Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Go North, Young (wo)Man!

I would like to talk about the time I felt what it was like to be culturally misunderstood.

Wait.. whhaaaaaat.

I know.  I’m more white than white.  I have blonde hair (stop with the side eye. While I am certainly not blonde anymore, my stylist assures me it’s my true color), blue eyes, freckles, a penchant for horses, synchronized swimming, ballet and cheerleading.  Also I have a history degree, and drive a minivan.  I may or may not be currently consuming anti-anxiety medication.  I also have to watch my use of ‘like’.  Even now.  At 30.

So you see, very, very white.

One day, my husband came home full of excitement over a possible transfer that would take us from rural agri-centric Saskatchewan (my peeps), north, to a Metis and Status Aboriginal community (whom I would like to be my peeps, but was afraid I was too white for).

Before long there was a moving truck at my house, packing away more than just the crap we had accumulated over the years.  As we followed that moving truck up the highway, to a gravel road that should technically be called “A Goat Trail”, I  realized I was about to move away from my comfort zone.

Let’s take a small story break to revisit my.. um, whiteness.  While I won’t attribute all of my character traits to being white, let me just give you a quick personality bio.

I think I’m hilarious.  I make ridiculously LAME jokes about weather, or puns or whatever and laugh and laugh.  I generally have a shit eating grin on my face, and like to talk to anyone within 100 yards of me.  Bubbly certainly, I enjoy chit chat more than most things in life.  It doesn’t matter who I run into, I want to be friends.  It is perhaps a remnant of many years spent under the noxious fumes of hairspray and aerosol sparkles. (Cheerleading has no mercy.  Who needs those extra brain cells when you can absolutely GLOW under the competition lights??)

Fairly stereotypically, middle class, white.

Now that you have a mental picture (feel free to imagine me in a fab outfit, fresh blowout and a slight tan.  But more glowy than orange. Like J Lo.  But Whiter.), transplant that girl to Northern Saskatchewan surrounded by bush, no mall within 5 hours, power outages that last days, and where hunting and fishing reign supreme.

I know, right?

Our parents and friends thought we were nuts.  We had voluntarily signed up to head there.  We had a 2 year old, and I was pregnant with our second.  We were 12 hours away from my parents, and about 6 from my husband’s family.  There was no nearby hospital, and I would have to get sent out two weeks before my due date to have our baby.  It was isolated.  There were no coffee shops to meet up at, no restaurants to go for a nice dinner (Ok CJ’s but I’m not sure that counts…), and only one fairly limited grocery store within 2.5 hours. 

But we went.  And within weeks we loved it.  We had our daughter, and started sending our son to Awasisak Head Start preschool.  They learned Cree, had visits from elders and took part in traditional activities, and where my (natural) white blonde, blue eyed kid stood out like a sore thumb.  Not that they noticed.  Other than the kids loving his ‘yellow’ hair, kids couldn’t care less.  Before long we were hearing him using Cree words at home, and he had his first playdate with his best little buddy from preschool.

My husband worked.. a lot.  Like many RCMP detachments, especially those in the North, they weren’t enough staff for the calls, and there was, on occasion, times when we worked 15 days in a row.  I got the pleasure of staying home with our now two children, and while I relished the time spent taking walks, dodging bugs bigger than smart cars (this is hardly an exaggeration), quadding and sitting around campfires, I was missing something.

My husband had found his recreational outlet.  Not a big hunter or fisher, he had always played hockey.  So he signed up to join the local rec league.

This might seem pretty.. well, obvious, to most reading this right now.  But, there hadn’t been RCMP officers who played in the rec league before.  There was a definite divide in the community between those who grew up and made their lives there, and those who came in to work.  Cross over happened little, if at all.  But, as sport tends to do, the playing field was equalled and my husband and another member started playing whenever they got a chance.

But, because for the vast majority of my life, I have been who I am wherever I am, I found myself desperate to get out of the house and meet people on my own. 

The extracurricular activities I had partaken in growing up didn’t seem to jive with where I suddenly found myself living.  Synchronized swimming- an automatic NO being that there was no indoor pool closer than a 5 hour round trip.  Horseback riding-Nadda.  Ballet- Not gonna happen. 

But, there was something I COULD do with only running shoes and a gym floor.  Which, the school obviously had.


Everything thought I was totally off my rocker.

There wasn’t any organized after school activities offered at that time.  And of all things I was going to try and get a group of girls to buy into cheerleading.

