it was. I feel sorry for my deluded past self. It wasn't until I saw a photograph and wondered who is...oh my GOD IT'S ME. I got it.

I quit smoking, started running, decided to train for a marathon, and lost twenty five pounds. This was when I was twenty six. It was great; running and training was exhilarating and wonderful.

You know what bugged me, though, was the people who just couldn't let it go. We'd meet someone, or they would introduce me to someone, and they would say, all nonchalantly, "This is Kristen and oh, SHE USED TO BE FAT. Can you even believe it??? I know! It's crazy!" It was as though I was a circus freak. Sometimes I wanted to say quietly, hey, I'm pretty sure I'm more than my weight, look, I have a personality and everything. But I let them.

And soon, as it happens, I started to believe the hype. Instead of remembering the oh, thirty one years of my life where I wasn't overweight, I recalled only that I used to be heavy. When I lookedin the mirror there was a constant anxiety; what if it comes back, what if I'm not diligent enough...all that.

On the couch last night as I tried to think of anything I could think about that would distract me from that horrible show Jackass, I had a total epiphany. I'm not fat. I was overweight for a few years, but that is not who I am, it does not define me, and no longer will I give it any power over me.

This is so melodramtic for me. Fitting.

Scintillating, isn't it? Go ahead, subscribe...I know that these intimate details of my life are riveting.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

On running

Running changes your life. Of course, anyone who runs knows that and anyone who doesn’t run cannot understand that concept. It changes the core of your being – from how you feel to how you dress to how you communicate, parent, love, live, and learn.

Before I began running I was good at blaming. I was unhappy? Well, I had a difficult time growing up. Clothes didn’t fit? Stores changed their sizes and unreasonable expectations were set by society. Always sick? Poor immune system. I was very good at finding a reason for everything, and the reason was never of my own making.

Running changed all that. Running strips away all of the crap, all of the delusions, the self absorbency that is so common in our world today. When I was pounding the pavement, the race was with myself. Could I do better? Could I make it farther, faster, than the day before? Injuries were tests, not just of my body but also of my mind. Would it get me down or would I learn from it, become stronger. Get through it.

Running once, I saw my marathon instructor. A veritable machine, he and his wife were my coaches in the early stages of running when I did a marathon for Joints in Motion. A triathlete, many time Ironman finisher, I assumed he would say hi and continue on at some crazy pace unattainable by me. But he slowed down to chat. After only a minute or two of idle catching up, he told me doctors had found a 2 inch aneurism in his heart. He spoke about the decision not to have immediate open heart surgery, the shock. His wife’s worry. He talked about his kids and how proud he is of them. He talked about how important physical activity has been for him – where it has taken him and how it allows him to live life to the fullest. He talked about slowing down, but not stopping. And how this thing, this awful thing, had allowed him to realize that maybe he needed to slow down, take stock, enjoy. We ran together for twenty minutes or so, and talked about babies and houses and general things, and then with a tip on some real estate he was off to the Y. I finished my run and thought about what he had said. Am I appreciating what I have? I often bemoan a lack of time, with a toddler, a husband, dog, job, friends, family, yardwork, housework, and all the other things that come with living life, I have been forgetting that this is what life is- this is it. So when I get the opportunity to run around the lake, instead of wishing I could do more, I should be happy. What's that slogan? Just do it.

Again, running has set me back in the now. With the help of a great coach who learns his own lessons, I remembered what the point is.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wascana Hotel?

What if:

Our amazing city, our beautiful, mostly undiscovered, and slightly slow city (I say that in the nicest possible way, like you'd say it about your dippy little sister or crazy aunt) got a little bit aggressive. (Listen, prairie people, I know you don't like that word, but I'm not going to tone it down. Assertive just isn't going to cut it.)

What if:

We were a bit more outgoing, a bit more like that sister city up north.

What if:

There was a hotel on the corner of Wascana Parkway and Lakeshore Drive.

What if:

We moved the nursery that is there now. I'm sure if we put our collective heads together we could come up with another place.

