Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Year 2009

As the new year approaches, there are a slew of new years memes going around. Best Of's, daily blogging about the past year... I've looked at them, but really, haven't found anything I want to actually do. Because what's really been on my mind, while thinking of the past year, is what I've learned. Not everything I've learned, obviously. To try and encapsulate the learning from an entire year into one blog post would be a wee bit difficult. But the things I've learned that really stuck with me, really resonated with me. The things I really want to take note of. So that's what I'm going to do.

10 Things I Learned in the Year 2009

I've learned that judgments of people, made too quickly and harshly, are very often wrong.  I keep thinking I've figured this out already, but then I find myself doing it again: dismissing someone because of an opinion they have; deciding someone's mean because of one comment.  I hate that I do this, and I don't want to do this, because most of the time, it turns out that the person is really incredibly cool.  This reaction stems more from fear than anything else, and I finally seem to have figured this out this year, so I'm getting better at meeting people with an open mind and heart.

I've learned that grief has a strange beauty to it, despite the pain.

I've learned that arguing with people really isn't worth it.  I have my opinions, and I'll state them.  The person I'm talking to can state theirs, and I'll listen.  But when it starts to turn into a *debate*, I no longer want that conversation.  Debates are simply a contest to prove who's *right* (as if right-ness was somehow objective) by contest of who has better debating skills.  I can debate reasonably well, but I hate it.  It seriously stresses me.  So I've learned that while discussions and conversations are wonderful, whether or not the person I'm talking to has similar opinions, debates just end up leaving me stressed without actually accomplishing anything.

I've learned that there are a ridiculously large amount of absolutely amazing people in this world.  I can't believe it took me this long to realize just how many of them there are!

I've learned to be proud of myself.

I've learned that "becoming an adult", by turning 18, opens up a whole new world of pressure and expectations.  Yikes!

I've learned that if you take someone for granted for too long, something will come along that shows you just how important they are.

I've learned not to take things for granted.  I'm still having trouble putting that into practice, but at least it's something I'm conscious of...

I've learned that I'm actually a pretty capable person.

I think I learned this one a couple of years ago, but it took a while to really get processed, and now I can say that I've learned, as hard as it is, that I can't make other peoples decisions for them.  It's their life, and all I can do is give opinions and be supportive.  The rest is up to them, no matter how bad the choices they make are.

I've learned that I'm not nearly as alone as I often think I am.


It's been rather rocky year.  My grandmother was diagnosed with uterine cancer in February, and she went through an operation, chemotherapy, and radiation, followed by a no-more-cancer diagnoses, during the course of the year.  She's the only grandparent that I'm close to, and it was hard for my whole family.

Our dog of many years, Flora, passed away in August after being sick for much of the Summer.  I've had furry family members die before, but only when I was very young.  It was a hard time.

I also went through a lot of emotional turmoil this year, over the big question What Are You Going To Do With Your Life?  I'm afraid that that turmoil is following me into the new year...

I don't want to give the impression that this year was all horrible, though, because it wasn't.  This was also a year of some truly wonderful times: the Northeast Unschooling conference was wonderful fun, and I felt truly accepted in a large group for the first time in my life at Not Back To School Camp.  I also spent countless hours of time with my family, in deep discussions, silly giggling, and quiet companionship.  They mean so much to me.  I've also realized that although I may have very few local friends, the ones I have are very precious to me, and are truly wonderful people.

It's been a mixed year.  One of many challenges, but also much beauty.  I'm looking forward to this coming year; wondering what it might bring, what places I'll see, what people I'll meet, what good times I'll have...

Wishing everyone the best in the coming year!


    Monday, December 28, 2009

    First ever issue of DIY Life Zine NOW AVAILABLE!!

    The long wait is over: the first ever issue of DIY Life Zine is now available!!  For anyone who's just anxious to see it right away, I'll cut to the chase.  There are a couple of ways you can read it.
    1. Go here, where you can download the file off of
    2. Send me an email at (with the subject "DIY Life Zine" so I can find it quickly and easily) and I'll send you the file (in PDF format).  NOTE: hotmail doesn't accept larger files, so it probably won't go through on a hotmail account.

