suburban siberia

transitioning from Los Angeles back to Edmonton

Category: Uncategorized

Days to Spare

I’m upset. Upset because the year is done. I feel gutted and overwhelmed. I go back to work next week and Jasper starts daycare the day after next.

Even though I am really excited to have some moments to think about work again in a full time capacity. Even though I am sensing that I would like more than a few hours break from Jasper. Even though the work environment I am returning to will welcome my transition. The idea of the year ending and Jasper going to daycare leaves me feeling helpless and terrified.

But looking back, putting the emotions aside I am incredibly proud of the year. I did exactly what I hoped to do – put Jasper in the front and my career on the side. But in addition to having the time to focus on my baby my career expanded in more ways than I imagined and I was able to incorporate him every step of the way. I was awarded a public art commission 10 days after Jasper was born, the Art Collective I am apart of flourished quicker than I had anticipated, Jasper and I travelled across Canada west to east several times over, I was shortlisted for another public art proposal (which in the end I wasn’t selected for but grateful for the experience nonetheless), Jasper and I went on an artist residency in Banff for 5 weeks with the help of some incredibly supportive family and friends, and had the best Christmas and New Years possible. It really was wonderful. But I guess that’s just it. It was going so well. I miss architecture of course, but running my own schedule, taking time to reflect as an artist, and taking Jasper to the majority of my many meetings was a pleasant surprise and I revelled in it all.

People are so kind to babies – especially in the meetings we attended and in all of our travels. It feels indulgent to write but people made me feel special, talented and invigorated through the attention and care they showed Jasper. I felt free to love him. And I noticed the discussions in those meetings often became more about the future because he was there, a reminder of what’s to come. It was deeply rewarding.

Before Jasper came I was often fearful or timid of making decisions. Though because my time became a valuable resource I’ve found that the shortness of it allowed me to be more succinct. And to be honest, giving birth to him in the first place allowed me to see what I could accomplish. I was incredibly afraid of that moment and what would happen after he arrived. But when I think back to the delivery room and the hours after I feel nothing but empowerment and bliss. It was remarkable. So why would I be so afraid of the next few months when everything has been nothing short of amazing so far? I wish I knew the answer. The emotion right now is hard to bare and it’s difficult to not hold Jasper tight every moment of the day (and night). I’m lucky – deeply  blessed. I’m sure that everything will go well, but the anticipation of it all is really getting to me.

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6 month mark – family dependence

-Jasper is now almost a year old. I wrote a few entries during the year but never posted them online. This is post from when he was 6 moths old –

Being a mom is hard.

I heard one of the new moms say that in my ‘moms group’ a few months ago, a group I became apart of after Jasper was born. I thought to myself. Sure it’s hard. But so is everything else. But today, that statement felt true. How am I to be a sustaining individual that tries my best to be happy, healthy, positive and genuine (while at the same time eat healthy, be on time, not procrastinate and be accountable) and then raise an entirely separate individual that I just met who happened to come from my body only six months ago and raise them to have similar aspirations, as well as provide an environment that allows them to eat, sleep and speak, grow and learn?

Listening is also hard. Being is hard. Breathing in hard. And vice versa. Listening can be easy, being can be easy and breathing can be easy.  Nothing is simple, and nothing is complicated at the same time. It’s what you need it to be for when you want it to be. When I’m feeling unsorted like this I usually turn to my mom. I love my mom and the support she provides. Do we get along all the time? No. Do I think she’s a bit crazy? Yes. But she is always the person I go to when something is wrong. So who’s really the crazy one? I hope despite the environment that I provide Jasper, I am one of the first person’s he tries to call when he’s troubled. And I hope I can supply careful, non judgemental advice the way my mom tries to when he’s going through something.

Today my baby boy is 6 months old. It really has gone by fast. The first three months were a blur and felt long but also short. Time has really changed for me since I became pregnant. This type of growth is entirely new to me and I’m sure will continuously evolve. I was speaking to my therapist a week ago about my grief over the feeling of Jasper constantly changing and my sadness in the shortness of each phase. But then she explained that I am the constant and he is the changing matter. That actually helped.

