From the category archives:

It IS all about me

Alright, I give up. I charged my FitBit and I started tracking calories again. I guess I’m back on the wagon.

It was just shy of a year ago that I capitulated to counting calories with My Fitness Pal, and it did work for me. From a high of 183 lbs, I worked my way up and down to a late summer low around 175 lbs, but I never really made it below that. (I was aiming for 170, which is ironically the weight I was in 2005 when I joined weight watchers for the last time. My 15 year low is 163, where I ended up after six months on Dr Bishop’s weight loss plan, after topping out after Lucas was born at a way-too-heavy for me 192. I’m saying the numbers out loud so I stop feeling shamed by them. I hope it works.) After a sedentary winter with too many chips and Beloved learning to bake, I’ve been trying to get back on track with increased exercise alone, but my weight isn’t really budging. So. Calorie counting it is. It sucks, but it works.

I don’t really hate it as much as I thought I did. I like to have projects, and it’s the quiet season for photography, so I will obsess about my own health and fitness for a while. I am my current project. And like almost all of my projects, in two or three quick skips I’ve gone from mildly interested to engaged to obsessive.

The first significant phase of my project was yoga. My friend Yvonne mentioned hot power yoga at Mountaingoat Yoga in passing one day, and my interest was piqued. I’d been thinking I’d like a pilates class for strength, and though I am terribly intimidated by fitness classes (I’ve had a GoodLife membership for 10 years and never once attended a class), I started in late February and haven’t missed a weekly class yet. Hell, I even bought a yoga top, 75% off on the clearance rack at Gap.

Despite my best intentions and what felt like an increased attention to making good choices, the scale refused to reward my good behaviour. Not only that, but one day I happened to position myself in yoga class in full view of the mirror, and comparing what I thought I looked like to what I actually looked like (especially compared to everyone else) was a harsh reality check. I am not on the large side of healthy, I am overweight.

So. This week I have attended two yoga classes and gone to the gym twice for cardio workouts on the elliptical machine and the rower. I took an hour walk with the boys on Sunday, started tracking my steps and calories, and walked a kilometer to the boys’ school to pick them up and walk the kilometer back home. I’ve resisted Easter chocolates and made good food choices. I practically skipped to the gym this morning, so keen was I to reap the rewards of my sustained and extended efforts. You know what I got?

Nothing.

Sigh.

That’s where the reference to Sisyphus comes in. I feel like this is how it is, all the time:

65:365 Sisyphus

Oh I know, you don’t have to say it. The scale only shows my relationship to gravity, right? And I’m probably building muscle tone and losing fat. And it takes time to make progress. Blah blah blah. I know, I know. I’m just so frustrated that I feel like Sisyphus up there, always ALWAYS pushing against that rock. I know that if I keep tracking steps and calories that I’ll make progress, just like I did last year. And I know that eventually I’ll get tired of it or something shiny will come along and distract me, and I’ll lose focus and the weight will creep back up again.

Bah. I’m just tired of struggling against being tired, yanno? I sleep 8 – 9 hours a day and I’m still tired – and sitting on the couch feels sooooooo good. I really think that it’s not food I’m battling here – my food choices are really not bad even when I’m not tracking calories. Not great, but not excessive. It’s my sedentary life that’s the rock I have to keep pushing up that hill.


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Isn’t it funny when the random bits of your life come together in a cohesive way?

Toward the end of February, my friend Yvonne mentioned she was doing something called Hot Power Yoga Basics, and I was intrigued. I’d done yoga classes at the local community centre on and off way back in the day, but I liked the idea of something more physically challenging and strength building like power yoga. I’ve been going to the class every Thursday evening since the beginning of March and I’ve been really enjoying it – when I am not cursing it. The cursing usually comes about 40 hours after the class when my muscles lock up from the exertion, but even that is a good sort of pain. I’m hoping to be leaner and stronger and a little less unbalanced [insert your own joke here] in a couple of months if I keep it up.

By sheer coincidence, within days of my return to yoga I happened to receive an e-mail from Glenda at Ottawa Corporate Yoga. She was looking to commission a photographer to help her develop a set of cards to accompany bedtime yoga workshop that Glenda offers with a special focus on kids who have sleep disorders or anxiety issues. I loved the idea of the project from the start, and the fact that designer on the project would be the fabulous Lynn Jatania was the icing on the cake.

Here’s one of my favourite poses from the session. It’s called Lizard on a Rock, and it’s being demonstrated by Glenda and her adorable daughter.

Lizard on a rock

I can’t wait to see how the final project turns out!

Hey Yvonne, you want to try this one out at yoga class tonight? I get dibs on the top position!


