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One Decade of Marriage

Dear Sean,

It’s hard to believe that it has been ten whole years since the day we pledged ourselves to each other as husband and wife. A decade sounds long, but feels short these days.

On the other hand, ten years is short, in a way, since our story began long before that.

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It has been almost twenty-four years since we shared a Grade 9 Enhanced Math class, in which you were gregarious and funny and cocky, and I was quiet and cerebral and nerdy, and you volunteered to run our Christmas gift drive, and I noticed when you were writing on the blackboard that you had a cute butt.

It has been twenty-two years, give or take, since we spent enough time in our mutual group of friends for me to know that, in addition to your class-clown side, you also had a quiet, cerebral, nerdy side, and a philosophical, argumentative side. It was a mysterious and interesting combination.

It has been nineteen years since the high-school graduation breakfast where you made everyone at our very long restaurant table laugh so hard we practically choked on our pancakes.

It has been close to fifteen years since we both prepared to leave our hometown on long-term journeys, and you suggested unexpectedly that we should write letters to each other – letters that would become highlights of my challenging, exciting, homesick, turbulent, emotional, unforgettable European odyssey.

It has been thirteen-and-a-half years since the Christmas when you thought you’d lost your chance, and wrote me a story to win me over – not realizing I was already yours.

It has been twelve years since we euphorically painted the walls of our first shared apartment in our new city, so broke we could only afford to rent kids’ movies at the video store a block away.

It has been almost eleven years since the Tuesday night in October when you proposed to me, in our bedroom, with me in pjs and my hair a mess – partly to cheer me up after a bad day, and partly because you simply couldn’t wait for the weekend and the official proposal plan. I was struck speechless by the beautiful ring you had chosen. (To this day, you can’t sit on a secret gift very long.)

On that beautiful wedding day ten years ago, I promised that for the rest of our lives, I would laugh with you, play with you, challenge you and protect you; that I would not hide from you, but would confide in you and be true to both of us; that I would be your comfort, your friend, your lover, and your partner in times of joy and of pain; and that above all, I would love you. And of course, you promised the same to me.

We’ve done, and still do, all of those things. In these ten years, we’ve had the joy and the pain. We’ve both changed workplaces more than once. We bought our first house. We conceived four children, birthed three, and were blessed to keep two.

We have struggled with work and stress, sleep and health, time and money, and finding those often-delicate lines of communication between openness and injury. We have been stretched by the delights and demands of parenting our dazzling, frustrating, wonderful kids.

Despite three very close calls that almost ended our relationship in the first two years, and many experiences to test us since then… I’ve never doubted the strength of our promises. We are a great team, and I feel so lucky to know it.

I love parenting with you, knowing we have each other’s backs, and knowing that if I’m not at my best on a particular day, you will summon your extra patience and balance things out.

I love that we laugh at the same things and enjoy the same forms of entertainment, especially the games we geek out on (Settlers, Yahtzee, Cribbage, Gin, all forms of Trivia…).

I love that we can have a difficult argument but still manage to listen to each other; that we can make our way through thorny topics, and still hug at the end – and mean it.

I love that I’ve lost count of the number of times you’ve rescued me, in both big and small ways, and always without complaint.

I love it when I make you laugh unexpectedly, and you hug me and say, “I knew I married you for a reason!”

And I love the moments when the reasons I married you are so clear, too. When we’re snuggling – still one of my favourite activities in the world – and we get the giggles, and then the kids pile on top, and there’s tickling and limbs in faces, and it’s the best.

When you’re telling me about something you’ve been learning about, and your curiosity and passion remind me of the importance of wonder in life.

When I’m fretting for some reason, and you make the kind of frank-but-insightful comment that cuts through my overthinking, and brings the issue down to its essence.

When our children do something cute or astonishing or both, and we look at each other incredulously: how did we ever make those??

When we suddenly find ourselves in a moment too steamy to blog about.

When you know the answer to that question I’ve been wondering about, or know how to fix that thing that’s not working right.

When you squeeze my hand because you know we’re thinking the same thing.

When I can hear you reading stories to the kids, and you’re so tender and great with them.

