Momspiration

Love, Mom and Babe

GET TO KNOW… ASquaredMamaSquared

Allia is a Senior Producer at Verizon Media and Alison is a High School English and Drama Teacher. They are mamas to Kingston Grey, 20 months old.

Very excited to share this feature on our family, from the website Ani and Wren (a maternity-wear and baby store in Toronto, Ontario). All photos are by Trish Mennell.

Momspiration

TALK TO US ABOUT YOUR FERTILITY JOURNEY — CAN YOU SHARE A BIT ABOUT THE PROCESS, THE CHALLENGES AND THE SURPRISES? HOW DID YOU DECIDE THAT ALISON WOULD BE THE ONE TO CARRY THE BABY?

AC: As a queer couple, we knew that we wouldn’t have what some people see as a conventional approach to pregnancy. We both had an interest in carrying and, for us, deciding what donor process we would use helped to shape our decisions. We wanted our children, if we had several, to be biologically related to one another, so we had to explore some different options. Ultimately, fate decided some things for us.


AM: Because I was older we decided that I would try carrying first. We quickly encountered lots of surprises and challenges. The fertility industry wasn’t as progressive as we had hoped. Forms we filled out didn’t have options like “no man in the relationship” which led to one of our first intake forms saying, “Diagnosis — same-sex couple.” Additionally, we found ourselves having to educate people, including medical staff at various clinics and even at the hospital, about the specifics of how a same-sex couple comes to find themselves expecting. One of these trips to the hospital happened after my second miscarriage. Getting pregnant was easy for me, keeping the baby was the hard part. After two years of trying, I decided to take a break for my mental and physical health. 

AC: That meant that I was on deck. With me carrying, we chose a donor with a similar background as Allia, Jamaican-Irish; it was really important to us, as an interracial couple, that our kids have a similar racial background. It worked out pretty beautifully. Our son looks like both of us and we love that whomever is with Kingston is automatically assumed to be the mother. Obviously we both ARE the mother, but you’d be surprised how many people ask bold, often ignorant questions. A lot of people are still not used to seeing children with two moms, or even with different backgrounds from one or both parents (whether that be multi-racial or blended families, adoption, surrogacy, etc). Of course, we are just happy that he is healthy and ours.

Momspiration - Kingston + Mom

CAN YOU DESCRIBE HOW YOU FELT WHEN YOUR SON WAS BORN? WHAT WERE SOME OF THE EMOTIONS THAT YOU FELT? HOW DID THE FIRST “100” DAYS GO (OTHERWISE KNOWN AS THE MEMORABLE 4TH TRIMESTER)?

AM: You really can’t prepare yourself for the moment of seeing your child for the first time. I was overwhelmed with excitement and gratitude for our midwives and our doula. But I was also fully fearful of the realness of motherhood, and just stunned at Alison’s strength during labour. The first 100 days included moments where we’d look at each other and joyfully say, “we have a baby!” or “we’re parents!” There were also lots of conversations around poop. 

AC: I felt everything! Literally, too, since the epidural only worked on one side of my body. I was so in love from the minute I knew I was pregnant, then even more once he was born. You think you love your partner, then you meet your child and you think “not like THIS.” It’s terrifying to care so much about something, and anxiety-provoking to love and want to protect this tiny, fragile little person. I didn’t know how I would do with “mothering” to be honest. I love teaching high school aged kids, but babies were a bit of a mystery, so I was relieved at how much I enjoyed it. He was a very happy baby, so that definitely helped.

Allison + Allia + Kingston

WE LOVE THE NAME KINGSTON GREY – IS HE NAMED AFTER ANYONE?

AC: It was a natural pick for us and we agreed quickly on his name. I grew up with a cottage on Wolfe Island, spending much of my childhood in Kingston, Ontario. Allia was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, and those roots hold a deep significance for her. His name reflects our two worlds and how he is a blend of both. With a mouthful of a last name, we wanted a short, strong middle name. I’m a big fan of Oscar Wilde (The Picture of Dorian Gray), with one letter changed, it’s a nod to queer literary history.