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In honour of the blog’s tenth birthday this month, I’m revisiting a handful of favourites from my archives. I think this post from 2005, which I refer to as “my epic wail,” was a seminal moment for me in a lot of ways. Years later, people still mention it to me, and it brought a lot of readers to the blog – people who I’m assuming felt exactly the same way. I think it resonates with people because it’s very close to a universal thing in parenting – we all at one point or other feel this sense of being stuck on a hamster wheel that’s spinning out of control.

It’s interesting for me to look back on that. I remember how raw and ragged I felt when I wrote this, and how exhausted and miserable I was. I want to go back to 2005 me and say three things: first, hang on. It gets better. (Ironically, this is the same thing I want to tell 14 year old me, and nine year old me.) The second thing is: breathe. Having two babies in the house while working full time was an insane thing to do. I stopped feeling like my life was spinning out of control when I dropped from five to four days a week, even though I’d subsequently added another child to the mix. I’m still stupidly busy, with all the other squirrels I’m chasing, but it’s been years since I’ve felt that desperate panic. The third is: iron. Whenever I start to get that breathless, anxious feeling, or when I find myself worrying over everything – and I mean everything - I make myself take two iron pills. They’re better than antidepressants for me.

The final thing that fascinates me about this blog post from 10 years ago is that I could bare my soul like this. I could never write with this sort of vulnerability any more. Blogging has given me many, many gifts – almost too many to count! – but it’s left some scars, too.

header history collage

Warning: you are now exiting the whine-free zone. Serious self-pitying ahead.

Is this it?

Do I spend the rest of my life on this out-of-control treadmill, trying to please everybody and succeeding to please no-one?

I’m feeling a little overwhelmed.

Revision: I’m feeling completely overwhelmed.

There is simply not enough of me to go around these days, and I feel like all the most important relationships in my life are suffering because of it. I don’t like the person I’m becoming because of it.

I don’t know how I’m supposed to keep working eight hours a day, plus commuting almost an hour each way, and still find enough time at home to be the mother I want to be to my boys. (As I typed that sentence, tears began to cascade down my cheeks. Shit.)

The boys wake me up about a half an hour before the alarm goes off most days, and although I’d really like the extra 30 minutes of sleep, at least it’s a little more time we can spend together. Then I have to ditch them on their father as I get ready for work and rush out the door, missing my bus about 1 day in 3.

I spend my day at work trying to cram in more work than I can possibly accomplish and leave almost every day feeling like I’ve worked my ass off but accomplished very little. Lately I haven’t been able to keep up at all.

By the time I get home, it’s time to start dinner. Dinner itself is a nightmare of stress lately. Tristan eats almost nothing, so I have to choose between letting him starve (tried it- doesn’t work), bribing him with treats (only works half the time) or just giving in and making him something he will eat. Then it’s a challenge to get him to sit at the table throughout the meal. Three times a day, each meal is a power struggle, and I just feel that if I had more time, more energy, I could approach this from an angle that would allow me to solve the problem rather than just riding it like a wave every single day.

Even if I manage to keep myself together through the day and evening long enough to have some fun with the boys, by the time we put them to bed I have absolutely nothing left over for Beloved. Nothing. We sit together and watch TV and chat for an hour or two and then I go to bed. He’s told me he is frustrated by my constant exhaustion. I don’t blame him.

Weekends don’t really provide any respite. There are so many things that need to get done around the house I could make a to-do list as long as my arm, so I have to balance spending time doing something as a family, whatever that might entail, or catching up on endless domestic tasks.

I can’t imagine how we’re ever going to get beyond the things that are desperate for attention (the 6-inch high lawn covered in weeds, the dirt scooped out of my plants last week and still waiting to be vacuumed off the bedroom rug, the endless loads of laundry) to get to things like painting, fixing the chips in the drywall, cleaning out the garage, replacing the broken banister spindle and all those other little routine maintenance tasks which really aren’t such a big deal, if you can find an uninterrupted hour or five and get around to them.

Is this it? Am I always going to feel this out of control?

I just don’t see how it can get any better. It’s been four months since I’ve been back to work, so it’s no longer just a matter of readjusting to a routine. Simon is finally sleeping through for the most part, so I get around seven hours of sleep a night and although I’d prefer nine, I should be able to function on what I’m getting.

I am constantly sacraficing one thing for another. As the old cliché goes, every day I rob Peter to pay Paul, except my currency is time. Revision: my currency is pieces of me, of my attention. I don’t know how to make “me” a bigger pie, so there is enough for everyone.

