May Rambling

The blossoms and bulbs in my garden insist that Spring is here, but the temperature has yet to get on board with this plan. I’m itching to get out there to weed and tidy up, but at the moment I’ve got a giant, gauze-wrapped foot preventing me from doing more things than I care to think about. My days in this idyllic country setting are numbered, and I’m watching Mother Nature weave her magic through a dirty bedroom window. At least she’s kind enough to send rain all week so I don’t feel trapped.

We’re moving in June. Staying here in the Niagara region, heading closer to the school. We’ve traded this huge, rambling old home with it’s eighties country decor and massive yard for a brand new build in a subdivision. The new house is very clean. It has beautiful fixtures and simple, neutral colors. There’s space enough for all of us, and the yard is an easy-to-maintain postage stamp. No pool here, but a community pool a short walk away, with a huge playground and soccer field. Best of all, a distant relationship with the property management company that is leasing the place. If my current landlord/tenant situation wasn’t so toxic, we would have stayed here indefinitely. I’ve never lived in a brand new home. The gleaming kitchen on the open concept first floor has me giddy.

Meanwhile, I’m dipping my toes into the waters of packing and purging. The healthy toes, that is. I’ve just had bunion surgery on my left foot, and let’s face it, I’m a baby when it comes to physical pain. I’m healing well, but I’m slowed by this process at a time when all I want to do is exert control over my environment. We need to get organized, but I’m operating at 3/4 speed. I keep telling myself that it’s for the best. That maybe I’d burn out and feel even more stressed if I could take on everything I want to tackle right now. I feel like an easier, more relaxed version of myself.

None of my pants fit over my bandaged foot, so I’m forced to wear skirts and dresses, which leaves me feeling softer, more maternal, like the magnolia blossoms unfurling in the front yard. Little details make a world of difference sometimes.

My week-long writing retreat happened, thanks to the wonderful support I received from friends and family. I chose Stratford, off season. Initially, I wanted a cottage in the middle of nowhere but I thought that might be too isolated and too lonely. Next time, that’s exactly what I’ll do. I’d never gone somewhere by myself to write. I spent so much time drowning in self-doubt and wading through feelings of futility, that it was all-too-tempting to go for a walk or visit a cafe to try to distract myself. Despite this, I was able to make a mountain of notes and structure the huge rewrites I knew the novel needed to take it to the next level. I came home with a composition book full of directions and dozens of index cards with scene outlines and character sketches. Three days before the trip was over, I sat down to write and this felt like magic. My goal was to have another draft written, but I think that would have required a miracle, even with laser focus. Next time, I’ll do the homework first and save the time away for writing. I’d like to do this every year, possibly twice a year. Beyond the actual writing, the time to myself was a soul balm. I learned a lot about what I want, what I need, and what feels good. What amazed me the most is how I never felt homesick. I was able to miss my family, yet completely enjoy my time alone.

When this round of rewrites is complete, I’m sending the manuscript off to an editor. Then, I’ll start querying agents and see where that goes. I’m realizing that I can’t rush this process, no matter how much I’d like to. Things like foot surgery, moving, making money, and life demand my attention first. Fortunately, I love my work and the things that prevent writing are mostly pleasurable. If you asked me what I do for a living, I’d say ‘strive for balance’.

Is it selfish to devote time and energy to a creative pursuit that may never yield a profit? Is it wrong for a mother to allow that time to come between her and her children? Am I grossly self-indulgent for leaving my family for a week to dally with my novel? Should I look for a conventional job with benefits instead of structuring my work life around my writing?

What if I’m doing this wrong?

How to Call Yourself An Artist

One of the hardest struggles I’ve faced in my professional life was having the courage to call myself an artist. I spent many years surrounding myself with artists, working for artists, and pursuing romantic relationships with artists, yet all the while, I felt like I was too scared to claim the title for myself. When I finally took the first tentative steps towards standing tall in my own artsy shoes, I realized that all along, I was looking to others for the very thing I needed to embrace in myself.

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Chrysalis, Day Twenty-Eight


Adventures in Schnooville is my personal space on the Internet. If you’re here, it’s either because I’ve invited you in, or you happened by and I decided to leave the door open.

