Category: Work

A good day to learn how to swim

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photo of unrelated cuteness

I’m dying to process my interview experience, but was required to sign a confidentiality agreement about the questions therein, so instead, I will sift through the memorable bits that surrounded my interview experience.

I woke up at 5:30 AM, in part because it’s comforting, now, to wake up early, and in part because I wanted to get to my destination early without stressing over parking or directions. Kevin was also away, so my mom came over to stay with the kids. On the highway, rehearsing for the millionth time “why I want to be a midwife,” I was suddenly overcome with emotion. Yes, I was verklempt. All I kept thinking and saying, from the moment I woke up, was: Wow, this is really happening. I can’t believe I’ve come this far! It felt surreal to be driving to an interview in another city, in hopes of starting a midwifery degree. And I realized how many years I’ve been weighing the possibility, how long I’ve been trying to imagine myself into this possibility, which is, let’s be honest, so very different from the educational and career path I originally chose. So, I got that out of my system. I did not want to burst into tears if asked the question: “Why do you want to be a midwife?”

Then, again, who knows, bursting into tears isn’t the worst thing to happen to a person.

I was so early. I was so in need of a good hard run (hadn’t figured that into my schedule.)

The building seemed like a labyrinth. The only other person waiting at the location was a young man. He’d been sent ahead by a friend to find the location, and was not, more’s the pity, a prospective male midwife (why not have male midwives, I say!). When all of the morning’s candidates were gathered together, we were indeed all women, and I was glad to see I wasn’t the only older prospective student. Nerves were tight. It terrified me slightly to learn that at least four or five of the women were coming back for the second time — they’d applied last year, had interviewed, had not gotten in, and were applying again. (Which is what I imagine I would do, too.) Someone blithely commented, “Oh, that will make it easier for you this time around!” to which one of the women replied, jaws somewhat clenched, “There’s nothing easy about this.”

She was right.

I won’t give you details, but I can assure you that coming two years in a row would offer you very little in the way of advantage. The pace is gruelling. The questions are surprising. It’s like speed-dating, with assessors. There’s hardly time to ask oneself, What the hell was I going on about in there and did it sound as inane as I suspect it may have? Was I actively babbling? So that’s nice. No time to worry, really, just on to the next little room.

My energies flagged about five rooms in, but recovered for the last three or so. There was a palpable sense of relief and celebration as we finished our circuit, and dispersed, walking past the next group of candidates, who were beginning to gather, looking as nervous as we had just a few hours before.

Afterward, feeling drained of all personality, I had coffee with a fellow candidate, who is my age, also a mother of four, and who was a medical doctor in Mexico. I’d give her a spot. Who knows, maybe we’ll meet up again in the fall. And it really does feel like “who knows?” I wish I could say I came out of the process feeling confident that I would gain admission … but in truth, I came out of the process feeling completely unable to assess my own performance. It’s a blur. I did my best, I do know that. I felt, a bit, like a fish out of water, like a novice, I guess. It’s like learning to swim all over again. I’ll admit it was a hard process to go through — trusting myself, and yet recognizing my own limitations. Like the woman said, It doesn’t get easier. Starting something new, being the opposite of expert — well, there’s nothing easy about it, is there? There’s no template you can follow to make the hard things life feel easy.

But it’s like learning how to swim. You have to get wet. You probably flail a bit. You get instruction. You practice and practice and practice. And that’s the only way that someday, you’ll get to the place you imagined you might.

Why I want to be a midwife


This morning, at the very moment this blog publishes (9:30 AM), I will be in Hamilton, Ontario at McMaster University starting an interview process known as MMI (multiple-mini-interview) in the hopes of earning a place in their midwifery program this fall. (Unless my carshare car has broken down by the side of the road en route, or I’ve developed a violent stomach flu, or any number of other worst-case scenarios occur that have been plaguing my dreams all week.)

The MMI is an interviewing process that involves, as I understand it, the applicant visiting ten different rooms in rapid succession, and being asked in each room to respond to a new question or scenario. Each room has a different assessor present, and the conversation/scenario ends after ten minutes. And then it’s on to the next room. I wonder whether I’ll agree with this statement afterward, but I’m actually looking forward to the process — to getting in there, digging in, presenting myself, being myself, experiencing something new and different.

I’ve done some groundwork, as best I can. I’ve grilled my friend who graduated from the program two years ago. I’ve read a book of essays on midwifery in Ontario that she recommended. And I’ve written down my thoughts and wandered around the house answering imaginary questions in long rambling mutters.

So here’s what I’m planning to say if asked: “Why do you want to be a midwife?” Which seems like a question I ought to expect and know the answer to.

