Archive for December, 2008

What Little Girls Are Made Of

It’s December 18, and my little girl is 11 years old today.
As I write this, I have just laid out all the newly-wrapped presents, called to sing to her – and woken up her mom in the process – and I wait to head out in the ice and snow to Burnaby Mountain for meetings.

Mica’s 11. Wow. And I can see so clearly now that the little girl years are done, and she’s moving into a new place. Just a short hop to adolescence, and I can see it already in her words and attitude, in her growing sense of individuality and her changing interests. And as sad as that sometimes makes me, it’s also very exciting, and I realize how proud I am of this kid.

When Mica was younger, I feared the pre-teen and teen years, imagining all the turmoil and pain and stupidity of my own life. And I’m sure some of that still lies ahead. But I also can begin now to see what this kid will be, who she is as she comes into herself. And she’s a kid who is caring, a kid who is confident and not afraid to speak her mind, a kid who is beginning to understand racism and power for herself, a kid who is asking interesting questions about the world and about human relationships.

Last week was report card week.  I looked it over, and the marks are fine. But what really struck me as most special was the teacher’s commentary. Mica is a joy in the class because she always works to ensure everyone is included in activities. Mica is particularly able to weather negativity around her without dwelling on it. Mica is well exceeding expectations in her ability to understand racism.

Y’know, this is the shit that matters to me as a parent. This is the stuff that tells me who this child is in the world when she goes out there on her own. And I couldn’t be prouder that those three concepts – inclusion of the community, positivity in her relations with the world, an understanding of power – are the three that her teacher sees in her and selects for comment.

It’s a funny time, that bridge from the child-years to the teen-years. Last week, I saw my kid and 15 more too-cool-for-school girls turn into five-year-olds again when they hopped onto a carousel at Heritage Village. This week my little girl asks her mom about some pretty sexually-explicit terminology and takes the answer all in stride without any discernable discomfort. Last week she snuggles up against me on the couch, her head on my chest like she did as a toddler. Yesterday she danced with a boy for the very first time.

It’s all bit overwhelming sometimes. It’s all a bit dizzying, as I watch this transition happen, as I notice how minute to minute the little girl comes and goes as the teen-to be makes more regular appearances. But I am mostly just feeling so so good about it. About Mica. About my ability to parent her through these next years. About the relationship developing between her and Megan. About the strength and optimism this child has shown over a very difficult year of much change and many hurt, tense, adults.About the family we are building with Megan, and Mica’s openness to that.

Happy birthday, kiddo. You have no idea how much you are loved. You have no idea that in writing this my eyes fill with tears and I can’t imagine anything better than you.


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I have refrained from writing about the political soap opera unfolding the last few weeks for a couple of reasons.

One, though I have been interested to watch the general developments, this has clearly been a battle among politicians and little else. Some real signficant things at stake? Certainly – not least of which is the right to strike of public service workers, something all the more important in my daily life because Meg is not only a federal government employee but one who has been spending the last two years bargaining with these mother-fuckers, and signed a tentative agreement in good faith only to have Harper deliver a largely-symbolic (given that the deal was signed) but no-less-offensive-for-that shit-kicking just days later. However, despite the very real cuts and the very real attack on workers, the ‘crisis’ itself was put together entirely by political parties for political parties – and its alot harder to get excited about toppling a government when that toppling has no other purpose but to install a pretty much equally-offensive government.

Two, it’s also been pretty uncertain from the beginning whether this Liberal-NDP coalition would manage to hold itself together long enough to accomplish anything. So, there’s a certain reluctance to jump into debate on the sea-change before us when there’s not much hope the storm will actually amount to anything.

And now, here we are the Monday after the government manages to hold on, Governor-General Michaele Jean having permitted parliament to be shut down awhile so all the various players can cool off. And after all the promises of rallies coast to coast and a mobilization of popular support to ensure Harper’s neo-cons are tossed first thing in 2009….well, it all appears to be falling apart. Yeah. That didn’t take much now, did it?

Yes, Stephane Dion is stepping down as head of the Liberals. The knives are out once again for the next head-man to take his place at the head table. And assorted MPs – among them BC’s own self-proclaimed progressive Liberals Ujal Dosanjh and Hedy Fry – are suggesting they might just support a Conservative budget after all.

Done. Finished. We had our fun, now let’s all get out there and shop for Christmas.

