welcome to my (mis)adventures



Silently Starting

Lose yourself,
Lose yourself.
Escape from the black cloud that surrounds you.
Then you will see your own light as radiant as the full moon.

Now enter that silence.
This is the surest way to lose yourself…

What is your life about, anyway?
Northing but a struggle to be someone,
Northing but a running from your own silence.


Starting a new year always gets me thinking of what I need to do. What to make, what to learn, where to go, which skill to hone, how to give. My tendency is to make lists, write goals, reflect on what I did the previous year(s) and how to do more, be more, in the next few hundred days.

Many years of shameless ‘self improvement’ have led me here. That search was fulfilling, in a way, at the time, but I don’t think goal setting and chasing more has done me all that much good, despite whatever New Years resolution self-help articles might say. To me, I’ve come to understand there’s a difference between being organised and ruthless goal setting and chasing. Being organised to me means general preparedness: a physical, mental and emotional tidiness for what might come. In contrast to goals, it’s not outcome specific. It appreciates the unfolding, as opposed to being obsessed about the bloom.

Those beautiful words above, attributed to Rumi, land well with me this year. So much of life since becoming a wife, a mother, a gardener, a landowner, a committed community member, has been about efficiency. Making sure the laundry gets hung up, the dishes done, the floor vacuumed before my son wakes up. Every trip to town must include a shop at the grocer, visit to the library, stop at the market, playdate for the little one, and (of course), some pushes on the swings. Cramming the most into the shortest amounts of time make things, well, crammed and cramped. Often I admire the doers, the overachievers, the workaholics, but more and more I understand they’re often not people at peace.

This year, like Rumi says, I wish to stop running. Sure, many of the activities that fill my days now will continue in the new year, but I wish to find space in them. To recommit to the practices that have created such a beautiful life in the first place: silence, mediation, contemplation, connection, prayer, writing, reading words with substance. Sometimes it feels unfeasible, but it is entirely possible to live a ‘busy’ life that is still calm and expansive, to bring silence with me into communication. This is what I hope for myself for 2022, and what I wish for our beautiful crazy world.

Being Here Now

2020 was a beautiful year.

I know I’m not really supposed to say that given the current social climate. It’s like admitting you know all the lyrics to a cheeseball song or the dance moves to a Spice Girls music video (shut up, Megan).

But it was really good for us.

Sean and I started the year cross country skiing in the Kootenays, Hutchy showed up at the end of February, we left the big smoke for the coast soon after, and have been busy making a lovely life. Volunteering at local market garden farms has been a highlight, as has starting our own radio show on community radio (107.5, 2EARfm on Fridays between 10-1pm if you want to tune in). We’ve been so busy making our current situation a dream that we have almost forgotten how annoying lockdowns and face masks can be. As much as we are citizens of the world, it’s been wonderful to be citizens within this 5km radius. We’re incredibly lucky to live where we want to be, but also to have the energy, interest and time to make this place the kind of world we want to live in.

Willingly Awake

It’s nearly 1am and I haven’t yet gone to sleep from yesterday. This is, hands down, the longest I’ve willingly stayed awake since Hutchy was born. This late, long night has been spent prepping for Canadian Thanksgiving tomorrow. Last year, with me pregnant and tired, Sean stayed up till 2am making pies. This year, he was exhausted and after much persuasion, I put him into a restorative yoga pose which he hasn’t yet arisen from. This year, it’s my turn to plan Thanksgiving.

I’ve been making pumpkin pies from scratch, a veggie chilli, a kangaroo chilli, a pot of rice, quinoa-black bean “salad”, and some experimental pumpkin squares. (We over-roasted pumpkin this year… Not that I’m complaining).

As much as I know that I’ll be tired tomorrow, it has been nice to putter around the kitchen in silence on my own. Thanksgiving was always my favourite holiday growing up – no fuss with expectation or gifts, a (fairly) low stress feast with friends. As tainted as the concept of Thanksgiving is by the actual practice of it by colonialists, I believe modern-day Thanksgivings are one of the most beautiful ways to get together with neighbours.

As I cooked tonight I thought back to the Thanksgivings of my life, and to the people who have been a part of them. Of course, Shell Lake, Saskatchewan with Art & Judy up the hill. Those were my favourite Thanksgivings – huge smorgasbords of homemade dishes thrown together by a warm, eclectic, caring group of people that filled in as pseudo-grandparents. Judy passed earlier this year, but I’ll set a spot for her at our table tomorrow.

