Whenever I write something about my life as a woman of colour, I take a deep breath before hitting send. I know that once the article is published, I am open to all kinds of criticism and comments from THE ENTIRE WORLD. It’s a little daunting. But I do it because I think stories are important, sharing our lived experiences is important. And no, not everyone will (try to) see things from my point of view. (You can read the comments on this particular article to see what I mean). But often, some brave souls will speak up and shut down the nay-sayers – which is touching – and once in awhile, someone will even write to me privately to thank me for being a voice for them. That blows my mind.
I wrote this piece about raising daughters of colour because we do have different experiences than white girls. And while my thoughts do not reflect those of every single woman who identifies as non-white, I have friends and family in my circle who totally get where I am coming from. I also encourage you to read the articles on CBC Parents by Debbie King. She is a black woman raising black children, and I can identify with parts of her story as well.
I never, in all the writing and speaking I do about building bridges among faith groups and cultures, point fingers and claim that one is good and one is bad. That’s not my belief and it’s not my style.
I was really proud to have been given some space on CBC Parents to talk about something that is really important to me. They have some really great articles on their site for everything from Tech & Media to Learning to Family Health, so after you read my article called I Must Be A Role Model For My Daughter Of Colour, you should click around and see what draws your attention.
Even though I haven’t visited the country (yet!) there are so many things I love about Italian language and culture. Those of you who know me well, know that I have a bit of an obsession with the Romance languages; my goal is to be conversational in French, Spanish and Italian in my lifetime. Studying language and culture go hand-in-hand because one influences the other. For example, the Italian expression la dolce far niente (the sweetness of doing nothing) reveals the value placed on a slow, mindful way of living. If a term doesn’t exist in a language, it is likely irrelevant in the culture. And if it’s irrelevant in the culture, there’s no need for a word or expression.
CBC Parents was looking for tips on relationships and family, and I was happy to share my family’s version of la dolce far niente. We are a bunch of homebodies which makes it easy to have a day or evening in, where we’ve said ‘no’ to other commitments and ‘yes’ to just being with each other. But we also have a bustling work/school week; with 3 kids in classes and activities, an entrepreneur husband, and myself wearing numerous hats as a writer and instructor, it’s easy to get to the end of the week and wonder what the heck happened?!
In my article, I shared 3 tips for slowing down moments even if we can’t stretch out an entire day in pyjamas. I think these tips are good reminders for all of us about the simple ways we can take a little breather and fuel ourselves for the busy-ness. It’s nice to have a life full of activities and people we love but we can enjoy them better when we’ve also made space for nothing.
Earlier this year, someone asked me on Twitter if there was a difference between the terms East Indian and South Asian. I knew there was. I knew that East Indian was outdated but I also didn’t now why it existed in the first place.
I love it when someone asks me something thought-provoking, and isn’t afraid to do so. Often, I think we swallow our questions and curiosities because we don’t want to offend someone else, but it’s through these conversations that we all get to learn something. When a question is posed without judgement, it really opens the doors to a healthy dialogue.
In this case, I enlisted the help of encyclopedia.com and read a somewhat complicated explanation of the origin of this term. I relayed my childhood confusions over all the ‘Indian’ terms (East Indian, West Indian, Red/Native Indian) in this column for Peace Arch News.
I also shared a couple simple ideas on taking the insult out of categorization.
Read the full article here and let me know if you have ever been confused by these terms or have had any experiences being categorized incorrectly!
August is here and for Vancouverites that means one thing: cramming in as much fun as possible before heading back to school and office routines (yes, we work in the summer but things are a little more lax, am I right?). If you want to fill your month with some out-of-the-box, expand-your-mind plans, don’t pass up the Vancouver Queer Film Festival! There are many VQFF events running throughout August 9-19 so you have plenty to select from.
Vancouver Queer Film Festival Celebrates 30 Years
VQFF is celebrating 30 years of spotlighting talented queer artists in an industry that is “gatekept by those with privilege,” according to Artistic Director, Anoushka Ratnarajah. “A lot of white people, a lot of cis men, a lot of heterosexual folks…so we really make it a priority to centre and platform, particularly, queer and trans marginalized voices in our festival.” Further to their commitment to raising these voices in our community, for the past few years VQFF has a dedicated spotlight on two-spirit and indigenous queer talent.
