Monday, October 19, 2020

Birthing in Love with MBC Radical Doulas

"attending a birth is a political act"

Montreal Birth Companions 

radical doula organization

In 2003, I started a doula training program with my then business partner, Lesley Everest. Over the first year, I realized that our volunteer requirement had the potential to change the lives of women, and I founded Montreal Birth Companions. During the summer of 2003, two of our first doula course graduates attended 14 births. These doulas accompanied women to the hospital to give birth throughout that first summer, without any compensation except the experience and the knowledge that they were honoured guests of the families that were bringing a new life into the world. Montreal Birth Companions, or MBC as it affectionately came to be called, was a radical, unique, inspiring organization that survived for 13 years because of the power and love of the women who served there. We never got funding, although occasionally a private client would give us an extra bit of money and one of our hard-working doulas would get a small stipend. Over the years, we served hundreds of families who would never have been able to afford doula care if we had not provided it. We accompanied many women who were completely alone, and others whose partners needed to stay home to care for other children, or who needed to work. As time passed, we started to gain recognition in the non-status communities and we served many, many women who were living without legal immigration status, and hence without health insurance. It was essential for these women to have the support and guidance of a doula, so they could give birth with as little intervention as possible and thus avoid huge charges (our most expensive birth was $30,000, which was the culmination of an induction, several days in labor, an epidural and various other interventions and medications. Of course this money couldn’t be paid up front, and the woman spent months trying to pay it back.) MBC fell apart in 2016, after some internal arguments about political views. It turned out that some of the doulas wanted a traditional organization with a board, meetings and all that. My view was always that the only mandate was to provide free doula service to marginalized families in need. So what was the need for having meetings or creating unnecessary structure? Well, it turned out, the need for structure is so that if a crisis occurs, you have a predesigned way to deal with it. Starhawk talks about this in her book Truth or Dare, where she explores all sorts of things, anarchist organizations being one of the oxymorons she shines a light on. Because when two of our doulas were sexually assaulted by one of our client’s “friends”, we had no structure to deal with the fallout; no one person who was in charge of crises; no list of things to do. And so I took it all on, and decided that I had failed everyone, and I stepped down. But now, looking back, I realize that it was an amazing moment in history! We accompanied women to have their babies in love, with companionship, within a circle of care and held space that they would not have had otherwise. We did this out of pure love, a dedication to women, a desire to give the marginalized folk amongst us the same basic rights (yes, having a circle of caring women around you when you give birth is a right!) that we affluent women do. We did all this without money or financial support from anyone, which gave us the freedom to do what we needed to do. It was a fine time, and I am still getting calls from women without health care who are seeking that support. I spoke recently with Julia Gordon, who was one of our volunteers, about what it meant to be part of such a life-changing, radical group of women. Here is our chat:

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Raise Love Consciousness with Maha Al Musa

When I asked Maha to give me one word to share her message with the world, she gave me three. Raise Love Consciousness.

I was thrilled to have a couple of hours chatting with Maha about childbirth, consciousness, sovereignty, feminism, bellydancing and her work liberating childbirth, women and babies.

You can reach her on Instagram, Facebook, or check out her website

Are you pregnant and looking for a guide to uncover your inner power? Are you a Birth Keeper who wants to learn more? Maha's unique birth preparation program is for pregnant mums who innately know that giving birth is meant to be a sacred, instinctual and an embodied experience and who are seeking an immersive and expansive experience as they flow through their 9 month journey. It is also for birth keepers wanting to reframe birth's purpose, be inspired by a view of birth that will raise human consciousness and understanding the journey from a sacred, wise lens to share with mums-to-be.

I am so honored to have the chance to speak with powerful BirthKeepers, Educators, Mothers, Artiists, Rebels ... Baby Magic is magical!

Saturday, July 25, 2020

A Crack in the System

A couple of years ago, when I was deeply into my work at my cafe, and running longer and longer distances, I told my husband at some point "Yeh, The Man won." I meant that crippling internal conflicts had brought me to a decision to abandon my volunteer doula organization; that the arrest and conviction of unregistered midwives in Canada and around the world meant that women were left with less and less choices; and that my simmering suspicions about the nature of feminism were possibly true. 

So, I took pleasure in my cafe. I ran faster and had a load of fun doing races. I made new friends. I ignored the birth world, and only answered a call if one of "my" students had a question about a birth or a pregnant client of theirs. Occasionally I would check in with midwife friends around the world, just to check in. I was happy giving it all up. I put my doula bag away and forgot about my plans to go back to Greece to attend women in the camps there.

Then that crazy virus hit and I spent two month at home, with my family (husband, two sons, nephew). I made myself a small cocoon, and I crawled into it and meditated, thought, wrote and pondered. And then women started calling me. Women who had planned to give birth at home but whose midwives were forbidden to attend. Women who planned to give birth at the hospital but their doula were forbidden to attend. I gave advice, gave comfort, affirmed choices, made suggestions. 

I met with a few women who were planning to give birth in their own homes, without a midwife in attendance. I spoke to them after their births and got the idea I would interview them for an article or a podcast episode. Then I looked at the footage and I realized - you women are amazing by the way! - that I have some beautiful, inspiring footage. And then I realized, yes well, women experience less-than-optimum births and they're also worth interviewing....

So, now I have interviewed about thirty women, I have so much beauty on my Google drive and so many words of wisdom... so I'm making a documentary to celebrate our strength, tell our stories and let the world know that our care of the birthing woman needs change and needs it NOW!

There is a crack in our maternity care "system" and women are falling in. Luckily, the Covid crisis is a chance for us all to have a little time to check in with our reality and make some changes. Fast. 

Some questions to ponder:
  • Why are women expected to "reach for the top" in their professions and then called "too old" when they decide to bear children?
  • Why are women expected to go to the hospital to give birth? As we now know, hospitals are where sick people go. Pregnancy is not an illness.
  • Why are women threatened with the death or morbidity of their babies, while they are in labour?
  • Why are there so few midwives in Canada?
  • Why are doulas so expensive? Is a birth companion a luxury?
  • Why do women feel ashamed for their birth experiences?
And some mantras to reflect on:
  • Nature is not gentle, it is powerful and untameable.
  • Heal birth, heal earth.
  • Powerful women can change the world.
  • Just a reminder, when a woman gives birth, she is BIRTHING A NEW HUMAN! 
So, I have my work cut out for me, and I am feeling good.

If any one of you wants to participate in any way, let me know: do you want your voice to be heard? Do you want to be involved in production? Do you have an idea you want to tell me about? 

I'm listening!

Monday, July 13, 2020

Safe Birth Take Two

A couple of weeks ago one of my dear friends gave birth, at home, surrounded by her family and small community. She is a paragon of strength, but also a tower of gentleness, and she's funny, athletic, and creative. Her first son was born in the hospital, and from then she knew that she wanted to birth at home, without interference, peacefully.

I do know that the way she gives birth is not for everyone. In fact, the birth reality that I envision is very different from her reality. I see women giving birth in all sorts of ways, attended by all sorts of caregivers. But the most important thing about the birth experience will be that the woman giving birth is at the very centre of the experience. She is giving birth; it's her body, and she makes the decisions.

I've been talking to a lot of women lately, and I'm hearing some shocking stories. Don't misunderstand: I know that there can be mistakes, sometimes tragic and foolish ones, made by women and their caregivers who try to create more caring, gentler paradigms about birth. Believe me, I know that Nature is far from gentle; that babies and mothers can die; and that modern western medicine can and does save lives.

