Author: melanie

Last day of school, first day of vacation

Tomorrow we are off on our month long Ireland adventure. Not sure if I will get a chance to blog about it. Part of me wants to and part of me wants to just disconnect as much as possible. It’s been a hard week with so many celebrity suicides and non-celebrity suicides and I have felt like social media is the wrong place to be when you are feeling sad and sensitive. I feel like everyone in our house is a bit of a mess these days. It’s time to go sit on a beach or a cliff (but not too close!) and reconnect with my little girls and my mister for a while. I won’t be able to resist taking loads of photos though so I’m sure many will find their way to Instagram.

 

The nice thing about pulling the girls out of school early for vacation is that we get to come home and spend most of the summer in our city which is really the best time to be in the city. I’m looking forward to getting away but I’m also looking forward to having a month home before I have to go for surgery. I’m going to try not to think about surgery or cancer while I’m away. (At least as much as my body will allow me to not think about surgery or cancer.)

 

See you all soon.

Thirteen Days

In thirteen days the five of us will be getting on a plane to spend a month in Ireland. But in between today and the 13th of June I feel like we have eleventy billion things to get done. This weekend alone is nuts with the Writer’s Guild of Alberta conference, a birthday party for the girls to attend, a night out of town in the mountains with the Mister’s company, and a quick drive back to the city the next morning because Oonagh has her first violin recital on Sunday afternoon. Maybe this level of activity is normal for a lot of families but it really isn’t for us. A typical weekend for us consists of having zero plans – or maybe one thing planned – and just seeing what happens.

 

Also this is the extent of our luggage for the five of us:

Plus small backpacks for the girls to bring their stuff on the plane for the almost 24 hour journey.

We are all getting really excited. (Oonagh keeps asking if she can pack and, “can’t we just leave right now?”) However, waiting to travel is an exercise in living in an odd sort of limbo. The first time we took off on a long road trip we made the decision and left the next week. Last year’s trip was similar. But this year we are traveling to a different country which requires a lot more planning – and a lot less stuff.

I’m excited to be traveling so lightly and to show the girls just how little stuff we really need to live. (There will be zero f**king Shopkins traveling with us.) But in the mean time I’m trying to make sure we pack all the right stuff and continue to enjoy our life and not just be waiting to leave. I don’t want the girls to miss out on the day to day joys of the end of their school year or all the good things June has to offer in our city. (We really need to plan better and leave town when it is -30 out, not when things are just getting hot.)

I also have: a sweater to finish knitting, a new piano teacher to interview (because we try and have our activities as close to the house as possible), a child with strep throat to keep an eye on so that it is gone before we leave. There is the meeting with the breast surgeon to try and get my surgery nailed down for the latter part of the summer, and other various medical tests.

Plus there is the writing conference starting today which had me stress eating Mexican Chili chips in the kitchen at 8:30 this morning before I realized what I was doing. Today I’m going to a memoir writing workshop with the amazing Sharon Butala even though I don’t think I have the right kind of memory to ever write a memoir. Tomorrow I’m going to a workshop with author/blogger Shawna Lemay from Transactions With Beauty. This year I promised myself I would get out of my comfort zone where writing is concerned and, honestly, I don’t think I have been doing a great job at that. But it is a process, not a destination, right? Much like writing.

And Mexican Chili chips are delicious, even at 8:30 in the morning.

 

My first newsletter will be coming out this Monday. It includes a recipe for super easy & healthy cookies – which are basically like oatmeal in cookie form. I don’t really believe cookies need to be healthy but when you are supposed to avoid sugar AND want a cookie you need to do something, right? If you want the recipe you should sign up for the newsletter.

 

 

The last time I ate a meatball sub. To be filed under: I can’t believe we are still dealing with this shit

Next Friday the people of Ireland are voting whether or not say Yes or No on the 8th Amendment of the Irish Constitution which gives the unborn child equal right to life as the mother (as adopted in 1983). That’s putting it in very simple tones. Abortion has been criminalized in Ireland since 1861 and what the 8th Amendment really does is give the unborn child more rights than the mother. The only way a woman is allowed to have an abortion is if she is going to die from having the child and even that isn’t always taken into consideration.