Ratnarajah and her co-artistic director Amber Dawn, along with a volunteer program committee, had the incredible task of reviewing film submissions to curate a festival worthy of a milestone for this under-represented artistic community. When asked about the submissions they received for the festival this year, Ratnarajah explained, “This year we’ve been really excited to see such an increase in trans representation on film, and we’ve actually been able to curate an entire spotlight that centres trans women on screen. Historically, stories about trans women have been performed by cis male actors, and there are a lot of really talented trans women out there. We have decided to make it an ongoing policy to not show films where cis men are playing trans women.”
It’s not just about being representative – the other criteria for the program committee: the films have to move audiences. And Ratnarajah and her team guarantee that audiences will not be disappointed.
Queer Artists Respond To World Events Through Films At VQFF
In 2018 alone, the bigotry deluging the queer community has been identified at local and global levels. But so has the outcry against these acts. Remember the Pride flag portrayed by people wearing soccer jerseys during World Cup in Russia where ‘gay propaganda’ is against the law? As well, Instagram was recently forced to apologize after removing an image of two men kissing when account users went instacrazy on the company. And there was public opinion voiced when a primary school in London, England had to shrink its Pride parade due to threats from parents.
This festival showcases narrative that springs from incidents such as these because, as Ratnarajah states, “We don’t live in a void or a vacuum. Everything affects our programming.” These films tell the stories, the experiences that are uniquely queer.
Should I Go To VQFF If I’m Not Queer?
This was not a real question, by the way, but something I threw in there because I think it’s important to say what people might be thinking. The reason I don’t think it’s a valid question is because that would be like refraining from watching films set in foreign countries or starring a cast that looks nothing like you. We can’t expect to learn about and from each other when we don’t step out of what is typically our experience. It doesn’t mean it’s going to change who we are (except maybe for the better, if it helps give us perspective).
This film festival is an incredible opportunity to learn through art, to be moved by a medium that transcends whatever differences we think we have. Art removes the illusion that there is an ‘us’ and a ‘them’. There’s no escaping our shared humanity when it’s pouring out on screen, on stage, or on the page.
Both Ucluelet and Tofino are top destinations when vacationing on the more rugged, west coast of Vancouver Island.
This past Spring break, my family boarded BC Ferries to Nanaimo and set off on an epic adventure. The drive from Nanaimo to the other side of the island was spectacular and I shared some photos and pit stop ideas here. But before we embarked on our journey, we had to decide where to rest our heads: Ucluelet or Tofino?
After researching each spot, we decided we’d like to have our cake and eat it, too, so we opted for both places; we had the time and weren’t pressed to really have to choose. However, if you can only stay in one place, or prefer to just drop your bags down once and simply drive to the other location, this guide I wrote for Surrey604.com will help you out a lot!
It’s only about a 40 minute drive between Ucluelet and Tofino and it is STUNNING. So, if you’re going to visit both (and you should!) then I recommend you stop at beaches along the way.
Read more details in the full article and let me know where you think you would spend the most time!
I have always lived outside of Vancouver (first in Richmond, now in Surrey) but when travelling, I default to the popular cosmopolitan city when asked where I am from. Often, I’ll go beyond and explain that I live in a surrounding area, but the farther I am from B.C., the more likely I am to receive a blank stare if I supply any other city name. It’s not a big stretch for me; over the years I’ve dined in swanky Yaletown, gone club-hopping on Richards St., taken in fireworks and ice cream at English Bay, poorly executed rollerblading the seawall on a first date (a blog post in and of itself), and hung out with my poet friends on Main Street. It may not be the city I live in, but I do love its neighbourhoods with their quirks and undeniable cultures. But Vancouverites and ‘Vancouverites-of-the-surrounding-areas’ have to admit: there’s a lot of room for parody here. So, when I got the chance to poke a little fun at Surrey’s older sister, thanks to Vancouver Theatre Sports League’s Avocado Toast, I didn’t turn it down. Neither should you!
