blogging · crafty · DIY · Fibro Flares · Keepin' it real

Day 376: Coming Attractions

My elbow hurts pretty badly right now, so I’ll make this brief. Over the next week or so, you can expect to see some of the following posts:

  • Further Adventures with Epoxy
  • Stuffed Animal Upholstered Bed Tutorial
  • Make a Dollhouse Nightstand out of a Feta Cheese Container Tutorial
  • Holy Hell, my Elbow Still Hurts
  • Planned Boredom
  • Close Encounters with Customer Service
  • This Term in Homeschool
  • Did we really make our own maple syrup?

Of course, if my elbow doesn’t get some relief soon, you’ll likely be subjected treated to a string of guest posts by everyone from Mr. December right on down to E. If nothing else, it’ll be highly entertaining.

blogging · family fun · The COVID files

Day 365: It’s day 365.

A year. Twelve months. Fifty-two weeks. Three hundred and sixty-five days. Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes (if Rent is to be believed.) We made it.

I made it. I blogged every single day (with three exceptions because I was unable to) for a year. I’m amazed at myself.

Oh yeah, and our family survived a year of lockdowns and thrived.

It’s been a year since our children walked out of school for the last time, and we’re still glad to be rid of it.

It’s been a year since I’ve hugged my friends, my cousins, and my in-laws. Since I’ve been at a party. Since I’ve eaten inside a restaurant.

It’s been one heck of a year.

Today was almost magical. The sun was shining and it was warm for a change, so the kids spent almost the entire day out on the trampoline. Mr. December and I sat down in the middle of the afternoon and played two full games of Wingspan, uninterrupted. I went for a walk in the ravine. And just when it seemed the day couldn’t get any better, Mr. December announced that we were having ice cream for dinner.

Yes, ice cream dinner, followed by an hour at the park. It doesn’t get any better than this.

Image description: four kids and two adults crowded together, all holding/eating ice cream.
blogging · Kids

Day 358: Short and Sweet

We (Mr. December and I) just got off a zoom call with people from university—the cast and crew of a show called Skule Nite, in which Mr. D played in the band. It was pretty cool to see all those people twenty years later.

In other news, it took K over an hour to get a single thank-you note written (for her Bat Mitzvah gifts.) I don’t get why writing is so hard for her, but it is. I got an inkling of an idea why when she said, “This one sounds dumb. I won’t send something that sounds so dumb. If you can’t do it perfectly you shouldn’t bother doing it at all.”

Ooof, perfectionism. It can be so crippling. How do I get my kid to accept that sometimes good enough really is?

blogging · Keepin' it real · The COVID files · whine and cheese

Day 357: I won’t stop now.

With the exception of (I think) three days, I have posted on this blog every day for almost a year. Even if I wanted to stop (and I don’t think I do,) it would make sense to keep going until day 365 so I can say I did a whole year.

My hands seem to have other ideas. My carpal tunnel syndrome is back with a vengeance and I’m pretty sure I should avoid typing as much as I can. There is dictation software, and I could try to use it, but my desk is on the landing overlooking the living and dining rooms; I’d feel a bit self-conscious knowing that everyone could hear what I’m dictating.

But it would be absolutely ridiculous to stop so short of the one-year mark… so I won’t. Instead I’ll warn you to expect shorter posts for the next week. After that, I’d feel okay about a short hiatus.

blogging · DIY · fame and shame · Sartorial stuff · The COVID files

Day 354: Where the Pockets Are

Interesting bit of trivia about yesterday’s post: the “rule” that inspired me to write about my rules didn’t even make it into the post because I forgot all about it. I was reminded tonight as we cleared the dinner table. Rule: every piece of cutlery that comes off the table, used or not, goes in the dishwasher—you never know who has licked what. That’s not really a concern anymore, though.

