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Mothers and daughters are closest, when daughters become mothers.

7 May

I was 25 and unwieldy my first mother’s day, pregnant but not showing, being fat and squishy in all the places skinny girls start to get taut and glowy around 6 months. I was browsing in the bookstore with my then husband, bemused, fingering the childbirth books, fantasizing about my perfect birth.

Feeling the echoes of my mother, where she should be. A year before this, I had dreamt of her with me as I birthed. I did not give a child, but in hindsight, I gave myself over, releasing her spirit and splinters of her memory from me, bursting forth in light and ache. Perhaps I am a prophet. But that day, I felt only the loss, the emptiness of new life without the guidance of an elder, of a mother, of my mother.

I will never feel as alone as I did that day, surrounded on all sides by mother daughter duos giggling, bonding, drinking latte’s and tea, eating scones and generally, absorbing the air I could no longer breathe.

I made a conscious decision that day, to finally accept my pregnancy, to finally come to grips with my transition into adulthood, to the mother, to the person I would become. I wasn’t just bringing new life into the world. I was healing my own, finding it with groping paws and empty promises.

I picked up a pregnancy journal, and decided it was ok to become someone’s mother.


I said I was going to ignore Mother’s Day. And, it’s very likely that I will, knowing there will be no cards or flowers or well wishes, just like every other year-difference being is that this year I don’t have to be mad at anyone about it. It just is.

But it feels off to not acknowledge it.

It’s not razor sharp anymore, that pain. I don’t walk dazed through my days, like I’d fallen down a set of stairs and hit my head and could only see the stars before me. The pain lessens, nearly disappears, leaving me only a reminder of who I’m not, what I could have been, how it all could have been so different.

If I look at the clearly, my mother never dying would have likely meant me never wasting my teen years embroiled in drugs and drinking and confusion. My mother never becoming sick would have meant I would have never moved to Northern Ontario. Never bought a magazine. Never met the father of my children.

Never had my children. My mother’s death directly created my daughters.

As I tell Vivian, frequently-light and dark are only two sides of a thin coin. So it seems, are life and death.

I cannot curse her death any longer. I cannot curse my loss without acknowledging what I have gained. Who I have become. The lessons writ large on my heart, in my skin, by losing her all those years ago. I am a mother because I have no mother.

Ten years ago, when asked, I would have said I would give up anything, and everything to have her back.

No longer.

Becoming a mother has given this to me-a love broad enough to hold my pain, the ability to understand her sacrifice, her pain, her ache, while watching my own recede in the distance like the sun setting in August. Becoming a mother has allowed me to let go in my own way, sitting late at night with a daughter under my child, curled into my body, secure in the knowledge that Mummy loves her, and will never let anything harm her.

I miss my mother. But I’m proud of the mother she has helped me become.


Sometimes I stare at the sky as I walk home, and marvel at how big it seems in this province, how spacious and grand. The wind pushes the clouds around, musses my hair and I’ll feel, briefly, like I’m 17 and impossible and wrinkled with pain. The sky smells of tomorrow and I feel my heart pause, sure of her breath on my neck, her perfume on the breeze. Her voice whispers around me, just past hearing, and the world rights itself.

I’m solid again, and grown.

She’s with me everyday, as she’s part of me. I have become her. My daughter’s hold her attitude in their eyes, her bravery in their hearts. My mother’s humour infuses my days, dry and startled.

We are our mother’s daughters.

Kids Are Worth It!-Barbara Coloroso

5 May

There’s been a lot of changes at my house lately. My husband moving out, changes with child care, growing up, my youngest in school soon-things are busier than ever and I find myself not always having the time to really sit with my kids and connect as much as I might like.

So when Penguin Canada said they had a few copies of Barbara Coloroso’s “Kids are Worth It!” to review, I jumped at the chance. I’m not so crazy to think that I know everything, especially when it comes to parenting my children. Losing my mother young, I often feel like I don’t always have all the tools I need.

Most parenting books irritate me-they speak in various voices, but mainly in two-one that assumes you’re a blithering idiot, and one that assumes you can’t possibly know what’s best for your children. For the most part, Coloroso avoids these.

Originally written in 1994, and reissued with a new introduction, Coloroso does follow the general parenting advice flow of slapping labels on parenting-namely, splitting them into 4- the Brick Wall parent , the Jelly Fish parent (A&B) or the Backbone parent. All problems and successes flow downhill from these.

Much of the advice using this mechanism is valid-I find I vacillate between a Jellyfish B and a Backbone parent. (Either I just ignore them and then yell when angry, or I actually take the time to sit down and be rational, see their view, let them do the work) and agree her take that we should all parent as a Backbone parent-i.e.-let children, where appropriate, find their own answers. Her quote, which I firmly agree with, “it’s not morally threatening, it’s not unhealthy or life threatening” rings true, and is close to my “no blood, no foul” rule in my honest.

The key it seems, according to Coloroso, is to treat your child as the adult they will become. Give them permission to their own body, their own wants. Allow them the wiggle room when younger to experiment and branch out. Obviously, don’t let them drive drunk-but pick a hill to die on. her example of her son’s crazy hair cut is a great one-it’s his head. A little autonomy goes a long way.

I have really enjoyed many of the common sense suggestions in this book-and have already started using some techniques to help with my children. I had fallen off the rails in terms of thinking through my parenting-I don’t think I was ever that far off, but it’s so much easier to turn back into the brick wall parent and just yell and demand. The message that rebellion can be embraced and managed, and is a good thing-we need to hear that!

I also appreciate the common sense that logic should be followed. If I’m late for dinner, I eat late. I may not get as much, but not giving dinner makes no sense. The message being that the power struggle is not valid or purposeful with parenting-this is not a race or a war

This isn’t a quick fix book, as it warns on the back cover. If you’re closer to a brick wall or a jellyfish, making some changes will be hard. I have to fight my own jellyfish tendencies sometimes, trying to not just go against what my own mother did. Kids Are Worth It! is extremely helpful in laying out the reasoning behind examining, and perhaps altering how you parent.

That said, I am not a huge  fan of the idea that ALL rewards and punishments are fruitless-the motivation for many people (my eldest included) is not only job well done-but the outcome of that, or the implication that a reasonable line of consequences (told you 6000 times to clean your toys-if you can’t take care of them, they disappear) ISN’T reasonable. 

Personally do not like the implication that all kids who are not parented correctly “as backbone” in book will then become promiscuous, drug users or run away. Seems like a relatively simplistic view which isn’t levied by the disclaimed early on that not ALL kids are going to end up like that, and it seems to continually come back to this point through the book.

Overall, unlike many parenting books that leave me rolling my eyes, annoyed, I find Kids Are Worth It to be just as relevant now as it was in 1994, if not more so. The stunning conceit of treating kids like human being-what a concept. This book was also great in terms of covering and applying the concepts to all age groups-something not all books are able to do.

Not only did Penguin Canada provide me with a review copy, they also gave me 2 copies to give away! To win, leave me a comment about your most difficult parenting scenario so far, and what you did to alleviate it.

I’ll take comments until midnight, Saturday May 8. 🙂

Don’t waste yourself in rejection, nor bark against the bad, but chant the beauty of the good.

15 Jul



On buses, walking, waiting, anywhere that a child slithers into my side, a woman will smile that wistful smile, one of waiting or wanting, and stare at the three of us. I can always feel the eyes on me, the same I cast on the unknowing 15 year olds when they walk past me, their hips free of their futures, their shoulders strong and dreaming.

Sometimes, like yesterday, we’ll rise to leave, to make our transfer or get the groceries and a smooth hand will reach for me, briefly hold my gaze and arm.

“Your daughters are beautiful.” she’ll whisper, almost to herself, a secret of gold on her tongue. She’ll smile at me sadly as we walk away, my hands gripping each child warmly.


These women, they are so very right.

There are days when everything is so very hard, where I am tired, or lonely, or just plain done with small creatures who talk and touch and harass and otherwise get thisclosetome all day long. I have to force myself to step back and marvel at how Vivian is so utterly curious with everything, so responsible and such an old soul. Or how Rosalyn can create a new little world in seconds using only the two ratty sticks she carries and the back of a coloring book. If I stop fretting and fluttering, and just breathe, I can see them, the women who will one day play chess for hours together, instead of arguing about the set up as they are this very minute.

I see them as beautiful women then. I see them strong, and brilliant, and talented and above all happy. Their beauty, today, comes from the light which bursts from them, from smiles and grinning eyes, from the peace we feel with each other, when I relax and settle into them, and allow today, as well as tomorrow, to nourish me.

