Thursday, May 26, 2016

Birdie - An Indigenous Book Club Month Selection ...

She ... gets fed love.
She is better when fat with 
the love of women.
Tracey Lindberg

Hi Everyone!

Earlier this year, Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, proposed an Indigenous Book Club Month for June and I wanted to give you a heads up that June is fast approaching (how is that possible??) and to make some suggestions for your book club or individual indigenous reading.

My own choice for this month is to reread Tracey Lindberg's wonderful book, Birdie, a Canada Reads shortlist winner and a book that has brought greater heart knowledge to my understanding of the long reaching effects of colonization and the residential school system. It seems from the reviews that people either love or are totally confused by this book. I am one of those who love it.

Seen through the lens of intergenerational trauma, posttraumatic stress and the power of women to both betray and hold caring space for each other's growing wholeness, Birdie's story is one of relationship - relationship with self, relationship with family and relationship with the wider world.

This, in many ways, is a book about care-giving, or the lack of it. The story line is that of Birdie, an obese, impoverished, abused young Cree woman, who journeys from northern Alberta to Gibsons, on the BC Sunshine Coast, consciously searching for Jesse, a character in her favourite TV show, The Beachcombers, while at the same time unconsciously on an inner journey searching for her own healing and wholeness.  As she sinks into seeming dissociation from the present, she is cared for by her Auntie Val who is well, the memory of her mother Maggie who is not, and her cousin Skinny Freda and landlady and bakery boss Lola who are somewhere in between. Each has been wounded and has coped in her own way and each expresses her caring according to the degree of her wholeness.

The fluid chronology of the Birdie narrative, slipping seamlessly between present and past, while disturbing and confusing to some, made perfect sense to me as a trauma therapist. While described as characteristic of a vision quest, this meandering in and out of "reality" and "the present moment" is also the experience of one whose sense of time and continuity has been jangled by trauma's intrusive memories and disorienting flashbacks.

Birdie is a story of hope, healing and transformation and I highly recommend it, especially to those who can restrain their analytical minds and just go with an empathic response to another's experience.

Other books by indigenous writers, recommended by CBC, that you might like to consider are:

1.  A Coyote Columbus Story by Thomas King
2.  My Mother is Weird by Rachna Gilmore
3.  Halfbreed, The Book of Jessica, and Stories of the Road Allowance People by Maria Campbell
 4.  The Outside Circle (collection)

Other authors to consider  include Joseph Boyden, Richard van Camp, Leann Simpson, Marilyn Dumont, Jeanette Armstrong, Beatrice Culleton Mosionier, Louise Halfe, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Eden Robinson and Richard Wagamese.

Have a great read!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Knitting Up a Wounded Heart ...

           Properly practiced, knitting soothes the 
            troubled spirit,
            and it doesn't hurt the untroubled
           spirit either!

         Elizabeth Zimmermann

Hi Everyone!

Knitting may seem a strange topic for this time of year but I'm planning to take yarn and needles to the cottage to teach a friend how to knit this summer so it's on my mind this week.

My Mom taught me to spool knit when I was six and and then to do "real knitting" when I was eight. Some fifty years later, my two younger sisters and I sat in a row in the hallway outside a busy intensive care unit knitting steadily as our Mom lay dying within. We hadn't consulted each other about bringing our knitting to our hallway vigil but, on reflection, there couldn't have been a better way of dealing with our stress or holding space for our mother's end-of-life.

As much by example as anything, Mom taught us to use knitting as a means of mending wounded hearts and as a stress reliever (- though she would never have used those actual words because  she belonged to a generation that didn't believe much in taking time to heal wounds or deal with stress. Life was hard and you just got on with it). If you had been mindful, though, you would have noticed that her knitting came out whenever things were tough at work, when she was worried about one of us kids, when financial resources were scarce or when my dad was having a mental health crisis or drinking too much. 

These days, we know that the knitting Mom used intuitively to deal with stress is showing up positively in the research literature. Knitting has a positive impact on health and wellness and may be part of the solution in reducing compassion fatigue. Studies suggest that knitting decreases stress, creates new neural pathways and can have an antidepressant effect. It can also help alleviate ruminating, delay memory loss and may help slow the onset of Alzheimer Disease. Learning to knit and seeing a finished product can build self esteem. And knitting also offers opportunities for creativity and calms and soothes through repetitive motion and the tactile softness and colour of the yarns.

A small February 2016 study of The Impact of a Knitting Intervention on Compassion Fatigue in Oncology Nurses in the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing noted that a knitting intervention, (learning to knit through the non-profit, Project Knitwell, and knitting squares with colleagues during break times), can provide the above positive effects as well as offering opportunities to debrief informally. Using the Pro-QOL before and after a knitting intervention showed a significantly positive change in burnout scores and trends toward significance with the secondary traumatic stress and compassion satisfaction scores. These improved scores applied particularly to younger nurses. It would be interesting to see the results with a larger cohort.

Project Knitwell has published a lovely little booklet called, The Comfort of Knitting: A How to Knit Guide for Caregivers and Families that shares research on knitting and health, teaches you knitting basics and offers 7 easy project patterns. They also offer a list of books on knitting and wellness including:

1.  Knit for Health and Wellness: How to Knit a Flexible Mind and More by Betsan Corkhill (Flatbear Publishing, 2014)
 2.  Love in Every Stitch: Stories of Knitting and Healing  by Lee Gant  (Viva Editions, 2015)
 3.  Knit Red: Stitching for Women's Heart Health by Laura Zander  (Sixth & Spring Books, 2012)
 4.  Knitting Yarns: Writers On Knitting  by Ann Hood  (Norton, 2014)
 5.  Knitting Heaven and Earth: Healing the Heart with Craft by Susan Gordon Lydon  (Potter Craft, 2008)
 6.  The Knitting Way: A Guide to Spiritual Self Discovery by Linda T Skolnik and Janice MacDaniels  (Skylight Paths, 2005)
7.  Mindful Knitting: Inviting Contemplative Practice to the Craft by Tara Jan Manning  (Tuttle, 2004)
 8.  Zen and the Art of Knitting: Exploring the Links Between, Knitting, Spirituality and Creativity by Bernadette Murphy  (Adams Media, 2002)
9.  Crochet Saved My Life: The Mental and Physical Health Benefits of Crochet by Kathryn Vercillo  (Self-published, 2012)
10. The Creativity Cure: How to Build Happiness with Your Own Two Hands by Carrie and Alton Barron   (Scribner, 2012)

Happy stitching, everyone!!