Her Name Was Lola…

Is it weird to write a love letter to a car? Oh well.

Dear Lola the Corolla,

4 1/2 years ago, you came into my life freely, without expectation or guile. You were a surprise, a gift, an apology for all the years I had not been able to drive.

4 1/2 years, a lifetime of memories, experiences, and “firsts” in my early 20’s.

And yesterday, you retired. Not to a junk yard, thankfully. You probably have at least 100k left in your hearty soul. But my mom really needed you, so I gave you back to her. A surprise, a gift, an apology for all the years I hadn’t been able to take care of her.

I remember the day I drove you for the first time. It was a bitterly cold January day, but I didn’t care. I was warmed from head to toe by the freedom of the open road. Granted, that “open road” was actually the Prince George highway full of snow, ice and hidden craters. But as far as I was concerned, anything was possible now. wpid-screenshot_2015-05-26-12-35-11.png Although you were almost 20 years old, you were immaculate. Your pure gold outsides were as clean as your insides; your standard shifter as smooth as Sinatra and your brakes as abrupt as Snape. I tried my hardest to keep you that way. But you see, I have no depth perception and I’m clumsy, awkward. I’m sorry. wpid-screenshot_2015-05-26-12-35-47.png As a Thank You, I want to share some of my favourite memories.

Spring 2011

My mom visited us again, and she decided that we should go for a drive to downtown PG. I was eager to show her how I’d learned to drive Lola with ease. But in a moment that could only be described as movie-perfect, I took a right turn down a street that neither one of us was aware was a one-way street.

When we saw 3 lanes of traffic rapidly heading toward us, we figured it out pretty quickly.

When I saw that a cop car with flashing lights was at the very front of one of those lanes of traffic, I knew I was about to get my first ticket. Damn.

He waved me into a parking lot; I started trembling and overheating. He was an older gentleman; he probably could have done time as a mall Santa with his white hair and near-jolly spirit.

“Clearly, you weren’t going the right way, eh?”

“No, sir. I didn’t even see a sign for a one-way street! I’m so sorry.” He looked at my license, saw that I was a learner, and traveling appropriately with an adult. He did a slow circle around my car (the worst!) and came back to my window.

“Are you aware that your L is missing?” (For those not Canadian, new drivers start out with a Learner’s, and it’s a red magnet that goes on the back of your car with a big L on it. When you graduate to Novice, you get a big green N magnet. Kids these days call them Losers and Nerds.)

In shock, I stepped out of Lola, ran to the back and sure enough! No Loser.

Tears started to clog my throat. “I HAD it this morning, I promise! Look, you can see the dust outline where it was!” I outlined the empty square with my hands for emphasis.

I *think* my cop was trying to hide a grin. “Well, at least let me see your companion’s driver’s license.” I sighed with relief. She was my mom, she would be able to set this whole thing straight somehow.

Mom riffled through her things for a moment. “Huh. I must have forgotten my wallet back at the house.”

My heart sank. Three strikes; I would definitely be out.

“I see.” The officer started writing furiously in his notepad. Minutes passed. I kept my head down, waiting for the verdict.

“Well, your ticket would probably be around $450. But today, you get to go home.”

My head snapped up in disbelief. “What?”

“Your mother can drive you home, just don’t get pulled over again. Get another L and watch out for those one-way streets. See you later.”

I stared.

He leaned down into my window sternly. “Get outta here.”

Feeling like a prisoner on death row just given parole, I thanked him over and over. As we were leaving the parking lot, another car turned erroneously down the one-way street, and my cop just waved them on into my old “parking spot.”

To this day, we have never gotten a ticket.

January 2012

I discovered how much cargo Lola could carry when my church had a Young Adults weekend retreat, and I was everyone’s “Friend With A Car.”

Lola seats 5 full-grown people almost comfortably. So once we loaded the trunk with 5 sleeping bags, 5 pillows, and 5 suitcases, we piled in. Oh, did I forget to mention that one of my friends was responsible for the food for everyone for the entire weekend? Let me rephrase: we loaded 5 sleeping bags, pillows and suitcases in the trunk, stuffed food in any cracks available, got in the car, and arranged food carefully around each one of us in a delicious pyramid, from head to toe.

When we drove up Connaught Hill, my friend with the *full license* had the pedal pressed to the floor and we went a slow but steady 50km/hr all the way up. I pretended we were the Flintstones and tried to make the car go faster by shuffling my feet because I’m a nerd.

Two days later, Lola brought everyone and everything home safely without so much as a hiccup.

Valentine’s Day 2012

At 8:30pm, instead of being out with someone special, I was working in the coffee shop up at the University. During my break, I checked Facebook and saw that my friend Kim had been in a horrible car accident just outside of Jasper, Alberta, nearly 5 hours away. Her car had been totalled but she was okay.

I started texting her. She had no money left and she was stranded in a bar. Jasper was a big enough tourist place to be expensive, but too small to have a Greyhound bus that didn’t arrive at an outside stop at 4am and then drive away at 4:03am.

The coffee shop was pretty dead (I mean, it was Valentine’s Day) so I texted my boss and asked if I could close up early for an emergency. She said yes, so I began to move like lightning. I had no idea what I was going to actually do, but I couldn’t leave Kim there. Even if she did have money for a bus, it wouldn’t come for another 7 hours and Jasper might as well be the Arctic at this time of year.

When I got home, I announced to my roommates that I would be taking an unexpected road trip. When they found out what had happened and what I was thinking, they all protested. It was after 9pm now; I wouldn’t get to Jasper until after 2am.

There’s a two hour stretch of highway that is literally abandoned wilderness. No gas stations, no houses, no cell service, nothing. Like, if you wanted to dump a body that would never be found, the road between McBride and Jasper is your safest bet. And I would be there in the middle of the night.

But they saw that I was determined to help Kim, so my roommate Alissa offered to go with me. We could take turns driving, and at the very least, not die alone. We would text our other roommates as often as we could, and pray like hell we weren’t making a huge mistake.

