May 2014

Much has been made of the perennial warm-weather debate about school dress codes recently. I’ve pretty much stayed out of the debates not because I don’t find it an interesting topic – I do! – but because I’m pretty ambivalent about the whole thing. I think the schools do have a right to establish and enforce a dress code, but I think they have to be consistent, fair and proactive in both communicating and enforcing it. I personally don’t see this as an issue of girl shaming, but if I were a girl again, I’d probably fight against it.

My (Catholic) high school had a dress code, and breaking that dress code was one of my favourite and only expressions of outright defiance as a teenager. The dress code called for navy blue pants or skirts, or a kilt in the school’s plaid, and a white or navy blue shirt with a collar. The hem of my kilt, I remember, fell closer to my hip bone than my knee bone, but no mention was ever made of skirt length. I don’t remember being allowed to wear shorts, and denim was strictly forbidden. My main source of miscreance was the collar – it was the 80s, and polos with collars were not hard to come by, but I abhorred them.

All this to say, we were all aware of the dress code and while we occasionally played fast and loose with it and rebelled against it and spent endless hours railing against the injustice of it, we knew if we got caught breaking it we would be paying a visit to the vice principal. With the perspective of 30+ years, I can imagine that Mr Fekete thought enforcing the dress code was just as much a waste of his time as an eduator and administrator as we did – but the rules and consequences were never in question.

My boys don’t seem to run afoul of their school’s dress code, so I don’t have a horse in this race. I’d be ticked if I were told my shorts were too short, and my bra strap is as we speak peeking rather disrespectfully out on my shoulder. In fact, on the day a young teen’s story appeared in the Citizen about how she and her mother were challenging her school’s policy against spaghetti straps, I walked through the business district of downtown Ottawa at lunch time and counted the number of visible bra straps I could see. It only took me about 15 minutes to get to a dozen. I’m not sympathetic to the argument that school teaches kids how to comport themselves for their future careers in the sartorial sense.

Speaking of sartorial sense and lack of it, I thought this was an interesting extention of that debate. Apparently a school in Utah decided to photoshop clothing extensions onto the yearbook photos of students who showed more skin than the school administration was happy with. Sleeves were added, tattoos were cloned out and necklines crept up to collarbones, all in the name of decency. And the school is apparently unapologetic, according to the article on PetaPixel: “For their part, the school does not apologize for editing the photos. They posted signs warning that this might be the case, and claim the students should have been expecting it. The only thing they apologize for is the fact that they werenโ€™t more consistent with the edits.”

If this were my kid’s yearbook and her photo was edited, I’d hit the roof. Can you imagine? What’s next, we’ll just use the liquefy tool to thin out Mary’s pudgy face a bit, and oh we’d better airbrush out the worst of John’s acne. And poor Sally’s teeth are rather dull, don’t you think? We’ll just polish them up – and while we’re at it, maybe reduce the size of those buck teeth too.

I. Would. Flip.

I’ve seen great arguments on both sides of the dress code debate on Twitter and Facebook recently, and it reflects back to the question I asked not too long ago – what DO you do when you disagree with your child’s school’s policies? Is there merit in rebelling to bring attention to a policy you don’t like, or do you take a more concilliatory approach? Or maybe you think rules are made to be obeyed at all costs? And would you hit the roof if you saw your child’s yearbook photo had been edited for “decency” or other reasons?


Remember when I found out my photo of Lucas playing hopscotch had been turned into a book cover?

I’ve already told you a little bit about how I found the book and started a casual correspondence with the author, and what a truly kind and interesting person he seems to be. But just as the proof of the pudding is in the eating, the proof of the book is in the reading, and when I cracked the cover of Take This Man by Brando Skyhorse, I so dearly wanted it to be a good book. I wanted it to be good because I liked the author, I wanted it to be good because I was curious about the story, and of course, I wanted it to be good because that’s my Lucas on the cover.

It was not simply a good book. It was a harrowing, heartbreaking, funny, tragic, compelling and utterly unforgettable book. It is, I tell you without bias, a story that will rattle around in your brain and your heart long after you turn the last page. It has been called a “most anticipated book of 2014“, (right there under Diana Gabaldon and Stephen King!), a best book of summer 2014, and listed as a “next great indie read” for June 2014, among many other reviews. Pretty serious buzz, right? And I can tell you without reservation or bias, it is worth the read.

Brando Skyhorse has lived a life that is incomprehensible to me, and his memoir moved me deeply. Brando’s Mexican-born father leaves the family when Brando was a toddler, leaving Brando with no real memories of his father. Shy of neither imagination nor chutzpah, Brando’s Mexican-born mother Maria capriciously decides to reinvent herself as a Native American named Running Deer and tells young Brando that his father is an incarcerated Native activist named Paul Skyhorse – someone neither Maria nor Brando has ever met. This abrupt reinvention and declaration marks the beginning of a pattern that repeats throughout Brando’s young life: a father figure is discovered, declared and brought into the family without question, usually without attention to such details as divorcing the previously instated father figure, not once or twice but five times through Brando’s childhood and adolescence.

