Wednesday, July 05, 2006

And now for the meaty issues

"So, when are you going to have kids?"

This is the question that newlyweds fear, loath, avoid, and discuss at length. Afterall, as all grade-school children know, first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes ...

My husband and I are relatively lucky, in this regard, since given our age (young) and status (middle-class) we're not expected to have kids soon. The issue is certainly on the table, of course, and I am finding that I am terrible confused about the whole thing.

On the one hand, I want children. I have wanted children as long as I can remember, and I want them quite strongly, the sooner the better. Certainly if I were to get pregnant, I would be overjoyed and would not even consider abortion. We are in a position where we could afford children (in no small part because Quebec has some of the best maternity-leave and childcare policies I have ever heard of - certainly enough to make my European cousins quite jealous). My parents are almost retired, and are not too far away and quite supportive. We're both in a position where we could deal with kids, psychologically and so forth. By most measures, we're ready.

On the other hand, by many of the "intellectual class" measures, we're not ready. My husband is still in (law) school, we're young (not even 25!), and - perhaps most importantly - I don't have a career. I have a job, but it is temporary in so many ways. I have not ruled out the possibility of going back to school (it was always assumed I would get a ph.d. -- so much so that my parents didn't attend my graduation because it was only undergrad). One does not have children without being properly settled in a career, right?

Generally, I feel comfortable with the idea that I would have kids first, and then work out my career. Despite the added difficulty of navigating things once one has children, I think that the time it would take me to get oriented after having kids would allow me the time I need to figure out exactly what my career might look like. Articles like those by Linda Hirschman, and follow-up articles like this, just add to my confusion. Where do I start? How do I, as a young women only entering the workforce and my child-bearing/rearing years, use these discussions to guide my choices? Although it is interesting to read impassioned arguments from people who have made their choices and are now defending where they stand, I don't feel like they offer me the kind of information I need to make the best choices possible. I don't want to "let down" feminism, but neither am I seeking to be a poster-child for a cause (or a sacrificial lamb!). I am not a 20-something who is afraid of children - if I thought it reasonable, I would have kids tomorrow. But I worry about the impact children will have on my future - what if my marriage doesn't work out (God forbid)? What if I put my husband through law school, have one or two kids, and then wind up a single mom with no career propects? Terrifying. What if I have kids and go crazy because I don't feel I have a career to bolster and affirm my identity apart from the oh-so-dependent person I am raising?

Yet it would make good sense to have kids now: physically, I'll never be better off. My body can heal easily and (relatively) quickly. Sleep deprivation is something I can work through more easily now than in 10 years. I have the energy. I am so uncertain when it comes to career that another few years of stalling would be ideal, and why not use those years to start a family? Most importantly, of course, I just want kids.

(For the sake of this discussion, it is reasonable to assume that my husband is flexible when it comes to having kids - he would perhaps wait a bit longer than I would want were it entirely up to him, but he is not opposed to starting a family in the next few years.)

Questions. Are there even answers? Or just best guesses?

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Friday poetry blogging, National Holiday edition

In honour of St Jean Baptiste and Canada Day (July 1), I present a poem by Michele Lalonde. It captures attitudes here in the 70s, though it also speaks more generally to the struggle for self-determination. I don't think a discussion of Quebec poetry would be complete without the inclusion of this powerful though long poem. For an english translation, go here. For a decent and suscinct historical discussion, see here.

I dare anyone to read and truly understand this poem in its context, and then claim that Quebec seperatism is a ridiculous, unfounded notion. I may not agree with it, but I certainly can understand how it originated.


