The Year Of Broken Plates

She is everywhere.

Your Instagrams, your Pinterests, your blogs, your billboards, your Wal-Marts, your coffee shops, your gyms, your parks, your schools, your TVs, your dreams.

The Mother.

Her hair is done, her house and clothes are clean, her body is healthy, her coffee is hot, her kids are happy, and like, she’s busy but she is HANDLING IT.

This time last year, I was suffering from a common condition known as “summer pregnancy.” I knew this part was hard, but then the baby would be here, and I would become THE MOTHER and everything would be great.

And then, suddenly, I remembered that I’m terrible at juggling.

Good china plates are lying in shards around me; my brain is dizzy and my feet are bleeding. The baby is screaming, the dishes are crusted with 3-day-old food and flies, the house carries a faint but distinct odor of wet towels and shit, the floor is sticky, and TBH I’m probably gonna throw a frozen pizza in the oven for dinner…again.

I have one baby. ONE.

The Mother did not come to me; the Mother betrayed me. The Mother didn’t tell me that she had to give up everything else she loved, like music or writing or friends, in order to be considered a good mom.

By her standards, I have failed spectacularly.

“It takes 9 months to put on the weight, so give yourself at least 9 months to lose it and then #HustleYourButt!” but instead I gained it all back and heyyyy it brought some friends!

I was given TWO Baby Bullets, and I rejoiced because I wanted to make fresh food for my baby every day.

I have used exactly ONE of them ONE time. And I remember to brush those 2 preciously sharp little chiclets in his maw about once a week, so he’s definitely going to need dentures by the time he’s 5.

Does it sound bad if I say that my 11-month old son already has favorite showS? #YesThatWasAnEmphasizedPlural #ILoveYouMoana #AndDinoTrux #BasicallyJustAllOfNetflix

If I get all the laundry done, it’s a good day.

If I get all the laundry done, folded AND put away, I’m pretty awesome.

If I get all the laundry done, folded AND put away AND take a shower, I deserve sexual favors and Chinese take-out, full stop.

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This little helper gently rolled into the sink head first about 2 seconds after this picture was taken. #MotherOfTheYear

I’m honestly a little sad. The first year is already almost up, and the only thing I feel confident in showing for it is that Harrison, Steven and I are still alive.

Maybe in Year 2, I’ll figure out how to keep the house clean as well as get in shape, and return to music/writing/friendships on a regular basis. Maybe I’ll just drink my coffee while it’s still hot.

But one thing (lol, probably a FEW things) I do pledge: to be okay with being JUST okay, and to be okay with NOT being okay.

To delegate those chores. To not do IT ALL. To get together with a friend, like, once a week, even if the dishes aren’t done. To kiss my hard-working husband at the start and end of every day. To unfollow the perfect Instagram moms.

And lastly, to donate the good china plates and settle for some good ole indestructable Corelle and Tupperware. I’m a mom now, after all.

 

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5 New Mom Truths I Didn’t Know Until I Knew Them

I’ve been a mom for 4 whole months now so I’m pretty sure I know what I’m talking about.

1. You learn to function without sleep.

All I had to do was stop visualizing my life as “day” and “night”, and start visualizing it as nap #3 of 6 in a 24-hour period. So go ahead and have that coffee at 9pm, because nothing matters anymore.

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2. Breastfeeding can be REALLY difficult. 

And just like pregnancy, I did not love it. I  wanted to, and I thought that would be enough to make it a reality.

 

Nope. I could not Desire Map my way into this delicate, hormonal endeavour called breastfeeding. But after doing it for 3 months, I can say YOU GO MAMA to anyone who manages to do it for longer, while eating, while lying down, while in public, while being covered up, while being stared at, while being given advice. YOU ARE MADE OF STRONGER METTLE THAN I.

3. Successfully putting your baby to bed is like a scene from The Hurt Locker. Or any movies involving bombs, really.

Their bellies are full, their bums are clean, the room is dimly lit, the white noise is whirring, the lullabies have been sung, and Baby is so sleepy it’s adorable. You debate just holding and snuggling them for the duration of their nap, but then you remember you have shit to do. And so, you must GTFO before this happens:

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If you succeed, this is how you will feel.

 

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4. Any amount of personal hygiene will feel like a spa day.

If you’re wondering about the state of our hygiene as new parents, a mouse lived in our tub long enough to chew the shower curtain and drop 40 poops in it before we noticed. But once we decided not to burn said tub to the ground, man, those showers felt great.

5. Your love for your child will be infinite.

All the songs on the radio will be about them, you will sacrifice everything you once loved to take care of them. Every smile and achievement they make will convince you that surely it’s never been done before, and they are the first ones, and they are THE BEST at it.

But you’ll be amazed at how much MORE you love them when they sleep more than one hour at a time. It may occasionally happen at the expense of your husband’s feelings (“If you fart like that one more time, you cannot sleep here! At least muffle it with a pillow for the LOVE OF GOD!”) but it will be worth it.