What if:

The hotel was attached by a pedway to the Conexus Arts Centre.

What if:

Regina could market said hotel (I like the ring of Wascana Hotel, myself) as close to North America's largest urban park....including Central Park.

What if:

We could book conferences by virtue of our location...instead of in spite of. (I know, I know. We all know that if you look at a map of North America we're perfectly centre...but the rest of the world needs to be "educated". )

What if:

When you walked around the lake in the summer you saw lots of tourists...enjoying things like the Mackenzie Art Gallery, the Legislative Building, the Willow on Wascana, the ice cream, the Dragonboat Festival, the Storm Dragonboat tours, Willow Island, kayak rentals, canoing, sailing...Bazaart, festivals, movies in the park...

I know. Ridiculous. Why on earth would we use as a marketing ploy the most fantastic thing we have to showcase.

Why would we ask a worldwide hotel chain to put up a beautiful boutique hotel close to our (up and coming) downtown, our beautiful lake, our university, our technical school, art galleries, and museums.

It would almost be like we were....Saskatoon.

For nerds only

We have this treasure in Regina, you've probably heard of her. Her name is Jana Pruden. She's a columnist for the Sunday Sun (whatever they call it now), and she also gets A3 in the LP, and she covers crime. I think she's co-written two books. She's pretty funny. Like our very own Leah McLaren, except I think she's actually very nice, and she's married so we don't have to hear about her constant search for love and transatlantic troubles.

(First of all, I'll point out that both these girls live one of the lives I could have chosen, had I not instead wasted my twenties. I'd be a combo of the two; I'd write for the Globe like Leah, but not pretend I was Helen Fielding or whatever it is that Leah's going for with all her "I'm moving to London" crap. And I'd have dark hair like Jana. I woulnd't want to cover crime, I'm too emotional and I would be crying all the time when I heard something upsetting, but I would like to have the inside page of the LP section A as my own little section of real estate.)

Last week JP wrote a column called So much reading, so little time. I couldn't believe it. I thought I was the only other normal person alive who used to walk and read at the same time. Now it seems like every guy with a long black trenchcoat and greasy hair does it; back then the prerequisite was only that ubur-coolness that only a true nerd could have. Like me.

She also mentioned reading voraciously. Okay. I used to get on my little orange bike, that I loved, and peddle furiously over to the Bookmobile. I don't know if every area of the city got the Bookmobile, or if it was strictly a north end thing, but it came on Tuesdays. It was totally the best day of the week.

Dumping my bike outside, I'd scoot up those metal grated steps and into the air conditioned oasis of the travelling book trailer. It was always freezing, and outside it was likely +37 or something like that. I never remember it raining on Bookmobile days (maybe that's 'cause my mum didn't let me bike over there when it was raining...). It was always crazy hot.

I'd take as many books as I could fit in my bag. It was always a challenge getting home. Back in the day, when I was little, my mum hadn't heard of backpacks. Maybe that was a north end thing, too. Maybe kids all over south Regina had cool backpacks. Anyways, the lack of a backpack meant it was tricky to manouver the bike home. Sounds easy, right, but if you haven't been on a bike for a long time, it's bloody difficult to hang the bag off one side of the handlebars and steer.

But I was a trooper. And then, sometimes, as a treat (for me or for her, I'm still not sure), my mum would let me spend the whole day in bed, reading. I usually felt nauseas and had a headache by late afternoon, eyestrain. Probably why I can't see anything without my glasses now. But those days were totally the best. I KNOW - what a nerd.

In elementary school, I also perfected the art of reading under my desk. To be fair, maybe I never perfected it, I was always getting caught and then my grade six teacher told me if I was going to "sneak read" I should at least read something worthwhile. He gave me some book about a nuclear war, where everybody went and lived under ground until the mushroom clouds cleared up, and ate pellets instead of food.

Another nerd moment is the dilemna I faced, similar to the one JP faces in her column. It has to do with newspapers. This is for true nerds, so go ahead and stop reading. There are very few of us.