      If you like what you read, I'd be thrilled if you shared the link on Facebook, Twitter, or your blog.  You can also print it out and photocopy it as much as you want: hand it out to your friends and family, leave it lying around in a bus stop or at the library...  Or not.  I'm just being optimistic and saying all the cool things you *can* do if you want to. ;-)

      Some random notes about the zine:

      Firstly, I want to thank everyone who contributed SO MUCH!!  You guys made this project a success.

      Secondly, I originally planned on having a cooler layout: more of a gritty, zine-y feel to the whole thing.  However, life and procrastination got in the way, so it's not quite as nice as it could have been.  Sorry about that!

      In terms of language, I received some pieces with Canadian spelling, some with American spelling, and for the most part, that's how they were left.  Also, my proofreader flaked out on me partway through, so I'm blaming her for the typos I'm sure are there! ;-P

      I'm sure there's so much more I could say about the zine, about the process, the content, the everything, but right now I'm just feeling frazzled and brain-fried, so I'm going to leave it at this!  Oh, wait, one more thing: I'd love love LOVE to get feedback, so if you read it, I'd be very happy if you left a comment or sent me an email ( to let me know what you think, what you liked and disliked, suggestions for ways to do things better in the future, or anything else you can think of.  Thanks a bunch!!

      EDIT: I used the wrong version of one of the poems in the original version, which is why if you click on the link now, it says "revised version". :-)


      Sunday, December 27, 2009

      Musings on the "normal" raising of babies

      It says something about the hippie upbringing I've had that every time I see someone walk past with their baby balanced on their hip, struggling to juggle their shopping bags or open a door, I think "why aren't they wearing a sling? It would be so much easier!".  And every time I see a baby being bottle fed, I shudder, thinking how much better/healthier/cheaper/more convenient breastfeeding is (before someone feels a need to tell me that some people are unable to breastfeed, I realize that.  But the fact remains that the great majority simply choose not to!).

      I grew up surrounded by lots of granola/hippie homeschooling moms. ;-) Babywearing and breastfeeding (and co-sleeping) have always been what's *normal* to me, and I find myself surprised at how *abnormal* those things are to much of the population!  So many people think breastfeeding is "gross", co-sleeping "dangerous", and so many people don't seem to even know about the existence of babywearing.

      Instead, what's "normal" to most people is formula in plastic bottles; strollers and carry-able seats; disposable diapers and cribs.  All so artificial, and so *removed*!  The world is a strange and sad place when that's what's considered *normal*.

      Continuing in the same vein, I found this video recently, of art from all over the world depicting the baby Jesus nursing.  I'm not Christian in the slightest, but that didn't make me find this art, or what it says about the cultures that created it, any less lovely.  From the blog, Peaceful Parenting, that created this video:

      "Images of Mary breastfeeding Jesus were once ubiquitous in churches around the world. But eventually in North America, as the artificial feeding of babies became more popular, and the plastic bottle replaced the breast, our nipplephobia got the best of us and these sacred images all but disappeared from churches and art galleries in North America."



      Saturday, December 26, 2009

      Christmas '09

      Wow, it seems strange that Christmas is over already!  So much preparation and excitement and stress, then the whole damn thing is over in a flash.

      Before going into anything else, I should mention that we had a very cute and fluffy guest staying with us over the holidays.  A friend of my moms was getting a puppy for Christmas (in case you were wondering, I'm not going to go into all the warning bells the whole *puppy for Christmas* thing rings in my head) , but needed someone to look after him on Christmas eve, and deliver him on Christmas day.  I was very happy to volunteer!!  He's a seven week old Labradoodle (Labrador Poodle cross), and let me tell you, this dog is sooooooo fricken' cute!  He's sweet, friendly, intelligent, cuddly, mischievous, and a whole butt-load of trouble.  No, I did not get attached to him AT ALL! *Shifty eyes* But seriously, having your head attacked and your ear chewed on first thing in the morning by an enthusiastic puppy, thrilled by the fact you've just woken up, is an experience that I think everyone should have! ;-) So, for your viewing pleasure, I give you a sampling of pictures (I took a bunch) of our adorable visitor.