Thankfully, we found Kim, took her to the impound, helped her empty what was left of her car (I still feel sick in my stomach when I picture that car in my mind. It was NOT OKAY.), found the only gas station that was open to get some microwave food and energy drinks, and were back on the road at 3:30am. We made it home by 8am, crashed for a few hours, Kim got picked up by family, Alissa and I high-fived our success and went to work for 8 hours. Our good friend was alive, and so were we.

Best. Valentine’s Day. Ever.

Now

Well, now, I say goodbye. Lola, you were the best car a newly legal immigrant with barely a license or experience could have needed. 80,000k in 4 1/2 years; there was nothing you couldn’t do.

And now, you get to rest. Occasionally cruise the open road. Be even more appreciated by someone with actual depth perception. I’ll see you again.

Love, Carly

The only car I could be happy with after Lola, is one that is her sister by make &  model, just 10 years newer and a little bit safer. Meet Gandalf Moonshadow.

The only car I could be happy with after Lola, is one that is her sister by make & model, just 10 years newer and a little bit safer.
Meet Gandalf Moonshadow.

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The Weathered Soul Is Beautiful

This last weekend was a bit touch-and-go for me, emotionally. After a lovely 2 weeks of spring break, I’d had a long week full of jobs and tasks and things. I was tired. But I was looking forward to going to my good friend’s first baby shower on Friday night.

The babe was born nearly 2 weeks ago, and he’s pretty much my new favourite person. The fact that he might have hung out and done baby stuff with my could-have-been 8 week old child was merely a bittersweet thought that I didn’t entertain too much.

Friday was fun – I took care of the twin boys I nanny and marvelled at the Hawaiian tan that was putting their Mexican babysitter to shame. Afterwards I went into town to await the baby shower.

And that’s when the panic started, for absolutely no reason.

I had no present to give the baby, for starters. I couldn’t show up to a baby shower without a gift. And I had no idea what he even needed.

And then I started thinking about All The People Who Would Be There. Yes, they were my friends. But they obviously would all bring gifts and rave about how cute each other’s gifts were, and obviously the baby would love them more. And I would have to smile and pretend like my heart wasn’t breaking that MY baby wasn’t here with us.

What would I do if I got to hold the baby? What would I do if I DIDN’T get to hold the baby? Cry, probably. And who wants a crier at a party?

So I started cry-driving all the way home, deciding that this baby shower was not for me and I was not the right person for this baby shower.

The hot bubble bath became my escape.

The next day, feeling pretty dumb, I woke up and *needed* to do something good.

And so, I did something I’d never done before: I started a chalk paint project.

I’ve had a ratty old night stand for a few years, and it’s literally sat empty since we moved up last fall. There’s no room for it in our house, and it’s only purpose thus far has to been to hide our spare key in the mud room. It was covered in chips and divets and fading varnish. Yet I haven’t been able to bring myself to throw it away.

I had no idea how long it would take me to finish; I already predicted that I would probably fail to follow through and it would sit unfinished, just like my knitting and my doula training and my book.

But that day, I had to try.

So, I did a little bit of research, and remembered Annie Sloan’s chalk paint. All about being easy, quick-drying and restoring crappy old things to look like vintage old things.

After a few hours and a few dollars, I was at the point where I totally looked like I knew what I was doing.

There’s always a little bit of adrenaline-laden excitement that hits my blood when I open a paint can and dare to dip the brush in. And then have the audacity to take that dripping brush and apply it to whatever I’m trying to change. Rubber meets the road, sink or swim, I’m actually doing this.

The day was perfect. Warm sun, with a slight breeze. God was in the air.

One hour and 4 coats of Old White later, I had a completely new nightstand. Every divet and crack and fade was bathed with light.

I could have left it that way. It would be beautiful, pure, new. But as soon as anything happens to it, you notice. The purity, the innocence is fragmented. The depth is challenged, the eye is caught, the story expands. So you either shelter it, never let it breathe, or…

You go all in.

While I had been “purifying” the wood, Steve had been puttering around the yard with spring cleaning. Sensing I needed the space to calm my own seas after the previous night’s storms.

But he came to check on me and was taken aback by what I had accomplished.

“Wow! Just letting it dry now?”
“It’s already dry.” I smiled.
He knew I wasn’t done yet. “So what’s next?”
“The Wax of Distress.”
“Can I see?”

And so, for the next hour, we became a team. He would dip the brush into the molasses-like wax, splotch it across the white, and I would take a cloth and rub rub rub it away. The remains left the golden brown sheen of a new story being told in holy, purposeful silence.

I believe we all start out shiny and new. As we grow and change, life has a way of marking us with chips and divets and cracks that leave us broken. My last 12 months have been particularly of that nature.

But I’m still here, with a purpose that’s yet unknown but earnestly sought after. Maybe you are too.

And now we choose.

Stay in the cold mudroom, empty and broken? Or allow a transformation that makes us new while yet weathered?

I don’t want to hide my life, or my story with a glossy new coat of paint and sleight of hand. I don’t need to be falsely shined and freshly manufactured from IKEA.

Just let me come inside, be re-purposed, true to the state of my weathered soul. The damage tells a story, and I’m not gonna let it make me bitter and broken anymore. I am restored, I am a new creation, I am beautiful.

Oh, and I held that baby the next day. He let me know he wasn’t impressed with my absence at his party for just a few moments, and then my charms rocked him to sleep. Because we’re fine. We’re gonna be just fine.

  

Carly the Barista & the Blustery Day

Level Of Desperation To Blog: Sitting At A Laundromat.

You guys. SO MUCH has happened in the past 2 weeks.

I became a certified barista, and even had an apron pin to prove it until it got chewed up in the washer.

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(Bonus: I think, in general, people like me.)

I joined Zumba and Spin classes, and hiked a mountain and didn’t die.

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Crater Lake!

I was a bridesmaid for the first time.

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Team Bride, partyin’ round the walls of “Jerica!” (Joanna & Eric’s celebrity couple name…needs work…)

I celebrated being married myself for 2 years.

2nd anniversary

And last, but certainly not least – I found us a place to live, and last weekend, we moved in. It’s utter chaos right now, and it’s awesome.

new place

Being adorable and excited.

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This is our backyard.

