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All posts for the month August, 2011

Body Image, Nude Modeling and A Woman of Middle Age

Published August 31, 2011 by megdedwards

Robert Morouney's drawings (artist and print maker from Port Elgin, N.B.

When I was twenty and had a fabulous figure I worked as an artist’s model while studying at school.

As a shy young girl I was embarrassed by my womanly body that brought me unwanted attention.

Blossoming into a woman I transformed from a quiet plain-faced kid to a woman with long legs and pretty breasts before I was ready for the attention.

But by the time I was twenty I had to come to terms with my body and began modeling nude for art students in my university. I liked it because once I had picked a long pose I could sit and think about other things. I remember one time having a hangover and picking an extremely relaxed reclining pose and having a small nap.

But don’t get the wrong idea- it’s skillful work- especially when the teacher requests ten 60-second poses or a fluid movement of poses for quick charcoal drawings.

Almost thirty years later, with a body that has been through the ravages of three pregnancies and a cumulative 9 years of breast feeding, I received an e-mail notice looking for artist’s models for a local art gallery on the border between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

I hesitated for one day, and then I thought, artists love bodies with character, and I have that. So I replied that I was experienced and would need $20 an hour.

When I arrived I found a collection of older folks, some women that I knew from our belly dancing group, and a friend of mine giving an introduction to the group about figure drawing. I had a small moment where I thought, oh great, now I have to strip in front of my friends, but then I focused on the task. And I knew they would have to focus on their task as well.

I took off my robe and walked into the middle of the room, and thought, what do I do again? But then as I positioned my body I remembered, twist the torso, look over your shoulder, make the pose interesting and beautiful. The first collection of poses were fast and the room was hot, “I think that Meg is the only one dressed appropriately for this heat” said someone.

We heard a knocking at the door, and then someone tried to peek in the window, the women were trying to cover the windows with cloths but I tell you, when you have already decided to strip bare in front of friends and strangers, another stranger taking a peek is of no consequence. “Just charge them five bucks” I joked, feeling a drip of sweat trickle down my side.

As the students worked it became quiet, the room filled with the sound of their industrious scribbling. I don’t know why exactly, maybe it was just muscle memory and time traveling, but while I was posing I felt sensual and beautiful. Odd that striping down to your bare essentials could do that.

After experiencing some hard times in the last four years in which the only positive part was that I lost a lot of weight, I can say that my padding now is a sign of vital good health.

Lush and blousy, like a rose or peony that is in its last days of full bloom, that is the beauty of a middle aged woman.

I have always thought that humans should be as honest and clear as they can be, time is flowing and we have only so long to get to know each other. At our most honest, we are still only exposing a small part of our true selves. So here is more of me.

My Mom and Parkinson’s

Published August 30, 2011 by megdedwards

Parkinsons

I sent a letter to my mom the other week, on some pretty note paper that I found at a garage sale, with a nice stamp. In it I wrote of my childhood and how I remember her as a blur of movement, laughter, and storytelling. She was high spirited in her domesticity: we had fantastic birthday parties and fun-filled summers and holidays. She was frugal and creative, loving but not suffocating, and always ready for the next adventure; new jobs, new relationships, and new places to live.

She sent the letter back to me the next week.  I found this to be a remarkable, if bizarre, feat, as she is suffering from advanced Parkinson’s.  Even though she is losing her mind to the progressive disease, she can still pull off a letter. And we all know that most people with all their faculties cannot manage to get a letter in the mail.

I know she enjoyed the letter, she told me it gave her much pleasure, and I think she sent it back so that I could enjoy it too.  Her note, which she wrote on the back of the envelope  in the small tight hand writing typical of Parkinson’s , started, “Darling – What a wonderful letter! Shall I keep it for an album or send it back to you to enjoy?”

She knows that she is no longer capable of making photo albums, an art form in her case, long before it became popular to ‘scrap book’.  She would have lovingly taped that letter in place, added a broad bar of color with a marker, and posted a few good shots of the kids and me.  But I think she is worried it will just get lost and that it is best in the hands of an organized mother like me.