From The Conversation.com:

Instead of stopping abortion, what the 8th actually prevents is doctors intervening to protect the health of their patients if that would jeopardise foetal life. It prevents elected and accountable politicians from making laws to respond to real-life need. It says that as long as a woman is still alive when her child is born the state has done its duty to her and, more importantly, to her child.

There are so many fantastic articles out there right now about it and here are a few:

This one has a great video explaining the whole thing way better than I can

Here are the 170,216 reasons to Repeal the 8th amendment on Friday, May 25

I’m not Irish and I can’t vote but I’ve been following along very closely because it seems unbelievable to me that this is still a freaking issue.

So here is my story:

Oonagh was a planned c-section because I had already had two c-sections in the last four years and the risks were too great. But I went into labour early and while I was lying on the operating table the Obstetrician called everyone over to see how my uterus was being held together by a thin piece of skin that “looks like stretched Saran Wrap.”

“Another 20 minutes and both mom and baby would have died, good thing we got her on the table.”

It turned a happy moment into something traumatizing.

Then the Obstetrician asked if I was planning on having my tubes tied. Since we had already decided that this would be our last baby I said that I was.

“Good.” She replied. “I’m taking out extra because you can never, ever do this again.”

I was later told that should I get pregnant (the chance was small but still a possibility) I would not be allowed to carry that baby to term.

And you know what, the thought still makes me really sad. Not because I have an overwhelming desire for another baby but because I just love my husband so much and my daughters so much and, lets face it, we are really good at this whole baby making thing. But my option was abort or carry to term and most likely leave my family without a wife or mother.

Imagine right? Oh wait, I can easily imagine because two years later I was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

You know who else usually shouldn’t have babies? Terminal cancer patients. An attempt to do so would most likely leave my family without a wife or mother.

Sensing a theme here?

Women in Ireland have been denied abortions even if they are terminally ill. They are denied medical treatment if there is a chance that treatment will harm their baby because doctors hands are tied due to legalities and both doctor and mother can face up to 14 years imprisonment.

 

But here is a different story.

When I was 19 and ridiculously in love with my then-boyfriend we got really drunk one night at a Christmas party after being apart for months. The next morning was a hungover, panicky did we or didn’t we debate (most likely did). We went to a walk-in clinic and got the morning after pill and then went to Subway and got a meatball sub that I ate half of and puked up. I don’t know what the morning after pill is like these days (this was over 20 years ago) but back then it was kind of like taking a whole bunch of birth control at once. The doctor told us that I most likely wasn’t pregnant even if we did because of the time in my cycle but he gave me the choice to do what I felt comfortable with. The pills made me sick and my boyfriend slept in my parents basement that night because he was worried about me but to be honest I have thought more about that disgusting meatball sub over the years than I have about this incident. We dated for six years after that and were always super cautious and never had a scare again. Now we have children with other people and great lives and once in a while we will email each other about kids books (mostly Harry Potter). All because I had a choice.

The woman in both of these stories deserves equal rights to a choice no matter what the reason.

So why is this bothering me so much since I don’t even live in Ireland? Well, what I do live in is a fairly conservative province with a known anti-abortion activist who is the leader of the United Conservative Party and wants to be our next Premier. There are also people who leave anti-abortion propaganda in my mailbox as they troll the neighbourhood. The mailbox that my children excitedly check daily. My front lawn looks like I run a daycare so if these people really cared about children they would not leave their hate literature in the mailbox of a home that is over run with children.

Also, these pamphleteers are usually older women – why? Why you gotta love God more than your own sex ladies? But maybe that is a different conversation.

If you believe that women should have autonomy over their bodies then any reason for an abortion does not matter and is none of your business. It certainly isn’t my business and it really really isn’t the Church’s or politicians business. And let’s be honest, it really isn’t men’s business either. At what point in history has a group of women ever sat around making decisions about men’s reproductive rights?

So I care what is happening in Ireland because I care about what is happening to women all over the world. A Yes vote doesn’t just effect women in Ireland – it effects women every where because every time a woman is given more power over her own body the scales balance out just a little more for all women.

 

 

Reading With My Daughters: Sophie’s Masterpiece

 

Sophie’s Masterpiece by Eileen Spinelli, Illustrated by Jane Dyer.

I bought this book years ago as a discard from our local public library. Moira was most likely a baby at the time I bought it but I will confess to buying picture books before I even considered having children so I may have had it for even longer than I have had children. Oonagh pulled it out again the other day and, even though I have probably read this book hundreds of times, it still makes me weepy at the end.