Later there were the Thanksgivings with friend’s families when I lived in Toronto in my early 20s. A decade later I appreciate being included more now that I did then.

In Belgium I hosted my first Canadian Thanksgivings at my beautiful apartment in an 18th century grand maison, inviting coworkers. Reflecting on it now, I feel it was a bit sad that my only guests were people from work. However, I likely only have that awareness now that I’ve landed in a place I call home, so maybe – when everything is taken into account – it isn’t that sad.

Then there was the Thanksgiving with Sean in Canada the first year we were together. Pumpkin pie hooked him – he asked me to marry him a few days later.

Returning to Sydney, we hosted the next few at our place in Bronte, bringing together a varied crowd. They didn’t all have a lot in common except for being really good, really interesting people. Something about feeding other people is so nourishing.

And now, here we are. Canadian Thanksgiving 2020 in Congo. Hutchy’s first. I hope he’ll grow to love it as much as I have, and to look back on his childhood Thanksgivings with fondness. I don’t think he could feel otherwise. Pumpkin pie is in his blood.

Thanksgiving 2018
Thanksgiving 2018 (best homemade pie to date – Classic filling with vegan crust)

We Need A Hero

The Australian government has just announced WWII hero, Teddy Sheean, will (poshumously) receive the Victoria Cross for valour in combat. His story is amazing. Having been commanded to abandon ship after being torpedoed by Japanese bombers and coming under fire from fighter jets, he returned to his anti-aircraft gun in an effort to protect his crewmates who were in the water, strafed by the fighter planes. Teddy went down with his ship, only 18.

At the time Teddy was not awarded the Victoria Cross, and had been denied again in 2019, but seeing that the Australian government has fumbled the Coronavirus response and needs something new for the news cycles, Teddy is now making headlines as the newest recipient recommended for a VC.

Reading about Teddy while looking at my sleeping son, I reflect on how it seems we truly don’t appreciate how fortunate we are until we’ve lost something. In Australia, the area we have been living in have suffered droughts, incomprehensibly catastrophic bushfires, a global pandemic, and now flooding. And still, this country continues to pillage, granting coal mining rights under Sydney’s water reservoirs, post-bushfire logging, giving approvals to blow up 46,000 year old cultural sites of inestimable value to humanity. The idea of war is especially barbaric to me now that I am a mother. Wars waged against people and wars waged against our environment… both are incredibly destructive, but the second may be even worse. As we continue to drain the Earth of resources to quench our insatiable thirst for consumption, the options for future generations are becoming increasingly limited. I look at my baby and wonder what the world will look like for him in only a decade or two.

North American indigenous culture examines an individual’s capacity to affect 7 generations behind them, and 7 generations ahead. The Iroquois made decisions thinking of the world 7 generations ahead of them. Our leaders could not be further from this kind of thinking now, even when we have more than ever at risk. Individuals are still voting in governments which destroy natural wonders for short term gains in investment portfolios that they intend to pass down to their children and grandchildren. But what use is money when their world is gone? And these are the lucky ones… we don’t speak of what will happen to people in places like Bangladesh, or speak of climate refugees with no protection and no options. While this coming generation has incredibly capacity to change the ways of our society, we need to stop stacking the deck against them.

Sea Change

For as long as Sean and I have known each other we’ve talked about the leaving Sydney for somewhere closer to nature. It’s been hard to decide where to land – Canada or Australia? Mountains or ocean? Bush or beach? As always, the answer came when we least expected it – with a newborn baby and a global pandemic.

Leading up to HB’s birth, Sean and I agreed to a period of “confinement” (translated from the Chinese, Zuò yuè zi). This meant that for 40 days after his arrival, I didn’t leave the house much. No grocery shopping, no groups of people, no computers. However, within 2 weeks of Hutchy’s birth, lockdown measures were looming in Australia. The infamous toilet paper brawl that made international news happened not far from where we live. One Tuesday night Sean went out to get a few essentials. He returned home with traumatised eyes, and suggested it was a good time for a trip down the coast. Oh, and I should bring whatever I might need for the next month. Just in case.

We drove 5 hours south of Sydney, and sure enough lockdown measures were introduced. Instead of going back to the city we decided we’d stay put and changed our address. We stayed for 6 weeks of bliss, taking short walks on the beach, hanging out with our new little family. It was so good we decided to find a house of our own nearby. After lockdown lifted we returned to Sydney, rented our apartment and then drove south to our new permanent home on the coast.