Actually, everything is worth it.

Talk again in another 4 months…maybe…

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Baby Button Needs You To Stop Praying For Him Now

8 weeks ago, I wrote a story about the journey our baby was taking us on, and how we were praying that my body would survive being pregnant just 7 more weeks to give him the best chance. So many of you responded in love and prayers and genuine care.

I truly believe it worked because my body proceeded to need a total of 3 amniotic fluid drains, plus a dramatic 3 night stay in the hospital because I was having very real contractions every 5 minutes…and then suddenly everything stopped. I went home. Life has resumed at an almost-usual routine for the last 4 weeks. Baby Button has grown big and strong, we have a safety-approved place for him to sleep and travel, and my mom made it here without complication.

So now? I need y’all to stop praying. I turned the corner on 38 weeks yesterday, and I am done.

I know every third-trimester mother says that, but I don’t think you understand.

I am “answering questionnaires for concerned psychiatrists/sense of humor completely gone/collapsing into tears for no reason at least once a day” done.

I have survived the Apocalypse. I have lived in fear of the government and deportation. I have moved houses at least as many times as I’ve had birthdays. I’ve seen a childhood friend die right in front of me. I have endured losing a relationship with my father 2 months after it began. I have gotten lost in Europe, lost a baby, lost jobs, and been one paycheck ahead of financial disaster for years.

But 9 months of pregnancy, one of life’s greatest mysteries that I was looking forward to the most, is the straw that broke this camel’s back.

I feel sad. I feel angry. I feel needy. I feel weak.

And so I feel lost. My identity is shifting. I’m the girl who writes about all the crazy shit that happens to her, and still manages to make people smile. I’m the Chandler Bing, I’m the Spartan who keeps on trucking, I’m the one who has heard time and again, “Wow. Looking at you, listening to you, I would never have guessed that you survived all THAT. You’re amazing, and you should probably write a book.”

My shit has always been a little messy, but it was my mess, and it made me stronger.

Now? After being pregnant and sick and worried and unprepared for 267 days in a row (including being displaced from home for 60+ days in a cramped house with 4 animals and 4 in-laws out of that)?

All I want is to go to sleep, and wake up in my own bed with a fresh mani/pedi, a killer haircut, a multi-ethnic buffet, and an impossibly adorable baby who never cries longer than 5 minutes or makes me question whether I am mentally and emotionally capable of becoming a mother in the first place.

I feel gross for even admitting it. Because I can see all you ladies who have been moms for years, who are laughing at my innocence and thinking, “Just you wait, honey, it gets worse.” I can see all you ladies who have been thinking they’d like to get pregnant, and now I’ve just ruined it for you. I can see all you ladies who had magical unicorn pregnancies with babies made from Jesus’ eyelashes, and are secretly judging me for being so dramatic and non-sacrificial.

And honestly, I’m going to play the Pregnant Bitch card and say up front: I don’t need to hear from you right now.

The only thing that keeps me typing so vulnerably is the off-chance that maybe some lady will read this and think, Thank GOD I’m not alone. Maybe I’ll wait one more day before checking myself in to the closest institution. Hi, Carly. I’m your new messy mama friend. Let’s keep talking.

13 days or less…

 

Dump Etiquette

A few weeks ago, I took a big step in the world of fashion: I bought my first above-the-knee skirt (above? below? It’s shorter than my legs are, period.) I love wearing skirts, especially in the summer, especially if they have enough material to allow a little swirl in my twirl.

This skirt is all that and a bag of chips. It’s from Bootlegger, navy blue with colored anchors and cutesy shit all over it. I can wear it with literally anything. It even looks good wrinkled, not that I would know that. *ahem*

So last weekend, I was emptying our storage barn of garbage and recycling, getting ready to make a dump run – maybe make some money at the bottle depot. (To buy more pop and beer, of course. It’s the ciiiiiircle of liiiiiife.)

I don’t know what possessed me to decide that wearing the Skirt of Wonder to the dump was a great idea. Probably the same demon that convinced me to wear my lacy white underwear underneath it. I guess I was feeling good about myself.

So there I was, tossing bags of garbage and bottles into my car in a manner that would make a Tetris champion cry.

When I got to the dump, I had to unload a bag of recycling to get to the garbage underneath.

And then, a hurricane-force gale blew in from the coast of South America to make all hell break loose.

The big blue bag of bottles and cans tipped over, and all of my drinking problems scattered around the dump.

Have you ever been to a Walmart on a Saturday? Then you’ve been to our local dump on a Saturday.

I chased my recycling all over the gravel parking lot, hoping one of the thousand people there might help me, but alas. Also? It’s very difficult to grab errant recycling when you’re busy trying to keep your extra-twirly skirt (God why did I choose the extra-twirl?!) where it belongs.

I’m not saying I publicly exposed myself indecently – I’m just saying that Marilyn Monroe would have been embarrassed.