When we’re singing together in the kitchen or in the car.

When we make a new plan for our life together, and I am buoyed by your optimism.

In just a few weeks, we will move to the next chapter of our lives, in our new house. I can hardly wait to see what the next decade will bring to the little family we’ve made.

Love you jillions, for always,

Di

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CN Tower EdgeWalk: Facing your fears, or enjoying adrenaline?

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We did it! On August 10th, we did the thing we’ve been planning for over a year (since we couldn’t swing the money for our anniversary last year): the EdgeWalk at the CN Tower in Toronto.

Yes, it’s pricey. It comes to almost $200 per person with tax. It’s also a pretty cool experience. I was lucky enough to enjoy it with my Hubbibi Sean (married nine years!), my brother Ben, my two sisters, Em and Beth, Beth’s boyfriend Dylan – and Ben and Jasmine, the two other random people who chose the same walk time.

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EdgeWalk suits = adorable, n’est-ce pas?

If you’re thinking of going – or if you’re just curious – here are a few things you might like to know:

  • The EdgeWalk happens just above the observation deck, i.e. 116 storeys above the ground. (That’s 356m/1168ft.)
  • It’s the highest full-circle hands-free walk in the world – a Guinness World Record – but apparently something similar did exist in New Zealand first.
  • In French, they call it “Haut-Da Cieux”, which would roughly translate to “High Da Skies”, but it’s cool because if you say it aloud, it sounds like “audacieux.” Audacious. Yes indeed.
  • It’s really quite safe. They’ve been doing many EdgeWalks a day since 2011 and haven’t lost anyone yet.
  • You have to wear their custom-made suits, and wedgie harnesses, and then there are two different ropes to attach you to the structure (one stretchy).
  • Your shoes must be closed – if you accidentally wore sandals, though, they lend you shoes.
  • You can’t have ANYTHING droppable up there. No jewelry, no phone or camera, not even your watch. My sister had tape put over a piercing, and several of us had our glasses on lanyards attached to our suits.
  • You CAN get married up there (I know you were wondering), with real pretty bride-and-groom walk suits, but you have to use their special elasticized rings, and you can’t have more than eight guests. Oh, and you pay $6K.
  • You walk on a see-through metal grate the width of a sidewalk (1.5 m).
  • You spend about half an hour on the walk itself. The rest of the hour-and-a-half includes suiting up, being checked over for safety many times, hearing the rules, and coming back to base camp for your DVD and solo photo (included in the price – but if you want all the photos you pay extra).
  • For a full 8-person walk, you get two guides, who take you through several exercises when you’re up there, as well as offering some information about the giant buildings you’re looking way down on.
  • We did Toes Over Toronto (walk right to the edge and put your toes over it – and look down if you can), the backward lean (sit in your harness and shuffle back until you’re at the edge, then straighten your knees and lean back), and the Titanic Pose (walk almost to the edge, lean straight forward into the rope, and go up on your toes and let go).
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The backward lean. BMO and Royal Bank buildings visible on the right.
  • We were lucky to get an absolutely gorgeous day: warm with a light breeze, clear enough to see across the lake. The SkyDome roof was open (yeah, I know it’s the Rogers Centre, but it will always be the SkyDome in our hearts), and the noise of the crowd whooshed right up to us whenever they cheered.
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See the SkyDome under our feet?
  • Some of us loved it, and some of us endured it.

Ben and Jasmine were cool as cucumbers (Ben was so cool he barely cracked a smile). Five of our party were loving the view and wishing we could spend more time out there. My poor Sean, though, was visibly anxious the whole time. In fact, he’d been anxious about it for at least a week before we even went. He was unable to get all the way to the edge for Toes Over Toronto, even though he was trying as hard as he could to breathe himself through it. He was able to do the Backward Lean, but did not choose to look up at the spike of the tower.

It was interesting to show the DVD footage to our kids. It was a good opportunity to talk about what courage really is. E was asking, “Why isn’t Daddy doing it? Why is he nervous?” The big, strong, pragmatic, hardworking guy who never seems afraid – and whose idea this excursion was – has a terrible time with heights.