We have been so busy and so blessed and so tired. But with it comes a peace and happiness that we have not known for quite some time. When we wake up in the morning, we make coffee to sit and gaze lovingly at our backyard out the living room window.
Smithereens are a little incredulous that we’ve actually chosen to live a little ways out of town – 20 minutes to be exact. We just laugh and reassure them that we used to drive that far for the ocean or the skytrain or the local movie theatre – and in a sea of traffic, no less. 20 minutes of highway miles, autumnal colours and wildlife is NOT hard on our gas tank or eyes AT ALL. We breathe in relief and exhale “thank you” on a regular basis in this place.

But as with any transition, there comes a little upheaval and paperwork. We still have to change the hydro bill into our names, hook up Internets and Cable – and I’m at said laundromat because our well needs to be transformed from “egg fart” water into “nice clean drinky bathy water.”

That’s okay. It will come.

In the meantime, I realized today that WIND has been a theme in my life lately, and I don’t know what that means. I’m not talking about the Winds of Change – like, literal wind.

Blustery Event  #1:

I had my first, all-on-my-own, “closing shift” at Starbucks last week. I was a little nervous, but I had a clear to-do list to help me remember all the important tasks. I was supposed to “clock out” and be done by 9:15pm, with Safeway closing at 10pm.

I was getting to the end of the evening, and it had been pretty quiet for most of the night, so I figured I was pretty safe to start cleaning espresso machinery 10 minutes before I closed.

8 minutes before I closed, six people showed up ALL needing espresso-related drinks.

Whatever, I could clean it again.

But I couldn’t find any of the tools used to scrape encrusted milk and coffee droplets from what was supposed to be shiny metal.

Eh, I can wipe that down pretty spic and span for now.

The finish line was in sight – all I needed to do was clean the sinks, and vacuum the counters of any remaining bits of coffee grinds. I had been told the vacuum cleaner resided in the back of the store, in a place called “Starbucks Storage Room.” I had been there before; it wasn’t very big, so I had no doubt I would find a vacuum-like object pretty easily.

So I did what we do: I loaded up a grocery cart with full trash bags to take back to the disposal, intending to bring the vacuum with me on the return trip.

When I got into the storage room, it was like a cardboard box maze. And the only apparatus I could see that had a long nozzle, a handle and an electrical cord was way in the back. I did my best to suck in my cheeks (nope, not those ones) so I could squeeze my way through. Yes! Victory! *Must grab vacuum cleaner, squeeze cheeks once more and get through the maze.* Home run approaching.

I unwound the electrical cord, plugged it in and WWWWHHHHHIIIIRRRRRR.

The expected noise of a vacuum cleaner, no?

NO.

A mushroom cloud of dirt, hair, leaves and dust bunnies exploded FROM the nozzle. My pristine counters and displays and floors were no more.

What fresh hell is this? I thought as I angrily yanked the electrical cord from its socket. I peered at the dirty offender very closely….sure enough, in tiny black lettering, it said: electric leaf blower AKA boom sucka.

And so I did not “clock out” until the actual Safeway store started shutting their lights off.

I still have absolutely no idea what an effing LEAF BLOWER was doing in a Starbucks Storage Room.


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Blustery Incident #2:

Steven left for Langley again this morning, to take his dad back home, who had graciously given up his week to help us move. In return, I was given a to-do list to help me remember all the important tasks…again. One of those things was to get a post office box. (I thought about mentioning here that Steven put his own name on the to-do list, but then I thought, “Mmm, better not.”)

I knew I would get off work at 3pm today, with plenty of time to take our rental agreement to the post office and get a mailbox. But it ended up being incredibly busy, so I stayed until 3:30pm. On my way out of town, I filled up at the gas station. I was done and ready to drive away – but then a gust of wind THRUST my debit card away from me and UNDERNEATH the gas fill-up station. There was a car waiting to drive in after me, but I got down on my hands and knees; I could see my card, but after a few tries, I knew that it was *just* beyond my fingertips. Plus side: at least no one else in heaven or earth would have access to it either.

So I made an unplanned trek to the Credit Union to get a new card. By the time I ACTUALLY got out of town to open up a mail box, it was almost 4:30pm.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that the post office was still open! (Hey, it was almost 5 on a Tuesday – you never know! #smalltownlife)

And now I’m happy to announce that:

AGENT BUTTON HAS A MAIL BOX!!! I AM BIGGER THAN BLUSTERY DAY!!!

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When I finally got to the laundromat 2 hours later, feeling like I’d just run a marathon, I had to laugh. How could I not appreciate the pure drama of this scene? Winter be like “Games of Thrones was right…I’m COMING for you, boys and girls!”

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Welcome to Autumn in the North, mutha lovah.

Blustery Incident #3:

It hasn’t actually happened yet. But I feel like…tomorrow….it just *could*. I learned today that my boss’s boss’s BOSS is arriving to inspect and survey the entire store + employees.

And so today has been like


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Blustery night, barista’s delight?

Bring it, boss’s boss’s BOSS!!! I have a Facebook wall full of happy customers, and now I know the difference between a leaf blower and a vacuum cleaner AND I KNOW HOW TO USE IT.

Pray for us.

I Cried In Church Today

I cried in church today.

Not that I’ve never done that before. Anything can make me do that – a song, a prayer, a hug from an old friend.

Today I cried because I saw something I rarely see: community.

We gathered in a building behind the Tim Hortons – not just me and my people, but them and their people.

Multiple churches, multiple dialects of faith, all in one spot because it’s the end of the summer and this is what we do at least once. We pile in, we sing songs that we all know collectively, and someone chosen from the community speaks a message. We drink coffee together and we leave, feeling like real connection was made in that hour. Pastors, deacons, elders, middlers, young adults, teenagers, children, men and women – anyone who has a habit of going to the Church on a Sunday morning is there in equal measure.

Today, however, felt different.

The bodies were so close, the voices were so loud. I felt surrounded by a choir. My voice joined in, weakened by tears, strengthened by the words.

One pastor stands up, introduces the mayor and two female police officers. One of them is decked in the Mountie Red, another is on duty in black. They’re all asked to share why they are here today.