Dysfunctional doesn’t begin to cover Brando’s convoluted childhood. His domineering and delusional mythmaker mother seeks new husbands in the personal ads in the backs of magazines, and Brando and his mother become co-conspirators of a sort in this ongoing quest to find a suitable surrogate father figure. Brando describes the pattern in the introduction to the book:

Life with each of these fathers followed a similar path. First I was forced to accept them, then slowly I trusted them, then I grew to love them.

Then they left.

“Some boys don’t have any fathers in their life,” my mother would say, bucking me up. “You’ve had five. Plenty for one boy.”

This cavalier obliviousness defines Maria’s relationship with Brando, and the mother in me at more than one point in the book wanted to reach into the pages and throttle Maria for her casual cruelty. One father gets arrested at Disneyland, another steals coins from Brando’s piggy bank. One after another, they fail to live up to even the most meagre expectations of a father figure. Time and again, the circumstances of Brando’s life conspire against him, yanking the metaphysical rug out from under him. And yet, this is neither a maudlin nor a bitter story. Brando’s voice is often dryly witty as he recounts the absurdity of his childhood circumstances. Only toward the end of the book does a sense of defeat and anger begin to outweigh the undercurrent of dark humour, and it was at this point that I found the story hardest to read.

This is truly an unforgettable story, brilliantly told. I held my breath in anticipation at times, cringing and practically reading through fingers splayed across my eyes for fear of what twist might come next at others. Dark comedy melds seamlessly into tragic pathos and back again, and by the middle of the book I was so deeply invested in Brando’s story I wanted to skip ahead to the end to make sure the final twist was a happy ending. Just when I really thought I was going to have to stop reading because I didn’t think I could handle the stress of reading about one more loss in the young man’s life, Brando finds his way through his personal darkness and begins to weave together the frayed ends of his life. As much as a memoir of a living person can’t really have a definitive ending, I can tell you at least (no worries, no spoiler alert here) that you won’t be disappointed with the where the story ends.

This is not just a good book. This is an extraordinary book. So maybe, just this once, it’s okay to judge a book by it’s cover. ๐Ÿ˜‰


It’s been a while since I’ve posted any cat photos – we’re clearly overdue.

Look into my eyes

Don’t mistake the gaze for anything resembling affection. He’s eyeballing a cat treat dangled just out of the frame.


Yeesh, ya gotta move fast if you want to catch the seasons around here. I took this photo of the baby maple leaves unfurling just last week, and it’s already ridiculously out of season. Summer has crashed so abruptly on the heels of spring that it’s hard to believe this was just a few days ago!

Maples blooming

Not that I’m complaining, mind you. Not one little bit!


Photo of the day: Squirrel!

by DaniGirl on May 23, 2014 · 0 comments

in Photo of the Day

Because squirrel!!


Also, a little interval of B&W in all the supersaturated nature colours lately.

Photo tip: when taking a picture of any critter, biped or otherwise, try to make sure there’s a little light showing in the eye. Eyes with light have sparkle and life; eyes without light appear dead. Also, if you get nothing else in focus, make sure you have clean focus on the eye. One of the first things the human eye seeks out in a photo is other eyes.


We live on an island, so you don’t have to go far to find water. No wonder I have moisture issues in my basement! But even on the island, there are little patches of water, like this small, nearly hidden pond a block from my house. If you walk past at dusk, you can hear the most delightful sound of frogs singing, but I was even more delighted to walk by yesterday and find this unexpected red canoe resting quietly on its bank.

Unexpected red canoe

It was totally worth the three dozen mosquito bites I acquired while taking a few variations of this photo! If only you could hear the frog music in the background. ๐Ÿ™‚ For all the challenges we’ve had with this house and living in a very small town, it’s having this sort of lovely scene just around the corner waiting to be discovered on an evening walk that makes it all worthwhile.


Photo of the day: Dandelion sleeping in the dew

21 May 2014 Photo of the Day

I seem to spend a lot of my time these days crawling around on my belly with my camera, chasing tulips and dandelions and dewdrops. I desaturated the green in this quite a bit to emphasize the shapes more than the colour, and to make the yellow of the dandelion head pop a bit more. […]

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In which there is an app for that

19 May 2014 Me, only better

Two weeks ago, I lamented that despite my best efforts, I had utterly failed to lose a pound and in fact, was losing the battle against the 10 lbs I gained in the last year. I whined that I did not want to count calories, that I was doing my best, that I did not […]

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Photo of the day: Grape hyacinths

18 May 2014 Photo of the Day

When I was a little girl, my grandmother had a huge rock garden in her back yard. It was one of the most lovely gardens I remember ever seeing, and it was huge. She used to have grape hyacinths like these, so every garden I’ve had always has grape hyacinths. I added a quick layer […]

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Photo of the day: It’s rough being a big brother sometimes

17 May 2014 Photo of the Day

Four years ago, I had the great honour of photographing this big guy when he was just four weeks old, and he came to visit for porch portraits when he was a toddler. I’m predisposed to love him already, but seriously, is this not the CUTEST EXPRESSION EVER?!? He is going to make an amazing […]

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