8 Unromantic-Sounding Ways I Know Our Marriage Will Last

two hearts making an effort

“How’s your relationship these days?” is not a question most of us ever ask people. I’ve probably only ever asked it of newlyweds (where it’s more like “How’s married life?” nudge-nudge) or of very close friends with whom I have a precedent of relationship discussions.

It is a bit odd, though. Among parents, there are the constant “how are your kids” conversations, and it’s expected that you’ll dish on the hard parts as well as the fun parts. But for some reason, even though Sean and I are at the age where the majority of our friends are in committed relationships, we rarely discuss that very important aspect of daily life. Somehow, it feels rude or intrusive to ask, even though we certainly care about the answer.

One result of this is that when friends have major relationship troubles or break up, it’s often a complete shock – sometimes even to close friends. You think, But they always seemed fine!

Obviously, the reasons to break up are as diverse and numerous as the couples who do it. For the couples who stay together, there are myriad reasons for that, too. Presumably, though, most couples who’ve had a long-term relationship – whatever its future – had a period of awesomeness at some point. A chapter, of whatever length, where the connection was uplifting and the chemistry was wild and both parties thought, “This could be IT!”

Setting aside the Big Bad Wolves of Relationship Destruction (infidelity, abuse, addiction, etc.), how else do those paths diverge, such that some couples stay together and some split up?

I can only speak for myself in this, of course. I’m no expert. If someone asked me, “How can you be sure you’ll be together forever?” I’d say, “I’m not. It’s impossible to be a hundred percent sure. But I am supremely confident.”

How, you ask, can I be supremely confident without blind faith? What’s the secret? And could it be helpful to anyone else?

Well, shucks, that’s why I’m writing this. So that you can all SOAK UP MY GLORIOUS WISDOMAlors, voilà: here is my carefully crafted counsel, based on my own untrained and entirely non-objective experience of thirteen years with the same person (9.5 of them married).

1. Let Your Inner Grub Out.

If you’re gonna be with someone for the long haul, they need to see the real you, and your real habits. Not dressed up, not scrubbed down. When Sean and I moved in together, cohabitation was our way to make sure that neither of us had habits that would be deal-breakers for the other. We are lucky to have very similar scores on the slob-to-neat-freak scale. If I forget to put the CDs back in their cases (yes, we’re sooo retro, we still have CDs), or if he forgets to put his nasal rinse packet in the garbage, we know we’re about even. We have also found we’re able to handle each other’s dirty laundry and live with each other’s stinkier sides, and we like each other even in comfy pants and scruffy hoodies.

2. Get Used To Non-Perfection.

Speaking of grubs, your personality-related grubbiness is gonna need airing out too. We all have our flaws. We all have at least one side that’s lazy or naggy or procrastinatey or judgey or grumpy or insensitive or whatever. (Fun game: guess which ones are mine!!) And if you join yourself with a person, you join yourself with their flaws. Those flaws are not going anywhere. And Sean and I are well aware of the less awesome parts of each other – and ourselves. Sometimes we drive each other a little bit bonkers with that. But even though we know we can’t change each other, we do support each other’s quests for self-improvement, which are constantly evolving.

3. Forget Sweet Talk. Try Straight Talk.

Speaking of imperfections, it’s good to know we can live with each other’s, but sometimes discussion is necessary. It’s amazing how easy it is to find yourself playing games, manipulating, expecting someone to read your mind if you’re feeling pouty. But that’s lame. If my husband is driving me bonkers in some way, and I never articulate it to him, then what chance is there to improve things? If he’s upset with me for something, I want him to tell me – even when it hurts to hear. (Contrary to some beliefs, it is NOT more respectful to say nothing in an attempt to spare someone’s feelings.) It usually hurts, although we also take pains to word things as plainly-but-tactfully as possible. Those moments are really hard, but bearable – and worth it – if they come from a place of caring. Leaving those unsaid things to fester, on the other hand, is a great way to drive spikes into the potential cracks in a relationship. (We consider that, true to our marriage vows, being irresponsible with spikes is not an option. We have invested; what we have is not disposable or replaceable; therefore, proper maintenance is necessary.)

4. Learn To Mess Up Properly.

Speaking of upsetting each other, Sean and I have learned, many times, that if you handle mistakes with honesty and sincerity, it works way better than denying or deflecting blame. THIS IS HARD, too. Admitting you’re wrong… I honestly think everyone struggles with it. True apology feels deeply vulnerable. But it’s also humbling, illuminating, disarming, and endearing. It allows a couple to be a team, with both members party to the resolution. And I’ve noticed that when a person can be candid about mistakes, those aforementioned flaws and foibles can sometimes even be… kinda cute.

5. Never Mind About That Honeymoon Phase.

Speaking of admitting things, let’s be frank: the exorbitant new-relationship ecstasy does not last forever. Sometimes Sean and I look back on how snuggly-wuggly and cutesie-wootsie we once were, and we think, Yeesh. Our friends must have been nauseated. That swooning stage is not sustainable, long-term. And to be even franker, in a long relationship, there are sometimes downright cool periods – times when you feel distant or annoyed or just not that attracted to each other, or even disconnected.