The mayor takes the microphone and smiles nervously: “I am here because I believe in the power of community. I am not a man of religion, by any means, but listening to you all sing just now – I felt the Spirit of God here. It’s undeniable. Smithers will benefit because of you.”

The woman in red takes the microphone. She’s young, new to town and new to the force. She’s a police officer, speaking publicly in a church building; she is practically a modern miracle. And why shouldn’t she be?

“I came here as a police officer because I want to help people. I know everyone says that, but it’s really true for me.”

The woman in black takes the mike from her. She starts to say something, but then she pauses, putting her finger to her ear. We sit in silence, wondering. After a moment, she says, “10-4, on my way” or something similar. Then she tells us, “I’m going to make this really quick.”

A laugh ripples across the crowd.

“I am here representing Cops for Cancer. We bike across the province every year to raise money for pediatric research. And if you don’t think pediatric research is relevant here – we all know of a little boy who is in Vancouver fighting for his life right now.”

We nod, and tears fill my eyes again. One of our own, a 10 year old boy who hadn’t been feeling well lately, had discovered his body was made more of cancer than blood and flesh and bone. Just a few days ago.

She tells us what we can do to help, and then she runs down the aisle of the sanctuary and disappears, because that’s her job. Any time, all the time.

We take up an offering. I pray that it goes directly where it is needed.

And then a man from the Salvation Army comes and speaks to us. He shows us a picture of this sculpture that is sitting in Toronto at this very moment.

 

 

It’s called “Jesus the Homeless.” He is lying on a bench in a shroud, and the only way to know that it’s him, is to see his nail-pierced feet peeking out. He speaks volumes.

We are led all over the Scripture, reading portions of passages where Jesus did nothing but reach out and spend his time with the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the unclean, the addicted, the outcast and the sinner – and the religious leaders did nothing but condemn him for it.

These passages are called The Gospel, or “Good News.”

Except it’s not news.

It’s not news that Jesus was a bit of a rebel, that he broke a lot of rules, made a lot of people angry with his all-surrounding compassion for just anyone.

It’s not news that Jesus would rather have dinner with a prostitute or a tax collector than a religious hypocrite.

It’s not news that Jesus never avoided anyone for the sake of his reputation.

It’s not news that he didn’t notice skin colour or background or age or gender.

So why do we act like it is?

I wept when I saw that homeless Jesus. I’ve seen him before.

I’ve also seen the poor Jesus, the aboriginal Jesus, the sick Jesus, the hungry Jesus, the black Jesus, the addicted Jesus, the gay Jesus, the mentally ill Jesus, the prostitute Jesus, the angry Jesus, the bitter Jesus, the strung-out Jesus, the imprisoned Jesus, the orphaned, abandoned, helpless, overlooked Jesus.

And I have not loved him.

I cried in church today, because we were all there. We all heard it, we all saw it. Even the mayor knows it now.

He’s right there, shrouded in the form of our community, just waiting to be picked up, dusted off, and taken in. It’s not too late.

Because once we’ve seen, we cannot unsee.
Because maybe, if we’re more like Jesus, then more people will want to become like us.
Because we all have a story, and we are all more than our labels, our backgrounds, our denominations or our mistakes. This is not news.

I cried in church today, and I think maybe God did too.

 

Come To The Light Side ; Sometimes, We Have Cookies.

I’ll never forget the first day I was allowed to bake cookies by myself. I was close to 9 years old, with an apron that went around me twice and a flour-splashed countertop in front of me.

I was ecstatically waiting for them to emerge from the oven, gooey and painfully delicious to the lips. Moments later, however, I would experience the bitter disappointment of too much baking soda.

My mom had mentioned that baking involved math and the use of proper fractions, but I had been sure that this rule could be bent. How could something so fun require something else so terrible?

Nearly 20 years have passed since then, and I know how to bake cookies now. About once a month, I get the urge to leave a lovely disaster of flour and broken egg shells on my countertop, despite the math involved. A small part of me even loves the math; it’s reliable, grounded and gets the results I want.

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On June 14th, 2014, I learned that I was taking on a different kind of baking venture: the ultimate bun in the oven, a baby.

As a birth doula, it’s already part of my job to know things about pregnancy and birth and infants. But I was determined to do this right.

So I read and googled and stopped lifting heavy things and eating sushi, and started drinking more water, and quit my job when it became apparent that it was too physical (and possibly dangerous) for the first trimester, and read and googled some more.

If this cookie was going to successfully bake for the next 8 months and emerge from my oven all gooey and painfully delicious to the lips (and my heart), then I was willing to do the math, sacrificially take care of my body, and follow the recipe to make it happen.

On July 20th, 2014, a mere month ago, the cookie emerged from the oven. All gooey and painful, nothing delicious.

Why?

Sure, it was my first go-round, but I had followed the recipe, hadn’t I?

Why had my precious little egg fertilized and then…never grown? My husband and I were both young and fairly healthy.

Why had my body still produced hormones that made my breasts ache and belly expand, when my pregnancy was over before it even really started? I’d never taken birth control or had any extreme hormonal imbalances before.

What had I done? What had I not done? This recipe does not add up.

And then I realized that I’ve been operating my entire life this way, at an If/Then Pendulum.

If I’m nice to people, then they will be nice to me.

If I pray and go to church regularly, then God will be happy with me.

If I work hard, then I will be rewarded.

If I’m healthy and hardly drink and take care of myself, then there’s no reason on earth why I shouldn’t have a perfectly healthy and happy baby from the very first moment I ask for one.

It’s just not true.

Sure, recipes can be followed in the kitchen, and formulas should most definitely be followed in the chemistry lab or math department. But Life is the master of Maybe and No Guarantees.

The truth is, we are in an unrequited relationship with Life. We are head-over-heels in love, and we want to spend every possible minute with it, maybe see the world together.

Meanwhile, Life doesn’t really give a shit about us.

Is it supposed to?

Does a manual exist somewhere that says if you’re a good, kind person, then nothing bad will ever happen to you? That if you only eat organic food and don’t cuss people out in traffic, then you’ll get a Golden Star of Immunity?