On the day of the walk, once back inside the tower, Sean said he had to give us all props for doing the leaning and the looking and the letting go. He felt bad that he couldn’t make himself do the “daring” things the rest of us did.

But really, he was the brave one. Just being out there is a big step for an acrophobe. For those of us who don’t mind heights, there wasn’t really courage involved. I mean, I walked out to the edge and felt a thrilling flip in my stomach, but I never felt like panicking. For me, heights are exhilarating.

On the other hand, if I think of something that would make me panic, like being locked in a small space, you could not pay me enough to make me do that for half an hour. (Well, maybe you could – but it would have to be a LOT of money.) Fortunately for me, there is no industry glamourizing the thrill-seeking bad-assery of folks who want to confront their claustrophobia by braving small spaces.

So, the essential message for my kids on Courage: it doesn’t kick in unless you’re afraid.

What’s the worst fear you’ve confronted?

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Black Raspberry Cobbler: Summer with a Spoon

This week, in Southwestern Ontario, has been that magical time of year when strawberries and raspberries overlap in their ripening. Last Tuesday, I finally got to pick black raspberries at our local berry farm.

Just to clarify: black raspberries are not to be confused with blackberries, which look similar but A) are not raspberries, B) are easily available in grocery stores and therefore less exciting, and C) are frankly not nearly as tasty.

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These are blackberries. They’re nice but meh.
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THESE are black raspberries, on their way to being ripe.

When I was a kid, black raspberry time meant foraging into the woods near our house, sweaty in jeans and long sleeves (to prevent scratches), taking precarious steps further into the undergrowth, contorting and stretching in all kinds of awkward ways, in pursuit of that handful of gorgeous berries just out of reach. An intense picking session would end back at home with a baking-soda bath, because no matter how careful you were, the thorns were gonna getcha. But it was totally worth it. The dopamine hit, when you found the good ones, was better than a video game… Oh, and then there’s the EATING. Mmmmmm. They taste like pure, wild summer.

The trouble is, I don’t live around the corner from indigenous black raspberries anymore, at least not that I’ve come across. When I found out that our berry farm grows them, I was SO EXCITED. And I will admit that not having to entangle myself in the briars is nice, if not quite as action-packed.

I would have liked to go picking during Sebastian’s days, because ever since his first anniversary, when I happened to go berry-picking on his birthday, the two things are connected in my mind. Picking berries in the sunshine feels like the right thing to do. Like I’m near him. I can’t explain why. This year, they weren’t ripe on his birthday, but six days after is close enough. And as it happened, on that particular afternoon, I picked some in the sunshine and some in the rain.

That first year, we saw a cicada sitting peacefully and perfectly still on a raspberry plant. This year, it was a dragonfly.

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Still Raspberries With Dragonfly.

My mom swears that the domesticated raspberries don’t taste as good as the wild ones. All I know is, when I eat one, Mini-Di pops up in my soul and says Yes. YUM.

If you find yourself picking black raspberries, make sure you look under the leaves, especially the lower ones. You’re likely to find the most beautiful berries there, in whole ripe clusters.

And on to the point of the blog post: our family’s favourite black raspberry recipe.

I should probably warn you – if you have a problem with little seeds, this fruit, and by extension this dessert, is not for you. Both are seedy par excellence. But if you can get past that (those seeds are actually really good for you), Black Raspberry Cobbler is summery heaven with a spoon.

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SO DELICIOUS.

 

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a 9 x 13 pan (or a 10 x 10, which is what I have) melt 1/4 – 1/3 C of butter or margarine.

3. In a bowl, mix 1 C flour (I use whole wheat – it’s robust and it fits – but it’s up to you), 3/4 C sugar (white or brown), 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 2/3 C milk (dairy or not), and 1 (optional) egg.

4. Pour batter over melted butter. Don’t worry, it’ll spread itself out if you don’t get into all the corners.

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5. In a bowl, mix 4 C black raspberries with 1/2 C sugar and 1/3 – 1/2 C water.

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6. I also add a dash of lemon juice and a couple drops of almond extract to the berries.