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"Really? Lacy white underwear to the dump? Oh, honey."

After a few moments of “The Carly Show”, I finally dumped my shit, re-packed my other shit and peeled out. To their credit, I didn’t see anyone staring after me.

Less than an hour later, I made $23 dollars at the Bottle Depot. Suck it, Marilyn.

I told Steve when we saw each other that evening, and we had a bit of a giggle. Then I moved on.

The very next day, we were at the grocery store. (Like I said, we had $23 fresh dollars.) We turned down the pet aisle and saw our friend Mik pushing her cart towards us, her 9-month pregnant belly being adorable. We smiled and chatted for a couple of minutes, and then she threw in this offhand comment – “Oh hey, I saw you at the dump the other day!”

“Oh!” I replied nonchalantly. And then I remembered. “…oh?”

She smiled compassionately. “Yyyyeaaahh.”

“I am so sorry you had to see that.” I’m surprised the sight of my booty didn’t send you into labor immediately.

She was full-out laughing now. “I thought you recovered very gracefully!”

In an attempt to change the subject, I *very gracefully* gestured to her belly and very loudly did my Brian Regan impersonation: “So when’s that BABY due, eh?!” #ProudDoula

What am I trying to say?

A.) Buy the cute skirt, no matter how insecure you are about your legs. Cause your legs are awesome.
B.) Don’t wear it to the dump.
C.) Even if you think you’re at a place where you don’t know anyone, you’re wrong. You live in a town with less than 10,000 people; you are never alone.
D.) Seriously, don’t wear a skirt to the dump.
E.) All of the above.

The Story of Poppy

A few months ago, I shared a story about a very special golden retriever who got her ear in a predicament.

Her name is Poppy, and she has changed our lives.

When we first met her last winter, we were just helping out one of the families I nanny for. She belonged to them, you see. They’d rescued her from a shelter a couple of years ago, and so she’d been showered with love from 3 kids and two cats since then. But occasionally, they travel, so we happily opened our home to have Poppy stay with us whenever they went away.

Then, something strange happened.

Every time they came home to their busy lives, they noticed Poppy seemed to be a little…less. Less happy, less energetic, less Poppy. They felt concerned, and a little guilty that they couldn’t devote more attention.

So, while it was painful, they decided to do what was best for her. They gave her to us. They would feel better knowing she could have more space out of town to run, and to be adored by a family that wasn’t quite as busy. The kids were consoled knowing that I could bring Poppy for visits when I came to nanny them. And me? Well, I was like a kid on Christmas morning. The golden retriever I’d always dreamed of having was now a reality.

In the past few months, we have learned many things about Miss Poppy.

1. She is made to adore.

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Her eyes are pools of dark melted chocolate, and they speak volumes. If we’ve been separated for a few hours, her reaction to seeing us again will instantly change our mood. She jumps and hops and *smiles* in absolute exuberant joy at our existence. I’m not gonna lie, it feels pretty damn good.

2. She’s cool with Walter.

Which is just an amazing bonus. I love that we are a little family of rescuers and the rescued.

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But even she knows better than to cross paths with him in a catnip-induced hallway hangout.

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3. She knows what the words “car ride” mean.

And it.jazzes.her.right.up.

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4. Playing a game of tag with her will lighten your soul.

Without a doubt, this beautiful creature is teaching me how to play again. Can you believe she is 8 years old? I’m half her age in human years, and her energy puts me to glorious shame.

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5. As strongly as she loves, she just as strongly hates.

She actually cannot handle thunder, the vacuum cleaner, anyone squeezing her ears or touching her food bowl when she’s not done eating. We don’t really know what to do about that, but we’re working on it.

6. She has the soul of a wanderer.

We have a very big yard where we live, and it’s completely fenced in – which is perfect for Poppy (and friends) because, while we rent a large property, there is a raging highway and a thick forest full of bear and moose not far from our house.

About a month ago, I had a day off at home, so I was relaxing on the deck in the beautiful sun while Poppy chased her purple squeezy ball around the yard.

After a while, I went inside to make some lunch, leaving the dog outside. In the distance, I heard a roll of thunder, but didn’t think too much of it. We’d been having thunder every day for almost a week now; I opened the screen door to let Poppy inside.

She was gone.

I searched every inch of the yard, looked under the house, called and called. She was mischievous occasionally when it came to the fence, but she always came back when I called.

There were no obvious openings in the fence, and she was not coming to my call.

Lunch forgotten, I grabbed her leash and jumped in my car, preparing to peruse the neighborhood street, preparing myself to *not think* about the highway and the forest.

After an hour of driving and calling, I phoned Steven at work. I tried to keep the worry from my voice, but his mind went to the exact same place mine already had.

“Shit,” he muttered, “I can’t leave work. Just pray, and keep calling. Let me know if she shows up.”