Do we think we’re entitled to a suffering-free existence?

Because you can do all the right things. Pay your bills on time, love your in-laws, serve your country. And one day, you may still find yourself losing everything that you thought made you a person.

It’s not that Life hates you. It’s almost worse, in that it’s nothing personal. Life is Switzerland, completely neutral – throwing a pebble in your pond and walking away, having no idea what it just destroyed or created. No one to blame, no one to exact street justice upon, no deals or bargains, no if/then.

What is the point? Right now, I’m not completely sure.

An ancient King said it pretty well:

“I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them…I amassed gold and silver for myself…I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before…I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labour, and this was the reward for my toil.
Yet everything was meaningless. So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun is grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chase after the wind…so my heart began to despair…what do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labour under the sun?…grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest.”

Ugh.

In the past, whenever a personal event has taken my breath away and torn my clothes in grief, I always notice that the world continues on. Even though my world has stopped, most people keep going about their daily lives as though nothing has happened. But for me, everything has changed, and I wish that, for just one second, that the rest of the world would stop with mine and acknowledge my pain. To know that it’s worth stopping for, that I’m not just making it up.

But.

The week that my baby died, planes started dropping out of the skies. Most of my province caught on fire. In the weeks that followed, war in the Middle East escalated, Ebola reared its ugly head, America-the-land-of-the-free-and-the-home-of-the-brave became a little less free and a little less brave, Robin Williams’ light left our atmosphere.

For the first time that I can remember, my world has stopped…and so has everyone else’s. And it sucks.

Again we ask, why?

The same King who doubted his life’s meaning wrote this beautiful passage a little later on, and it has become my hope:

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
A time to be born and a time to die,
A time to plant and a time to uproot,
A time to kill and a time to heal,
A time to tear down and a time to build,
A time to weep and a time to laugh,
A time to mourn and a time to dance,
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
A time to search and a time to give up,
A time to keep and a time to throw away,
A time to tear and a time to mend,
A time to be silent and a time to speak,
A time to love and a time to hate,
A time for war and a time for peace…
God has made everything beautiful in its time.”

Maybe you don’t believe in God right now or at all.

Then believe in the seasons, how you’ve seen them change year after year without fail.

Believe in the words of Mumford & Sons,

| But if your strife strikes at your sleep, remember Spring swaps snow for leaves.|

Believe in the sun that has kept its promise every single damn day for the past eternity, after hours of enclosing darkness. Always.

Believe that, when you’ve been battling your enemies in the mud and the rain for 4 nights in a row, Gandalf is going to come to your aid in the light of the 5th day, just like he said he would.

Believe in whatever keeps you here, keeps you fighting, keeps you floating above the water’s embrace. Believe that your Phoenix will rise from the ashes, if you let it disintegrate into the death it’s meant for.

No, there are no formulas or recipes or guarantees of anything in this life, but we DO have a time for everything, good and bad. We may not know why, but we know we are not alone. Death may hurt like hell, but we know that new life will always come from it. We may not know when it will be over, but all things do end, and our story will ring out that “YES! There IS a light at the end of this tunnel, I KNEW it!” and others may not be in the same part of the tunnel as you are and they may not believe you, but you can reassure them to keep walking, it’s coming it’s coming it’s coming, don’t give up.

This is what I will teach my children. Yes, MY children, because I have no doubt that they will come to me when they are ready. And we will make cookies together, and I’ll tell them about their older brother or sister who couldn’t stay, and what I was taught by their leaving.

to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
when grief sits with you, its tropical heat,
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a  body withstand this?
then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes I will take you,
I will love you again.

–Ellen Bass—


(Source)

My Sacred Scared, Inspired by Glennon Melton @ Momastery.com

Last week, one of my favourite writers and secret soul-mates, Glennon Melton, birthed a phenomenal blog series called “Sacred Scared.”  It’s this groundbreaking idea that we as people tend to look up to bestselling authors and bloggers, thinking that they all have their lives together — so that must certainly mean that we cannot use our own voices until we’ve got our shit together too. Glennon asked 10 different authors to share an untouched photo of themselves, along with their deepest, secretest fear. She wanted to inspire everyone else to know and believe that EVERYONE has no idea what they’re doing and EVERYONE can still show up and start changing lives with who they are and what they have to say. (You can read about it here.)

It’s working. So many others are sharing their Sacred Scared, and now I’m joining the club. I feel awkward and complain-y and definitely more than a little shaky, but I trust that I belong here.

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Hi, I’m Carly Butler Hutton, or Button, if I’m being cutesy. I live and blog and make music near Vancouver, British Columbia with my husband Steve of 17 months, and I’m afraid that when it comes to marriage and God and life itself, I’m doing it wrong.

I was raised in a single-parent, only-child, fundamentalist Christian, God-is-coming-to-judge-us-all-by-the-year-2000 family. Not a man to be found. We girls had only ourselves and our wits, and it was up to us to survive the coming Apocalypse. I honestly thought I would not live past 13 years of age, maybe 16 if I was lucky. I was prepared to live off the grid, off the land, and off the love of just my mom and maybe God if he was generous.

And I did, for 4 years. To the locals, I was “that child living with her crazy mom out behind the mountain.” To me, I was just a dead girl walking. If The Hunger Games had been a thing when I was growing up, I would have changed my name to Katniss and learned how to use a bow and arrow instead of a gun and a snowmobile. A small part of me still wants to do just that.

In keeping with such fears, I fostered no hopes, planted no dreams. What was the point of making plans for the future, fantasizing about love, when it was all going to dissolve to ash anyway?

I lived in this state of half-awakeness for a long time. It wasn’t until 2008, after a decade of delusion, that I finally woke up and said, “ENOUGH! I am going to make my own life, and if you and God don’t like it, Mom, then you can both just lump it!” 3 years later, after a head-aching debacle with the Canadian and US immigrant governments (which I’m TOTALLY going to write a book about one day!), I was off and running.

You might think that this is my Sacred Scared, this weird past of paranoia and neglect.

But it’s not. Because of that weird past of paranoia and neglect, my Sacred Scared is right now.