Momspiration Family

AS A GAY INTERRACIAL COUPLE, HOW DO YOU PLAN ON ADDRESSING ISSUES OF RACE, RACISM AND SEXUALITY WITH YOUR SON. WE KNOW HE IS STILL YOUNG, BUT HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT THE CONVERSATIONS YOU WILL HAVE?

AM: For a lot of individuals who identify as BIPOC or are part of the LGBTQ+ community, we find ourselves talking about race, racism and sexuality frequently. As a couple, we have always been open about our fertility journey and our queer identity. And I don’t shy away from conversations around my multi-racial identity. We are conscious of the images Kingston sees, the media he might consume and we recognize the importance of diversity and celebrating difference in all aspects of our life. My hope is that he will feel we have created a safe, brave space for him to be curious about these issues so we can have open, honest conversations.

AC: In some ways those choices and conversations are just a natural part of raising a child. You reflect what you value in the choices you make. And the discussions that might seem awkward or difficult become second nature when you are proud of who you are, who you love and your heritage. Removing shame from the equation really opens up the possibility of raising a child in a deliberate, celebratory way; we hope to raise a little person who is gentle, thoughtful, courageous, open-hearted and with a generous spirit. He is growing in an incredible community of strong, vibrant people. He has great role-models and sees different cultures, sexualities and love all around him. 

Allia + Kingston

HOW HAVE YOU BEEN COPING WITH THE CURRENT CLIMATE IN THE WAKE OF THE BLACK LIVES MATTER MOVEMENT. HAVE YOU FELT SUPPORTED BOTH PERSONALLY AND PROFESSIONALLY? WHAT HAVE YOUR WORK AND YOUR FRIENDS DONE THAT YOU HAVE FOUND ENCOURAGING?

AM: My commitment has always been to celebrate difference and drive diversity, inclusion and equity initiatives. Because of the positions I hold within my job and my volunteer work, I’ve found myself in daily conversations around race, anti-black racism and diversity or the lack of it. Cue the extreme exhaustion. I’ve learned to lean into the discomfort with these conversations and create a brave space for others to center courage, care and vulnerability over silence. It’s not easy. I’m not alone in feeling the weight of the opportunity to redefine our reality. I have an amazing support system around me, both personally and professionally, who continue to recognize my fluctuating needs during this difficult time. They’ve stepped up their allyship by listening to my experiences and educating themselves on the issues surrounding systemic racism. I’ve seen many start to self-examine their own privilege and move from ally to accomplice by taking actions to support the black community. I’m encouraged by all of this because the issues we are facing aren’t going to be solved in one or two meetings, one or two actions; however, we can start by listening, self-examining, and practicing allyship through continued actions and conversations. My hope is that this is a movement and not just a moment. When anti-racism isn’t trending, will you still be there?


AC: I am committed to making changes, looking at my own bias/privilege and using the power I am afforded as a straight-passing, cis, white woman to make changes and amplify the voices of those within marginalized communities. It’s an ongoing journey and a responsibility to fight for change. At work, I’m part of my union’s Rights and Equity Committee. At my school, I am the GSA advisor, and an Equity Lead, helping to plan and facilitate professional development for our staff, including anti-black racism forums. In my classroom, I explicitly embed diverse sexualities, gender and cultural representation in the media, social issues and discussions, but there is a huge gap in core literature, so I’m doing an inventory and working to enrich our courses with Black and Indigenous content. I’m excited for two upcoming summer PD sessions, a racial justice and anti-racist learning series, to build my capacity in effective allyship and dismantling systemic racism. I want our son to grow up to see that meaningful change is in our hands. I am seeing, more and more, that my board and my colleagues are talking about, but also prioritizing this work and it makes me feel very hopeful. 