I want to be a midwife because I want to do work that is practical, hands-on, and meaningful.

I want to work with women, and their families, during moments of profound transition and change, and assist in the process. I want to learn and practice new skills. I want to empower women to make choices about their bodies that bring them health, confidence, and strength.

I would be privileged to become a midwife. I think birth is a life-altering physical experience that has the power to be spiritually meaningful, too.

I have been drawn to midwifery since witnessing (and helping, a bit!) my mother labour and give birth, at home, to my sister, with amazing midwives in attendance. I was twelve-and-a-half and have been fascinated by birth and midwifery ever since. In my early teens I pored over Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin. Two of my favourite subjects in high school were biology and chemistry. At nineteen, while a university arts major, I picked up a flier for the then-brand-new midwifery education program in Ontario, but didn’t work up the courage to apply (wisely, I think, as it wouldn’t have been the right moment in my life). I chose midwifery care for my own pregnancies, and was fortunate to give birth at home three out of four times (the hospital birth being due to complications). In the past four years, I’ve been invited to support friends and family through labour and birth, both at home and in hospital.

[Note: my daughter advises me to edit the above paragraph heavily, and not mention why I didn’t become a midwife before — “You’re never going to fit all of this into ten minutes, Mom! And you just have to tell them why you want to be a midwife now.” Excellent point. Glad I rehearsed it with her.]

I want to be a midwife because I believe it combines physical and spiritual work. I want to work directly with people in a way that seems to me quite unique: midwifery care, as I’ve experienced it, is intimate, personal, compassionate, supportive, celebratory, active, at times requiring intense involvement and attention, and at other times requiring deep listening and attention. I see it as a job that is in service to the health and well-being of others. In that way, it’s very much like my writing work, but with an outward pull rather than an inward pull. I see the two being quite connected. Both work requires intuition grounded in knowledge, trust, and a good ear.

I also want to be a midwife because it is my goal, eventually, when my children are grown, to volunteer and serve in areas of the world, or here in Canada, where health care is less accessible, and there is a need for perinatal care.

Why midwifery rather than another health care profession? It could be due to my formative and positive experiences with midwives. It could be because midwifery’s long history and tradition is of women helping women, and I would love to join that tradition. It could be because I’ve got a bit of the counter-cultural in me, as well as an interest in being a medical professional. A midwife, to me, is someone who believes in the fundamental power of a woman’s body, and that ties in to my interest in overall health, fitness, and strength.

I would bring to my practice a belief that we can all live inside our bodies with respect and care. I would also bring the understanding that not everything can be planned. I would bring the ability to be flexible, to be open to what may be rapidly-changing situations, and to be responsive to shifting choices and needs. I know myself to be calm, focused, and decisive when that is called for, but I also have a light touch in weighty matters. I try to read the situation and respond as needed.

Am I totally off-topic? What was the question? [Insert anxiety dream scenario here …]

Please … wish me luck!

Ice storm, aka “the day they should have cancelled school”

So, this has not been a productive couple of days. That photo, above, was taken this morning around 11am. It is dark, it is raining, the rain has frozen on all the branches, the sidewalks are treacherous, and, oh! School’s on! Except not for AppleApple (power outage), or CJ (power outage). Albus and Fooey were feeling very cheesed indeed when I dropped them at their very-much-open school.

We woke to no power and a rapidly cooling house. The kitchen was dark. AppleApple lit candles. I lit the gas stove (thank goodness for gas stoves!). But we couldn’t make coffee because we grind the beans every morning in an electric grinder. Hey, remember those old-fashioned coffee grinders with the handle and the little wooden drawer? We needed one of those.

I also may need to trade in my large non-portable computer for a laptop, I realize, on a day such as this. My programs and files are all locked up in iMac silence. But you know, all I can think about is the interview tomorrow, so my brain is basically distracted and inaccessible anyway. I am typing this at Kevin’s office, on a borrowed computer, with AppleApple by my side. There is power and heat here. AppleApple is whispering the many many many stanzas of Poe’s The Raven, which she’s decided to memorize for poetry month. As far as I can gather, this is only loosely a school assignment, and she could have chosen to memorize, say, a sonnet, but, no, she’s gone for an 18-stanza marathon. She has til the end of the month. She’s on stanza 11. The raven has made several appearances, and, she reports, has already spoken his famous line several times. “Nevermore.”

All I can hear is the whispering. I can’t concentrate. I’ve got nothing more, just now.

Where the wild things are

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I walked CJ to the school bus this morning, and noticed our paired footprints on the way home. And that’s my teeny-tiny attempt at positivity regarding this January-in-April weather we’ve been “enjoying.” I run outdoors all winter long, and this morning’s run was one of the coldest all year, thanks to a bitter wind and sharp flecks of snow. I’ve also got a hole in my running tights, and I’d really like to retire them for the season. Yes, that’s a first-world-white-woman problem, right there.