And that’s to say nothing about having anything left over for myself. Frankly, I’m the least of my worries. The biggest thing I do for me and me alone is what you’re reading right now, and for now that’s enough. But I have to steal time for that too. Usually from Beloved, occasionally from work. So I do it, but I feel bad about it. But I’d feel worse if I didn’t.

I am perpetually behind, perpetually running, perpetually forgetting things, remembering things I should have done yesterday, last week, last month.

I am not convinced I am doing right by my beautiful boys. I am short on patience, short on energy, short on creativity. Short on time. Short on quality. They deserve better than a frazzled, frustrated, tired mommy struggling with guilt and inadequacy.

Because we spend less time together, I want our time together to matter more. I have less time to mother them, so I must reach a higher level of mothering in the time I have.

It seems like every day is a struggle. I talked to my mom on the weekend, and she tried to tell me that this is just life with babies in the house, but I’m not mollified. Is it this hard for everyone? It sure doesn’t seem like it.

I want to do more, be more as a mother. I feel awful about the very dear friend who has called me about five times in the past month, whose calls I am now actively avoiding, just because I don’t have anything else to give to anyone right now. I feel awful because I should have more to give to my husband. We need to do more to strengthen our friendship, our marriage.

If I just knew that by holding on for X amount of time, things would improve, I think I’d be okay. But I’ve been on that verse for over a year now, and my CD keeps skipping.

Sorry, no big conclusion here, no epiphany, no relief. Just me sitting here with my mouse hovering over the delete button, wondering whether to even bother posting this.


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Can you believe the blog is TEN YEARS OLD this month? I’ve been blogging for a decade.

header history collage

And that’s not the only milestone anniversary I’m celebrating in 2015. Mothership Photography is five years old this summer. In March, I’ll be celebrating the 25th anniversary (!!) of my first day of work with CRA and Beloved and I will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the day we met. That’s a bonanza of things to celebrate, so I’m hoping to do a whole series of retrospective posts in the next little while. I figured I’d launch it with this little meme I first published in 2005 and revisited in 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2012 – heh, I have always been a little guilty of repeating myself.

So, here’s the 10th anniversary edition of the time traveller meme!

25 years ago today I would have been:

  • Still in the “practice marriage” to my first husband
  • Just moving back to Ottawa after a failed attempt to move back to my hometown of London, ON
  • Unemployed (for the only time in my life) after having quit my job as a cashier supervisor at Zellers in hopes of getting a job with the government. I’d quit university to work full time at Zellers a few years before.
  • About to move out of my in-laws’ house to an apartment in Vanier

15 years ago today I would have been:

  • A newlywed, coming up on our first anniversary and our infertility diagnosis
  • Freshly graduated (magna cum laude, no less!) from the University of Ottawa
  • Living in a tiny condo townhouse off Hunt Club
  • Working on assignment with Industry Canada in my first comms job in government

10 years ago today I would have been:

  • Just coming back to work in public affairs at CRA after my maternity leave with Simon
  • Wondering how I’d ever balance work and life with two toddlers
  • Living in a townhouse in Barrhaven
  • About to launch Postcards from the Mothership

5 years ago today I would have been:

  • Finishing up my first year of working part-time four days a week, and (temporarily, as it turns out) working with Army News on web and social media
  • Just about to move from Barrhaven to Manotick
  • On the cusp of launching Mothership Photography

1 year ago today I would have been:

  • Starting my “one decade to retirement” countdown but still enjoying my work as the social media lead for CRA
  • Scouring the internet for PEI cottage rental information
  • Finding out about my photo being used on the first of three book covers last year

This year I am:

  • Super excited to have booked not one but TWO weeks in PEI later this summer
  • Pretty much obsessed with PEI
  • Celebrating 25 years since my first day of work with what was then Revenue Canada Customs, Excise and Taxation
  • Still in love with my camera, and blogging, and social media in general

Today I:

  • Am proud that I’ve also learned in the past year or so how to cook and eat real, whole foods and cut processed foods out of our family’s diet almost entirely
  • Am cooking recipes for dinner I learned from Chef Michael Smith
  • Met my activity goal of 10,000 steps
  • Feel like I’m pretty much on track on this whole “lead a good life” thing – and am so grateful for that fact

Next year I hope:

  • That my life has more PEI, more photos, more gratitude, more family joy, more home cooking – and maybe five less pounds ;)
  • And — maybe a kitchen reno, finances willing

In five years I hope:

  • To be within four years (gasp!) of retirement
  • To have nurtured the blog and photography business to greater successes
  • To have taught myself graphic design skills I can use for both the photography and blog businesses

And speaking of time travel, you know what else is significant about 2015? It’s the year Marty McFly visited when he and Doc Brown visited the future from 1985. We just watched Back to the Future parts I and II with the boys over Christmas – speaking of revisiting, if you haven’t seen them lately, they really do stand up to the test of time! Turns out that’s what I was doing 30 years ago – watching Back to the Future for the first time in theatres as a shy, awkward, boy-crazy dreamer who only wanted to get married and have babies. If only I’d had the faintest idea how much more awesome life would turn out than I could have imagined back then!