 

The story is about a talented spider who just wants to spin beautiful things but because she is a spider her work isn’t always appreciated. Sophie lives in a boarding house and one day discovers a young woman who is going to have a baby (alone!). After being kicked from one room to another Sophie is too old and tired to move but the young woman doesn’t freak out and leaves Sophie alone (which is what we do in our house when we see spiders for the eight months of winter we live through each year – the other four months we take them outside). The young woman is too poor to be able to afford a blanket and so Sophie weaves one for her.

 

Sometimes the girls laugh at me when I get weepy because Sophie gives her life for that blanket, and sometimes they are getting teary right beside me. It’s a beautiful story and the soft illustrations by Jane Dyer (who illustrated that staple of children’s home libraries: Time For Bed) are pretty much perfect. Even Moira still enjoys it when I read this book aloud and I’ve been reading this book aloud now for 10 years – and sometimes I find her reading it to herself. That’s the sign of a great book.

(Also I’m so grateful that the girls still want me to read to them I thought I would do a whole series on the books we read.)

Mothers

I thought about writing a Mother’s Day post this year and all the things I could say and then I went on the internet and kept getting told that not everyone is happy about Mother’s Day and to please think of all the women who would like to be mothers but can’t be, or the women who have lost their mothers, or the women who have chosen not to be mothers and to not make them feel bad about their choices. And it isn’t like I don’t think about about those women all the time (I can’t even watch movies that involve women who are unable to have children because my heart cracks into pieces and I ugly cry) and am so grateful that I do get to be a mother and the whole thing was overwhelming and my family was grumpy and I felt like I was supposed to be happy about being a mother but not too happy so I just didn’t write about it.

But I did call my mom whom I love so much and then I spent time thinking about how grateful I am to still be here for another Mother’s Day and wondered how many more I will get. So even though my day consisted of three loads of laundry and I made my own breakfast and cooked dinner (because I wanted to and it was awesome), it was pretty much just another day but with homemade presents from school that I will treasure forever and a weird sense of not knowing how I am supposed to feel about everything. Like, we are constantly being told we are supposed to celebrate ourselves these days but also not celebrate the things that make us different if the things that make us different are going to offend other people and the internet is the worst when you are a non-confrontational peacemaker with a guilt complex for being white, well off, and middle class.

Last night my friend Jocelyn took me to see David Sedaris and I kept thinking about how much I couldn’t wait to go home and tell my mom this joke or tell my mom that joke – and especially tell my mom the fisting joke or the one about having sex with Jesus because I know she will appreciate it and how awesome is it that that is the kind of mom I have?

Whenever I think about how my life is turning out I keep telling myself that I least I have my daughters for how ever long I get to be with them. I try not to think about what Mother’s Day will be like for them in the future. I hope it isn’t a day they hate or avoid. Maybe they will get together and get drunk and listen to Hamilton really loud and remember their mom who loved them sooooooo much and then Fionnuala will tell totally inappropriate jokes about fisting and Moira will act horrified but still be laughing so hard her drink will come out her nose and they will all agree that “mom would have loved that one.”

 

The chaos of a few short years ago.

 

Housekeeping: Some people have asked me to set up an email subscription for this site to be notified when new posts are up. Well, I finally did it! So if you look to the right —-> you will see a Subscribe button. I will probably send out updates in a newsletter format once every couple weeks unless my writing goes back to being really sporadic then I will send them out whenever a new post appears. I’ll include things in my newsletters too that won’t be on the blog – like links to recent articles I am loving, recipes (since I don’t really want them on the blog), dirty jokes, or discounts and special deals on… NOTHING (ha!) because I have nothing to sell. Except myself I guess.

What else is there?

Currently we are reading Catch-22 for book club. I think our book club is currently being called People Who Actually Read the Book club but I haven’t been following along with the discussion. In my head I call it Mensa Book Club Drop Outs & Their Spouses (I’m the spouse, not the Mensa person in case there was any doubt) but either way I’m not sure I’m going to be finishing Catch-22 this time around which I feel rather bad about since it was my pick.

