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Hi, I’m Rebekah, and I’m a birth doula.

As a birth doula, I provide informational, emotional, and physical support to childbearing families throughout pregnancy, labour, and the postnatal period.

The word doula comes from the greek word meaning “to serve”, and doulas were originally also midwifes.  Today, the word doula is used to describe women who provide support for individuals and families during pregnancy, labour, and birth (in addition to a midwife or OB). As a doula it is my responsibility to help each person I support in the unique and specific way that they need, which means I dedicate much time to getting to know each person’s individual birth wish, expected coping techniques, and likes and dislikes.

My services include, but are not limited to:

  • assisting with coping and relaxation techniques such as breathing, optimal positions, massage, and aromatherapy
  • providing information prenatally on the benefits and risks of interventions during labour (induction, pain medication, etc.)
  • guiding clients in the process of creating a birth wish summarizing hopes and goals for the birthing experience
  • discussing any worries, fears, or concerns about pregnancy, labour, birth, or caring for a new baby
  • providing emotional and physical assistance during labour and birth
  • offering information and support with breast, chest, and bottle feeding

Logistically, this service includes:

  • 2, 3, or 4 prenatal visits
  • attending the birth (I am on-call 24/7 beginning 2 weeks before expected due-date, I will come whenever needed, and stay for 2-5 hours after the birth)
  • 2, 3, or 4 post natal visits
  • access to a small collection of books about pregnancy, birth, and parenting
  • unlimited phone and email support during pregnancy and after birth

During the prenatal visits some areas of discussion we may focus on are:

  • mapping out the birth wish (hospital or home, amount of intervention, other people there, coping techniques)
  • discussing and practicing various coping techniques including positions, massage, water, heat/cool packs, breathing techniques, tools (exercise ball, tub, etcetera)
  • information about what to expect during labour and what your choices are
  • information about forms of induction and pain relief if you deliver in a hospital, including the benefits and risks associated with each
  • practice relaxation techniques
  • some basics of prenatal yoga, prenatal massage and prenatal nutrition
  • emotional and spiritual healing that may rise to the surface during pregnancy and birth
  • providing resources and information about anything else you would like

During the labour and birth, I will be doing whatever is needed, which might include

  • helping you to recognize the signs that labour is coming
  • providing physical support through massage, pressure points, applying hot or cold compresses etc.
  • helping with coping techniques such as moving into different positions, and reminding of breathing techniques
  • assisting with practical tasks like preparing or bringing food and drinks and making phone calls
  • providing support anyone else attending the birth

During the postnatal visits some areas of focus are:

  • how to care for yourself while healing from labour and birth
  • baby’s care, including massage, yoga, and support with feeding (whether breastfeeding, formula, or both)
  • help with practical tasks, including but not limited to meal preparation, light housework, caring for baby

For a very limited time my services are available at half price while I compete my the doula certification process through HALO.

Pricing varies on number of prenatal and postnatal visits required. Sliding scale rates are available to make doula care accessible to all mothers. Please contact me if you have any questions or would like to schedule a free consultation.

519 546 5385

imagineonelovecare@gmail.com

Birth: The Surprising History of how we are Born (Tina Cassidy)

Review by Rebecca Ruelens

I chose Tina Cassidy’s Birth to be the first book to read in my path towards becoming a practicing doula, though not consciously, as this is the only book on the suggested reading list of which there is a copy within any of Centre Wellington’s library system. I am yet to check Guelph Public Library’s catalogue.I found the book to be engaging and informative, and I consider it an important aspect of training to become a doula. It gave a very broad and detailed image of what the birthing process looks like, both trans-historically and trans-culturally.

Before reading the book I discredited the title, doubting that the author would really succeed in “surprising” me. I was feeling knowledgeable about the medicalization of birth, having done a small amount of research including partially of watching “The Business of Being Born” and its sequel during my first pregnancy. However, Cassidy succeeded in surprising me many times throughout the book. “Surprising” seems such an all encompassing word in this sense; when I say this book was surprising, I mean the information that it shares is horrifying, infuriating, enlightening, and motivating. It is incredible the extent to which women have had the birthing process taken away from them. Doctors have been disempowering and humiliating women during a life changing experience of their lives that could instead be uplifting and empowering.

Upon reflection, one of the aspects that stands out as surprising me most is the statistics regarding the prevalence of interventions that were often entirely unnecessary. Some of the most popular interventions have been forceps, episiotomies, various pharmaceutical “pain relief” methods including epidurals and “Twilight Sleep”, induction, and cesarean sections. Many of these interventions have been forced upon non-consenting mothers, or presented as their only option. I was disgusted and surprised by the account of many doctors who refused to believe the importance of hand washing, performing autopsies on women who died of bacterial infections, immediately before delivering a child with those same, unclean fingers. I wept for the women who died at the hands, and I wept for the midwives who were burned as witches; their punishment for easing a woman’s suffering during birth.

Then the mood of the book shifts, and Cassidy surprises me by sharing that almost 20% of women who attended a particular birthing centre aimed at fostering painless and natural childbirth claimed to feel no pain at all while birthing their child. I felt surprised and disappointed by the briefness of the section about placentophagy. Cassidy speaks very little of the wide array of benefits of consuming the placenta – not mentioning that it can increase milk supply, improve recovery from birth, and decrease risk of postpartum depression. Cassidy does not discuss the options to encapsulate your placenta, or to turn it in to a tincture or salve. This was disappointing for me as I will be training to encapsulate placentas and offering that as an extra service related to my position as a doula.

Though I would recommend Birth as an important book for anyone dedicating themselves to helping women birth, I would not recommend this book to expecting parents, due to the graphic and upsetting content. Some aspects of the book could increase anxiety and fear regarding childbirth, such as descriptions of craniotomies and amputating stillborn fetus’ limbs, in order to more easily pull them out. The information presented in this book could also make mothers feel unsafe about their birthing options, especially those living in areas without midwives, birthing centres, and doulas.

**This is copied from the Healing Arts Learning Organization doula training manual

1. SERVICES PROVIDED

A birth doula provides non-medical, physical and emotional support as well as informational assistance before, during, and after childbirth.

PRENATAL

  • Prenatal consultations with pregnant clients and partners in order to obtain a preliminary history and to determine their preferences for the birth, to discuss prenatal education, as well as pin coping techniques
  • Provides resources to assist the expectant parents with birth planning
  • Provides telephone and/or email support as required
  • Emotional support and comfort

LABOUR AND BIRTH

  • Suggests non-pharmalogical comfort measures
  • Assists with application of hot/cold packs as needed
  • Provides a soothing massage for relaxation and pain relief
  • Suggests positions that may help progress labour, provide comfort and pain relief
  • Provides suggestions and applies methods to promote relaxation, including guidance in breathing techniques
  • Provides positive verbal encouragement, reassurance, praise, affirmation, and validation. A labour doula must have excellent listening skills.
  • Set up and maintain an environment conducive to a positive birth experience
  • Provide support and suggestions to the partner
  • Facilitate communication between the family and the medical staff

POSTPARTUM

  • Assistance with the baby’s early breastfeeding
  • Emotional follow-up/support
  • Referral to appropriate community resources, as needed

2. LIMITS TO PRACTICE

A birth doula does not perform clinical or medical tasks (including, but not limited to, such things as taking blood pressure or temperature, checking fetal heart tones, performing vaginal exams, or postpartum, clinical care). Where possible, all informational support rendered will be supported with evidence-based research and qualified resources. The birth doula will provide information on benefits, risks, and alternatives rather than their personal advice on all matters. The doula does not diagnose or prescribe treatments (as per definitions below) and are to refer to a qualified professional wherever possible. The doula must also advise her client to inform her primary caregiver prior to using alternative therapies.

Where the doula has additional training in areas outside of the doula’s scope of practice, she should refer tp that profession and their scope of practice, and determine if it is appropriate to combine the roles. In any event, she is the clearly inform her clients of such training, the limits of her ability to offer knowledge and/or practice in the area, and that any additional services she offers is separate from her training as a doula. She is also encouraged to clearly define this situation to any healthcare provider she comes in contact with in order to avoid confusion regarding the labour doula’s role and scope of practice.

Definitions:

Advice; An opinion recommended or offered, as worthy to be followed; counsel.

Counsel: To advice or recommend, as an act or course. Advice given especially as a result of consultation. A policy or plan or action of behaviour

Evidence: To indicate clearly, exemplify or prove. Something that furnishes proof.

Opinion: A notion or conviction founded on probable evidence; belief stronger than impression, less strong than positive knowledge. A view, judge,net, or appraisal formed in the mind about a particular matter.

Prescribe: To specify with authority. To direct, as in a remedy to be used by a patient; as, the doctor prescribed a medication. To write or to give medical directions: to indicate remedies.

Research: Scholarly or scientific investigation, inquiry. Careful or diligent search.

**For more information, or if you are looking for a doula in Centre Wellington or Guelph, please contact Rebecca at imagineonelovecare@gmail.com or 226 780 0406.

Hi, I’m Rebecca, and I’m a birth doula.

The word doula comes from the greek word meaning “to serve”, or “woman’s servant”, and doulas were originally also midwifes.  Today, the word doula is used to describe women who provide support for a mother and her family during pregnancy, labour, and birth (in addition to a midwife or OB). As a doula it is my responsibility to help each individual mother I support in the unique and specific way that she needs, which means I dedicate much time to getting to know each person’s individual birth wish, expected coping techniques, and likes and dislikes.

My services include:

  • – a  free consultation
  • – 2, 3, or 4 prenatal visits,
  • – attending the birth (I am on-call 24/7 beginning 2 weeks before expected due-date, I will come whenever needed, and stay for 2-5 hours after the birth)
  • – 2, 3, or 4 post natal visits
  • access to a small collection of books about pregnancy, birth, and parenting
  • unlimited phone and email support

During the prenatal visits some areas of discussion we may focus on are:

  • mapping out mother’s birth wish (hospital or home, amount of intervention, other people there, coping techniques)
  • discussing and practicing various coping techniques including positions, massage, water, heat/cool packs, breathing techniques, tools (exercise ball, tub, etcetera)
  • information about what to expect during labour and what your choices are
  • information about forms of induction and pain relief if you deliver in a hospital, including the benefits and risks associated with each
  • practice relaxation techniques
  • some basics of prenatal yoga, prenatal massage and prenatal nutrition
  • emotional and spiritual healing that may rise to the surface during pregnancy and birth
  • providing resources and information about anything else you would like

During the labour and birth, I will be doing whatever mother needs me to be doing, which might include

  • help you to recognize the signs that labour is coming
  • providing physical support through massage, pressure points, applying hot or cold compresses etc.
  • helping with coping techniques such as moving into different positions, and reminding of breathing techniques
  • assisting with practical tasks like preparing or bringing food and drinks and making phone calls
  • providing support for mother’s partner, baby’s father, or anyone else attending the birth

During the postnatal visits some areas of discussion are:

  • mother’s care after birth
  • baby’s care, including massage, yoga, and support with feeding (whether breastfeeding, formula, or both)
  • help with practical tasks, including but not limited to meal preparation, light housework, caring for baby

For a very limited time my services are available at half price while I compete my the doula certification process through HALO.

Pricing varies on number of prenatal and postnatal visits required. Sliding scale rates are available to make doula care accessible to all mothers. Please contact me if you have any questions or would like to schedule a free consultation.

226 780 0406

imagineonelovecare@gmail.com

My last essay of my sociology undergrad! I thoroughly enjoyed researching and writing this, and learned some information that was new to me, so thought others might be interested in the result 🙂 Please share your thoughts. 

Friedrich Engels, Monogamy, and Private Property

This paper will discuss the major independent contributions of Frederick Engels, focussing on his controversial text The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State. This text will be applied to the contemporary sociological issue of polygamous marriages.

Engels was writing in Germany during a time of great social and intellectual change, according to Engels in a “nation that cared less than any other of its time for the history of the present family” (1902, 17). Engels is most well known for his collaborative work with Karl Marx, particularly The Communist Manifesto, which describes and analyzes the social context of their time in great detail. During the time of Engels writing there was great conflict between the bourgeois (capitalist class) and the proletariat (working class). The proletariats were suffering exploitation and alienation from the bourgeois, who profit from the alienation, or disconnect between the workers and the products of their labour.