It would be 4 hours before Steve could get home, and so for the next 4 hours, I screamed and prayed and swore into the atmosphere that if she didn’t get her GD-effing-ass home right now, Mama was gonna lose her shit. Because there was no way we were ready to lose *another* precious family member after last summer.

When Steve got home, I had almost no voice left. With slight relief, he told me that he had not seen any dogs on the highway, alive or dead.

We decided to go to all the places we had ever taken Poppy, starting with our landlords farm just down the road. They weren’t home, but we felt free to explore their property and call her for the 57,000th time.

No sign of her.

So we posted a LOST sign on the neighborhood mailbox, and went the opposite way on the highway. A knot of dread sat in my stomach as I pictured her beautiful amber fur matted with blood, her energy and passion sapped and lifeless…

Nothing. No news is good news.

We went back to our neighborhood, deciding to go door-to-door now that it was almost evening.

Starting with the abandoned property directly across the street from us, we parked the truck.

“POPPY! PAAHHHHPPY!”

Like a dream, we heard a reply coming from our house.

“She’s here!”

We abandoned the truck and ran down our driveway. A farm truck we’d never seen before was parked at our house, and guess who was in the passenger seat.

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We all but fell at the farmer’s rubber boots in gratitude. He shrugged, like it was no big deal.

“She showed up at my place a few hours ago, and jumped in my truck like we were best friends. So I figured I’d better go around and find her home.”

(Yes, of course this would happen before we’ve had a chance to get her a proper dog tag!)

“Took her up to Gweek Riding Center, and Cindy thought she looked a lot like pictures she’d seen online and sent me over here.”

(Bless Cindy. And bless Facebook pictures.)

“Where do you live?” We asked him.

“‘Bout two kilometers up the highway. She was soaking wet when she showed up; I figger she swam all the way up Deep Creek.”

Two kilometers. Up a creek. Returned to us because of Facebook and good neighbors. Without a scratch on her.

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Moments after this photo was taken, she barfed up a gallon of creek water and grass on the kitchen floor, then took a long nap.

We didn’t mind at all.

She hasn’t tried to escape since then. It’s like she knows what she put us through. She knows that we need her, for just a little while longer. And for that, we’re grateful.

Welcome to the family, Poppy. We love you.

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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.

  

Can’t Learn Without Some Earn

Earlier this week, the blogosphere was rocked once again by the tour de force known as Samara. 

She went on a holy rant, describing the broken education system in North America. She quoted Pink Floyd. She made us love her more as she related her fears for her son and our generation as a whole that’s trying to function in an uneducated but expensive society.

It got me thinking: I haven’t lived in the United States in a very long time, so I don’t know everything about the current state of schooling, or lack thereof.

But I have had what you might call a Motley Crue (my brain is so infused with music, I honestly don’t know how to spell this phrase any other way) of American + Canadian + homeschooled + just plain whacked-out education.

I’m certainly not the smartest person I know. I’d never even heard of Common Core math until Samara came along, but it sounds terrifying.

I still marvel at the fact that I can flip a switch, and 9 times out of 10, light will enter my room.

Like Aussa, the idea of outer space boggles and taunts my mind-hole a little bit. I do wonder how everything around me is real, but I don’t question it or seek out the answers.

I’ll never be an inventor or a scientist.

In fact, most of my education, I “earned” through lying and, some might even say, stealing.

I was born in 1987. The #1 song the week I was born was “Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake. Forever destined to straddle that line of being an 80s baby and a 90s kid, living with a single mom who was born in 1948.

Yeah, THAT 1948.

She grew up in Florida, in what I’ve heard was a manse (pastor’s house) that still thought it was okay to employ African-Americans to do everything for you, for low wages.

My mother raised me OLD SCHOOL.

When I wanted something, I had to earn it. One summer, I planted 200 petunias in our yard just so I could have an American Girl doll for Christmas.

I wasn’t allowed to complain about food, clothes or anything really.
Also, I was kind of racist and intolerant until 2007. But that’s jumping ahead.

I was educated at private Christian schools through grade 3. I was the weird one, the outcast who was so quirky and self-entertained that I didn’t realize I was the outcast…most of the time. But addressing bullying wasn’t really a thing in 1995. (Lord Almighty, that was 20 years ago. Someone hold me.)

So, my mom pulled me out of school, determined to educate me herself.

According to Mom, the three R’s were the most important: reading, wRiting (REALLY NOW?!) and ‘rithmetic.

But she had no follow-through and I had no desire to learn, since hey, apparently the world was ending soon.

By the time we moved to Canada in 1998 (to escape Y2K, of course), I’d already put in a solid two years of playing hookey. 

I’m convinced that my love for books is the only reason I can consistently spell words. 

Surprisingly enough, the world did not end. In the woods, I’d been busy learning how to light fires in pouring rain and shoot a gun and drive standard and stock up food so squirrels can’t get it, but had no idea digital cameras or Starbucks existed. 

When we emerged from the woods after 4 years in 2002, we were no longer Americans. But definitely not Canadians either. 