What was I going to blog about? I had ideas.

A blog is a nice place to gather one’s thoughts, I find. Maybe that’s why I don’t really want to stop. There’s a scrapbook mentality to this blog: every day is different, but every day is also focused and structured by the necessity of being and expressing where I’m at right now.

I read a piece in Maclean’s this morning about meditation, about using our minds to come to terms with ourselves. That is totally not the quote. I’ll go get the magazine. Here it is: Meditation is “a dignified attempt to come to grips with being human with the resources you have right there. Not depending on some guru, or some drug, or some psychotherapy. Just a very simple technique that, repeated again and again and again, will eventually change the way you relate to the world at the deepest level.” The person being quoted is Jeff Warren, a Toronto meditation teacher and journalist, who sounds like he could be guru-like, but who doesn’t like gurus. I, too, distrust the guru figure, even while acknowledging that I can learn much from mentors and teachers … I think it’s a fear of idolatry, but maybe it’s a fear of dependence, too, because I also dislike self-help books, or anyone claiming to be able to fix anyone else’s life. And yet I feel myself drawn to writing a self-help-like book — collecting and distilling all of the bits and pieces of discovery that keep me going and keep me digging — which seems super-hypocritical. I’m simultaneously pulled toward looking for ways to find and express a more meaningful life, and resistant to latching on to a single path or expression. As an individual, my path is singular, my voice is singular, there’s no way around that. Maybe that’s why I like fiction: it allows me to embody and express a wide variety of opinions and beliefs, none of which may be exactly my own.

Back to Maclean’s magazine (awkward segue), I’ve discovered a new (unpaid) talent: writing letters to the editor. I rattled off a critique of their deliberately inflammatory headline a few weeks back, in which a screaming toddler was labelled with the question: “Is she a brat or is she sick?” Ugh, I thought. Stop it with the name-calling! She’s neither, of course: she’s a normal toddler. That’s the gist of my letter and they printed it.

As I put in a load of laundry this morning, I thought, I often write from a position of response rather than call. I react to what exists with emotion and opinion. The non-fiction essays I’ve written have almost all been assigned rather than originated and pitched by me. This has been a stumbling block to my freelance writing career. When I write an essay on an assigned subject, I never know where I’m going to end up, but I know it’s going to be a fascinating exploration of unexpected territory. I know also that these thoughts and discoveries wouldn’t exist without someone else inviting me to make them exist. It burns a lot of energy to come up with an idea and spin it into existence, all on my own steam. This may be my downfall, as a writer, my Achilles’ heel, the personality flaw impossible to overcome.

But that’s okay.

Because my goal is to make writing my comfort zone, my place of meditation and peace, and not my bread and butter. I’d like to stop complaining about not making money as a writer. (I’m sure you’d appreciate that too.)

I’d like to free my writing from the burden of earning.

I have a feeling that particular complaint will never vanish, no matter how long I work at writing. The tension between creativity and a comfortable lifestyle is built right into the artistic enterprise. I, personally, can’t imagine how to change the system so that creative energies are compensated in a steady and reliable way. I’ve tried! I just can’t imagine it. And while I’m appreciative of the important role grants have played in supporting my work, I really hate asking for money. Just hate it. I want to earn my living, plain and simple.

Life is bigger

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the view from my keyboard

Life is unsteady. It doesn’t hold still.

That’s why I get up early and hold to a practice.

I will have to find a way to do this no matter what comes, no matter how busy and disrupted my days. I need to run. Or swing weights. Or cycle. Or push myself physically in some way. My joy and my productivity is directly connected to my body. I can’t think myself content, but I sure as hell can feel it.

My thought today as I ran on the indoor track was that I was running myself into submission. But wait, I thought, I’m running myself free, not into submission. Because even on the indoor track, I could feel wind in my hair, and my heart beating, and my breath coming deep and fast and sure. And then I realized that it was my mind that needed to submit to my body, so that my body could experience freedom. The further I run, the faster I run. This is probably backward to most people’s experience of running (or maybe it’s not!?). I think it’s because it takes time for my mind to empty and hush and stop doubting or worrying. And then comes focus and clarity of effort.

::

Do you remember the REM song, “Losing My Religion”? A tiny snippet from that song is stuck in my head.

“Life is bigger …”

I keep hearing it. I pay attention when a song lyric is stuck in my head, because it often tells me where I’m at. (Except for when it’s telling me that in spin class this morning the instructor played “Hangover” by Taio Cruz and, no, I don’t have a hangover, and if I did, I wouldn’t have been in spin class, Taio!)

