Wednesday, December 23, 2015

2015 Christmas Letter

This year I invited my family to give me a quote that would help people understand them, and their experience in 2015. Enjoy.

I’ll start with 10-year old Sabine’s quote: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” as stated by Edmonton Oiler’s very own Wayne Gretzky. This girl loves sports! After her first basketball game this season she said, “I forgot how much I love playing basketball! I wish my team wasn’t so big so I could play MORE!” She’s building up the resolve to steal the ball from other players’ hands. In March she had the excitement of playing in Provincials in Calgary where her team came SO CLOSE to beating some first rate teams; it was exciting and memorable. Then she played outdoor soccer in a marvelous mosquito-less spring, which was its own kind of miracle.
Lookin' fierce at the provincial finals.

Now, Everett spent some time searching the Internet for a quote. I’m not sure what words he used to direct his search but he came up with, “Only trust people who like big butts: they can not lie.” (Grandma, it’s a little word play on a popular song.) Anyway, I think that this quote choice really does capture 2015 in Everett’s life because he graduated from innocent elementary school and started junior high so his little pubescent brain has been marinating in the conversations of 12 and 13-year old boys. He’s transitioned nicely; he is learning how to play the trombone, plays on a community basketball team, and bakes tasty treats for us once in a while.
Everett's Grade 6 grad.

Perhaps you can guess who chose: “You’ve really gotta hand it to short people… because usually they can’t reach it.” It won’t be long until I’m the ‘short people’ in this house! At his Grade 9 grad, Kepler danced to an original song featuring a recorded phrase of him saying, “My name is Kepler and I’m almost six foot four.” [Click here to hear the song - the internets is so fun.] Now in Grade 10, his height has helped earn him spots on the senior volleyball team, and now the senior basketball team. In three months of school he’s had maybe five weekdays without a two-hour practice but he loves it and it has been fun to watch his games. This just in: Kepler is almost six foot five.
Posing with friends at Grade 9 grad ceremony.

Our oldest child, Robyn, emailed me her quote: “I won't eat invertebrates, because I can fight a skeleton, but have no idea what kind of spooky warrior a squid leaves behind.” Intriguing! I searched the phrase and discovered that this quote is from a comic strip called xkcd, created by Randall Munroe [click here]. Munroe has a degree in physics and prior to his career as a professional webcomic artist, Munroe was a roboticist independently contracted with NASA. “Often strips are based on his frustrations or things he finds ridiculous.” Luckily for me, the comic strip, about what a physicist roboticist finds ridiculous, has a website to explain each comic strip under the heading of “Explain xkcd: It’s ‘cause you’re dumb”. Robyn’s quote is from a comic strip entitled: “My Food Rule” which is poking fun at peoples’ complex dietary restrictions. Then I watched Munroe’s charming TED talk [click here]. I am so excited for this glimpse into Robyn’s genius mind!
Testing out Lake Okanagan

The ‘One Little Word’ that I chose to inspire my choices in 2015 was ‘fight’, as in ‘fight my bad habits’ and ‘fight for right’. It turned out to be just what I needed for 2015. But which quote to choose? This one really resonated with me: “Just be grateful and kind and brave. That’s all you ever need to be.” by Glennon Doyle Melton. Society places expectations on us, and we place expectations on ourselves, but we need to focus on what matters. Melton’s book “Carry On Warrior; the power of embracing your messy, beautiful life” has an inspiring message of the power of sharing your truth with others. Perhaps ‘truth’ would be a great Little Word for 2016.

Taken at my cousin's wedding at Lake Louise.

Doug chose to Canadianize a quote by comedian Dave Barry: “Sharks are as tough as those football fans that take their shirts off during games in Canada in November, only more intelligent.” A great quote to introduce Doug’s experience at Shark Alley in South Africa back in May [click for link to captain's entry on the day Doug went]. Doug was in Capetown teaching therapists about assessing injured workers for return-to-work, and made sure to spend some time in a cage in the ocean whilst 10 great white sharks thrashed about, the biggest being 4.3m in length. My husband is so brave!

Taken by a crew member on Doug's excursion. 

Much love from the super Gross family. We’d love to hear from you.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Our Society’s Weak Spot

Years ago, one of my children brilliantly coined the phrase “weak spot” when he was trying to politely communicate that he had just impolitely hit his sibling between the legs. So clever! ‘Weak spot’ worked on multiple levels, I thought: physical, and sexual, but lately I’ve noticed that it also works on a societal level.