But, and this is the most fundamental and important thing, there exists in our maternity care system a systemic and pervasive misogyny that allows maternity caregivers to debase, abuse, destroy, demean, reduce, insult .... the women who come to them for care ... and this has to be ended! 

This systemic sexism is linked, of course, to the racism that we see around us to create a poisonous brew that is literally killing black women in the US ( 

In the past week, I've spoken to women all around the world. I've heard tragic and disgusting stories. Doctors are doing unspeakable things to women. Doulas and midwives are deciding to leave at random times, women are being left alone when they most need attendance. It should be no act of bravery to bear a child. What I mean, is, of course it is a brave and courageous act to make the jump to bear a child, but that act should not be met with conflict and derision on every front.

"They didn't even look at my birth plan."
"My midwife went out of the country."
"They botched the c-section and told me I could have a VBAC, but I couldn't because they had made a hole in my cervix."
"The midwife left when I went into surgery."
"The nurse broke my bone."
"I told them it still hurt but they didn't believe me."
"The doctor jumped on my stomach."
"They wouldn't tell me what was going on."
"They didn't believe me when I told them the baby was coming."
"They didn't believe me when I told them I was in labour."

The are real women with real voices, telling real stories. They suffer immense trauma and feel pain, and grieve their loss of self-esteem. And do you know what they do? They love their babies, and raise their children, with love.

Women deserve more. Speak out! Let's start to talk about our experiences ... it's time to stop the slaughter of birthing mothers (literally, in the case of Black women). It's time to birth on our own terms. We need to seek out birth attendants who put the birthing woman at the centre of the birth event; who treat women as they are: the bearer of children. The vessels of life. The nurturers of our babies.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Safe Birth?

These days, we have all become experts at reading articles in medical journals, or studies, and we casually use words like "exponentially" and "virus shedding" and "evidence-based". So, I am not going to go that route again, and quote this or that Cochrane review that will further convince you that I'm right. I don't even want to think in terms of who's right and who's wrong. I want to go deeper than that. Way deeper. I want to explore what makes birth sacred, and what keeps it sacred, and therefore safe.

I have witnessed three newborn deaths in my doula practice. Two in particular stand out for me. One took place in a birthing centre, and the birth was attended by midwives. I was the doula. When it was clear that the baby was in serious trouble, the midwives, in their fear and panic, became insensitive to the mother's emotional needs. They told me, the doula, to leave. Mother felt isolated, abandoned, and traumatized even more than she had to be. These midwives, don't get me wrong, did everything they should have done medically, to try to save baby's life. But they completely ignored the spiritual, emotional, transcendent nature of birth. Conversely, I was present when another baby died soon after birth in the hospital. The medical staff provided a space where the parents could hold their child and say goodbye. The parents wanted me there, so I hovered, as a good doula does. The fact that they even had spiritual needs was fully honoured by the doctor, the nurses, and the orderly. 

Both mamas lost their babies. Both mamas grieved. But both mamas were not traumatized for years. Because one mother felt safe during her birth experience, and the other did not.

So, what can we do to keep birth sacred? I believe if the sacred nature of birth is remembered at all times, then the attendants will be naturally drawn to keeping the mother safe at all times. Sacred. Just play with the letters a little bit. Scared. Being scared during childbirth is something that has a physiologic root. When our bodies release the stress hormones that initiate the "ejection reflex", our busy brains interpret those feelings as "scared". I have attended the most natural, undisturbed, physiologic births where I have seen the mother become afraid at that moment. It passes, it's transient because it's just a reaction to a physiologic event.

But I've also attended too many births where the birthing mother was actually afraid. She was actually made to feel afraid by the words or actions of her attendants. I often found my job as a doula to be one of shielding, holding the sacred space, creating a human sound barrier between the abusive staff and the birthing mama. Scared destroys sacred. It degrades sacred, pulls it down, tears it apart. Scared does not belong anywhere a mother is giving birth. Even if you're the primary attendant, and you are scared because of something that's happening, your priority is to keep that fear from entering the space.

If a birth attendant doesn't believe that birth itself is sacred, then we run into problems. If you think it's just another medical procedure, then it makes it more complicated. But every doctor knows that a happy patient heals quicker and better than an angry or lonely one. So even if we're not talking "sacred" because some people are scared by the word, we can still try to keep the birthing mother happy, right? And a happy mother feels safe.

Our maternity care system is broken. Too many women go into the experience with no understanding, and they trust their medical caregivers of course, because why not? And they are sadly betrayed. They're told all sorts of scary things: your baby is too big, you're too old, you have a something percent of this or that horrible thing happening, you won't be able to stand the pain, your baby is too small, you live too far for a home birth, there are no midwives, you have to pay $10,000 before you can even think of birthing here, and on and on. Many, many women give birth just fine within the medical system, often with the loving attendance of a doula. These women are a testament to the strength of the birthing mother. But too many do not give birth just fine. They leave the hospital or the birthing centre traumatized and confused. Some traumatic birthing experiences literally take years to recover from. Other women live their whole lives with feelings of inferiority and a damaged sense of worth. Still others spend their whole lives to make the birth experience sacred and safe for other women (Yours truly!). 

There is a growing number of women who are taking the situation into their own hands, and their own homes. They are saying "no" to maternity care that is based on fear, and they're giving birth on their own terms, in their own homes, with people around them who they trust. Keeping birth sacred. 

I don't believe a normal pregnancy and birth belongs in a hospital. Hospitals are places where you go when your health is at risk, or you need surgery. Normal birth is sacred and belongs at home. The undisturbed mother feels safe, and everyone around her participates in the sacredness of the event. This has become clear during the current crisis, where the role of the hospital has been clarified by the event. 

But if we bring birth home, where it belongs, then are we sacrificing another kind of safety? If we don't have midwives who are trained in the art and science of attending Sacred Birth, then every home birth will be a "freebirth". Which is fine for those mothers who want that. But many birthing women want to have someone present, who knows about the things that can and do happen during birth, when it is important to have someone attending who knows how to respond.  

I'm asking questions. I don't have practical answers yet. I am grateful for you doulas out there who are still attending births in the hospitals, and I strive to support you as much as I can. I am grateful to the birthing women I attended throughout my practice, who taught and continue to teach me so much about Sacred Birth. 

Let's talk this out! Let's strive for answers! Let's change birth and keep it Sacred!

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

I am Listening for a Heartbeat

When Ahmaud Arbery went for a run in February, he was shot and killed. In the running world, a global campaign went up to run 2.23 miles to remember his birthday, February 23, which was a few days after he died. Later, I noticed the #runwithmaud hashtag on my running feeds, so I checked it out.

On Instagram someone I follow had proudly posted a picture of a 2.23 mile run, with the hashtag. The comments were in the hundreds. Having time on my hands, more time than usual anyway, I scrolled down a little until I got to something interesting, and terrifying. There was actually a conversation going on about whether or not Arbery was a "real" runner, since according to the poster, he was wearing khaki shorts and boots (he wasn't, actually, but anyway). The conversation proceeded about "who is a runner?" and "do you have to wear fancy expensive clothing if you're a runner?" (By the way, the answer is no, you could run naked if you want.) No, but that's not the point, is it? The actual argument was: if he wasn't wearing "runner" clothes, and he was wearing "thief" clothes, then somehow that made it alright to shoot him twice in the chest? Because he was a Black man running?

Most people by now know about the most recently famous racist atrocity to come out of the U.S., and I'm sure there have been more in the interim, and before, and after. The fires are burning, the people are on the move, justice is being called for. Lives are at stake. We know that "I can't breathe" was not something someone said when they were ill with Covid19. We know that George Floyd was murdered by a white man, and that the end of his life he called out to his mother.