Y’know, I’m not a big fan of the Liberal Party. But I have actually been impressed with Stephane Dion this last week or so. I mean, here’s a guy that got the crap beat out of him by his own Party because…well, really I think because he didn’t look enough like a politician. Dion’s an academic, a sociologist, and his quiet, thoughtful manner was quite simply not suited for the game of prime-minister as currently played. But I actually thought he played a good role in this coalition talk. Indeed, I’d suggest that Dion was pretty much the ONLY Liberal who could have brokered this deal and held it as long as he did. He’s a peace-maker, a compromiser. He’s discredited as leader, and so able to step forward and lead without threatening the sharks all around him, the Raes and Ignatiefs. And he quite openly and quite explicitly articulated a vision of the Liberal Party as a progressive-centre rather than a right-centre, as it was under Paul Martin.

Yup, I admit it. I was kind of liking Dion. I was kinda thinking the Libs might have finally decided to veer back toward the centre rather than playing footsie with the Conservatives. And even today I still think that if this had ever been possible, Dion was precisely the guy to make it happen – because is more academic than politician and because he was done as a Party leader.

So, kinda feeling bad for the guy today. Not feeling bad about the collapse of the coalition, which really was pretty much doomed to fall apart as soon as the G-G turned ’em down. But feeling bad for Dion, who – however far his politics are from mine – had just about the best chance to do something good in Canadian government in many many years, and who lost that chance not because he had no vision or had no skills to make it happen, but because the sharks in his own Party saw a chance to sharpen their teeth on his neck. Yup. It may be Canadian politics, but it is politics nonetheless.

A final confession. Last week Meg and I actually went out and attended a rally to support the coalition. Tossed together by organized labour, but designed to ensure labour was officially invisible and all the speakers were politicos, it was actually not a bad little event, all things considered. A couple of thousand people, some real and some manufactured shock at the locking of parliament, lots of vitriol thrown at the neo-cons. And it actually brought out a good cross-section of folks – not only the labour mucky-mucks, but a fair number of anarchists and other radicals who figured, like we did I suppose, that if this is closest we’re getting to overthrowing a government this year we might as well at least show up.

And we did. And that was fun. And we all got a moment to imagine a very Canadian coup and how much fun it would be if the Libs, the NDP and the Bloc all got together and ran their own little parliament for a week or so – a little guerrilla theatre on the national stage. And it sparked a great night of beer drinking and political chatter down at the WISE.

And I guess, at the end of the day, that’s really all we could have hoped for.

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I am looking, today, at the December page of a calendar Megan made last year, and which she named Lucipetal.

Not a word I was familiar with previously, it means, this month’s entry tells me, “seeking or attracted to light”. The calendar is made up of a number of her photographs, each with a short bit of text providing some insight into or inspired by a particular photo. And this, she notes, is what photography is all about to her – “a desire to chase light in all its forms.”

I am drawn to this photo today, and drawn to the word. It touches something about this time in my life, this incredible year of change and hope and possibility. Chasing light.

I have spent a good part of my life – indeed, the vast majority of my life, I am sure – attracted by darkness. Dark places, wet places, alone places. Silence and reflection and hurt. That part of life which is like soil – moist and rich, and a place for small things to grow, but to grow alone and in shade. It’s the burying and the burrowing, the hiding in holes not apart from but nonetheless below the vibrancy of the world. I have lived for the dark corners to sit and write alone, the closed eyes in quiet rooms, the watching of rain.

But I am somewhere different now, somewhere new, somewhere that never felt like me before, never felt comfortable – in the full force of the light, and chasing it. This has been a year of moving out into new places in the world, less alone places, places that were always there but never really felt like they were there for me. I have a sense that I am more fully in the world, more fully social, more fully engaged in not only the soil but the growing and exploding and reproducing and reaching up of branches. Not something I ever would have said I wanted.

But here I am, and it is good. I feel drawn to light and life. I feel more vibrant myself. I feel able to teach my daughter not only about self-reflection and the imortance of quiet, but also about celebration and new things and new places, and the central place of joy what makes us human.

Soft light that soothes and gives us rest. Dancing light that plays and tricks and moves our feet. Blinding light that hurts just a bit but calls us to move more fully into it. Dazzling light that catches our cheeks and shoulders, that makes us grow and pulls our limbs in new directions. It’s a good place to be, in the light.

A place that is always moving and shifting and altering vistas. And a place where shadows are starker, all the better for the exploring, the playing, the shape-shifting that contrast provides.

Feels like that word describes me at this point in my life. Very new. And very welcome. And y’know, those days I crawl back into the earth and hide my eyes against the soil – which clearly I do, and which actually I still quite enjoy on occassion –  those moments, too, I appreciate in a new way. Because I see, more clearly than ever before, where they fit in the great cycle of darkness and light and sleep and wakefulness. Lucipetal. Yes. That works.

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