Their happiness keeps me found, solid and firm as they ready themselves to fly. The beauty and strength they project, lights my way as well as their own.


Placement: Grade 1

19 Jun



Maybe it means more to me than her, the last long look into the first classroom she ever entered, wave goodbye to her desk, hug her first teacher. Maybe she won’t remember this year, the way I remember my kindergartens in spurts, tiny spores released into the air of my memory. Maybe the memories will just be warm spring sunshine, the cold dark air of winter in her mouth. Singing, running, joy.

But it means so very much to me, on the verge of tears as we say goodbye to the woman who helped my daughter learn to read, who can be thanked, years from now, when Vivian accepts her Masters, or flies to Mars, the woman who has started Vivian on a road she can never fall from, a passion for words, and knowledge, and someday, hopefully wisdom.

How can you repay that? How many words match this gift?

Last September, I dropped Vivian off with a fair amount of trepidation, and a lot of relief, and shock. That we were there already. That she was so very eager. I read her last report card on the way home, focused more on the teacher’s perceptions of her than the evaluation. And I cried, quiet tears, swallowed as we walked through the playground. My daughter, called amazing and wonderful and bright, all those things I understood, all these things I’ve molded and helped create. To see it reflected back, to see her blossom under the tuteledge of another woman, and learn. It fills me with awe this change. It fills me with awe for my daughter, for her mind, for how nimble and thirsty it really is.

Seeing “Placement for September: Grade 1”, for all the smiles it gives, makes me feel old. She’s growing up, this magical girl of mine. She’s growing up,sprouting in her mind and legs, and leaving her mother behind already.

Maybe it does hit me more, my memories being sporatic, full of wisftul nostalgia. Maybe it’s just how it should be.

I’m sorry, is The Mother’s Act trying to help women? My bad…

22 May

Once upon a time, everything was wrong. I knew it. I couldn’t bring myself to where I needed to be. So I lived with it, we worked around it, we did what we could, the people in my life, me. But when there’s a fuzz in your brain you can never quite shake, you can’t see through it. You can feel the wrong vibrating through your life, but you can’t quite settle it.

Even if you talk to a doctor, even when I sat down and said, please, I want to die, I can’t hold it in, they saw nothing. The next time I’d be fine, and bouncy and wonderful and life was grand and they saw nothing. So I carried on, with the wrong still buzzing, believing I was doing what I could do.

But then pregnancy, and pregnancy again, and there was a slight snap that let loose the dogs of crazy, and I slipped slowly into the vibration, becoming consumed, becoming someone I wasn’t, someone who I can’t recognize today.

They didn’t see it. They didn’t watch for it, they didn’t ask. My urine was more compelling than my mental state, even after the first time, even after being through it, after asking for help. Nothing. No one. They watched me crying, sobbing in a fetal position 3 hours after birth and did nothing. I should have been happy, shouldn’t I?

More and more foolishness comes out on the Mother’s Act. More lies, more blatant bullshit (prozac in a baby’s eyes? Really? People BELIEVE this crap!?!?) more obstacles to providing women with nurses and doctors who pay attention to their emotional state, who stop and ask them if they’re ok, who take a moment to look them in the eyes and tell them it’s ok to admit if maybe it’s not all puppies and rainbows.

Honesty. Caring. Compassion. Research to prevent post partum mood disorders.

I read a story like this one, where a mother kills her son. And I read how the family felt “she did not express the typical love of a mother for her child.” And how nothing had been done before that. How the mother said she killed him because “she did not want him to grow up with no one caring about him, the same way that she had grown up where nobody had cared about her.” She then walked the streets of her city.

If she never reacted properly to her son, why would no one ever see, or be told, or help? How long? From birth? Could this have been stopped, years before? This mother, who now waits to be tried, who wants now to die, who felt this was the only way, could she have been helped by something as simple as a doctor noticing, at some time, what was going on?

As a Canadian who has suffered a bad case of PPD, I’ve been watching the Mother’s Act hopefully, and wondering if we can implement something similar in Canada. Something that would extend a hand when it’s needed, not forcing or demanding, but merely being a support when it’s so desperately needed. Education for doctors and nurses to recognize the signs.

I’ve also been watching the backlash, the ridiculous claim from out of nowhere that this is basically an excuse for “big pharma” (I’m so tired of that term) to drug everyone into insensibility, make oodles of money, and giggle maniacally in their lairs. Because it’s hard to believe that anyone, even a senator who is paid to represent the constituents, or a mother who lost her daughter, might only want things to change for mothers. Because nothing can ever happen on a broad scale without some sort of conspiracy attached.

It’s disgusting, and infuriating, especially when coming from other mothers. I didn’t take anything when I was suffering-I went through therapy, and was eventually diagnosed, nearly 2 years later, as bipolar. Which I should have been diagnosed as years before. I elected to start treatment with medication, and did my research on each until we found one that corrected the imbalance in my brain, and allowed me to function, NOT exceed, but merely FUNCTION at the same level as everyone else.

I CHOSE my path. I still see a doctor, sometimes more, sometimes less. I take my medication because for me, talk therapy isn’t the only answer. But I refused anti-depressants twice, and was merely told that they were available, if I needed or wanted them. As with many women I know, I didn’t want them.

But some women might. And women should have the choice, since free will, after all, is a bitch.

There are lives to be saved here, women’s lives, children. By simple screening, questions, a kind word, someone paying attention. And yet we constantly see blowhards screaming their agenda, which is not so much about women but about their misguided attempts to protect. We see people who have never ever even given BIRTH, who decide, based on their vast experience, that this bill must be evil evil evil.

We have hundreds, maybe thousands of women, every day, suffering in silence, suffering in from of medical staff as I did, who get no help at all.

We are a compassionate people, aren’t we?


So I went to read the bill again. Looking for the “feed me Risperdal” clause.


(1) Basic research concerning the etiology and causes of the conditions.


(2) Epidemiological studies to address the frequency and natural history of the conditions and the differences among racial and ethnic groups with respect to the conditions.

 Again, research, especially about incidence, good. 

(3) The development of improved screening and diagnostic techniques.


(4) Clinical research for the development and evaluation of new treatments.


(5) Information and education programs for health care professionals and the public, which may include a coordinated national campaign to increase the awareness and knowledge of postpartum conditions. Activities under such a national campaign may– 

Gee, educating the public? Kirstie, are you listening?

 (B) focus on–

(i) raising awareness about screening;

     (ii) educating new mothers and their families about postpartum conditions to promote earlier diagnosis and treatment; and

    You mean, let people know what it might feel like so they can educate themselves? NO!


    (iii) ensuring that such education includes complete information concerning postpartum conditions, including its symptoms, methods of coping with the illness, and treatment resources.

    And education means providing ALL options and alternatives to the woman, so SHE can make a decision like a big girl wearing big girl pants? How progressive!



Frankly, I don’t see it. While I take medication, and it has literally saved my life, I don’t like pills either. I hate taking them. I’ve declined many medications because I don’t want it in my body. I would never support something that mandated medication. And this doesn’t. Unless there’s some super special secret page that only Amy whatshedrinking can see with all her friends. This is about education, and providing women with the tools they MIGHT need to help them get a handle on things.

Maybe I am insane, but I fail to see how this infringes on freedom, goes against the constitution, or any of the many things it’s been accused of doing.

It’s trying to help. People who have been there are trying to help. What’s really in it for those trying to prevent that help? Dollars for Scientology perhaps, more money for “natural” remedies that might also poison you? Is this just another way for some women to convince you that you aren’t a real woman if you haven’t “toughed it out” if you suffered true post partum, and not just baby blues?

I’m not proud. I deeply desired to give away my daughter at birth. To harm her and end my life. Many things too painful to write down. I recovered with therapy, with the help of a very aware lactation consultant who called at the right time. What I felt wasn’t natural or normal, and it took me a year to connect to her, despite fighting for therapy and assistance.

Now imagine the woman without an advocate.

That’s who you’re destroying here.

Everybody’s got plans…until they get hit.

3 Apr

She fears fire.

Vividly, it encapsulates her, and she’s trapped in the terrified thrall. What if’s, what of’s, they fill the air around us until I almost cannot breathe anymore and I’ve run out of words to say, out of words with meanings deeper than this one thing:

“I will always save you. I will always be there.”

She imagines she can’t get out, she can’t break the window, the doorknob is hot, she can’t go out barefoot. Yet she can’t remember our escape plan, our meeting place. I ask her what she would do if there was smoke.