 

I’ve slowed down my reading a whole lot lately. I came across this bit this morning and didn’t want to continue until I had ruminated on it for a while. In this chapter Dunbar is talking about how much he loves skeet shooting because it is so boring and makes time pass slowly – to him the slower time passes the longer your life. Dunbar and Clevinger bicker about it for a while (there is a lot of bickering in this book) and then Clevinger concedes:

“Maybe a long life does have to be filled with many unpleasant conditions if it’s to seem long. But in that event, who wants one?”

And as you can see from the photo above Dunbar wants one – as do most of the men in this story because it is set during WWII and all they want is to get out of the war and go home. I think most people facing death would trade it for a long life no matter how boring.

Which comes to the thought that has been circulating in my mind lately: what the hell am I doing with my life these days?

When I was first diagnosed I didn’t want anything to do with thinking about death (or reading about death) but now it seems like it is constantly on my mind (and a lot of my reading is focused on people talking about death). Not in the sense that I am thinking about my death all the time but I am thinking about this culture of living grief that seems to be surrounding us as medical science is able to hand you a terminal diagnosis these days and then keep you alive for an indefinite amount of time.

I remember in high school when we had to put our beloved Dalmatian, Belle, down. My dad was away on a business trip and we were waiting for him to come home so we could do it. At the time I likened it to living with a criminal on death row because we were just in the odd period of limbo while we waited for her death. Every day she was with us but not. Then one day I got off the bus and I knew, I just knew that she was gone. I told myself “if the car is parked the driveway then Mum took her to the vet today.” And so I started running and sure enough, there was the car in the driveway (Mum should have been at work) and when I went in the house Mum just said sadly, “I just couldn’t’ wait anymore” and I understood, I really did. I wasn’t mad, we had been saying goodbye to Belle daily for weeks. I was just sad – we all were (Dad was relieved that he didn’t have to be a part of it, old softy that he is, he hated that dog for years but would never have been able to watch her go) – but at least we didn’t have to watch her deteriorate anymore.

Sometimes I feel like that criminal on death row.

For the past couple months I have been thinking about starting a podcast where I would talk to other people who are also living with a terminal disease. But then my friend Jocelyn told me about how much her friends who have started podcasts ended up hating them because of all the work and now I’m not sure that is the direction I want to go in. I still want to interview people who are facing death – and not just women with Stage IV breast cancer either – but writing has always been my medium of choice and that is probably the direction I will take. I miss interviewing people and writing articles. I miss writing and having purpose but I’m trying to slow down and figure out a good balance. To not worry when I don’t finish a book. To not beat myself up when I am not feeling well enough to go to yoga. To sit down and focus on one task at a time.

Our trip to Ireland is coming up and so there is a lot of little things to get ready for that as well. I’m also attempting to knit a sweater for the first time and trying to get it done to take with me. (And nowhere does my perfectionist nature shine through than when I am knitting because I have cast-on this sweater eleventy billion times and switched yarn so I can get it just right.) Plus I was hoping to finish a story to submit to a contest before we leave.

Slow fashion.

Slow reading.

Slow writing.

Long life?

 

Let’s hope so.

Thoughts on this past Fashion Revolution week

Credit goes to Sarah Lazarovic who very kindly allows you to download this from her website and print it off yourself.

Even before I knew it was Fashion Revolution week I had been trying to have discussions with my oldest daughters about smart shopping. Like, maybe we don’t need a half dozen shirts with unicorns on them from Justice (that are already falling apart before they get home) just because you love unicorns? But if I am feeling overwhelmed by it all I can only imagine how they must be feeling when the only time I talk about it is when I finally loose my s**t about the amount of stuff in our house (which is pretty much daily).

So I’m trying to be smarter about it all. I’m trying to figure out ways to have more open conversations about what mass consumerism is doing to our planet but in order to do that I need to be more educated about it myself. Currently I am waiting for the documentary The True Cost to come in from the library. I’m hoping it comes in this week so we can continue our discussion about fashion which, of course, will continue into a discussion about where all of our stuff comes from.

Fashion Revolution week this year (April 23-29) marked the fifth anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster that killed 1,134 people, and not much has really been done about working conditions. Did you know there are approximately 7,000 factories in Bangladesh? I read in a news article that 3,000 of those factories are endangering the lives of their low-paid garment workers. I think this is something even children need to know about. Maybe not enough to give them nightmares, but enough so that they know there is another person making their clothing and that we have more sustainable options.