In 2006, I finally woke up to the fact that we literally did not exist in Canada (paperwork, shmaperwork am I right? #y2k #yolo) and that to survive here, I might actually need a real education. The SCHOOL BUILDINGS WITH TEACHERS IN THEM kind. 

August of 2006, I walked into the office of the local high school, and was like, “Hi, I’m an American-born homeschooler and I’d like to graduate. Please.”

Through a series of meetings with principals and guidance counselors, I successfully weaved a web of white lies and woe-is-me’s. 

I’m from the States, and my paperwork for living here hasn’t come through yet. But I’m working on it. Noooo I wasn’t. 

I’ve been homeschooled for awhile and I’m all caught up, I just want to complete my Dogwood diploma. I hadn’t officially opened a textbook in more than 5 years; who was I shitting?

Oh yeah, I can definitely pay for my courses if my paperwork hasn’t come through by the end of the year. Bahaha!

It worked. I became a registered student of the 2007 graduating class.

Granted, it was under the Adult Graduation program (for drop-outs, and lazy butts like me) so I wouldn’t be eligible for any bursaries or scholarships. But it only required 20 credits, and they treated me kinda like I was special anyway. Poor immigrant homeschooler. Let’s make sure she’s okay. 

I took part in a full 40-credit year, even though I didn’t have to. I was the only graduating student in the whole world that wanted to be there. I wasn’t burnt out; I was thirsty. I got excited about homework, I liked (almost) all of my teachers, I participated like I was dying. 

Of course, the first few weeks were like being pushed into the deep end of the pool after I’d just learned to doggie-paddle.

English 12. History 12. Math Essentials. Ooh, theatre. Ooh, choir. Computer basics. What the hell is Textiles? Why are there so many hallways? Why are the classes listed in alphabetized blocks? I have to remember a locker combination?

Oh thank God, a library.

My friends were really helpful too…at eating my lunch from the cafeteria. I know the movies make cafeteria food like prisoner’s chamber pots, but really, this school had a legit cook. Chicken caesar wraps, get in my belly.

Mom was a little worried. She knew our circumstances were precarious, but she wanted to see me succeed like a real self-starter, just like she’d been trying to teach me my whole life. Her fears of Y2K were still strong in the back of her mind, that only the timing of its occurrence had been false. Revealing our illegal status and doing the proper paperwork was not an option. She set aside some money for that end-of-the-year bill that would inevitably come.

Looking back, I can honestly say that that was the best year of my life. I know, I know, I’m married to an awesome guy and I’m legally allowed to be here now and life is pretty good. But that first taste of independence and hope and knowledge was so good. For the first time in my life, as I wrote essays and made people laugh in the theatre and sang my first solo to a standing ovation and walked the hallways with my friends who were so recently strangers…I felt like I was part of something. I belonged. My quirkiness and unique lifestyle wasn’t something to mocked. It was okay to dance with a boy at my prom. It was exhilarating to spend 12 hours on a Greyhound bus for a music festival in the next province. It was pride-inducing to have a Work Experience Course at the local newspaper, where I met even more people and discovered that I love to write. Without worry of the future or regret of the past, that year was completely and totally mine.

Before I knew it, actual graduation was upon me. My music teacher surprised me by asking if I’d not only like the open the ceremonies by singing the national anthem but to ALSO perform the Class of 2007’s graduation song – my choice.

My first thought was: I know exactly what song I’m going to sing and my second thought was: Well, crap, I guess I better learn the Canadian National Anthem.

It was a magical night. I donned that royal blue cap and gown, they called my name, I walked down the aisle of the hockey arena without tripping, I heard thousands of voices cheering for me, and I sang my heart out.

I still remember the words.

You can spend your whole life building something from nothing,
And one storm can come and blow it all away…build it anyway.

You can chase a dream that seems so out of reach,
And you know it might not ever come your way…dream it anyway.
God is great, but sometimes life ain’t good
And when I pray, it doesn’t always turn out like I think it should
But I do it anyway, I do it anyway.
You can pour your soul out singing a song you believe in
And tomorrow they’ll forget you ever sang…Sing it anyway.

I sing, I dream, I love anyway.

Another standing ovation.

The following week, I nearly choked when I saw the newspaper I’d been working for post a picture of me on the FRONT PAGE, while singing the Canadian National Anthem with MY HAND OVER MY HEART LIKE A FRICK-FRACKING AMERICAN. No one gave me the memo, okay?! Also, you don’t even know how many shenanigans I pulled to get to that day, so let me just be the only person in the entire f’ing arena to put my hand over my heart!

So I guess what I’m trying to say is…I did it. I pulled it off. I, with a very poor starting education, passed all of my grade 12 classes with nothing lower than a B. I graduated, and not only just, but with honours. I look at my Dogwood as a reminder anytime I need to remember that I am capable of accomplishing much with little.

But as much as I thought I pulled it off, that I kept my secret so well…someone knew.