“The school” she tells me, “said to go slowly.”

The school has created this monster, this giant fear worming it’s way through her head, eating at her, slowly. A fear of fire is an elemental thing, especially for a child. “Where would we live?” she asks, “What about all my things?” We fear the cleansing of the growing, growling beast.

“Would snow put it out?” she asks, but only after asking if brick would catch fire. So many thoughts for someone so small and young. Such a weight on her back.

I look her in the eyes. “You are safe. We are here. We will always come for you. You think a little fire will keep your mother away? Pfft.” I hold her gaze for a little while, so she can be weak, then strong again. She gets it.

A plan, I tell her, keeps away the fear. And we have a damn good plan.


I fear my own fires, but it’s not one that burns in the real world, eating timbers and dolls. I’ve been feeling good-damn good, that good that terrifies me because it’s almost TOO good, a meandering steady that leads irrevocably into madness and mania. I glimpse my own potential, and see it’s shunted and cornered by this fire, my normal fear, my hideous lecture. I fear myself. I fear the fire that eventually tries to eat me from the inside.

I have all the hope and joy in the world for my future right now, but it’s tempered by the knowledge that sometimes, my own brain, my very own self, kicks my ass back down to be burned and scarred. It scares me, and it saddens me, and it sucks the hope right back out of me. I could fly, if only my wings would work for longer than a fledgling. I can’t get off the ground, and the smoke and flames threaten.

I worry just as much as Viv. I just keep it hidden, stuffed down, where I almost don’t feel it, where it almost doesn’t bother anyone, where I can mostly pretend it doesn’t exist. But it does. The terror of a hidden soul can only stay hidden for so long. Then it creeps and smolders up into my chest, down around my heart, until I paralyzed and gleeful, all at once.

I worry that one of these days, I won’t be able to control the fire, to put it out, and the flames will drain me.

I don’t have a plan, I don’t have an escape, and I can’t help but wonder about the fire extinguishers.

Fire in the Belly, at 4

9 Mar

Originally uploaded by thordora

Lately I find myself reaching for babies a lot, my fingers twitching greedily for the soft, chubby legs, the tiny buttons on the tiny sweaters, the wispy hair (OH! the wisps) I don’t really want one-hell, I didn’t want mine when I had them, and hurried their babyhood’s alone with a wink, and nudge and the hope that lack of sleep would cause amnesia.

It must have worked since I can’t remember Rosalyn’s first word. I do recall that she walked for the very first time on her first birthday however. I don’t remember much else though, and thinking on it is like wading through mist. Ok, actually, I remember her exersaucer and how she took it as a personal challenge to get it across a room. She was always so determined to get moving.

In flipping through pictures of her, I noticed that her face, particularly her mouth, is dirty with something in nearly all. Cheese, crackers, peanut butter-always a greasy smear and crumbs down the front, too busy, much much too busy, white rabbit watch checking and running busy.

Then lately, now, I think of her, and the constant strains of “my haaands are durty!!!” and the running for the bathroom, the recent fastidiousness that has risen within her-the clean face I hadn’t seen since birth. I stopped and thought about that snack filled face, and nearly dropped what I held.

She’s a little girl now. My baby, my second born, my brave wonder woman birth, my angry little baby, so serious and sad for months in photos, still with the lost in thought head. She is not a baby. I can carry her down the stairs to her bed, her tiny arms twisted around my neck, her breathing warm in my ear, and I realize she never liked this as a baby, was never comfortable. She wants to do things, communicates her thoughts, tells me she misses her sister when she’s gone. (Yeah, I usually have to pick my jaw up at that one)

Man, where did she go? My baby, will she always be my baby? I know I treat the two of the differently, but how can’t I? They ARE so different! Where Vivian seems to run the rails on the straight and narrow, Rosalyn just…floats by, like she’s on water, plucking lilies from the shore. She’s got that purple crayon, and she’s drawing the road herself.

She really is a fabulous little creature. Not my baby, the baby is gone, and yeah, good riddance and all that jazz.

Four years ago, I was such a mess, and I was angry and depressed and scared, and almost unwilling and unable to love my baby, my daughter.

Four years later, I can’t imagine my heart not full with the sight of her.

Happy Birthday Ros. Sing me a song.

Each person has an ideal, a hope, a dream which represents the soul. We must give to it the warmth of love, the light of understanding and the essence of encouragement.

5 Mar

One smell, one solitary tendril across my nose and my body gives a little shiver and says, in it’s most pitiful little voice,


I haven’t touched a cigarette in almost 5 years. My body still knows it’s M.O., my fingers still twitch to hold slim paper between them, my lips long for the silk across them, the fire burning into my throat. My belly aches with desire for the completion, the end to a day, a meal, lovemaking.

My brain sees lung cancer, 10.00 a pack and the stench of smoke.

Is it wrong to be a little gratified that my old addiction wasn’t necessarily my fault?

I don’t miss the judgement, the stares. The smell I was only aware of once I quit 3 months pregnant with Rosalyn, realizing that DEAR LORD PEOPLE REEK. I don’t miss standing, huddled in the snow and wind, trying to remember why I smoked aside from the fact that I was completely addicted.

I remember how proud I was of myself for quitting, cold turkey, and staying that way all this time. I know I can never touch another cigarette.

There was a me who smoked, who stayed up late writing in coffee shops, talking about, so many things that seemed important, themes in crappy fantasy novels, chess moves, lame “cult” movies that were meant to move us but instead left us scratching our heads and wondering why we were supposed to consider it art. But now, years later, there’s a me who knows my lungs were crying for mercy and asking me why watching my mother die of cancer wasn’t enough. There’s a me who has decided that art is what her brain and heart decide it is, not what others do. A me who has moved past a part of my life and into a different place. A place where being responsible for another life will always color what I say, and do, where I go, and how I get there.

Say what you will. Living as someone responsible for another life, solely responsible, be it as parent or guardian, changes who you are. I cannot be the same girl who was high for days straight because now, I need to worry, with absolute certainty, about feeding my children, about setting the right example for them. I can’t coast by with only Mr. Noodle in the cupboard (not that they’d mind) because I have brains and bodies to grow. I can’t live my life according to only my rules-I simply can’t, not while responsible for the growth and development of other people.

I love at my life in many chunks, all of which are formative pieces of clay. Each tugged me a little this way, and a little that way, with no real guidance or advice. But having a child-not just gestating and birthing her, but bringing her home and realizing “oh shit, I’m supposed to know what to do!”-that propped me up, gave shape to my truest form yet, and solidified into where I sit now, mature in my skin, content, at peace.

You can have reason without children, contentment, purpose. You can devote your life selflessly to any number of causes and reasons. But it is driven differently, and it easier to escape when it becomes hard, or you decide it isn’t what you want. You cannot abandon having children, being a mother or parent, guarding the lives of others. You could most certainly leave them behind, but they would never leave you. Talking to my birthmother 19 years after my birth assured me of that. You are always someone’s rock, someone’s past, someone’s peace.

We can argue who deserves the medal more, who has suffered for their cause, who is entitled to say they are more worthy of…whatever it is that we’re worthy of.

I raise my children as best I know. I recognize in myself a strength that never existed before, a capacity for love I never thought I could have. I finally see in me that adult woman I had been struggling to be for so long, and just couldn’t find.  I see someone strong enough to finally kick the beast of an addication off her back, for all the right reasons, all the ones that made sense.

The women I know without children, are brave, kind, wonderful women who love their nieces and nephews, who give back to their communities, who are incredible in so many ways. But they will not understand, not fully, what it means to give every bit of yourself to a human in your care. Nor will I understand what it’s like to have lupus, or face the fact that I cannot have children, or wonder if the abortion I had as a teenager means I’ll never have a child. I cannot fully grasp their lives, as I do not live those.

But I can try and bridge the gap. I can light the room with the bliss of watching my daughter read, really read! for the first time, and listen when someone talks to me about their latest trip to India, and how much they’ve learned.

Different has never, and will never, mean better. And judgement will never smell as sweet as understanding.

Tell me a blue story

4 Mar

“Tell me a story about when you were a kid. Please Mom?”

She loves to hear the sordid details of my mistakes this girl, suddenly all legs and arms, stretching to the sky before my eyes. She begs to hear of when I didn’t listen to my parents, of when I did something stupid but fun. She asks after my life, my childhood, as if it’s something meaningful and real.

I remember some things, little of others. Some tales she might never hear.

She loves the one about my father telling me not to take my favorite book in the entire world to school, my Strawberry Shortcake book, since I’ll likely misplace it. I had convinced him I wouldn’t, and took it with me anyway.