I’m hoping that this week the girls and I will also make some skirts for the summer. They each picked out a fabric from my stash that has been lingering unused for years. I’m hoping that if they have a hand in making something themselves it will mean more to them and they will see how much effort is put into making clothes.

Fashion Revolution week also started the day after Earth Day and the girls had all kinds of Earth Day events they participated in at school. One day was “no garbage lunch day” where they weren’t supposed to bring a lunch where there was no packaging to throw out. Another day was “no plastic” day – which I found rather difficult since I was trying to send them to school without disposable items. Since then, however, I have been trying to stay on top of making snacks they can bring to school that aren’t packaged. I find the packaged snacks that are also vegan pretty limiting because a lot of them contain nuts and they can’t take nuts to school. So I’ve been making a lot of muffins and putting them in plastic reusable containers. It’s all so very overwhelming but I’m really trying.

Every day is Earth Day except it really isn’t for most of us

Oh my goodness my home is overwhelming me these days. It doesn’t help that every one has been sick and we keep getting sick (currently Oonagh and I are sniffling and blowing and coughing away). And you know how it is, when momma is sick nothing EVER gets picked up off the floor. (WHY?)

Here is the real truth: we have too much stuff. You too probably have too much stuff but I can’t deal with your stuff when I can’t even deal with my stuff. Last night I set some intentions for the week which is something I really like the idea of but usually just wake up Monday mornings in a new state of overwhelm and spend too much time on my phone and drinking tea.

BUT NOT THIS WEEK!

This week I’m going to try and get over this oppressive (not cancer) illness and do things. Now that Spring is finally here I feel the pull to get some Spring purging done and I’m starting with the girls rooms because they are pack rats and have so much stuff. We are trying to teach them that eleventy billion Shopkins are not going to make them happy but they seem to think we are oppressing them with our anti-consumerist views. There is so much talk in the news these days about plastic and fast fashion (that is a whole blog post in itself) and the multitude of ways that we are destroying our planet but the ever present message is buy more buy more buy more. And the girls are obsessed with tiny plastic things. So in school and in the news they learn that the oil industry is evil (even though it pays the bills in this house and there is no cleaner, conscientious oil industry than the Canadian oil industry – but that is also a whole other conversation) and that every time mommy starts the car a polar bear dies (I was actually told this by one of them a number of years ago) but that owning 20 Beanie Boos shipped over from China is OKAY.

Except yesterday afternoon Oonagh spent hours outside running bare foot in her pyjamas and was so ridiculously happy that she didn’t once fight with anyone nor play with any toys and then went to bed happy and exhausted because SPRING IS HERE!

So far today I have cleaned up half of Fionnuala’s desk and I have one hour before the girls come home for lunch to take out the garbage and recycling so they don’t see all that I am throwing out. Does anyone else do this? Some people say that you should let children make their own decisions about what they are going to keep but every single piece of paper cannot be a treasure. Nor can every single cheap Valentine’s card from the past three years.

I’ll keep you updated on how things go this week. One of my other intentions is to just sit down and write for thirty minutes whether it is good writing or not. I gotta get out of this sick funk somehow.

In mourning or Pity Party, Table for One

I’m a mess guys.

February was spent exercising which was great except that when I am fully dedicated to exercising I seem to be unable to do anything else. Like write. Or blog. Or function as a person with more than one interest.

And then everyone got sick and it all got shot to hell. And then I got sick and now I am on week three of recovery and I still have a nose full of cold sores but at least my voice is back.

But I can’t seem to get motivated to do anything these days. I feel like I wander around doing nothing from the moment my girls leave the house until they come back for lunch – and then again in the afternoon. At least while I was exercising I got that done before wandering around the house doing nothing for the rest of the day.

I’ve tried to start meditating again and today I started a 7 Day meditation dedicated to anxiety and I couldn’t tell you a single word of it as soon as it ended.

My plans for going outside every day this year were abandoned early in the year because – let’s be honest – I hate the cold. It may be the 6th of April but my girls had to have indoor recess today. Do you know what the criteria is for indoor recess? -20 degrees celsius! MINUS TWENTY.

Mostly I just want to sit around and read crap, eat crap, and cry.