Allia

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHARITIES YOU SUPPORT, BOOKS THAT YOU ARE CURRENTLY READING OR MOVIES/SHOWS THAT YOU HAVE WATCHED THAT HAVE IMPACTED YOU?

AM: We are supporters of the Inside Out Film Festival, SickKids, as well as mental health and equity initiatives through both of our work and personal relationships. We try to support local, whenever possible. 

AC: Both of us have been involved in creative projects with an amazing independent Toronto Publisher, With/out Pretend, whose work centers on the idea that “Feelings Can Be Art.” That really resonates with us. In addition to doing a collection and live readings called “On Mothering,” which we loved, they explore concepts of care, mental health and self-expression, featuring writers of colour, women, non-binary and often underrepresented authors and artists. We both have big stacks of books on our night tables; I just finished Empire of Wild, and I’m currently reading White Fragility, Wow, No Thank You and The Book of Joy.

AM: I’m juggling Well-Read Black Girl and A Brief History of Seven Killings. We just bought lots of exciting stuff for Kingston, including Hair Love, Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History, I Am Enoughand Red: A Crayon’s Story. Don’t even get us started on television or podcasts!

Allison

WE JUST CAME TO THE END OF PRIDE MONTH — WHAT DOES “PRIDE” MEAN TO YOU?

AC: I came out when I was sixteen and have celebrated every year since, almost always on Church Street. We took Kingston to Family Pride events last year and that sense of fierce pride, celebration and community is what I want to share with him. I have been so lucky to have unconditional support from my family and we want him, above all else, to know that our love for him is constant and unwavering. Raising a son, we think a lot about what kind of man he will become, but also recognize that he is an individual; whether he is gay, straight, bi, trans… our child will be secure in our love. We want him to see us actively celebrating all kinds of people and identities. To help pave the way, we make some pretty deliberate decisions; we don’t steer him towards stereo-typically masculine toys, clothes, haircuts or expression. He is as likely to hand us The ABCs of Equality, as Little Blue Truck; he has pink jungle-print leggings and a baseball cap; loves his black baby doll and his blocks. We want to leave all options open, to see where he wants to go and who he wants to be.

AM: My journey towards self-acceptance was challenging. Raised religious, I struggled with my identity for most of my life. I’ve come a long way to embrace all aspects of myself. Finding power in one part of my identity has helped me feel pride in the others. It’s hard to love all of yourself if one part is being pushed aside. Pride is also about helping others feel comfortable being them self. As a mother, I would never want my son to feel he couldn’t be his full, authentic self. 

Momspiration Family

ANY LAST WORDS OF WISDOM OR ADVICE FOR OTHER MAMAS OUT THERE? IS THERE A QUOTE OR MANTRA YOU LIVE BY?

AM: These words, by Katherine W. Phillips, sum up my personal, professional and mom-mantra: “The environment I wish to create in all aspects of my life will be one where difference is normalized. If you create that kind of environment in your organizations, in your schools, in your families, you will find that the value of diversity is there for you to capture.”

Out and Proud

Love, Open Letters, Wedding

Saw a lovely post from a teacher who speaks about coming out, after marrying her wife.

He roost reminded me why I came out and keep coming out each year, each semester, in each new class. Being out in my classroom is one of the most valuable lessons and teachable moments I have to offer. It shows closeted kids or those with queer family that it’s possible to live a beautiful, rich and happy life; to be a professional; to be respected and successful as a queer person.

What else motivates me to be out in my classroom? It provides visibility and hope to kids and a learning opportunity about the diversity within our community. So many important steps towards inclusion and acceptance begin with the risk of being seen. For many it is about knowing someone and having that relationship spark the curiosity to question what we have learned or previously taken as truth. It’s hard to bear hatred or intolerance when you have a face to put to the name, whatever the marginalized group or person may be. I am their teacher. Someone they know and care about. Someone who has modelled caring and for respect for all the things that make them who they are. I actively teach anti-oppression and critical thinking about diversity, myth-busting the rhetoric that too frequently is used to promote intolerance.