Are you hearing me? This space is mine. For me. Please don’t forget that for a second. All of the thoughts, dreams, hopes, fears, and frustrations expressed here are my unique perspective on my very own unique life.

If you see yourself reflected here, if you discover experiences that are similar to your own, if you can relate, then I am of course delighted. That’s rather the point, isn’t it? We are compelled to write to combat feelings of solitude and isolation, and we are compelled to read to discover common themes and threads that tie all of us together. It makes me happy to know that for some of you, reading about my personal journey has made yours a little less lonely. If I do nothing else in my life, I think that’s a very fine thing.

If you know me beyond the realms of the internet, if you know a little bit about my life and the players therein, you are sharing even more of my personal experience, and if you’re reading this, then you ought to honor that. It’s rather like I left my journal open on your coffee table, isn’t it? On purpose. This is where I walk through my emotions, and here you are, sharing that with me. If it upsets you to read this, then walk away. Don’t read. Cancel your subscription, un-friend me on Facebook, delete me from your news feed, or take a break and come back some other time. I’m not writing for you, and I never will be. Commenting on the emotions I am expressing is futile because I can and will continue to express what I am feeling here. Always with as much sensitivity as I can muster, but as long as I’m here, I’ll be writing here.

I think you will find that if you give yourself a week, and then come back and re-read whatever upset you, it will be a very different experience. Or perhaps not. Whatever the case, it’s your responsibility to deal with how my emotions might be making you feel if you chose to read these pages.

Comments of reflection, relation, sensitivity, encouragement, sharing, and inspiration are always welcome here in Schnooville. Harsh criticism, judgment, and hurt are not. Start your own blog.

Finally, I would like to say that nearly a month in this chrysalis has given me a keen look at what it is like to be one of those people who absolutely dread this time of the year. For you, every year beyond this one, I give a little slice of my heart. I’m not sure if it’s the cold and snow, or if it’s the result of carefully planned propaganda, but this time of year wants sad and lonely people to hurt more than ever, and that’s just wrong.

Here is the challenge I throw down – make a list of everything in your life, right now, that offers you a consistent sense of warmth. Notice I didn’t say people? People are not so constant, but I can bet a warm mug of tea (with a nip of scotch perhaps) is always a little bit of comfort. If you have even one constant person who can be counted on for warmth, even if you don’t know them well, add them to your list. Warmth is warmth when it’s especially cold.

A whole month has passed almost since my life began to change shape again.

Last year, at this time, I knew it would be the last Christmas that I found myself in the circumstances I was in. I didn’t predict this change of course, and within the many layers of pain and sadness is a layer of unexpected surprise. A change of course that illuminates, and offers hope in the power of love. Hope that I have always held hidden beneath my layers of fear and cynicism. Now this hope has a face, and a name. It is real, and I will hold it close to my heart and recognize it over and over again each day.

There will be no fresh start because life continues moving forward. If you keep moving with it, your landscape will always change. In these dark winter months, the light at the end of the tunnel is impossible to see, but as spring waits tucked around the corner like a blushing virgin, so too is the light hidden away, waiting for the moment of revelation.

I raise a mug of warm scotch to you, and remind you that you’re not ever really alone.

Chrysalis Life, Day One (Morning)

Bailey's Winter Coat

I drifted in and out of sleep, waking only once with the panic of feeling like I was having a bad dream (and that dream was in fact my own reality). Instead of being woken by my step-children, I was greeted with a tiny dog that looks like Samuel L. Jackson crash-landing on my sternum. In a flurry of slimy dog kisses and the faint aroma of corn chips I regained my bearings and rubbed the sleep from my eyes.

I quickly realized that my low-carb, high protein lifestyle does not match my parent’s peanut butter and jam toast for breakfast routine. At least coffee is universal and the grocery store is on the corner.

As I woke up slowly, instead of packing tiny lunches, I opened email after email from concerned friends. Some who I’ve known for years and who really are my family, some who I barely know at all who wanted me to know that I was loved. This made it possible to imagine the next few steps in my day with some measure of lightness in my heart.

My parents insist on keeping their home like a meat locker. Thankfully, it’s a cozy home, despite this sub-zero climate. I donned my fingerless mitts to hunch over my computer like some red-headed lady Bob Cratchet.

