Archive | February 2014

After 15 years of Buddhist practice

Water lilies






(My own picture)

When you’ve been a Buddhist for 15 years, you have the opportunity to receive a special okatagi gohonzon. The gohonzon is the object of devotion for Nichiren Buddhists.  It is the scroll that contains nam myo ho renge kyo written down the centre (in Chinese and Sanscrit) along with other characters depicting important Buddhist figures and principles.   It embodies the life of the Buddha and it representative of the state of Buddhahood in each of us.  Okatagi literally means “woodblock”.  The difference between my first one and this one is merely the material it’s printed on and it’s a bit bigger. After 15 years of practice, there are many days when I feel like I don’t know jackshit about life.  Other than the fact that I’ve managed not to lose my nut.  Okay, well maybe I did a few times, but I got it back.  I think it would be difficult if not impossible to practice on my own, so I’m grateful to my fellow practitioners who have continued to give me support and encouragement all these years.  I’ve been privileged to hear some amazing experiences of lives transformed through this practice that only demands you seek the truth from within and to always question and study.  I know that without their encouragement and daimoku, I would have packed up my stuff and run away.  I have a community of people who are positive and uplifting and when you’re an actor, stay at home mum and transcribe for mind numbing hours, it sure helps.  In return, I can encourage and help others by sharing my experience with them or by chanting with them.

So many times the sound of daimoku will fill my head instead of the negative noise that my insecurity generates when I’m freaking out about shit. It’s not the sound of just empty words but a powerful key to awaken that stand alone spirit.  I know that no matter what life holds, I always have hope that I can begin again, I can get up and try again and one day I will believe that I am indeed the Treasure Tower. Someone once doubted that my practice truly worked as I had prayed diligently for a child and it seemed as if my prayers weren’t answered. In fact, it was 7 years of shitty things happening to me.  Yet I hadn’t given up, I hadn’t run away, and in the end, I brought home a son.  I thought that once that had been achieved that yes, I truly would be happy.  And I was –  for five minutes and then it was, oh my god, now what do I do?    At the end of the marital struggles, elder care, depressions, job loss, and infertility, I KNEW I had the ability to survive any MOTHERFUCKING thing.  Including myself.

This is my mission, my path.  For me, happiness is not a destination.  I’m not going to say one day, oh, I’ve got it all,  NOW I’m happy.  Cause there’s always something coming down the pike to change that one moment, isn’t there?   Sometimes I think the whole world is in a conspiracy to remind me how unworthy I am, that I’m not skinny enough, white enough, pretty enough, smart enough,  successful enough, etc.  Cause if I was, well, I’d be HAPPY.  It’s a journey of cultivating appreciation, compassion and realizing your true nature. I’m talking about unshakeable happiness, which is not defined in one moment.   It is not attained by  gaining something outside of myself.  Even if I won a million dollars (or by Vancouver standards $30 mil), I’d be thrilled…. then worried about how what I could afford and how long it was going to last and who was going to ask me for money.  And yes, I’d like a million dollars anyway.

I want to learn more, expand my capacity to do more with my life and learn to suffer what there is to suffer and enjoy what there is to enjoy. 




It’s a journey of cultivating gratitude and appreciation and compassion.

How does a mum get a day off around here?

The BC government finally came to its senses last year and gave the province an official day off to celebrate “Family Day”.  They should have called it something else really but you know how politicians like to believe they are doing “families” a favour.  They don’t report to the legislature for over 200 days but yes, you can have a “family day” years after all the other provinces have one.  It’s basically a made up holiday to break up winter.  So anyways, I was planning to go to Mount Seymour to do something fun like toboggan in the snow and have hot chocolate but of course, it pissed down rain that day and we ended up doing something I truly hate.  We went to the pool.

Now hubby and my son adore the pool, but I couldn’t care less.  Lately, I’ve been pushing myself to do things out of my comfort zone, so last month I took Boo to the pool twice in one week!  Not wanting to get a bikini wax just so I don’t scare a man with an errant hair, I dragged the kid to the mall to buy a pair of swimshorts and a matching top.  On sale supposedly, but still overpriced, but I got one and then off we went to the pool in West Van.  There is one closer to us, but this pool is so warm it’s crazy. That’s one reason I will submit to it.   And there’s a separate family hot tub so the kids can go in without disturbing the old(er) people who frequent hot tubs all day long.  And there’s a huge slide that starts at the top of the building and safely deposits your kid at the bottom.  It’s usually not open during the week, but Boo just loves to grab a paddle board and go down the “river” while I traipse after him looking like a complete geek in my 1930’s swim outfit with a bathing cap stretched over my head.  All I’m missing is my parasol. Did I mention we’re the only black people in the entire pool? (Cause it’s Black History Month and I’m enjoying myself.) Now I know that’s not always the case – later that week I spotted an Ethiopian (Eritrean?) family in the changeroom.  I wanted to talk to them but I think my outfit scared them off.