Yes I was, and yes I did. (You’re welcome, Toni Basil.  Patron Saint of Cheerleading)

It started with the younger ones, and before long I had interest from the junior and high school girls.  We started practicing and I would come home and tell my husband that I didn’t think they liked me.  That no one ever laughed at my HILARIOUS jokes, and despite all my goofing around and smiling that worked like a charm on my past cheer teams, these girls just seemed to disagree with how funny I felt I was being.

My husband, always rational, my consummate laid back, tell ‘er like it is better half, simply looked at me and said “Well.  They keep coming back, don’t they?”.

I kept up, and before long I felt like we had figured each other out.  I had learned that maybe there was a little bit of a cultural divide.  I was in a teaching role, and they were doing their best to respect me.  I kept being me, and slowly they started opening up to me.  They would stop by and visit me at my house, and loved it when I brought my baby girl to practice.

We performed at a Christmas concert, and I was so proud of those girls, who were so shy, who had NEVER seen something like that performed before, who got up in front of the school and their families and smiled and danced their best.  They had stepped out of their cultural comfort zone in a BIG way.

Before long, I got asked to choreograph something for junior high kids, both boys and girls, for the Saskatchewan Northern Games. 

Ironically, and ridiculously, the whitest girl within 100 miles got asked to choreograph a hip hop routine.

I laughed and laughed until I realized they were serious.

So I tried, and with collaboration from the kids, a friend of mine who was born and raised there, and MTV, we came up with a great routine that won them Silver at the games. (They were ROBBED.  Politics.  Not just in Figure Skating anymore.)

It felt liberating to hand them their medals at the school assembly.  I was so proud of those boys and girls, but I was also proud of myself.  Together we had all stepped outside our cultural comfort zone, and I secretly hoped I had wiggled my way into the community on my own terms.

I would go to the post office and people would say “Hi Brittany”.  I left my iPod plugged in to the speaker at the school gym right before community floor hockey, and it got anonymously returned to me in an envelope.  Something I’m certain would never have happened anywhere else.

My daughter got gifted a beautiful pair of leather wraps beaded by a sweet little kokum.  My friend introduced me to more women in the community, and I even got invited to a wedding after helping do the bride’s hair.

It felt so good to feel like I was a part of a place no one thought I would be accepted.  A place I wondered if I would fit in.

Like it does in the RCMP, the moving truck arrived again.  At our new post, people would ask me how happy I was to be back somewhere with Walmart, and Starbucks, and other less important things, like a hospital.

I would smile and say that was nice, but that I missed where we were.  I missed the stupid bugs, and the terrible drive, and the fact that our power was out for two days and we had no water, forcing us to fill up 4L milk jugs down at the river. 

How I cried like a baby driving down that long road, once again following that moving truck, worried about how I was going to fit in at my new home. 

Because I felt like a new and improved me, and I wasn’t too sure how I would bring what I had learned to my new home.

I had learned so much at that post.

I learned that fellow RCMP families become your family.  Dysfunction and all. 

I learned that no matter where the RCMP sent us, we would find happiness, friendship, and a real home.

I learned that the Northern lights look absolutely stunning around a campfire, surrounded by dense bush, and the very best friends a girl could ever ask for. And, I learned that no matter where we followed that moving truck, being ME would always make me happiest, and being authentic made friends no matter what cultural differences you encountered.

Oh yes.  And how to make a killer latte at home.

WINNERS!!! The girls  from the hip hop routine and yours truly.
Ben and his two best buds at his birthday party.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Why Your High IQ Makes You a Big 'ol Dummy

I’ve decided that being born with an IQ deemed higher than average actually puts me at a SEVERE deficit for life. 

Let me explain.

‘Dumb luck’ and ‘Ignorance is bliss’ did NOT come out of thin air. 

It’s like the more I study things, or the more I apply myself to something, the more I come up against a wall of insecurity and confidence drought.

I have found, through keen observation and Facebook status updates, that those who are perhaps not as.. Cerebrally gifted, do not find such things to be problematic. 

Now, I am certainly no genius.  In fact, on some occasions, I find myself doing things, and more likely saying things, that compromise the integrity of this entire post.

I do know that I score higher than average on those standardized tests.  (Whatever that means in the real world…actually I will say, contradicting myself yet again, that this says little about intelligence.)  And that in my life, I have found myself in advanced educational programs.  So let’s say, by traditional, North American accepted standards, I have above average intellect.

So now that we’ve established I can occasionally think my way out of a box, let me tell you why I think I am forever at a deficit.

I make myself crazy (almost certifiable) thinking about my own personal  flaws, struggles, and lack of knowledge.  I second guess my every choice, and rerun conversations back in my head a thousand times to try and analyze how I came off, how I was perceived, and what hole I need to start digging myself out of.