Life is bigger. It fits where I’m at. It means, for me, this constant effort to make space for more. More emotion, more spirit, more connections, more newness, while also opening myself and my imagination to the possibilities of what I can learn and make and do. It can feel disorienting to ask others to give you the chance to try the things you want to try, and to step toward the things you want to do, but aren’t yet expert in. It’s like being asked to play a new position on the soccer field. It’s like learning how to swim as an adult. If you believe you can, you will trust your ability to build on everything you’ve experienced that’s brought you to this point, and you will simply and willingly do your best.

You won’t be the best goalie. And you won’t be the best swimmer. At least not immediately. But you’ll be on the field, or in the water, and that is the only way to learn.

Life is bigger.

::

Finally, this. I’m an inveterate writer of letters (not unlike Juliet, who writes to Ronald Reagan in one of my favourite stories in The Juliet Stories). Here is the letter I felt inspired to write and send today, to the editors of The Globe and Mail newspaper, who somehow managed not to highlight on the front page the most inspiring news story I’ve heard in a long time (note: they did print a story and photo several pages into the front page section.)

To the editors,

The Globe and Mail newspaper’s front page editors would like to show me that Tiger Woods, who cheated famously and serially on his former wife, and who is not a Canadian citizen at least to my knowledge, is back on top again. Oh, and that the Prime Minister of Canada met with what looks like a Fed Ex-ed panda yesterday.
Meanwhile, a group of young people from Northern Quebec completed an epic 1,500 km walk during which they hiked and snowshoed and camped through weather more extreme than most Canadians have ever experienced, ending their journey yesterday in Ottawa, at Parliament Hill, in hopes that their efforts might bring attention to the needs of their communities.
But, you know, I can totally see how Tiger Woods and pandas would make a better illustration to sum up yesterday’s news. Especially when Canadians are so bombarded with positive images and stories of native youth. And besides, such a photo on the front page of a national newspaper might remind us of our collective agreements and responsibilities toward all the people who live in Canada, including those who were here first, and put us off at breakfast, and make us feel guilty. And that would be sad for Globe and Mail readers.
Or maybe we would have felt inspired, who knows. Maybe you should try a whole lot harder, dig a whole lot deeper, and show us what really matters to Canadians.
Yours, Carrie Snyder
Waterloo, ON

Messy weekend report

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(click on photos to see in full)

Among our many activities this weekend, AppleApple performed at Beckettfest yesterday afternoon. Her little sister came along for moral support, making this an all-girl outing. Kev stayed home and cleaned. It takes a team. AppleApple also spent yesterday morning swimming 5,000 metres (yup, that’s 5 kilometres) in a swim-a-thon to raise money for her swim team. I think she earned her donations. Good grief. I’ve never swum that far, nor that long–have you? She did most of the swim in back crawl, which is her favourite stroke.

In other news, I spent most of yesterday groaning every time I bent down to pick something up. That just meant kundalini class on Friday night was a success.

Also in other news, we were treated to a tacofest supper with friends yesterday evening, who, I’m grateful to report are quite loud themselves and were therefore not overwhelmed by the noise and energy our family generates in these situations. We don’t get a lot of bring-the-whole-family dinner invitations. Just sayin’. So kudos to those brave enough to invite us in. (Come to think of it, Kevin and I used to be more deliberate about inviting friends / family for meals, and that’s fallen off in the past while; I should do something about that. Sharing meals with friends is such a good way to spend an evening).

I capped off the night with poetry book club where a peaty Irish whisky was served and we all laughed a lot. The big kids even got a babysitting gig out of the event.

This morning, Kev took AppleApple to her out-of-town soccer game — the last of the winter season!
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I stayed home and did: dishes, laundry, vacuuming, got yogurt going (that’s what’s in the towel-covered cooler in the photo above), and started bread (that’s what’s in the towel-covered bowl on the counter). I did not attempt to clear the breakfast bar, also pictured above. And in the foreground, we see a child holding a dog which has been dressed in a bikini, with several dog-babies stuffed in. So, you know, just the usual morning.

I have a soccer game in an hour. And plots and plans bubbling in my brain. And a book on the history of midwifery in Ontario to read in my spare minutes.

And dust mites to battle. (That’s one to your left. Looks out of this world, doesn’t it? It has recently been discovered that AppleApple suffers from an allergy to said mites. It has also been discovered that she almost certainly has asthma. We’re pretty sad about that. The good news is that she doesn’t appear to be allergic to the dogs. The other good news is that vacuuming apparently has no effect on the presence of dust mites, so I don’t have to feel guilty about how infrequently we manage the task. Even with a team effort).

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