Back to the pool.  Like I said, Boo loves it!  We have put him in lessons since last summer and now he really likes going into the water.  He still can’t swim but he’s much more comfortable.  It’s great to see him enjoying himself and he’s willing to show mama the ropes. But I can’t swim.  And I’m very uncomfortable in the water.  I won’t even submerge my head.   It takes everything in me to plaster a smile on my face and pretend I’m enjoying myself.  Oh, I’ve taken lessons before, years ago now.  (After 2 sessions, I managed to learn how to float, not actually swim. I also had goggles and ear plugs.  So attractive.)  I go down the “river” with him, pretending to be a monster but really I feel awkward inside because I can’t relax cause I’m afraid I will be swept off my feet and bash myself.  I play mommy monster and chase him and do knee squats for most of the time.  That time being mainly 90 minutes to 2 hours.  What I won’t do to see him smile!

Well, on said family day hubby was with us, so I had some time to sit in the sauna for 10 minutes but after 2 hours, I was officially done and left hubby and Boo to get out and get dry.   And then I felt exhausted.  Eventually,  I went to bed super early only to wake up in the middle of the night with heartburn and a sense of impending doom and the chills.  And doom it was because I spent most of the next day in bed feeling like a lead balloon.  No nausea, just exhaustion.  Flu? I don’t know.  I even paid a sitter so I could spend more time in bed yesterday as I had a very important meeting at the Buddhist culture centre to go to.  More on that later.

I’m feeling much better today and Boo is yelling at me to get up, so off I go. Thanks to hubby for coming home early and bringing me soup in bed.  I may have to have a relapse again so I can get some more “time off”.

Lord of the flies in preschool

I’m learning a bit more about the other preschool mums.  Lately my son’s social circle has expanded and on sunny days, the boys run around the playground while the mums chat a bit (often running after their second little ones).  We can’t talk that much of course, but I’m not the only one who has noticed the distinct gender separation of the kids at this age.  The boys are more physical, more aggressive in their play and swinging fists invariably play a part in that.  I don’t mean fighting, but wait, maybe I do.   Disagreements can easily turn into pushing and hitting. It’s not something I tolerate at all, but apparently I’m going to have to amend what I’ve been teaching my son if he is to have any sort of chance of negotiating his own “play”.  My son has an easygoing, gentle disposition and even when he was a 2 year old, he was more willing than not to share his toys and demonstrate compassionate behaviour towards his peers.  Now I have to teach him to defend himself if he finds that he’s the “target” at play on any particular day.   It’s a little weird for someone who did have her fair share of fights with her younger sister but such rough play was not tolerated.  I’m more from the HEY!  STOP IT, DEAR SON kind of school, not the giggle, giggle, shrug, shrug boys will be boys kind of school.  I’m really not into “shrug” parenting.  I stand back a fair distance from my kid so he can negotiate his own play, but if somebody’s kid smashes mine, I’m not going to put up with it.

Any advice on playground etiquette for parents?



Where are you from?

I went out to a Black History Month event last night with an old acquaintance from a book club that I belonged to years ago.  That’s another story and I’ll get to that at some point.  Something happened that just illustrated a point I was trying to make in my previous post.

It’s been my experience when I am asked that question – “Where are you from?” or “Where are you from originally?”  that white people don’t expect me to answer “Red Deer” or “Winnipeg”, but answer that I’m from another country.  I live in Canada, and having lived in both Toronto and Vancouver, which is full of immigrants from all over the world, it’s a fair question I guess.  Except that I am asked solely because of my skin colour.  I don’t think I look remotely “exotic” whatever that means. I am not dressed in an ethnic outfit, nor do I possess an accent or walk around with a city map with a dazed expression on my face.  I just don’t look like I’m derived from the dominant culture.    Just last night, my friend (black female, wearing micro dreads and an audible Trinidadian accent) and I were standing on a skytrain platform in the middle of a conversation and a guy with a guitar starts complaining to us about Translink not having enough opportunities for new buskers.  And then he starts yammering about how he’s played all over the world and even “your president” would be against  blah, blah, blah.  (Apparently there’s something about me that attracts people who want to bond with me.  The guy had a point though, we could use more new buskers. )  Now he’s assumed we’re American because two black women couldn’t be Canadian or from exactly the city they’re living in.  And often when I say that I’m from here, it’s followed up by a dubious look and, “No, where are REALLY from?”  I know black women whose parents were born here, they were born in this city and they still get the question and astonished looks when they get a reply.  This question is to establish a difference or at the very least an “otherness”.  I believe that is the heart of the matter.   In the kindest of ways, perhaps they might be seeking to find out if they can relate to me if they had vacationed or spent time in the country where I am supposedly from.  I no longer spend the time to explain to random strangers that I was actually born in England and my parents who had emigrated there from Barbados then moved to Canada 2 years later.  They’re not asking me that question so they can get to know me better and become my friend.  They just want to satisfy their curiosity or confirm their belief.