She has at least 20 massive photo albums, each one a work of art, with her good eye for color and design and her journalist’s mind for keeping newspaper articles or cards from interesting theater shows.  The album that also contains the year of my birth, her fourth child, includes the front page of The Toronto Star announcing the first steps on the moon.  They are archival treasures even if you are not a family member.

I think she sent the letter back to me so that I would put it in my album. And I don’t keep up with the energy of my mom; by the third child I had a box of photos I couldn’t get through.  But I do try to keep up to her nutty level of energy. So I will keep that letter in my most recent album, strangely devoid of photos now that we have digital photography, and the note that she wrote on the envelope.

In a recent phone call she said, “I just smiled at a potted plant as if it was you,” and I laughed, because it was so absurd and funny. And she laughed too. But as I now know, the medication for Parkinson’s causes hallucinations and delusions.

The last time my older brother took her to the cottage she kept seeing crowds of people. She even approached the dock on her own, very slowly, hunched in pain with scoliosis and shuffling her feet in the Parkinsons’s style. When she got to the dock, she told me she approached a young boy but could not get his attention.

I am making myself cry as I write this, and Mom would appreciate that. I remember being somewhat embarrassed as a child by her rising emotions , her cracking voice or wobbling chin, if she made herself sad by telling us an emotional story.

She might not remember that now. She tells me that she is “losing her memory in great big chunks.” She feels she is unorganized and a bad cook so I remind her of all the wonderful meals she made, and her incredible organizational abilities that still make me feel inadequate.

The hallucinations are something my mom can handle; open to possibilities and experiences, she even wonders in the back of her scientific mind whether she saw ghosts at the cottage.  Delusions might be harder.  But my mom’s ability to see the world as an interesting experiment is helping us all.

On the back of the envelope in which she returned my loving letter of memories, she wrote,

“Peculiar world for me now: A Strange one. When I have a speedier pen or we’re on the phone I’ll tell you. But wait, Haven’t I already?”

Playing Clue on a Rainy Night

Published August 28, 2011 by megdedwards

What I love about our house that sits across from the sea is that it is like living in a cottage all the time. In the summer we hang our salty towels on the porch and barely let them dry before we hit the next high tide. In the winter we get a fire going in the air tight wood stove and crowd around while watching Coronation Street in the evening.

We do have electricity in our big old home, which is more than we had at my family cottage in the Kawarthas. At my family cottage we thrived with a propane stove and fridge, an airtight wood stove, an outhouse, propane lights and candles. And we lived like that every summer. We played in the lake, read books and comic books, painted, played games and wrote in our colorful journals that our mother gave us and that still sit in a chest at the cottage.

My siblings still make their way out to the old cottage and feel the gentle breeze of carefree childhood flowing through the old curtains. Such strong memories that reside in our hearts. Now, as an adult, the heady scent of coffee and a wood fire, or the tinny roar of a distant motor boat can suddenly make you stand very still and remember. Your mind travels to your ten year old body and you suddenly feel free and light.

So I love living in my version of the cottage, with my own family. We feel the weather, we live with the bugs of the season and we are carried by the changing seasons from one palette of colors to the next.

As autumn creeps towards us the green marshes gradually change to gold. Autumn draws artists and photographers to the bay as the gold of the marshes lies across the dark blue sea and borders the bright blue sky.

Blue Herons feed  in the low tide and eventually we will hear and see the V formation of the geese.

When the fantastic show of changing leaves has wrapped up and the tourists and geese have left, we live in a icy, snowy landscape.  My view from the window is of black branches against a white tundra of cresting waves of snow and ice.

Winter is beautiful, but the glaring white landscape, so white it is almost blue, wears out its welcome around  6 months later.

We crave spring, it is cold, rainy and muddy but we don’t mind and we dig around hopefully in the wet leaves exposing green shoots.

Summer appears suddenly with a full blown green landscape, jellyfish and bugs and life everywhere.  It becomes wet and humid, hot and misty. The porch has fat spiders in the corner, the bees and hummingbirds buzz the flowers all day.

These simple patterns fill the year: order wood,  turn off the furnace and turn on the dehumidifier, pile wood, move the wood inside, store the dehumidifier, turn the furnace on low and start collecting kindling for the wood stove.