According to Professor Terrell Carver, the majority of academic discussion regarding Engels’ work focuses on his collaborative contributions as Marx’s partner rather than Engels’ independent contributions to theory (2003, 16). Therefore this paper intends to fill some of that void in the literature. The original work of Engels that will be discussed is The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State. In Engels’ own words, prior to the 1860s “a history of the family cannot be spoken of” (1902, 13). The general understanding of the family prior the 1860s was that the most ancient construction of the family was identical to the modern construction; the patriarchal monogamous family (Ibid). This understanding came primarily from the books of Moses, which describe a patriarchal monogamous family and which most people accepted to be describing the earliest form of the family (Ibid).

Engels’ Intent, Insight, and Thesis

The general intent and purpose of Engels writing the The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State was to demonstrate the historical relationship between the development of each of these three concepts. This is an expansion of Marx and Engels’ materialistic conception of history, because “according to the materialistic conception, the decisive element of history is pre-eminently the production and reproduction of life and its material requirements”(Ibid, 9). Though Marx theorized extensively on the production of life (or the production of means of existence), he wrote very little about the reproduction of life, leaving this aspect of the theory up to Engels to expand on. Engels relied heavily on data collected by anthropologist Lewis Morgan, who studied familial relations within Native tribes in North America, particularly the Iroquois people. Morgan’s theories reflect the materialistic conception of history presented by Marx and Engles: Morgan’s core thesis is that that an important factor in the evolution of humanity is progress with regards to modes of production of the necessities of life (Zeitlin 2001, 182).

Engels and Morgan outline that the differences between Iroquois society and modern European society are  not limited the structure of their families. Zeitlin summarizes the comparison vividly, describing Iroquois society as one of individual freedoms and a community of people who support and look out for one another, compared to civilized society, which is a culture of inequality; plagued with patriarchy, private property, classes, states, masters and slaves, gendarmes and police. ( Ibid, 187).  Engels’ theories focus on determining what historical processes led to society transitioning from the communal form with few institutionalized structures into a society revolving around private property, class differences, and governmental coercion and control (Ibid, 188). In order to search for the answer to this question, Engels not only focused on Morgan’s descriptions of the Iroquois society, but also on historical accounts of Greek, Roman, Celtic, and Germanic societies (Ibid, 188).

In summary, Engels concluded that the acquisition of private property led to the problem of inheritance (Engels 1902). Prior to the emergence of the domestication of animals, which resulted in a change in division of labour and the transition from communal property to private property, lineage was traced matrimonially (Ibid). This is because it was common place for both women and men to have multiple sexual partners, which meant that while it was always clear who a person’s mother was, it was often unclear who the father was (Ibid). Therefore the origin of private property brought about the origin of inheritance, which led to monogamy; the modern construction of the family, thus making it possible for fathers to confidently pass their inheritance to their sons. According to Zeitlin, the emergence of the monogamous family represents private property being victorious over communal property (Zeitlin 2001, 185).

Alongside this shift away from monogamy was a shift towards patriarchy. When women were the sole identifiable parents of their children they were held in very high regard (Ibid, 184). Women also had control over the home due to their responsibility for communally caring for the home (Ibid). When people began domesticating animals, the division of labour became more dynamic. The men were responsible for caring for the animals, and thus the animals became his “property”, just as his means of production were his property when he hunted and fished for food.  This meant that if a man and woman were to separate the man would keep the animals, which provided a surplus of milk, meat, and wool, giving the men a power over the women that they did not have prior to the domestication of animals (Ibid, 185).

Understanding the origin of the family, and therefore the system of reproduction of life, is of great importance to Engels because “there is a definite relationship between the socioeconomic structure of a society and the form and content of the family” (Ibid, 181). This leads us to the emergence of the state, which Engels explain occurs as an eventual result of the new division of labour, and exists in order to minimize conflict between the classes (Engels 1902, 205 & 208). Engels writes that the public power of coercion exists in every state; therefore individual freedoms have been lost (Ibid, 207).

Engels’ methodology has always involved empirical evidence. When he was an 18 year old journalist it was important to Engels that his readers understood that he based all of his writing on factual information from first hand sources (Terrel 2003, 17). In writing The Origin Engels consults a range of sources to collect historical information that supports the theories and Marx and Engels introduced (Ibid, 53).

Contemporary Sociological Issue

The issue of polygamous marriage is something that is occasionally discussed in both American and Canadian politics, though it is often used as a defense against same-sex marriage, based on the idea that legalizing same-sex marriage would challenge the sanctity of marriage and could lead to more radical changes such as the legalization of polygamous marriages. The dominant cultural attitude in North America is that polygamy is extremely taboo, even a “barbaric” sexual practice.

The Government of Canada introduced the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act in November of 2014, in order to send “a clear message to individuals coming to this country that harmful and violent cultural practices are unacceptable in Canada” (Government of Canada 2014). The first point mentioned on the government website as to how this bill will protect Canada from violence and harm is to “render permanent residents and temporary residents inadmissible if they practice polygamy in Canada” (Ibid). Though the Act does also cover underage marriage, forced marriage, and spousal killings, it is clear that the initial goal of the Act is to protect Canada from polygamy, as this is the first point on the government’s list of how the Act will “provide more protection and support for vulnerable immigrants” (Ibid). Therefore in the news release about this new Act the Canadian government imply that Canada considers polygamy barbaric, harmful, and violent. This relates to Engels’ The Origin, as Engels’ work suggests that polygamy is an ancient form of the family that was popular globally prior to the acquisition of private property. Using Engels’ theory connecting private property, patriarchy, and monogamy, it could be suggested that the Canadian government’s passionate disapproval of polygamy symbolizes their attachment to private property, capitalism, and patriarchy, and therefore fear of communalism, socialism and feminism.

The form of polygamy most common in North America is polygyny, which occurs most frequently in Southern States, particularly Utah. Polygyny is a form of polygamy with one male partner and multiple female partners, as opposed to polyandry, when one female partner has multiple male partners. It is interesting that this form of polygamy would be the most common in the United States, a country that highly values capitalism and therefore private property. Engels’ theory involving inheritance would suggest that if this form of polygamy had been the most ancient form it may not have transitioned to monogamy. This is because in a polygynous relationship, the paternal lineage is as easy to trace as in a monogamous relationship, as each woman only has one male sexual partner, and thus determining a child’s father is a simple process. This therefore suggests the question of why the group marriages that Morgan documented and Engels analyzed transitioned into monogamous families rather than polygynous families.

Evaluation and Conclusion

Engels is a very critical writer, particularly in his preface to the fourth edition of The Origin. He criticizes the English prehistoric school, which he states is “tinged with chauvinism [and] continually doing its utmost to kill by its silence the revolution in primeval conceptions effected by Morgan’s discoveries” (Engels 1902, 12). Engels states that Bachofen, the man often credited for introducing the history of the family to academic literature, as being “biased by his mystic” and states that his formulations are lacking in clarity (Ibid, 10). Of McLennan Engels is the most extreme in his criticism, stating that McLennan “makes it painfully obvious” that his primary thesis is a construct of his own imagination, and claims that it is a “fact that he has done more harm… than he has done good by his investigations” (Ibid, 18 & 20). Regardless of the validity of Engels’ criticisms, the extreme language he uses in this introduction seems exaggerated and to be mocking his peers, which takes away from the seriousness of his work.

Many academics, theorists, and other writers speak highly of Engels and his contribution to sociological theory. As Zeitlin states, “what makes Engels’ work especially interesting is the effort to provide a theoretical and historical analysis that ties together the origins of male supremacy, private property, socioeconomic class, and the State” (2001, 187).  According to Untermann, wbvho translated Engel’s The Origin, “by opening the eyes of the deluded throng and reducing the vaporings of their ignorant or selfish would-be leaders in politics and education to somber reality, it [Engels’ The Origin] will show the way out of the darkness and mazes of slavish traditions into the light and freedom of a fuller life on earth” (Untermann 1902,  8).

Though Untermann’s prediction in 1902 may not have been yet realized, the reason could lie in that Engels’ contributions (that are not available in any form at a library within Guelph or Wellington Country) have not reached enough eyes, rather than that they are not powerful enough to instigate change. Engels wrote more than 100 years ago and his ideas are still extremely applicable and controversial today.

References

BuzzFeed News. 2014. “Polygamy is Legal in Utah, For Now.” Last modified August 27. Accessed

March 14. http://www.buzzfeed.com/jimdalrympleii/polygamy-is-legal-in-utah-for-

now#.avmxNwkY2

Carver, Terrell. 2003. Engels: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  Ebook

Edition.

Engels, Frederick. 1902. The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State. Translated by

Ernest Unterman. Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Company. Ebook Edition.

Government of Canada. 2014. “Protecting Canadians from Barbaric Cultural Practices.” Last modified

November 5. Accessed March 14.  http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=900399

Inquisitr. 2015. “Polygamy: Louisiana City Legalizes It & Polygamists Line Up.” Last modified March

13. Accessed March 14.  http://www.inquisitr.com/1921826/polygamy-louisiana-city-legalizes-

it-polygamists-line-up/

Unterman, Ernest. Introduction to The Origin of the Family, Patriarchy, and the State, by Frederich

Engels, 5-8. Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Company. Ebook Edition.

Zeitlin, Irving. 2001. Ideology and the Development of Sociological Theory, 7th Edition. Toronto:

Prentice Hall. Pages 181-193.

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Mmm my kitchen smells delicious…

I just made some all natural, soothing, anti-fungal, antibacterial diaper cream, and, I have seven free samples to give away.

This diaper rash cream is made of unrefined shea butter, organic coconut oil, almond oil, tea tree oil, and french lavender extract. There are no additives or preservatives, each of the five ingredients are 100% pure.

The coconut oil and tea-tree oil can help clear up a yeast infection, and all of the oils are very gentle and soothing for baby’s bum 🙂

Just leave a comment or message me to claim one of the seven free samples, or to order a jar!

My daughter and I just made this delicious smoothieI for breakfast and it’s so good I feel like we must share the secret!

Ingredients:

2 bananas

1 cup of yogurt

1 cup of milk

2 tbsp cashew butter

1 tsp honey

2 tsp hemp hearts

2 tsp chia seeds

Mix ingredients in a blender, and enjoy!!

I hope you love this simple concoction as much as we did! Such a quick and easy way to ensure that everyone gets enough nutrition during those busy mornings.

Alexander Bauer, Author

Bell Let’s Talk, for those that don’t know, “is a wide-reaching, multi-year program designed to break the silence around mental illness and support mental health all across Canada.”  It’s grown to be bigger than that, spanning across country and continental lines to anyone that wants to begin or be a part of a dialogue about mental health.

It also funnels money to an organization that, by its own internal study, has diminished the mental health of thousands of Canadians.

A majority of Bell’s donations from the Bell Let’s Talk campaign go to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health or CAMH.  The CAMH employs one Doctor Kenneth Zucker who is their Psychologist-in-Chief and Head of the Gender Identity Service in the Child, Youth, and Family Program.

Kenneth Zucker is an advocate of trans-reparative therapy or the notion that transgender individuals can “heal” themselves if they just try hard enough.  In 2003…

View original post 926 more words

Formal/academic isn’t exactly my preferred writing style, but I wrote this for a Contemporary Sociological Theory course and thought it was worth posting. ‘Cause queer theory is my favourite.

Queer Theory, Doing Gender, and Symbolic Interactionism:

Non-Gendered Pronouns and Fluid Gender Identities

The concept of gender is far more complex than the two binary, seemingly stable classifications of “male” and “female” suggest. There are many people, globally and historically, who can not be classified this way. Comprehension of gender is shaped by the language used in basic identification: the pronouns she, he, her, and him reflect the assumption that all people can be classified as either absolutely male or absolutely female. The categorizations of heterosexual and homosexual are based on the same binary gender assumption. The use of gender neutral pronouns, such as ze and hir, and singular they and them, among other examples, is a divergence from and rejection of the limiting binary conception of gender that dominates mainstream western understanding. A variance in pronouns accommodates the reality of a spectrum of fluid gender identities. The topic of gender neutral pronouns will be discussed using queer theory, the theory of doing gender, and symbolic interactionism.