As a white person, in fact one of the last colonialists in Africa (I was born in Kampala in 1956, when it was part of a British Protectorate), I am fully aware of my privilege. I am also fully aware that, as a feminist, I am offended and supremely annoyed by the spectacle of a man declaring how much of a feminist he is, and explaining my politics to others. A man cannot understand why I am a feminist down to my core. That's that, end of discussion.

That discussion feeds my understanding of exactly how I should approach the movement, the resistance against racism (institutionalized and personalized), the demonstrations, the anger. I am not going to shout out my support. Neither will I say that racism goes both ways, or that it's us, the people, against them, the racists (and colour doesn't enter into it). No, I don't want to be in the limelight as that amazing white woman who supports Black Lives Matter. I don't need to fill the limelight so that the people who really have something to say are, again, silenced. 

We all posted a black square on Instagram today. With the unfortunate use of the hashtag #blacklivesmatter, we inadvertently covered up important information that is covered by that hashtag. I believe that is a metaphor for what white people are always doing, with our louder voices and our automatic membership in the club of privilege. 

I think we all need to take a good look at ourselves, an honest look with a touch of humour, and figure out what exactly we are doing with our support. Are you giving money? Or are you posting a selfie of yourself at a demonstration and taking up space? Are you providing care for your black friends, or are you proclaiming to everyone about how many black friends you have? Are you clarifying stuff for your white friends, or are you keeping quiet and letting black people speak?

So, here I am, with all my black, brown, yellow and beige friends, patting myself on the back and being oh so PC. But I really only wanted to say one thing: 

I worked as a birth attendant for twenty years. I've listened to hundreds of heartbeats; I have looked into the eyes of hundred of birthing mamas; I've witnessed hundreds of babies being born. Every single baby is a special being; every single birth is a miraculous event. We are born the same: naked, from our mother's wombs. From the moment we are born, we have the potential to love each other or not. Choose love! White mothers, it is up to you to teach your children well. A naked, tiny baby doesn't deserve to be taught how to hate. And a naked, tiny baby doesn't deserve to be hated. 

I'm not prepared to pat myself on the back right now so that I can feel better about how I'm not part of the problem. The problem is such a stinking, complicated mess that OF COURSE I am part of it. For what it's worth, I support the fight for justice, for peace, and against racism. I submit my support with the understanding that no one needs or wants it. That your anger may be greater than my "support". In the meantime, I'm going to continue to work towards a world where every baby can grow up loved, cherished and fulfilled. Where mothers of babies can be loved and honoured and valued. Where people are not measured by the colour of their skin. Let this pain be the final labour pain in the birth of a just world. 

I am dedicating this to the innocent black people killed in the US, and to the innocent babies who want to grow up free, and to the mothers who have lost their children, everywhere.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Support Your Local Business! Update!

and more...

On Friday, March 13, we had a nice busy morning. We cooked up a storm and prepared ourselves for a busy lunch rush, which never happened. We looked outside around noon and cars filled the street in front of the cafe, like it was the afternoon rush hour. That was the beginning. Everyone had been told to go home. We packed up the food and we, also, went home. Back at home, my son and my husband, both at different colleges, had also been sent home.

On Sunday, March 15, we came back to the cafe to give it a "final" cleaning. We figured we'd have to be closed for a couple of weeks, and we planned to keep cooking for take-out and delivery. Over the weekend, our wizard chef decided to come and live with us. He brought his 20 year old chihuahua, his pet fish  and his cooking skills. My nephew who was studying at McGill also moved in with us, and so our household started the long period of staying at home. 

We cooked - a lot! We ordered in groceries. My sons went out to get stuff we couldn't order in. We argued about safety measures. We cooked and ate, and made cocktails. I increased my weekly mileage, and kept up my 2020 run streak. One son started a new career project. The other tried to study film, without being able to attend class, or do group projects, or leave the house on public transit. Of the five of us, my husband was the only one who could continue working (prof). 

One thing I know for sure: Caffe della Pace will survive! But from riding high, being busy and having fun, we are now wondering how our cafe is going to adapt to the new world we are looking at. And we will adapt! We're good at it! Our cafe has grown organically since we opened - as our public grew and changed, so did we! 

And now, we need your support! We know that you miss hanging out with your friends, lovers, colleagues and family in our warm, welcoming space. We do too! But for the next little while, we will be accepting online orders, for pickup only, so that you can eat our lovely, loving food at home.

Check us out online, choose your meals, and come on down to the Peace Cafe where you will be welcomed with love; food ready; smiles ready ... until we can get back to our intimate, boisterous, warm, human way of cooking, serving and eating meals together.

We need you! And, come on, admit it, you need us! Share the news, check us out, get in touch! Stay safe, stay well, #spread love. 

Sunday, May 10, 2020

COVID19 in-house Day 56: The Corona Virus Blues

Like I said before, gratitude is a state of mind. But I'm not going to fall for the easy peasy lie-down-and-take-it bullshit that every cloud has a silver lining. So, no, I am not grateful for the Virus.

Today is "be grateful for V" day.

I'm not grateful for the Virus.

I'm grateful for the love that I have and share in abundance.

I'm not grateful that the Virus has killed tens and hundreds of thousands of people. Every single one of those people was born, and had a life and love.

I'm grateful for my health.

I'm not grateful that the Virus has appeared to reduce people's senses of compassion, love, and courtesy.

I'm grateful that I have a warm, comfortable house to hide in.

I'm not grateful that the Virus has put a huge strain on our health care systems, all over the world, and that our health care workers are suffering.

I'm grateful that I live in a country that has not taken advantage of the crisis for political maneuvers.

I'm not grateful that I haven't been able to visit two of my sons, and they can't visit me.

I'm grateful for the technology that allows us to "see" each other every day, if we want.

I'm not grateful that I have to close my cafe, which I love, for an unknown time.

I'm grateful I can survive financially.

I'm not grateful that I had to cancel my retreats ... and I paid back my deposits.

I'm grateful for the future, when I'll be back on my mountain.

Turn, turn, turn.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

COVID19 in-house Day 51: Grateful for W

I've been thinking about which "W" I should be grateful for. This has been one of my themes while I'm out running. I've been arguing with myself, not out loud I hope... Words? Women? Or Wine?

Back in 1991, when I was pregnant with my fourth son, we were looking for a farm to buy and live on. We were living in a medieval tower in a small village at the time ... yep, there it is. Long story, but anyway we moved into this tower with no anything except the ghost of the poor guy who had lived in the top floor and drank himself to death, and a lot of birds, and we fixed it up, got some electricity and running water, and made a bathroom and fixed the roof, and made friends with the village people and ... eventually sold it to an artist from LA... 

So, in March 1991 we found our farm and moved there. 7 acres, a vineyard, fields, a spring where I got our 18 litre jerry can of water every day, a pond for the ducks and geese and for the kids to almost drown in... and a big stone farmhouse, and all that.

What I am grateful for today is wine. Yes, we had a vineyard and we had all the fun connected to that: the vendemmia, the pruning in April, the days in the fall when we would go down and wander through and eat grapes, the hot smell of sulfur when it would be time to spray the vines to protect them against mold...

I am grateful for pleasure, and fun, and being together with friends and family, and good meals with a glass of wine, and I'm grateful for the earth, and for the vineyard that we had, and for grapes, those bundles of sunlight encased in skin and jelly, and I'm grateful for the smell of sulfur, and the smell of wormwood that rose up from the earth on long hot days in the summer.