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My bloggy peeps, I have a reindeer-palooza of fun for you today! You might have read the reindeer rant a time or two (or coughninecough) before, but now we have reindeer trivia! And photoshop! And webcams! And even reindeer on a rampage! Oh my.

But first, the rant. Because especially at Christmas, traditions matter. Also? Because Donder.

Reindeer Games: Team Donder

“You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen;
Comet and Cupid and DONDER and Blitzen…”

You did know that Santa’s reindeer is actually Donder and not Donner, right?

Here’s a little history lesson for you. The poem “A Visit From St Nicholas”, commonly known as “The Night Before Christmas”, was written back in 1823 and is generally attributed to American poet Clement Clarke Moore (although there have been recent arguments that the poem was in fact written by his contemporary Henry Livingston Jr.) The original poem reads, in part:

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name.
“Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on Dunder and Blixem!

As explained on the Donder Home Page (no relation):

In the original publication of “A Visit from St. Nicholas” in 1823 in the Troy Sentinel, “Dunder and Blixem” are listed as the last two reindeer. These are very close to the Dutch words for thunder and lightning, “Donder and Bliksem”. Blixem is an alternative spelling for Bliksem, but Dunder is not an alternative spelling for Donder. It is likely that the word “Dunder” was a misprint. Blitzen’s true name, then, might actually have been “Bliksem”.

In 1994, the Washington Post delved into the matter by sending a reporter to the Library of Congress to reference the source material. (In past years, I’d been able to link to a Geocities site with the full text, but sadly, Geocities is no more.)

We were successful. In fact, Library of Congress reference librarian David Kresh described Donner/Donder as “a fairly open-and-shut case.” As we marshaled the evidence near Alcove 7 in the Library’s Main Reading Room a few days ago, it quickly became clear that Clement Clarke Moore, author of “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” wanted to call him (or her?) “Donder.” Never mind that editors didn’t always cooperate. […] Further confirmation came quickly. In “The Annotated Night Before Christmas,” which discusses the poem in an elegantly illustrated modern presentation, editor Martin Gardner notes that the “Troy Sentinel” used “Dunder”, but dismisses this as a typo. Gardner cites the 1844 spelling as definitive, but also found that Moore wrote “Donder” in a longhand rendering of the poem penned the year before he died: “That pretty well sews it up,” concluded Kresh.

So there you have it. This Christmas season, make sure you give proper credit to Santa’s seventh reindeer. On DONDER and Blitzen. It’s a matter of family pride.

Photo of three boys and a reindeer

(Oh yes I did take that photo with this blog post in mind. Of COURSE I did!)

And now, as promised: reindeer trivia! Courtesy of mental_floss, amaze your colleagues at the office Christmas party with these clever facts about reindeer! Did you know:

  • Reindeer and caribou are more or less the same – but not quite!
  • Baby reindeer can run within 90 minutes of being born.
  • Clement Clark Moore’s poem (see above) was the first ever reference to Santa having reindeer to pull his sleigh.
  • Santa’s reindeer are most likely the R.t. platyrhynchus subspecies from the Svalbard islands off of Norway, the only reindeer that could really be considered tiny, weighing about half as much as the average reindeer species and at least a foot shorter in length.

Click through to the mental_floss article for more fun reindeer facts!

But this — THIS is my favourite find of this holiday season: the ReindeerCam! I discovered this through Twitter late last week, and have been clicking through rather regularly. It’s a live feed of Santa’s reindeer-in-training enclosure at Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie Wildlife Park (“Halfway to the North Pole”!)

I find watching the reindeer strangely compelling. Santa comes out to feed the reindeer daily through Christmas at 9 am and 3:30 pm AST (that’s 8 am and 2:30 pm EST) and waves to the camera. It’s adorable!

I noticed yesterday that Santa’s sleigh had disappeared (I’m not kidding, I’m clicking through at least a couple of times each day!) and I laughed out loud when I saw what had happened. Mad reindeer on a rampage had toppled Santa’s sleigh – and of course it was all caught on camera. Naughty Donder!!

So there you go – it’s a multimedia reindeer-palooza! But don’t forget the key message here, folks – it’s Donder, not Donner. Tell your friends!


