Monday, February 16, 2009

Brand New Day

"Stand up, all you lovers in the world / Stand up and be counted, every boy and every girl / Stand up, all you lovers in the world / We're starting up a brand new day"

Happy President's Day, fellow Americans! President Obama has been in office for nearly a month now and he has wasted no time in bringing the change he talked so much about during his campaign. I was really impressed that in just his first week, Obama had cleared the way for advances in stem-cell research, ordered Guantanamo Bay to be closed within a year, and reversed an anti-abortion policy. Seriously, did he even stop to have lunch? I hope he at least paused for a smoothie or a SPAM musubi or something and stretched out his executive-order-signing hand. Don't get a cramp, Mr. President! You have four more years to go!

It seems like it's been forever since Obama’s acceptance speech on election night. I was foolishly trying to have a Tuesday Craft Night, but only ten minutes into it, I was done. As soon as the radio announcer said, "Barack Obama is the new President of the United States," I dropped my curling scissors and rushed upstairs. I turned the TV to CNN and called to Dusty, who brought Diana to join us on the couch. As expatriates living in Canada, Dusty and I felt a range of emotions. For the first time in a long time, we were proud to call ourselves Americans. We were thrilled to watch history unfold, and excited to hear Obama’s hopeful yet decisive speech. We were moved that a biracial African American, the child of an immigrant, had become the leader of the free world in our lifetime. But Obama was inheriting a troubled Presidency, rife with heavy economic, social, international, and environmental issues. At one point during the speech, I turned to Dusty and said, “He’s got a lot of work to do.”

On Inauguration Day, the CTV8 reporter likened the excitement Canadians were feeling on Inauguration day to the excitement they feel during Russia-Canada hockey championships. Only in Canada, eh? Obama is hugely popular here, and his election is seen by Canadians as an opportunity to start over, to get over their Dubya hang-ups. During the Bush administration, many Canadians lost their trust in the American presidency. There was a sense that Canada was being ignored as a world power, beginning when Bush visited Mexico on his first official state visit abroad. Tradition dictates that the President of the United States visits Canada first, to honor our position as America’s largest trade partner. President Obama honors that tradition this week, when he heads up to the balmy shores of Ottawa on February 19.

According to this Calgary Herald article, the economy will be the priority when President Obama meets with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, along with climate change and the ongoing NATO-led military mission in Afghanistan. Economic recovery is certainly one of the most pressing issues for us and other expat friends at BioWare, but other issues loom large, too. After Obama was elected, many of our friends in the U.S. e-mailed us with:, “It’s safe for you to come back now!” But is it? If we move back to the U.S., would we be able to find jobs in this new economy? Would we get reasonably-priced health care that's comparable to or better than the free province-wide health care we now receive? Would there be family-friendly policies in place similar to the one that has allowed me to take one year of maternity leave at half my salary? Would there be progress made in environmental safety and sustainability?

Today was Family Day for us Albertans, and the changes that Obama implements during his time in office will be of vital importance to our wee family. Already, it seems we have started a tradition of watching Obama together. I woke Diana a little earlier than usual on Inauguration day so she could watch the ceremonies with me. I suppose I could've let her sleep in; it's rare that I get a morning to myself and at eight months old, she can barely understand "No bite Mama!" much less "Yes, we can!" But I wanted to share the experience with her. After all, she is the most important reason why I vote, why I was so excited that my vote helped elect Obama, and why this Inauguration Day was so special. We were getting a President who had given us hope that he could make America a better place for her to call home.

The first part of Obama’s Inaugural speech sounded like a laundry list of the previous administration’s mistakes and I felt defeated. I even said aloud, “You’re bringing me down, man.” Then he mentioned a bitterly cold day in the year of America’s birth, a day not unlike Inauguration day [and every other day in this arctic tundra we call home], when George Washington refused to be daunted by the task before him. When Obama asked us, his fellow Americans, to come together “in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship,” I felt that same heart-skipping-a-beat elation that I did on election night. As corny as it may sound, I felt that President Obama was ready to get to work. I heard in his voice a promise that the hopes pinned on him this day would be fulfilled.

We'll be here watching how you keep that promise, Mr. President. Have another musubi. You've got a lot of work to do.

"Brand New Day" by Sting

Monday, February 9, 2009

Someday My Prince Will Come

"Some day my prince will come / Some day we'll meet again / And away to his castle we'll go / To be happy forever I know"

Cookie: Mom and Dad have way too many Disney videos.

Maricel: I know. The only video I've ever bought is Sleeping Beauty. It's my favorite.

C: Why?

M: Prince Philip is hot. He's the only prince worth anything. He cut through a thorn forest, fought an evil dragon, and climbed a tower to rescue his love. And he can dance, too.

Cinderella's prince is useless. He followed her for like a hot ten feet, delicately saying, "Your slipper, my lady!" Go after her, fool! What, your $300 Italian shoes aren't meant for running or something? You gotta send your manservant out to look for the girl later? Useless.

Snow White's prince didn't even speak to her. He just showed up out of nowhere and found a pretty girl LYING IN A GLASS COFFIN and kissed her and took her off to his castle. That's heroic. What if she didn't want to go?