I'm grateful for the smell of the grapes as they are being crushed, and then when they are being pressed ... the click, click of the press as it is turned ... I am grateful for the acrid sweet taste of the mosto ... and then the taste of the new wine in January.

And, mostly these days, I am grateful for the fleeting pleasures we are given. I've had so many, and uncountable, and undeserved I'm sure. Now, more than usual, I am conscious that we have to take pleasure in the "now", and fully open to the possibilities of the "now". I don't mean tumbling into hedonism. I mean living fully with what we have now. A small glass of wine with dinner. The smell of a freshly squeezed lemon, and the cold surprise of homemade lemonade. The crispness of an apple. The comfort of a piece of bread (coincidentally, I made an awful loaf yesterday ... it is now nourishing the compost bucket...). The warm goodness of soup. The taste of a frozen pizza, eaten while watching a cartoon.

Because? Everything passes. Our vineyard, just over an acre of mostly red San Giovese, and some white... well, that place got all bought up when we left and now it's swimming pools, fancy houses, summer terraces. No more chicken coop, pond, wheat fields... and the vineyard is getting covered by creeping forest.

So, today I am grateful for wine, friends, love, summertime, wintertime, dinner, breakfast ... I am grateful... and I'm hoping you are too. 

Thursday, April 30, 2020

COVID19 in-house Day 45: Grateful for X

I started a gratitude alphabet but I'm starting from the end of the alphabet and moving up towards the beginning. It seemed like a good idea in these topsy-turvy times.

Today's gratitude letter is "X".

What is X? X is all those times when you felt bad. The missed opportunities, the broken promises, the betrayals, the words said in anger, the lost friend, the sick child, the lies, the fear, the sneer and the disdain.

Oh, what? Why am I grateful for all these things?

Let me turn that around and ask: would I only be grateful for the "good" things? Should I only be grateful for the things that make me happy? The things that feel nice? 

Or is being grateful a state of mind and a quality of spirit that endures, anyway. In qualunque momento e ovunque. Anytime, anywhere. Because, fundamentally, being grateful implies that you are aware that there is a world that's bigger than you can know, and you are grateful for that world, and open to its possibilities, to the extent that you admit that although sometimes the possibilities are manifest in an unpleasant or downright horrific and traumatic way, you decide to remain open, and to remain grateful.

Grateful for X means that I accept that awful and horrible things can happen in my life, or I can witness those things happening in the lives of others, and I don't have to either pretend they're not happening, or allow those things to destroy my belief in the power of love. 

No, I'm not talking about "everything happens for a reason." Reason has nothing to do with it. People with an intense, firmly rooted religious life might be able to believe that everything that happens to them is part of God's plan. This isn't a reasonable choice, that is, it isn't based on reason: it's a choice based on faith. You decide to have faith, and then you just have it, come what may.

It's the same with gratitude. Like a long marriage, I'm not going to only stay with my spouse when things are fun, sexy, and fulfilling. I'll also stick around when my spouse is acting badly (I'm not talking about actual abuse here), has the flu, gets old, or is having a life crisis. I will decide to be grateful, and then I'll just be grateful. I'm not only going to be grateful for the good, wonderful, fulfilling things that I receive. I have to be grateful for the whole bundle, or my gratitude isn't worth anything at all.

How do we continue to be grateful in these difficult times? I'm disturbed today. It's pouring out, so the streets are empty which means I can go for my 8 k run, so I'm grateful that I can run. But I have things on my mind: a friend lost her child last week - why? Why should someone who escaped persecution and death in Syria, who fled through Turkey, survived the rubber dinghy ride over to Greece, survived the camps, .... then lose a child in his sleep? I can worry endlessly about my kids for various valid and not valid reasons. I worry about my running buddy who is recovering from chemo. Of course, there's this virus out there that is not a hoax or a conspiracy, but is actually a dangerously infectious virus that can kill people. There's another thing to torment me.  I'm worried about my business: when can we open? How will we open? How will I hear what people are saying if they're wearing masks? (I'm a little hard of hearing and often rely on lips).

But I HAVE to be grateful. For the good things, and for the snakes and toads. 

Grateful for the flaws, the dark patches, the cracks, the scars. Grateful for lessons. Grateful for the black crow, glasses too full, mysteries. 

Monday, April 27, 2020

COVID19 in-house Day 43: Normal? Who Needs It!

Today's gratitude letter is "y".

I was going to make "y" stand for "Yes!". I was going to write about acceptance. The beautiful messages behind the rainbows and "รงa va bien aller". How we need to submit to the reality we are living, gracefully. How the very act of being grateful for what we have is a radical act.

Yes, this is all true.

But what about the "why" of Y? 

This crisis is giving some of us an unprecedented opportunity to ask "why"? Of course, people who are struggling to avoid violence, feed their families, and find shelter do not have the luxury of asking thoughtful questions. Their struggle is real, and it is getting more extreme the longer the pandemic forces them to stay home, or gives their oppressors a chance to exert power over them.

But many of us can, and should, ask why. I don't mean the little "whys". The questions about the details of our lives: the legislations, the rules, the changes, even the source of the virus and why it is happening now, in our lifetime ... these are important questions, to be sure.

Our lives right now are handing us a golden opportunity to ask WHY? What habits have I been living my life by, that I now have an opportunity to examine? What decisions have I made over the years that have left me feeling uncomfortable, and why did I make those decisions? Why have I not done what I considered to be the right thing? Why do I continue to live a life that I do not love and cherish? What is stopping me from changing my life, radically, if I decide that I want to pursue a different path? After all, we have just proven to ourselves, over the past few weeks and months, that we can actually make radical changes in our lives and still be happy, and creative, and productive.

Why would we want to go back to the old normal? Why would we want to get back on to the rat track, the spinning wheel of busyness where we don't see each other very often, we never eat together at home, we don't have time to cook, or clean, or spend time with our children, or sit and think and stare at the sky. 

I'm not talking about deciding to start a whole career change, at fifty, because you're bored. That's the easy way out. I'm talking about the more difficult questions: What does it mean that I have children and how much time to I really want to spend with them? How is it possible for me to live with this romantic partner for our whole lives if I can't stand to be stuck in the house with them for longer than a few weeks? What are my coping strategies and how self-destructive are they?  

What if you find out that you actually love staying home and you want to figure out a way to do so? What if you realize that you always find the most miserable approach to any stressful situation? What if you find out that you don't actually love being around people? What if you know, finally, what you've always wanted to do? And now that your mortality has suddenly become a little closer, you realize that you are just going to do it. 

Or not. You may decide to sit on the knife edge for the duration. Constantly reaching crossroads that you don't know how to navigate. Shooting from the hip, saying things out of turn, making new enemies and friends at the drop of a hat. 

You may decide you have had enough, that as soon as this is over (What is "this"?) you will head out, leave everyone behind, change your name and never come back. 

You may realize that everything you've been doing so far is an illusion; that life is suffering; that you have no use; that the world will continue without you as it always has. 

Think about it: what do you want to do? Shall we return to "normal"? Or shall we try to create something from nothing? 

All questions; no answers. I've never been one to tell people what to do; I was a hands-off midwife, always turning the questions of "what should I do?" back to the person asking, so that she could learn her true path. Because, really, you are the midwife of your own life. I am just here to remind you that NOW is the time that you can grasp on to a new way of being. Our window is only open for a little while. Far too soon, the world will be with us again, with its temptations of consuming and rushing and giving away our freedom. 