If it’s safe to do so… come on out. Our kids need to see you there.

Jet Set – Travel to Jamaica with our Little One

Indulge, Mom and Babe

K getting comfy for his second trip. Photo: @thisiseyecandytoronto

We are off again, this time to Jamaica for a wedding. Last time we travelled, he was 2.5 months. Now he will be 7 months. Here is our list of top tips from our travels the first time, followed by an itemized (to the last detail) list of what is in his (and our) suitcase.

Our first trip was to Mexico with a 2.5 month old. I was and still am breast feeding, with some bottles to supplement and he is sleeping in a travel crib.  In Nuevo Vallarta, we had a dishwasher while there, but also boiled bottles on the stove to sterilize. We brought a carryon with his formula and diapers and packed his clothes with our stuff.  Since he wasn’t mobile we had his infant car seat and stroller for the car rides and for getting around the condo, amenities and city.

For our Jamaica trip with a seven month old, skip to the next section.

FOR MEXICO

For a 14 day trip, here’s what worked for us:

-our regular infant carseat strapped into back seat of taxis and shuttle, rear facing, using seat belt
-some people hold their babies on transit (don’t know if you’re comfortable with this; I wasn’t)
-beware the cobblestone streets, it made wheeling a napping baby around a bit touch and go
-used coconut oil as sun protection (but kept him totally out of sun/shaded/screened)
-took a baby carrier, but it was quite hot to wear an infant! This was a good option for shorter trips
-people were so lovely with baby and very friendly.
-breast fed everywhere I went – literally everywhere.
-I was nervous for the flight, but fed him while I was going up and down
-take a change for baby (several) and for you (poop explosion on landing made me VERY happy I had a change of top (couldn’t change him due to turbulence)
-took a travel bassinet which was great cause we could drape it (no bugs and shaded) for when he slept indoors and out. It’s a small folding kind that fits easily in a suitcase and under the stroller.
-I took a small rolling suitcase of formula and extra diapers so we’d have what he is used to – ready to serve Good Start (so we didn’t have to mix at all).
-I had a drink while feeding or right after, which meant I didn’t need to dump. Fed him formula if I’d had more than one drink.
-Try not to be nervous. It was a great vacation, but the pace is TOTALLY different than before I had a baby (which I expected).

And I also have a few things to add to the list, now that baby will be older:

  • travelling with a baby I have considered bringing along my nursing pillow for the flight and a large outdoor blanket to use in the airport (one that folds up really nicely – that way when waiting at the airport and at the resort we can let him do floor time)
  • Having a roll of dog poop bags would be handy for diapers
  • Bring a plastic bag big enough to wrap around your baby in case of gate-side blowouts or deplaning incidents
  • quiet activities for the plane
  • hard bottomed shoes for when he wants to ‘walk’ around on public surfaces

FOR JAMAICA

We checked out a great photo popup museum called This Is Eye Candy for these fun family shots

 

GEAR

  • Graco Infant Carseat
  • Diaper Bag
  • Stroller gate-check bag
  • Collapsible umbrella stroller
  • Blanket/quilt
  • Jolly Jumper for playtime at the hotel and my in-laws’ house
  • clip on Inglesina travel high chair (also figure we can leave him in this at the table to play)
  • Inflatable pool floatie/chair with sunshade
  • Milk Snob stroller cover for shade in his carseat
  • UV/solar blocking bug net for stroller
  • Stroller pad with heat-reducing cushion
  • Carabiners for attaching diaper bag to the collapsible umbrella stroller
  • Mattress cover for hotel crib mattress (washable)
  • Beco baby carrier
  • one soft toy, a rattle and a few chew toys 
  • baby stroller clip-on battery powered fan ** a mom friend recommended this!

