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Monday, April 23, 2012

Small Things and Imaginings

Ahhhh, a new week!

Like the rain that came in and swept things clean, I have now enjoyed two night of good sleep, which means things are calming down and my body is calling off the red alert.

I actually, get this, went over to a friends house for lunch! I have to blink when I read that since it seems somehow odd and strange. Me? A friend I can visit? Really? But it's true! After coaxing K into her boots and jacket, and her opting to get into the stroller, we crossed the West End in a respectable twenty minute walk through some bitterly cold wind and hints of warm sunshine.

Now, my area has some smaller neighbourhoods in it and there are a range of prices. Typically though, we're a bit more expensive as far as housing costs go. We lucked out and the furnished flat we let (rent) is a bit less expensive than it might be. There are reasons for this, as I've discovered, but the realities are that we are unlikely to move until we move to Oxford next year. It's just the way it is.

Now, on the north side of the west end is a really nice area I'd love to live in. That's where my friend lives. Walking up to the lovely traditional terraced houses, I couldn't help but be envious of the small gardening spaces and the resident's garden in the middle of the crescent.

Their place is one of those ones that makes my interior decorator side go 'Oh!' It's so hard not to ogle the intricate Victorian mouldings on the ceiling. Now, they're busy parents of a 2 year old and a 5 month old baby, and they only moved in a year ago, so they haven't had much time to do anything with the place. It was all I could do not to jump up and down and say "I'll help!" if only to be able to imagine what decorating a space like that would be like.

I don't begrudge them their larger and beautiful space. They are both working professionals and have had their ups and downs. But hey, I can imagine a slightly larger (3rd bedroom anyone?) flat with cheap furniture that isn't twenty or thirty years old and falling apart. Certainly it would be nice not to have the bathtub sink a little at the drain end when I get into it. Did you hear that? Yeah, it comes away from the seal a bit. And yes, my letting agent knows. Apparently he's going to get a plumber in to look over everything and hopefully ease my fears about mould and rotting floors… sometime. I don't expect these things to happen very quickly anymore. This sounds very familiar to the time my house tried to kill me. But that's another story.

For now, I'm looking forward to next month when we hopefully have a small amount of money in which to print some of photographs, buy some cheap frames and make this place just a tiny bit ours for another year.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Spring Showers...

You know it's spring here when the weather changes every ten minutes. Sometimes that's an exaggeration, but quite often not. Even in the summer things can change so quickly it leaves you spinning.

The clouds have just burst open again, showering the ground in dampness that makes this place so green. I think that's why I really do love it it here as it reminds me of the temperate rainforests of the south coast of BC.

I was hoping for a longer and more thoughtful post today, but I'm exhausted. I haven't been sleeping well for various reasons and my body is not happy with me. I'm hoping for a really good night's sleep tonight and that I will wake up feeling refreshed and energetic. For now, I leave you with another photo I took back in the spring of 2007 when I was still learning how to use my new digital SLR camera:

Yes, I realize I'm on a flower theme lately. But it is spring after all...


Welcome to the new faces visiting for ICLW (IComLeaveWe)!

If you're not familiar with my blog, a very quick summary:

After two miscarriages, we now have a very active 2.5 year old girl, known here as K. I also was diagnosed with fibromyalgia back in 2006 and deal with flare ups from that as well as bouts of depression. I'm from Canada but relocated to the UK last year after my husband accepted a job in Scotland!

I'm a photographer and foodie who posts about both as well.

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Photo of the Day: Free Fall

Free fall: the downward movement under the force of gravity only.

A moment of exhilaration that wraps itself around your being and spreads through you.

You fall…

… but in that moment you are free.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Photo of the Day: Asters

In response to the query in my last image, here's a better look at the flowers underneath the tulips…

On a really cool, but somewhat annoying note in my development as a photographer, I've learned two very important details regarding image size and colour profiles for digital images on the internet. Without getting into details, what it means is that my online images will look better, but I have twice the work if I want certain images in print. Oh well, it's worth it.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Simple Joys...