As West and Zimmerman stated in 1987, “in Western societies, the accepted cultural perspective on gender views women and men as naturally and unequivocally defined categories of being… with distinctive psychological and behavioral propensities that can be predicted from their reproductive functions” (128). Twenty seven years later, this cultural perspective is only beginning to change, but there is the potential, especially through the use of gender neutral pronouns, for the perspective to evolve into one in which the popular cultural understanding is of gender as a spectrum with male and female at either end, and everyone existing in a different place on this spectrum at different times in their lives and in different social interactions and circumstances.

However, popular Western culture is still a long way from reaching this understanding. This can be demonstrated when we consider the pronoun most often used to describe an unborn child, whose sex, sex category, and gender are unknown. Many people refer to a fetus as it because of their ambiguous gender, rather than they or ze. This is due to a lack of popular understanding of the possibility of alternative gender identification and the appropriate terms associated with this.

Though gender neutral pronouns and fluid gender identities are becoming increasingly common in some subcultures, there is little analysis of the effect of gendered pronouns in academic discourse. Much of what is available on the subject is conservative and reinforces a limited and binary perception of gender. For example in their article “Split Gender Identity: Problem or Solution? Proposed Parameters for Addressing the Gender Dysphoric Patient” (2002) psychiatrists Osborn and Wise refer to transgendered patients’ preferred pronouns as “cross-gender pronouns” and discuss the times in which a psychiatrist should and should not respect their patients’ self identified pronouns. This discredits an individual’s autonomy and reinforces the assumption that there is something inherently wrong with a person who does not conform to the socially constructed binary categories of male and female. This article is also very limiting in that there is no mention of an alternative to identifying as either male or female.

Most discussion of gender neutral pronouns exists outside of the academic sphere; fluid gender identities are a common topic in feminist, queer, and progressive magazines and blogs. An article in This Magazine (Progressive Detective 2006, 11) encourages readers to ask for clarification when they are unsure of someone’s gender, and outlines that this should be done in a safe, private, and non-confrontational setting, elaborating that sometimes the response may be a gender neutral alternative to the binary pronouns such as ze or hir. Similar advice is given by Walsh in his article “Be Conscious of Other’s Sexual Identity” in Unwire Text (2014), and Walsh adds that “a conversation about gender pronouns is never as complicated as many people think.”

The popular social media website Facebook made changes in February of 2014 in order to become more accommodating to people with fluid gender identities, providing fifty four options in addition to male and female in the personal identification section (Nussbaum 2014). Some of these choices include “agender, transmasculine, and twospirit”. In addition, this gender identification does not have to be viewable to all users: a suggestion made by LGBQT activist groups working in partnership with Facebook to allow individuals to avoid outing themselves to people such as employers or family members who are not aware of their gender identification.

In his study of working-class men in New York in the nineteenth century, George Chauncey discusses how the construction of binary gender classification also applies to the categorization of individuals as either “homosexual” or “heterosexual” (1994). This study focusses on men in the 1880s who Chauncey describes as “effeminate males, known as fairies or pansies, who were regarded as virtual women, or, more precisely, members of a ‘third’ sex that combined elements of the male and female” (48). Chauncey’s article brings to our attention that the “masculine” men who had intercourse with people of this “third gender” were not considered homosexual, because the binary conception of homosexuality and heterosexuality had not yet dominated mainstream thought. This concept is summarized articulately in Kathy Rudy’s article “Queer Theory and Feminism”:

“[Queer theorists] note that a homo/hetero system wrongly presumes that everyone has either an obvious penis or vagina, that everyone has an uncomplicated, positive relationship to that biological entity, and that owning that piece of equipment necessarily correlates to certain ontological characteristics. The categories of homosexuality and heterosexuality, they suggest, are themselves based on the assumption that everyone is either male or female and that gender identification is itself self-evident to all observers. These queer theorists note that the concept of gender is also socially constructed and very often exists on an unstable background of tacit assumptions and fantasies about both ‘men’ and ‘women'” (2000, 201-202).

Progressive contemporary academic discourse regarding gender fluidity and neutrality can generally be classified as queer theory. The concept of queer theory was introduced by Teresa de Lauretis in 1991 (Rudy, 197), and since then has grown as a movement alongside (but distinctly different from) the feminist movement, involving radical activism, social organizing, and academic discourse. Queer theory is applied in a range of disciplines including sociology, anthropology, gender studies, ethnic studies, and psychology, among others (Shlasko 2005, 123).

As Shlasko outlines, identification as a “queer” person can be either a subject proposition or a politic. As a subject proposition, to be queer means to be different from the cultural expectation of a straight, cisgender person. Queer identities include gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, transgender, intersex, and twospirit, among others. Some cisgender, straight people identify as queer because they have otherwise marginal sexual preferences, such as people in consensually open (or non-monogamous) relationships. Shlasko states that “as a politic, queer challenges the very idea of ‘normal’” (2005).

As a politic, queer theory differs from feminism in that the primary focus, instead of on the equality of women, is on the reconstruction normalcy, particularly in terms of sexuality and the categorization of male versus female. In Rudy’s article she outlines four assertions that distinguish queer theory: the interpretation of all social interactions, the historical relevance and social construction of these interactions, “aggressive and confrontational” political organizing, and sex-positivity. An important aspect of queer theory is gender fluidity, and thus a divergence from the use of gendered pronouns. Queer theorists acknowledge that there is no scientific way to concretely determine a person’s gender: “there is no hormonal, chromosomal, or anatomical test that can be administered which in every case guarantees that the subject being tested is either a man or a woman” (202). Gender is therefore not a scientific fact: gender is a social construction. Gender is based on the social expectations of what it means to be manly or womanly; a construction that tells us to speak in a certain manner, participate in a certain kind of work, form a certain kind of relationships, and make many other everyday decisions based on whether we have a penis or a vagina. In the cases where someone’s anatomy is not as simple as having only female parts or only male parts, doctors often recommend medical surgery in order to “fix” the genitals at birth, making the person easier to categorize.

Shlasko expands on the concept of queer theory in their discussion of queer pedagogy, “as a means to address what queer theory can tell us about teaching and learning” (2005). Queer pedagogy is a combination of progressive pedagogy and queer theory, and the goal of queer theory is to “constantly multiply the possibilities of knowledge. We can not simply search for the answer, because the answer is never quite reachable” (2005). A queer pedagogy is accepting and embracing of queer students as as well as queer concepts, including the use of non-gendered pronouns.

The second theory that will be used to understand the significance of gendered pronouns is West and Zimmerman’s concept of doing gender. This theory is based on the understanding, as described above, that gender is a socially constructed concept rather than one that is biologically present inside each of us. Therefore, masculinity and femininity, or lack thereof, can be understood as an action that individuals do, rather than a trait that individuals are. From the time of birth the gender construction is taught, reinforced, and reproduced through actions and language. “Pretty little girls” are dressed in frilly pink dresses, “handsome strong boys” in pants and blue shirts. Girls are often given dolls and accessories as play things, while boys are more likely to be given cars, trains, or even toy guns to play with. This can all be understood as doing gender. As Rudy states, “gender isn’t something we’re born with, it’s something that we are born into” (203).

West and Zimmerman refer to gender as a “routine accomplishment embedded in everyday interaction” (1987, 125). Therefore, as everyday interactions vary significantly, it is not a big leap to understand that a person’s gender may not be permanently, concretely, or absolutely male or female, but a fluid and complex identity that could fall somewhere in between or outside of the categories of male or female. West and Zimmerman place emphasis on the importance of understanding the difference between sex, sex category, and gender. Sex should be understood as the biological categorization of male or female before or at birth, based either on genital organs or chromosomal structure, which West and Zimmerman acknowledge sometimes contradict each other. Sex category is the everyday assumption that other people make about an other individual’s sex, based on various notable features that are socially constructed signifiers of masculinity or femininity, such as hair style, voice, clothing, facial hair, etcetera. Gender, however, is a more complex and fluid concept that must be understood as a “routine, methodical, and recurring accomplishment” (126). Gender is something that we “do” consistently throughout our lives, and consists of a range of “socially guided perceptual, interactional, and micropolitical activities that cast particular pursuits and expressions of masculine and feminine ‘natures’”(126).

The outcome of a society of people who are actively expressing their socially constructed gender identity in turn provides a justification for the existing inequalities between sexes. This creates a circle whereby “women” engage in “feminine” activities because it is socially expected for them to do so, while “men” engage in “masculine” activities in order to demonstrate their “manliness”. This leads to the justification of such activities being classified as “masculine” or “feminine”.

Catherine Connel applies West and Zimmerman’s theory of doing gender by interviewing nineteen transpeople about their experiences of doing, undoing, and redoing gender in the workplace (2010). Connel concludes that doing transgender is a significantly different concept than doing gender. If non-gendered pronouns were commonly used in popular culture, specifically in the workplace, the experiences of these transpeople would be vastly different, and more like the experiences of cisgender people, as the use of non-gendered pronouns represents more acceptance and understanding of fluid gender identities than characterizes current mainstream Western society.

The theory of doing gender leads directly to the relevance of symbolic interventionism, as the “doing” of gender is structured around our “shared meaning” of what implications a male or female role carry in guiding our everyday actions.

Symbolic interactionism is a theory based on the presumption that all social actions are shaped by the actors’ shared meaning of situations and roles. An important aspect of this shared meaning is the categorization of people into various groups. This categorization is sometimes very specific, such as the role of a taxi driver or a kindergarden teacher, but sometimes very general, such as the roles of men or women. Symbolic interactionism was coined as a sociological term by in Herbert Blumer in 1969, though Blumer credits George Herbet Mead, among others, for laying the theoretical foundation (Appelrouth and Edles 2011, 183).

These gender roles can be understood more thoroughly with regards to West and Zimmerman’s theory of doing gender. West and Zimmerman specify that gender roles are unique because they are lacking in specific circumstances or contextual situations. For example, the role of a taxi driver is only applicable inside of a taxi cab: if you see a person who is a taxi driver in a grocery store you do not expect them to fulfill their role as a taxi driver. Master identities, such as sex category, are different from roles in that they “cut across situations” (West and Zimmerman, 1987, 128). The gender role therefore is more complex than other roles, because although it is a situated identity, “assumed and relinquished as the situation demands,” it is often perceived as a master identity that is permanent and applicable regardless of situational context. This relates to Nakamura’s explanation of how identity, which Nakamura calls a Western concept, is understood differently in Japan. In Japan a the concept of identity is generally understood in a far more fluid sense; instead of identity as an internal part of an individual, identity is understood in terms of a person’s relation to the people around them in each particular time and place (2008).

Through individual interactions the shared meanings of a society are reinforced and challenged. As Appelrouth and Edles state, “even established patterns of group life are constantly ‘formed anew’” through the interactions that reinforce them. Therefore, our everyday use of gendered pronouns reinforces the existing binary assumption of gender, where as use of gender neutral pronouns challenges this assumption.

Stryker’s interpretation of social interactionism differs from Blumer’s in that Stryker recognizes a causal relationship between self and society that goes in two directions: Stryker theorizes that while the self produces society, society also produces the self (178). As discussed above with regards to doing gender; while the reason that gendered pronouns are used is because society reinforces the assumption that gender is a simple binary categorization, the used of gendered pronouns reinforces this assumptions. This creates a circle where the action (use of gendered pronouns) reinforces the assumption (gender is binary), while the assumption (gender is binary) also encourages people to do the action (use of gendered pronouns).

The power lays in the hands of each individual to reconstruct the social order that is categorized by a limited binary assumption of gender through interpreting and defining situations in which the construction of gender is portrayed to be something different from what queer theorists understand it to be. The use of gender neutral pronouns could eventually lead to a widespread shared meaning of gender that is radically different from the shared meaning discussed in this paper; a shared meaning that does not unnecessarily define each person’s roles based upon their assumed genital organs.

With all social change comes changes in language. For example during the enlightenment, philosophers began using terms such as equality, stratifications, class conflict, and egalitarianism, and these revolutionary terms eventually became a part of popular discourse, as one aspect of radical social change. In contemporary times, progressive “new” words to express various aspects of gender fluidity include but are not limited to transgender, cisgender, gender spectrum, gender fluidity, heteronormative, preferred pronoun, ze, hir, and queer. While these words may not yet have penetrated popular culture, they are becoming increasingly common in what could, to queer theorists, be considered high culture.