Cooking is path that leads to happiness. There will be cooking in my future, and I’ll be diligent about sharing recipes here. We can call it the “Broken Hearted Feast”. Then I’ll publish it like a cookbook and make millions of dollars. Don’t steal that.


I’ve just done some actual Coquettes work to set a client up with everything she needs to convince her board to let us show our tatas in Owen Sound. Fingers crossed.

Before that, I took my mom’s ridiculous little dog for a walk around my old hood. He has a new winter coat which he seems to be terrified of. I think with firm patience I’ve broken him of this paralyzing fear, because his little legs finally got moving and he was able to make a poop. Tiny victories.

This simple stroll around the block was a snapshot of my entire life in The Hammer. My parents have had the same house since 1975. I think their refusal to move had less to do with economics and more to do with their desire to give my brother and I the stable home that neither of them really had as children. They live in a complex of townhouses, and I think they are one of three original homeowners who remain here from the glory days.

When they bought the house it was a promising little suburb surrounded by orchards and farm fields. Now, it’s The Hood. Two clusters of low-income apartment buildings sprung up, and the neighbourhood deteriorated accordingly. This place went from a sea of kids who were similar in age to a land with few children who could speak the same language, blue collar workers, and immigrants who are trying to get a foothold in their new life.

As I grew older, the parks and playgrounds got meaner. Used condoms, hypodermic needles, shifty, greasy men in dark corners, strangers with slow-moving cars, crack dealing public school thugs and angry girls with babies in their tummies became more and more common.

The family-minded neighbourhood die-hards stood their ground. There is a handful of home owners who insist on maintaining pristine gardens that they tend with love (my mother is one of these). One of the low-income housing buildings even takes up a tenant fund to create a glorious landscape of hollyhocks and snapdragons each summer. Some of the people in this neighbourhood have real pride in where they live, and a great number of our neighbours are one welfare cheque away from having nowhere to live at all.

Welfare cheque days were the most dangerous in this neighbourhood growing up. From what my parents have told me, the new immigrant population has now outnumbered the white trash conglomerate, so things aren’t as exciting as they used to be. I clearly recall Friday evenings spent dodging beer bottles soaring from balconies across the street, parties that lasted two days with the strains of Waylon Jennings floating from open screenless windows, and the police here, in multiples of three from 9pm until way past my bed time.

And yet, my mom and dad managed to carve out a little oasis.

Now, my old school is an adult learning centre. The public school next door to where my school was shares it’s massive field with a recreation centre and fully-loaded playground, and there’s a cricket field, soccer field, and cluster of benches under a group of trees where the Sikh gentlemen sit conversing and sharing food year-round when the weather permits.

Bailey wore his powder blue and silver coat, and I floated along my route to school and my usual trick or treat route in a cream-coloured Calvin Klein coat, a brown Valentino scarf, my Coach sunglasses and a vintage fur hat. The men I encountered were ruddy-faced middle aged white men who seemed to have nowhere to go, and the women I saw were scale tipping ladies and girls who poured themselves into jogging pants with words written across the bum. And of course the Sikh gentlemen.

My point here is not to establish status. My designer articles are things I loved that are the product of my extraordinary ability to source mad bargains. I don’t spend insane amounts of money on clothes and accessories. My point is to illustrate that in this place, since I was six, I have always felt like a stranger in a strange land. How many other twelve year olds have had a collection of signature scarves?

As has always been the case, I felt everyone I encountered eyeballing me. Perhaps that’s why I’ve grown so comfortable in the spotlight in my adulthood? Embracing the attention has certainly been useful in my life.

Our therapist made a very astute observation yesterday that I hadn’t even arrived at yet. My experience of the relationship I was trying so hard at was that no matter what, I would always be the outsider. I’ve felt like an outsider for my entire life and have experienced some real pain and feelings of inadequacy as a result. My struggle to belong has shaped me as an individual, and the pain of struggling for acceptance in the context of my relationship was simply too great.