I’ll never forget the day my mom came home from the school office that summer, completely flabbergasted.

“Carly…I went in to pay the bill for your schooling, and they told me it wasn’t necessary. Someone had already anonymously taken care of it…did you tell anyone?”

In shock, I stammered, “N-n-no! Are you sure it wasn’t the school?”

“Yes. They made it clear that you weren’t taken care of by the school, and that this person was to remain anonymous. I can’t believe it.”

I still can’t believe it either. In my joy and thirst and exuberation, I’d accumulated over $2000 of expenses for my graduation. To this day, I have no idea who paid for it. Whoever they are, they made me feel seen, believed in, supported, and they literally made it impossible for me to ever repay them.

If you’re THE ONE and you’re reading this, thank you from the bottom of my heart. You made my dreams come true.

  

Sorry Mate, The Beatles Lied

 

I can see you clutching your pearls at my blasphemy now. But I stand firm in this realization, and will proceed to tell you why. 

All you need is love. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Too bad it’s utter bullshit. 

There are a lot of head-scratching Beatles songs.  And some of those were brought to amazing cinematic life via a little movie called Across the Universe.

 But those boys really sucked the blunt when they wrote All You Need Is Love. 

There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done…

Yeah. 

Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung…

Okay, I can roll with that.

Nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be…

Mm-hmm. 

It’s easy…

LIES!

It isn’t easy. Life is NOT easy, and love is NOT all you need to navigate it successfully. 

  

And MONEY. 

Maybe I’m making things too complicated. Maybe I’m not being spiritual enough. But the last six months have been kind of the worst, and I’m tired of not admitting that. 

Before we made the 14 hour drive moving back to my hometown, life was pretty good. It wasn’t perfect – I mean, I would have liked a bathtub and a double sink to wash dishes in and a regular job, but hey #firstworldproblems. My husband had a great job laying floors with his dad, and I was finding enough work to get by. We always had enough. 

And then, things sorta crashed and burned. We lost our baby. I couldn’t take the city and its crowded loneliness anymore, so I persuaded Steve to leave the only home he’s known for mine. 

I got a job at Starbucks and lived in a friend’s basement while Steve packed up our bungalow and looked for places to live. That’s how little we planned our move. People said we were crazy, that we were running away from our problems, that we wouldn’t succeed. But we took a note from t-Swift about it, and shook those hay-hay-haters off. 

I was enjoying Starbucks immensely, and after 3 weeks of being separated, Steve and I moved into our new little home, complete with bathtub and double sink. And second bedroom. And closets, oh my.

 We were living the dream. We had plans; I would support us until Steve found work as a floor layer, we would pursue our music, we would heal from our wounds. 

It almost worked, too. 

Then a couple of weeks before Christmas, I unceremoniously lost my job. 

New Years rolled around, and we each made beautiful resolutions to start fresh, keep pounding the pavement for work, investing in our relationships with friends, family, each other. 

Less than a week later, Steve came down with the chicken pox. 

You heard me: my 36 year old husband caught the motherf’ing chicken pox. For 6 weeks. 

  

For 6 weeks, I waited hand and foot upon this man, 24/7. Getting him better was my job. With each day that passed, our money dwindled. And we became a tad…tetchy. 

Because, yes, we were in love. Yes, we had taken the leap of faith to make our dreams happen. Yes, we had enough to eat. We didn’t look broke. But the rent was due, and living 30 minutes out of town was burning fumes in our pockets. We hardly spoke or touched; when we did, we were ridged with tension. Dishes were tossed, doors were slammed. 

Had our haters been right?

One day, the landlord came over to plough our driveway, and I literally hid in the bathroom for 20 minutes so that he wouldn’t possibly be able to see that I was home instead of working. 

Every time I looked at our bank account, I saw the word homeless on our horizon. I embraced the panic and the shame of our failure. I doubted every decision we’d made. I blamed myself, because if I hadn’t been so weak, would we have made these decisions to begin with?

I began to reach out to people; I couldn’t help myself. It’s the most awkward thing in the world, sharing money problems. Being broke is relative, and how do you share your struggle without making your friends feel like you’re subtly asking for a handout? Which, you’re not, but you’re  at a totally vulnerable enough place where it wouldn’t even slightly rankle your pride to accept one?

People can say money is the root of all evil, that money doesn’t buy happiness, that it only corrupts. But it’s a lot easier to believe that when you have enough money. 

Through facebook and friends’ inquiries, I started picking up nannying jobs around town. Steve was getting stronger, and had become able to function on his own. 

And then, a miracle happened. 

We remembered our music. 

Because of our “down time”, we were able to start singing and playing instruments together again. People started asking us to play sets of 9 or 10 songs at art galleries and cafes around town. We might even play a big festival this summer. 

We are living the broke musician life, and while it’s not glamorous, it is fulfilling. 

Every single set, we include this particular song. It is our anthem. 

Because, while living an “all you need is love” kind of life would be nice, it’s not real. 