The idea of Jasper’s existence is still new to me. And it was something that was much on my mind as I watched the fires in Fort McMurray through the media outlets. I’m home most days so I found it hard not to become obsessed. I don’t live there, and neither does my immediate family. But I have family history there and I wondered if it was also going to extinguish like some of the unfortunate parts of the city have. One of my distant cousins unfortunately lost her house in the fire, but my great aunt and uncle’s house remained intact including the fridge and freezer even after the power outage. The gravesite my family was buried in was untouched even though five feet beyond the fence the trees and houses were consumed by flames. And the land that my great grandmother, great uncles and great aunts grew up on didn’t burn either, which has been bought up by developers. When we visited this summer my aunt walked with us towards the Snye we visited the land and it was built up all around with condos. That small section of the block that my family grew up on was the only part that was untouched by development. Even the raspberry bush that my mom and aunts, uncles, grandma, great uncle and aunts, and great grandma and grandpa use to pick from was still there, right along the sidewalk where people who now live in the new condos could also pick from. I chose to believe this was profound.

My family went up a week after they opened the city up after the fires to help pack up my Great Aunt’s house. As I watched my grandma pack up her sister’s and nieces belongings (who have now both passed) I watched carefully to see what she would salvage. When I came up to help a few weeks ago I had no idea that I was going to come home with objects of my own that contained their memory. I scanned through pages of trapping guides, receipts from the fur that my great aunt trapped and sold off, knick knacks of fish (because my second cousin loved to fish) and religious iconography, and native crafts that belonged to people that I share a blood line with. Life is hard. But so is sifting through all these items that represented a life that no longer existed. Aunty gave me my great aunts china. It is beautiful. I have china, but not like this. The edges of the gold bleed from time and the floral pattern is ornate. I look forward to having dinner at my table with these pieces and hope Jasper and my numerous nieces and nephews are a part of that, moving the memory on.

Below are photos of Jasper in Levi’s original baby clothes. My husband’s mother lovingly kept them all this time. Even though their house also caught fire and they lost near everything when Levi was in elementary, these clothes survived. While 30 + years is not really that long ago, it was at the start of my husband and my existence so it is special to us. I have placed Jasper in all of these clothes and photographed him at every angle in them. But now that Jasper has nearly grown out of all of them I have carefully folded them back up so that they can have another life with another family member. Being a mom is hard, but I have learned that being without family is harder so for that I feel incredibly lucky.

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one week old

IMG_1912.jpegthree weeks old

IMG_2988.jpegeight weeks old

IMG_3834.jpegeleven weeks old

IMG_4074.jpegtwelve weeks old

IMG_5324.jpegfour months old

IMG_5737.jpegfour months and two weeks old

 

 

 

Preparations

It’s been a full 6 months since my last post. Things in my personal and professional life have become seemingly more serious and online comments/blogging on this site began to feel less important compared to the discussions I was having off line. Blogs are great. There are many of them out there and they can offer quick antidotes about larger narratives but from my perspective my comments this year have been deeply personal and my rule about the blog is to keep things light and to stay away from serious subject matter incase I regret sharing thoughts I ultimately cannot take back. But the thing is, the readership for this blog is not very high so it still operates as a type of personal journal. And at the same time I still have to understand that the lens I share this under is not the same lens it may be received under when read – so it’s a good exercise about expressing my thoughts.

While this blog started with the idea of studying suburban life with a Canadian mindset, as of last month I have moved away from the Terwillegar neighbourhood and now live (from what I consider) in a more community minded area called King Edward Park (close to Bonnie Doon). This neighbourhood is closer to downtown and has a longer history of development, and I think the house has a bit more charm. I lived almost two years in the Terwillegar town house and only spoke to three neighbours over the duration of our stay. I waived to some who seemed familiar but no words, handshakes or names were exchanged. While Levi always relished the privacy and convenience to me it felt like there was less ownership and accountability. Plus I never really got into the sterile environment and always saw myself as an outsider trapped in a never ending carousel of someone else’s ideal view of what urban life should look like. I will say that their trail systems for walking and biking are fantastic though -and I will miss the opportunity to cross country ski to the LRT for work. That was an unexpected delightful surprise. Hopefully I can visit the trails in the summer along with discovering the river valley two blocks from my current doorstep.