Speak white
il est si beau de vous entendre
parler de Paradise Lost
ou du profil gracieux et anonyme qui tremble
dans les sonnets de Shakespeare

nous sommes un peuple inculte et bègue
mais ne sommes pas sourds au génie d'une langue
parlez avec l'accent de Milton et Byron et
Shelley et Keats

speak white
et pardonnez-nous de n'avoir pour réponse
que les chants rauques de nos ancêtres
et le chagrin de Nelligan

speak white
parlez de choses et d'autres
parlez-nous de la Grande Charte
ou du monument à Lincoln
du charme gris de la Tamise
de l'eau rose du Potomac
parlez-nous de vos traditions
nous sommes un peuple peu brillant
mais fort capable d'apprécier
toute l'importance des crumpets
ou du Boston Tea Party
mais quand vous really speak white
quand vous get down to brass tacks

pour parler du gracious living
et parler du standard de vie
et de la Grande Société
un peu plus fort alors speak white
haussez vos voix de contremaîtres
nous sommes un peu durs d'oreille
nous vivons trop près des machines
et n'entendons que notre souffle au-dessus des outils

speak white and loud
qu'on vous entende
de Saint-Henri à Saint-Domingue
oui quelle admirable langue
pour embaucher
donner des ordres
fixer l'heure de la mort à l'ouvrage
et de la pause qui rafraîchit
et ravigote le dollar

speak white
tell us that God is a great big shot
and that we're paid to trust him
speak white
parlez-nous production profits et pourcentages
speak white
c'est une langue riche
pour acheter
mais pour se vendre
mais pour se vendre à perte d'âme
mais pour se vendre

speak white
big deal
mais pour vous dire
l'éternité d'un jour de grève
pour raconter
une vie de peuple-concierge
mais pour rentrer chez nous le soir
à l'heure où le soleil s'en vient crever au-dessus des
mais pour vous dire oui que le soleil se couche oui
chaque jour de nos vies à l'est de vos empires
rien ne vaut une langue à jurons
notre parlure pas très propre
tachée de cambouis et d'huile

speak white
soyez à l'aise dans vos mots
nous sommes un peuple rancunier
mais ne reprochons à personne
d'avoir le monopole
de la correction de langage

dans la langue douce de Shakespeare
avec l'accent de Longfellow
parlez un français pur et atrocement blanc
comme au Viet-Nam au Congo
parlez un allemand impeccable
une étoile jaune entre les dents
parlez russe parlez rappel à l'ordre parlez répression
speak white
c'est une langue universelle
nous sommes nés pour la comprendre
avec ses mots lacrymogènes
avec ses mots matraques

speak white
tell us again about Freedom and Democracy
nous savons que liberté est un mot noir
comme la misère est nègre
et comme le sang se mêle à la poussière des rues d'Alger

ou de Little Rock

speak white
de Westminster à Washington relayez-vous
speak white comme à Wall Street
white comme à Watts
be civilized
et comprenez notre parler de circonstance
quand vous nous demandez poliment
how do you do
et nous entendez vous répondre
we're doing all right
we're doing fine
are not alone

nous savons
que nous ne sommes pas seuls.

-- Michèle Lalonde

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


I've been avoiding blogging for a while (almost two months!) because I'm not quite sure where to start. There are various issues I've been struggling to puzzle out, and I wasn't sure how to start blogging them. I've decided to give it another try; perhaps I'll figure things out better when I write them down.

Mostly, I'm struggling to figure out how I fit into the world (I feel like such a caricature of my demographic!) - who am I? Who do I want to be? How am I going to get there? How can I make the choices I feel pulled to make without sidelining other things that are important to me? These are the questions that fill my days.

In two weeks, we leave for our honeymoon and for the "second part" of the wedding - we'll be getting blessed in a Catholic church in Poland, where Mr.P's extended family lives. My Polish is mostly non-existant, which means this will be an exercise is body language! I still need to tie up various details - train pass, an outfit or two for formal dinners, confirming cat-sitting for our absence, etc. Hopefully I will update before we leave!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Bonus poetry

Someone apparently said a Canadian knows how to make love in a canoe. That is one of those things people say. But consider: birchbark is pliant but rough; canvas and cedar ridged like a rack; Grumman aluminum searing; Kevlar abrasive; ABS like a half-filled waterbed yielding in all the wrong places. And what about thwarts; what about the inverse ratio between passionate vigour and the chance of not tipping; what about bugs, loons with X-ray eyes? A Canadian is someone, the victim of generalizations, who knows enough about canoes to make love on the shore.