What shall we do?

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

COVID19 in-house Day 37: Time for Gratitude

It's time for another gratitude alphabet! When you're feeling low, and tired, like there's not enough light to go around, that's the best time to start a gratitude alphabet... but this time I'm going to start at the end and work backwards to the beginning.

So, today I am grateful for Z! Why do I love Z? Because the very last letter of the alphabet reminds me that it's ok to be last.

Ok, I wasn't actually last when I ran my first marathon in 2018... but I was pretty close to it. And I was triumphant!!! Because I finished. All my weeks, days and hours of training meant that I could actually run the 26 miles I set to run.

Z is also for ZZZZ, that is, sleep! Sleep cannot be overrated! It doesn't matter when you sleep: I am a night owl and always will be, even though for a while my life dictated that I awake at 6:30 to get to my cafe on time. But if I could, I would stay awake most of the night and sleep in the morning.

Sleep is the gift we have that allows us to live our wild and holy lives. It has basic benefits: makes time for the body to renew and rejuvenate. Lets the mind rest and process. But why do we sleep? What do we need when we are sleeping? Why do you die if you don't get enough sleep - and first you go insane? Quick answer: we don't know. 

The ancient Greeks believed that the sleep god was named "Hypnos,and the dream gods, the Oneiroi. Hypnos was related to very ancient deities of darkness; his mother Nychta (night), his twin brother Thanatos (death) and his sons the Oneiroi (dreams) who dwelled “past the gates of the dead.”"

As a runner, I know that when I'm training for a race I need to rest my body more than usual. My body needs that time to repair the damaged muscle fibres that are the core of the training process. When I sleep more, I feel better, I run better, I think better ... and I am better equipped to be grateful! 

Right now, many of us have been given a chance to lie fallow. It's time (for many of us) to slow, rest, stay still. I know many mothers of young children who are frantically trying to "home school". Nope, don't do it. Not necessary. Stay still. Get bored. Sit with them all and tell a story. You can do it - just because you've had them in day care forever doesn't mean you've lost the ability to mother. Some of us are frantically trying to learn new skills. Let's see what creative dish I can make today, even though all I want is toast and peanut butter. Learning some quantum physics in your spare time?

Be grateful for the chance to still and listen to that small voice. Are you bored? Good.

Monday, April 20, 2020

COVID19 in-house Day 35: Marathon

Training for a marathon is fun, but it isn't easy. This time I didn't download a program like I did in 2018 (Fredricton). Neither did I download a bunch of programs and move back and forth and get all frazzled, like I did in 2019 (Edinburgh). I just use my Runkeeper app marathon training program, for someone who can train 7 days a week and wants to finish in around five hours. Easy peasy.

Well, of course, it isn't easy peasy to run 42.195 kilometers without practising for it. So that's what I'm doing. My race got cancelled - Ottawa Marathon - and so I'm going virtual and I plan to run around a mile loop next to my house, 26 times.

It's going to be fun! My family will be hanging out on the porch with water, Nuun, Rekarb maple syrup gels, orange slices and bits of banana. They'll have the music blaring, and they'll take a pic of me every time I pass. The last mile, they're all gonna run with me, even my dog (who's been my running buddy throughout the winter).

I often try to apply my marathon experience to my daily life. If I'm at the cafe and it's 3:30 pm, and we've has a busy day, and I still have a ten k, and I have a mountain of dishes, and we had a bunch of rude customers, I just breathe and imagine I am at mile 20. I know I can run 42 k, so small things shouldn't matter, right? I am luckier than the huge majority of 63 year olds ever anywhere, and I can still run and move and all that.

Of course, this new challenge is a little more complicated. But humans are eternally adaptable, and we are adapting as well as we can to the situation. I see so many people every single day who are fighting against angst and despair, by giving to others, taking care of their own, taking care of themselves, remembering their social responsibility, trying to do good. 

The Covid19 marathon is different: we don't know the distance, we don't know who will DNF, we don't know its rules, the course, we don't have a GPS to tell us the way or volunteers to give us water. The virus has its own rules and only nature knows what the final score will be. Except that nature doesn't actually care. So we, the runners, just have to do our best, put one foot in front of the other, take care, take care. 

My training is going well. I have all the time in the world to run, as I've closed my cafe for now. I'm running faster. Sleep helps. Stress doesn't, and of course I am stressed. When can we open again? What will it be like? How safe can we make our space? But the good thing about running is that part of the deal is you don't give yourself time to think and ponder. The body takes over. 

Some practical tips for training during this time:

  • Lower your expectations. Everyone is living with added stress, some more than others. You may find you're needing more sleep, eating differently, and of course if you're an essential worker then - we love you! - you are battling fatigue. While it's usually a great idea to push through in normal times, it may be better when you're trying to stay mentally and physically healthy to ease up a bit on yourself.
  • Stay safe!! That computer simulation that went viral had some validity: infected slipstream snot could theoretically reach and infect an unmasked person up to ten meters behind them. ("For walking at 4 km/h a distance of about 5 m leads to no droplets reaching the upper torso of the trailing runner. For running at 14.4 km/h this distance is about 10 m. This implies that if one assumes that 1.5 m is a social distance to be maintained for two people standing still, this value would have to be increased to 5 m or 10 m for slipstream walking fast and slipstream running, respectively, to have a roughly equivalent non-exposure to droplets as two people standing still at 1.5 m distance. This leads to the tentative advice to walkers and cyclists that if they wish to run behind and/or overtake other walkers and runners with regard for social distance, they can do so by moving outside the slipstream into staggered formation when having reached this distance of about 5 m and 10 m for walking fast and running, respectively.") 
  • Stay safe!! Don't run trails or neighbourhoods that you would avoid, just so you can run alone. The Covid crisis has already created a huge increase in gender-based violence; women running solo, be aware!
  • If you have extra time on your hands, move your schedule around if you feel like it. If you're not feeling the long run, don't do it. This is a time for introspection, change, loosening. 
  • Strength training, yoga classes, meditation are all available online if you want to learn some new skills that will keep you running strong.
  • Don't dwell on the disappointments. Yip, all our spring and early summer races are cancelled. It sucks. We've lost money. It sucks. Let it go.

I'm planning on running my marathon on May 24, 2020.  For each mile I run, I'm going to ask my friends, family and others to donate a dollar. I have created a campaign to raise money to distribute food in Luwero, Uganda, to the most vulnerable families who cannot eat because of their lockdown restrictions.

I'm asking you all to send me your suggestions: if you have a campaign or a charity that you think is valuable, please let me know! Let's help others, by running around a city block!

Monday, April 13, 2020

COVID19 in-house Day 28: Risky Behaviour

When life hits you sideways with a truck, you get back on your feet as well as you can, make the best of it, or you die. I'm here to tell the story, didn't die yet, and I'm thinking about clever advice I could hand out on the social media.

So I'll tell you this: trauma breeds trauma. 

We're all born into it. Catecholamines are produced, along with cortisol, in both the fetus (and the newborn) and the mother before, during, and after childbirth. These hormones, known popularly as "stress hormones", allow the newborn's body to adjust to the rigors of life on earth. This happens metabolically, whether the baby is born in water, in air, or on a surgical table. Actually, catecholamine levels are higher in babies born vaginally, because those babies are born "physiologically" and have a physiologic reaction to being born, which helps them breathe.

Birth is risky. That doesn't mean we should rush to the hospital and get fixed up with intravenous pipelines if we are giving birth. But it IS risky, for mother and child. Life is too. In fact, the older you get, the higher your chance is that you will die sooner. Of course, parents are usually around to protect the young ones from behaviours or events that are too risky, but they can't be around all the time, and sometimes they just aren't.