This? Most definitely, assuredly, and heartbreakingly is.

We made this video 2 years ago, just barely out of the marriage gate, having no idea some of the obstacles we would overcome. 

Carly & Steve: Living On A Prayer

Today, the snow is melting, the sun is shining, I’m a full-time nanny, and Steve has a brand new job starting tomorrow morning. (Send him a good thought, would you?)

Take my hand; we’ll make it, I swear. 

Without Compassion, We’re All Lost Babes #1000Speak

Today – February 20th, 2015 – is my due date.

As a birth doula, I know that due dates are not really a reliable standard of time. When I’m hired and given a due date, I consider myself on-call with my bag packed for the whole month surrounding it. Anything could happen.

But I’m here, I made it to February 20th in one piece.

I can just imagine it now, my precious little surprise greeting me and the rest of the world. Gracing us with their innocence and wisdom and poop and neediness. Seeing his or her eyes for the first time, as they realize that they’ve known me their whole life – they just didn’t know it until today.

I can just imagine it.

But only just.

Because today is my due date, and I am not pregnant.

**Trigger Warning**

I started bleeding 3 weeks after the tests had confirmed that we were going to be parents, 1 week after we told all of our friends and family.

To lose a baby is very common, I know, as if that eases anything.
Not as common, however, is the way in which we lost our baby.

It wasn’t really a baby to begin with. Hold on, hackles, technically it’s true. My body experienced a “blighted ovum”, which means that the egg and sperm never fully met up properly, although it traveled into my uterus and convinced my hormones that things were clicking along quite nicely. I felt everything a woman feels in the first trimester, all the while an empty sac of tissue was floating around inside of me like a lava lamp, without a care in the world.

My body was so convinced it was pregnant that it would not miscarry. My traitorous, confused body would keep changing and growing unless it was convinced otherwise. And chances were, if I let it continue, I might not be able to get pregnant in the future.

I was forced to choose between a surgery and a drug called Misoprostol. I’ll never forget the doctor who gave us this choice. She was a smaller, older woman – I figure she’s been a doctor for a long time, probably been the bearer of bad news for countless people.
Yet, she had tears in her eyes as she hugged us and tucked the envelope of pills into my hand that she’d smuggled out of the lab because she knew we couldn’t pay for them.

Nothing like the doctor who confirmed my pregnancy at the beginning, whose clipboard-scanning first words were, “And do you want to keep it?”

Compassion.

I chose the drug out of fear and familiarity: I have never had surgery before, and I know how to take pills.

Within half an hour of swallowing them, I vomited them and my sandwich into a bucket in the living room.

I grimaced when I realized the only other option left to me. I took the 4 remaining pills out of the envelope and awkwardly pushed each one inside my cervix, hoping that they wouldn’t get lost somewhere. (I never took Biology, and vaginas are so mysterious.)

Steve held my other hand and kept his red-veined eyes on my face the entire time.

Compassion.

How ironic, I thought, that the way this “pregnancy” started is similar to how it will end.

I didn’t know if or when the pills would start to take affect, so I put a pad on, and we cuddled on the couch watching TV, petting the cat. Anything to ward off the thoughts of Death and the Unknown that were facing us.

We went to bed, and I felt okay. Maybe I’d done it wrong.

Hours later, I was awakened by the greatest pain I’ve ever felt in my entire life. My whole body shook as I made a hunching crawl down the stairs to our bathroom. I felt like an atom that was about to split in half; I had no control.

For the next hour, the bathroom was my home. I kicked Steve out; I wanted to be alone. I didn’t want him to see how I was being melted down in an offering to a cruel god that was only appeased by blood, sweat, tears, shit and vomit.

In a haze, I remembered the other pills. The Tylenol-3’s. I reached out for them like a life raft, barely taking a moment to read the instructions. An eternity of 20 minutes passed, and finally I felt a tinge of sweet relief. I was able to gather the strength to take some toilet paper and reach down between my legs.

The pink tissue of my not-baby had to be collected and taken to the hospital for analysis. Something cold and hard and clinical came over me, and I stopped crying as I stared at the mass that had been propelled from me so violently.

Do what has to be done. And try not to be a crybaby about it, would you, please?

I put the pieces of myself into a pad and a ziploc bag. Took a shower. Stared at my face in the mirror. There was nothing in my eyes. I had just ended my very wanted pregnancy. Shouldn’t I be falling apart?

Compassion.

We’d been assured that the whole “process” would take 24 hours or less. My body continued to shake, rattle, roll and bleed out for 3 weeks.

After going to the same doctor in desperation, she welcomed and treated us even though we weren’t technically her patients. After using a clamp the size of bigger-than-my-pelvis (Steve faithfully holding my hand without even a swoon), she found the source of the problem: the sac had gotten stuck, of all things, inside my cervix – causing my uterus to contract and bleed nonstop in attempts to get it out.

I wish I had chosen the surgery.