Health and Care Products

  • Nosefrida and saline drops
  • Camelia and Coryzalia natural remedies for tummy upset and congestion
  • Infant Tylenol
  • Bottles (2) 
  • Formula (premixed)
  • squeezie packs of food, baby Mum Mums, dissolving star crackers, baby oat cereal
  • diapers and swim diapers (plus reusable swim covers)
  • wipes
  • thermometer
  • sleep owl nightlight and sound machine
  • body wash and shampoo, lotion and diaper cream
  • 2 baby spoons, 1 bowl, 1 360 sippy cup
  • noise cancelling headphones
  • sunglasses
  • bibs
  • Change of clothes in the diaper bag (2 for baby, one for mommy)
  • Vitamin D drops
  • Baby sunscreen
  • Anti-mosquito stickers for baby’s clothes
  • Baby cot mosquito net
  • Medication and vitamins for mommy (in my case, daily vitamin and Domperidone)
  • video monitor

Clothes

  • swim diapers (2)
  • rashguard suits (3)
  • towel (if there aren’t ones at the hotel) and washcloth
  • socks
  • 3 pairs shoes
  • bibs (4 for drool, 3 for feeding)
  • 3 footed sleepers
  • 5 pairs of shorts
  • 3 pairs of pants
  • 2 hoodies
  • one long sleeve linen shirt
  • 6 short sleeved bodysuit
  • 13 shorties onesies (rompers). We figure he’ll go through two a day of these.
  • 2 burp cloths, 3 large muslins (1 each for the plane)
  • change pad
  • wet-dry bag
  • 2 swim hats, one cap
  • 1 short romper for wedding. 1 longsleeve wedding ‘gentleman’s suit’

 

Off we go! Wish us luck and let us know if there is anything I forgot on this list!

Way to go, Disney? Progress: yay or nay?

Open Letters

The debates continue. Disney has announced a queer character (he will be effeminate and campy) in their upcoming film Jungle Cruise.

This has caused controversy and not just because Disney is expected to be a sexless, sanitized and heterocentric monolith that repackages stories for young folks, and the young at heart, in ways that make us all feel good about things like gender roles (damsels in distress), colonialism (Pocahontas) and racial stereotypes (Lion King‘s hyenas, not to mention Scar’s effeminate villainy). This new Disney film’s gay character will be played by a straight actor.

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British comedian Jack Whitehall – Screenshot from Comedy Central

Much to the chagrin of the blogosphere… people are upset, while others are upset that people are upset. Are we taking it too far? “They are ACTING” or “this is getting ridiculous,” people say. The comment section of a Refinery29 article about the casting choice is chock full of dissent, both for and against the casting.

These debates are going on amongst liberal people who agree that there should be gay characters and people of colour represented, but some seem miffed that these same communities have opinions about the manner in which their community is represented – and the oblique messages sent through these casting decisions.

While I agree that acting is acting (you can play a murderer without being one, thank goodness), people are missing the key issue:

Many talented queer actors and POC are overlooked, shut out and/or marginalized in mainstream roles, then when a perfect opportunity to be cast, believably, in a role arises, it’s given to someone who already has access to the roles these marginal actors may be barred from. Having a person of colour play a role written specifically for that identity is one side of the coin; we should have Asian actors staring in Crazy Rich Asians… this is progress. I cannot wait to see this wild, salacious book come to life on the big screen.

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The cast of Crazy Rich Asians at the premiere on August 7, 2018. Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

And there is something to be said for actors who make the call to sidestep a project because they feel that the issues of representation are problematic; famously Amandla Stenberg stepped away from Black Panther because (according to her) she didn’t want to take up space that provides needed opportunity for darker skinned black actors and would jeopardize the authenticity of representing African identity, for and by African and African American actors and citizens.

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Getty Images

Amandla talked about shadeism and why she didn’t feel comfortable occupying space that doesn’t belong to her. It was refreshing. Seeing her speak on this subject at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto last year was such a breath of fresh air.

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(Shauna Mazenes/Her Campus Ryerson).