- warm sun on my face

- wind that isn't so cold it freezes my hands

- a washer/dryer that works consistently now

-a small face buried into my shoulder as I walk down the street

-random cackling from K for no reason that anyone but her can discern. Did she tell herself a joke? See something funny? Remember something funny she saw? Who knows…

-Pretty things to take photos of:

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Editing a New Self Image

I'm a Mac user after many, many years of owning a PC and using both at work and school. I'm a photographer and so getting my MacBook Pro was very exciting. I actually decided to make the switch after using my husband's MacBook to put together a video slideshow with music for a client I had done some commercial work for. Not only did I do stock images for their banquet hall, but I shot an event their and they played my slideshow on a bit screen. It was pretty damned cool that I got to stretch my skills and  it was one of many sessions I did for them.

One thing that is clear now compared to even then, is that the quality of the images I take has improved drastically, as had my editing.

I don't edit all that much really. White balance, contrast, saturation, sharpness, and conversion to B&W are my usual tweaks if I'm not playing around and wanting to do something funky.

What is interesting are the images of myself (not that there are many).

I will admit that when I take and edit an image of myself, I do edit out major blemishes in my skin, like this one:

(You can still see that they are there under the makeup, but trust me when I say they are not nearly as bad)


I've had hormonal induced acne since I hit I got my first period, which was at 15. It's been so bad that I have scarring on my face and I hate it.

Yes, it truly provokes such a visceral reaction in me because I find it has clouded my self image for so many years. Those who will remember my bitching about my cycles, may recall that I have annoyingly short cycles (21-25 days). In the 2-5 days before I start a cycle, I break out. Sometimes just a little; other times they are big and hurt and all I want to do is hide under a thick layer of makeup (which only makes me look worse).

So yeah, I break out roughly every 3 weeks or so, which means my skin has barely recovered from one cycle before I break out again. Ugghhh!

Now, I've tried so many different solutions. I've had prescription cleansers, birth control pills that were supposed to help skin too (and only messed up my hormonal balance worse- I can't tolerate BCPs at all). I've tried consistent facial cleansing routines using inexpensive drug store products, and even expensive all natural products. Nothing works for long…

Why? Because aside from the fact that my skin adapts to these products too quickly, it's hormonally induced and (I believe) related to the low progesterone that results in my LPD (Luteal Phase Defect). So until I have a solution for that (that I can afford), I don't foresee any magical cures for my acne. I should add though that my hormone imbalance is something I want to look into more…. at some point.

Suffice to say I cringe when I see myself in photos sometimes. So when I want to use an image for a profile here, or on Facebook, I edit it. I take that lovely little blemish brush on either of my editing programs, iPhoto or GIMP (three cheers for open source) and make those awful marks go away.

I look at the image I took recently, especially the B&W version I have up here, and go, 'gosh, you know, she's kind of pretty…' Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but my own beauty is hidden beneath a mask that for now, only a photo editing brush can reveal.

Perhaps I shouldn't care. But I do. My acne clouds my self-image and affects my self esteem at times. It has nothing to do with how I treat myself, but more the confidence I exude to the world around me. On the days where it isn't so bad or I get a small break from the acne, I wear makeup well and can see the same person in my edited images.

I have no illusions to looking anything other than I look. But I use that editing tool to show myself what I really look like, as opposed to creating some idealized version. That's not the point.

I just need a reminder of who that women in the photo is. She's there, if just a bit hidden at times.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Lessons My Toddler Teaches Me

We've had the same argument over, and over, and over.

You might ask, "But how can you have an argument with a toddler who really isn't speaking?" According to my dictionary, an argument is defined as an exchange of diverging or opposite views, typically a heated or angry one.