I've noticed because my oldest child is transgender.

Last year, while Christmas shopping, I had a cashier who was tall with lovely make-up, long hair, and a conspicuous 5 o’clock shadow. I saw the uncertainty in this person’s eyes and was polite, but I did ignorantly wonder why anyone would choose to live like that. In March of this year we discovered that our oldest is transgender and I immersed myself in trying to understand what that meant, because I obviously had no idea. Now that I’ve studied it and I’m faced with the prospect of sending my adult transgender daughter out into the world, I want to educate the whole world about “why anyone would choose to live like that.” So here is your chance to take my Transgender 101 course!

You are familiar with the idea of opposites: there are opposite seasons, and opposite poles on a magnet. I feel pretty confident in offering the idea that everything that you have thought or experienced, someone has thought or experienced the exact opposite. You were likely born with organs on the inside of your body, and there are people born with their organs on the outside of their bodies.  Obviously you love chocolate, but our law of opposites says that some one out there hates it (but probably only ONE person, right?). You can recognize the face of a loved one, and there are highly functioning people who cannot (prosopagnosia). Your sense of gender matches your biological body, and my daughter’s does not. Why is that last one so hard to accept? Because our society’s perspective on 'weak spots' is a weak spot.

Close up of the Genderbread Man from the link below.
Your first reading assignment is found here, a link to the Genderbread ManIt’s illustrative and short. It defines the four aspects of self. The one that everyone is best educated about is biological sex (A.K.A ‘the weak spot’), or what the doctor looked at when you were born so that she could inform your parents as to whether you were a boy or a girl. Once they heard that, your parents assumed that you would dress accordingly, align your gender with this announcement, and fall in love with someone of the opposite sex. Those are three assumptions based on one declaration, and in about 90% of people, it works out that way. But in reality, each of those four aspects is independent of each other: biological sex, gender identity, attraction, and gender expression. But you already know that because you just studied the Genderbread man!

Nature fascinates people. People were so excited when those Planet Earth videos came out. Scientists love to study nature and marvel at the uniqueness; the animals that operate outside the majority. There are male sea horses that carry the young, girl reindeers that grow boy-sized antlers, and then there is the platypus. If any animal can empathize with the scrutiny and disbelief that transgender people face, it's the platypus! We marvel over how these animals operate outside the realm of the majority. Yet we struggle to accept the minority in our society – it’s a weak spot.

A person who is transgender has gender dysphoria. Their mind identifies with a gender that does not align with their biological sex. Reading #2: link here to a medical definition of gender dysphoria. That was the first article I read after hearing that my oldest may be transgender.  Then I scoured YouTube, watching transgender people bravely share their experiences of changing their bodies and appearance to match the gender that they identify as. And after a month of study I had my answer to why anyone would choose to live like that. It is really pretty simple: because it is their physical challenge and they are trying to deal with it. To me, it’s parallel to why a diabetic needs insulin: because their body failed them. A transgender person needs hormone therapy because their body failed them. I believe that the reason that our society can support insulin for diabetics, but not hormones for transgender people is because the latter has to do with “the weak spot”.

Finally, after talking a little science, I want to talk a little religion. I know that God loves my daughter. I plead with you to focus your energies on something that God has made clear, and that is "that ye love one another". And if you think that you are showing love by pointing out what you consider to be a sin, then I ask that you focus on Matthew 7:12 and treat others as you would want them to treat you.

As we have shared our daughter’s challenge with family, friends and neighbours we have only been met with loving and supportive responses. This experience, although challenging, has not been without truly beautiful moments. Following the example of Glennon Doyle Melton, I will be closing the comment section to my post, so that it stays a safe place for my daughter to visit. Unfortunately, that leaves no way for you to leave your address so that I can mail you your Transgender 101 certificate, so just demonstrate your new found knowledge by making the world a more accepting place for transgender people.