However, many queer and trans performers don’t have access to ‘straight’ roles (the bulk of the roles available) but are then also excluded when their own identity is up for grabs. It’s a double loss for them. And while representation and visibility are important, it’s difficult to be told that your community is being represented… just not by people within it.

Yes, straight actors can play queer, and Hollywood can do what it pleases, but the same opportunity is not given – in as broad a way – to those who identify within a minority and being told to ‘be happy with what we get’ is not the same as listening to voices from within that community.

This is a case of the people having spoken… and continuing to speak. It is a much-needed dialogue where those with the most prevalent voices might need to sit down and let those within their own communities do a little more of the talking, at least until it’s clear that the stories we are telling must reflect more than just a narrow view of what it’s like to take up space in this world.

 

Four Years

Love, Wedding

I can hardly believe that four years have passed since the day I married my wife. It feels like yesterday. It feels like a lifetime ago. So much has happened.

Wedding

This accidental magic captures how I feel with you. Photo: Sweetheart Empire (Kate O’Connor)

For our fourth Anniversary, aside from the silk/satin motif (silk screened pregnancy announcement tees, and silk pajamas), Allia made us a wedding video. Watching it takes me back to exactly how I felt in those moments. It perfectly encapsulates the magic of our day.

Why do I care about that? Partly because it feels momentous and nostalgic to look back at happiness that still feels tangible and vivid, partly because there are people who told me this would never happen.

Allia and Alison’s Wedding (for the video follow this link)

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When I first came out, it was six years before gay marriage was legalized in Canada (2005). I was a teenager, but I remember one of my mom’s friends saying, sympathetically, ‘It’s so sad that Alison won’t have a wedding and you’ll never have grandkids.’ Politely, my mom replied, ‘Fuck that.’

Not quite in those words, but with the same rebellious denial of that assumption. I am my mother’s daughter (and my father’s) and neither raised me to believe that anything I truly wanted was out of reach. They are the biggest advocates, even before I came out, they raised me to see every possibility and to feel entitled to happiness, love and acceptance. Maybe this is why I work so fiercely, at work and at play, to try to make others believe that we all deserve love, dignity and acceptance.

When people asked questions like, “will you ever get married?” “which one of you will wear a suit?” “so, you don’t want to ever have kids?” or made statements like “that must have been so hard for your parents” – I responded to it as a challenge.

We had exactly the wedding I envisioned, a reflection of our relationship, two people – full of laughter, dancing, old traditions and quirky, personal touches. I come from a theatre background and although I wasn’t a Disney princess sort of little girl, it never occurred to me that I couldn’t have a dreamy wedding fit for a fairytale. We themed it like a performance, a show, a circus, with several acts and lots of spectacle. It was a romance and a comedy. And I have never felt more at ease, so relaxed and so happy, in front of my loved ones, looking into the eyes of the woman I love.

I hope we can raise a little one who feels that swell of love and support, and will see that look in our eyes, four years, ten, twenty… fifty years from now.

Happy anniversary, my love. Cheers to many, many more.

 

Ring it in: 2018

Indulge

I love nostalgia. Capturing the moment. Journaling. This site has become sort of a living version of this. I was gifted a supremely awesome new book for 2018: it’s a 5 year journal with a small space for each day of the year, where you can add to each ‘same day’ for the next 5 years in a row. Five years stacked on top of each other with gilded pages; you can scan back and compare at a glance how you were doing on each day. I’m very excited to crack the spine.  Blogger, Danielle at verderamade.com just did a really lovely post about journals, methods and content; check it out!

—–

I started the Style Sa Vie site years ago to indulge my own creativity: I used to draw a picture of my outfit every day in high school, then technology came along and made it so much easier to bring that into sharp focus. Like choosing my clothes, I don’t write this for other people, that’s not why I started. But here, and on my other blog, where I chronicle my fertility journey with my wife, I get so much back from the kind emails, comments and encouragement of an online community. I sometimes wonder why I do this still. I’m not going to be an Alexa Chung or Aimee Song. But that was never the point. I have a life and a job that I love, and I have a hunch that I will like looking back at a snapshot of what life has been like, whether it’s the year in review, or a decade from now. Style Sa Vie is about the words: Style with a possessive adjective in front of Life. I want to own my life and curate it in a way that I find inspiring. A life of style. A style of living. Life that is mine.