As discussed in Reza Barmaki’s lecture, high culture consists of a shift away from popular culture. Barmaki describes this shift as oppositional to mass culture, negating the identification and affirmation associated to conforming to such culture. High culture challenges mass culture, by expressing ideas that oppose existing reality. While Professor Barmaki’s example of high culture was a beautiful piece of classical music, the use of gender neutral pronouns can also be considered high culture because this change in language is oppositional, negating, and challenging of popular culture. The use of non-gendered pronouns is elevating because it frees people from the restrictions of acting always in a way that reflects their categorization of male or female.

While it is elevating to shift our focus on categorizing people as either male or female, it is not elevating to disregard the value of traits that are considered “feminine,” as is often done in the patriarchal perspective that dominates mainstream western society. “Feminine” activities include preparing meals for others, caring for children, and insuring the home is safe and comfortable must be valued as they are important aspects of social human life. As Rudy states, “we need to focus both on women and beyond them in order to prevent a new queer world from becoming another cover for the discrimination and disregard of women” (214).

A physical, structural change that illustrates the introduction of gender neutrality to mainstream culture is the presence of gender neutral bathrooms. Though gender neutral bathrooms are certainly less common than gender specific bathrooms, some locations of non-gendered bathrooms in Guelph, Ontario include a few on the the university campus, and some in cafes, restaurants, and bars downtown including Taboo, With the Grain, and Atmosphere.

Through the use of non-gendered pronouns individual people have the ability to be part of a revolutionary social movement that frees us from the restrictions of a binary gender assumption in popular culture. Using gender neutral pronouns such as ze, hir, they, and them is part of a queer movement that encourages every individual to embrace their dynamic, unique, and fluid position on the vast spectrum of femininity and masculinity.

Reference List

Appelrouth, S., and Desfor Edles, L. 2011. Sociological Theory in the Contemporary Era: Text

and Readings. London: SAGE. 176-183.

Barmaki, Reza. 2014. “Social Control, Conflict, and Critical Theories.” Lecture, University of

Guelph, Guelph, ON, Oct 27.

Chauncey, George. 1994. Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Makings of the Gay

Male World, 1890-1940. URL: http://quod.lib.umich.edu.subzero.lib.uoguelph.ca /cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=acls;cc=acls;rgn=full%20text;idno=heb00516.0001.001;did no=heb00516.0001.001;view=image;seq=00000059;node=heb00516.0001.001%3A4.2

Connel, Catherine. 2010. “Doing, Undoing, or Redoing Gender?: Learning from the Workplace Experiences of Transpeople.” Gender and Society. 24:31-55. DOI: 10.1177/089124320 9356429

Nakamura, Mia. 2008. “Destablilizing Gender Identity.” Women’s Studies Quarterly. 36.3&4: 288-289. URL: http://muse.jhu.edu.subzero.lib.uoguelph.ca/journals/wsq/v036/36.3- 4.munoz_sub01.html

Nussbaum, Ari. 2014. “Facebook adds new gender options.” UWIRE Text, March 16. URL: http://go.galegroup.com.subzero.lib.uoguelph.ca/ps/i.do?&id=GALE%7CA361765722 &v=2.1&u=guel77241&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w

Osborne, Cynthia and Thomas N. Wise. 2002. “Split Gender Identity: Problem or Solution? Proposed Parameters for Addressing the Gender Dysphoric Patient.” Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy. 28.2:165-173. DOI: 10.1080/00926230252851898

Progressive Detective. 2006. “How can I figure out what someone’s preferred pronoun is if I don’t know if they identify as a girl or a boy?” This Magazine 39.6:11. URL: http://go. gale group.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA145571900&v=2.1&u=guel77241&it=r&p =AONE&sw=w&asid=accdfade1ca1cacb6882dc2ef4d4f9cb

Rudy, Kathy. 2000. “Queer Theory and Feminism.” Women’s Studies: An inter-disciplinary journal. 29.2:195-216. DOI: 10.1080/00497878.2000.9979308

Shlasko, G. D. 2005. “Queer (v.) Pedagogy.” Equity and Excellence in Education. 38.2:123-134. DOI: 10.1080/10665680590935098

Walsh, Tom. 2014. “Be conscious of others; sexual identity.” UWIRE Text, November 10. URL: http://go.galegroup.com.subzero.lib.uoguelph.ca/ps/i.do?&id=GALE%7CA385201800 &v=2.1&u=guel77241&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w

West and Zimmerman. 1987. “Doing Gender.” Gender & Society. 1.2,125-151. DOI: 10.1177/ 0891243287001002002

Collective Footprints

This spring when I set off to beautiful British Columbia I had packed in my suitcase a seed stock of every kind of veggie you can think of. Lettuce, spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, beans, cabbage, corn, pumpkin, watermelon, the list goes on. I’ve never had my own garden but had established this collection over the last few years, harvesting them from my parents gardens, working with an organic seed distributor, and some bought in stores. I got them started early in little trays on the deck of my cabin.

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When I moved from my cabin at the end of May, things were starting to burst out of their pots and I was grateful for a little garden space at my next place. But I knew that for all the things I had started, there wasn’t enough room, so I put them in larger containers in case I had to give some away.

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Hi there! 

Imagine One Love Home Daycare is looking for a new friend. 

I’m taking a few classes from Sept 5th to Nov 28th and I’m looking for someone awesome to hangout with some amazing little munchkins while I’m out.

I need someone who is available Mondays 6:30-8:30 PM, Wednesdays 4PM-6PM, and Fridays 4PM-6PM. I could potentially provide more hours if that’s what the right person is looking for. 

Pay would start at $14/hour but more for more children. Most of the time you’ll be looking after one or two children, occasionally three, rarely four. The little ones are 8 months, 12 months, 22 months, and 4 years. 

If interested please start by checking out this page to learn a little more about myself and my childcare. If we seem like a good match, email me with a little information about who you are: your childcare experience, interests, hobbies, etc. 

Looking forward to hearing from you! 🙂

(We’re located near Riverside Park in Guelph, ON,)

It’s August 13th…. that leaves time to read one more summer romance! Check out my young adult fantasy novel, The Crashes of Waves:

Risen from the ashes; born of the waves. 

Risen from the ashes, born of the waves.

“The mermaid was different, and not just because of her ‘mythical’ connections. Her opinions were strong, and she didn’t seem to think in the same way the people around her did. Sometimes she felt as though she was just on a completely different wavelength to everyone else, living in some kind of parallel universe.”

When Leila starts at her new school she falls madly and irrevocably in love with the charismatic and mysterious Vulcan Kevlar. However, Vulcan is keeping a huge secret from Leila, which he knows he has no choice but to let her in on when he realizes that her life is in serious jeopardy, along with the well-being of the entire human race.

Buy from Amazon

via The Crashes of Waves.

“The theme of “stuff” is not only an intriguing and clever literary device utilized by writers to draw a vivid picture of the worlds their characters occupy or to draw metaphors with the plot. This theme also cries out for humanity to reconsider its superficial preoccupation with transient objects and it urges them to remember the things that truly matter because if we do not, we may find ourselves up to our hips in human waste sooner than we think. Or maybe it’s just storytelling. Either way, it makes you think.”

Writer vs the World

Photo Credit: Businessinsider.com Photo Credit: Businessinsider.com

Throughout the past few years, our attention has been drawn to Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic stories. We have been enamored with vampires and obsessed with werewolves. We have been compelled by the struggles of our heroines stuck in stark Dystopian worlds that are bent on control and destroying the independent nature of humanity. And yet, a small trend began to emerge right beneath our noses. This trend straddles the realm of the Urban Fantasy genre and is completely outside of where this genre has been going recently. Instead of shocking us with the horrors of what could be, this trend grabs our attention with its clever tongue-in-cheek. It uses description and setting in a memorable way and forces us to look in the mirror and evaluate what it is we as a society value. The theme or trend I am referring to, I shall call the theme of “stuff.”

Unknown Photo Credit: Chuck…

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“It doesn’t interest me what you will do for a living.

I want to know what you will ache for, and if you will dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me what you will look like.

I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventures of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets will be squaring your moon.

I want to know if you will be with joy, if you will dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes.

I want to know if you will see beauty, even when it is hidden behind a dark cloud, and if you will source your own life from its presence.

It does not interest me where you will live or how much money you will have.

I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where, or what, or with whom you will study.

I want to know what will sustain you, from the inside, when all else falls away.

I want to know if you will be able to be alone, with yourself, and if you will truly like the company you keep in the empty moments”

– Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Authentic Mumma Beauty

“My intention is for this book to be successful so that I can continue on photographing and creating other ‘A Beautiful Body’ volumes such as beautiful women facing aging, beautiful women dealing with cancer, beautiful young women facing eating disorders and beyond.” – Jade Beall

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Hi there! Thanks for checking out my website.

I’m Rebekah Nicole, a mumma, writer, doula, childcare provider, and sociology student living in Elora, ON.

I’d like this blog to be a place where folks can discuss and share ideas, information and resources with folks in their community. Please feel welcome to comment or discuss anything you read! 🙂

I post about a variety of topics close to my heart – which have recently expanded to include baby-wearing, cloth diapers, and homemade organic “baby-food,” since the birth of my daughter Aira in 2013. I like to stay active by walking, jogging, horse riding, long boarding, and doing yoga. I love growing food. Four very important members of my family are canine and feline. I like to keep things simple.  I try my best to avoid passing judgement, and be aware of how my words and actions affect those around me. I like hugs and laughter. I really enjoy reading unpublished writers, and sometimes host writing contests. I’m learning to become less dependent on capital by making clothes, growing food, and doing work that helps me to feel fulfilled.

If we’ve got something in common, you’re in the right place, and I recommend you hit that “follow” button that’s beckoning you! If you are looking for a doula, or would like to find out more about what a doula is, check out this page.  Or Find out details of my home childcare,  check out my product line, which includes baby bum balm, massage oils (for baby or mum), natural gardener’s hand scrub or moisturizer, mittens (for babies and toddlers), cat toys (organic catnip & reused fabrics), coasters (hand knitted with love).

Also, it’d make me really happy if you read the synopsis or a free preview of my recently published YA fantasy romance, the Crashes of Waves.

Risen from the ashes, born of the waves.

“The mermaid was different, and not just because of her ‘mythical’ connections. Her opinions were strong, and she didn’t seem to think in the same way the people around her did. Sometimes she felt as though she was just on a completely different wavelength to everyone else, living in some kind of parallel universe.”

When Leila starts at her new school she falls madly and irrevocably in love with the charismatic and mysterious Vulcan Kevlar. However, Vulcan is keeping a huge secret from Leila, which he knows he has no choice but to let her in on when he realizes that her life is in serious jeopardy, along with the well-being of the entire human race.

Rebekah Nicole is a young fantasy author living in Guelph, Ontario. Rebekah’s passions other than writing include her daughter Kasaira, longboarding, reading, horses, and spending time with her friends (including her dog Fawkes and three cats Judy Jadine and Achilles).

Rebekah was born in 1992 in Portsmouth, England, and lived in Rockville, Maryland before moving to Canada. Rebekah has written since she was a child, when she began a series of short stories featuring a group of children who dedicate their lives around helping animals in need. She began her first novel, the Crashes of Waves, when she was fourteen.

I’ve been noticing that “findingfreedomthroughwriting.wordpress.com” is quite the mouthful, and I’m feeling ready to have my own personal domain (without the “wordpress”).

 I’ve also recently started a home childcare program called “Imagine One Love”, so I’m going to combine this site as my childcare site too, and change the domain to a much simpler imagine-onelove.com. So don’t worry – “Finding Freedom Through Writing” has not disappeared – the original content is all still here but the domain is different and I’ll be working on making the format a little more user friendly. (Information about Imagine One Love Home Childcare will be posted shortly!)

ALSO, I’m starting a pretty awesome product line with the name Imagine One Love. Here are my products so far:

The Crashes of Waves – Rebekah Nicole: The most exciting product is of course my YA romantic fantasy, The Crashes of Waves. $15, no tax, if you’re local to the Guelph area and you order a copy directly from me. Otherwise, order online through the publisher iUniverse or through Amazon if you prefer. Also available as an ebook for $3.99. Check out the synopsis and a free preview! 