Standard scene: After leaving a place where K has been taken out of the stroller, she refuses to get back in it when we need to leave to go home. Typically this could be the grocery store or a coffee shop or the library. Okay fine, she can walk home and I can hold her hand. Except then she will often refuse to walk as well, which leaves us on the sidewalk with her having a tantrum because I won't carry her the 20 minutes home AND push the stroller, and she stubbornly refuses to walk (which she has done many time before and is quite capable of and even enjoys).

First off, if I don't have the stroller, I don't mind carrying her at least part of the way. But she's 12 kilograms (a little over 26 lbs)! If I have the stroller and I carry her I have to balance her on my left hip with one arm holding her and then use my right hand to push the stroller (I'm right handed so it's best able to control the tri-wheeled jogging stroller I have).

Now add to this little scenario that fact that I specifically brought the stroller because I had to go buy food items at the shop (including a jug of milk) and I wasn't going to carry 2 bags of heavy groceries plus a toddler. Forget it!

This morning, we got groceries and she and I were both a little hungry so we stopped for a bit at a coffee shop. Then we go to leave and as usual she doesn't want to get in. I have one bag of groceries tucked underneath in the basket and one lighter one sitting on top. Fine, she can walk.

K races for the door and we get outside and through the crowd of people in front of the subway station and then I stop to sort ourselves out a bit. I go to put her in the stroller and she throws a screaming fit. Fine. So I tell her she can walk, but as usual as I try to set her down, she tucks in her knees to her body so her feet won't touch the ground, and I'm forced to either set her down on her rear or hold her.

What I've been doing pretty consistently is give her a choice. I simply can't carry her plus push a stroller laden with groceries all the way home (and up a hill too mind you). I just can't. Not only can't my arms take it, it hurts my back and by the time I get home I collapse exhausted, sore and unable to move. It's not worth it.

So I tell her she can either go in the stroller or walk home. Till this morning, neither option appealed to her and we usually ended up in a stalemate with me simply getting frustrated and giving in and carrying her.

Not today.

This time, I stayed calm and just kept repeating her two options and explained why I couldn't carry her a couple times. She's two and a half so I really don't expect her to understand it all, but I wanted her to try and get that I wasn't saying no to be mean but because there was a reason for it.

After a couple of minutes of me crouched on the ground with her sitting on one knee clinging to me, she slowly lets go and happily does a running skip sort of thing. I stand up, unlock the stroller brakes and ask her to hold my hand, which she does.

And we walk.

K proceeded to try out every funny way of walking she could and jump in every puddle which elicited lots of smiles and chuckles from people passing by. Sometimes she held my hand, other times she wanted to venture about.

Half way home I ended up carrying her across a crosswalk because we had to hurry to make the light. Of course after that she didn't want to walk any more! But we were close to the bridge over our neighbourhood river and she likes to look over it at the water. So I carried her there and then stopped so she could look for a bit. I tried to put her down after a minute, but she held on tighter, so I simply held her tight and she snuggled into my shoulder, watching people pass. One woman smiled at her and she eagerly started waving at her as she passed and continued to even after to woman was 15 metres away. The woman turned back and smiled, waving again, and K was thrilled! lol. After a few minutes I tried to set her down again so we could continue walking. Instead of taking my hand, she walks to the front of the stroller and tries to climb in.


So I get her in and secure the belt and she's perfectly content to stay in the rest of the way back to our flat.

It might have taken us nearly 45 minutes to make the 20 minute trip home, but it was worth every single minute knowing that we had tested each other, negotiated and come to an agreement we could both accept.

At first my reaction was, 'Ha! I won'. But that really wasn't it at all. In the end, we both won, simply because we listened to each other. She got to make a choice and I got to set the parameters that would ensure not only that she was safe, but that I made it home in one piece physically and emotionally.

Now how's that for Parenting 101? Apparently, a calm heart, persistence and patience really do pay off.

Go figure...

