Posts tagged ‘housing’

Week 9

Hi Internet!

I disappeared for a few weeks there. Sorry about that!

What happened was that Z and I sold our apartment and bought a sweet little old house! As a matter of personal philosophy, I absolutely do not believe that kids need to grow up in houses. Many kids grow up very happy in apartments. But for us, it is time to leave this particular apartment, and we just happened to find a place that really appealed to us, and now we are moving at the end of the month, just in time to do some nesting and plan a nursery. So it’s been busy, and awesome.

On the pregnancy front, so far so good. I have been more tired than usual, and felt like crap here and there, but haven’t been incapacitated in the way that many ladies have been during their first trimesters. Thank you, pregnancy goddess and Diclectin for my good fortune.

Also I feel enormous. At 9 weeks, I know that it’s a gas baby and not an actual giant fetus filling out my belly, but I’m taking the bus across town after work tomorrow evening all the same to look at some maternity pants for sale on Craigslist, because I’m tired of unbuttoning my pants at work.

Week 4 and Week 9

I will leave you with a belly shot, of my dear little gas baby.  Maybe it will go away until a more reasonable time, like the second trimester, and I can wear my normal pants to work again!

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Dreamin’

As we are heading into our last cycle of not trying (and off on our honeymoon!) I am pleased to find myself far less angst-ridden about babies than a few years ago.

Back then, it seemed like our time would never come. All our friends were having babies, and we were dismayed that our kids would be too different in age to play together. But it’s turned out OK so far. I’ve gotten lots of wonderful babysitting experience and we have a little goddaughter who is the cutest thing ever and a dozen honourary nieces and nephews. One day our child can join this great community of people and have lots of older companions to beat him up get her in trouble look up to.

One thing (well, other than the ideas of morning sickness, labour and raising toddlers) that does give us a little bit of angst is our apartment. On the one hand, we’re such spoiled brats. If I gave up my office and got rid of my books, we could fit a kid quite nicely into our current place. But, on the other hand, if we could afford it, it would be nice to have one more room and, in a perfect world, access to the outdoors for a kiddo to play in the dirt.

When we get back from the honeymoon, we’ll start looking around seriously to see if we could find a slightly bigger and more kid-friendly place. We probably can’t afford a house, but one distant possibility is to find a little old house with a basement suite, and install some friends in there to help pay the mortgage. This morning we visited a married couple who also want kids, and are looking for a place to rent long-term. It’s just an idea at this point, but I miss communal living and absolutely love the idea of living in a house with multiple parents and kids in it. My childhood was pretty great, but I think it would have been amazing to have other kids around.

I confess that I’ve been so preoccupied with trying to conceive next month that I’ve completely neglected to research our honeymoon adventure. In 10 days, we’ll wandering around Asia with a guidebook and next to no clue about where we are or how to communicate. That should take our minds off things for awhile!

Mind, body, spirit

When I was in about Grade 4, I had this photocopied Social Studies textbook about the First Nations people of the prairies. I wish I still had it today so that I could check it out and assess its cultural sensitivity, because it shaped my understanding of prairie First Nations cultures big-time. For all I knew at the time, it could have been a racist piece of crap like some of the other textbooks my elementary school came up with. (For example! The one showing cultural stereotypes and nationality names! There was a Frenchman with a stripey shirt and a beret, and my mom was horrified to see the “Chinaman” with a pointy straw hat.)

But I digress. The First Nations Social Studies textbook had all this stuff about spirituality and gender roles that completely blew my 10-year-old mind. It said that braids of sweetgrass were a reminder of the three threads that make up a person – mind, body and spirit. The more I think about that metaphor, the  more helpful it seems.

I’ve remembered that lesson in the last year or so when it’s become apparent that these weird fluttering heart episodes I have had for years are in fact anxiety attacks. They have been getting more debilitating since the start of grad school, and it’s been a learning experience to recognize the physical symptoms and to know that they are caused by the inseparability of body and mind.