I hated my body. I grit curses in my teeth against it daily; first ya can’t hold onto a pregnancy, and now ya can’t get rid of it? Friendship over.

Tylenol Codeine was never not in my system. When I ran out of pills, I tried not to buy more. The following 3 days of fever, aches, shakes and self-loathing persuaded me that maybe I SHOULDN’T buy more.

In the midst of all this, Laurie Works dropped everything in her life to come be with us for a weekend. Work, new boyfriend, long flights – didn’t matter. It was time for poutine, Parks & Recreation, laughing and crying about the shittyness of it all.

Compassion.

When we fell into each other’s arms at the airport, we didn’t let go for a solid 60 seconds. When we came up for air, there was a man and a woman standing near us with their hands raised and fingers spread.

“That’s a 10! 10 out of 10 greeting right there.”

It made me think of that end scene of Love Actually. Airport Arrivals truly are one of humanity’s finer ideas.

What a beautiful weekend. There was no pressure on me to do anything, and the one thing I really wanted to do was have a funeral at the beach.

So we did. We found the perfect balloon, tied some love notes to it, and then waded out into the water to let it go.

I watched and watched and watched that balloon sail away until I could watch no more. Sometimes I feel like I’m still watching, still waiting – but for what, I don’t know.

Compassion.

After Laurie returned home, my life became a series of goodbyes.

Monday: deleting the pregnancy apps and resetting the Period Tracker app on my phone.
Tuesday: calling the the local midwifery clinic and letting them know I would no longer be needing their services.
Wednesday: packing the maternity clothes and newborn onesies away.
Thursday-Sunday: getting lost in Netflix and my bed, trying to forgive ignorant people who said, “Well, you’re young, you can always try again!”

Steve could no longer take any more time off work. His first day back, he came home, laid down on the living room rug and cried into the fibers. I laid next to him, all out of tears for the day. I whispered to him that I’d gotten the call from Starbucks in Smithers; our prayers had been answered, I’d gotten hired, and it was time to move back to my hometown.

And now here we are. Not exactly the way we thought we’d be, but we’re still here. I am so grateful.

Next week, I’m getting a tattoo that commemorates our loss. As always, he’ll be there, holding my hand and watching.

Next month, I’m going to start donating my time and food once a week to a program called Meals For Moms. It will help me to know that I’m helping feed exhausted families with new babies, and in turn, helping those new babies.

Being the village.

A Help Boomerang.

Amen.

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I Don’t Follow Jesus

He’s not a Facebook page or a 140-character hashtag or a “like this photo to give this child a cup of clean water.”

I don’t follow Him – not like that.

We’re not far removed from the people of his day – but instead of wanting dominance over the Romans, maybe we want the biggest church building and those uncomfortable sinners “fixed.”

Instead of a flashy miracle show, maybe we want the best parking spot and a short line-up at the coffee shop.

(Okay, admit it, maybe we slightly want flash and dominance as well.)

They were wrong then, and we are wrong now.

But across these generations, we’ve claimed that, yes, we are Jesus Followers.

What do I do when I’m following someone?

I look where they’re going.

I turn left when they go left, I turn right when they go right, I go in a damn figure 8 just for giggles sometimes, if they want me to.

He’s always said, “Follow me.”

Not “Say the Sinner’s Prayer.”

Follow me.

Where is he going?

I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s not about directions in a military style, but a way of life.

He is not a cause, a banner to be waved across battle fields, a dictator’s propaganda conquering the empire of Right (Wing) and Wrong (Wing) on the backs of his people from the comfort of his throne. He is a warrior, yes – not safe, but good. Like that Narnian lion.

He’s not a slick hair/suit/man, asking for your money. He doesn’t need money, or suits for the matter; he’s got the moon and stars.

He is Shackle-Breaker – for that alcoholic heart AND that sex slave sold over the Internet.

He is Daily Bread for the poor in the streets AND in the mansions, Justice for the mud-trodden foreigners.

He is Forgiveness and Grace extended for the 491st time and beyond.

He’s in the bars and brothels and bus stops – in East Hastings and West Africa.

A warm bed enveloping you after a long, hard day.

The orphanages full of those who believe they are unwanted.

A song you heard on the radio.

A sun-rayed backyard full of sprinklers and laughing children.

The tears in your eyes when a loved one receives bad news and all you can do is hold them wordlessly.

A peaceful protest that holds a watching world accountable for its actions.

He is King, He is Servant, He is Creator, He is Spirit, He is All, He is Friend Who Never Leaves.

Even when you’ve been a liar, afraid, depressed, filled with loss and anger, apathetic, insensitive, short-tempered, joyless, and hardened – he’ll take off your shoes and wash your feet.

THAT’S where He is going.

And thank GOD, that is where I want to go too.

One day, everything will be made right and true and good again. Maybe, if we follow Him to all of those places and start washing those impressively dirty feet, that day can get a head start.

That’s where I’m going.

You can come too, if you want.