Now, as a girl who enjoys the odd glass of red, who prefers to speak and THEN think, this penchant for over analyzing has left many a sleepless nights, and a minor anxiety disorder.

Back to the point.  Do you think the same person who is pondering  life via unintelligible Facebook  post, to be hard when ‘people R always on my case.  There the ones who suk ‘, is suffering from the same mental fatigue I am after I take a public political stance and spend the rest of the night re-researching my points to ensure accuracy?

I doubt it.

And I don’t do these bizarre rituals for my health, and CERTAINLY not for fun.  I just can’t help it.  My brain is hard wired to analyze and pull theories apart. 

There was no sadder a day in my life than when I became unable to read a book just for story alone. 

Choosing lame romance, or predictability, or overdone generic poo over merit and wordsmith-ery... NEVER (If the irony of me not being able to find a real word to act as a synonym for wordsmith is lost on you, well… probably the rest of this article is as well.)

This is why, no matter how hard I tried, 50 Shades was NEVER going to be my thing.

Why I stopped writing for months. 

Why I struggle even at this moment for inspiration and confidence to surge ahead.  To become the person I can picture so vibrantly in my head.  To harness the brain I’ve always been told is a gift, despite no one explaining to me that sometimes, this thing is a bit of a curse.

I believe it is always why so many of the literary greats wrote under the influence of ‘mood helpers’.  Or why ridiculously intelligent or creative people find themselves in the grip of addiction.  Because you need to harness self-doubt, that nagging subconscious feeling that you are not smart enough, not witty enough, to produce anything other than.. well, this blog.

And, I mean what better tool than opium to remind yourself YOU ARE AWESOME.**  I’m not the first person to run into this mountain of uncertainty, and to struggle with a way to summit it.
I believe it's also why people who are in no way geniuses, or greats, or even above averages at what they do make leaps of faith and sometimes, for the oddest of reasons, or luck, or a weird turn of the universe, become successful.  And why uber intelligent people sit on the sidelines, paralyzed with the fear to step inside the fire.

So I did some soul searching. 

Mostly I stopped watching bad TV, and started  REALLY questioning my veracious, and usually self deprecating, internal dialogue.
And then a funny thing happened.  

I found the Excalibur against self doubt.  And the simplicity of it was astounding.

I’ve given myself the permission to try.   

To be Brittany. 

To be the best at what I know.  For me, to write what I know and to stop worrying about what I don’t.  I'm not attempting to best, or even compare to anyone else. 

To stop staring into the face of expectation and possibilities, and 'Am I enough' self talk, and turtling.

I’ve never been pushed to try, and I’ve over analyzed the reasons why I shouldn’t start now.

I’ve never had the courage, or the need to lay all my gifts, and solitary work on the line.  Until this point in my life, outside of my marriage and my children (all external endeavors), I’ve never once given all I had over to anything and really, really TRIED.  

Because, my brain told me the answer was to sail the exterior and only swoop in when there was absolute concrete proof I would excel.

So I’m going against my better judgment, and trying. 

I will also likely have a glass of wine.  Just, you know.... to make sure.

My 4 year old daughter.  My inspiration in life.  At four she is totally committed to what she believes, and who she KNOWS she is.  Even if it's a kitty.

**I do not use, nor do I condone or recommend use of illicit drugs to become creative.  Just those of the legal variety.  And in moderation.  Or not.  Whatever.  Quit reading this.  It’s probably not legally binding anyways.

Thursday, January 9, 2014


My Seven Year Old Son: “Hey Sexy Mommy”

Me: “Ummm.. that’s not something you should be saying.” (Inner voice: Especially to your mom)

 Sexy.  I have heard my two older kids (4 and 7) using this word as an adjective more often then I care to admit.  Every time I stop them, remind them they shouldn’t be using that word, and that they certainly do not know what ‘sexy’ means.

And then they listen to the radio, and watch TV and SEXY SEXY SEXY blares at their little faces and they are left with a very confused concept of what ‘sexy is’. 

Like any parent hoping to find answers to their obvious misuse of a word, I decided to ask them what they thought ‘sexy’ was. 

They looked at me like I was crazy and said, “you know.. like pretty, or nice”. 

I explained that’s not exactly the definition.  After which, my wise beyond his years 7 year old, asked me to give him a very specific definition of what it meant to be ‘sexy’. 

It took me a few moments to form the words in my head (which, if you know me, is something I don’t generally abide by.  You know, waiting before I speak…), and I looked at him, and expelled some of the greatest motherly advice I have ever dispensed. 

“Just don’t worry about it.  Stop saying ‘sexy’.  End of conversation.”

So, um…. I guess an epic Mom fail moment. 