I regret deeply all the hurt my honesty has  caused. There are so many people who, when faced with their own difficult truths, can brush these aside and exist in a place of denial and trying to maintain status quo. I did this once, for four years, and I promised myself to never, ever do it again. It pains me to think of my loved ones feeling so sad. We tried to do something quite unique, and we discovered some amazing things about ourselves, the complexities of love and relationship dynamics, and each other as individuals. I don’t feel like it was a failure, but rather a very necessary journey for us all. I hope that through the pain we now face each of us can hold on to that. I hope that we can hang on to the love we’ve found, in the way that mature, open-hearted, self-aware individuals can do. I also hope we can shelter our children from the complicated nature of adult relationships and cushion them through these transitions with all of the love and security they deserve.

Sadness is like a deep well right now. I have to make sure to hang on to the bucket.

I’m making dinner tonight for my parents and my brother. Here’s the menu:

Roasted Sweet Potato

Sauteed Green Beans

Braised Red Cabbage

Pork Tenderloin with Pears and Shallots

Perhaps some time in the kitchen will make me feel a little bit better.

Updates to follow.


Oh November

Transcendence by Susan Seddon Boulet

A baby fell six stories from out of a window, bounced off a restaurant awning and was caught by a doctor who just happened to be walking by.  This is a true story. Check it out here.

That’s some kind of crazy luck. That’s the kind of luck that I’m calling Paris Luck. I believe that Paris holds some kind of magic, because of my own experience in that fair city – an experience that launched this here blog.

Paris Hope is another great thing I discovered in the City of Lights. I’m clinging hard to that now. When I arrived in Paris my life was in total chaos, and over brimming with uncertainty, yet I had the strangest sense that everything would work out somehow.

That’s just what life does. It works out. You get disappointed, your heart breaks and then you get that new job or new opportunity and you meet someone new to love. That’s my life experience, anyway. Doors open and doors close.

This doesn’t diminish the pain in those transitional moments. I can clearly remember sleeping on air mattresses and sofas, wondering what would happen to me, and wondering where I would find myself once all of the debris had been shoveled away. I’d lie awake at night wondering what was going to happen to me.

At the tender age of 34 I am starting to understand that I have no control over the bigger picture, but I will always have a pretty great sense of what the next day is going to look like, and if I can look at each day one at a time, nothing feels as scary as it once did.

I’ve also learned exactly what I need to build trust, both in myself and in the love I have. I started to worry that I would never find this thing, but in an entirely revealing moment I realized that trust begins with me. When I began to learn to trust my own ability to handle difficult moments, I learned that nobody could shatter me.

This week I learned some very important things:

There is a big difference between being utterly helpless and simply not yet having the tools to deal with conflict, crisis, and distress.

The opinions of people who love me when expressed in a carefully composed, very loving email are received like precious gifts instead of harsh judgments. Thank you for being brave enough to reach out like that. When you emphasize the love you are speaking from it makes all the difference to my ears.

I have made good choices about where to put my heart, even if the big picture has changed.

I am afraid of what will happen next in my life. Though honesty remains the very best policy, it can often come with immense pain. I was and continue to be committed to the love with which I have expressed myself. When you have to deliver difficult news, always do it with all of the love you can muster.

My emotional welfare professionals are incredible, compassionate teachers who I feel have blessed my life. Any one of us deserves to search for a great therapist and open our hearts to the experience of having their support and guidance. You are never too old or too broke to enjoy this.

My body isn’t working the way I want it to. I wait to see if science has a solution, but realize that I have so much that even if science doesn’t have the answers, I am full.

Love is a powerful, magical force that we can only really feel the benefits of if our hearts are as open as they can be. I feel the most strength and safety from love when I allow it to burst forth and wash away my fears.

My work is the baby of my soul. It feeds me as I feed it and fills me with inspiration and purpose. It is my rock in times of pain and confusion. I work every day towards the freedom to always only do the work that is meaningful to me. I will never do a job I hate again.

I am a mother. Wholly and completely with all of my soul. Anything ever said to tarnish the relationship between step-parents and their step-children is a lie. Those girls are as much in my heart as they would be if I had birthed them.

I never knew love could be so deep, so safe, and so inspiring.

You know, perhaps November isn’t really so bad? Perhaps it’s all of the change and transformation that can feel dismal if you forget that spring is around the corner, and will always be right there, no matter how many leaves fall.