Coasters: Adorable knitted coasters: $3 each or a pack of five for $10, available in any colour.

Cat Toys:  Hand sewn organic catnip toys, made out of reused (better than recycled) fabrics, which are also $3 each or $10 for a pack of five. 

Soon to be at the Guelph Farmers Market on Saturdays, and more products coming soon too!

Contact me by commenting or via email to make any orders, or for any inquiries.  

 

Wow, I’m so impressed with the incredible talent shown by all contestants! It was pretty close, but the winner is Sue Smith with Grenade. Congratulations and thanks for participating in Surviving the Times: Emotional Wellness writing contest. Hope to see more of everyone’s written art in the near future.

I know it is long winded, but parents, please please please take the time to read this. Many Disney shows promote extremely hateful behaviour… not just material that might offend feminists but strong messages that encourage low-self esteem and bullying.

Here’s a little excerpt:

Parents. Are you watching this garbage?

I certainly had not been. Beyond the quick minute or two, I had never sat and watched an episode of A.N.T Farm with the girls. Because it is Disney. How the hell do you go from Doc McStuffins, a show that SAVED ME countless tears at the pediatrician’s office, to this absolute trash? I so very wrongly figured that a company like Disney would not be promoting cruelty, bullying and sexism in their shows for young, impressionable children. I was completely mortified as I watched.

These shows are laced with terrible social behavior. Like the scene in one, where a “nerdy” boy walks up to a pretty “popular” girl and asks her out… she threw her bowling ball and ran away screaming. *Cue audience laughter*

IndeedIAm

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Disney has been ruining my kid…. a job I can do quite well on my own, thank you.

 I know, it sounds drastic.  Don’t worry, I am not going to launch into a ridiculous diatribe about how Frozen has a hidden gay agenda (huge eye roll) or is turning my girls in to glittery, sparkly princesses who need a prince to save them, (we are over that stage, thank god) or that Miley Cyrus grew up and dared to climb out of her Hannah Montana box.

In the interest of being a pretty laid back mom,  who fights against my extremely conservative upbringing, I have tried to adopt a more moderate view of the world and it’s evils.  With my girls, I am trying a more balanced approach, believing that they should not be sheltered constantly from American culture, taught to fear and judge and overreact to everything they see…

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Sadie the kitten and Claire the rat.

Credit to Hernandez “The Wildlife Videographer” for the shot.

Watch to the end, Claire is a pretty tough rat 🙂

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” (source debated)

Was reminded of this quote at a health care symposium I went to this evening (part of The Guelph Resilience Festival) Wondering if anyone would like to share their thoughts?

Just sharing some things that are working well for my family and I! So many popular products are designed for profit over anything else. I’d love to keep my shopping list 100% organic but honestly I don’t have the money or the time, nor do many other Moms I know. Here are some natural alternatives  that I would have like to have seen when I found out I was expecting my daughter Kasaira.

Cloth Diapers: Do you like the sound of cloth diapers but feel that you aren’t quite up to that much extra laundry? Well in Guelph (and Kitchener, Cambridge, TO, and probably many other cities) we’re lucky to have a selection of diaper services to chose from. My family use Bear Bottoms, which is $19.95/week (very reasonable as compared with the price of disposable diapers) http://www.bearbottoms.ca These diapers are very easy to use, with simple snap poppers (not the cloth and needle your grandmother might have used!). Care is simple – put the dirty diapers in a Bear Bottoms pail & these will be picked up weekly and clean ones dropped off. We’ve never used disposable diapers but I can’t really see them having any benefits!

Keeping Sensitive Skin Clean, Dry, and Healthy– When my daughter was first born, I felt sure (due to advertising  probably) that wet wipes were the best way to keep her clean. However when she began to look pretty sore after a few days I listened to my mother’s advice of just using a spray bottle of water and organic cotton pads or a reusable cloth. (I was even using the “environmentally friendly” wipes for “sensitive skin”.) Now I just use these wipes occasionally to wipe my own hands if we are out and I’m unable to get to a sink – mine are tougher so can handle the harsh chemicals that make my baby’s skin tender. Since switching away from wet wipes Kasaira hasn’t looked sore and has hardly had a spot of diaper rash. Also we always give her time to dry completely before applying cream or putting her new diaper on.

Soap – Black Soap (available from “The Shea Butter Man” in Quebec St Mall, Guelph) is an affordable, natural soap that is great for anyone’s skin, especially babies’. It is made out of plantain skin, cocoa pod, palm oil and kernel. (http://sheabutterman.ca/products-page/black-soap/)

Shea Butter- Kasaira loves being massaged, especially if I coat my hands in Shea butter first to moisturize her skin. According to the Shea Butter Man’s website, “100% Pure Shea Butter is a superior moisturizer, with extraordinary healing properties for various skin ailments as well as several natural anti-inflammatory agents.Africa Shea Butter is an edible fruit from the Shea Tree grown in Ghana, Mali, Burkina Faso and other Savannah grasslands of West Africa.Shea fruit is an organic product both ecologically safe in its use and in the way it is obtained.” This also provides a great time for you and your baby to enjoy some skin to skin time and for your baby to be naked.

Please feel free to comment if you have anything to add!

Later I’ll post a little about how I prepared for labour, and ended up having a very smooth delivery in a pool in my living room. (Thanks Guelph Midwives! 🙂

This month’s theme: surviving the times: emotional wellness.

I’d like to credit my friend Kimberly of Fiddlesticks in Cambridge for the theme emotional wellness; which we agree is free from the negative undertone associated with the phrase “mental health”.

I consider emotional wellness to be a very important topic because, as Iyanla Vanzant has said,

“When you stand and share your story in an empowering way, your story will heal you and your story will heal somebody else”

 

New Novel – The Crashes of Waves

Check out Rebekah Nicole’s novel, The Crashes of Waves. 

Risen from the ashes, born of the waves.“The mermaid was different, and not just because of her ‘mythical’ connections. Her opinions were strong, and she didn’t seem to think in the same way the people around her did. Sometimes she felt as though she was just on a completely different wavelength to everyone else, living in some kind of parallel universe.”

When Leila starts at her new school she falls madly and irrevocably in love with the charismatic and mysterious Vulcan Kevlar. However, Vulcan is keeping a huge secret from Leila, which he knows he has no choice but to let her in on when he realizes that her life is in serious jeopardy, along with the well being of the entire human race.

http://www.amazon.ca/Crashes-Waves-Rebekah-Nicole/dp/1475950357/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1395201705&sr=8-1&keywords=the+crashes+of+waves

“Coffee?” he yells intrusively. “You have money? Coffee? Smokes? I have no money.” Most people turn away, uncomfortably avoiding eye contact. Christmas music plays through the shop’s speakers; words of good tidings and joy.

A variety of people sit, engrossed in conversations of their plans for Christmas, focused on reading their news papers, sipping coffee carefully from their paper cups.

Everyone pretends not to notice when Carlos bursts into tears, heaving sobs coming from deep inside his troubled soul. No one cares about the horrors of his past, no one wonders what troubles his broken spirit.

No time for Carlos, no time for compassion, only time for Christmas. Spreading Christmas love to friends, to family, but not to the crazy old man forever sitting alone. Where will he be this Christmas? When we are home, snuggled by a cozy fire, tearing the wrapping from gift after gift, where will Carlos be? Will we even spare a thought for him?

A mother and small child walk carefully past him, the woman’s arm wrapped protectively around her daughter’s shoulders. He smiles at them, to him it is warm, but to the worried mother it is maniacal. Please don’t frighten my baby, she thinks. Please don’t make a scene, please keep to yourself.

Carlos. Constantly asked to keep to himself. Quiet down, calm yourself, don’t shout. Cheery Christmas carols continue to play, but they aren’t playing for Carlos.

Nothing plays for Carlos. The radio show hosts speaks of Santa, of what he’ll be bringing the good little girls and boys this year. Was Carlos a good boy? Will Santa be visiting Carlos’ home this year? When he was young, did he lay awake on Christmas eve, wondering if that was the bells on Santa’s sleigh that he could hear in the cold winter air? When did Santa stop visiting Carlos?

What changed in his head that causes him to behave in a way that frightens people so? What thoughts pass through his mind that are so different from our own? A desperation for acceptance, for support, and for love? What is it about our society that makes it so hard for people to give this to him?

Where will Carlos be this Christmas?

Imagine you are on top of the world. You are invincible, and nothing can stop you. You succeed in everything you do. Your dreams are coming true around you, and you know that it is due to your own perseverance and skill. You know you are beautiful, both inside and out. The people around you adore you. You are popular, loved and envied. Your euphoric state of mind feels like heaven.

Then you take a wrong turn.

Make a bad decision.

Plummet into hell.

You are ashamed. Worthless. Your body feels heavy and drained. You have lost everything, and it is your own fault. You have driven away the people who care. You want to stay in bed, waste away your days with desperate nothingness. You can’t decide which you prefer – the agony, or the emptiness. You are trapped inside of your own mind.

The passage above is a small glance at what life is like from inside the mind of a person with bipolar disorder. If you know anyone who is suffering with this disorder (formerly known as manic depression), or are suffering with the disorder yourself, you can appreciate how large of a toll this overwhelming and terrifying mental condition can take on a person’s life. It is a biological psychiatric condition that involves extreme highs and lows of mood, activity, and cognition. Individuals suffering with this condition experience a cycle of depression and mania. Almost one in every thirty people have been diagnosed with bipolar, and many more are left to face their condition confused and alone. In 1991 the costs of bipolar disorder had totalled at a massive forty-five billion US dollars in America alone. It has been estimated that a twenty five year old person diagnosed with bipolar disorder who fails to receive adequate treatment is likely to lose a shocking nine years of life and an additional fourteen years of major life activity. Though treatment for bipolar is available and generally very effective when taken regularly, the majority of patients end up relapsing at some point within five years of beginning their treatment. Generally the first onset of bipolar disorder occurs between the ages of nineteen and twenty-three – the age of the majority of students here at Guelph.

The Cycle of Depression and Mania

A bipolar cycle, or episode of depression and mania, can vary from between forty-eight hours and five years in length, and in some cases, the individual actually experiences both mania and depression simultaneously, instead of switching back and forth between the two. Between thirteen and twenty percent of patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder are considered rapid cyclers, meaning that they experience at least four episodes of depression or mania within a single year. Rapid cycling is experienced disproportionately by women, and can be caused by medication nonadherence, psychosis, alcohol or drug abuse, sleep deprivation, or antidepressant medications.

While in the depressive stage of a bipolar cycle, symptoms include a sad mood, loss of interests, fatigue, psychomotor retardation or agitation, loss of concentration, insomnia, feelings of worthlessness, and suicidality. Suicide is a major issue that many individuals with bipolar disorder face – between ten and fifteen percent of bipolar patients eventually commit suicide. Essentially, someone with bipolar disorder is thirty percent more likely to commit suicide than a person without the disorder.

In contrast to the depressive stage, the mania causes euphoric, elevated or irritable mood states, racing of thoughts (or the verbal concomitant, ‘flight of ideas), pressure of speech, increased activity and energy, impulsive high-risk behaviours, an inflated sense of self-worth or grandiose delusions, distractibility, and a decreased need for sleep. While in the manic state individuals are highly excited and full of energy, often talking at a rapid speed as though it is of absolute importance that they express the contents of their mind in a short amount of time. It may sometimes seems as though manic people do not need sleep, but inevitably they eventually become exhausted, causing the mania to decrease. Surprisingly, this manic state is actually often far more damaging to the life of a person dealing with bipolar disorder than the depressive episodes. This is because individuals are often blind to the possible consequences of their actions while in a manic state, and have frenetic activity in aspects of their lives such as work and sexual relationships.

Generally the first onset of bipolar disorder is a depressive episode in female patients while it is a a manic episode in male patients. Likewise, women are normally depressed for longer than they are manic while men are generally manic for longer than they are depressed. In addition to this, women are more likely to be rapid cyclers than men.