Yeah, I lost it.

She grins when I tell her how sad I was, how upsetting it was to not only lose it, but to know that my father was right all along! I remind her that this moment, when I was 5 or so, has stuck with me all these years, a lesson that sometimes, our elders do know what they’re talking about.

“Tell me about your Mommy.” she then asks, her eyes shining up at me as we lay on the floor, propped up by elbows as we absently play with wooden dolls and comic characters.

Tell me about your mother. Tell me something meaningful-remind me you have a Mother, that she was real, that she existed and loved you as you love me. It’s what’s she’s really saying, clearly glimpsing the void in my background that others don’t have. Tell me you aren’t missing something.

I always tell her she was beautiful, and show her the pictures to prove it, the infinite eyes, the surety in her face, the strength. The radiant joy on her wedding day.

I tell Viv her grandmother loved horses and plants, things that grew, and I ache with the echo of calling her “grandmother”, a title she never had the chance to wear. Vivian sees my blue rosary, given to me by my mother on my first communion. She asks of it again, fingering the beads in her hand. It’ s old, made in Italy, and I’m pretty sure my mother was given it on her first communion. I treasure it beyond almost anything else I own, despite never using it, and rarely touching it.


I tell Vivian her grandmother gave it to me on a special day, one she was proud of. My fingers remember the movements, but not the order of saying the rosary. I don’t keep it for that. I keep it for my daughters, but I keep it for my mother, in mute acceptance of who she was, and the knowledge that I’m exactly who I should be. I just tell Vivian it’s one of those special things I don’t want her touching, because her grandmother left me so little.

“She’s dead right? She died?” she asks, clearly, with no emotion. Most of my family think I’m morbid and insane for talking so easily about death with her, with both my daughters. But it’s frayed my life, it destroyed it, and at a time when no one was able to talk about it. I’ll never be in that position with mine.

“Yeah Viv, she’s dead. She’s been gone a long time now.”

“She was…sick?” That uncertainty. No matter how many times I try to explain fucking cancer, I know she secretly worries, my little panic attack of a daughter.

“Sometimes people get really sick, and they fight and they fight, but the soldiers in their body, they just can’t win, no matter how much medicine there is. Your grandmother fought and fought, but she just couldn’t do it forever. It happens Vivian. Everything dies. It’s normal.”

“But that’s sad.” she looks at me earnest. I nearly lose my shit looking into those brown eyes, those endless little pools.

“Oh yeah sugar-bear. It’s so sad. But it’s life. I miss my mom, but she’s still around. In me, in you, in my heart. She’s never truly gone.”

I say this a lot in the hopes that I’ll believe it too.

“Tell me another story about when you were a kid Mommy. Tell me something new.”

Appetitus Rationi Pareat

20 Feb

Oh the guilty stolen afternoon, snuck quietly from the house, stolen to read a surprisingly awesome book (I love it so when that happens-when you buy it thinking, meh, why not, and suddenly you’re drawn in and the world is being colored around you..) The late February wind gusts around me, while puddles of new snow trickle beneath my feet. I can smell spring.

Fishing through the old clothes, I sigh a lot, all the cute things are just that much too small. We’ve grown past it. I finish eating my leisurely lunch, and while waiting for the cashier, spy a tiny boy, only 3 months, cradled in his mother’s arms as he has his lunch, eyes swollen with lunch stupor. His feet were so very small.

I’m on the bus when a little girl comes on, bundled in winter, cheeks rosy, her perfect little nose poking out, eyes curious and watchful. She stares at me with the no-stare. I’m fairly confident that I’m too far away from her to be really seen, but there’s something about those piercing little globes, like jelly beans or black jujubes.

My entire body cascades in on itself and cries out for more. My arms ache, my womb echoes for a child, my body feels drawn. My children are now children in the fullest sense of the word, and my body, my muscles, my soul shakes in the absence.

The simple unfair fact of knowing this ache after the birthing is complete. It startles me, like a cat shook from it’s sleep, and it angers me, that I couldn’t have felt this 6 years ago, blooming with the cells that would eventually become my first born daughter. Why not then? Why not when I could have reveled in every moment, enjoyed, simply stood in between maidenhood and mother, and accepted it, embraced it? Why only now, when the over is unplugged and in pieces?

I enjoyed the last 5 years. It has been a hard ride, a rough one, the brambles of mental illness entwined with simple achievements like first words (I can’t remember Rosalyn’s, and hope I wrote it down) and birthdays. But these years have been so innocent, comparatively speaking, as I’m noticing now that I have one in school. Those first 5 are halcyon days, glowing with such wonder, fabulous flowers on a plant you always found ugly. I eagerly sold the high chair, the crib, gave away 99.5% of the baby clothes. I welcomed, with open arms, toddlers, preschoolers, and now, children.

So universe, why now huh? Why burden me with a hunger I can never satiate? Why fill me up with this longing, for another child to grow in my belly, another gasp at the quickening, the terror of crowning and the quietude of 4am? Why bestow this gift on me now, after all this time, when its unnecessary, and more than a little inappropriate?

I stared hard at that little girl’s eyes, smiling wistfully, looking a little high I imagined. I could feel that baby skin on my fingertips, the porcelain of it, the chubby fingers grasping on their own, without measure or wit. I could imagine her weight on my hip, the little sighs she’d make while feeding, her tiny thumb, barely clinging to her lips as she slept.

In her eyes I imagined enjoying the babyhood’s of my daughters more completely, sanely.

Wanting a child is merely my wish for wanting to be normal.

Having Rosalyn so soon after Vivian stole that from me. And I can breathe now, and see that, see that for Vivian, I was scared, and worried and full of far too much book learning but I loved her and my world ran around her. But pregnancy, and a new child later and I was full of venom and hate without much room for love or empathy, not at first.

I crave a do-over. I want to be able to love a child the way Ros deserved to be loved, almost 4 years ago now. I can’t make it up, but on some level, my ovaries are trying to have the great chess game, to make up, to make due.

I’ve known, for years, that there’s no going back. What was, is, and simply, I cannot change or make that up. I can only move forward now, grasp my daughter tightly as she grins and tells me I’m pretty, as her cheekbones light up, exactly as mine do. What I can do it love the baby that was, the girl that is, the woman that will be.

The pinpoints of light in that baby girl’s face, interrupted only by the hesitation of the bus on a busy street, will forever hold me in thrall. I can face that hunger down, hold the door open, ask it to leave. And accept that finally, I have been allowed a feeling so basic to women, a hunger I never dreamed I’d feel. All of this shakes me from reverie, telling me to move on, move past and beyond.

I can love that phantom child, he, or she that will never be. I can love a ghost that never was.



Oh, darling, let your body in, let it tie you in, in comfort.

16 Feb

 Diane E. Levin and Jean Kilbourne’s So Sexy So Soon seeks to address this very type of childhood experience: a complete lack of awareness about sex and reproduction coupled with a media-fed understanding of sexiness – that is, as one young girl in the book explains, getting boys to chase you and try to kiss you – that revolves around emulating TV characters and buying as many products as possible.

There’s a great book review of So Sexy So Soon at Feministe-please, go read.

But it got me to thinking.

How much time can we, as parents and mothers, spend blaming the media, the western world, capitalism, Walmart, etc, before we also realize the true impact we have on our daughters?

I firmly believe in openness, to the point of irritation I imagine. Vivian telling me that “that place” feels good when she touches it-that filled me with pride. Pride that she was able to say this to me with no fear or pretense, and that she took such obvious joy in herself. Pride that I’m starting to create a woman who isn’t afraid of herself, knows where all the proper things are, and just exists in this manner.

Because I disagree that this is fully the fault of what Mattel is selling this season, or that sitcoms have taken things too far. I disagree that it’s those damn music videos, or those stars that kids want to emulate. Not fully.

Cues are taken from parents.

How many of us were raised in a don’t ask, don’t tell sort of environment, where the most sex education you received was 2 weeks in Grade 5, and maybe a book left covertly on a counter top by your mother? How many women can’t bring themselves to call a vulva a vulva, or even know that their vagina is only on the inside? How many women can’t bring themselves to orgasm, or help their partner to do so? How many women blush at the thought of talking about all of this? How many of us learned, early on from our parents, that our hands can be dirtied so easily?

When I was Vivian’s age, I liked to rock on a specific doll-I remember, it was a pink stuffy with one of those plastic kewpie doll faces on it. It made me feel good-happy, in touch with myself, like a sun rising, so I wanted to tell my mother. I showed her.