7. Distribute the fruit mixture over the batter in the pan. It’ll look like a soupy mess, but don’t worry. (If you are brusque with the fruit, the juiciness will get underneath the batter, which actually produces quite a tasty berry-flavoured caramel, but a very hard-to-clean pan.)

 

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8. Bake for 45 minutes.

9. Enjoy warm with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, table cream, milk of your choice – or just plain.

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Makes a really nice breakfast too. (I apologize for my lack of foodtography talent. Just trust me about the recipe.)

 

Voilà. A dessert I fervently looked forward to as a child, and still look forward to as an adult – maybe even more fervently.

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Three Years.

Dear Sebastian,

It’s been hard to write today. Not just because thinking of you can be hard. It’s also difficult to find the time, with your brother and sister around, and life being the overwhelming To-Do list that it is. I feel drained, and the words feel awkward under my fingers.

It’s been three years since your death and birth. When I let myself remember that time, it does not feel like three whole years ago. The memories are so clear and immediate. Part of me is still back there with you, I think.

In another way, I feel far from you, because I have no baby this year. On our first anniversary, your sister was growing in my womb. On our second, she was still definitely a baby. This year, she romps around full-tilt and talks nonstop. She’s not a baby.

Somehow, it made me feel closer to you to still have a baby in the house.

This brings home something I already know, but don’t like to think about: my other children are growing past you. Someday they will probably be even bigger than me, but you – at least in my mind – will still be a baby. It will get harder and harder to think of your babyness. I guess I should be keeping in mind that you are not a baby – you are a free soul. You have no age.

I’ve thought of you so much over the past many weeks, but I still didn’t feel ready for this. I don’t have time to grieve for you very often, even when I need to, and that makes me sad and guilty and off-balance inside.

(I can’t help but notice that I keep using the word “still.” I wonder if that’s just a coincidence.)

Yesterday morning at 9:30 I happened to have an appointment to donate blood. I thought about that very last time I felt you move, right around the same time of day, on that date, three years earlier, and it made a certain kind of sense to me to be giving blood.

It was my twentieth donation (took me a long time to get there, between travel, occasional low iron, tattoos, and pregnancies, but I still felt proud). While I donated, I wondered where my blood has gone from my other donations, whether the people who got it survived, and whether any of them were children.

When I got home, I was talking to your brother about blood types, and we looked at his baby records to check his. I had forgotten that he is O negative, like me – the universal donor.

I realized I don’t know what your blood type was. I know we have the records somewhere, but I couldn’t find them.

Daddy and I had a big talk about you yesterday, too. We talked about how we have very different ways of grieving, which is sometimes hard for us. We both think about you very, very often. We talked about what we remember about you, and the day you died and the day you were born. We both remember them in great detail.

We figured out that it’s both harder and easier for me, to have the privilege of being the only person who actually felt you alive. (Daddy felt you from the outside, but it’s not quite the same.) We both really really wish, just as profoundly as we did on your birth day, that we could have held you in our arms when your heart was still beating, and looked into your eyes, even for a few minutes.

I’m so sorry that when we think about your sweet self, it always has to be sad.

I still need to do the thinking, though, and the sadness too. Sometimes I worry that I spend so much time ignoring or pushing away or skirting the painful parts, I will forget how to connect with your memory.

Then, sometimes the ache is so deep and strong, I know you’re still right there in my heart, where you’re supposed to be. When it hurts the most, that’s when I feel closest to you.

I’m afraid that, on these two anniversary days this year, there is not a lot of time to think about you and honour you properly. But something special did happen for you, less than a month ago. Our dance troupe, for the student recital, did piece about some of life’s journeys. I was one of three dancers who did a solo, and it was all about you. All the women in the group knew about you, and danced for you too. We danced for all of us, and the painful things that tear us apart and bring us together. There were tears and there was so much love. I’m full of gratitude for that.

I want to post this while it is still your birthday, but I have more to say. I wish I had a whole day to sit under a tree and think about you, and write to you. With a pen.

For now, good night. Here is your lullaby. I sing it to you often, as I sing it to your sister and brother. Sometimes they sing along. They both especially like when we sing, “Your heart and my heart are always together.”

I love you so much and I miss you so much.

***


 

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