Yesterday, as part of a summer class, I got to be a middle-class tourist in the city’s cheapest housing, some of which has been recently taken over by the provincial government. These hundred-year-old hotels were built to accommodate seasonal resource workers, and mostly haven’t been fixed up or cleaned for decades. Depending on where they sit on some governmental list for renovations, they provide either basic housing or completely inhumane shitholes that no human being should be asked to live in.

I propped myself up on the dirty, smelly floor in this awful little room down a twisting, uneven hallway trying to reconcile mind and body while the social housing worker explained that homeless people spend years on waiting lists waiting for a place like this. Most of these people have mental health issues. Many of them probably suffer from anxiety, and I bet a lot of folks over the years who have no other place to go have had panic attacks in that little room.

My body betrays me when I get stressed out and upset, but I don’t want to turn away from responsibilities and truths that upset me just because 0f that fragile interconnection. It’s a pain in the ass. The useful aspect is that I can’t pretend not to be affected either.

Mind, body, spirit.

On houseguests, and alternative living arrangements

I love having houseguests – the opportunity to monopolize out-of-town friends when they are visiting,  and to have long chats over tea in the evenings. Sometimes I miss the old days of having a ton of roommates who are always around, although I definitely appreciate peace and quiet, and walking around half-dressed.

Z and I have scored more than our fair share of houseguests since becoming the first among our friends to invest in a futon. The fact that none of our friends own futons (or, perish the thought, an actual spare bed) might sound strange to folks who aren’t familiar with this city and its tiny, overpriced living spaces.  My office, with the futon, is sheer, undeserved luxury, and one of the main reasons I love this hotbox of an apartment.  One day if we are so blessed as to build a little human and put them in that room, we will lose our status as top vacation destination, but I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Tonight my old friend A is not only visiting, but is actually moving back to town from an academic exchange abroad.  She and her husband have been gone since last summer.  I’ve missed them, and will appreciate having them back for however long it lasts. They’re not destined to stick around long.  Their goal, like so many of us, is to find a damn job and have some babies.

A is a schoolteacher by trade, and started her undergrad the same year as I did. We were in a first-year music class together called Aural Skills (oh, the jokes never ended), and lived in the same dorm. Once she finished her teacher’s degree, it turned out there weren’t any jobs in Canada for music teachers, so like a trooper, she has returned to school to get *a second undergrad* so she could teach a different specialty.  She’s a tough nut, and a smart cookie.

Due to a fiendish subletting situation, A and her husband spent their last several weeks at her school abroad without a home of their own. They couch-surfed with friends, and spent three weeks staying with other dear mutual friends, a family with a baby.  The deal was that in exchange for the spare room, A and her husband cooked dinner every night. Apparently, this situation was a delight for everybody involved.

A figures that the perfect utopian housing arrangement might be a duplex, with the walls knocked out between the dining rooms.  Each family has private space, but there is also a shared space for meals which allows for not only socializing, but also exchanging labour of meal preparation and childcare.

I’ve thought about this a lot too -although less now that I’m getting old and jaded and resigned that North American housing stock is just not set up to allow  non-traditional, semi-private space.  Living quarters are built (and more importantly, sold) to be either completely private or completely public.

What alternative solutions people have come up with are small-scale, and wrought with lots of effort.  Like A suggested, two families could shop around two sides of the same duplex to go on sale at the same time.  You could get together a few families and buy a giant old house.  There’s also cohousing, an idea that completely fascinates me, but which I’ve never actually seen in action.

The book Redesigning the American Dream raised a lot of these questions back in the 1980’s, with the angry feminist conclusion that the very foundations of society needed to be changed in order for folks to have access to homes that worked just as well for working parents as for traditional single-income heterosexual couples.  The author makes the excellent point that it’s easier to sell clearly delineated private units.  The book gave me lots to think about, but is also discouraging, and certainly shows its age.  I don’t know of anything more recent that tackles the same issues.

On a personal note, I sometimes wonder if getting into real estate (we own this apartment) might be a positive or negative force in helping us find a way to live in the kind of community where we can one day hope to share childcare, a social network, and maybe the odd dinner. It takes a village to raise a child, not a damn strata complex.