Avocado Toast Presented By Vancouver Theatre Sports League
From now through September 1 (Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 pm) at The Improv Centre on Granville Island, you can treat yourself to a very Vancouver evening: sailboats, sunsets and sights that make Vancouver an internationally popular destination. I had such a lovely commute ‘into the City’ (as we say) with my friend; we got to catch up on the drive in and had some laid-back laughs in the theatre. I told you that part of my plan for a more ‘sane’ summer as a mom of 3 is to get out with a girlfriend sans enfants. Avocado Toast was my first planned evening out and it was a great way to kick off the summer! Any time I can laugh with a friend is time I cherish, and at VTSL it’s pretty much impossible to not giggle or guffaw.
Have you ever been to an improv comedy show? It blows my mind how a group of talented artists can create an entire show out of nothing and have us in stitches over yoga, the Grouse Grind, coffee and bike lanes. There was nothing this crew couldn’t do, it didn’t matter what the audience threw at them. Isn’t that the best part about an improv show? You can be a part of it without having to be on stage? You can just throw your suggestion out there, and if someone grabs it you get to see how it plays out in the minds of some really funny people. I mean, if you’re really brave you can get up there, too. But my friend and I enjoyed being close enough to touch the stage but not actually set foot on it!
You know what else is awesome about attending a show for Vancouverites about Vancouverites? You can literally wear your yoga pants and you’d be on point. I didn’t. I mean, it was my girls’ night out; I dressed up and wore jeans. But maybe the next time I go, I’ll wear something stretchier. Yes, I’d go again! When it’s improv, you NEVER get the same show twice and I am so curious to see how Avocado Toast is served up another time!
If you’re looking for an opportunity to get out and do something different, I highly recommend checking out the shows at The Improv Centre. With so many food destinations close by and unique shops to wander through, you can make quite an evening out of it. For me, it’s a great place to meet a friend or venture out to on a date night when I need a little dose of Vancouver.
“Hello there!” my neighbour chirped, breaking my trance. I looked toward her voice which came from the road at the back of my cottage.
“Hi,” I responded dully from the love seat on the side deck.
“Everything ok?” Concern laced her question. If she was someone I knew better, if I wasn’t exhausted, if I could find the words, I might have told her how utterly sad I felt. But nothing came out except a mumbled excuse about being tired.
It wasn’t a lie. I was tired – tired of feeling the way I had been feeling for most of the summer. Even at the lake, my happy place, I couldn’t drum up an ounce of cheer; faking it was out of the question. I was way past that.
I felt this struggle every summer. I’d start off optimistic, even determined, that the approaching season would be different. That I’d not only survive the long days but also thrive. I was the mom, right? I’d be in charge of how the day went and what I was able to accomplish, and my kids would line up in a row like little goslings. My children would be fed and entertained, I would tend to my writing business, and there would still be plenty of time for family adventures. So many people envy the work-at-home mom because of exactly this scenario. I have to say that in 10 summers of trying, I have not quite come close to that pretty picture.
And last summer was the worst.
It took me nearly the entire month of September to pull myself out of my funk. I think I spent the first two weeks of school, sprawled in bed or on the couch, willing the fatigue out of my body and mind. This was in direct conflict with that part of me that was excited to have some kind of freedom again to create and work and grow my business; at the end of the day I was always disappointed by what I hadn’t done with those precious hours when they were finally in school. Looking ahead, I want something entirely different for these next few months.
I hesitate to say this…but I have a plan. My hesitation comes from the fact that I spent much of yesterday afternoon refereeing fights, witnessing tantrums and wishing I could sail to an island far, far away. Nevertheless, the show must go on and this introverted writer and mom of 3 is pulling out some tricks to give me some sanity this summer (for you, too, if you need it).