      See??  I said he's adorable!!  But moving on.

      On Christmas Eve, we spent time with my father's side of the family.  I didn't take many pictures, I'm afraid...  My dad did take this one, however: a mostly complete, if rather blurry, group picture. ;-)

      I love how virtually no one is actually looking at the camera!  The evening passed very fast, and I was quite happy to get a couple of lovely photography books, a huge vegan cookbook called the Veganomicon, and the Chumbawamba CD I've been wanting (I'm also quite happy to say that after hearing a few songs, Emi gave it her seal of approval, which means I can play it without having to get into an argument abut playing it first!  Yay!! ;-P).

      Christmas day, we woke up quite late, and procceeded, after many delays and much stumbling slowly around, to open our stockings and the rest of our gifts.


      Then it was time to deliver the puppy (we called him Little Guy since he didn't have a name yet), and head to my grandmother's (on my moms side of the family) for Christmas dinner.  In some ways, I was very sad to see Little Guy go.  We bonded the most out of my family, he slept on my bed, slept in my lap, played with me, and chewed on my ear.  But in other ways, I wasn't so sad.  No more constantly following him around and prying inedible things out of his mouth; no more keeping him away from Winston, who did NOT like him; no more remembering to bring him outside every hour so he wouldn't pee on the floor; no more struggling to get his needle-sharp teeth out of my favourite knit sweater...  You get the idea. ;-)

      At my grandma's house, we had a lovely meal, then I took a few pictures.


      I especially enjoyed taking pictures of the blooming tea we made:

      ...And now here I am today: tired, draggy, and with a small heap of presents.

      In case you were wondering what happened to the zine, well, days ago an intelligent person on Twitter suggested I just wait until after Christmas.  No, I protested, it's nearly done, I can do it!  However, I discovered that that close to Christmas, I had to choose between working on the zine and spending time with friends and family, and, well, the latter won.  So I'm left instead with a new self-imposed deadline: to get the zine out before the new year.  I'm kind of upset I didn't get it out when I'd originally planned to, but, well, life happens!

      I hope that everyone had a simply fantastic holiday!!


      Sunday, December 20, 2009

      DIY Life Zine table of contents

      You know how I was going to have the zine up today?  Yeah, well, y'see, there was a pretty major crisis earlier this week, which meant I've been dealing with high stress levels and lost sleep, but despite that it probably still would have been ready for today had my computer not been difficult.  So, as it is, I'm going to be getting some publishing software from a friend tomorrow, and I'll really really try and have it up tomorrow, or at the latest on Tuesday. 

      Until then, I leave you with the table of contents: all the interesting things you'll find in the very first issue of the DIY Life Zine! :-)

      1. Power To Change by Wendy Priesnitz (article)
      2. Basics of Self-Defence by Stefan Latour (article)
      3. Unspeakable by Josh Sterlin (poetry)
      4. Zentangle by Cheryl Hulseapple (artwork)
      5. Radicalize by Ze'v the Wonderer (poetry)
      6. An Introduction to Safe Research and Computer Usage for Radicals by Artemis (article)
      7. Winter Haiku by Emi (poetry)
      8. Anger is a Gift by Ze'v the Wonderer (artwork)
      9. Woman Not Seen by Cecelia LaPointe (poetry)
      10. Seeing and Feeling the Ground...As Well As Other Things: Thoughts On Unshoeing by Michele James-Parham (article)
      11. (Native) North America (Ours) by Josh Sterlin (poetry)
      12. Unschooling and Trust by Eli Gerzon (article)
      13. The Other Two R's by David Boone (article)
      14. Excerpt From 101 Reasons Why I'm An Unschooler by ps pirro (article)
      15. Dirt, Soil, Remnants by Cecelia LaPointe (poetry)
       I hope You're as excited about this as I am! :-)


      Wednesday, December 16, 2009

      Review of For The Sake Of Our Children

      “How did we ever decide to deliver our children to strangers with questionable skills during the best hours of the day? In the same way, we agreed to have the birthing process taken away from us by the medical profession. In the same way, we agreed to have our dying taken away by this same profession and the directors of funeral “homes.” In the same way, we agreed to be satisfied consumers of processed food that has been so far removed from its original state that it is unrecognizable, consumers of biased information, misleading and enticing advertising for things like disposable gadgets. In the same way, we have agreed to accept the authority of the State-Mommy-who-watches-over-us.”