I've lived a pretty risky and interesting life, in all sorts of ways, and miraculously I've survived, like that old Timex watch from television commercials a lifetime ago. I must have at least nine lives (there was that time when we were crossing the railway bridge, and the guy with the shotgun... then the year I travelled through Africa solo, oh, and the drug mule thingy...), and I don't know which life I'm on now, but some of my more scary moments are tending to pop up in front of me these days, and I kind of want to wear bubble wrap (but you can't run in bubble wrap!).

In these surreal days, we are faced with mortality: our own, our friends' and loved ones', random strangers'. We are trying to #staysafe. Trying to #stayhealthy. We are told to #stayhome. We are talking about numbers, risks, science, masks, ventilators, viruses, pneumonia, sickness, plagues. We are blaming: the Chinese, Bill Gates, the Jews, Trump, the government. We are all doing our best.

And we're worrying. And as we worry, our stuff is going to rise to the surface. When we are robbed of our busyness and our schedules, we have time for our demons to rise up and confound us. Some of us have tame demons, some of us don't.

My demons decided to haunt me this week, and the only way I could put them at rest was to keep on running. And I don't mean that metaphorically. I started a run streak on December 31, 2019. I run at least a mile a day: so far in 2020 I've run over 400 k. 

When I run, I can feel my body working. I know that I'm alive, I'm good, I'm okay. My lungs are strong because of the mountain air I used to breathe when I wandered in the Rockies. My frame is strong: farm work and five babies helped with that. And thankfully, when I'm running, my mind goes into low power mode and my imagination stops streaming, and my spidery thoughts relax and spin pretty webs.

I'm not suggesting y'all go out and start running - far from it! In fact, I wish y'all would stay home like you used to, so that I can have the sidewalks to myself again. I'm just letting you know - those of you who can't understand why ghosts from the past are haunting you, or why old angers or sadnesses are reliving themselves in your mind, or why you might feel like crying for no reason - I'm letting you know that you are not alone. 

And if you see an old lady with a gnarly look zooming down the road, or down the trail, stay away - she's chasing demons!

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

COVID19 in-house Day 24: Spiritual Awakening

On my run yesterday I passed a young woman visiting her grandparents. They were tucked up comfortably on lawn chairs just outside their front door. She was sitting on a camping chair on the sidewalk, chatting and visiting with them. A lovely, normal and bizarre sight in the times of the modern plague year.

Here in my household we are preparing for Passover. This is a holiday that has some pretty weird echoes with our situation right now. I'll get back to that. For now, I'll say that all seven of us in our "nuclear" (read "nuclear explosions") family have different religious beliefs, ranging from atheist to secular, to very observant. I sit on the sidelines with my Earth Mama placard and my deep understanding of We as One and my conviction that Nature is a Terrible Beast and somehow tapestried into and with the Divine.

So there we go.

During the Passover Seder, we speak of the Jews' escape from their lives in Egypt to a brave new world across the desert. Themes such as plague, authority, compassion, cleanliness, restrictions, food, mathematics, and freedom enter into the evening, as well as concepts of what childhood means, how we categorize each other and our children, and most of all, Order. The whole evening follows a particular order that has been so since the beginning of the holiday, and we recite it at the beginning of the evening and we move through each step carefully.

Right now, we are living through a time where all of these themes are radically in play. I feel like I am spinning on the knife edge. Plague? We are living it. We have unleashed a plague upon ourselves that is killing many and creating confusion, suffering, and possibly a new order but possibly not.

Authority? Yes, authority is playing a big part in our lives right now. Do we do as the government asks? Do we believe them? Is it right for police to enter your house without a warrant? Who in a household has the right to tell others what to do, if everyone has different ideas about social distancing and hygiene? What do we tell or kids, when we have no control any more?

Compassion! Now is the time above all to be compassionate - to others, but also to ourselves. Ugly thoughts have swam up from my deeps over the past three weeks, I'm sure they've done the same for many. When someone acts with anger right now, try to drape them in light and move on. When you're had enough with yourself and want a break, take a walk outside of your mind and give yourself some compassion. Be compassionate of others; take social responsibility and keep your distance, wear a mask, stay healthy if you can.

Cleanliness! We are ordered to be clean! So before the Passover week we spend weeks cleaning the house, getting rid of breadcrumbs, making our living quarters sparkling clean. And now, even more so, during this pandemic, it is so important to be conscious of cleanliness. Wash your hands, as often as you can. Wipe stuff down, donate money to projects that are providing hand sanitizer and soap to marginalized communities. Don't touch your face, be conscious about what you bring into your house.

Restrictions: During the eight days of Passover, we are not supposed to eat any grain that can be leavened. And we eat Matzah which is a cracker made with flour and no yeast. These restrictions have been made light of, and they've been made heavier, depending on the personality of the people following them, or the religious establishment they belong to. You can actually go so far as to bleach your dentures (a true story) or you can just do a Seder on the first night and ignore it the rest of the time. That's the thing with religious restrictions in a liberal democracy: no one will cut off your head if you don't follow the rules. But actually, if you flagrantly ignore the restrictions put in place around Covid19, then there's a good chance that you and yours will get sick, and maybe even die.
Which is kind of creepy because it begs the question, that religious people might ask, whether following the earthly rules and not dying is more valuable than following the divine rules, getting sick, and dying. Conspiracy theorists also may follow this twisted logic. I figure, like I said a month ago, best to pray to Allah AND tie your damn camel to a tree.

Food! We eat ceremonial foods during the Seder, but we don't actually get to eat our meal until it's over, in our house that's usually around midnight at least. We prepare the food very carefully, washing it well. And of course our menu is completely changed around because we don't eat any grains or seeds. Zero. It's pretty interesting from a cooking point of view, and challenging. Luckily, since we are in stay-at-home mode, we have the wizard chef living in the basement ( his partner is in Italy, living through the plague there). And this year, everyone is cooking and experimenting with how to cook from scratch and make stuff you've been buying for years. Not only that, food and suffering has become a huge problem in places where every meal has to be struggled for. People are hungry, in Africa, in the Middle East, in Asia, and in your own back yard.

Mathematics? There's a weird couple of pages in the Seder book where we start talking about mathematically how many plagues there actually were the year the Jews escaped from slavery. The echoing across the centuries is bizarre: everyone is reading about statistical this and that: how are we flattening the curve? New cases? Deaths? Which country is better and why? Testing? What percent? Age groups?

And Freedom! Freedom? Where is our freedom? How is our freedom? From an illusion of freedom under advanced capitalism where many of us thought that freedom was about being able to buy stuff and experience stuff, we are being forced to recognize that we don't have any freedom at all, really. Some of us believe that the whole pandemic experience is being used to whittle away at our social freedoms. I don't believe that. I think everyone is scared shitless, and they're all just scrambling.

I do know, however, that my most frightening and scary times were the times when I experienced a sort of freedom, and those moments were the ones when my intense conviction that there is a Creator, there is a purpose, my purpose is love .... when that conviction was born. And giving birth to a deep knowledge is no less painful and ecstatic than giving birth to a human. When I wandered, alone, in the mountains when I was very young, I was afraid, but I also knew that my survival was not in my hands. Was the moose who walked next to me with its calf taking care of me? Possibly. Was anything taking care of me? Possibly not.