Now I do get the same thing from black people.  However, the intent is completely different.  They are trying to establish a cultural connection with me.  To find out if we are from the same place, same side, do we share a commonality. In a place where you are the minority, this is an important question. If a lived in an African country, people would want to know what tribe I was from, if they couldn’t figure it out by my face.

I will give the appropriate answer when I detect a benign attempt for connection and conversation.  I don’t get upset or indignant.  I’m simply used to it. When a barista asks you, “Hey, how are you doing today?”, do you honestly answer, “Well, shitty actually, my husband and I had a fight this morning and I feel kinda fragile and I’m stressed out cause I hate my job, can you throw in a little extra caramel drizzle?” or “Why?  Do you really care?!”  You just say, “Fine, how are you?”.

On a basic human level, we always try to categorize one another:  fertile vs. infertile, married vs. single, careers women vs. SAHM, whatever.   I am not saying it’s the rudest question in the world, I’m just saying that I get asked that because it’s assumed I am not really “Canadian”.  And please don’t go down the road of well, we’re all from Africa really cause I’ve heard that one, too.

And since it’s Black History Month for another 26 days, I may get a little more uppity this month.

Birds of a multi-coloured feather

Last week I finally made it back to my adoptive mother’s group after a very long hiatus.  This year’s groups are going to be more structured so I definitely feel it will keep it more interesting and helpful.  Since I’ve been feeling the need to explain adoption more to Boo, I really needed the advice I got from those who travel the same path I do.  And it also got me thinking about creating his lifebook.  You know the one I was supposed to do 3 years ago.  Seems like I’m not the only one who’s been procrastinating.  It seems like a fairly easy thing but really it can be quite daunting.  First of all, being the grown up you could think that the book is geared towards an adult mind and all of a sudden you’re thinking what do I say? How much information do I put in?  What pictures shall I use?  Shall I use prints (ahem, who does that anymore?) or start one of those fancy scrapbooking things or photobook?  You see what I mean?  It starts getting complicated and I started to get overwhelmed and life just got in the way.  One mother showed us hers and it was just simple photos and simple facts.  Nothing fancy or elaborate, just handwritten.   Time just goes on and I realize that believing that we wished for him won’t always be sufficient.  Just the other day, I started asking him if he knew what a birthmother was and that I didn’t give birth to him and then the next thing I know he wants to know why my uterus is broken, and look! my arm goes like this, mama.

I don’t know if anybody realizes this, but adoptive parents are always thinking about the future of their child while simultaneously trying to safeguard their histories and prepare them from a random stranger’s curiosity.  Hell, we have to prepare ourselves to deal with the rude, intrusive things that people say. “How much did your children cost?”, “Who are his REAL parents?”, “Where did you get her?” and my personal favourite if you are black, “Where are you from?”.  Cause apparently you can’t be from here. I have dealt with that question my ENTIRE life.  Just the other day my girlfriend and I took our kids to play in one of those jungle gym type places in a nearby mall and as we were saying our goodbyes in Walmart, this woman sees me and my son and starts commenting that my son is so cute.  Well, that’s always nice, right?   Then it’s like, “Oh, I think African American children are so cute” …OMG here we go…. and then she launches into a story about a woman she knew from Barbados and how delightful she was punctuated with her constantly trying to grab my hand in a show of kumbaya we are all one moment. “Where are you from?”  “Here.  Him too.” “Well, we’re all from somewhere else aren’t we?”  NO, I AM NOT KIDDING!  She would not take a breath and she would not stop blabbing, “Oh, look I’m so fair, I’m whitey and your are blackie and it just doesn’t matter….” Uh, yes, I did look for signs of developmental delay but perhaps she had no filters.  Sigh.  This, sadly, is not the only time this has ever happened to me. Luckily, we managed to disengage eventually and go about our business. I suppose I should be glad she didn’t start touching my hair. Or Boo’s.

I learned a wonderful, compassionate phrase – “I think what you mean to say is…..” and rephrase it for the insensitive and possibly offensive question that was asked. Adoptive parents don’t have to satisfy people’s curiosity while they are with their kids in a grocery line.  Their children do not need to answer question either.  One mother taught her daughter to say, “You don’t need to know that.” Hubby thinks women are just too nice and should be prepared to tell people when they are being rude and intrusive.  Or to go f***  themselves.  You can tell he’s never at a loss for words, huh?

So parenting is parenting, no matter what, but transracial adoptive parenting is a bit more complex.  And if you’ve never been in the minority, well…. you will have your eyes awakened in a way you could never imagine.