Living with the Condition

The consequences of bipolar disorder are immense, for both the patient and those close to them. Individuals with this disorder are more likely to end their marriages with separation or divorce, and often struggle to give their children a stable upbringing. At least ten to fifteen percent of bipolar patients commit suicide, which means they are thirty percent more likely to take their own life than a member of the “normal population”. Approximately one third of all bipolar patients find it impossible to work within six months after experiencing a manic episode, and four in every five patients do not work at their “expected level”. The majority of individuals with bipolar disorder show “declines in occupational functioning” over the five years after an episode.

Treatments and Relapse

Fortunately, the treatments for bipolar disorder have proven to be very highly effective when taken properly. The treatments are rarely anything but pharmacotherapy, and include mood stabilizers such as lithium, anticonvulsants, and adjunctive agents. These pharmaceuticals reduce the activity of protein C signalling cascade, thus reducing the symptoms of this disorder.

The first mood stabilizer to come into wide use was lithium carbonate. Lithium is between fifty and sixty percent effective in controlling the symptoms of bipolar disorder and preventing the occurrence of episodes. Some of the negative effects of lithium include weight gain, nausea, and trembling.

Though by far the most popular, lithium is not the only treatment available for bipolar patients. Some others include anticonvulsant medications such as divalproex sodium, or Depakote, carbamazepine, or Tegretol, oxcarbazepine, or Trileptal, and lamotrigine, or Lamictal. These alternatives are generally used on lithium-refractory patients, patients who complain of lithium’s side effects, or patients with atypical symptoms, such as mixed episodes or rapid cycling.

Mood stabilizers are often combined with antidepressants because the mood stabilizers focus far more on controlling the manic symptoms than the depressive ones. These antidepressants can be extremely dangerous to bipolar patients, as they can sometimes cause manic episodes or rapid cycling.

Relapse is unfortunately very common within bipolar patients, primarily because the patients miss their high, euphoric periods and dislike having their moods controlled by medication. Some patients also complain that the medications reduce creativity. Approximately forty percent of bipolar patients relapse within a year of taking their medication, sixty percent after two years, and seventy-three perfect after five years. More than fifty percent of the select patients who do not relapse suffer from significant residual symptoms of mood disorder

Though the pharmacotherapeutic treatment is far more common, there are some psychosocial approaches to controlling this disorder, such as family or marital therapy, interpersonal and social rhythm therapy, and individual cognitive behavioural therapy. Through family or marital therapy, the family is educated about how they can most appropriately and effectively deal with a bipolar relative. Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy assists the patient in understanding and renegotiating the interpersonal context associated with their specific symptoms. This approach often focuses on stabilizing the patients daily routines; especially their sleeping patterns. Through individual cognitive behavioural therapy the patients are taught to identify, evaluate, and restructure cognitive distortions. Illness management strategies are developed, including behavioural activation, drug compliance monitoring, and the appropriate use of support systems.

If believe that you or someone close to you may be suffering with bipolar disorder please do not hesitate to get professional help immediately – you are not alone.

…If you can dream it, you can write it.

Upon having this thought, my mind immediately of the person who is in my opinion one of the most talented and imaginative writers to ever walk this earth, Lewis Carroll. He is the author of many amazing pieces of literature and poetry including Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass, and The Hunting of the Snark. A simple yet extraordinary statement made by this brilliant man will be the inspiration for my response:

Sometimes, I have imagined as many as six impossible things before breakfast

– Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

In Tim Burton’s adaption of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Alice lists six of the impossible things that she believes in:

  1. There’s a potion that can make you small.

  2. There’s a cake that can make you grow.

  3. Animals can talk.

  4. A cat that can disappear.

  5. There’s a place called Wonderland.

  6. Alice can slay the Jabberwocky.

The social commentary that Lewis Carroll expresses in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland criticizes society’s need to make sense of everything around them. Carroll asks his readers to believe the impossible; to “see life as it is, but write about life as it might be”. For this response I will list six impossible things that I would like to believe.

  1. Phoenixes and mermaids are capable of falling in love with each other.

  2. Mermaids have guardians called Asrais.

  3. Ants will one day take over the world.

  4. We are nothing more than a speck of dust on a mad hatter’s hat.

  5. I am truly the centre of the universe.

  6. Magic is real.

Confused? I cannot understand why, this list makes perfect sense to me. Just as Alice’s list made perfect sense to her. However, as Carroll so accurately recognized, our society does crave explanations of the impossible. As little as I agree with our society, I am a part of it and cannot deny that, so I will conform to those around me and attempt to satisfy the desire for sense.

1. Phoenixes and mermaids are capable of falling in love with each other.

I use the plural term, phoenixes, instead of phoenix, though I am not sure if this is accurate as only one phoenix may walk – or fly – the earth at a time. The phoenix of our era calls himself Vulcan, after the God responsible for the destruction of Pompeii. Vulcan is currently nineteen years old, and is in love with a mermaid named Leila Black (you will learn more of her in my explanation of impossible belief number two). The relationship between a phoenix and a mermaid is not something that is acceptable in the society of Impossible Beings who are scattered amongst our world, and the reason for this is simple. Beings of separate elements, such as fire and water, should not be capable of coexistence. Even within the realm of the impossible, some things are just not possible. Or are they? Vulcan and Leila are still young and naive in their love, and so the other Impossible Beings in their lives believe their love will prove to be disastrous. However, who am I to judge their love in this way when their entire existence is considered impossible by the people in my life? I believe in the love between Vulcan and Leila, because if I am mad enough to believe in Impossible Beings, then how can I be too sane to believe in love between beings of separate elements. For this reason, I truly believe in three impossible things within the first of my six impossible beliefs: I believe in phoenixes, mermaids, and the love between them. I believe in this love because I created this love. I believe in this love because I can feel it when I write of Leila and Vulcan in my novel, The Crashes of Waves.

2. Mermaids have guardians called Asrais.

Humans have guardians that are part of their conscience, but mermaids have guardians who are actually separate entities. The concept is much like Pinocchio’s Jiminy Cricket, but applies to real mermaids instead of an imaginary puppet. Mermaids are generally introduced to their Asrai moments after they are born – the first time that they are separated from their human mothers and submerged into the ocean. The Asrai then stays with that mermaid until the day the mermaid dies, whether she is on land or underwater. Asrais are gorgeous creatures, each about a centimetre tall and constantly surrounded by a soft shimmer of purple haze. They have long shining hair and silver sparkling tails. They giggled and smiled, and Leila felt a longing which she had never experienced before. They sing in a manner that is so beautiful that it would be absolutely incomprehensible to the human ear. They have cute, cherub-like faces, and all look between five and ten years old. The closest resemblance they have to something humans are familiar with is to fairies, but these tiny women have no wings, and look similar to miniature mermaids. However, their magic is on a completely different level than a mermaid’s, and this is represented by the way they shine. Leila’s Asrai’s name is Naiade, and she has dark skin and black flowing hair. Her eyes are large and innocent, surrounded by a curtain of thick lashes. However, her personality is confident and direct, strongly contrasting with her timid appearance. No two Asrai’s have the same personality, just as no two mermaids or humans do. It should also be noted that an Asrai will never have a personality similar to her mermaids, as far too many conflicts would arise. So there you have it – the second impossible thing that I believe in is the existence of the Asrai, which of course means I also believe in the “myth” of mermaids.

3. Ants will one day take over the world.

Have you ever watched an ant carry a leaf one hundred times its size as though it takes no effort at all? I have, and it never ceases to amaze me. Can you imagine what you would be capable of with that kind of strength. I can predict the average reaction to this; yes, that is all great, but we have the intelligence to build machines to do that for us. If this thought was your reaction to my question, you are underestimating the intelligence of the ant. Ants live in colonies, and are each assigned specific roles to insure that their society runs smoothly. Sound familiar? Is our society not governed by rules and regulations whose purpose is to do the same? A colony of ants was one of the inspirations for the Magna Carta, one of the first written constitutions. However, our society, unlike the society of an ant, is full of corruption and conflict. Ants understand the value of organization and cooperation, while humans subconsciously crave violence and chaos. The only disasters that take place in an ants life are caused by the world around them, and not the ants themselves. However disasters take place in the human world every single day, and the majority of them are caused by the humans themselves. Husbands lie to their wives, children are taught to use guns, people are bullied in schools, and bombs are dropped on villages. Is it not clear that humans do not deserve to be the superior creatures on this planet? Is it not obvious that our time will not eventually run out? Who better to take our place than ants, who truly have so much more control over their world than we do? My third impossible belief is that humans do not deserve the power we have, and that it will one day be taken from us – possibly by ants.

4. We are nothing more than a speck of dust on a mad hatter’s hat.

The mad hatter’s hat aspect of this impossible belief is up for debate – it is more the concept of infinity that I am focusing on. Infinity means that every possible scenario is taking place – moreover, every possible scenario is taking place infinity times. It is a number that is almost impossible to comprehend in itself, but is something that has been proven by scientists and is therefore not worthy of appearing directly on my list. One may argue that this belief is impossible because scientists have proven that the earth is part of a solar system that revolves around the sun, but I was not referring to the earth when I used the term “we”. To be perfectly honest, I do not know enough about astronomy to truly know what I mean by “we”, but I don’t think anyone does. Picture the furthest star that can be viewed with the most powerful telescope. Now, picture what is beyond that. Just another star? Now, picture examining the smallest spec of dust that can be viewed with the most powerful microscope. There is far more to that speck of dust than meets the eye, and even with our microscope we can not fully appreciate all there is to that simple speck of dust. Combine these two ideas, and imagine a world centillion times bigger than our own. All that we know could be contained in a simple speck of dust in this gigantic world… a speck of dust sitting inconspicuously on a mad hatter’s hat.

5. I am truly the centre of the universe.

This is my belief, and for this reason I am the centre of the universe. However, if you are truly reading and comprehending this then it must be you who who is the centre of the universe. For simplicity’s sake, I will describe this belief as though it is you who is at the centre. This concept is one that is very hard to grasp, and even harder to describe, so I will compare it to a dream. When you dream, you conjure up images that do not truly exist – images that can only be seen by yourself, and are controlled completely by your subconscious. However, this does not mean that dreams go exactly as we consciously want them to – only a selection of fortunate people are capable of consciously altering the events in their dreams. How do you know that life in itself is not just a dream? That everyone you know, love, and hate are nothing more than figments of your own imagination? You assume that even when you cannot see, hear, feel, smell, or taste something, it still exists. What if as soon as something leaves all five of your senses it literally ceases to exist? What if the world behind you is an empty abyss until you turn your head and create your own image? How do you know that the people around you think and feel, as you do, and do not just say and do things because your subconscious pictures them doing so? My fifth impossible belief is that I am the centre of the universe. However, if you are reading and comprehending this even though I cannot see you, then it must be you that is the centre of the universe, and this response just a figment of your own imagination.

6. Magic is real.

To believe that magic is real is almost to believe that it is not, due to the nature of magic itself. According to Dictionary.com magic is “the production of results through mysterious influences or unexplained powers.” The key words in this definition are “mysterious” and “unexplained”. According to this definition, magic always has and always will exist, for their will always be unexplained phenomenons in our world. If I travelled two thousand years into the past and brought with me a flashlight – something that is very unspectacular in our world – people would assume it was magic. Their assumption would be correct, according to the definition of the word, because at that point in time the science behind a flashlight was “mysterious” and “unexplained”. However, in today’s society that flashlight is not magic because we understand how it works, thus making the object far less appealing or frightening. Therefore my sixth belief is not truly impossible – contrariwise, it would be impossible for magic not to exist, because to deny the existence in magic is to claim that absolutely every aspect of our world can be explained.

I introduced this response with a statement from one of my favourite writers, so will conclude it with a statement from the other favourite. I hope you enjoyed reading my response, and if you did not, I would like you to remember that

a little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.”

– Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Thank you for guiding me, whenever I’m in need

While also allowing me to become who I want to be.

 

Thanks for teaching me not to want too much,

While always ensuring that I have enough.

 

You taught me how to love, you taught me how to care,

And you gave me the knowledge that you’ll always be there.

 

Your unwavering support, even when we disagree,

Is whats given me strength, one day you’ll see.