This week I am 38 weeks pregnant. Nearly nine months. Hopefully I still have 2 weeks left before the baby arrives so I can fully prepare for his arrival – we are having a boy! I have been working a lot on professional and personal projects during this pregnancy, which has been a great distraction from the uncomfortableness but it has become hard to multi task and my preparation for the baby is not where I hoped it would be.

Today was my first official day off. Although I spent the entire day at my kitchen table working from home to complete a project I was still able to fit in a nap and some laundry so it’s a slight win. Today also happens to be Winter Solstice. My second favourite day, next to Summer Solstice because this means that this day will be the shortest in the year and every day after that will get longer and longer. The sun rose at 8:48 am and set at 4:14 pm. This also means we are having a winter baby, something a bit unplanned. I’m beginning to see the up side of the timing finally, such as the fact that I will be hibernating while learning to be a new mom when it is the coldest time of the year.

Levi and I have been married for nine years and we decided we could finally take this on but I have to confess we have encountered this experience with humorous trepidation. Usually I revel in taking risks without knowing the outcome but in this case I want to know that things will turn out. There are so many people on this planet – most of whom live in poverty and neglect and it feels selfish to contribute. But contributing we are none the less. It’s not that my youth wasn’t really terrible in comparison, but I hated depending on my parents. Even when I was six I had a suitcase packed just incase I had to leave if things went in a direction I didn’t want them to go. The suitcase contained some of my favourite dresses and a stuffed animal. I tried to use it only on a few occasions but they were unsuccessful attempts. My mom was really good at convincing me to stay.

Despite my hesitations I have a overwhelming suspicion that once he comes everything will fall into place. I feel deeply lucky that I am able to experience this transformation. Originally I did not think that that this was so much of a miracle since so many women do it. I thought if it was a miracle, shouldn’t there be less occurrences of it? But I have finally begun to realized while child birth is universal for a lot of woman, each experience is deeply personal. And this little boy shifting my ribs up and pushing down on my bladder at the same time while having hiccups, as he currently is now, is something only I can feel and it’s pretty amazing. For most of my life I have dwelled on death. The fear of my parents passing on, my grandma, Levi, our extended family, friends and so on. I detest good byes and believe that in a way it represents death/ultimate endings. Perhaps that is why I like architecture so much. It always has a great beginning with the threshold entrance, but never has the same drama when you exit the building as when you enter it. I have always tried hard to preserve memories rather than allowing them to drift in and out. For some reason I am not sure why I retain these values as I see the difficulty it provides me from moving on. But in this case I have realized that I am apart of something entirely new. I am at the beginning. I have watched this beginning grow in front of my eyes and still feel it within my body. It is truly awe inspiring. I will be at the beginning of this life and it is because of my decision, not others. That is an amazing thing. So I look forward to these next two supposed weeks I have. This is a big event for Levi and I and I hope to relish it as we get older and trust that the mistakes we make are character building for this little fox I am about to bring into this world.

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These clothes are Levi’s original baby clothes! I have a few others that Levi’s kind mom passed on to us that she carefully preserved – which I hope to feature more of on this blog. The t-shirt shows Winnie the Pooh on the corner pocket and the Space Patrol onesie is perfectly styled along with my coincidentally colour coordinated belly which is also making a bit of a debut. The 80’s are back!