N.B.: DON’T PANIC. It doesn’t mean the spark is gone forever.

For me, those are usually the times when I’m feeling deflated about life in general. Fortunately, I’ve learned not to put stock in those times. I know that that’s just how I feel if I’m short on sleep, or not eating right, or stressed out about certain things. I wait it out. I know it will pass. It always does. If it needs a little nudge, some of that straight talk (see #3) comes in very handy. Invariably, the moment comes when I look at my husband and feel the affection/happiness/spark surge back in.

It’s also worth mentioning that, in my experience, the settled, solid, non-swooning phase is, in many ways, more sublime than its predecessor. And it still includes kisses that make me weak in the knees.

6. Go Ahead And Take Love For Granted.

Speaking of sometimes-latent affection, one of the perks of being in a committed relationship is getting to take love for granted – in a way. It’s not that I take love in general for granted; it took me ages (years, even) to tell my high school/university boyfriend that I loved him, because I wanted to be absolutely sure I knew what I meant, and meant it well. But once you’ve taken that leap and decided that yes, this is love!, it’s your right – and responsibility – to trust that it’s there… even at times (see #5) when you feel crotchety and not-so-loving. My Hubbibi and I always end phone and text conversations with “I love you.” Especially if we’ve been exasperated with each other, or having a difficult conversation, we both know that by saying “I love you,” we’re affirming that we don’t take challenging moments as bad signs, that we both trust in the proof of our history. Unless one of us were to go through a fundamental change, we know: I’m me, and you’re you, and we love each other.

Furthermore, I really believe that the out-loud declaration of “I love you” is, for lack of a better analogy, like a valve that opens to let the love flow. The absence of “I love you,” on the other hand, is not just a silent moment; it’s a gaping hole through which the love can gradually – and painfully – drain out. I know couples have very different outlooks on when to say it, how often to say it, not wanting it to “mean nothing” if said too often. I see where they’re coming from, but I don’t think saving I love yous for special occasions makes sense. Love, with your life partner, is a gift – but not the diamond-bracelet kind of gift. It must be a practical, everyday gift, like a high-quality glue that can get kinda grungy but does not let go. Even if you say it dozens of times a day, it still means everything.

7. Love Is Not All You Need.

Speaking of love, it’s not the last word. It’s also really important to like each other. If you don’t enjoy each other’s company, all the good chemistry in the world won’t make up for it. I always smile when I see that quote on someone’s wedding program, “This day I will marry my best friend,” etc., because I think that’s the dream. What more could you want? Permanent sleepovers with your best friend! Always coming home to your favourite person! Once you cohabit, and more so once you have kids, it won’t always be “quality” time. There will be many humdrum household activities to share. Once in a while you might think, “Remember when we used to do FUN stuff together??” And you will again. But in the meantime, even if you don’t spend lots of time together (couples on opposite shifts, or with very different hobbies, for example), just sharing those run-of-the-mill activities can be lovely with a cherished friend.

8. Smarten Up And Be Grateful.

There are lots of couples out there who make their marriages function even though they’re not particularly happy or compatible together. Sean and I are fortunate in lots of ways some couples aren’t: we have very well-matched senses of humour; we enjoy the same simple ways to spend time together; we like the same music; we have similar nerdy and/or intellectual tendencies; we have harmonious politics; we genuinely love each other’s families.

We do, however, have differences that can be difficult. We aren’t passionate about all the same things; we don’t have the same style of communication; we have different instincts on a lot of minor issues; but all those things are surmountable with some conscious effort. And with the time we’ve already spent together, we owe each other that conscious effort. Who are we to let small things mess up our relationship when other couples have such larger hurdles?

Ignoring my good fortune seems spoiled to me – like living in such abundance that you feel entitled to waste perfectly good food – and I HATE wasting food. I’ve made a habit of intentionally appreciating the good things, so that when things don’t seem super-rosy, I never forget that I’m still an extremely lucky gal.

One more thing… A Note About Mental Illness.

As many of you know, my beloved Hubbibi is subject to chemical depression sometimes. It took a long time for both of us to understand that while depression can be triggered or catalyzed by circumstances, at its foundation it has nothing to do with how many things are good in one’s life. I have had to pull myself back from feeling like my failings were directly contributing to his depression.

The thing is, before our marriage, we did almost break up – several times – and I mostly blame the depression. It’s an illness that steals your mojo, takes the glow out of even your favourite people and things, makes you feel like stuff isn’t worth doing, saps your motivation to do even the things you know are good for you.

So again, speaking just from my own perspective… If your relationship seems lacklustre despite solid history, consider that mental health (or lack of it) could be an issue. Because there are ways to deal with that. We would never have gotten through those almost-breakups, not to mention having children, not to mention losing one child, without confronting those issues head-on. Being open about this, and being a united team where mental health is concerned, has saved us multiple times.

Just sayin’.

So, to sum up:

If someone were to ask me, “How did you know that Sean was THE ONE?” I’d say, “I didn’t. But I knew he was a super-special-awesome one.”