I don't know what's going to happen. If I'm going to get sick and die. If we all are (unlikely, says the scientist in me). I'm lucky, I've had a huge life so far. You don't know what's going to happen either, so dig deeper, and find yourself. Give to others, break your rules. Stay home. Stay healthy. Call a friend.

Dive down, people. It's all we have. Love each other. Embrace the tumbling down of all the things you knew to be true. #spreadthelove #freedom

Monday, April 6, 2020

COVID19 in-house Day 22: Birth and Choice

My dear friend Syd reminded me of something the other day when she suggested we all stop talking about "lockdown". Lockdown is something that happens is prisons. It's a scary situation when all of your freedoms are taken away. What we in Canada are living through now, most of us anyway, isn't that. It's scary and several of our taken-for-granted freedoms have been curtailed, but we are not in "lockdown".

I would like to take a minute to think about all the people who have had their lives deeply shaken by this pandemic: some people have lost their lives, others have lost loved ones. Some people's futures are changed beyond recognition, other people's present lives are changing as quickly as thought. In some countries, the biggest risk is starvation because there's no way to get out to get food and no way to make a living. In others, people are struggling to get by on what little they have.

But all of us in this world, together, are living through this historical event, whether we like it or not. We all have to figure out creative ways to live, to rise up to the new challenges we are faced with. Here in Montreal, most of the people I know are staying home, except for the health workers amongst them. Those brave souls are out in the hospitals and clinics, keeping us healthy, providing for the sick, and juggling their own lives and families with the needs of others.

I worked as a birth attendant for twenty years, and I trained doulas for fifteen of those years. One of the qualities I always valued in a student doula was flexibility. If a doula has that quality of making virtue of necessity; if she can take a challenging situation and make the best of it, then I am confident that she will provide the very best care for her clients. It's tough, sometimes, when a client wants her birth to go a certain way, and you as her doula know that it's unlikely that it's going to go that way. It's tough when your client is going to birth in a hospital where you know that the protocols don't "fit" with her beliefs about birth, or when things take a turn and interventions are needed. In these situations, I teach my doula students a few main lessons.

The first one is: when you and your client enter into the hospital, you are entering someone else's home. In the hospital, you don't make the rules. When you're in someone else's "home", you follow their rules. When your client is in labor is not the time to try to change the rules. A birthing woman should not have to spend her labor time battling with her attendants. She should have a realistic idea of what will happen. If she doesn't agree with the rules, then she should make other arrangements.

The second rule is: as the doula, you are there to support your client throughout the journey. In every scenario, with whatever tools you have at your disposal. Again, now is not the time to argue with the medical staff. Now is the time to concentrate on accompanying your client as best as you possibly can, so that their experience will be positive.

The third rule is: love your clients, love the staff, love the birth experience, love the baby. The more love you can spread around, the better.

Two major maternity wards (also here) in Montreal announced this week that because of Covid19, patients giving birth would not be allowed to bring anyone into the birth room. Not a doula, not a partner, not a mother. This has sparked a huge controversy and many people are angry, many are worried about how their birth will unfold, and petitions and news articles are all over the social media.

I do understand how scary it is to give birth alone. I've done it, in a foreign country, and it's not pleasant. (Actually, that's an understatement. It's traumatic and awful. But I didn't have a doula, and I didn't speak the language.) I believe that the maternity care system here in Quebec is broken: it's been broken for a long time - there aren't enough midwives; the laws around midwifery care were badly conceived; the maternity wards are understaffed and overly restrictive. In twenty years, I've heard many, many awful stories about giving birth in Quebec.

But this is the worst time to start to fix it. The worst time to try to change it. The worst time to push against a policy that actually will save lives.

It's a difficult time to give birth. It's a difficult time to stay alive. It's even a difficult time to die, as funerals are restricted. But this is a time when we can use all the resources we have to make our experiences better. So, doulas, I am calling out to you to do your very best work, and prepare your clients with love and compassion so that they can look forward to their birth with joy, and they can enter the hospital knowing that, yes, they will be cared for. The nurses are in fact there to care. You will be FaceTiming them from your home, guiding your client with your voice, letting them know that you love them, that they're doing a great job... using all the skills and creative tools at your disposal in the trying times.

After this is over, let's fight together for decent maternity care! Let's make a note that, yes, maybe hospitals should be for sick people and birth belongs somewhere else. Let's fight for more midwives, for more birthing centres, for an understanding of pregnancy as a normal, healthy event. But let's save that fight for later. For now, let's try to live together, with love. Doulas, be creative! Use your voice to provide support for your clients, where they are.

In these complicated and challenging times, let's pool our resources to work together! Spread the love!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

COVID19 in-house Day 17: Do the Right Thing ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ

This post is all about how we are treating each other, as we all hunker down throughout Canada to weather this storm. I just found out today that eight people I know, including some kids I helped get born, are sick with Covid19. This is real. I hope everyone reading this is staying safe, staying home, spreading the love, and honouring our essential workers.

I run a small vegetarian cafe.  I'm looking forward to retiring, but I'll probably have to work longer than I planned because of this pandemic and the financial fallout that will follow. I attended births for twenty years and I was founder and director of a charity here in Montreal that provided free doula services for marginalized families. We received very little funding: every so often a paying client would donate $500 or so. To clarify, I know I'm very wealthy compared to most of the planet's inhabitants. I also know how to run a charity, and I know how to run a sustainable, successful, and ethical business.

So I am confused about the decision of the Ottawa Marathon to propose only two options following the cancellation of the 2020 race. Those are: 1. run a virtual race and get your bling or 2. get a 50% off next year's race. No refund, no free deferral, no fall race.

Here's why these two options don't work:

  1. Let's start with the virtual race option. I registered for the marathon. I'm not training heavily right now, because I don't want to put my body at any risk. I'm keeping my runs at two hours max, which for me means less than 20k. So how would I run a virtual marathon without any training? Also, when would I run it? As soon as this is over I will be working like crazy getting my business back on track, I won't have time to train. And, if I wanted to run a virtual marathon I wouldn't have bothered spending $160.00 to register for the race; I would have just run 42 k around the city.
  2. The second option? I don't think anyone would actually pay 150% for a postponed race. Really? You would? 
  3. Now let's look at the business side of it. As a small business owner, I also host events and retreats. I have money put down for my retreats in Italy this summer. Guess what? They're not going to happen. I will not be making the money I hoped to make, but you can be sure that the money that I already received as NON REFUNDABLE deposits will be paid back to anyone who asks. Why? Because it's good business to care about your clients. Because then they will be back. And hey! Because we are experiencing a worldwide pandemic and we should treat each other well. 
  4. The whole charity argument also confuses me. I'm assuming that the donations are made from the day that registration opens. So I'm assuming that all the donations get put somewhere until the race is over and they get paid out? So I'm guessing Scotiabank has a little stash somewhere of all the donations? And they might be racking up some decent interest? Couldn't that money be used to pay back the registrants?
  5. I've only run two marathons so far, and I just checked out what they're doing. The Edinburgh Marathon is also cancelled for May 2020, and they are also receiving a lot of criticism about how they're handling it. The Fredericton Marathon  offers three options: defer for free to 2021; receive a 50% refund; do the virtual race.
Bottom line? The Ottawa Marathon should offer a full refund or a free deferral for all of its registrants. Or, offer an option where we can donate our registration fee to a charity of our choice. It's the right thing to do. We are all in this together. Some of us will get sick, a small percentage of us will die: how isn't the time to make money on the backs of others. We paid money for a product, please do the right thing! 

Stay home. Stay safe. Keep running!