 

You tell me you love me more than I’ll ever know

I hope you realize I love you more than you feel I show

 

You said you hope I never lose my sense of wonder,

Please see I haven’t, that I’m taking it much farther

 

You hope love wont ever leave me empty handed

I’ve been surrounded by love, wherever we have landed

 

And most of all, you say, you hope I dance

You must see that I do this every time I have the chance.

 

You taught me not to settle for the path of lease resistance

Which may have sometimes made things a little too tense

 

You’ve allowed me to believe with all of my heart

That I am capable of whatever I dream of – this is my start

 

Thanks to you I understand that it’s not I can never fall

But that I must rise every time, straighten my back and stand tall

 

I’m heading confidently in the direction of my dreams

I promise, it’s not quite as scary as it seems

 

Thank you for giving me the courage to be me

Thank you for allowing me to really be free.

I just wish my happiness could be enough for you

So indecisive, can’t feel sure of what to do

 

I just wish I’d stop bringing you pain

Wish being me didn’t make you ashamed

 

Lying to myself, I say things will change

When you realize this is more than just a phase

Just as you shouldn’t be trying to change me

I can’t modify hopes and dreams you have for me

I feel like a stallion that’s finally been broken

Forgetting myself, you’ve done it, I’m broken

I’m sorry for tearing you into two

Sorry for making your lives quite so blue

I’ve made a decision, I’ve chosen my path

I’ll let go of my passions, give in to your wrath

Please, for me, make my pain worthwhile

Occasionally will you let me see you smile?

As she sits at the drums and attempts to create something that resembles music, she sighs in frustration. It’s not working. She can’t keep a beat. It feels like a waste of time. But she pushes on. Willing her arms to create the sound her mind wants to hear.

Then, gradually, she begins to let go. Begins to allow the music to come to her, instead of desperately clutching at something in the dark. She shuts her eyes, and finally allows her brain to take a back seat.

She follows the beat with her body instead of her mind, and feels an immediate release. A release from worry, a release from stress, a release from herself.

A smile spreads across her face, and for a moment, she is free. 

Abstract art is sometimes the purest form of poetry. You create what you feel. There are no limits. You are not bound by the restrictions of the English language. Words are contaminated by the cultural norms that shape every aspect of day to day life. But our feelings don’t need to be controlled in this way, and neither does the way we express them. The most truthful forms of art are not created for an audience, but for the artist. Art is most beautiful when it is filled with a variety of different messages, depending on who is viewing it. The artist is often not aware of any view but your own.

Dance as your soul is connected to the rhythm

     Sing as the words are expressing your essence

          Laugh as the music illuminates your heart

               Love, as the magic will allow you to fly.

Dance, it is the easiest way to set yourself free

     Sing, it is expression with fewer barriers than speech

          Laugh, and you will never fall down

               Love, and you have the power to give someone wings.

Dance as though your body is disconnected from your mind

     Sing about hope, forgetting your sorrows

          Laugh, even when humour seems out of your reach

               Love, because it is the only way to escape hate.

Dance as your soul is connected to the rhythm

     Sing as the words are expressing your essence

          Laugh as the music illuminates your heart

               Love, as the magic will allow you to fly.

I hear the crisp crunching of snow under his hooves as we make our way towards the sparkling open field. I notice the comforting scent of a campfire, and inhale deeply. The horse’s ears are pinned forward – he is alert and aware of every aspect of the dark forest that surrounds us. I do not feel frightened, because he is with me. I trust him to keep me safe.

We are alone, yet entirely together. It is Majesty myself, and the wind.

Adrenaline rushes through my body, and Majesty quickens his pace. He recognizes and analyzes my body language so accurately that it is almost as though he is reading my mind. Almost. I squeeze my legs and tilt forwards slightly, giving Majesty the permission he craves to break free. We are off. We are flying. My hair and Majesty’s mane stream behind us like the tails of two kites, racing in the sky.

The strength of his body amazes me as I notice every shift of muscle in his torso. His long legs propel us across the field at an unfathomable speed. We slow down slightly as we enter a path through the trees. A log lies in our way, but Majesty does not falter. With an air of arrogance he tucks his head and elegantly soars over the jump.

I feel as though nothing in the world exists but Majesty and I, and as I laugh quietly Majesty joins me with a snort of glee. We are alone, together, and totally at one with the world.

Imagine Canada in 1892. At this time women were not yet considered “persons” under the law and were thus forbidden from voting in federal elections. Aboriginal religious ceremonies such as potlatches and dances were outlawed under the Indian Act. Chinese immigrants coming to Canada were singled out and forced to pay a fifty dollar fee to enter the country. The prevalent method of transportation was the horse and buggy. Most significantly, in 1892 the animal cruelty section of the Criminal Code was written. This section still holds absolute legal validity, almost one hundred and twenty years later. By not drastically amending this section, politicians are suggesting that Canadians hold the same morals today as those that were valued during an age of ignorance and discrimination. The current Code is hospitable for sadistic and violent criminals such as the Ottawa man who beat his starving cat to death with a shovel as punishment for it consuming some of his food – food that was left outside unattended. This man was charged only with a $500 fine and allowed to continue to “provide care for” the other animals living under his control. The animal abuse section of the Criminal Code is in desperate need of significant alterations and modernizations, especially with regard to organized animal fighting, its position under the property section of the criminal code, and the ambiguous words “wilful neglect”.

Forcing animals to fight each other for sick entertainment has been illegal in Canada since 1892. The Code states that every one who “in any manner encourages, aids or assists at the fighting or baiting of animals or birds” is committing an offence. However, prosecuting animal fighting cases in Canada is close to impossible as charges can be laid only when professional inspectors witness the animal fighting. According to the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, it is unlikely that the former NFL player Michael Vick would have been prosecuted for dog fighting if he had lived in Canada instead of the United States. Yes, you read correctly – the American legal system defends the rights of our furry friends more effectively than the Canadian system.

Although animal fighting is technically a criminal offence in Canada it is perfectly legal to train animals to fight each other and to accept money for the entertainment that this torture provides for cruel and deranged people. In contrast, Great Britain’s Animal Welfare Act makes it an offence to cause, take money for, publicize, promote or be present at an animal fight, as well as to train animals to fight, keep premises for animal fighting or even to possess a video of animal fighting.

Essentially the message that our legal system is sending animal fighters is that what they’re doing is entirely acceptable – on the condition that they don’t get caught. As the chairman and chief executive officer of the Humane Society of Canada so accurately describes, “with nothing but their heart, their courage and a burning desire to please their master these dogs fight with their last ounce of energy and with every fibre of their being. And their reward? If they survive their injuries, they are forced to fight again and again. If they lose, the owner may torture and then kill the animal which has offered them nothing but trust and loyalty in return.”

Animal cruelty is currently considered a property offence, meaning that animals are merely materialistic possessions worth nothing more than their monetary value, rather than compassionate, sensitive and loving beings that are very capable of feeling pain. Essentially, the Canadian government is implying that an animal is no more worthy of dignity and respect than an inanimate object such as a television or couch.

That is not to say that animals should no longer be owned, purchased, and sold – only that animals should be considered more than solely property. Current Canadian law provides absolutely no protection for animals that are not owned – it is not considered a criminal offence to take the life of a wild or stray animal. Moreover, animal cruelty is currently only a criminal offence because it involves the destruction or vandalism of property, not because the safety and dignity of living creatures are being jeopardized.

In small towns such as Kangirsuk in northern Quebec many citizens take advantage of this loophole in the Criminal Code – they actually have dog shooting days four or five times a year when they round up as many stray dogs as possible and shoot them all. This disgusting and cruel tradition is considered perfectly acceptable behaviour by the Canadian legal system.

Many farmers, fishermen, and hunters oppose any change to this law because they feel that it’ll ruin their careers. However, it should only become illegal to kill a wild animal without a lawful excuse – which farmers, fishermen, and hunters generally have. The current law does not have a positive effect on the Canadian economy – it only denies all wild animals in Canada of their right to safety.

The most significant loophole in the current animal cruelty section of the Criminal Code are the words “wilful neglect”. The word wilful implies that the neglect is more than a voluntary or intentional act, but something that has been done with a bad motive or purpose. This phrasing makes it almost impossible to prosecute cases of animal neglect because it requires proof that a person had clear and determined intention to neglect or cause harm to the animal. In cases that do go to court, most judges find defendants not guilty as they do not believe there is sufficient proof the owner intended to harm their animals – even when dozens of animals have been starved to death.

An example of this occurred in Saskatchewan when more than thirty sheep starved to death, and the farmer was found not guilty because the judge felt that in ‘forgetting’ to feed his animals the farmer had not actually intended for them to die.

June 2008 marks the creation of Bill S-203, which makes the penalties for people found guilty of animal cruelty slightly higher. This was a completely pointless change in the law, as tougher penalties don’t exactly do any good if animal abusers can’t be prosecuted in the first place. Only one in every four hundred animal abuse complaints lead to a successful conviction, meaning that Bill S-203 effects only one quarter of one percent of all animal cruelty cases. The government needs to smarten up and work from the root of the problem instead of pretending that harsher penalties are a significant solution in a feeble attempt to quiet those complaining about the pathetic state of our animal protection laws. Tim Battle, animal rights activist and director of education of the Alberta SPCA argues that changing animal cruelty to a hybrid instead of a summary offence has only placed a higher burden of proof on the investigators of animal abuse, causing even less animal abusers to be charged and convicted of their crime.

Provinces in Canada such as Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Nova Scotia, and Manitoba have recognized the inadequacy of the current animal cruelty section of the Criminal code, so have updated their own animal protection acts to make up for the lack of support from the federal government. However, there is only so much the provinces are capable of as provincial prosecutions do not result in a national criminal record, which allows abusers to simply relocate to a different province and continue their abuse in the new jurisdiction. It is completely absurd to have a federal Criminal Code that is so inadequate that it has become virtually obsolete due to much stronger provincial acts in many regions.

It’s been proven that violence against animals often leads to violence against people; in fact, cruelty to animals is one of the three primary indicators of criminal behaviour used by the American Federal Bureau of Investigation. Psychologist and vice president of the Human Society of the United States Dr. Randall Lockwood states that “while not everyone who abuses animals will become a serial killer, virtually every serial killer abuses animals”. So even if the disgusting yet legal maltreatment and torture of animals in Canada does not upset you, consider what this detrimental behaviour could lead to. 

I know, the question itself makes me cringe. However, it is a valid question to ask, as I’m sure there are many people out there, like myself, who understand how inherently evil the “system” is, and would really like to change it, but feel they have too much too lose or are simply too downright afraid to take the risks associated with physically fighting this system through direct action.

However, this does not mean that you should sit back on your couch and accept the disgusting capitalist system that we have little choice but to be part of. Instead, there are many ways that you can fight the system with little to no consequences for yourself.

To me, the most important thing you can do is education – educate yourself, and those around you, on the issues that are important to you. This is the first step to the revolution, as people will never be inspired enough to fight back if they do not understand the facts about how large corporations are oppressing us and turning us into slaves. It is important to remember how the majority of people educate themselves on issues through mainstream news. Mainstream news does a brilliant job of sucking people into the system and convincing them to obediently follow what is expected of them, without ever thinking out side of the box or considering other alternatives. Offer people truth as an alternative to the mainstream news, and inspire them to feel motivated to question everything they hear and do their own research instead of absorbing all that they are given.

Powerful movements such as the Occupy Movement have been based on education, and though this is just a small step towards drastic social change, it is a very important stepping stone. When people are educated enough to fully understand what “groups” such as the Anarchist Black Cross and the Animal Liberation Front are fighting for it makes it a lot harder for the mainstream news to demonize them and label them as terrorists.

Though it is a lot of work and a huge personal commitment, a possible way to directly help activists in their fight for a system of equality is to become a defence lawyer. One of the government’s biggest tactics in preserving the system is to lock away everyone that they perceive as a “threat” to the system. Unfortunately, many activists cannot afford “top” lawyers to defend them, so face far harsher sentences than necessary (not that any sentence is necessary). As a lawyer you are in a position where you can directly assist those brave individuals making huge personal sacrifices to defend what they (and we) know is morally right, and fight against what we all know is wrong.