      For The Sake of Our Children by Léandre Bergeron, translated by Pamela Levac

      This is a book about unschooling. But this is not a book *just* about unschooling. It’s a book about attachment parenting, respectful parenting. About sustainable living and farming. It even has a good sized fistful of politics thrown in! In short, this is a book about one man’s life, led trusting and respecting both his daughters and the world around him.

      Léandre Bergeron comes from an interesting background: born in Manitoba, educated at a Catholic school in the hopes that he’d one day become a missionary priest, and eventually becoming a teacher, his rebellious nature led him to put all that behind him and move with his wife to rural Quebec. It’s there, on their homestead, that his three daughters were born, and there that the story truly begins.

      Léandre shares, in the pages of a journal he kept for a year, his daily life spent with his three teenage daughters, the flowing rhythms of their days that move with the seasons. He shares memories of the past, stories of raising his daughters from the time they were babies, stories of their business (a health food store), the circle of life on their farm... He also shares his very strong opinions on childrearing, education and schooling, and the processed lives so many people live in this modern world. His words are insightful, his writing poetic and flowing, and thus this book was a joy to read. I found it interesting that in most books on unschooling, I find myself nodding in agreement with pretty much everything, whereas in this book, my opinions where more mixed. Much of the stuff he has to say I agree with fully. But there was a fair bit that made me pause, and seriously consider my stance on the matter. Not for anything huge, just at small points throughout the book. This, I believe, instead of taking away from the experience, actually added something to my reading of this book.

      I did find myself wanting to hear more about the *entire* family, mom included, because she was mentioned only briefly throughout the book. However, most of what I’ve read on unschooling seems to be like that, only usually it’s entirely from the mother’s perspective. Just one parent’s interactions with their children, not how their family works as a whole, so that isn’t really unique to this book. That said, I found it a very pleasant change to read a book, talking about hands on attachment parenting and unschooling, not just the theory, written by a father. That subject seems to be covered almost exclusively by mothers! I also really liked that this book was about a family in my home province (and current residence!) of Quebec. The translation was great, as you’d never know that it was originally written in another language from reading it, yet at the same time the book felt very *Quebecois*!

      Definitely a good read, and a good addition to any book collection on attachment parenting, sustainable living, unschooling, or homeschooling.


      Sunday, December 13, 2009

      Watching, listening to, reading...

      Now, I usually avoid memes like the plague.  Not the reading of them on other peoples blogs, I don't mind that, but the doing of them.  However, I finally found a meme that I'd actually like to share on this blog, because I think it's pretty damn cool!  This meme is called F.A.B share: Film, Audio, and Book share.  In other words, sharing what you're currently watching, listening to, and reading!  Thanks to the blog Holistic Mama for introducing me to it. :-)

      Doing this in order, since I occasionally get an urge to do things in an orderly fashion, first up is film (which I'm considering to be "watching", so including TV shows)!
      Last night, I watched the 6th Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.  It just came out on DVD yesterday, and though I saw it in theaters, my Harry Potter nerd friend missed out on that experience, so really wanted to see it right away as soon as it was available!!

      The 6th HP book was probably my favourite.  I felt the characters had really matured and were much more interesting to read about.  Because of that, I think I was expecting too much from the movie, so was rather disappointed.  A high point of the movie was Malfoy, though, since I felt that they handled his character very well!  I'd even go so far as to say that I liked the Malfoy of this movie better than the more cowardly one of the books...  Also, Ron and Luna were a pleasure to watch, as always. 

      In terms of TV shows, we, as a family, have been majorly obsessed with House lately.  We've worked our way through season two...

      Season three...

      And now we've just started season four.


      Emi, mum, and I simply LOVE the wonderful characters, terrific dialogue, and just find this show to be extremely enjoyable!!  We've even managed to drag my dad into the appreciation of this show, even if he doesn't share the actual *obsession*! ;-)

      My mum, Emi, and I also just finished watching (because the season just ended on TV) the second season of Being Erica, which again, is more appreciated by the female members of my family. :-P It's a sweet, funny, moving, comedy-drama that airs on CBC, and we're thrilled with the fact that it's Canadian, as well!  So many of the shows that air on Canadian television are actually American, so it's really nice to find good shows that aren't!

      Moving on to the audio section, there's been Christmas music playing near constantly in the our house, lately.  Most notably and by my choice, however, have been two great Loreena McKennitt Christmas CDs: To Drive The Cold Winter Away

      And A Winter Garden.

      I've been a fan of Loreena McKennitt for a long while now.  My mom has liked her since I was born, and at some point while growing up, I decided that she was pretty cool, too!  Lately I've been making an effort to collect all of her lovely music...

      And finally, books!  I've read several very average teen fantasy books lately that I don't feel are particularly worth mentioning...  Other than that, I just finished For The Sake of Our Children by Leandre Bergeron:

      It was a good book, and it was also a review copy.  Which means there will be a review of it posted on this blog soon (the only reason I haven't already is that I've been having trouble writing about any one subject for longer than a paragraph...).

      I also *just* started reading Weapons of Mass Instruction by John Taylor Gatto.

      Because I'm barely into it, I don't really have much to say about it yet...

      Hmmm, I think that's it for now!  Let me know if you think I should avoid all memes, even ones like this, in the future, or if I should put aside my usual aversions to memes if they're cool enough. ;-)


      Wednesday, December 9, 2009

      A day well spent

      Today was wonderful!  I woke up to my sister getting ready to head on over to our friend Nick's house, to help him decorate his Christmas tree, so of course I decided that I wanted to join in the fun!  Last night and today heralded the true arrival of Winter for this area, as we got our first real snowstorm of the season!!  We've had about 25 centimeters (or about 10 inches) of snow fall in the last day (and it's still falling as I write this!), and as we headed out the door this early afternoon, it was simply gorgeous!  Lovely snow swirling everywhere.  We walked happily, singing Christmas songs, and being very happy that we could enjoy so much snow without putting up with so much cold (the coldest it's gotten today was -5C.  For most of the day it was even warmer!).

      Once at Nick's house, we set to work decorating the tree...If something that's so much fun can even be called "work". :-)

      I am a total sucker for reflective ornaments.  I can't resist taking a ton of pictures of them!

      "Look! All three of us are in this one!"


      We had a brief hot chocolate break, and then continued with the tree decorating (while struggling with the two very inquisitive dogs who are VERY good at getting in the way, and seem strangely attracted to the most breakable ornaments...). 

      We even decorated the rest of Nick's house with ribbons!

      Then, once we were done with all of our that, we surveyed our finished work...

      The three proud decorators, me, Nick, and Emi. :-)

      After a (fairly large considering it was nearing supper time) snack, we settled down to watch a favourite Christmas movie from Emi and my childhood, The Muppet Christmas Carol.

      We couldn't finish it before supper, so Emi and I headed back through the snowy wonderland (well, the mostly wonderland.  We did have to move into a driveway to avoid a snowplow at one point, who, though we were in plain sight and had not just popped up in front of him, showed no signs of either veering to avoid us or slowing down.  A very common occurrence with snowplows around here...) for a (very quick) supper of homemade lentil soup.  I uploaded my photos from the afternoon, then we headed back over to Nick's house, where we were joined by Trev as well for the remainder of the movie.

      When we finished the movie it was still snowing, and looked simply lovely from the window, so there were no complaints from anyone when Nick decided he wanted to go play outside in the snow.  We had a snowball fight, ran around in the middle of the streets (one of my favourite things about snowstorms is how few cars are on the roads), and decided to venture into the woods.  And that was beautiful.  So beautiful!  Even though darkness had fallen a while ago, it was still very easy to make our way through the trees, since the reflection of light from the crisp white snow made it almost as bright as dusk.  Sound is even more muffled after a snowfall in the woods than it is on the streets, and it felt almost holy...  I was sad when we had to head back towards a warm house when Emi's feet started to get too cold.