Three Things I Will Do For Some Sanity This Summer
1. Call in reinforcements. I have a teenage babysitter available much of the summer and boy, do I plan to use her. Whether it’s for my anniversary dinner or just some coffeeshop writing time, I will not hesitate to dial her number! (Or text…whatever). I also hope to get together with my friends and their kids; this allows my friends and I to see each other and for our kids to have some playmates while we catch up. The more kids are around, the more entertained mine are. The more moms are around, the more relaxed I am. Win-win! I also have the two oldest ones in a couple camps each. I basically took my credit card to the local community centre and said, “Charge it.” It felt So. Good.
2. Have quality time with my girlfriends. This, of course, means time without our kids. This was hugely lacking for me last year. I saw two friends the entire summer! One in July and one in August. It was not enough. My girlfriends are the ones who get me, the ones I can be messy with, and the ones I can belly laugh with. I don’t know what could be better for my mental health than time with other women who understand what it’s like to be a mom who’s also trying to maintain her individuality and womanhood. I am booking in dates with girlfriends weeks in advance so I ensure I am not going too long without that precious time. This Thursday, I’m taking my friend to a media night of Avocado Toast at Vancouver Theatre Sports League. I’ve been looking forward to this for a couple weeks and honestly, just knowing I have it planned lifts my spirits in those trying moments.
3. Take a few minutes to myself each day. Yesterday, it was a drive to the gas station. And then a 15 minute phone call with my cousin from the car…parked in my garage. But you know what? It helped. By the time I got in the house, the kitchen was cleaned up from dinner (strategic timing on my part, I know) and the two younger kids were in bed. This allowed me to spend a quality half hour with my oldest before tucking her in and then relax for an hour before calling it a day. The drive gave me a little sense of freedom and a chance to play my music loud. The phone call allowed me to connect with someone I care about, talk to her about something positive in her life (which made me feel inspired and proud) and then vent a little about my own day. By the time I got to my oldest daughter’s bedroom, I almost felt like a new person and I could give her the best part of me. Some days, a few minutes to myself might look like a walk (alone or with a neighbour), reading in our home library, journalling in my studio or sitting outside in my backyard. I used to feel guilty ‘stealing’ these moments because I felt like once the family was all together after my husband got back from work, I shouldn’t split. But for a little more sanity this summer, I am splitting.
I’m an introverted mom of 3, and any introvert or mom of 3 will tell you that that is some messed up kind of paradox I am living. All year-round it’s a bit of an extra challenge for someone like me to pull myself out of my head and remember who is supposed to be where, anticipate their needs, find opportunities for their growth, support them each emotionally at various stages of development, forge into unknown territory (hello, preteenhood!), ensure their wellness (and so many more things that I don’t have time to list because skating camp is almost ending and my window for writing is closiiiiiiiiiing). But the number of summers I have left with all my babies under one roof goes down by 1 each year. I want to make them as fun for all of us as possible and I now see that my mental health is a prime factor in all of this.
Do you have tips for introverted moms who work from home during the summer? How do you keep your business afloat, get space to recharge and enjoy your family over the summer months? Leave a comment – I’d love to hear!
Ucluelet is actually really easy to say (u-CLUE-let) but I only say it correctly when I say it out loud. In my head, I say u-CLAY-let and that, I blame solely on my husband. Yes, I am publicly outing him for mispronouncing this word. It was such a big part of our trip (laughing at his inability to just say it right, for heavens’ sakes). One of the unofficial games we played as we drove across Vancouver Island was Who Can Say Ucluelet Worse Than Dad? My 4 year old took the prize with ukulele-let.
Where We Stayed
We had a fabulous time in the rugged beauty of Ucluelet, B.C. where we spent 2 days and one night perched on a cliff at the Black Rock Oceanfront Resort. To say the views from our Two Bedroom Trail Ocean View Suite were incredible is a bit of an understatement. The windows in the bathroom, each bedroom, and living room all revealed gorgeous black rock, sparkling blue water, driftwood and beach that was all, literally, steps away.
It was the perfect suite for the 6 of us and I would love to book the same one in storm watching season!