Then, of course, there are simple every day lifestyle decisions. Unfortunately, buying cheap groceries and other products from large corporations is directly supporting the system we want to fight against. Be a responsible consumer and consider where your food and other products are coming from. Grow your own vegetables, and drink fair trade coffee from your local corner coffee shop instead of supporting Tim Horton’s or Starbucks. Don’t buy more than necessary – this avoids waste and over consumption. Clothing swaps are great, as they save you money and you get to see your friends wearing the clothes that have been sitting neglected at the back of your closet. Being self sufficient is also a great tactic, through means such as growing your own vegetables and making your own clothes. Entertain yourself by spending good times with good people, instead of by spending money that feeds the capitalist system.

These are just a few simple suggestions, but I think it is of vital importance that no one feels that they have no option but to sit back and immerse themselves into a system that disgusts them so greatly (well… it might not disgust you… but it definitely makes me feel sick to my stomach…).

And, by all means, if you are strong and brave enough to do more than this… please do it!! Understand the possible consequences for your actions, and consider them seriously, but please don’t feel that this ramble is a criticism of militant tactics, because it is not. It’s just a suggestion of alternatives to supporting the system that will not support us.

So, in conclusion, stay strong, and keep up the good fight! Peace, love, and solidarity.

Just looking towards the beautiful assortment of bushes and trees was enough to relieve some of the stress weighing on Luna’s shoulders. She exhaled slowly, imagining that the poison of the city was being slowly released from her body. Breathing in the sweet forest air was like cleansing her soul – an attempt to ring out the influence of society like squeezing dirty water from a soaked towel.

As she travelled deeper into the woods and further away from civilization her mind became clear. Back to the basics – reality – away from the bullshit. No more expectations. No more nonsensical standards and norms she felt forced to obey. No more humanity.

It filled Luna with an energized sense of absolute joy. This was real. This was what mattered.

She began to run. The direction didn’t matter. Flying over fallen logs, rolling under low branches, and pushing herself through where the trees grew closer together.

The small, shallow scratches appearing on her arms were vitalizing. She laughed, throwing herself on to the soft pine needles beneath her.

Laying looking through the trees made her feel both euphoric and miserable. Euphoric because of the beauty of the branches and leaves crossing in front of the bright blue sky. The simplicity of the white, fluffy clouds surfing on the wind. But miserable at the novelty of this view. At the disgusting effect her own species had on the beautiful world around her. The destruction and denial of beautiful reality, the creation of darkness, suffering, and hate.

Thump, thump, thump. The steady rhythm of her frightened heart hammered in her ears. She allowed her tattered sneakers to gently push away from the sidewalk, gradually bringing her further and further away from the man. Running was a temporary freedom; a teaser of what a normal life might be like.

The wind tugged at her long wavy hair – threatening to drag her back – but she pushed onwards. Her legs were beginning to become sore and she felt even stronger. Her aching muscles were a relief from the bruises covering her slight body.

At times, she felt weak and pathetic for being in the situation she was in, and blamed herself for it.

Now, however, she was strong. She was an independent woman. She was free.

Looking forwards she noticed an opening in the thick trees, and picked up speed as she made her way towards the clearing. She was on a cliff’s edge, one she had looked out from many times before. It was her sanctuary – her momentary freedom. The spot was exactly half a marathon in distance from the man’s house, and had taken her almost two hours to reach. It was her Sunday run. Her Sunday marathon, for she would always have the return trip to look forward to. Always before, but not today.

Every Sunday he gave her five hours of freedom, but this week she was going to rebel and make that time an eternity. She slowly stepped forwards, hanging the tips of her toes over the edge of the cliff.

To her delight at that moment her best friend – her only friend – soared in front of her and nestled down into his home located in an oak tree near by. He was a hawk, whom she had named Freedom. He represented everything she craved. Power, strength, elegance, determination, and most significantly, freedom. She had always longed desperately to join Freedom in his explorations of the air, and today she had built up the courage to make it happen. She was escaping to Freedom. Permanent freedom. She took a deep breath, spread her arms, and threw herself from the cliff’s edge. As she plummeted towards the crashing water and sharp rocks hundreds of metres beneath her, she did something she had not done in over five years. She smiled.

I’ve tried drinking you away,

Only intensifies the pain.

Tried working with the other team,

I can’t convince myself that’s me.

So, out in the heat, I’m going to run,

I’ll run ’til my body’s completely numb.

As exhaustion overpowers my mind,

Memories of you are less easy to find.

I feel so much better, this pain is refreshing,

Better than everything else that’s depressing. 

For a moment I think about taking a break,

Then realize I just can’t stand the heart ache.

One day I’ll be strong…

One day I’ll move on. 

But ’til then I must hide

From whats on the inside.

I tell myself I want the pain to go away

Can’t handle it escalating every day

But I’m lying to myself

Won’t just hide this on the shelf

 

I’m relishing in my own grief

Deserve this, I made you leave

 

I want to hurt

Deserve to hurt

 

Terrified of life without you

I’m begging

Tell me

What to do

 

A cold claw is thrashing around inside of my chest

Sharp fingers tearing me open from the inside

But the fingers are mine

You’ve always tried to do whats best

And I threw it all away

Deserve to make myself pay

 

I feel so detached

Nothing is real

Nothing is worth it

Finally, I know what I feel

 

I know its too late

I trampled all over fate

 

But I won’t give up the fight

‘Cause this time I know I’d do it right.

Excited teenagers fill the halls, their chatter and laughter surrounds me. I let the crowd direct me to the line I need, and look around, waiting to see someone I know. Speak to some people, chat, catch up on summer memories.

Then I hear a voice – his voice – over the many others. An unnatural fog fills my brain, and I feel the room begin to spin. I tell myself not to look, but the attempt is weak – pathetic.

My eyes focus on his, and I can’t force them to look away. I absorb him him, etch his image even deeper into my head with a sharp and painful scalpel. I notice every slight alteration to my memory.

I am yanked violently back to reality by a classmate, and attempt to hold a normal conversation. As if anything about the way I feel is normal.

I quickly slip through the door, run away from him, and use all of my self control to avoid him and leave the school as quickly as possible.

I am out, but it is too late, the damage has been done. When I shut my eyes his image burns behind the lids, and I am unable to concentrate on anything. His name repeats itself over and over in my mind, a broken record that refuses to shut off.

I had turned the volume down so low, so low that I sometimes forgot it was there, but now it is back, full blast, louder than ever.

My hard work, my recovery, completely reversed.

It took over a year to build up my immunity and it has now been brutally ripped from under my feet with that one, short glimpse. All of my defences are down.

Even the hope that it can be rebuilt is completely nonexistent, because I was not only cursed with his sight but given the deadly knowledge of his presence… of the presence he will have for the rest of the year.

I am scared to look forward, scared in my mind because I know how much I crave him. How much my eyes crave his image, my ears crave his voice, and my skin craves touch. It terrifies me to feel how my heart craves our reunion and my soul craves his acceptance.

On the verge,

the brink,

the edge…

of something.

Something unknown.

Tears?

Yes.

More.

About to snap,

break down.

Don’t know why,

don’t know when.

Desperate for help,

incapable of asking for it,

or even accepting it.

On the verge,

the brink,

the edge…

of something.

So many questions.

So many uncertainties.

Heading in a direction unknown,

Or simply not moving at all.

What lies ahead?

What lies behind?

The future,

the past,

all that exists is the present.

On the verge,

the brink,

the edge…

of something.

This is me.

Part of me.

 

Without this,

I am not me.

 

No more denial,

no more hiding within my own mind.

 

I am me,

And I am not ashamed of me.

So I’m no longer going to hide me.

No longer going to hide from me.

 

 

As she steps out into the crowded hallway, she holds her head high. She refuses to cry, she refuses to hide.

Within moments, she feels the stress radiating from those around her begin to settle deep into her bones.

She walks faster, refusing to bow her head in an attempt to escape from the warped reality that surrounds her.

She hears snippets of the conversations of those around her. Exams. Parties. Deadlines. Fashion. Assignments, TV.

How is she supposed to fit in to this world? How is she supposed to want to?

Why can’t obedience be easy, as it was when she was a child? Whey does she have to see the lies and corruption in the world around her? Why can’t she care more about Jersey Shore than the suffering and oppression in the world?

She knows the answer really.

In the same way there are looking down on her for her dreadlocked hair, her lack of makeup, her clothes that don’t follow the season… she thinks she’s better than them too.

But she’s not.

Thinks she’s above blindly following the system, thinks she’s smart enough to recognize the innate flaws of our society, thinks she’s strong enough to rise above.

But she’s not.

She’s not, because she wants approval. Craves acceptance. Not from the system… but still from social systems… from friends… from family… but she’s starting to understand how intrinsically connected all social systems are. 

Is it so wrong that I’m not focused on money?

Really so bad I don’t care about class?

 

That I value education for what I will learn,

Not for some credit or status I’ll earn?

 

Is it so wrong that I don’t want to change?

That the judgement of strangers won’t make me ashamed?

I feel like I’m drowning

the pressure comes at me, on all sides

crushing me

slowly

tearing me down

do I face the grief,

the misery?

Or push it away,

will it into nonexistence

so I can be happy

ignorant

naive

fake

but happy

 

how do I escape this hell?

This torture

inside of my brain

pulling me apart

twisted contradictions inside my own mind

how do I regain control?

How do I make myself want to?

Want to be what they want me to be

I do, because its easy

I want to follow the current

give up the fight

 

but how can I?

I am me

I know that can’t be bad

 

then I rethink that statement

consider the things I’ve done

how could I?

 

I need to do this more often

I feel like I want to rant to others because I want a reaction

what reaction, I don’t know

 

or do I ?

How do I delve deeper into this mind that confuses me so?

How do I make sense of it all

 

organize it into neat little folders

impossible

 

I want every thing to be black and white

but its not

it never will be

every thing is just some shade of grey

 

I’m searching for the line

that draws the difference between right and wrong

but the line doesn’t exist

it never has

it never will

 

a societal creation

attempting to tell me how to live

why do I want to obey?

Why do I want to rebel?

 

Why is my body tearing in two

never knowing what I am

where I am headed

what I will become

 

the same with writing

black and white

I want to to rant, for pages

forget structure

repetition

wordplay

clarity of meaning

just…

go

let the words spill from my mind, creating meaning as they move across the page

the words aren’t for reading

the words are for writing

 

what does it matter

what other people think?

These are my words

these words are me

they are me, and they are for me

 

they don’t need to be altered, scripted so that some

capitalistic editor

can decide what my readers want me to say

they can listen to me

or they can deem me unworthy of being heard

daring to be yourself

emptying your mind of expectations and restrictions

vulnerable, but you are brave

it doesn’t matter what they say, what they call you

all that matters is the truth

never smothering the truth

care not about how others judge you, but

elevate yourself to deviance

Surrounded by a world that doesn’t make sense

You’re trying to rise above the influence

Nothing feels real, nothing feels worth it.

So sick of the lies, sick of the bullshit.

Desperately fighting to be yourself

Forget expectations of anyone else

First step is to fix the person inside

Let your essence guide you, don’t make it hide

Don’t keep it inside

Surrounded by a world that doesn’t make sense

You’re fighting to rise above the influence

Trying to show the truth to people around you

They clearly don’t understand, never understand you

Desperately fighting to be yourself

Forget expectations of anyone else

First step is to fix the person inside

Let your essence guide you, don’t make it hide

Don’t keep it inside

Surrounded by a world that doesn’t make sense

You’re starting to rise above the influence

Hi there!

I’m Rebekah Nicole, a 19 year old writer, activist, and sociology student at the University of Guelph. This is a compilation of various things I’ve written over the last few years, and I plan to keep adding to it, though most of my current writing is located in my other blog: beyondthebrokenglass.wordpress.com.

If you’ve been following my other blog, or know me personally, it might seem that the title “Finding Freedom” pertains to the incarceration of my partner, lover, and best friend, Girr Rowley. However, I actually named this compilation before his incarceration. For me, “Finding Freedom” speaks to the struggle that each of us faces every day of our lives. A struggle to be true to ones self in a capitalistic and consumer focused society that can make that seem so difficult.

For me, the easiest way to find freedom is through writing. When I write, just as when others paint, sing, dance, or create any other form of art, I’m forming an expression of myself that is pure and original.

I hope you enjoy! 🙂