She didn’t hit me. Instead, she looked completely horrified, and I never saw that doll again. Standing in the hallway, my mother stared at me, and held her hand out. I handed it over, cried, and stumbled back to my room, confused.

Later, a few years perhaps, when my neighbour molested me, I remember feeling like I had no control over my body, that it never belonged to me, and I should submit. I could never tell my mother-it would be my fault. I would be punished, and would still not know what was mine in terms of my body. For years I dreamed of being abused by conveyor lines of robots, people. Just my lying there, at the whim of others.

It was my mother’s responsibility to teach my about my body, about myself. It was her responsibility to teach me that there is no shame in acknowledging my humanity in this way, in embracing my sexuality, even at that young of an age.

Make no mistake-we are sexual creatures the day we are born. Which is why as parents we need to step it up right off the bat, in the most normal way, as if explaining how to make bread or why you have an elbow. Blaming media and society for one’s child wanting to dress like a Bratz doll or a 13 year old knocking up a girl-it’s a cop out. It’s easy to say “The school never taught it!” or that “Miley Cyrus made her dress that way!” and turn the other way.

Much more difficult to raise your children with appropriate sexual values and mores, to have those conversations that at times, are less than easy.

Being sexual is part of who we are-and it always has been. We now treat even into mid-twenties like teenagers, so why is it so strange that a seven year old starts to act as they might? Why is starting the mating dance at 12 so odd? What if, biologically, that’s where the drive can start for some. I began menstruating about then-if I can bear children, if I am considered a woman, physically, why can’t society, or parents be bothered to?

I may not necessarily agree with a pre-teen acting out in any way sexually-but I’m raising my daughters with the knowledge to make responsible choices, when appropriate. Will I always win? No, not with two daughters. But I refuse to use the cop-out that the world around me has more bearing on how my daughters come to their womanhood than I do.

It took me years to come to grips with my sexuality, having children being the last nail in that particular coffin. I don’t want that for them. Our bodies are wonderful, beautiful things, and by telling our daughters on what’s bad, and horrible and not allowed because they’re too young/not ready/just can’t only serves to increase the need and make it more attractive.

Refusing to speak to your children out of embarrassment, or fear-to me, that’s worse than all the Bratz dolls and belly tops. Because our parents are our guides, for good or ill. And we do ourselves a grave disservice by leaving our daughters out to dry.


8 Feb



In the air, this sweet break from the cold, rivulets down the road with winter dissolving, floats forever ago, a place disappeared, a land where the nights were long, crisp journey’s into another world, where time lasted and spun it’s magic around my ears. This air, reminds me of the warmth in our kitchen, the images of my mother’s hands across my back, on my head, in the sink, dishes clanging as I sat, underfoot, studying the patterns there. This air, it marries us across the years, the me then, the me now, handfasted, tied with thread and IV lines.

This air, it burns my eyes.


Taking advantage of a state of hypomania lasting more than 30 minutes (and explaining away my need for sleeping pills last night) I rip apart the bedroom, old clothes sorted out into a garbage bag, magazines on to the porch, to give away, to save for that day all trash is allowed, anything, maybe even the monkey’s on your back. I shift the bookshelves, notice the “unread” pile has grown to 20 or more books, smile. See my lonely photo album, the only evidence that I had a childhood, somehow tucked under the cat’s sofa, ragged and old.

Rosalyn, who has been “helping me” by laying on the futon and rolling around with Bride Barbie, sees the album and is drawn, as all children seem to be, by these frozen moments trapped. 

“That’s me!” she screams at the baby pictures. I find myself correcting her, but not really, so entwined we seem, so much the same, the air between us thin and enraptured, time meaningless. She sees me in full ballet regalia, the hated tutu, the flower hat my mother made that I wasn’t allowed to wear in the recital.

“I want to look like that Mummy.” she mutters, staring intently, eyes boring through the photo. Her grandmother deserved this child, she who loves pink and Barbie and babies and ballet, everything my mother wanted and wished for in a daughter, none of which she got. My mother deserved this granddaughter, who would have made her so proud, so happy, so fulfilled in all the ways I never could. Rosalyn deserved my mother, deserves her still, to embrace her in the ways I cannot, and possibly never should.


I turn, find the one lonely shot of my mother and I, the only picture I have of her holding me, the only one where she’s smiling, where her face isn’t forced for the camera’s or fighting back the pain I know she suffered. She’s gorgeous-my mother was beautiful and I try to show Rosalyn, try to make her understand how lovely and perfect my mother was when I was her age, how I must have crowed “You’re the bestest mumy EVER!” to her in the mornings but I just can’t find the words, all gummed up like marshmallows in my throat and it won’t make any sense, not now.

Possibly not ever. How do you explain an absence to someone who’s never felt it? What’s the point is deciphering that which will never be?

My mother was who she was, and all the things she wasn’t and never would be. She loved me. Maybe I only have one picture and it’s fading and cracking but she’s sitting as I sit now and holding me as I hold my girls and I know, without doubt, her heart glowed for me and shone in the darkness that were her last days.

She loved me. That I can tell Ros. That makes sense.


I point to another shot, curled up in that hideous chair from so long ago, pointed at the television. Shot taken while I was in the grip of the nightly news I imagine, legs pulled under, wearing only underpants, despite my hair being neatly pinned back.

“Ros, who is that?”

She knows it’s me, but waits, looking into my eyes.

“I hated them too, see? No pants. Hated pants.”

“Like me!” she sings, grinning.

“Like you Honey Bear. Just like you.”

The air shimmers, and I can taste the air in that room, liver and onions perhaps, my mother’s ribs, a Sunday dinner of hamburgers, chips and illicit soda. It’s warm and secure and snug around my shoulders like one of those granny square afghans you find in the thrift stores now and again, the work wasted on the receiver, or maybe dead. We’re there together, Ros and I, but it’s her little legs on that chair, my hands holding the warm milky tea and buffing my nails before bed. We’ve merged and danced into each other, my childhood, my memories becoming hers, settling in to a quiet corner where in 10 or 20 years she’ll find herself telling a story about a little girl in a room full of amber light and love and they’ll never be able to tell what’s mine and what’s hers or where it’s all gone.

They’ll never know for sure.


It breaks my heart to never know my mother. I’ll stare at her eyes in photographs, thinking I’ll know the secret if I look at her long enough, that somehow, I’ll absorb enough of her to really know my mother, for her to mean something more than the sum of her loss.

But you can’t know the dead. You can’t know the people they were-you can only wave to the people you want them to be, the people you think they were once, before everything happened. I can stare at her face, the before face, the one before the chemo and the radiation and the pain, the pain of knowledge, the pain of leaving, the pain of facing your life ending, a plane crashing into so many lives. I can’t know that. I’ll never know that in the ways that kept her up at night or guarded her eyes as the days grew closer.

I will never know my mother. She will be that perfect garden in a picture, all beauty and tragedy, curves and angles, youth and hope. She will be annectodal memories for my daughters, the one we cannot hurt, the one who lives forever in our hearts and fingertips and the glittering spring leaves in the broad maple behind the house.

The one that got away.


She was happy once, that I can convince myself of, even when I stare at a face yellowed by treatment, frightened by what might come, and yet absolutely resolute in her ability to ignore what will be. Hope via ignorance. How very catholic of her.


She was happy once. God fucking dammit, she was happy, and alive and beautiful and she was my mother. Sometimes the air arches back and around, like today, and I imagine her, young, like I am, newly blessed with children, just breathing in the air, glad to be alive, remembering when she was young, and all the stories she’d some day tell.

She was happy there.

I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief.

21 Jan

“Mommy, elephants are really scared of mice.”

“mmmhmm.” I’m in a hurry, ran home from one appointment, grabbed the kid from school, dragging her home so I can dart out the door again. Stupid rules not allowing her to take the bus when she can’t walk home by herself alone anyway.

“Yeah, when there’s a mouse, the elephant jumps up in the air it’s so scared.”

I stop, causing Vivian to stop, her mittened hand tucked into mine.

“Dude, the only thing an elephant is scared of is likely human. And carrying a gun. Do you know what people do to elephants for their tusks? They cut them off and then leave them. Trust me, a mouse is the least of their problems.”

We walk a little further, and sure mutters “But they said that elephants are scared…”

I stop again, and bend down to talk to her, not at her.

“Viv, logically, rationally, think about this. How big is an elephant?”

“HUGE!” she crows

“Yes. And how big is a mouse?”