-- John Moss

excerpt from Meta Incognita (found in Field Notes of a Canadian in Ireland)

This was partially inspired by this post.

Poetry blogging


I pass a bunch of musicians in the street.
It's about 12:30, rehearsal just over, they're
standing around outside the side door of the church.
A good rehearsal; and it's April. They're laughing,
horsing around, talking about shoes, or taxes, where
to go for lunch, anything
except what their heads are full of.
It's a kind of helplessness, you can see
they're still breathing almost in unison, like people
the searchlight has passed over
and spared, their attention
lifts, swerves, settles; even
the gravel dust stuttering at their feet
is coherent.

--Jan Zwicky

Friday, February 03, 2006

And now for something completely different

A poem from one of my favorite contemporary authors, Jan Zwicky (a Canadian!). This is from her book Songs for Relinquishing the Earth, which I cannot too highly recommend.

Open Strings

E, laser of the ear, ear’s
vinegar, bagpipes
in a tux, the sky’s blue, pointed;

A, youngest of the four, cocksure
and vulnerable, the white kid
on the basketball team—immature,
ambitious, charming,
indispensable; apprenticed
to desire;

D is the tailor
who sewed the note “I shall always love you”
into the hem of the village belle’s wedding dress,
a note not discovered until ten years later in New York
where, poor and abandoned, she was ripping up the skirt
for curtains, and he came,
and he married her;

G, cathedral of the breastbone,
oak-light, earth;

it’s air they offer us,
but not the cool draught of their half-brothers
the harmonics, no,
a bigger wind, the body
snapped out like a towel, air
like the sky above the foothills,
like the desire to drown,
a place of worship,
a laying down of arms.
Open strings
are ambassadors from the republic of silence.
They are the name of that moment when you realize
clearly, for the first time,
you will die. After illness,
the first startled breath.

-- Jan Zwicky

Friday, January 27, 2006

Friday poetry blogging

This is the first poem I ever read or analysed in a literature class (in my recollection).

Le vaisseau d'or

Ce fut un grand Vaisseau taillé dans l'or massif :
Ses mâts touchaient l'azur, sur des mers inconnues;
La Cyprine d'amour, cheveux épars, chairs nues,
S'étalait à sa proue, au soleil excessif.

Mais il vint une nuit frapper le grand écueil
Dans l'Océan trompeur où chantait la Sirène,
Et le naufrage horrible inclina sa carène
Aux profondeurs du Gouffre, immuable cercueil.

Ce fut un Vaisseau d'Or dont les flancs diaphanes
Révélaient des trésors que les marins profanes,
Dégoût, Haine et Névrose, entre eux ont disputés.

Que reste-il de lui dans la tempête brève ?
Qu'est devenu mon coeur, navire déserté ?
Hélas! Il a sombré dans l'abîme du Rêve !

--Émile Nelligan

A translation can be found here.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

A joke

To hold over until I post a real post:

Q: How do you get 6 drunk and rowdy Canadians out of a bar?
A: You ask them to leave.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Judging a book by its cover

The election is over, and has yielded the expected results: we have a Conservative minority government. No one is surprised, and most people are relieved - a majority would have been disappointing.

However, I must say that the thing I find most disturbing about the idea of Stephen Harper as my Prime Minister is that he just doesn't look the part. I cannot for the life of me imagine him talking to other world leaders or representing the country in any way - it's just an absurd image. Of course, I won't need to imagine it for long as it will happen, and perhaps he will even grow into the role. Time will tell...