I have come to the realization that I am in mourning. Mourning for my breasts which I still have but probably won’t by the end of the summer (definitely not having them removed before going to Ireland). My emotions for this oscillate between being happy that I never have to wear a bra again and terror over surgery and what having a mastectomy means in terms of recovery. Also, I’m not looking forward to having hideous scars even if I can wear sun dresses bra-less for the first time in 20 years. As a 40-plus woman who is on the other side of child bearing (the downward slope of child bearing, because everything is now sloping downwards) it is hard enough to like my body without all the shit that comes with cancer treatment (like the painful face rash I was sporting for a month).

I try not to think about the – possible – upcoming mastectomy, except I have this large tumour in my boob that I can feel at all times reminding me constantly that there is a war going on in my body. Oh, you want to sleep do you? Sorry, we are just going to shoot sharp pains into your burning breast all night.

So yeah, I’m a mess and have been hiding away because I hate being all wah-wah-woe-is-me.

How are you guys doing? (And I mean that sincerely, I want to know how everyone is doing – good and bad. Don’t feel you can’t mention good things or bad things just because I’ve been throwing myself a month-long pity party.)

 

Saying goodbye to people and photos

I was in Ottawa last week from Wednesday to Sunday for a funeral and a quick mini-family reunion. My sister is the family historian and since she has recently moved to Ottawa she has been searching out all the spots where my mom’s family is from. Both the Cassidy and Corkery sides of the family (mom’s father and mother respectively) were from the Ottawa area – both sides going back to the 1820s I believe. Other than our small 5-person unit growing up I didn’t have any family around. Sometimes my mom’s brother Bernie (one of four brothers she had) would come and visit. He was also my godfather and a truly funny and fun guy. It was his funeral for which I made the trek out east.

Uncle Bunny, as I called him, was a salesman for Catelli pasta and Habitant soup. Habitant pea soup was probably my favourite meal as a kid (but not the kind with pork chunks because even back then that grossed me out). Bunny gave me my first camera. I ruminated on this on Instagram the other day. I hadn’t seen Uncle Bunny in years so I don’t think I ever told him how much that camera meant to me. How much I loved it when I was younger and how much I still love taking photos. My life started to be well documented from fifth grade onwards. I have piles of photos of houses from vacations, piles of photos of ducks from when I thought it would be really cool to have a pet duck when I was little. I also took many photos of the first love of my life.

Dumb Belle the beautiful.

One of my main goals for this year is to organize my photos (seriously – in the top 3 because they are hanging over my head like my own personal Sword of Damocles). When I was young I had no problem keeping them organized. People could only afford to print so many and I was a kid and had nothing better to do than stick them in photo albums with a nice highlighter designed cover page. I could often be seen with my camera in hand doing what I needed to do to catch the photo I wanted.

A very attractive photo of 16-year old me lying on the ground to get a photo of  flower gardens while on a choir tour in Aberdeen Scotland. Photo taken by a good friend who thought I was crazy but stuck around anyway and married me 12 years later – so who’s the crazy one?

As printing got cheaper the amount of photos I had to deal with got bigger and bigger and then things went digital and now I have thousands of photos that haven’t been organized, or (and this is the big one) printed. My mother used to complain that I never to photos of people but I guess I just needed to create my own people to overcome that obstacle. I plan on getting my shit together this year in regards to photos because I just don’t want to leave them for someone else to deal with when I am gone. I know that sounds rather defeatist but I don’t mean it that way. I just want to be organized for when the cancer decides to take a final stand. Dumbledore did say: “After all, to the well-organized mind death is but the next great adventure.”

Yeah, my mind is really not organized so I’m not ready for that step.

Taking photos is still fun and I love posting them online and being able to capture memories that way – but things on the internet have a tendency to get lost in the ether. At this point I’m starting with the photos I don’t want to organize. The other day I threw out a big stack of photos from my trip to Burning Man in 2001 because while I thought they were amazing and artistic at the time now they don’t really mean anything. And I can only remember the name of two of the people I went with anyway. These photos are going to mean nothing to the people I am leaving behind and I don’t want to burden them with them. (Also, some of them are not child-appropriate. It was Burning Man after all.)

Artistic shot of a stop light on the Playa as opposed to a not-so-artistic shot of mummy wearing more makeup than clothes. I will keep those photos though – my daughters will need to see that I had a life once before them.