For someone who doesn’t really like fashion, I seem to spend a lot of time thinking about clothing. I’m pleased to report that I took in my dress from eShakti, and it now looks “much better” according to Mr. December. I have two pairs of pants with proper pockets that I need to take in, and I’m waiting for one more dress before I decide what all I need to return to Scott-e-Vest. You’ve been waiting patiently, though, so I wanted to update you on what clothes I’ve found, from where, and how big the pockets are.

Women’s Everyday Go To Pants from

My first purchase was “Women’s Everyday Go To Pants” from Columbia. I ordered two sizes so I could try them on and send one back. The Large looked great on my legs but gave me terrible muffin top. The XL fit my waist and hips perfectly but looked like parachute pants on my legs. But they have nice deep pockets including a zippered one large enough for my phone, so I’m going to keep the XL and take in the legs.

Margeaux Cargeaux Everyday pants from Scott-e-Vest

A friend tipped me off to Scott E Vest. They make clothes with so many pockets you could probably pack for a long weekend in the vests alone. As you browse the items, they tell you how many pockets there are in each design; I think they top out around 47 pockets. Anyhow, I ordered a fleece vest, a pair of nice-looking pants (the “Margaux Cargeaux”), and a shirt. The vest fits well, but I might exchange it for a different colour; the pants have the same problem as the XL Columbia pants—the legs are too wide; the shirt was a nice idea, but it’s white and the fabric is kind of transparent (I’d only wear it over a camisole.) The shirt was final sale, so I’ll have to keep it; the pants are keepers and I’ll just have to take in the legs; and after the dress I ordered from Scott e Vest arrives and I know whether I’m keeping it, I might exchange the black fleece vest for a nice bright red one.

My cousin told me a while ago about the leggings she wears all the time. They have pockets, you see. But they’re only sold on Amazon, and after talking to the owner of a store that has been negatively impacted by what can probably be called Amazon’s predatory practices, I’m even more firmly resolved not to buy from Amazon anymore unless there’s truly no other option. So I went hunting for leggings and stumbled on Encircled and their Dressy Legging. I’m wearing them right now and all I can say is… my leggings have pockets! Pockets that hold my phone! Huzzah! Encircled products are made entirely in Canada: they actually make the knit fabric and then manufacture the clothes in Toronto. As such they’re not cheap, but at least I know that whoever made my leggings was paid a living wage to do it.

So far that’s it for my pocket-hunting shopping spree. You already know about eShakti and the dress I had made to measure. If I had to choose one company to use again it would likely be eShakti, if only for the fact that apparently I’m proportioned oddly for normal pants, so made-to-measure makes the most sense for me.

On another subject, we’re less than two weeks away from Day 365, A.K.A. the anniversary of the day the world turned upside down. I’m wondering whether it’s weird to mark the occasion. If you had to have a “one year of lockdowns” party, what would it involve? Sweatpants and wine? Binge-watching an entire Netflix series? Or maybe just reposting blog posts from Day One to see how far we’ve come?

blogging · Sartorial stuff

Day 344: Ask and You Shall Receive

Every since my rant about pockets I’ve been trying to find clothes that fit all of my criteria (pockets included.) Among other things, I’m looking for things that aren’t made in China. A few weeks ago, I thought I’d be looking for a needle in a haystack; as it turns out, there are quite a lot of Canadian companies who manufacture clothing (and even the fabric) in Canada. They also seem to focus on comfortable clothing that also looks great on different body shapes. There’s a lot out there to look through—good thing Google and Facebook are doing half the work for me.

Maybe I’m being a little facetious, because I find it a bit creepy that I shop for something—say, underwear—and then I see nothing but ads for that thing for the next two weeks. It’s particularly annoying after I’ve already made my decision and purchased the darn thing. It makes me want to yell at the ads, “Where were you last week when I needed to see you? I’ve already bought this stuff! Go away!”