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Our new home at 4:46 pm on December 21, 2015

dream come true

There has been a lot going on in the city of Edmonton regarding winter fun. We have a gazillion festivals to help keep you active throughout the year and two weeks ago was the Winter City Shake Up conference where I learned cool/depressing facts like:

Edmonton has 151 days of winter = 40% of the year
The average temperature in Edmonton is -10 degrees Celsius (-14 Fahrenheit)
Edmonton has 325 days of sun = 90% of the year

I also I learned at the conference that a group of people recently installed a lock up rack for skis at the Century Park LRT Station which is beyond amazing because that meant I could ski to work! Century Park Station is the closest LRT stop from my house (a 10 – 15 min drive).  The group that created the lock up rack calls themselves Ski2LRT. Usually I don’t take the LRT from Century Park because the free parking lot fills up before 6:45 am. I have a hard enough time leaving the house before the sun rises (at 8 am) so I never considered the option. But the lock up rack at the LRT station provided a plausible solution as I despise walking long distances but love x-country skiing. I heard of people skiing to work in countries like Norway when I was younger so the idea has always been a distant dream.

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Since I live in the suburbs driving to work this time of year is excruciating. The All-Season tires that I purchased for my car in LA feel like a One-Season tire (aka Summer-Only) here in Edmonton. Up till now I have reasoned driving to work because of the amount of meetings I go to afterwards. But like any excuse I give myself, it can only last for so long before the convenience feels inconvenient to my mental health. It can take up to an hour to drive to work or back home with winter driving conditions which is the same amount of time it takes to ride the bus/LRT to work or to bike to work in the summer.

So if I drive close to the station (a 5 min drive through a ravine), X-Country Ski to the LRT (10-15 min), take the LRT to work (25 min), then walk to work (3 min) I get exercise, walk around the city (instead of being bundled up in my car/detached from my surroundings) and I save money from not parking down town and my work gives out bus passes for free. It sounds like a no brainer. So I decided that in February (typically the coldest month of the year in Edmonton) I would take public transportation as much as possible to get away from driving. Here is how it has gone thus far:

Week 1

  • Mon, Feb 2: Drove to work.
  • Tues, Feb 3: Drove to work.
  • Wed, Feb 4: Drove to Century Park Station (parked two blocks away where it was free) and checked out the x-country ski trails along the way to make sure it was a legit thing and then hopped onto the LRT to work.
  • Thurs, Feb 5: Drove to work because I had meetings/errands to run later in the evening. On this day heaps of snow fell from the sky and I was unable to drive up the steep ramp in the parking lot at my work. I was stuck in the lot because of my One-Season California tires – and I refuse to buy winter tires as there is only two months of drastic weather left. With Levi’s help later in the evening, three amazing homeless men from Dwayne’s Home (a shelter next door to my work), and some kitty litter that I happened to have in my car we were able to push the car up the parking ramp to the street. I saw this as a sign to commit to public transportation, a vow that I had yet to comply to.
  • Fri, Feb 6: Levi drove me to work. I kind of cheated.

Week 2

  • Mon, Feb 9:   Parked close to Century Park Station and then ski’d to the LRT! Locked up my skis and took the LRT to work.
  • Tues, Feb 10: Parked close to Century Park Station and then ski’d to the LRT again! Took the LRT to work again!
  • Wed, Feb 11:  Parked a little further away from the Station so I could get more ski time. Took the LRT to work! This is actually happening!
  • Thurs, Feb 12: I had an event with my niece in the evening so I drove to work. I can’t win every day.

The trails near the station are self-made so the second day was much easier. On the third day snow had blown over my trail so I had to make new ones again. It’s not completely easy because the trails are not yet maintained but this activity is something I can get behind because not only do I love skiing in any form I think it will help me through the winter blues. I’ve tried to be optimistic but ever since I came back from LA getting up in the morning when it is pitch black until 8 am has been tougher than I remember. I think it is also because I park in a garage that is attached to my townhouse and the condo association shovels the walks for us. While those things sound like perks it means I do not interact with the weather on a regular basis which I kind of miss. In fact I think it makes me more hesitant to go outside. Could this be seasonal depression? If so I’m glad for some activity (saunas, hot yoga and x-country skiing) to help relieve the lack of motivation I feel right now. I’m half way through February and it’s already looking brighter.

Next up, I’m patiently waiting for the arrival of my newly ordered wake up light!

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