Should we make a fire? Not yet, but it is coming. Now back to our games.

Myths about good parenting

Published August 28, 2011 by megdedwards

There are no tips to parenting that will make your job easier. The most important thing you must do as a parent is enjoy being with your children. Every other parenting style or passing fad will at best be accidentally positive, and at the worst, destructive on some level.

Even if you are a very good parent you are going to have random luck, genetics and your own weak personality in the mix, making the outcome an absolute unknown.

A practiced parent knows this and does not hold up their own parenting as the golden standard, probably somewhat fearful that their hubris may anger the Parenting God.

I think that after almost 19 years of parenting I can honestly say that the most irritating people on earth our righteous parents. But fortunately, now that I am an old mother, sometimes mistaken for a grandmother out here on the east coast, I don’t have to attend many coffee klatches where young mothers fuss and worry and pass around advice.

If a fresh faced parent asks for advice from the old crone I just say, “Don’t worry about this particular behavior of your child, it will change in three months to something new to worry about.”

Most parenting decisions are dependent on the parent’s personality. You may push piano lessons because it is important to you, but a well-loved child is not crippled by piano lessons.

And well -loved children will survive either the lack of breast feeding or on-demand breast feeding for years, and this same well-loved child will survive being trained to sleep in their own bed, or sleeping with their parents until they are ready to move into their own bed.

Also, I think that the idea of ‘consistency’ in parenting is a silly construct. When you are thinking about how to manipulate your children to obey you, remind yourself that they are not dogs. When I hear a parent droning on about the importance of consistency I have to bite my tongue.

Firstly, you love this person and have a relationship with them that will be long term if you don’t annoy them too much. So if they explain, in their adorable three year old lisp, why you should relent on one of your ridiculous rules, you should listen to them.

And most importantly, no matter what set of rules you create or environment of discipline you place on that child, they will be watching you and your role is to model good-ish behavior.

If you eat sensibly, or swear and throw things when you mad, they will have that behavior in their unconscious and it will come out to haunt them later when they find themselves repeating what you did, good or bad.

And when I say ‘enjoy’ your children this does mean that there must be some behavior modification. For example, in our house there is no whining, at all, and no spitting or hitting, but everything else is a free for all. And how do I get them to stop doing what I don’t like? I frown ferociously and say” Don’t whine.”

That’s it. That is all the parenting you need to know. But I am not out of the woods, by a long shot, with a seven-year-old daughter who is home schooling this year, and a 13-year-old son who is heading off on the early bus to the closest rural high school, and a 19 year old heading into her second year of college.

I may argue that parenting advice is fairly useless, but that does not mean I don’t have lots of opinions. I can mix it up with some strongly felt views about health and immunization or literacy and the importance of ‘reading aloud’, but those topics are for another day.

The Ring Finger

Published August 26, 2011 by megdedwards

The Ring Finger

It all began with a dehumidifier in an odd place and a glass jar of homemade granola, still warm,being carried from one corner of the kitchen to the other.

Now I have a crooked finger, and if I do not stretch and massage and pull and aggravate that darn ring finger a few times a day, it will slowly crunch up into a useless and pathetic claw shape.

Sitting in the emergency for five hours with what appeared to be a small cut I wrote a poem.

Here is a section:

“You Idiot, I rail at myself, homemade granola suddenly splattered across the kitchen floor with blood and shards of glass.”

It is not terribly good but as I pointed out to the doctor that I eventually saw, the good side of this experience was getting five hours of ‘me time’.

When he saw that the finger could not bend he said: “I don’t like that”, and I responded cheerfully, “I don’t like that either”, still somewhat stunned by the turn of events.

I had to have an operation on that darn finger to reconnect the tendon and wear a full splint cast from wrist to tips of the fingers for endless weeks of discomfort in which I was told “not to use my hand at all!”  by the stern but beautiful female surgeon, in case I ripped open the stiches on the tendon.

Apparently the stiches are a ‘mush’ and it is the scar tissue that holds it all together. This is all information I never, ever, wanted to know.