I got married?
I have a real car and a real house and a real cat and a real man to look after?
I live in a city that I have to drive around in?
I have friends, near and far, that care about me?
I have a wireless internet connection and an iPhone and food available to me whenever I need it?
I help babies come into the world for a living?

It’s so normal and terrifying and I’m going to screw it up.

My Sacred Scared is that one day, the other shoe is going to drop, and I’ll realize that the old way, the apocalypse way, the depend-only-on-yourself-because-the-world-is-the-enemy way is the ONLY WAY I know how to live. That this little life I’ve managed to carve out here is my very own Matrix and I’m the glitch that will crash the system.

I want this life. I want it so bad. I want my husband, I want to have his babies, I want to write a book, and eat FroYo, and make music, and walk along the ocean, and see new movies, and sing in church and help other people give their babies life! It’s a dream come true.

But living with a man can be hard, especially if you’ve never done it before. He is a delightful noise with lovable dirt all over it, and if I accidentally feed him anything nutty, he will turn blue and maybe die. Together, we create a beautiful mess that I don’t want anyone to see, but I’m sure everyone can recognize.
He adores me, and I think I adore him back…what do I do with that?
And babies…well, babies are just precious little rolls of goo that steal your heart and drain your life away, so I’ve heard. I’m petrified of them and in love with them at the same time?
Then there’s God, who I am pretty sure has rescued me from a lifetime of crap, but who I am also pretty sure is 1000% done with my lifetime AND my crap – and He’s just waiting for me to do something good with it.

Fantasy is manageable. Real life is terrifying.

But every day, I’m going to do my best to show up to my own tiny, normal little life. When I wake up in the morning, I want to look into my husband’s sleepy face and kiss his dry lips and tell myself I am out of the woods. For real. Steve is good, and God is good, and this day is going to be Scary, Sacred and Good too.the next right thing

Brutifully Yours,

Carly

On the 1st day of LUSHmas…(or, what the heck is LUSHmas?)

Before I answer that question, I have to say, this past month has been pretty…weird. I’ve wanted to blog so badly about everything that exists in my life, but for some reason, I can’t. I’ve been like Jim Halpert (from The Office) when he tries to play Call of Duty, and he gets stuck in a corner and he jumps up and down so charmingly but he can’t turn left or right to get out, and then Karen blows his head off.

You know, if blogging was like a violent video game that required a good sense of direction.
I guess most people call it writer’s block.

Even now, I’m a little nervous. I really wanna talk about my new job and how much I love it and what are a few of my favourite things! But we’re living in a world full of natural disasters, drugged-out politicians – a world where Brian the Dog and Paul Walker unexpectedly died in the same week, and I want to talk about bath bombs?

Yep.

Because there is beauty and softness and therapy and colour and relaxation and escape and happy thoughts and bubbles in the midst of chaos and darkness. There always will be. My heart breaks and cries out for the loss of life and integrity and nature, but it’s making the approaching Christmas season that much more beautiful and precious.

So, my friends, welcome to LUSHmas. This is my first time creating a blog series (yay!) and I’m going to pick my 12 favourite things from LUSH (so far) that have made me feel like a queen, Christmas-related or otherwise.
Because, if I’m honest, it’s not easy for me to believe that I’m beautiful. The stars have to align, the outfit’s gotta be perfect, the hair needs to calm the eff down. It’s stupid and it’s hurtfully unnecessary.

To quote a recent Tumblr post:

i feel sooooo confused about what i look like? am i fat am i skinny am i pretty or ugly i literally CAN’T TELL AT ALL. how i feel about my looks changes on a min to min basis and is mostly affected by my mood i am so confused what the HECK do i actually look like to u people. i feel like an alien in my body

This post had more than 64,000 notes attached to it, so obviously there’s a sad epidemic of this feeling going around.

And yet, whenever I put on something that LUSH made – it doesn’t matter which thing – I always feel amazing. I have confidence that I look beautiful, I smell beautiful, and it makes me smile bigger AND it makes me want to pass it on to everyone I meet. (Which, I think can be argued, is the most important part.)

So! On the 1st day of LUSHmas, my LUSHIE gave to me….

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…a GOLDEN WONDER!!!!!!!!!

Oh, the Golden Wonder. If a LUSHIE gives this to you, you can know you’re really loved. This is luxury, this is decadence, this is the streets of gold from Heaven above come down to your bathtub.

Each GW takes 3 days to make, from beginning to end. Right now, you can only see the outside, which features a fluffy marshmallow of a bow on top of a glittery 3D box of delight. On the inside, however, is a rainbow layer of blue and pink and green before it finally dissolves to the very heart, which is actually another mini bath bomb itself. If you gently shake the GW, you can hear baby GW crackling away inside, just dying to get out. I personally think that baby GW is fashioned into a butterfly, but maybe that’s just because I’m obsessed with butterflies and I like to see them wherever I go.

When I tried Golden Wonder for the first time, I did not have access to a bathtub, much to my everlasting regret. But since I know I’m not the only one out there that has to face the First World Problem that IS the stand-up shower, I will share my secret with you.

I bought a white plastic tub at Wal-Mart or something like that, in the kitchen section where they sell them as another dish-soaking option for those poor unfortunate souls who have only a single sink for that sort of thing. (Oh Lord, another First World Problem I am acquainted with all too well.)

I filled said white plastic tub with warm water, plopped GW right in, took off my socks, rolled up my pant legs, and took my feet to the spa.

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It. Was. Ridonkulous. Warm, silky froth. The rest of my body was mad with jealousy.

As time passed, the colours and the foam continually changed and blessed my soul. The dreamy combination of citrus and cognac oils filled my sniffer and lifted my spirits.

And then something happened that I did NOT expect:

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The froth cleared, and fricken STARS came out to say hello. My feet went to outer space and they never wanted to come back.
And then even more froth cleared, until all that was left was water. Emerald green water swirling with a lusty golden shimmer.

So I became a kid again. I was playing with the water, watching it twirl and dance with the flecks of light, never tiring of its enchantment.