“Really really little?” she offers

“So, knowing this, does it make any sense that a creature as wonderful and large as an elephant would be frightened by a mouse?”

She pauses, looks off down the road. Then the glimmer starts.

“No Mommy. That doesn’t make any sense at all.”

“Question Vivian. Question what they tell you. You’d be surprised what you learn.”

But now of course, she senses the “mom-lecture” coming, and stops listening.


I love that we’re raising the girls without religion. I love that they will be raised without the spectre of blind belief, without being taught to never question the things which matter most, to just accept the fantastic claims we make as a society about gods and heavens and afterlife’s. I love that instead of me saying “No, cause god says so!” I have to explain why and how and when, and the words “just cause” rarely exit my lips.

The urge to run with the elephant myth, or to say the moon was saying good night this morning instead of explaining orbit and the tilting of the earth’s axis is strong. It IS easier to run with the prevalent myth, to run with the man in the sky, guiding your life. It’s easier to make magic instead of science. Or so it seems.

I made a decision awhile ago that while I love magic, and all the magical things our world presents to us, I love truth even more. I love the magic in the real world-in how a plant grows, drawing it’s power from our star, the sun. I love explaining the wonderful way that one thing can be many things, and a metaphor for life-water as liquid, snow, ice, vapour. I love watching the magic appear in my children when they watch spiders hatch and run a myriad of ways across our deck, and know that the world has given them this, and it’s sweet.

I believe in the world around me, and by extension, my daughters. I believe that giving them the tools to question the myths they’re given, to really stop and examine if the easter bunny makes any sense whatsoever helps them become smarter, braver women. I knew growing up that most of those characters couldn’t possibly exist. But I loved them the same, for what they meant. I don’t want my daughters sitting idle, accepting what they are told as law, or as a given. I want the questions to be asked.

My mother, raising me under the cloak of  a Roman Catholic god, never accepted this. Her world brooked no questions, not for the important things, as when I’d express my disbelief in a magical place where everyone sat around and revelled in how awesome they were on earth. This wasn’t something said, and I took a long time to finally have the courage to speak my disbelief out loud, into the air where it was made real.

I have found the world around me, the substantial stuff we walk and breathe in, to be more magical and inspiring than any doctrine or book could be. The truths that we link to, the absolutes that settle in our chests and tell us that no, there’s no way that elephant could ever be afraid of something so minuscule-those are awesome because they are ours. They awe us because they start with us, our minds.

I don’t want my daughters to every forget how powerful and magical they themselves truly are.

Aprons, Apple Pie and Twitter

9 Jan

In younger days, I walked home for lunch sometimes, in the spring, when the skies warmed skin hidden for months, when cherry blossoms would bloom at that cottage on the corner of Henry and Central, coloring the road for days. My memory, likely distorted by time and wistful nostalgia, remembers that little world bright and shiny, like chrome, the oval above me always the bluest color of bird, the leaves that desperate green reaching for the sunlight.

My feet would stumble, tickle, dance their way the 4 blocks home, across the street, through the RC Church, where I’d yell to hear my life echo, down the hill, rolling in the sweet tended lawn, down my street, past Mrs. Tobin’s, past the Schmidt’s and their dog, to my home, white siding and dusty gravel surrounding, like the desert it’s dirt kicked back.

My mother would be there, bathed in sunlight, standing in the kitchen by the curtains her hands sewed, hanging against the bricks my father laid. Smiling, with the light of a star shimmering around her smile.

She was always there. In my memories, my mother was always home. She was never waiting-when I was smallest she took in alterations-some one’s dress pants for a wedding, tucking the waistband of someone dying, adding the lace collar to a shirt judged too immodest. But she was home, covered a thick slice of bread with cheap margarine, fending off my questions with “food-that’s what’s for dinner.” and a pat on the rear. A few years later, she only worked behind the house, in a small flower store.

I’d go to the store after school, sit on a stool as her perfectly manicured nails gently worked random stems and petals into almost works of art. Even while working in a mess, she was immaculate.

But on the days we’d be at home for lunch, I might eat my sandwich and drink my water in front of the T.V. I’d mess with the antenna until finding CBS, and I’d watch Leave it To Beaver.

The simple perfected world shining there. The ironed aprons, the smiling faces. Everyone so content in their black and white world where bad things were paper cuts and lost games. It reflected my life if I squinted, my mother home with us, my father working the long day, home at 5 to read the paper in his chair, carefully selected one Christmas. We were the nuclear family, reflected back at ourselves. Happy.

Except for the fact that it was all a bunch of lies.

I was being abused. My mother would have just found out she likely had cancer. Money was tight. I considered it incredible and an act of fantastic parenting that I had a happy childhood, a blissfully ignorant one. But I don’t know who my mother was. I’ve never known what her dreams were for me, her desires. I’ve never known her needs.

We set our standards by the ancient memories of what 4 or 5 screenwriters decided to show our own mothers, those years ago. Uncomplaining, happy women, whose lives are structured around cooking, cleaning, photo albums, us if we were lucky. Mothers who had no tongue it seemed, who lived lives without desire or angry or peace. Just the vapid smile that cooked pie for Sunday dinner. I grew up around this standard, and watch as it’s replicated now, only it’s online instead of  on the television.

There is peace in that vision. A large part of me calls out to it like a starving child to food. It satisfies something, lets me pretend that it would be an easier life. So long as I forget about drunken bridge nights, tranquilizers, and a broiling unhappiness left just under the surface, it remains so. It remains a vision, instead of a reality.

I think of myself a few years ago, searching the internet for something similar to my life at the time, which wasn’t the sun filled kitchen of my mother’s, but a darker place, filled with anger, dissatisfaction, awe, fear, a terrifying fear, and love. A giant cauldron of confusion that I couldn’t settle.

I found scrapbooking tips. I found ways to use tater tots. I found all the June Cleaver I could possibly want, tied up in CSS and advertising, with only positive happy things to say.

I’d switch to the news, and read about desperate parents doing desperate things. I’d read about children homeless in cities, hungry in smaller ones.

I’d search some more, and find scary and nonsensical rants against Unicef and Mr. Clean sponges. But still, with the smiles.

I’d flip back to me, and realize that I still didn’t feel smiley. And dammit, I didn’t want to. I knew then, as I know now, that the perpetual blue sky, the happy smiley face forever? These are figments of a social cluster that wants to believe, desperately so, that if we think it, it will be. These are the strands of a culture that isolates and humiliates mothers. This is a world that makes motherhood, and parenting itself, divisive and ultimately, dangerous.

How long can we suppress who we are? Do we owe it to the world at large to keep it all in, to only show the good stuff, to only say nice things? Why do we, as women, expect other women to fall nicely into our categories, even if they drown inside them?

I, being human, can both love my daughters, and want to sell them to a passing caravan. All at once. As my father has admitted to wanting to do with me, many MANY times during my childhood and adolescence. And my father loves me, fiercely, would pull the moon down for me if only I’d ask.

However, he is a father, and allowed the weakness of reality.

I, being human, and a mother, sometimes wish I could run away, for a day, maybe a week. I fantasize of a little cabin in the woods and writing workshops, good wine, thick vellum paper and heavy black pens. The sound of the wind through trees and the crunch of snow underneath fox paws.

The mistake made by looking at June, or Lucy, or any number of moms currently on the internet is in believe that motherhood should be and IS their identity. I have a full time job, but I don’t identify by that. I’m a mother, a wife, a business analyst, a writer, an artist, a farter, I’m many things, And being many things gives me emotions and beliefs that are as multi faceted as that diamond I was lusting after the other day, the one with the stars trapped in it.

It makes me a full and complex person. It makes the smile on my face when my daughters do something funny or wonderful or so much fuller. It takes me beyond June, and into the world. It makes me real.

We have a responsibility, us mothers. We have the responsibility to be real. To be heard. To lay down foot prints for other new mother’s staring at their kids saying “I don’t like him very much right know” so they will know this is ok. It’s not true that love and puppy dogs will blow out your ass when you give birth. Love grows, slowly, in a heart that’s capable of seeing the darkness for what it is, waving at it, and walking on by.

We have a responsibility to echo each other, to show that admitting your faults is strength, to show that baring the soul, bending down and taking a look, isn’t a bad idea.

We have a responsibility to our children to be real 3 dimensional people, not just caricatures they’ll remember as if in a dream.

We have a responsibility to ourselves, to be the fullest versions of us we can.