This time it’s actually been helpful. Aside from recommendations from friends, I’ve found at least five Canadian companies I’d never heard of before that sell manufactured-in-Canada clothes I’d want to wear. I’ve gone ahead and bought a dress and leggings from one of them (and I promise I’ll tell you all about it when I get them and actually have something to say) and am eying a few things from another one (a lot of the stuff I liked seems to be out of stock right now, so it seemed like a silly time to buy anything there.) First, though, I think I’ll go through my closet and cull. Then I plan to create a capsule wardrobe (or maybe two, since most things are season-dependent) of not-too-many pieces of good-quality, locally made, comfortable, flattering, and practical clothing. I end up wearing the same ten things all the time anyway—might as well go all the way and make it official.

It’s good to know that the advertising algorithms that plague us all can be used for good rather than evil. That doesn’t necessarily make them less creepy, though. Consider the case of my friend who, after liking one of my posts, got sent ads for dresses with pockets. I think that one crossed the line into intrusiveness. On the other hand, she forwarded the ad to me, so I guess it got to its intended audience (although I didn’t end up buying from that company.)

Internet algorithms are probably not what people mean when they say that all you have to do is put your intentions out to the universe and then the universe will give you what you need. Nevertheless, that’s kind of how it works these days. It’s a mixed blessing, I suppose—and also an excellent reminder to use an incognito browser window next time you’re shopping for surprise gifts or kinky stuff.

blogging · waxing philosophical · whine and cheese

Day 327: What do you mean, “Patriarchy”?

I awoke this morning to numerous suggestions of clothing retailers that make women’s clothing with useful pockets; I also had a message waiting for me from a close friend who took issue with my use of the word “patriarchy” and also contended that it’s not society’s fault that I value different things than most women.

I first used the word “patriarchy” facetiously when explaining to K the history of women’s clothing and how it affected our pockets (or lack thereof) today. But as I explained it, I realized that I wasn’t wrong… but “patriarchy” is a word loaded with a lot of things I did not mean.

I think some clarification would be helpful.

My theory, in a big nutshell:

The value we place on women’s appearance is a natural result of women’s role in a patriarchal society, and these beliefs persist even as women’s rights and privileges have expanded. The fashion industry, therefore, is still generally more concerned with the appearance of clothes than with their utility (form over function, in other words) and so are many (if not most) women. I’m not saying that designers or clothing manufacturers are trying to keep women down; I’m saying that they (and we) have inherited certain beliefs about women’s clothing that stem from a social construct made necessary by societal rules in centuries past, and these beliefs inform both the work of fashion designers and the buying habits of female consumers.

“What do you mean, ‘patriarchal society’?”

By “patriarchal” I mean that men hold primary power and predominate in privilege, property, and politics. You might feel that it’s no longer the case in this day and age—don’t women own houses, vote, have careers, and control their fertility? Yes, in some countries they do. But even in countries where women are pretty much equal to men, these things are relatively new developments: up until 1974, American women who applied for their own credit card would be asked to have a man co-sign the application. Until 1993, spousal rape couldn’t be prosecuted in many states. This is not ancient history, folks. In 1993 I was thirteen years old—and I’m no elderly pensioner.

(If you’re wondering why a Canadian blogger is writing about American law, wonder no more: I’m a bit lazy and U.S. information is easier to come by.)

But I digress (sort of.) You want to know what this has to do with pockets, right?

A very short, very selective, very Eurocentric history of fashion

In yesterday’s blog post, I briefly mentioned the idea that women didn’t need to carry money because money was the man’s concern. Perhaps this was an upper-class phenomenon; a few years ago, my research led me to conclude that servants and working-class women had pockets in their clothes. Nevertheless, fashion is, and always has been, dictated by the upper classes.

(Did you know that women’s shirts button on the opposite side of men’s? This is a holdover from the days when upper-class women would have maids to dress them. The buttons are placed for a right-handed assistant’s convenience.)

So upper class women’s clothing was (still is, really) designed to show their figures to best advantage, and full pockets would disturb that line. But why did that concern dominate?

Why value form over function?