But, as it always happens, eventually the water got cold and I had to leave this tiny Heaven. I really should have saved the water in a bottle, to be swirled at later date whenever I feel sad. Parents, saving this magical water in a bottle would probably make a great DIY distraction-maker for your kid. You get the spa time, they get the entertainment, everybody wins.

Now what happened next depends ENTIRELY on what kind of person you are. If you love glitter on your skin, you’ll be thrilled. If you hate glitter on your skin, you’ll be rinsin’.

**You’re about to see feet. Scroll down fast if you hate feet.**

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As you can see on my right foot, it comes off easily. =)

So far, this is clearly my favourite bath bomb. My tootsies wouldn’t stop talking about it for, like, a week. I can’t imagine how amazing the rest of me will feel once I try it again!

Score: 10/10 **********

Pair it Up!: with Celebrate, a moisturizing lotion made with the same citrus and cognac oils as the Golden Wonder. Your skin will thank you, and then head out to party.

May you believe you are beautiful today.

xo Carly

The Story of the Bumpy Doula

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^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
I told Steve that I always struggle with opening my first paragraph for a blog. Without looking, he typed this and said, “There’s your opening.” I am keeping it because, really, I got nothin’ better.

And it’s also a pretty accurate assessment of how my brain has been processing information over the past few days.

adoinagona jaiodfoadn —summer is ending–aodinoianfgnaglna

adoiffoaner,m \ujq4  aolarn adfmalmd dnf — i helped a baby come into the world last weekend— woaeb affgl hqoh4rn  NEOINRLNnfaoanre aoln

oain voaijer,qnoi232nmzao\l —i am turning 26 in, like, 4 weeks—aoeif aeo iu0jJLHN0P49J

A QIEJ N\LKSM opMDF;LOAOJKR —WAIT, WHAT? I HELPED DELIVER A BABY?!? WHEN? HOW? WHO GAVE ME THE CREDENTIALS FOR THAT?!??

So basically, in the midst of everyone’s else’s “back to school” mode, I’ve been more in a “back to bed” mode. And then a “back to last week” mode.

Labour labour labour labour labour labour labour labour BABY.

*world changes*

Tears. Gratefulness. Shock. Excitement. And an overwhelming desire to make this act of birth, this event in history, this sanctuary moment, my life.

Now comes the delicate balance of telling my story without telling their story for them. A big part of being a doula is public relations – diplomacy – respect of confidentiality and privacy.

The best way I know how is to tell why I want to doula my way through life. The literal butterfly transformation I went through to go from being unready and fearful, to feeling unstoppable.

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Steve and I drove to Kelowna for the very first time on Emily’s due date the weekend before last. We spent a day exploring the hot but gorgeous landscape, and wondered why we’d never trekked here before. (aka we are definitely going back!) As we walked along the vastness that is Okanagan Lake, I wrestled. The fact that Steve was about to leave me here, for who knows how long, so I could face the unknown with Tomily was becoming more and more real to me. We had not even been apart for a night since we got married last September, and, not anticipating the heat, I had packed poorly. I was hot, I was overwhelmed, I wanted to throw up.

So I let the heat go to my brain. My heart began pounding, and I started eating.
Like, a lot. With gravy on all sides.
Already uncomfortable clothing became unbearable.
Thoughts raced through my mind: I feel so gross. How can I be a good doula to Tom and Emily when I can’t even take care of myself? I miss Steve already. Please, baby, come soon.

Baby did not come for 6 days.

For the first 2 days, this girl’s intestines were in such a knot that nothing came out, if you know what I mean. TWO DAYS. And I got a spider bite while I was sleeping. And something strange appeared on my nose that wasn’t a zit and wasn’t an insect bite and wasn’t a sunburn but it hurt and it was itchy and it made me look like a lush.

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I felt like a frumpy, grumpy, lumpy, bumpy doula, all right. And then I thought…

Maybe this is a little glimpse of what Emily is feeling. I took my discomfort and tried to mentally multiply a 9-month-baked baby in the mix. Suddenly, my problems didn’t seem quite so…constipating? Yeah. I know. My point is that I had to choose to rise above myself, to see that Emily needed Tom and I to understand what she was going through so that we could help her.

I started taking care of myself so that I could take care of her. I portioned my food properly, adding a healthy dose of curry and apples to smooth things along. I went to a thrift shop with Em and picked up some lovely CHEAP-ASS clothes that I could breathe in. I also invested in a proper bathing suit so that I could join Emily on our lake outings. (Yep, I am that person who went to the Okanagan in late August and didn’t pack something to swim in. *facepalm*) I took a pen and paper each morning/evening to write out all my feels from the day and dreams from the night so that I could get it out and let it go. I made contact with good friend Candice who is also a seasoned doula. She literally became my mentor through text message and saved my life. (Later, we also learned that she had a hand in helping Emily’s older sister give birth a few years ago, yet she didn’t know Emily at all! It’s a small globe, friends.)  I started to feel a lot better.

And then the contractions started. And they didn’t end for 2 days.

If I hadn’t spent the previous 4 days in misery and then applied self-care just in time, I don’t know if we would have made it. I mean, I think we would have, but not with nearly as much grace and content.

Without going into too much detail, I have to say that Tom and Emily amazed me, even more than I expected to be amazed. Tom never left her side, and rode the wave of every single pain and emotion with the ease of a pro. More than once, I had to hide tears as I witnessed such love and encouragement being poured onto this woman trying to complete one of the biggest jobs of all time. And if the stereotype about labouring women losing control, snapping and becoming violent towards the nearest person is true, she challenged it. Even through excruciating pain, she calmly made it very clear to us what she needed and she always added a “please” and “thank you.”  #tomforpresident #emilyforsainthood

As for me? Well, as soon as it was “go time”, something deep and hidden inside my soul broke out and kicked its way into high gear. Suddenly all of my book learning and researching and gaining resources and talking talking talking turned into warm, hard instinct. I became absolutely sure that Emily could and would have this baby no matter what, and that I, along with her husband, was going to do my damnedest to get her there. Screw the heat, screw the tired, screw the fear, screw the unknown, screw the feelings – I put on my scrubs, walked into that hospital, made sure I knew who the nurses were, that the nurses knew who I was and what I would be doing there (thankfully, mom and dad had prepared a printed birth plan with my name and title on it!), unpacked our stuff, found the fridge & ice machine, made sure the shower was working and had plenty of towels, set up Emily’s items of comfort from home that she wanted to visualize, and then ran to her side every time another contraction came on. Let me be clear: I was not there to replace Tom – I wanted there to be no reason Tom needed to leave her, except for the occasional bathroom break. That was my job. Not the doctor’s, not the nurses’, mine.