In the spirit of hearkening back and looking ahead, a question: Do you believe in resolutions? For me this year will be about intention- being intentional. I want some guiding phrases, not edicts for a new year.

*Joy – be more joyful, rather than shredding joy with the tools of perfectionism, anxiety or guardedness. I am pretty comfortable with living and embracing vulnerability, but I can definitely get mired down, perseverating on things that just aren’t important. I’m going to Marie Kondo my attitude; does it spark joy? No? Then heave-ho!

*Let Go – This time of the physical stuff: of clutter, of things that no longer serve me. But also the metaphysical stuff: of the idea of perfect, or fears like ‘missing out,’ things taking too long to accomplish, or wondering what the next year will hold. Also, I’m getting rid of the self-judgement. I don’t judge the people I love; why do I do it to myself? I love me. But I should do it better.

*Start Now – this is the moment. Don’t wait for a ‘good time,’ or the ‘right’ time. If I see a repair in the house, go get the tools. If I think about a friend, call that person when it pops into your head. If I want something, what will I do to get it?

* Keep indulging and seeking new experiences. Don’t be complacent. If what I want is to savour a new taste and have another glass of wine. I will. If what I want is to get back to the Ballet Barre… I will do that, too. Also, Be creative. Remember how lucky I am. Celebrate my relationships. Take a deep breath. Don’t be frugal with your love and affection.

*Invest in people who invest in you. And invest in yourself!

*Create routines, but only if they help you reach these goals. I did 365 days of Outfits of the Day last year (which you can find in the style heading), so I can definitely do more mindful writing. Starting today: Journalling.

See you on the other side,

The Style Sa Vie

No Filter on Hate: An Open Letter to the New Neighbours

Open Letters

We just got new neighbours and sometimes the internet is the perfect place to share/vent. The very “friendly” family is also latently homophobic. The one son knows we are gay. He was surprised at first. He told us he is ‘fine with it’ but let me know that his parents aren’t. Today’s update: they think you are “rotten”. Awesome. Kid, that’s one to keep to yourself. #nofilter

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Welcome to the neighbourhood.

I want to ask them: why did you move to Canada if you were not interested in the values of acceptance and diversity; but there’s the rub, the same freedom that entices, attracts and welcomes a family from Iraq, to move into the sleepy suburbs of the GTA (that’s the Six, for you out of towners) is the same value that allows you to harbour those views. Because it is a freedom to believe what you do. But I have lived here my entire life. My family is not indigenous, and this land never belonged to us; recognizing the gift and privilege of living here, I have always been aware of how lucky I am. As a 5th generation Canadian, I am lucky beyond measure, and spend my days as a teacher, teaching English, Dance, Drama, yes… but mostly, teaching new generations of students to be aware of the value and beauty of their differences; teaching students of diverse religions to know me as a human being; to see the dignity in one another; to know that whatever oppression we have each faced, we should see that pain as something we want to remove for others – not perpetuate.

I spend my entire career, going on ten years now, looking into young faces, teaching them to be proud of who they are. I am a 35-year-old, white, able-bodied, English speaking, educated, queer woman. Most of my classes are students who are born outside of Canada, the majority learned another language before English. Never has a student of mine made me feel that I was less deserving of dignity, respect and kindness; of all those kids who I have gotten to know and love over the course of 90 days together in a semester, none who have looked at my face, heard my stories, shared theirs…made me feel that even though our experiences widely vary they couldn’t see me as a human being.

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These are just some of the notes and letters my class made me this June. I tear up just thinking about what an impact it has on me to have a job with this kind of opportunity and reward.