Photos of the Day: Ode to the West Coast

Found these gems of images from photo cds I have uploaded on my laptop. They were originally taken with my old zoom film camera, my guess is with 400 ISO film, in Aug of 2003. The first is at a place on Vancouver Island called French Beach. The second a little farther north up the west coast of the Island called Jordan River (coincidentally it's where people surf on the south part of the Island). The funny part about the images is that they aren't the best (compared to what I take now) but I was still rather intent on being prolific. Except that the definition of prolific shifted dramatically from 24-32 images per roll, to 637 jpg images or 232 RAW ones once I ventured into digital.

That figure in the first would be my brother who was probably about six feet tall then, if not over. Not that I can recall exactly. But it gives you perspective on the waves…

I am Wave, hear me roar! 

Monday, April 09, 2012

Community Building for the Socially Anxious

Sometimes when I really stop to think about it, I realize how overwhelmingly difficult it is to not only be a parent, but to be one in a different country. Had I gotten pregnant and given birth here, I would have had in intrinsic network of people to use for resources. I would have had friends to call up on those difficult days, play dates to set up and so forth.

Being a stay-at-home-mom who's working on being a work-at-home-mom is more challenging than I ever anticipated. There was nothing in my difficult journey to being a parent that could have ever prepared me for how damned hard it is to not only raise a child but be with them day in and day out.

In that same breath though I can barely express how much joy and love I have and receive from my daughter. As often happened in the first year of her her life, I started posts and then never got around to finishing them. Sitting in my post list was this little gem:

Dearest Bean,
Yesterday you turned six months. When you were born, indeed, even before that, I had planned to write you letters to let you know all that was going on in your life at that time. But it was not to be. You will discover, in time, that the saying is true: "Life is what happens when you are making other plans."
I look into your smiling face as you giggle and wonder if you'll ever know just how much my heart aches in its love for you.

I never wrote any more than that and I surely can't remember what else I wanted to say to her.

So much love. But ache is the right word too. Some days, trying to deal with a two and a half year old threatens the very last strands of sanity I have. But as always, the moment passes, the day is over and we start again.

Because I have this social anxiety in my life now, reaching out to strangers is incredibly difficult. Even just starting a conversation with another mom I don't know can make heart race. But as soon as the words come out and the dialogue started, I relax back into the friendly and sociable person I truly am. 

People think that moving to Scotland means I live some sort of glamourous life; as if I am some trendy jet-setting mother off to show her child all the riches of the world. I am not. Really, it's just the same as being back home, except that I've lost a huge chunk of my support network, or the network I do have is 5-8 hours behind me in my day. That being said, the support I do get here is wonderful, if limited.

It was the unexpected curse of the newly relocated SAHM. I've met lots of other moms- at the playground, at playgroups and indoor play places. The issue? More often then not, they are working, even if just part-time. I'm not. So inevitably they don't have much time for me, since when they are off, they want to be spending time with their family and the friends they do have. There isn't a whole lot of time for that woman who just moved here that they don't really know yet.

But I'm lucky at the moment that I have found one friend to hang out with during the mornings, once a week or so, who just had her second child a few months ago. She's at home with both of them, so we can commiserate. I also have a feeling that if ever something happened and I needed help, I could call or text her and she'd be there for me.

I can't express how powerful and comforting that is. A year after I moved here, I'm only just starting to feel like I'm really settled and that I have a life here. Some days it doesn't feel like much, but I am ever grateful for it.

Going forward and knowing that I will be moving in a year, I can prepare ahead of time, if only mentally for the transition. I'll once again be the newbie trying to settle and fit in, but having done it once, I know what I need to do to build my little network around me. Doesn't mean it'll be easy though. Is it worth it in the end? I surely hope so!

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Photo of the Day: Fawn Lilies

Cooking for the Soul: Thin Crust Pizza

-homemade or pre-made pizza dough (I found a kit of pre-made/pre-rolled stuff that came with a jar of sauce)
-pizza sauce
-cheese (I used just a sprinkling of fontina cheese that was way too expensive to be eaten regularly but oh so divine)


Roll, bake (400F, 200 C). 'Nuff said.