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An ode to two t-shirts

by DaniGirl on October 16, 2014 · 4 comments

in It IS all about me

They came from the clearance rack at the Gap. It’s really rather astonishing what a large percentage of my clothes come from there. I’m sure I didn’t pay more than $6 each for them – just plain old cotton t-shirts, one in a nice cool magenta, and one in utilitarian navy blue. I’ve had them for four years at least, probably more.

Man, I love those t-shirts. They are the perfect fit – a bit of a scoop to the neckline, fitted ever so slightly at the waist but not too clingy, and falling to my hips. A bit of a cap sleeve. A decent heft to them, so they’re far from tissue thin, super comfortable to wear under something else or by themselves. And they don’t have that ubiquitous and infernal wee pocket that most t-shirts seem to have over the breast. Who ever decided that we need a pocket there? I swear, it’s the very first thing I check for in a t-shirt and makes it an instant and absolute “no” in my books.

Seriously, I adore these t-shirts. They go with almost everything. Favourite t-shirts ever. I wash them, wear them again, wash them, wear them, winter spring summer and fall. And of course, one of these days they’re going to fall apart from so much loving.

The pink one already has three little holes near the belly button. (Do you get those mysterious holes? I thought it was just me, until I read a long thread somewhere of women lamenting about the tiny holes they get in their t-shirts right about where the button hole for your jeans is. Are they from grease splatters? Overly sharp zippers? Very targetted moths?) I still wear it and pretend I don’t see them. Actually, I pretend that YOU don’t see them. Lalala, this is my favourite t-shirt, it will live FOREVER!

It’s not that I haven’t tried to find suitable replacements. Every time I’m in a store that might sell t-shirts, I try on a few likely candidates. In three years of looking, nothing has come close. Each season that the Gap brings out a new line of t-shirts, I get excited – maybe THIS will be the year that they bring them back. Modal cotton – nope. Slub tees – nope. Crew neck, everyday essential, contemporary fit, fluid, luxe – nope, nope, nope, nope, nope. I went downmarket to Old Navy (nope) and upmarket to Banana Republic, and left singing Macklemore under my breath. (‘I’m like “Yo! That’s fifty dollars for a t-shirt!’ That’s a hella DON’T!”) I ventured farther afield to other stores in the mall, to the grocery store, Costco, even once to a few shops in Westboro. (I won’t make that mistake again. Yikes!)

No luck. Three years of (albeit idle) searching, and the very best t-shirts in the world live in my closet, slowly being eaten away from the belly button out. Now I’m stuck with the age-old dilemma – wear them and love them every day until they fall to pieces (probably sooner than later) or savour them, pulling them out only for special occasions like when you need the perfect t-shirt to wear under your hoodie to go to the library?

Ha, I did a search on Flickr to see if I could find a photo of me wearing them. How about this one from early 2010? So I bought them at least FIVE years ago!

365:365 Fini!

Do you have a favourite and irreplaceable piece of clothing? And do you have a secret dealer for the perfect t-shirt? We may be nearing a time of crisis – I think they’ve only got another three or four years left in them…


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In which she discusses allergic reactions to red tattoo ink with the Universe

11 September 2014 It IS all about me

It went something like this: **ring ring** Hello? DaniGirl! It’s the Universe calling. It’s been a while, so I thought I’d check up on you. Hey Universe! Great to hear from you. How’s that supernova in Betelgeuse 5? Shining bright, DaniGirl! Hey, speaking of “shine” – I see you got a tattoo a couple of [...]

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Is it painful to get a tattoo? Not nearly so painful as choosing a tattoo font!

30 August 2014 It IS all about me

As I mentioned yesterday, I finally got my tattoo yesterday. I am so happy with how it turned out and with the whole experience. I am also hugely relieved. I wasn’t worried about the pain. Seriously? I birthed not one, not two but THREE 10 lbs babies, one without medication and two after more than [...]

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Photo of the day: Shine, baby!

29 August 2014 It IS all about me

Guess what I did today? Okay, so it was supposed to be a 45th birthday present to myself and I’m a little late, but it’s still my birthday month! Why “shine”? Because it makes me happy, of course! It’s an imperative, for one thing – a sort of reminder to myself that “shine” is exactly [...]

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Thinking about inking

12 August 2014 It IS all about me

I was never particularly interested in getting a tattoo. “Why would you permanently emboss yourself with artwork that you wouldn’t hang on your walls?” was my all-purpose response to the very idea. It’s not that I was morally opposed to tattoos or even disliked the idea. I just couldn’t imagine committing to a single bit [...]

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