As a reward for completing Transgender 101, please listen to Sara Bareilles' upbeat song BRAVE(Thanks, Katie!) which puts into words my hope for my daughter, Robyn.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

My One Little Word for 2012

  1. Lightness of spirits or mood; gaiety or joy.
  2. A source of joy or happiness; a comfort.
    1. A shout of approval, encouragement, or congratulation.
    2. A short, rehearsed jingle or phrase, shouted in unison by a squad of cheerleaders.
  3. Festive food and drink; refreshment.
  1. To make happier 
  2. To encourage
  3. To salute or acclaim; applaud.
I've spent a week using my new word and I think it's a keeper. If you want more info about "One Little Word" click to be taken to the description at Ali Edward's blog. Ali's aim is to "choose a word that I can focus on, mediate on, and reflect upon as I go about my daily life".


I was a professional cheerleader one month, which was S-U-P [clap] E-R fun and really focused on one aspect of 'cheer'. I enjoyed it, so I want to explore it further. Obviously the fourth definition must be explored...what an unexpectedly delicious definition for 'cheer'!

How I plan to use my word:
  1. cheer on my children.  One of my sons experienced a very pointedly unkind act at school before the holidays and it just reminded me that if I'm not cheering him on, who will?
  2. find cheer in what others are saying.  I want to listen to others with the goal to encourage them, or applaud them, or comfort them.
  3. be cheerful during family meals.  There is noise. There is complaining. There is belching. There is a crabby mother. There isn't cheer. THAT was 2011! In 2012, I will bring to the table a lightness of spirit, gaiety and joy (despite the belching). 
  4. search out what brings me cheer.  I am not very self-aware when it comes to what brings me joy. I will have a better idea by the end of 2012 and I will be seeking those things out. 
  5. cheer on myself.   Point the V, Dot the I, Curl the C-T-O-R-Y, Victory [clap-clap] Victory [clap] GOOOOOOO Sondi! Tee hee. I am going to applaud at least one thing that I do every day. I could start a 'cheer' journal...
This kid knows 'cheer'! It took 45 minutes and an army of strangers returning popped skis after nasty falls to get him down his first run off the chair lift, but he just picked himself up and went...for another lesson. Butt he enjoyed himself.

If you do decide to choose a word for 2012, make sure that you find a way to remind yourself of your word. You can buy charms, or necklaces with custom words on them. Or a small vinyl sticker in your bedroom could work.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Calendars

I have made family calendars for the past 8 years. I have hand made them and color copied them, I have tried Costco, a photo shop in a local mall, and an online photo shop that did 12x12" size. But I highly recommend if you decide to do one. Sign up with their website for their promotions and you'll get their coupons for between 20% and 35% off. If you order 5 or more of the same calendar, they are $9.99 each plus $3 S/H (before coupon). And they are super quality and you can choose a calendar with Canada dates. Here are the 2 that I made for gifts for this Christmas. LEAVE this post NOW if you are related to me! Just joking - no one related to me visits this blog. I made one for each side of the family. The first is for my husband's side. All of the pictures were taken at his niece's wedding. Fun to have such gorgeous photos to work with. The second is for my side of the family. My grandma sold her cottage this month and so I had to make a calendar full of lake memories. I didn't plan to make my mum cry on the first of every month of 2012, but I suspect that she will. I've printed some photos of the disgusting blue-green algae blooms for her to look at to remind her why it's not such a bad thing to try out some different vacation spots in the future.

Happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Warning: Family Christmas Letter

Everett was added to a photo of our family at my niece's wedding (He wasn't able to attend the wedding).

I asked the family what they considered to be their highlight of 2011.

We had to prompt our 14 year old. Grayson agreed that he really did enjoy Scout Camp in the summer. That they always received mustard but no ketchup received much coverage as did the stop at Peter’s Drive-In in Calgary during the drive home.

Kepler responded with “my basketball game this morning. It was awesome!” His community league team had not led the whole game and with 17 seconds left, they were down by 1 point. Doug (the coach) called a T.O. After, Kep’s teammate passed the ball straight to the other team. [Groan!] Then Kepler intercepted the next pass [Yay!] and dribbled down but fumbled the ball [Oh, no!] but snatched it up just before it went out of bounds. He then made a basket [Hurrah!] and his team joyously mobbed him.

Everett quickly replied with “remember that time that I took money to get Skittles from the vending machine but punched the numbers in wrong and I got crackers and cheese instead? Chortle. Guffaw.” That was the highlight of your year, Everett? Funny kid.

After careful consideration, Sabine chose her first day of grade one. She was excited to load her backpack with her supplies, choose from her new clothes, and find her desk in her new classroom. Her best friend phoned to arrange that the two of them wear matching outfits: peacock shirts, cranberry jeggings and hot pink beanies for that first day. All of my babies are in school!