Carry Me

25 Sep

Did she hold me now? Three hours ago? 12? Did they leave me in her room, snuffling, comatose little child beside her as colostrum poured from her breasts? Did she look out the window, perhaps at the rain, as they wheeled me away from her 17 year old unfinished hands, clutching at her elbows as she suddenly felt emptier than ever? Was I alone, screaming in a room, my echoes covered by those of a multitude of other lives I’d never touch again, their mothers waiting in their rooms, warmed by the slow engorging of their breasts, the blissed tiredness of their labours?

Did I know she had left me? Did my small trembling fists know what had happened, that she had signed a paper releasing me from her, just another cord to slice through? Did I feel the gulf then, as I do now, wavering and shimmering, a golden forest of time, of pressure, of regret between us.

Does she think of me today, now? Does she drink the beer she drank for years, not knowing, or is she at peace, knowing I survived, knowing that I have grown strong and tall, if not a little knicked and torn in place?

Did she love me, ever?


Do you love your mother
The way I love mine
Expecting nothing of her
’cause she was changing all the time
I couldn’t take my mother
And I’ll never hate my home
But I learned to rock myself child
And get on

Do you feel your mother
The way I feel mine
I tried to change the nature
But now I like it ’cause it’s mine
And I let you love me up
And I let you bring me home
And I could go away
But I don’t wanna

I don’t wanna be too smart
I don’t wanna talk too fast
I don’t wanna look too precious
First impressions never last
There’s always complications
Weird vibrations
Have patience

Do you love your mother
’cause God I love mine
In a dream she let me love her
Gotta hand it to my mind
In case you never meet her
I’ll tell you what it is
She was lonely like a woman
But she was just a kid

Oh mama
What are ya doin’
Yeah yeah yeah
Carry me


Today I turned 31 at around 2:15am. And it hit me, mid afternoon, that I’ve never known when my mother said good-bye to me, when the finality of all she had done and decided had hit, when she last touched me, held my fingers. I’ve never known, and when I met my biological mother, I was too young to think of these things, to young to understand the heartbreak of saying goodbye to your first born.

All my life, I have felt lonely on my birthday. I have always craved as much fuss and bother as I could get, and rarely, if ever, have had it. I figured this had much more to do with losing my adoptive mother than with being adopted. But what if? What if a body retains that initial abandonment, what if it remembers that hand leaving, tears trailing, months of unwillingness swirling in the womb. What if the body remembers what the brain dare not?

I don’t much like my biological mother. Or much of my biological family for that matter. Blood isn’t thicker than water in my case. But when I met her, I wanted, more than anything, to find a mother, my mother. I wanted to be embraced, welcomed. I wasn’t, not as I needed, and perhaps finding her at 18 wasn’t the best of ideas, but there was something poetic about meeting her around the age of when she lost me. I couldn’t grasp the enormity of it-bearing life at that age!

I’m sure it hardened her. She told me that for years, she would get stinking drunk on my birthday, wondering where I was, how I was, and that the year she found me, that was the first time she didn’t have to drink herself to sleep, wondering. Turns out I was 40 minutes down the road after all, blissfully ignorant in the arms of two parents who loved me more than I could wish. But she never told me how it all felt, how long her labour was, how scared she had been, if she saw me, or if they took me before she could.

My narrative is incomplete. I feel the echoes of that part of my life, my beginning on every birthday. It no longer hurts, I don’t know if it ever did. But it was a space yearning to be filled, a place that will likely never know fullness. A place to honor what she gave, the arms she left barren, the people who she gave such joy to.

Happy Birth Day to you Mother. I hope your womb has healed.

“Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.”

7 Sep

Somedays I look at my life and think back 10 or 15 years and think, how in the FUCK did I get here?

I stand outside my daughter’s room, fists clenched, anger holding tears hostage my voice raw and torn from the yelling, the yelling at a preschooler yelling

“Like this! I wanna hug like this!” (imagine if a hug is a kiss and the “this” is some obscure squeezing of the cheeks together)

While no matter how I do it, it’s not right, it’s not good enough and in my mind I see 4 years ago or so and a decision made not to drive to a certain clinic and I see a child born and a mother not caring rejecting that child and now that little girl, she does whatever she can to hold my attention, however bad and I can’t help but turn away in frustration and sometimes, like tonight, realize that I can fully grasp how some parents can seriously harm their children in anger, frustration and sheer agonizing tiredness, that mental weight that just never lets up.

Days like today I wonder how I let myself get here, how I deluded myself into being happy with motherhood, with being a parent. How anyone decided that I should be allowed to raise a child. Days like today I look around at everything, at the job that I seem to be letting through my fingers, at the life I seemed to have squandered and I discover that if I did indeed believe in a god, I’d be MIGHTY pissed off right now.

Days like today I’m ashamed to think of my daughters fearing my, of my oldest crying because I’ve said I wanted the other one dead, words flying from my mouth before I could reign them in, visions of 10 years from now, the guilt payments I’ll make, the quiet whisper of a thought that she’ll know I never really wanted her anyway.

I’ve said it, a few times, in writing. Never to her. Hopefully never to her. But it’s true, and maybe I’ll erase this post sometime later, but it’s true that she was not wanted and sometimes I wonder if we didn’t make a huge mistake, if I should have gotten on that bus anyway. Other days I love her and I’m fascinated by her, this girlchild with my legs and unruly hair, her Kathleen Turner voice and chocolate eyes she can draw me.

And perhaps there is some sick irony in my rejection of the child who is so very me.

So today I wonder how I got here, and why I got here. I am here, solidly here, but after having my nail job ruined for the umpteenth time by children, I wonder why I didn’t do more to slow down the getting here.


(and no, I am not actually going to sell or hurt my daughter…geez, give me SOME credit won’t ya?)

A Thank You Letter for Broken Mirrors

28 Aug

For today, Friday, I bring you Heidi’s guest post. Yet again I cannot remember how I stumbled on to her-but now I’m drawn to her-her simple light, glowing in the wilds of the interwebs, full of Buffy and Molly and passion. It’s invigorating and inspiring.

Heidi blogs, mostly, at Daisybones, but around other places as well.

I started drafting a post a month or two ago, and called it My Brand of Crazy. I was seeing a lot of mental distress happening in my blogiverse haunts, and as if in tiny shards of mirror I saw familiar glimpses everywhere. Perhaps the collective consciousness of women writers is brewing something. (If that’s the case I hope it’s a steaming cauldron brimming with radical change for those of us stuck in oppressively repeating patterns.) 

We are all living depressions or anxieties that are all distinctly our own but tie us to one another. My first draft still waits unfinished, most likely because writing from down in that darkness is rarely successful for me. My shattered sleep was killing my focus and perspective, and now that the night rhythms in my family are gentler, I’m able to write from a coherent place. I’ve been meaning to piece those mirror moments together, to compose a fragmented Thank You to the writers whose candid work inspires me and shows me a little many-forked path out of isolation.  

Thordora, wisely taking some meditative steps away while inviting others to share here, presents me with a perfect reason to finish the writing. Her crisis is wrenching me, but for the first time I feel like I’m seeing huge changes that will be healing for her. I see it as Shiva energy- she walks inward toward death and finds a frighteningly intense life instead. Pain but change. Reading her world through my experience, I have to imagine my moods cycling steeper and harder and darker and that vision brings me awe. You are still here, we still have you: Awe. 

I don’t mean in my mirror metaphors to compare the whole of my mind with the whole of another. It isn’t helpful to create a hierarchy of illness. But I’m aware, acutely so, that I’m lucky among my writer-heroines- what I would give to be lay sleep on them like a restorative veil and to find that it’s enough to lift them out. I’ve teetered on the edge of needing medication again, and it’s a good feeling to be able to see a choice there. Many of us- a younger me- had no luxury to wonder if they needed the pills.   

When Teresa bravely wrote at Soul Gardening about her diagnosis and symptoms, I cried hard for her because I knew, deeply. Hers is the first description that matched my anxious “flashes” exactly. Her visions weren’t quite the same as some mothers with PPD who feel urges or imagine hurting their children, but they are so close and are also terrifying. Like me, she would imagine strange, violent accidents. I remember holding my daughter, stroking her hair. I’d envision her older, with longer hair, and I’d be getting her haircut- then a flash like a horror film still with scissors in her soft spot and I’d clench all over to force the image out. I’ve had these flashes since I was a child. Compulsive, fast, little movies. They came more often post-partum but I had seen them before and could manage them. When I think of Teresa having these scary flashes out of nowhere, baby in arms, I want to hold them both tight and promise them it’s OK. I think things are improving for her now, and I send her loving thoughts. 