What We Ate
As I mentioned in my article for Surrey604, Ucluelet is a quieter town than Tofino and we didn’t find a lot of family dining options. Armed with a couple of recommendations, we made our way to the main drag and found ourselves parking at Howler’s Family Restaurant. Not only did we hear the food was delicious – we were intrigued by the fact that it has a bowling alley right in the restaurant! The kids LOVED this! After stuffing ourselves with fresh fish ‘n chips, fish tacos and grilled cheese, we made our way to the lanes.
My favourite part about this restaurant experience (aside from the fish taco – totally recommend it!) was meeting another family who were visiting Ukee for the first time. They were originally from Ottawa but now living in the Yukon. And they spoke French! If you’ve followed along on this blog or my Instagram stories, you know that I am currently learning Spanish. French is a language I used to be fairly fluent in. Since high school, I haven’t practiced it regularly at all, but learning Spanish has made my French come back with a vengeance. So, I was thrilled when this random encounter afforded me a chance to practice it. We had a great conversation (I was slow and imprecise) during which I learned that she had spotted some whales earlier that day. In fact, we heard this from people we were to meet the next day as well. We kept our fingers crossed for a sighting story of our own but weren’t so lucky this time!
Where We Played
I’d say the highlight of our short stay in Ukee was the Wild Pacific Trail. The Lighthouse Loop of this trail is a gorgeous MUST for people of all ages. My 4 year old did amazing as we walked among stunning foliage that hugged some of the most beautiful coastline I have ever seen. We couldn’t have asked for better weather; the sunbeams sparkled on the deep blue, interrupted only by jet-black rock.
I would love to go back and do more of this trail (sans enfants) as well as make Ucluelet a romantic destination during storm watching season (sans enfants aussi, bien sur).
One of my favourite photos from this trip was in front of this mural we found on the side of a motel – I mean, what’s a trip without a spontaneous pose in front of public art? Plus, we figured this could count as our whale-sighting story!
Although I opened with ‘Ucluelet is a quieter town than Tofino’, I don’t say it like that’s a bad thing. Ukee is the perfect getaway for any Nature-lover. As well, anyone who travels to small towns knows that one of the perks of an intimate space is the ease with which you can meet a local, share a conversation and learn more about the hidden gems.
Have you been to Ucluelet? What is your favourite memory from there? Is there another small town you’ve visited that I might appreciate? I’m looking for the perfect writing retreat and would love any of your recommendations!
How moms make friends these days blows my mind – but in a good way! It just caught this Gen X-er by surprise to see what was literally an advertisement for friendship in a neighbourhood Facebook group. I was intrigued (okay, fascinated). Even though I didn’t fit the bill of what this mom was looking for, I reached out to her for a phone chat.
Ok, full disclosure here – this is one of the things I love about being a writer. I can just ask people for a few minutes of their time simply to satisfy my own curiosities! I had an idea of where I wanted to pitch this (it wasn’t CBC Parents, initially, which is where I’m thrilled it ended up) but mostly, I just wanted to hear Berkeley’s story. That’s such an important part of this gig for me. Researching, learning, listening and then, eventually, sharing.
I told Berkeley I was a writer looking to work this into an article and she happily agreed to talk to me about how moms make friends on Facebook. We spoke for quite some time; she filled me in on the friends she has made by adverts in various mom groups.
It’s so different from my own reality as a new mom over a decade ago. I was pretty isolated – the few friends of mine who had babies didn’t live in town or close enough to me to meet with regularly. When my daughter was 6 months old, I joined Facebook but didn’t disclose much on there. It was more of an entertainment thing (and a creeping people from high school thing!).
Click over to CBC Parents to read my full article and then let me know what you think about posting for friends. Have you done it? If not, do you wish you had?
If you’ve never heard of the Roundhouse Youth Theatre Action Group (RHYTAG), you’re missing out on something amazing happening right here in Vancouver, B.C. RHYTAG is the vision of Director/Playwright Valerie Methot to bring together the worlds of art and social change while engaging youth and the community in which they live. It’s every bit as awesome as it sounds.
“I strongly believe that young people have a lot of really important things to say,” Methot emphasized to me when we spoke on the phone about RHYTAG and the upcoming world premiere of the original play, The Release Party.“And it’s really important to me that we give them a forum . . . the utmost respectful environment to do that.” What Methot has done, essentially, is create a safe environment for youth to have their say, to produce a collaborative project while learning skills like script-writing, acting, set-building and everything else that goes into a first-class theatre production.