In more pleasant news, the NDP seems poised to hold a decent amount of sway in the new government. I am very impressed with how well they did, and how many new seats they picked up. I am actually fairly hopeful that the NDP and the Liberals will be able to create an interesting balance in the house with the Conservative holding power only nominally. All in all, not a bad outcome. And oh so very Canadian!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Discontent is the first step in the progress of a man or a nation*

There is something reassuringly organic and simple about our voting process.
A room full of very earnest retirees and students. A printed list. A piece of paper and a pencil.
So simple, and yet so powerful. We are, after all, helping to decide how we perceive ourselves - actively forming our national identity. And despite all the tv reports, shiny magasines, air-brushed pictures, wordy pundits - it's a bunch of people with little pencils who will decide.

In previous years I have found voting somewhat anticlimatic. What's so exciting about a high school auditorium, or a church basement, or the activity room of a nursing home? But it is the very boring, everyday-ness of it that hit me today. This is democracy. This is what people will fight for, go to war over. The ability to walk into a poorly lit room, stand on the linoleum floor, and use a small pencil to make a little "x".

*Oscar Wilde

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Workin' on the weekend...

I currently work in the field in which I have a B.A., in a job I like to refer to as The World's Most Boring Job Ever. In case that's not clear enough, I'm hoping to find something better. Unfortunately, TWMBJE pays really quite well (they know it's boring) and so finding something equivalent is a reasonably tall order, and, worse even, jobs in my field are exceedingly rare. In other words, I need to look for one of those ever-elusive jobs that is willing to hire me simply because I have a BA and am smart (and modest too!) (and white, and raised middle-class, and speak English & French naitively, and have impressive-sounding schools on my CV).

Beyond the boring-ness of this job, it is also part-time, has no benefits, and very little opportunity for advancement. None of these characteristics scream "career".

One of my goals for this semester (which I am writing down as a way to keep myself honest) is to figure out a direction in which to head. In other words, I need to outline the kind of job I hope to find, and then figure out who can get me or give me that job. Should I attempt to convince people I could work as a translator (because Montreal is really lacking in bilingual people, oh yeah), or should I transition to a "tech-y" job (I certainly know my way around a computer), or perhaps I can find a non-profit that needs a nice, smart person to do - something?

That's my goal. Of course, suggestions are always welcome. *grin* I keep hoping beyond all reason that a fairy will appear in the night and tell me what I need to do with my life. Unfortunately, the job fairy seems to be on strike...

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Weekend Poetry Blogging

Following jo(e)'s lead, I am joining in on Friday poetry blogging (for an appropriate extended definition of "friday").

Some of my favorite "poetry memories" are of poems in french; this is one of the poems that really "hit" me when I first read it, and I still love the "trick" it contains, the language, the ethereal quality of the whole piece.

Le dormeur du val

C'est un trou de verdure où chante une rivière,
Accrochant follement aux herbes des haillons
D'argent ; où le soleil, de la montagne fière,
Luit : c'est un petit val qui mousse de rayons.

Un soldat jeune, bouche ouverte, tête nue,
Et la nuque baignant dans le frais cresson bleu,
Dort ; il est étendu dans l'herbe, sous la nue,
Pâle dans son lit vert où la lumière pleut.

Les pieds dans les glaïeuls, il dort. Souriant comme
Sourirait un enfant malade, il fait un somme :
Nature, berce-le chaudement : il a froid.

Les parfums ne font pas frissonner sa narine ;
Il dort dans le soleil, la main sur sa poitrine,
Tranquille. Il a deux trous rouges au côté droit.

-- Arthur Rimbaud

You can find an English translation of the poem here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Wedding (part II)

(see Part I here)

After the very impressive processional, I don't remember too much about the ceremony. A few highlights so I won't forget them:

- our readings were Micah 6:6-8 and 1 John 4:7-12 ; Micah 6:8 is quite possibly my favorite Bible verse of all time (and has strong memories associated with it, mostly from high school) and it was really wonderful to hear it read: I hope we can live up to that reading in our day-to-day lives. The second reading was actually read in french, as our service was entirely bilingual (french/english) and quite interestingly so, if I do say so myself.

- our minister, Gwenda, was superb. She added so much to the service simply through the spirit in which she conducted everything - down-to-earth, very "real", and yet fully immersed in the beauty of the Anglican (BAS) liturgy. Furthermore, she was understanding and willing to "tweak" the language a tad here and there to allow for a non-heteronormative service, something which was quite important to us. Thank God for understanding, open-minded and compassionate ministers.

- the kids! I asked my cousins kids to be flowergirls (two sisters) and a ringbearer. They were adorable, yet old enough to know what they were doing. Their presence added a feeling of generations and family to the wedding that would otherwise have been lacking.

Those are the highlights of the ceremony, in my mind.
The reception afterwards was also wonderful: we asked people to come up with a rhyme, poem, or song that included both our names if they wanted us to kiss, and that was a huge hit. The kids especially got really into it, and came up with all sorts of songs and rhymes. It was really neat, and I would recommend this to anyone.

The rest of the evening is a blur of people and dancing and pictures and smiles (and very short conversations!).

And then: we were married.

What I did on my Christmas Vacation

(doesn't that title bring back childhood memories? I always hated the assignments like this, but it's different when it's self-imposed...)

The most important, awaited, and stressful event over Christmas was not, in fact, Christmas. Or even New Year's Eve (or day). On December 29th, I got married.

It was wonderful. Of course, that's what everyone says - but now I understand why. Planning the wedding was ridiculously stressful, tiring, and frustrating. There were people to coordinate (and I cursed my early planning days when I had decided to have flowergirls, and a ringbearer, because why would I make my life more difficult??), and schedules to make (I hate scheduling and tend to procrastinate), and mothers to calm.

But time marched on, as it is wont to do, and The Day arrived. It all felt surreal, that I was actually getting married. Our engagement was rather long (almost 2 years), and I think I had adjusted to being engaged. I wasn't really expecting the wedding to really happen.

In retrospect, the rehersal was by far the scariest part (other than the half hour or so before the ceremony). Since the wedding was in a Cathedral (my church home growing up, but still an impressive building) the darkened, empty building was incredibly intimidating. It was so big! And dark! I could almost feel the dark spirits lurking in the corners. The practice walk up the aisle felt really long, and I was scared of the guests who would be coming. What would they think? (the eternal question, the question that has caused me so many problems!) Would everything work out?

I was scared, but we went through what to do, and then went home and drank lots of champagne. (And I made programs and folded place cards and fretted about scheduling. Did I mention that I tend to procrastinate?) One of the decision I am really happy about is that we held the rehersal dinner at home. Everyone seemed more relaxed, and we sat around and ate food and sipped champagne and shared stories. People met and talked and it was generally incredibly pleasant.

The day of the wedding, I essentially disappeared into a world of hairdressers (et al) and hoped that everything would work out.

The few minutes before I walked down the aisle were very stressful. I was remembering the rehersal, and how dark and imposing the church had seemed. I was scared. The kids, however, were adorable and funny, and eliminated any regrets I might have had about including them in the wedding. The ringbearer especially seemed to have a whole colony of ants in his pants (couldn't resist!) and was fidgeting and running around and exploring and jumping and driving his mother crazy. It was a wonderful distraction.

When the processional finally started, all the stress and worries just melted away. The church was gorgeous - all the Christmas decorations were lit, and the area around the altar and our guests was bathed in a wonderful golden light. And all those people whose presence was causing so much angst were there, and oh-so-happy to see me. I was staring into a see of grins (and winks, and waves) and there was so much joy reflected there it was unbelieveable. Walking down the aisle towards my husband-to-be, I couldn't stop smiling. And it was so nice to see him, too, with a huge grin on his face. What a glorious, glorious moment.

Part II will follow - I must run!