So, here we are. In paradise. Miles of empty beach north and south. The Great Divding Range to the west. The Tasman Sea to the east. 120 steps to the bush. 200 metres to the ocean. Surrounded by national park. Wallabies and kangaroos milling about. Pods of dolphins play in the surf.

It’s been a good move.

Golden Son

Hutchinson Balou Barker. Happy, healthy, hearty.

Life is forever changed. The three of us are embarking on something brand new.

From Ultra Runs to Cookie Walks

Sean and I are back at our favourite log cabin in Jasper for a month. It’s wonderful to be here, sitting by the fire, looking at the mountains, getting caught up on coursework and reading. (To be honest, I should qualify that by saying at this moment it’s great, but at other moments I get incredibly jealous of Sean skiing and am much more of a negative Nancy. We blame the mood swings on pregnancy but I think taking a season off while looking at the mountain would testing for anyone).

Jasper is a town of beautiful people. Last night I had the pleasure of getting to know Glenda, a 77-year resident of Jasper who was born on the prairies not too far from where I come from. She told me how she and some other ladies started fundraising for a seniors centre over 12 years ago and that it all started with a cookie walk. Pregnant and naturally sugar-addicted I was intrigued. It turns out that Jasperites donate their baked goods, and on one day in December the seniors’ center sells the cookies back to the community, in any combination buyers desire. It was just my luck that today was that special day.

My interest in cookies at this time is purely gluttonous… I know that whatever I would like to tell myself being pregnant, cookies really are not a nutritional necessity. In fact, just this morning I was sitting on the couch, talking to Sean about maternity pants (as you do). For some weird reason that is totally incongruent with looking good or with the practicalities of wearing long underwear in cold weather, maternity fashion leans towards tight pants. “Jeggings” and tight-ankle pants are the go. It should be obvious to all that this is a bad idea… As I said this morning, it makes me feel like a saran-wrapped cow. Sean, ever sensitive, consoled me by saying “No babe, your legs are just a bit more ‘drumsticky’ than they were before”… and to make sure I knew this was a compliment he followed it up closely with “that’s the bit everyone asks for when eating chicken.” Perfect.

Despite saran-wrapped-cow-drumstick-legs, I made my way to the Jasper Cookie Walk today. It was a competitive field, with a line up of easily 40 people between me and the cookie table. Several distractions lured me away – a 50/50 draw, the silent auction – but I regained focus in time to make it to the front of the line and walk out with 2 dozen cookies (most of which will be taken begrudgingly to another event this evening to limit my exposure and potential for gluttony).

It’s quite humbling how life works out. Only a few months ago I was saying I missed distance running and hiking and should get back into it. I never thought the Jasper Cookie Walk would be my first foray back into the field.

A Problem with Feminists

I’m all about equal pay, equal treatment, yadda yadda yadda. Perhaps more accurately feminism should be/is called humanism, but lately when it comes to gender equality, feminism is the term most widely recognized, though often misinterpreted.

Unfortunately I could write multiple posts about where extremism, aggression and victimization has taken the guise of feminism, but today I’m writing about a slightly lighter – though still serious – topic. 

It’s the championing of men who are domestically responsible. It’s the cheering that happens when a woman, who considers herself an ardent feminist, sees a man pushing a broom. It’s the standing ovation echoing the halls when a man loads a dishwasher. 

Sure, it’s cute and sure, everyone likes a bit of appreciation, but if someone truly considers themselves a feminist, shouldn’t the same happen for the woman who does these things on the regular? Shouldn’t anything a person do to be self-supporting, be taken as just that? 

My partner is amazing, but not because he cooks and cleans (he also eats and makes a mess). He’s amazing because of a whole host of other reasons I’m going to marry him for. But the other day when a woman saw him making me pancakes and told me I have the best boyfriend in the world and am lucky because he can make breakfast, I felt like my partner was being lessened, and I wondered what’s up with this common worldview of men. I’ve cooked for that same woman and my partner, cleaned the house, and done a lot of domestic work in her vicinity, but no one ever told me I’m the best girlfriend in the world for doing the dishes or taking out the trash. I don’t mean to pick on one person here – this female response is so typical it’s not limited to just this one person or situation. This isn’t the first and surely will not be the last time I hear someone complimenting my partner for doing his share. Regardless, I do want to table it for consideration as these small reactions really do say a lot. They also put an enormous amount of strain on women who are burning themselves out to have a clean house, take care of the kids, work, pay the mortgage, etc – all things that, if you’re a feminist, should be shared equally as the hum drums of life.