I can't even tell you how amazing this meal was. The spring veggie one was actually my favourite one, but the pineapple and ham (we used pancetta) made my day too.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Cooking for the Soul: Cheesy Quinoa Cakes

So for the last couple of weeks I have made these wonderful little creations. I've also gone with what I had in the house, so they've been made with cheddar or Gruyere and parmesan, rather than the fontina cheese. And I've done minced garlic instead of the green onions, but no matter how you change it up, the result remains the same…


I even changed up the dip and did a sour cream, cilantro and lime dip with some salsa. Even plain sour cream tastes great!

You can find the recipe here: http://spoonforkbacon.com/2011/11/cheesy-quinoa-cakes/

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Imagining the Future: Part Two

I suppose I should preface this post by saying that yesterday's post was about my writing down the thoughts in my head, nothing more, nothing less. It was a lot to have to try and explain, and a lot of it was my needing to see the thoughts in my head in a concrete way. By seeing them in print, they were something I could tackle and examine.

Trying to find perspective with all that in your head is more than a little difficult, and I certainly didn't expect to find it right away. It wasn't even my intention in that moment.
Now though, I can sit back and work things out. I'm a very practical person in the sense that I can break things down into manageable chunks. Call it a learned skill after the downfall into illness; it was both practical and necessary.

What has occurred to me is that I almost need to re-learn how to dream. When you go through one thing after another, it gets hard to be able to visualize the things you want for yourself and others and simply imagine it. You would think that being the mother of a toddler and being an artist, that I would know how to do this. And I do… or rather I did. 

Now, I'm having to look at where I am in my life and reinvent the concept of dreams. 

You know, I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that I never remember my dreams at night. When I wake up in the morning I couldn't tell you if I dreamt or not. I have wondered if this is a particular fibro issue, but what I've read suggests it isn't, so it's still a bit of a mystery to me. The point is, the concept of dreaming is often enhanced/informed by our ability to experience the strange world of our own dreams. Or at least that is how I see it. I have a great imagination (which my RP club can attest to), but putting it to practice in my daily life is a skill I seemed to have lost. Is it the depression? Possibly, and goodness knows that my outlook is better when my mood shifts back to 'normal' for me.

I also know that right now is a critically important time in my life. Call me crazy, but I'm savouring it in a way. I feel like I'm on the verge of something truly life changing, and in order to allow it to come to fruition, I need to let everything happen as it will and also just be. If I try to force things to conform to some preconceived idea of what it should like look, I will lose sight of the process, and it's the process that interests me as much as the destination.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Imagining the Future

Do you have an idea of what your life will look like five years from now? Ten years? Of course, no one can predict the future, but most people have one or two things that they can feel certain about or at least are working towards and feels possible. Are they family related? Professional? Personal?

I can't imagine the future at the moment. Oh, I have daydreams about what I would like but in terms of realistic imaginings? I'm feeling uninspired and even, yes I will admit it, afraid.

Before we got pregnant the first time (or rather the first 'scare'/ possible chemical pregnancy- but that's something for another post), I wanted certain things. I wanted 3 children (both hubby and I came from 3 children families. I wanted a house of our own with a backyard. I wanted to work part-time at home as an artist while I was able to stay at home with the kids, and maybe have someone come into the house on certain days so that I could work uninterrupted.

Now? It all seems surreal and almost, dare I say, unrealistic?

Or maybe my timeline is all skewed.

The truth is that where we are right now, my priorities are far, far more different than I could ever imagine. Lately, when I cuddle K and snuggle my face into her hair, breathing in her scent, I feel… content with her.

For the first time in my life, I could accept it if she ended up being our only child.

Huh? What? The woman who wanted 3? Hubby wants two and heck, even after our 20 week ultrasound with K when we found out K was a girl, he joked that he wanted a boy as well, even if it meant having more than 2.

There are a lot of reasons I'm waffling on the idea of another child. It's not that I don't want another child, but it's that when I add up all the pros and cons, the con list far, far, far outweighs the pro list right now for us.