When Doug was in grade four he did a report on the Great Barrier Reef. It was the first time that he had even heard of a reef and he was fascinated. The highlight of this year was spending an afternoon snorkeling off the coast of Hamilton Island on the Great Barrier Reef, en route to a conference in Brisbane, Australia.

I’m going to choose the Bayly family reunion at my grandma’s cottage at Pigeon Lake. My youngest brother’s wife planned it and it was so fun! She recreated all of the holidays: the kids opened Christmas stockings the first morning, hunted for Easter eggs, visited a haunted house and trick-or-treated to the rooms in the cottage, and blew out candles on cupcakes that they decorated. Canada Day celebrations included a street hockey game and the most enjoyable water fight of all time. If every wife had the chance to pelt her in-laws with saturated sponge balls I can only imagine that the world would be a more satisfied place. Just kidding, In-laws.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Professional Health Care Worker

I only set professions for the first half of 2011 and it shows in my lack of posts and accomplishments. All of my children started full day school in September and I really have nothing to show for it... if you don't count reading a lot more books than I used to. Hmm... maybe I was a librarian for September! Tee hee. But it's important to me to look back with a positive attitude, so I have decided that I did work on health. I have improved my energy level, my attitude towards myself and life, and developed a peaceful way to deal with depression.
  1.  My energy level improved when I started fueling this body of mine. I started eating avocados (with salt and lime juice - YUM!) weekly and more fruit and veggies daily. I have been known to reach 4 pm wondering why I felt like having a nap and then realize that I hadn't had a meal yet that day. Silly me.
  2. Through conscious effort I have managed to curb the stream of negative thoughts in my head. I was waking up in the mornings to the thought "you are failing as a mother". Like, that thought was what woke me up from sleep. Not a nice way to start the day and I felt like I had no control over it because it came from my subconsciousness. But I do have control over it, as I learned from a very interesting book by Byron Katie. She has a very interesting philosophy about how to train our minds. I had to start telling myself positive things when I was conscious of it, and that gave my subconscious positive material to work with. Our minds are very powerful.
  3. In November I had about 1 week of depression. Nothing unusual for me but I was so pleased with how I handled it. I took control of it. Did you ever have that experience as a child where you realized that you were in charge of your dream and you were able to alter it? I did when I was four years old - I remember telling a big monster as he stormed down my street toward me that I knew he was just a dream and I didn't believe in him. His shoulders slumped and he turned around and trundled away. I felt so powerful! This November, instead of just drowning under the tide of depression, I managed to tread water. I accepted that I was sick and that it wasn't my fault. I indulged in watching funny shows and reading wonderful books. I focused on getting supper on the table each night which helped keep my spirits up unlike the guilt and negative speak that my mind would provide when I didn't even do that for my family. And then when I woke up one morning with an interest in life again, I just stepped back in where I had left off.
So, likely this was not an interesting read for you, but I needed to get it written down so that I could look back on it to remind myself of the truths that I have found. Now to plan my professions for 2012. I'm thinking of choosing a life skill to focus on each month so that by the end of 2012 I will have 12 new habits.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Kitchen is Open!

My husband took the children camping with his parents for 6 days at the beginning of July and I had 6 days to myself in my house. It sounds dreamy but luckily my mom made it into my version of a nightmare by leaving her dog for me to enjoy. But I did manage to paint the kitchen ceiling, freshen up the cupboards with a coat of paint and paint the walls gray (Stonington Gray HC-170 by Benjamin Moore, inspired by the grey of my Regis shampoo bottle). It was looking very fresh. Then my hubby came home and we picked up the supplies to do the wainscoting. SOOOOOO easy. They have 32" lengths of beadboard and then they package the baseboards and caps together, that have grooves to hold the beadboard. Using just a jigsaw and our kind neighbour's finishing nailer my DH and I completed our first home improvement project together.

Do you think that we could take on wall papering now?!?

Click here for the "before" pictures. Well, I didn't match up the pictures too well and most people commenting on that post thought that I was posting "after" pictures. Butt I will post matchy pictures once I do the valance and vinyl. I'll do that in September once the paint has fully cured on the cupboards. I ordered some modern material off of etsy for the valance. Love etsy.