Let’s be blunt: in the not-too-distant past, a woman relied on her father or her husband for financial support and social protection. To lack a male protector mean a lifetime on the fringes of society, and economic uncertainty if not outright poverty. In that light, it was imperative to attract a husband. And what did husbands want? Beautiful wives. (Why? There are theories that physical beauty and symmetrical features are good proxies for fertility, but I haven’t gone down that rabbit hole yet.) The most beautiful women would be most sought-after, and would therefore probably end up marrying the richest, most powerful men. Or, in the case of my ancestors in some Polish shtetl, the most beautiful girl would marry the most brilliant Torah scholar.

When you think about it that way, that being beautiful was a matter of survival, it’s a bit easier to understand how we got to the point of women wearing clothes that “look good” even though the clothes are highly impractical and even uncomfortable. Most women’s pants pockets are too small to hold a phone, wallet, or anything else that might break the “line” of the silhouette. And that’s if the pants have pockets to begin with: many have fake pockets that are stitched on for appearance.

But if that’s in the past, why don’t clothing manufacturers make more practical clothes now?

Well, because beliefs change slowly. If even a hundred years ago women still had to trade on their beauty to be assured financial stability and social standing, that means my grandmothers were raised by mothers who lived, courted, and married in that social reality. Their adulthoods weren’t much different, and even my mother came of age before women could sign their own credit card application or attend an Ivy League university. While it’s true that she also came of age at the same time as feminism was gathering steam, it would have been hard to discard all the lessons learned at the knee of her mother and aunties about how a girl should look. Now here we are, in my generation, and even though we understand much of this, we still can’t completely shake the feeling that our physical appearance is still the primary way women are judged nowadays.

Supply and demand (or lack thereof)

My dear friend whose message prompted this blog post was confident that clothing companies would sell clothes with pockets if women actually would buy them, and the fact that they don’t implies that I value clothing differently from most women. That’s probably true. But because of the history I mentioned above, among other factors, most women will still value looking good over feeling comfortable. Sure, we’ll complain about how the high heels hurt our feet or how painfully tight Spanx are, but it’s still important to have that particular leg shape and a slender midsection, so we’ll just suck it up and complain to each other in the ladies’ room.

It’s not just the women, either. Men will also say in one breath that high heels are stupid, and in the next they’ll admire a particularly shapely leg that is only that shape because, well, high heels. Mr. December might hate being constantly asked to carry my stuff in his pockets, but I see the appreciation on his face when I wear my tight jeans instead of something more practical. He, too, is living with the legacy of patriarchy that once declared loudly (and now whispers) that beauty is the most important attribute a woman can have.

I believe that’s why there’s so much demand for women’s clothing that lacks useful pockets in order to be sleek and accentuate the female form. Nobody is “at fault” here—it’s simply the legacy of our history.

Okay, so what’s your point?

I guess my point is that, as Yuval Noah Harari pointed out in his book Homo Deus, precedent and history affect our current beliefs and choices far more than we think. In his book he used the example of monoculture lawns, but I think his argument applies to the pockets-in-women’s-clothing issue too.

Am I telling people that women should stop caring about looking good and that we should all walk around wearing cargo pants? No. Absolutely not. But if we know that these beliefs are actually products of ages past, rather than some universal truth, we can decide whether we want to pass them on to the next generation. And we can start making things better for this generation, too, maybe even by demanding usable pockets in women’s clothing.

blogging · Good Grief · Keepin' it real · mental health

Day 316: Remembering

Do you have any idea how many posts I’ve written and deleted today?

I wrote a post about some of my home-improvement work that I’m doing, but it was kind of boring.

Then I wrote about my experience with curbside pickup at IKEA and Canadian Tire. It was okay.

And then I remembered that today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and suddenly just posting a normal, everyday post felt a little too oblivious, somehow.

So I wrote a long post about the Holocaust and the vicarious trauma I feel, even as someone whose grandparents weren’t there at all. By the time I had finished writing it, I was feeling anxious and teary, and wondered what kind of trigger warning I could add to it so as to not cause someone else that kind of distress.