We get the LP. Always have. Then we indulged, that's how I thought of it, in the Saturday Globe. They phoned us with a deal; so we signed up for the Friday Globe. It's like an appetizer, a little taste of what's to come. THEN, and this was huge for us, they offered us the entire week, for just pennies more than what we were paying for the weekend paper. How could we refuse? We didn't.

The shit really hit the fan, though, when they phoned with this one. We could also have....the Sunday New York Times. Granted, it would be delivered on Tuesday, and sometimes even Thursday, but to think. Here, in Regina, I could sip my coffee and read the Sunday New York Times. That is the epitome of nerd. How excited I was.

At first it was awesome. But then the papers were backpiling. There was no way I could get through them, and no way I was recycling them till I finished. So I'd do the carryover, making a pile of papers "to read" and getting through at least a section a day. It was work, all the sudden. Soph just doesn't feed herself, you know, and she wasn't too keen on me drinking pots of coffee and reading the papers all day.

So I cancelled them. All except the LP and the Fri/Sat Globe. It's quieter here, the kids get fed more frequently. But the day will come, mark my words, when I get the Sunday New York Times, delievered Sunday, and I can spend the day in bed reading.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

So is it art, or am I a fraud?

I was over at some friend's, let's have them remain anonymous. We'll call them Hydrangea and Pefferson. Peff, for short, the husband, is an artist. His stuff is really cool, one of his paintings hangs in our front entrance. My husband, who can also remain nameless, we'll call him Topaz for today, thinks it's some sort of phallic symbol but I prefer to believe it is what it is, which is a Love Rocket. Hmmm.

Anyways, they had this piece of art in their living room that completely caught my eye. I mean it marched me over, stood me in front of it, and pretty much had me bowing down in front and salivating over it.

It was a piece of paper, and attached (still not sure how, we'll get to that later) are tiny crystals. Sparkling in the sunlight, these crystals glowed and shimmered and seemed to have a life of their own.

"Oh, you should get one," Hydrangea said. "Totally. Go to Peff's website, the art gallery that sells his stuff."

Trucking home as fast as I could I logged on and realized that it is not in this year's budget for me to have one of these gorgeous things.

But my longing, deep seated and hardcore, had taken hold. Once I'm in the grip of that longing I must pay it heed, come hell or high water.

I pondered, night and day. How could I make one of those pieces mine? I could volunteer my time at the gallery, maybe work one off. That seemed difficult. I'd have to arrange childcare, a feat in itself even for legitimate reasons. I'd have to work, something I'm not good at. I could borrow Peff and Hydrangea's, trade for their own painting. Not likely, if he wanted another Love Rocket he could paint his own.

Nothing came to mind. Until....

I could make my own. I could buy the crystals, get some paper, this would be fun! I could call it art! Isn't this what creative people do with their time? And I'm on frigging mat leave. When else in my entire life will I have the leisure, the free time to sit and painstakingly glue thousands of tiny crystals to a piece of paper.

*(If there was a formatting button on my computer, or this little screen came with a scrolly s for sarcasm, I would have turned it on for that whole last sentence, you know. I know all you moms got that without me having to point it out, and I know that all the men I know are reading this column faithfully, hoping for insights and tips on how to deal with the amazing superwomen in their lives...well, there was one, on a silver platter. Mat leave does not = life of leisure.)

I got some crystals, some paper, and begged Topaz to cut it with one of the really big paper cutters he has at his work. Much cajoling later and the paper was cut. The crystals were ready. I had a bottle of Stella's white craft glue all ready to go. And my tweezers, the crappy pair, that can never grab onto a stray eyebrow hair, to pick up the slippery little suckers.

You know what? It was fun. I was right. I'd turn on some music, at the time it was a trio of discs from Costco, reading music, I think they were labelled. It sounded like I was at a wedding, but no matter. The classical music, the sleeping baby, and the sunlight pouring in through the eight hundred windows we have on the back of our house made it seem perfect. This, I thought, this is how an artist lives.

Back to the bloody point, right? I get it, I get it. You don't care about inspiration, and how tough it was to glue those tiny little crystals that apparently do have a mind of their own, and how long it took.