I’m crawling out of my recent moderate-crazy, finding the ups more gentle and frequent and the downs less steep. I’m crediting the mirror people with a lot of that. It’s more than a reflection metaphor. It’s light, bouncing invisible. Little wavelengths binding us in a web we keep making. It strengthens and build me and lifts me out and up to read words so like those I was afraid to write at Schmutzie’s Milkmoney or Not Here I Come or Sweetney. This tears down barriers that keep us from seeing ourselves as part of a collective. The nature of depression/anxiety is isolating and somehow we are defying that by writing through it.

Guest Post 4: Acceptance is the first step

28 Aug

Today’s guest post is from Leanne. I remember first meeting Leanne on Blogging Baby, a place I began to affectionately refer to as “Troll Heaven”. She stood out for her passionate defense of mothers and natural childbirth, as well as good ole common sense. I also met Karrie, and Eden and Jen and others there, so I guess it wasn’t that bad.



It sounds weird to say “I have depression.” It’s like saying I have a hangnail; it’s just an annoyance, a fact of existence. I also have flat hair and stretch marks, pelvic floor damage and fallen arches.

I’m not depressed. Well, not today. Much of the time I feel what I think is normal: content, interested in the world, grateful for my family, satisfied with this or that accomplishment.

The other times, I feel an over-arching sense of foreboding, like I’ve done something very wrong. I feel pissed off at my children for not being more compliant, at my husband for not being more in tune with the needs of our home life, at myself for being a failure. I’m impatient and unkind.

In these moments I rage, I yell, I say nasty things and swear a lot. I hold grudges and pull away from the world, hoping that all my problems and stresses will go away if only I hide well enough.

My poor kids. My poor husband.

I should go see someone, shouldn’t I? It’s not really normal to feel like that, is it? I feel like my barometer for judging whether or not I’m *really* depressed is damaged. Between my emotionally abusive parents (my father helpfully pointed out he reason why my first love broke up with me, when I was 16, was because I was a bitch. Thanks Dad! Love you, asshole!) and 8 years of mental abuse by the Catholic church (those feelings you are having are wrong and if you don’t repent you will go to Hell!), I feel like I’m just a burden, that I should just get over myself and stop navel gazing. My needs are no priority of anyone’s. My emotional reality merely a nuisance to everyone, including myself.

So, I should see someone, right? But, I have these two children to look after. I don’t have time to go to the doctor and then have her recommend me to a specialist and then wait for a specialist appointment and then go to the specialist and tell my story *again*. What a hassle!

There is a women’s mental health clinic I could self refer to, but that’s for women with *real* problems. I don’t want to kill myself. OK, I don’t *really* want to kill myself. Sure, sometimes I fantasize about not existing, but that doesn’t make me suicidal, right? I mean, I’d never leave my children. I’d never leave my husband. I’d never actually cause myself any kind of actual pain or harm. I’m too much of a wimp to do that (which, as an aside, is kinda funny, because I can totally have multiple non-medicated births which is torture level pain that goes on for half a day, but the idea of taking a knife to my wrists or taking pills that would make me cramp fills me with horror!).

I don’t have the kind of problems that require intervention and therapy. But, then there are those days when I am sobbing to my husband that I can no longer cope. There are those days when I am so shrill with my children I can see how my behaviour has shaped theirs. There is that shame I walk around with that I have become my mother.

Oh sure, I don’t hide in bed all day like she did, unable to face her responsibilities, her life. But I yell like her. I’m fat like her. I’m in my pyjamas most of the day, like her. And, if I don’t stop this bullshit now and heal myself, heal my family, my son will grow up to be just like me. My husband will stop caring just like my dad. I will feel miserable for most of my life.

And yet, I just keep trudging along, never really moving forward. Able to understand the entire situation in an intellectual way, but shackled emotionally so that I never improve, never get help.

I shouldn’t be living like this, should I?

Leanne is the mother of two, husband of one, doula to many and writes on The Clever Mom (, Momcast ( and Vegetarian Moms (

She is almost ready to treat her depression.

“Given the nature of life, there may be no security, but only adventure.”

17 Aug

We’re in the grocery store, her and I, on a chaotic Saturday full of grocery tourists and genuinely harried couples and parents. Here and there a baby screams-not the “I’m hungry” cry but the “FUCK YOU I WANT OUT NOW!” cry which was the sole reason I NEVER took my children to the grocery store as infants. The screaming continues sporadically in the produce section, likely a mother unable to get out otherwise, and I cringe in sympathy. Crying doesn’t bother me anymore-it just makes me want to take the child so the parents can just get their shit done.

Of course, hearing the yuppie parents of one single, quiet maybe 2 year old boy explain in perfect enunciation that “We aren’t going to squish the bread today!” made me walk quickly away laughing. What 2 year old WON’T squish the bread? It’s fun! I don’t bother making any type of contact since I do know the type of parents-they won’t acknowledge me, they won’t exchange pithy jokes and comments. And this rings true later when we go to the cash behind them, and my comments with Vivian about the toy the little boy is lucky to get are ignored. Perhaps they’re busy, perhaps they’re deaf, but right then, rude was rude. I remind myself they could be many things going on, and gee he’s pretty darn cute.

I’m not the center of the universe.

Vivian, now used to grocery shopping, has morphed into the child we know and love from Saturday morning cartoons:

“Can I have this?”

“I want this. Can I have it?”

“It’s got SCOOBY DOO ON IT! I need it!”

“Please? Please?”

The entire trip involves me saying NO every 4.2 seconds. Reminding myself why I do prefer to do this alone.

But then it’s not as fun. She comes around the corner with a stack of beer cups held to her eyes like goggles, and I laugh and giggle and block the aisle. She walks into a display while doing this, and it’s all I can do to not fall down I’m laughing so hard. I can feel the soft glow of other people smiling as my world spirals to just Vivian and myself, our eyes and laughter. I forget about the asks and remember my fantastical little girl who creates such wonder and delight around her.

“Back to juice boxes.” I snigger.

I give her a little speech on how we’re gonna get a second Klean Kanteen for school, and this is just for now. She’s not paying attention, and I wonder if the speech was for her, or the people around her. She randomly chooses some sugar laden box, and we move on.

It hits me. I am buying school lunches.

In 2 weeks, give or take, she starts school. And most of me, mainly my ears, are ok with this. She’s growing up, she’s FIVE (holyshitwheredidthoseyearsgo?) and I need to back off. I let her run ahead, I let her lag behind. I trust her to make small decisions. It’s time to start pulling back. But holding juice boxes, granola bars, Joe Louis’ in my hands, I wanted to be sad. My mother stood there once, trying to decide what was best for lunch, what was needed, what I would eat out of sight. She held those boxes, reading. She imagined a life emptied, for a time, of her daughter.

Connection with a long dead mother in a grocery store. I felt her then, in front of plastic fruit snacks. I felt her indecision, her pride, her love, such warm love, for me, and for her granddaughter, for the woman she’d one day be. I felt the conflict of that first day, of letting go of your baby. I felt that it was ok to feel this-to want to hold closer than skin and push out, all at once. That this was the least of my trials in the years ahead.

We got home and I realized I forgot garbage bags, cat food, cheese. But I held something much sweeter to my chest.

“Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now. “

31 Jul

There are reds that shine and sparkle, dull pinks and greys, blues, hard and brittle, rubber and laces, tongues. Rows upon rows, boxed or tied.

Our fingers run across them, deciding.

“Any pair you want” I tell her. “Any pair, this time.”

They light up, the ones she chooses, copper and flushed pink, as she does, any possible moment, like the heavens.


Two weeks from now. Two weeks I have a school age child, a fortnight, a sigh in the lung that is a life. Exhaled so simply, as I remember her squirming left foot, covered in acrylic as I pressed for a footprint. That same foot I helped into a Size 10 shoe today, stretched over the velcro, patted for good measure before letting go.

Letting go was so much easier when I had nothing more to worry about than a little purple paint on a 25 year old shag carpet.

The magic of these new things, shoes, backpacks, crayons, that perfect dress. Talismans of success, of closure, of freedom. The metamorphosis is always accompanied by new wings. I want to cover her in newness, to build her up, shape her, strengthen her.

But I’ve done that for 5 years now, and she needs at least one leg to stand on.


“Do you know who I am?!” she sings at the saleslady in Mexx

“NO!” she smiles

Vivian pauses, surprised.

“I’m VIVIAN!” and rushes into her arms to hug her like a member of her own family.

Wings have formed already, wet, moist with yesterday. I won’t touch them though. Somethings get better all by themselves.