It’s just, I didn’t know the proper way to explain what sexy was to a kid.  I mean, I sort of felt mad at society in a twofold way.  The first because I didn’t know how to explain what sexy was to a kid, and the second because, well, I didn’t know how to explain what sexy was.. period.

I took the next logical step.  I googled it. 

Here is the Webster’s definition of sexy:

1.concerned predominantly or exclusively with sex: erotic.

2.sexually interesting or exciting; radiating sexuality

3.excitingly appealing

Does this grossly offend anyone else whose children may or may not have wandered around the house singing “I’m Sexy and I Know It”? After reading that I actually found it quite.. disturbing. 

I mean when you take this literal definition into account and think about just what our little darlings are saying whilst goofily dancing around, doesn’t it make you feel supremely uncomfortable?  Not to blame the now defunct LMFAO fellows, I don’t think they anticipated the song to be such a hit with the under 10 crowd, but what have I been unwittingly letting my children listen to?  Then came Gangham style.  Another favorite amongst the kids, in which they really only know one line, “Hey.. sexy lady”. 

Again with the kids singing about sexy.

Now, I am in no way prudish or incredibly conservative, hence the reason why I didn’t totally lose it when my kids started using sexy as their new favorite adjective when the liked something.  (It replaced ‘poopy’ so at first I was a little thankful for the change.  Oh you mom snobs stop side eyeing me right now.  AS IF you have never let something slide because although it wasn’t good, it was a bit better than what was happening before.  Or was it?)

However, after I stopped and thought about the questions and the over-use, borrowing from the Mighty O, I had a bit of an A-Ha moment. 

We as a society have become completely desensitized to ‘sexy’. 

To an extent in which our children are now genuinely confounded when I asked them to stop using that word.  It was, to them, like asking them to stop using “beautiful”. 

I suppose there are more words than simply ‘sexy’ that have gradually become a part of our vernacular, but it’s this one in particular that have me, as a normal, everyday mom, worried. 

I don’t want my daughter to grow up thinking being a sexy woman is something to attain too.  This is how over-tanned, over bleached, over facially spackled girls are created.  One sexy aspiration after another.

I don’t want my sons to think that ‘sexy’ is something that girls at 12 and 13 need to be.

It’s all just so.. gross.

I want sexy to come after years of being intelligent, charismatic, beautiful, driven, eloquent, funny;  So many other aspirational adjectives than just ‘sexy’.

Yes, sexy is still.. well, sexy.  We all know when we come across someone who truly embodies what that word means.  And I think as intelligent adults we all know that those aforementioned qualities morph together until the person, almost accidentally, becomes sexy. 

But it’s the young girls twerking and sending naked Snap Chat pics that have now become our society’s ideal of ‘sexy’.  Believe it or not, but our sweet little kids are growing up in a place that celebrates these things we grimace at, as ‘sexy’.

I’m not pulling an Ashton Kutcher here.  (Sidebar: The biggest hypocrite ever.  I so wish that speech had been delivered by a man who hadn’t just cheated on his sexy wife with a 22 year old Vegas waitress…). I’m not trying to call for a societal reform in which Condaleeza Rice or Hilary Clinton should be our new ideal of sexy.  

Do I think TV, music, and movies should be sexed down?  It doesn’t matter.  It’s already a big part of our everyday life.  Axe commercials (once again let me point out that Dove and Axe are the same company…. Mixed messages much?), Victoria Secret ads, basically anything selling a clothing article, cosmetic or fragrance, or.. anything really, has a decidedly sexual element to it.  And, as reasonable adults who know exactly what we are being sold, I think it’s fine for companies to market however they want.  (As long as they aren’t talking out of both sides of their mouths.  I’m looking at YOU Unilever.)

I just think as the moms and dads of the next generation, let’s just be aware.  And have an age appropriate dialogue about what they are seeing, because, it’s not going anywhere.

To celebrate other traits in front of both our daughters and our sons so that ‘sexy’ doesn’t  define who they believe they need to become.  There are so many other words in our language to describe women (and men) than just sexy. 

While a woman or man who embodies ‘sexy’ will never go out of style (Marilyn Monroe, James Dean) I want my kids to grow up knowing that ‘sexy’ is something that comes after all sorts of those admirable, and important qualities.  The least of which being age and maturity.

So to end this post with an answer to the question I was posed by my 7 year old. 

‘Sexy’ is a word that kids shouldn’t use because it’s not a something a kid can be, or should want to be.  It’s an adult word for a feeling that adults have for each other.

So hopefully I’ve moved up from an F to a solid C+ after my initial Parenting Report card.  But chances are I’ll get asked another thought provoking question and tell them to ask their dad instead. ;)