Right now in my husband's career, the reality is that we are going to move around a bit. What I didn't or couldn't comprehend before was that as exciting as it would be to move to a new country, it is extremely difficult to build a support network. Finding (let alone affording) a babysitter is even more difficult than I would have thought.

I have one friend here. One person who I text and meet up with. Her daughter is two weeks younger than K and she has a 5 month old boy now too. She's not working like a lot of the other moms I've met, and therefore I feel like she has a small amount of time to actually be there for me if I need it and I won't feel like I am imposing or being needy.

Except that she can't really drop things and help me if I needed it. She after all has two kids to look after and her husband also travels like mine. But we get along great and I know she's there to listen if I need it, and I know in an emergency, she would do everything to help.

I used to meet and make friends easily, but now one in a year seems amazing to me. I chalk it up to the anxiety that is inherent in my depression. The ever present battle I fight is more good than bad lately, but it also still means that it's stressful for me to reach out to complete strangers and say, "Hey, I'm new. Think you can help me adjust and settle in here?" Actually, just thinking about it makes me panicky in a way I never could have understood prior to my illness and subsequent fibro diagnosis.

So, my family and best friends are really far away, I have almost no support network here, and we're moving again next summer, so I will start the networking all over again.  Add to that that my husbands travels overseas and the idea of being alone in a place with a small child and an infant terrifies me.


I had post-partum depression and I am high risk for it again.

Those who read through that part of my journey know how hard it was and hard I had to fight to regain some sort of stability in my life.

And all of this was after 2 confirmed miscarriages and a lot of stress towards the end of my successful pregnancy that resulted in intervention due to high blood pressure and near pre-eclampsia. Trying to wrap my mind around doing it again in our current circumstances is beyond daunting. I mean, this is presuming that we are successful the first time we conceive again and I don't go through more miscarriages, which given my still short cycles and hormone balance issues, I'm not convinced I won't, it seems like inflicting a whole host of torture on my consciousness that I'm not sure I'd be strong enough to get through intact. I won't even get into the stress it all placed on our marriage.

This isn't even considering the financial side of things, of which another child would be that much more difficult for us to makes ends meet and add more stress to our lives.

Did I mention my fibromyalgia? Stress= fibro trigger…


All of this adds up to the fact that trying to conceive a child while we are in the UK is a really bad idea. We are pretty set at this point about returning to North America after is new contract is up, which is in 2016. Fine, so we wait. But at that point I will be 32-33. I can't even imagine what our life will be like at that point let alone want to comprehend what a few more years my do to my somewhat questionable fertility.

I told hubby about my fears and my feeling that I wasn't entirely sure I wanted to have another child, all things considered. Though it took him a little bit to say so, he was bothered by it. After talking it over I told him I wasn't vetoing another child, just that for now I thought it was a bad idea, to which he agreed. Later, we will revisit it.

Four or five years down the road, will our circumstances be significantly different? Will I feel more comfortable with the idea? I'm not sure. I have no precognition skills and the future isn't mine to see, but suffice to say, all these things will still factor into the equation, but it's very possible that the answer will be very different than it is right now.

All I know is that at the end of the day, we both have to be accepting of our circumstances and the consequences of our decision regarding more children at that point. For me, I will be weighing the pros and cons carefully and considering the price I am willing to pay for a piece of a dream. How much is too much? Is it okay to go half-way and back out when it looks like it might not be worth it? Or is it a jump in with both feet situation?

I don't know. For now, I'm accepting that as a reasonable answer to questions I can't truly fathom at the moment. Right now we just keep going and handle whatever life tosses at us and hope we can handle it. The world is such an uncertain place these days. But I have a wonderful husband and an amazing daughter. I have supportive family and a lot of love. And that's enough.

Photo of the Day: A Deep Breath of Spring

Trying to ignore the possibility of snow in this week's weather forecast and focus on the warmth I am remembering from the last couple of weeks…