And now here I am, to tell you that I have no intention of posting any of those today. I’m just gonna leave this here and do some deep breathing, because I still feel kind of off.

So that’s it. I remember the Shoah. And education is vital… but maybe with just a little less vicarious trauma for the next generation, hmm?

Back to normal tomorrow… or as normal as I ever get, anyway.

blogging · Infertility · mental health

Day 241: Lost and Found

I found my old blog today—the one I started writing just after my miscarriage and kept writing through years of fertility treatments.

I thought it was gone forever…. but today I found myself on a friend’s blog, wanting to comment. I was already signed in as the author of my old blog. I clicked the link and there I was… my 2006 self in all my bitter, sarcastic glory.

I was way funnier back then. What Dostoyevsky said about how all happy families are the same but every unhappy family is dysfunctional in its own way—well, I think that applies to blogs too. Happiness is a bit boring. Struggles and the dark humour that ensues are far more interesting… and my old blog was full of that. It helped that in those days I had literally nothing to do all day, depressed as I was, so I had more time to make sure my writing was just right.

I don’t think I’ll be publishing or sharing it anytime soon—some of it is about my long months of fertility treatments, and there’s a lot of clinical TMI that was included because my readers were also in those trenches with me and appreciated what a 5mm follicle on CD12 meant. There’s also a lot of swearing, because that’s where my headspace was. But some of the later posts, about K’s first couple of years and N’s early infancy, are quite good, and those ones I’ll probably share if they’re relevant to our life today (and many of them are: their personalities were the same in infancy as they are ten and twelve years later.)

If my posts are a bit shorter than usual, or sparse in some way, forgive me. I’ll be holed up at my desk, reading about life from 2006 to 2011. And if you hear hilarious laughter, that’ll be me, because I used to be funny.

blogging · DIY · education · family fun · goodbye clutter! · Homeschool · Infertility · love and marriage · The COVID files · waxing philosophical

Day 224: Thriving

It’s a beautiful morning. Sure, it’s cold and cloudy, but I stand by my statement.

I’m writing this at 9:45 and this morning I’ve already enjoyed a dance party with E, a walk with my sweetheart, two cups of coffee, some snuggles, and a hot breakfast. In fact, all of those things happened before we started homeschool at 9:00.

We called the kids together for our morning stand-up meeting. As we waited, Mr. December commented, “Every school day should start like this.”

Yes. Yes, it should.

Happiness is a clear desk.

After my highly successful IKEA hack for cable management, I was feeling inspired; I spent an hour and a half yesterday clearing my desk and getting all the cables neatly tucked away. I finished the job and even did the unthinkable (for me): I cleaned up every last tool and speck of sawdust before I allowed myself to start something new.

“Is this some kind of ketone-fuelled cleaning spree?” Mr. December wanted to know (we recently started intermittent fasting again.) Maybe he’s right: maybe my fabulous mood and my productivity are the results of what I’m eating (or not eating) these days. Or maybe they’re just a function of the fact that right now, I’m living my best life; and right now that means working at a clean desk.

There’s definitely a part of me that feels a bit guilty about thriving right now; I know that many, many people—some of whom are people near and dear to me—have been doing worse and worse as the pandemic stretches on. And yet, as I learned when I was dealing with infertility and everybody else’s pregnancy was a dagger in my heart, happiness is not a zero sum game.

Something interesting is happening here: every weekday I wake up and get ready for the day, take a walk with Mr. December, and homeschool the kids. Many days, yesterday included, I’m working all day long, either teaching the kids or preparing materials for them, or sometimes doing things around the house. Mr. December and I usually try to go to bed right after we tuck the kids in. There’s not a whole lot of leisure time, and not much fun as most people would define it. I don’t take a lot of breaks.

You’d think this would be a recipe for burnout, right? I’d have thought so too. But I don’t feel burned out or run down. I feel energized. Focused. Productive.

I feel happy.