It’s these same women who will tell you that “it wasn’t like that in my day.” How they cooked and cleaned and scrubbed the toilet. How the men came home from work and soiled the pristine carpet with dirty shoes. They’re the ones who say they believe in feminism, and yet when they see it – a small sign of equality – they rush to treat it as the second coming. In that kind of atmosphere equality in the household cannot exist.  

And now, someone who can say this so much better than me… Ally Wong!

Gender MindBenders

As soon as you tell the greater public that a new baby is on the way, the most common first response is “Boy or girl?”

It’s certainly an interesting question, and one that is laden with significance. However, as we respond that we prefer to wait for the surprise, we’re often confronted with questions like “But how will you know what colour to paint the baby’s room?” or “What will you dress the baby in if you don’t find out if it is a boy or girl in advance?”

There’s an enormous amount of focus placed on how parents could possibly begin to be sensitive to a newborn’s gender if said baby is not dressed in either pink or blue. Many who do support the surprise of waiting for the birth, have said “Well, I guess you can dress the baby in neutrals.”

A lot of people find my zeal to not colour code our child a bit over the top, but it is absolutely fundamental to me. The kid, when it feels strongly about wardrobe decisions, can make them. But until then, they can get experience in all the colours of the rainbow, plus black, white and camo. They can wear “girl” clothes and “boy” clothes and run around in the buck for all I care. (And yes, as so many people love to tell me “little girls love dressing up like a princess!” I didn’t. I just loved dressing up in anything, multiple times a day. But yes, if they want to be a princess, they can be a princess, and that’s totally cool with me).

This is not just about what the kid wants and feels – it’s a baby! It’s about the expectations society has of children to express gender… and for what purpose? Observing adult behaviour towards young girls (or girls of any age, for that matter), I often hear first comments about the girl’s outfit. With boys, it’s often about toys or something about how strong or smart they are. (Much to my chagrin, at times I find myself falling into these patterns in conversation with children myself). It may seem like a leap to some, but how we speak to children and what we focus on is what they come to focus on. If they’re only ever told they’re “pretty” or they’re “strong”, then they value those things and pursue them. Why do we need to start this at birth? Perhaps if we could start looking past gender-specific conversation starters, we’d learn to have new conversations with children, ones that allow them room for thought and expression, help them to see that they are valued for more than how they look or how strong they are. We may learn something as adults too. We could ask them about their favourite books. Do they like nature? What animals have they seen? These are things I really try to work on in my own interactions with kids, and feel particularly motivated to be conscious of now that I will soon have one!

Additionally, all this baby-gender-labelling feeds mass consumerism, with people buying made-in-China baby clothes that are worn and thrown away within weeks. Fast fashion is so obvious in baby land, yet is not talked about because it’s considered cheap or uncaring not to buy something newly made in a sweatshop for a newborn. (Side note: fast fashion is the #2 polluter in the world behind oil). It’s so prevalent that when we mentioned we were expecting to a small group of friends, we were inundated by hand-me-down baby clothes 0-12 months, and within two weeks had two full sets of “girl” clothes and “boy” clothes. We had to kindly ask people to stop.

It may be a little young for a newborn to ponder these ideas, but I do not want to set the expectation that femininity comes from tutus and pierced ears. Nor do I want to encourage that masculinity means playing with trucks and being too tough to cry. I hope as they grow older, our child will think about these concepts, and decide what they mean to them.

Our pregnancy intersects with a fascinating time in history where, in addition to having views on how babies should present, everyone seems to also have an opinion on transgender rights and expression too. No one can escape being told by society what or how they “should” be. Despite the precedent of non-binary gender expression being an ancient concept in societies around the world, we now seem to feel that it is of utmost importance that political parties debate on it. It is rather ironic (but perhaps unsurprising) that society places such importance on how an infant is dressed, yet feels it should also be able to prevent an adult from deciding how to express their own gender.

A wise person once said “Expectations are the root of all resentments”. Maybe it’s smart to just leave everyone alone, and let them be whoever they’re going to become. We can all practice acceptance and maybe learn something from our differences.

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