I hated the cast; I hated having to ask for help with almost everything. The silver lining in the case of the cast is now my 13 year old son is great at dishes and laundry. On the not so silvery lining I also gained about 15 pounds from the increased consumption of alcohol to maintain my cheerful attitude.

I have a beloved older sister who sometimes sees the world through a ‘new age’ lens, and so we will half seriously examine our actions and accidents as if they had a meaning that our unconscious was trying to tell us. Did I cut my finger tendon because I did not really want to learn the violin anymore? The violin lessons, like the ill-advised 8 minute ab exercises I did last winter that bust my gut, are my recent absolute ‘Fails’ in self-improvement.

“Which finger did you wreck?” she queried on FB and I responded “The ring finger and don’t say anything!” But of course now I can’t help but see the symbolism, a marriage needs work, and so does my finger.

If I pay no attention to my ring finger and just assume it will do its thing, as I have always done before this particular accident, it atrophies. So alright, Joe and I need another date night, and god knows we need a holiday together (ha! Like that is going to happen!)

If you want ‘me time’ in your late forties I have some advice, don’t have a kid when you are almost 30 and then one every five years after until you are forty! And, don’t be a slacker from the seventies who never had a career other than waitressing and freelance writing. Note to young people, in my day we were ‘waitresses’ and not ‘servers’.


Joe says my finger looks great and you can’t even notice the difference. He has also been known to say that I look great and not at all old and chubby.

So ‘All is right with the world” as my Dad would say, and I will be off to massage my finger as I look at the fog rising over the bay and keep an eye on the eagle that keeps an eye on me.

To blog or not to blog

Published August 25, 2011 by megdedwards

I am somewhat hesitant to commodify myself. My computer is not sure if this is a word, even my computer is out of touch.

Why write a blog about Meg, advertising my thoughts and activities? It seems somehow cheap.

I feel as if I am perched on the end of a diving board hoping no one will notice if I slink away. But the other side of my discomfort is the embarrassment of riches that exists out there in Blog Land. Every last person is writing about their lives and their thoughts and occasionally they are interesting, but mostly the thoughts float around in a sea of voices.

In the back of my head is a professor with one eyebrow in the air who is questioning my motives. If I were a “Real Writer,” he says, I would sit down with a pen and paper and write “Real Literature.” Pounding out approximately 500 words on ramblings is like mass producing your art. Unless your Samuel Johnson.

But wait, do I care about all that ? Haven’t I, as a natural born feminist, said that art was something produced while women cleaned and cooked and looked after children; that needlepoint and quilting were as much of an art form as an overly regarded oil painting masterpiece?

And today, the internet is the medium. This is how we speak to each other. Another thing I have always argued is that when women pass information to each other we are empowering each other.

Sometimes it may seem like gossip, but it is power. If we learn that someone just lost her husband, we can call her over for dinner, and if we learn that someone’s kid just got a nasty rash, we can keep an eye on ours.

Talk is our underground and we, as women, are not shy to ask each other questions. We pass each other information that is considered ‘anecdotal’ to the doctors but lifesaving to us. I googled ‘tubes tied problems’  the other day just as an entry into thinking about getting rid of the dread fear of pregnancy in your late 40’s.

What I found was a discussion among hundreds of women on the years of pain they experienced after the operation. Doctors unilaterally dismissed the pain but women were talking to each other and passing on their experiences.

So I did have a realization the other day, while driving, a time when your unconscious is free to get work done as long as no one is talking away at you. I thought, well, if you are going to do it then it really has to be egotistical, all about you.

And although I struggle with the egotistical nature of the blog, I do believe in the healing power of communication. It is comforting to hear from others who are going through what you have, or read something that makes you feel less alone in your battles.

I was once a shy child that would burst into tears if a camera was pointed at me. Having survived those first 5 years, I am now the Elaine of the group. If something socially challenging must be done I am the one sent in. I am fearless, bold, and not self-conscious. I talk to the neighbors when they are too loud, I pose nude for artists for a good buck, I help strangers on the street, I organize huge parties and events in my neighborhood, that is me.

So I am going to blog now – about my observations and situations. And I will include my own photography, and possibly a mediocre poem or two if I get inspired.

It’ll all be… painfully about me.

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