Why come from a place ravaged by decades of war, to a continent rife with intolerance towards immigrants, with new pointed policies that marginalize, only to find a friendly, warm set of neighbours and bring hate with you – hate in your heart for an outstretched hand?

I often think about it this way: I don’t find YOUR wife attractive. I don’t want to imagine the intimacies of 99% of the happy couples I see on a day to day basis (or unhappy, but that’s beside the point); but me not wanting to picture the physicality of your relationship, or not understanding how you get through a day with the people you choose to surround yourself with, or even finding a disconnect in the way you believe that God manifests in your life… doesn’t mean that I should deny you that right, or behave in a way that makes you feel unsafe.

If you don’t understand my ‘attraction to women’ or my ‘lifestyle’… that’s fine. You don’t need to. If I asked you imagine, how does YOUR wife find it in her heart to have sex with a man? You don’t have to understand her attraction. If you find it repellent… not a problem… you don’t have to sleep with yourself. It isn’t your right to condone or condemn the love between other people. Just your own.

It’s a reminder of the privilege some have and some don’t: can you be sure your neighbours will be kind and respectful? I often enjoy the bubble of feeling like so much progress has happened that I’m immune to the bullshit.

This is your home. But it is also my home.

And I won’t let your intolerance and ignorance make me change. I don’t want to view strangers as statistics for religious intolerance, small-mindedness, fear-mongering or stereotypes. You are one person, a few people, who unfortunately don’t have enough love in your hearts to be warm and open to the diversity of people who make up your community. I will not change for you.

 I posted about this on Social Media: because sometimes just hearing the echo of your own community helps put things in perspective. I just need to bask in this before venturing out to my car, for the daily dose of pleasant, but fake waves from the man sitting in a lawn chair in front of his garage. How does someone wave you off for your day, while imagining you burning for eternity. There is something fucked up in that.
Reactions?
* That’s awful. People should be thrilled to live next to your awesomeness.
* Come live next door to us!
* This makes me profoundly sad. Not for you guys. You guys are perfect. And glorious. But for those people and those kids who have just missed out on two of the most glorious people on the planet.
I wanna insert some positive bullshit about how you might change his life with your positive modelling but fml ain’t nobody got time for that and frankly it is not your job to change people’s archaic views. So sorry girl.
* Ugh. I’m so sick of this bullshit. Sorry you have to deal with this at your own house.
* Fuck those people. Sorry not feeling so charitable about the ignorant today .
* ^What she said^ 

* How infuriating. I’m so sorry.
* Address of your neighbours please…. and I’ll bring the carton of ❤️❤️
* You two are more than fabulous
* We don’t think you are rotten. We love your compassion and love of English and dance. We are thankful for your dedication to your students, field hockey players, and the under privileged in all walks of life. And thank you for being true to you and your spouce. Xo
* Ugh! I’m so sorry you have to deal with all that BS. Sending much love your way!
*Have a big PRIDE party … and invite them.
*Seriously… F off anyone who thinks they even have the right to think they get to choose if they are fine with it or not.
* That’s incredible that he could feel so familiar to speak such filth and judgement. Imagine what it would be to have his parents to set such a rotten example. He’s going to have a difficult time adjusting. I wonder if he would say anything if it were my husband or I.
*Do not be so tolerant that you tolerate intolerance !!!

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A long social-media inspired conversation about raising genderless kids, queer identity and… being human

Open Letters

Big Day For #Us

Love

We’ve had a good three years. For whatever reason we are taking over the news and social media (just a little). 

We are front page on Huffington Post Canada. See the whole story at http://m.huffpost.com/ca/entry/16089958


And getting featured with #YYZImports in their promo video. 


Check them out for great, affordable and eclectic jewellery. @yyzimports 

And getting sweet love and shoutouts for our 3Rd anniversary from the talented photographer Kate O’Connor of #


How do you celebrate your #love and your #uniqueself?