RHYTAG started strong 17 years ago; in year one, 50 youth showed up to the first workshop, prompting Methot to build Some Assembly Theatre, a company of professional artists, to support this project. “Our company is all about producing these plays to promote awareness and dialogue and wellness with regard to these issues that face young people.”
The young artists range in age from 13 to 18 and don’t necessarily have prior theatre experience. The only requirement is that they are open to working in a group with mentors (older youth) and under the guidance of professional artists while committing to the schedule necessary to put on the productions. Commitment does not seem to be an issue for these talented and ambitious youth; some of them who started out in their early teens years ago are now hired by Methot.
When asked about RHYTAG’s place in the community, Methot replied, “I always want it to continue to grow and I see it as an important central pivot in the community. It’s a place where community members of all ages need to come together to listen to the young people. We have talkback sessions after every performance and over the 17 years I’ve been doing this, every year there are very moving testimonials from audience members who see themselves in our plays and are moved to tears because they have never felt part of the community before. This project really does bring community together.”
The New Play, The Release Party Runs From May 2-5
Some Assembly Theatre Company is proud to produce and present the world premiere of The Release Party from Wednesday, May 2 to Saturday, May 5 at the Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre. Admission is FREE – your donations are appreciated. ** Seating is limited! For reservations, please contact Ken Lawson: 604-603-5237 | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Release Party is a play based on real life – a story powerful enough to save lives. It is a celebration of youth expression in a pursuit to manage struggles with mental health, bullying, and suicide prevention. The Release Party inspires with bravery, exhilarating artistry, and hope for the future. Working in collaboration with professional artists, this play is written and performed by youth from diverse backgrounds including Kwakwaka’wakw Nation, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Greek, French, Russian, Kurdish, and Serbian.
The story is based on ‘Wind’, a young First Nations artist, who is releasing her new single – and throws a party to celebrate. At the party, attendees are asked to perform their various talents, which leads to a life-changing experience they’ll never forget. The Release Party treats you to comedy, drama and brave dialogue along with entertaining dance, music, spoken word, rap, visual art, film, and parkour.
Watch The Trailer For The Release Party
The Audience Is Well Supported
At the play, you can expect to find many levels of support for audience members who may be triggered by what they see or hear on stage. Resource materials will be available as well as clinicians and counsellors provided by Vancouver Coastal Health, a key partner of Some Assembly Theatre. This truly is a project that follows through on their mission to promote change at the individual and community level; art and healing come together in fine fashion.
The Young Artists Of The Release Party
The Release Party is written and performed by the following youth from Vancouver and Surrey: Christopher Rahim, Latisha Wadhams, Steven Cao, Cam Adriano, Carly Le, Nikita Gutman, Elodie Doumenc, Haley Christenson, Devana Petrovic, Sian Kilpatrick, Laurel Trueman and Josh Kennedy, who work in collaboration with industry professionals/artists Valerie Methot, Ken Lawson, Flick Harrison, Rup Sidhu, Jeremy Baxter, Anna Talbot, Athena Ivison, Nikki McLaren, and Allen Morrison.
I had the pleasure of chatting with Laurel Trueman about the collaborative movement of RHYTAG and the value of her experience working with this group. “RHYTAG is such a diverse group of people with different backgrounds, different opinions and different levels of experience regarding the arts and writing . . . I’ve really learned working with such beautiful people. I’ve learned the value of giving someone space and hearing what they have to say and doing that, I’ve figured out there’s so much that I don’t know and so much that could be coming out in a collaborative project . . . that could make a project beautiful.”
Her articulate response made me think: As long as we have people coming together, offering space and collaboration and friendship, and as long as we continue to have challenging conversations in safe circles, we have hope for our future.
If you’re looking for something unique and meaningful yet engaging and entertaining to do with your teen, I can’t think of anything better.
For more information on Some Assembly Theatre Company, please visit them: