Okay 2016, I’m ready to get started. You look as clean and fresh as the snowfall I was delighted to wake up to this morning. I have some big plans for you, I’m not afraid to say it. This is going to be the year where my focus pays off, and everyone I hold nearest and dearest will reap the benefits. I’m trying to stay open to exactly what those benefits will be, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a few specific ideas about what I’d like to see.
June 27th, 2013
On Tuesday evening I drove away from our Toronto home for the last time. I peered over the tower of laundry that kept Noodle and I company in the back seat and felt such a strange mixture of wistfulness and excitement. The city will always be in my blood, but I’m excited to leave it and move on to new and exciting things that await under the canopy of green in the country.
This post was from 2014, from my old blog, and I feel like it belongs here too.
Sharing My Story
For several weeks now, I’ve spent my Tuesday mornings in a creative writing class, and I’ll say this is why I haven’t posted anything in such a long time. Most of my writing has been offline. I’ve been promising myself that I would invest more in this craft, and it was with great enthusiasm that I set out for my first class. I was surprised to find the room so full, and delighted to experience the talent and the warmth of the group I found myself with. If you’re looking for a big treat for yourself, some meaningful alone time, and an incredible introduction to creative writing, you can find Brian Henry’s website here.
Tuesday morning is our last class, and we’ve been asked to share a piece, 500 words long. I’ve been grappling with what to share, but I keep coming back to the idea of sharing my story – my big story, the one that made the National Post, and the reason why many of you are readers.
I ‘m really not that different from most people in my writing class. Sitting before the others for nine weeks, I don’t think any of them would think I stood out for any particular reason. I’m a parent, I’m over thirty, I love reading, I get pleasure from trying to capture my thoughts and ideas on paper, I’m in a committed relationship, and I’m grappling with a middle-class income. I wonder what they’ll think when they hear my story?
When I was 33 years old, five years ago now, I was a divorcee newly liberated from a tumultuous relationship (the rebound to the failed marriage) and I was trying my hand at dating. I had a great job in arts administration, I was living in the big city, I had my own little apartment in a gorgeous Spanish Colonial house by the park, a great circle of friends, a theater company that I performed with and co-founded, and a close and healthy relationship to my family. An enviable life, though dating was proving to be one disaster after the other, and it was often hard to make ends meet on my arts worker salary. My finances were further strained by a spontaneous solo trip I had taken to Paris. A trip that changed my life.
In May of 2008 I stood at the base of Sacre Coeur in Monmartre, watching the lights of the Eiffel Tower twinkle against the midnight sky, and I promised myself that I would have the family I yearned for, the children I ached for, and the abundance of love I believe I truly deserved. Making the trip to Paris, completely alone, was a successful exercise in realizing my capability and self worth. Two months later, on the weekend of my 34th birthday, I met the people that would become my adoptive family. They started out as my friends, and as the year unfolded, our friendship deepened into a passionate and very comfortable love. They were reflections of all of the ideals my soul holds dearest. They were a beautiful package that came complete with two incredibly brilliant little girls.
I suppose I could have kept trying the Internet dating. I could have taken a gamble, tested the limits of my biological clock, and waited to see what the more conventional options might have been. I could have made a less dramatic choice. I didn’t. In the summer of 2009, we decided to become a family. The decision to do this was the easiest part, telling our families was the hardest. Why? Because I was the third adult to enter into a relationship that had existed for 18 years.
I have two partners whom I call my wife and my husband. We have a domestic partnership where we are raising our three children who are eleven, eight and two years old. Our eleven year old is the only one of our children who remembers life before three parents, and our youngest is the first child to have no other reality. We eased the children very carefully into the transition, their needs have always been paramount. After consulting with one of the top family law attorneys in Canada (pivotal in legalizing gay marriage in this country) we have drafted contracts that protect ourselves and our family in the ways that common-law status or marriage documents would, were they available to our unique situation. We are open about our relationship, we are active in our school community, and we are intensely proud of our family.
I never would have imagined this life for myself, but I can’t imagine my life any other way. It’s been an extraordinary journey filled with much love and happiness, and an often painful struggle to grapple with the darkest corners of my soul. Yet, we forge ahead like pioneers through relationship waters we are charting by ourselves. We have an excellent therapist. Our children have three sets of grandparents who adore them, and a village of our extended family and beloved friends to raise them. As parents, we have incredible support in each other. As partners we have incredible dedication and love to one another.
If I seem unique to those who meet me it is because I am filled with the light of knowing I have the abundance of love I wished for. It’s because my silent Paris prayer was answered. It’s because I listened to my heart, took an enormous risk, and followed the glittering, passionate path that the Universe laid at my feet.
Wow crazy blood moon lunar eclipse, I don’t know if it’s cause I’ve got my moon flower (aka red tent time, aka hide me in a cave and leave me the hell alone) but I am awash in some kind of insane explosion of creativity. I can barely sleep, and for once the steady reel of tragedy and fear that plays on a loop in my brain is matched one for one by awesome ideas and inspiration. If it wasn’t so exhausting, I’d want this to be the norm. But I have three kids, one of whom is an almost-three-year-old, so I need my sleep, okay? Here’s a perfect example of what my interior looks like right now, and it all started with a picture:
This, my friends, is for the dogs. Literally. I snapped this while strolling through the tourist haven that is Niagara-on-the-Lake. At the time, I was delighted to find such a sweet little piece of pretty outside a high-end home goods shop. It seemed like a cute gesture on the part of the owners. Clever marketing, thoughtful. There’s even a fresh, live, flower. Lucky dogs!
But then, I also realized how I’d been struggling with my stroller to get in and out of nearly every tiny, over-packed store. Whenever I have a hard time with the stroller, I immediately think of people who use wheelchairs and scooters. If it’s a hassle for me, I can’t imagine how frustrating that must be for them. In a place like NOTL, there’s more wheelchairs and walkers than there are strollers, believe me.
Here’s the next layer. I live a blessed life. We are far richer in spirit than we are in our bank account, but we can make ends meet. The store that extended such a thoughtful gesture for the four-legged companions of their customers is way beyond my means, and frankly, even if I had that kind of spending cash, I can’t imagine ever throwing it around it in such a place. Which makes me think of the people who aren’t as lucky as me. Who stay up at night wondering how they’ll make their very limited resources feed their kids. They barely have enough, and every month is a struggle in making the most of very, very little.
Which sends my thoughts across the globe. Where people in plastic boats are drowning with their children because all they want is a safe life for their families. They live each day in terror, not just in Syria, but in so many other places. Here’s their reality; an over-packed dingy that cost them their life savings and may mean the death of everyone they love is a better alternative to the place they once called home. There is no sense of ‘home’ or ‘safety’ for so many of our brothers and sisters out there.
Never mind their fucking dogs.
So, what to do? Do I hate myself for my initial delight in this pretty display of hospitality. No, I can’t. I’m an artist – when I see something lovely, I like it. However, lovely and beautiful are not the same thing, and it’s what’s beneath the initial impression of loveliness that really counts for something. It’s pretty, I smiled, but what else is in there? How can this relatively shallow gesture mean something more? How can a ploy to lure in customers turn into something greater?
It starts like this, I think. With our ability to reflect, ask questions, examine our own position, our values, the meaning behind everything that moves us either to smile or to weep in desperation and helplessness. Enjoy the silver platter, but be damned well sure you know how lucky you are that you can, and then add your voice to those who want so much more for everyone else. Our world is shrinking, and we have more power as a people than we ever have before. It’s fine to appreciate the snapshots of pretty that turn our heads and lift our spirits, but let’s be more. We can all be so much more.
Hey you guys! I’ve missed you. Please, please send me news of your adventures. My own to-do list is so huge, I don’t know what to do next. I do know that this September-y time of the year always has me fired up with a keen mind for work and the promise of exciting new possibilities.
Over here, things have been a complete whirlwind. We had such a busy summer, hosting lovely friends and family, our home was like a bed and breakfast which was a wonderful way to warm the place. But now, oh now I’m so glad the children are back to school. Not because I can’t handle having them at home one more second, honestly with the pool this year they were absolute angels. No, I’m just so damned glad to get into a routine. Some kind of useful, effective work routine.
And there is so much work to do that I am dizzy. Mamma S finally found a local job. She’s delighted to have a ten minute commute instead of the 2.5 hour (EACH WAY!) mess she had grown used to. We’re all so lucky to see more of her, and this means all of us grown ups have more time and energy for ALL THE STUFF. What is the stuff? Where do I start?
I’m thrilled to be very close to publishing my first book, “Keeping It Up: A Guy’s Guide to Great Relationship Sex”. I’ve found a wonderful team of designers to work with, I’ve finished my final re-writes thanks to my glorious team of handsome beta readers, and I cannot wait to get this book out there. My goal is to have it hit the press well in advance of the holiday shopping madness.
I’m growing my little business experiment as a professional beta reader. It’s proven to be a very enriching and educational way to earn some extra money. What’s a beta reader? It’s not an editor, but someone who reads a piece (manuscript, short story, screenplay) with the eyes of an avid reader. I give feedback on character, plot, continuity, plausibility – all the things that make a book stand out as a good read. I’m finding I’ve got a real knack for putting a fine point on what is working and what isn’t, and exercising my critical muscles has been very beneficial for my own writing. I’m running that side project over at Your Beta Reader. Please check it out and share it where you think it can help.
I finished the first draft of my novel! If you know me, you’ll know this is HUGE. I was so, so intimidated by the idea of writing fiction, I could barely get started. Some creative writing classes via Quick Brown Fox helped me ignite the fire, and sheer determination helped me stick to it. Frankly, I mostly have Nekky to thank. He was a fantastic audience for each finished chapter, and his enthusiasm for the story spurred me on. Just as your enthusiasm inspires me to post here. What can I say? I love an audience. Now, the draft is ‘steeping’ while I take a breather. It’s killing me not to get back into it, but everything I’ve read suggests that taking a break is really wise. I have lots to keep busy with, but it’s hard not to bust out those color-coordinated post it notes.
At the advice of several trusted Internet resources, I need to develop my brand. Part of the problem I’m faced with is not really understanding what I’m selling. Ultimately, I want to make a living writing and selling my books, but I think there may be more here – a bigger picture that I just can’t see. I’m not convinced I’m ‘life coach’ material, or that I have a unique product I can sell, but who knows? I’m trying to stay open, and receptive, and I’m reading lots and lots of inspiring stuff. At the very least, I’ll be able to make this blog prettier by the end of it all. Sigh…
As if this weren’t enough, in the interest in investing in ‘me first’, I’m also taking on some work for our family business. Something new for me that I feel challenged by. I’m hoping it will provide some additional income to finance all of my ‘passion projects.’ Self-publishing, and more importantly, marketing said self-published materials, is going to require some resources I just don’t have.
Per my last point, I’m exploring Patreon at the advice of a trusted artist friend. This is a platform where people can sponsor their favorite content creators and help them fund their projects. I’m trying really hard to ignore the voice in my head who keeps yelling “who do you think you are?” and just focus on building a great profile for my body of work. I am an artist. I am an artist. My work is important and must be seen by the world. Again, sigh…
Now it’s your turn! Send me news! How are you getting back into the groove? Are your creative fires blazing? What are your own passion projects?