For the past 4 months, whenever I’ve had someone ask me what a doula is, I got into the habit of saying, “It’s like a birth coach. An objective third party member that’s not hospital staff. Someone hired to help the parents and encourage them, to talk them through everything that’s going on, as birth – especially the first time – can be pretty scary.”

I can’t believe how wrong I was. I mean, I was right, but there is so much more to it than that.

Do you think that when you’re in the hospital and labouring that a nurse is going to be hanging around outside your door just in case you need them, around the clock? They’re not. That’s my job.
Do you think that when you have a contraction, your life partner is going to be able to squeeze your hips to relieve pressure, all the while soothing you with warm water? They’ll try, but they can’t. With my help, they can.
What if you’re hungry or thirsty, but you don’t want to be left by yourself? You can’t order room service in a hospital. But I can go get it for you, whatever you like.
What if your shoulders need rubbing, but one little spot in your foot is itching like crazy and you’re too tired and sore to do anything about it? Bring in the birth partner, let’s get you taken care of.
And about the room you give birth in…it will probably be pretty nice and comfortable, with the option of dim lights and mobility. However, there were at least 5 other women giving birth in the ward that night, one being right next door; we had to turn up the Bob Marley just so that we wouldn’t be distracted by the sounds of their labour going on around us.

“Don’t worry about a thing, cause every little thing is gonna be all right…”

That’s the battle song of a family giving birth right there.

In all reality, the nurse (and she was wonderful) came into the room of her own volition, unless I asked sooner, every 45 minutes. The doctor only came to the hospital after 10cms of dilation had already been completed and the pushing stage was about to begin. That’s a lot of time and space to go through being just you and your partner, whether you’re the pregnant one or with the pregnant one.

So my question is, why doesn’t everyone want a birth partner?

*gets off of soap box*

I will admit that when Emily started to push, I started to swallow a little harder as it occurred to me that at any moment, I was going to witness a small human being come out of a big human being. I hadn’t slept, I had eaten little, and I started telling myself, “You will not pass out. Stay strong. Do you want to be known as the Fainting Doula, DO YOU? I didn’t think so. Now stop shaking, get up on that bed and let Emily lean on you until the contraction passes, got it?”

I got it. And when I saw that little girl’s face appear, with her smooshed nose and gorgeous lips and perfect ears and crimpy hair, time stopped.

God opened the door, light poured in, and Love said, “You see this? That’s me. I know you’ve been looking for me for a long time; well, here I am. Soak me in. I’m here for the taking.”

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Why do I want to be a doula?

The way I see it, Life is hard enough as it is, and I have been searching for years for something that will make it a little easier for someone else.  Tom & Emily told me later that they couldn’t have done it without me, that my presence made their experience and transition into parenthood so much easier. So even if Eva Sofia is the only baby I help bring earthside, knowing this is enough for me. Knowing that I’ve finally found my calling, my purpose for being put on this earth, is enough to make me cry at a moment’s notice.

3 days ago, my entire life changed. It became more holy, more blessed, and more wholly blessed. And I’m so thankful. Long live Eva Sofia, long live the doula heart and long live the grace of God to make this place a little better than it was before.

Here Comes Baby!

Nope, not mine.

Neener neener neener.

So, for the past 36 hours, I have been a little jittery. Can’t eat, can barely sleep, and when I wake up, my neck refuses to move. My phone has not left my side.

Let me tell you why.

Soon and very soon, a little lady is going to make a scene for my dear friends Tom & Emily. And they have graciously allowed ME to be a part of their birthing experience, as the assisting doula. My very first time “having” a baby could be tomorrow, could be next week, could be any minute now. And there are just some things I need to chat about.

Last March, when I decided to start the journey to become a doula, I had no idea where it would take me. The people I would meet, the knowledge I would gain, the emotions I would feel. And now, here I am, on the cusp of the real thing. All the videos, books, stories and teachings have led me (and us) to this moment.

Are we ready?

I personally think Tomily are. They have taken full intentions to be informed about the pregnancy and birth of their little one – to the point of teaching me a few things as well. With Tom’s love of books and Emily’s practice in nursing, they are a dream team. Of course, they are bound to be nervous and afraid. They will make mistakes along the way, just like everyone else does. But knowing their story and where they’ve come from, I have full confidence that Baby Girl will never want for love and a helping hand through this world.

Am I ready? Only God knows.

Throughout this whole journey of learning, I have had my moments.

My blubbering “omg birth is such a beautiful, amazing, miraculous experience, look at those little fingers and toes, so perfect, i want to love all the babies in all the world” moments.

And my “hahaha EFF no I am never doing that, kthanxbai” moments.

Which, I’m sure, is nothing new. But, to me, everything is new. I am literally about to see and do something I have never seen or done before, and I have no idea what to expect. Videos don’t count, stories don’t count. For me, for Tomily, for this little one, everything is a clean whiteboard that will have a completely unique experience drawn into it with permanent marker. And somewhere in that piece of art, I’ll be there.

I would like to be a splash of green and a hint of purple.

Green because I want to see growth; in myself as a doula and in Tomily as partners and now parents.

Purple because this is a moment of royalty. Tom and Emily will become the King & Queen of their home, with a Princess in their arms. Even I, the slave (which the word “doula” is originally derived from), will become more than that.

I have the strong feeling that all of us will be changed in an instant. Purple and green all over the place.

And so while I may not feel totally ready, I’m ready to get ready. To face the moment of truth, where Heaven kisses Earth and says, “Here is another gift. Peace be with you.”

I can’t wait.

xo Carly xo