Prince Eric is an ass. He didn't even want Ariel once she lost her voice. Hello? She's a hot 16-year-old redhead who doesn't speak! Isn't that the all-time sick male fantasy? Damn.

Yeah, but Prince Philip: brave, determined, and cute. That's my prince, baby.

C: You've obviously thought a lot about this.

M: Girl, I've thought too much about this.

"Someday My Prince Will Come" from Snow White

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Poetry Sunday: Boom Diana

All right, so not all my creativity is channeled into homemaking. Some of it still goes to poetry . . . sortof. This is a song I made up for Diana, modeled after the Discovery Channel's version of "Boom De Ah Dah". Every time the commercial comes on, Dusty and I sing these words and Diana giggles. She knows the song so well now that when she is unhappy about something, I sing a few lines of this song and she halts her tirade just long enough to listen and smile. Then life is good.

Boom Diana

I love her Mohawk
I love her brilliant eyes

I love her lashes
They curl up to the skies

I love my baby
She is so beautiful

Boom Diana [Repeat 4x]

I love her silly grins
I love her button nose

Love her phalanges
I love her teeny toes

I love my baby
She is so wonderful

Boom Diana [Repeat 4x]

I love her elf ears
I love her rosy cheeks

I love her giggles
I even love her shrieks

I love my baby
She is the sweetest girl

Boom Diana [Repeat 4x]

*Thanks Discovery Channel! Original lyrics to "Boom Diana" by Cookie Everman

Friday, February 6, 2009

Sisters are Doing It for Themselves

"But oh, in these times of change / you know that it's no longer true / So we're comin' out of the kitchen / 'cause there's something we forgot to say to you."

I had made so many plans for my yearlong maternity leave. The baby and I were going to spend hours in the craft room; she would play quietly and happily on the bed while I caught up on long-neglected albums and scrapbooks. We were going to go to aquacise on Tuesdays, mama-and-baby yoga on Wednesdays, and have lunch out with Daddy one day a week. She was going to nap for a couple of solid hours every day so I could post on my blog religiously.

Now, with only four months left before I go back to work, there are even more albums to catch up on instead of less, and a baby who most certainly does not play quietly nor happily on any bed. We've only been to mama-and-baby yoga twice because classes start at 9:30 AM and neither of us is a morning person. Button and me, we like to get our sleep on. In fact, we stopped going to aquacise when her nap schedule changed. We're lucky if we have lunch out with anyone one day a month, much less with her Daddy one day a week. And here I am, posting on my blog for the first time in nearly two months, because I finally chose to do this instead of folding the laundry or emptying the dishwasher while Diana naps. Priorities change.

I do wish that I had more time for crafts. [What a privileged First World complaint, eh? Not "I wish my family wasn't starving." or "I wish the bombings would stop." but "I wish I could glue shit together more often."] Tuesday nights were supposed to be my craft nights, but by the time Dusty gets home and I make dinner and we have dinner and I get Diana to bed, I'm too exhausted to hold a glue stick upright. My sister and I have made a pact to retire to the same nursing home so we can scrapbook together when we're 80. We won't know who the hell the people are or what's going on in the photos, but we'll have a great time trying to figure it out. "Is this my baby girl or yours?" "I think that's a boy." "Oh. Well, ain't he pretty?"

Almost all my creativity right now is being channeled into parenting and homemaking, and that's okay. In fact, some days it's better than okay, it's fun. I'm always experimenting with what foods I can prepare for myself and Dusty that Diana can also eat with little change in ingredients. I'm constantly on the lookout for best practices in parenting, whether it be the least painful way to get her to sleep through the night [We found what works for us. Yay!] or the funniest song to sing with her while we're in the car [Bingo was his name-o!]. I may be on leave from my job at BioWare, but I'm on the clock 24 hours a day at home. And the save points are quite far apart in this game, baby.

I have a newfound respect, nay, admiration for housewives of the 1950s, women who cooked all meals, cleaned the entire house, and raised children with no help from their husbands. Women like me who grew up in the post-feminist era were taught to reject that lifestyle, and break free of the pearls and perfection once expected of us. We were to step outside of the kitchen and into the bigger, greater world. I am proud that we are able to make choices not available to our mothers and grandmothers, but for some of us, stepping out of the kitchen so completely meant that when we chose to step back in, we were overwhelmed. I know there have been many, many times in the last seven months when I have become frustrated because taking care of the baby and the house all day meant I had no time to take care of me. And I'm one of the lucky ones whose husband helps. I can't imagine how to do this without him.

When I go back to work in just 120-odd days [too soon!], I'll look back fondly on this year as the time I learned how to be a homemaker and mother. I learned how to shop and cook meals for a family instead of a couple. I'm learning how to balance keeping a clean and tidy house and keeping a clean and tidy mind. I'm setting boundaries for myself and my child so she and I both know at which point she ends and I begin. It may be two more weeks or months before I can post on this blog again or pick up another glue stick, but that's a choice I will make when I get to it.

"Sisters are Doing It for Themselves" by Annie Lennox