Monday, March 30, 2020

COVID19 in-house Day 14: Tilt

A friend called me today. Her husband ripped the island out of the kitchen floor and threw it at her. Another friend last week was worried about the revolution, the final solution, and the birds. Yet another is working ten hours a week in a busy grocery story because she is worried she will lose her job if she stays home.

I love my friends and worry about them. And my heart is with the people who literally have no where to go, let alone anywhere to wash their hands, and with the women and children who are living with abusers, and with those of us whose reality is too hard to bear.

We are all suffering, but in very different ways. I live in Canada, where our government is acting effectively and compassionately to help the people. We are cooped inside, but our house is large, warm, and we have food. I'm surrounded by people who love me, I have good internet: I can talk to my family, friends and the other people I care about. But still, but still. My world, and your world, has been turned upside down. My cafe is closed, my races are cancelled, my projects are kaput, and ... yes, I'm scared and anxious a lot of the time.

Here are some suggestions for coping with our collective distress. If you are living with someone violent, or you are feeling very sick, or you're in an extreme situation, then you have my love and all my sympathy. These suggestions are for us pansies who are living on the edge, some of us for the first time in our lives. And just to make it very clear, those of you who have informed me that this pandemic is a manmade plot, propaganda, or a message from God, this advice probably isn't for you.

Admit it. You're scared. What can you actively do to make it feel better?

  • reduce the scary input. You don't need to read the stories online or on the social media. Assign one person in your household to read and report the important news. Important means that it has an actual effect on your life. If you are the only person in your household, then pick one reliable news source to give you the relevant news and stay away from the rest. Your government health ministry, Harvard, and the WHO are the best sources of real news.
  • do your social media apps nourish you or frustrate you? I decided two days ago to ignore Facebook and Twitter, and to keep posting on Instagram. Posts on Facebook were leading me either to anger or despair, and the funny one-liners and friendly posts didn't balance it out. My friends can always find me on all three of the text messaging apps I have, or they can actually call me on any of the four phone apps I have, or send an email. Twitter is even more dangerous for me because my bs-ometer was malfunctioning so I was telling a lot of people they were fuckwits. They might be but it was not my best version.
  • practice gratitude. Yes. Just practice being grateful for what you have. It's that easy.

So how can I connect if I'm off Facebook and Twitter, and I don't have my work or my friends or colleagues to hang out with?

  • call your people! You can talk on the phone! That's what we did before the internet. 
  • make a list of people you care about. Send them a message and find out how they're doing.
  • find a virtual something to do, and do it. There are free classes, races, groups, activities, all out there in the virtual world. Get involved!
  • if you are talented at something, consider sharing it online. Get creative!
What to do when the inevitable melt-down happens? We have been in house for two weeks now. There are five of us, ranging in age from 18 to 63. Three of us have online school, one teaching, two learning. Two of us have no work. We have had about five meltdowns that I know of so far. My nephew is not used to living in a large loud family that drinks a lot and yells. He's had some adjusting. My two sons are both having to live without seeing their partners. I'm used to being in boy land but sometimes I like to have a woman to hang out with (not the dog). Even thought she is very cute and a great companion, especially these days.
We also have an incontinent, deaf and blind twenty-year old chihuahua and a fish. 

Meltdown suggestions:

  • try to avoid them. Don't let stuff get bottled up and ready to explode. Person pick his nose at the table? Tell him nicely not to touch his FUCKING FACE. Seriously, though, we decided that when things feel odd it's probably a good time to have a meeting. We decided that choices about health and safety need to be talked through until a unanimous agreement was reached. This gives everyone the chance to have some control over their life, at least in the limited environments we are living in.
  • try to schedule times when each person can be alone and silent. Even if it means that you head to the bathroom with your phone for an hour, alone time has to be respected. Everyone is dealing with their fear.
  • if someone seems odd, ask them about it.

If you live alone and you feel like screaming, scream. 

  • take a shower or a bath. If you can go out, take a walk or a run. 
  • write it down. Call someone. 
  • if there's no one, and you can't think of anything to do, then don't do anything. Just lie down and stare at the ceiling. You may want to cry. That's ok. If you were drinking or smoking weed before the quarantine, allow yourself to have a drink or whatever. If you're sober, STAY SOBER! Find a virtual group and stick with it - it could save your life and will certainly save your sense of self-worth.

Meltdown with kids:

For some of us, this is the first time you have actually been in-house for hours and days at a time with your kids. It can be tough, especially when the kids are used to going to school every day. Meltdowns will happen. Older kids may decide they absolutely need to go outside to see their friends. Younger kids will have their regular old meltdowns. Just remember, go easy on them. Home school doesn't have to imitate school. You don't have to achieve at educating your kids at this time. Take the time to be with them, and ease off on expectations. At our house, even though we are all adults, we have fuck-off hour when everyone fucks off and does stuff on their own. Kids can do that too. And getting bored? Part of life! 

Are you, the adult, melting down? Get the older kids to watch the younger ones, or if they're all too small to take care of themselves, put them somewhere safe for a minute and have your meltdown. You'll be fine. You'll survive. You can do hard things. 

Think about it, though, and maybe go deeper into your meltdown and try to discover what stage of grieving you are at.

denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance

These are the five stages of grief. Most people who experiences a loss will go through these emotional stages, at different speeds and at different intensities. I was in denial when the pandemic first started. Although as a health care worker I knew that we had to be more careful, I didn't look with open eyes at how bad it actually was. Then when I realized, I acted quickly and became angry. Irritated. I was angry at everyone, pretty much. I felt betrayed and let down. I've just reached the bargaining stage, I think. I've cleaned up a bunch of things in my life, stopped complaining, got rid of the social media, stopped being angry .... and do I want to prize in return? Like life back to normal? Probably.

Practical suggestions: take control of the small things

  • if you normally get up at a certain time, try getting up at the same time to keep the rhythm 
  • don't stay in your jammies all day unless it makes you feel good. Wear what makes you happy! If you normally wear makeup and jewelry, go for it! And your hair? Well, yeah. I don't know. I look like a racoon right now. Brows ... DIY ... ๐Ÿ˜
  • if you're stuck at home and you can't do your actual work because its one-on-one, think up something to do that uses those skills. Here's project that a Toronto photographer thought up: Windows. She did all of this from her tiny rural home.
  • keep fit! You don't have to run a marathon on your balcony, but you do have to get some exercise. If you're taking care of kids, you will probably keep pretty active. If not, make sure you take some time to move: dance, walk around, find an exercise video online and get moving! 
  • if you're ordering in your groceries, make a menu before you order so that you can make different dishes each day. If you don't know how to cook, now's the time to learn! If a dish looks too complicated to make, it probably is. Find an online cooking blog that suits your taste and your level of skill.
  • make a schedule for yourself, make a list, make some goals. Is there something you always wanted to do? Something modest, that you can do at home ... sewing, that knitting project you started, singing, writing ... gaming, coding...

The bottom line

I realized something the other day that stopped me in my tracks. I was angry. I was irritated with everyone around me and everyone I was meeting online. I was upset with my kids. I was also pretty annoyed at myself, basically, I thought I was a useless sack of shit.

And then I thought: yes, you could have it. Your throat scratchy? You have a light cough? Maybe. Yes, I could have it. You could have it. Any one of us could have it. Any of us could die at any time, and that is more real than ever before, for the huge majority of us. 

So do I want to live what could be my last days in a cloud of anger and irritability, like a crabby old bitch in her rocking chair? Or do I want to enjoy my life, all of it, right up until the very end?

It's up to you.