So here is my question. I made my art, I had it framed, it hangs on my wall. And I love it. I had such fun doing it. It gave me the perfect break from all the time I spend in front of the computer. And you know, I want to make more and more. What better thing to do in the winter, I thought. I'll write in the mornings, make my art in the afternoons. I found a website and ordered $250 worth of better crystals (hopefully Topaz doesn't read this, I'm not technically on mat leave anymore so I have no money), in all shapes and sizes. I thought I might sell them at Bazaart. Imagine, how beautiful and sparkly they would be, sitting out there on the grass, catching the light.

But, and this is where I need your help. Is it art, or is it copying???

See, simple question if I saw a painting painted with acrylics and I said, "Gosh, I've never seen colours pop like that? Whatever is that medium?" And Jeff, I mean Peff, said to me, "Why, it's acrylic paint on canvas. Why don't you try it?" I would have no qualms, no qualms at all and I would just go ahead and paint with my acrylic paints and sell them at Bazaart (although they certainly wouldn't be as sparkly). But, this is something I've never seen it within my rights to borrow his medium? Use it for myself?

Are there two questions here? Is it okay if I simply hang the pictures in my house? Does the answer change if I try to prosper off this endeavor? Is it the commercialization of it that changes your answer?

And one last, but equally important question. The freaking glue I used turned the paper yellow. What kind of glue would a real artist use?

The time VBS got the whole ball rolling...

I phoned my mother this morning to tell her that tomorrow I am going to put my daughter in Vacation Bible School for a day. It's crazy hat day, so in hopes that she'll fit in I went to Claire's and spent thirty bucks on a cute floppy hat, some fake hair, and these strange stringy things that I am thinking we will attach to the back of the hat. Hopefully it will look "crazy," but not too crazy, so that she doesn't make any friends. Even at VBS I think there is a coolness pecking order...

Anyways, my mother used this as a opportunity to let me know that the last time she babysat Stella dragged out her Easter book for Nana to read. See, Nana only gives religious gifts (Poppa only gifts gifts of silver but that's a whole other blog...) like books with Christian overtones or, let's see here, nope, that's it, books with Christian overtones.

So Stella dragged out the Easter book, which when we first got it inspired countless stimulating backseat questions like "what are soldiers" and "why did Jesus die". It only took me a week of trying to answer complicated theological questions before I started referring them back to Nana. The little bugger remembered all her questions, too, saved them up for the saint-like patience of Nana.

(I think that was also the time she told Nana, quite seriously, that you don't say F***. Only she did say it, plain as day, in her precise and clear diction. Nice.)

Nana gently informed me on the phone that Stella bringing out the Easter book is her way of asking me to go to church. I'm not certain that Nana isn't maybe projecting a little, it might be Nana who wants me to go to church, but blame it on the little ones, isn't that what Jesus said? So she sends the children to do the devil's work, pestering me with questions like "could Jesus break glass," the appropriate answer to which is apparently "yes, he could if he wanted to, but I can't think that he would want to."

So anyways, I have to admit, I have less than zero interest in going to church. If you looked at my history, which is such a long story I'll have to get into it over the course of the next, oh, ten years or so, I've probably attended more church than even Nana herself, by virtue of having to go to church a minimum of three times a week plus all sorts of spectacular extras, and I figure I'm pretty much all churched out. Yup, the word on the street is that it probably won't be happening much more for me, save weddings and funerals and events held in the basement of a church like a neighbourhood watch meeting.

But here is the conundrum that I'm faced with, and it's a doozy. Stella is four and I've been trying to figure it out since she was born, to no avail. How do I, as a practicing non-church going mother, teach her all the things I learned in my childhood, so that the choice she eventually makes is an educated one? Aha, I hear you leaping all over your keyboards, telling me I've answered it myself - I must overcome my unwillingness and go to church, for the sake of my children. Not an option, my friends, not an option. So let me have it. How do I handle this one? Let's hear it for the collective wisdom of my peeps.