      After getting warmed up with some hot chocolate and cookies, I was still quite happy to head outside yet again for the walk home, despite a bit of wet clothing...  I just adore the first real snowfall of the season!

      All in all, it was a day very well spent.


      Monday, December 7, 2009

      Introducing Emi

      I've been feeling lately that what I share of my personal world on this blog is not all that fleshed out, because although I'll briefly mention my family members, I've hardly talked about them as *individuals*.  I'll just say that I went downtown with Emi, or had a conversation with my dad, but neither of those things says much about who I'm actually sharing my life with!  So I decided to do a bio of sorts on each family member.  My apologies if this isn't the most fascinating subject ever (I mean, *I* think they're fascinating, so maybe you will too! ;-)), but I want to give more of a background on my life, so I plan on having the links to each family members 'page' on the sidebar once I've written them all (they'll probably be spread out over the next couple of months).  A neat list of those people (animal people included) most important to me.  But enough with introductions.  Or maybe not.  Just a different *type* of introduction... 

      Meet Emi.

      She's a self proclaimed Otaku, one obsessed with manga, anime, and Japanese culture in general.  She loves to "cosplay" (dress up as characters from a manga, anime, or even video game), and adores going to the annual Montreal anime convention.  In full cosplay, of course.

      She's also learning to speak Japanese (she'll greet and say goodbye to people in Japanese a good portion of the time, and regularly decides to confuse her poor family and friends by throwing in random Japanese words and phrases into normal conversation), and plans on visiting Japan in the next couple of years.  She says that in her learning of the Japanese language, she's come to understand the intricate workings of the English language better, and to really gain a whole new respect for the power of and beauty of language.  Oh, and have I mentioned that she loves Japan?  Yeah.

      Emi is a writer, and a good one at that.  She's been doing writing "role-playing", where two authors collaborate online to create a story, scene by scene, since she was something like 10 years old, and thus has written hundreds of thousands of words of fiction.  That's her main form of writing, but she also occasionally writes non-fiction in the form of really good responses in online debates and discussions, has recently developed a love of poetry, especially haiku, and has turned out a couple of haiku that I really like, though she's more critical of them (unsurprisingly).  She also tackled NaNoWriMo this year, and finished victorious on November 29th (one day before the deadline!) with 50,014 words.

      Emi has been playing the snare drum for four years now, and the highland snare specifically for two years.  She goes to drum lessons once a week at a pipes and drums school, and drum practice once a week with the pipes and drums band she belongs to, that does paid gigs I might add.  She earned her first money ever for playing drums just a couple of weeks ago!

      I should also mention that Emi has a crazy non-biological twin named Trevor.  They decided they were twins last year (he's the cute twin and she's the smart twin), and like to do similar things, wear similar clothes, claim each others mother for their own, and say all personality traits that they have in common are thanks to their shared DNA.  They even fight like siblings! ;-)

      She also has three adopted big brothers, one of whom she's actually informed of this fact. ;-)

      In case you were wondering, Emi is 16, and unlike me, with my half a year of kindergarten, has never been to school a day in her life.  She's probably the best in my family at arguing in favour of unschooling, because unlike me, she's pretty good at not putting people on the defensive.  Obviously, sometimes that reaction can't be avoided.  But when it can be, she'll usually manage to!  She's just generally good at debating, as well (usually issues of unschooling or green anarchy, since those are the two most contentious things she's likely to talk about).  She argues both logically and calmly.  She just doesn't usually get ruffled or angry, and if she does, she hides it well!

      Most importantly to me, Emi is my best friend.  We talk late into the night about things both vastly important and deep, and things merely gossip worthy.  We argue over which guys are cute or not, people watch together, talk about our shared love of writing, about human behavior, about politics and religion and a million other things...  I'd seriously be lost without her!

      Oh, and I have to mention that she also loves art, loves spending time on the online artists community deviantART, and loves making plushies.  Check out her dA account here!  

      And that is my introduction of Emi.  In case you didn't gather it from what I've written above, she's a majorly cool person.  Friendly, talkative, loyal, intelligent, fun and funny.  I think I'm pretty lucky to have her as a sister, personally!