If someone were to ask me, “How do you know Sean IS the one?” I’d say something annoying like, “He is… because he is.”

I don’t necessarily believe there’s only one human in the world I could possibly make a life with. But Sean is the person I’ve chosen, who has also chosen me, with whom to build something special and interesting and beautiful. He is the only person with whom I can have THIS life, and this life is the one I want.


P.S.: To read more about mental health struggles and successes, please click here.



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In Search of the Wagon

Hey, lovelies.

Happy new year!

It feels weird, but REALLY good, to be writing this, after falling off that wagon three weeks ago and then skulking around the wagon trail pretending I might get back on at any moment but knowing in my heart that I’d never make it up into the jockey box with a heavy rucksack weighing me down.

The rucksack, if you haven’t guessed already, is “100 Happy Days.”

I love the idea of sharing images of the things – usually simple and ordinary – that give you a smile or a thrill in a day. I have loved seeing the things that my friends have posted as their photos for 100 Happy Days. But as of this writing, the last happy day I ostensibly had was Day 39, twenty-four days ago.

Which is part of why it’s taken me so long to get typing. It’s kinda embarrassing. I never would have pictured myself as someone who couldn’t hack one happy picture per day for three months… One of those quitters they talk about on the 100 Happy Days website who just can’t find the time to log my happiness.

Though, to be honest, the attitude on that website bugs me. The idea that the people who didn’t complete the challenge “didn’t have time to be happy” is inappropriately smug, and also, I suspect, bullsh*t.

It wasn’t true in my case. I have always been a person who deliberately savours things and moments and images. Sometimes you want to take a picture, and sometimes you want to just enjoy. Sometimes you’re smiling because of words or fragrances or endorphins that are not photographable. And sometimes you look at the curve of your child’s cheek and know you could take a thousand pictures and still never capture the bliss of it.

A few things I realized while NOT blogging:

  • An early setback really takes the wind out of the sails. I mean, duh, of course it does. But the thing about me is, the longer I work at something, the more stubborn I get about finishing. If I could have used my initial momentum to get the first thirty days legitimately done, then I would probably have kicked into stubborn mode and made it a lot further. But with my technical difficulties early on, and being behind before I really got started, the momentum and inspiration just ebbed away. Sigh.
  • It’s confirmed: I don’t blog to post. I blog to write. If I’m not carefully selecting and kneading and relishing the words, at least to some extent, then I’m not invested. While I love seeing other bloggers’ photos and photo-based posts, posting photos myself does not motivate me. (Clearly.)
  • Those seemingly simple photo posts took up just enough time each day that I never felt I could spare more for the wordier posts I wanted to write.
  • All those pent-up words I wasn’t writing were getting very antsy in my brain.
  • The longer I spent not writing or posting at all, the more upsetting it was to remind myself of my neglected blog. Where would I even start, after disappointing myself so, and subconsciously saying “screw it” to the whole process?

Well, that’s what the New Year is for.

Here’s my plan. For those of you who would like to see the happy photos I continued to take even though I wasn’t posting them, I will back-publish them in chunks. When I have time.

And just to appease the (large, insistent) part of me that hates quitting, I will say that my 100 Happy Days can happen whenever. I will post a happy photo and add it to the list when it makes sense to do so. My 100 days might take all year; so be it.

To you lovely di-hards who nudged me, letting me know you missed my posts, thank you. It means a lot to me that you noticed and cared.

And to you lovely di-hards who noticed and cared but didn’t mention it, thank you also – I appreciate that too. Since the person who nags me the most about this compulsive hobby is actually me.

To sum up: it’s 2015. This year it’s all gonna happen. Time to get over myself, stop being annoyed/guilty/self-critical and be awesome instead.

Want to join me?

Here's my representation of the awesomeness about to start (i.e. Dilovely is messing around with Procreate).
Here’s my representation of the awesomeness about to start (i.e. Dilovely is messing around with Procreate). My next artistic attempt will be greener.



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Belated Not-So-Lofty “Resolutions”


One thing I’m learning to accept in recent months is that sometimes, I need to shoot lower.

It’s not something they’re ever going to engrave on an decorative tile to hang in your kitchen: “Don’t try quite so hard – just lower your expectations so they’re easier to meet. S’okay.”

But that’s the verdict I’m coming to. I’ve always been pretty ambitious with my self-expectations. My M.O. is to have too much on my plate and just finish what I can, as if somehow having more goals means I’m likely to accomplish more of them. Like buying more lottery tickets to increase my odds. I’m not sure it’s logically sound.

It’s just that I hate quitting things or giving things up. Sticking with things and seeing things through to the end are very important to me. I feel sad about things I neglect (examples: my flute, my figure skates). But then I keep adding stuff. Without wanting to let anything go, I get new hobbies, new friends… and KIDS of course, who could potentially use every waking moment of my life if I allowed it. So with the same number of hours to work with, the math is all out of whack. (wack?)

Since phasing into this life as a mother with two living children and a job (and a blog), I have realized that achieving my goals is no longer really up to me. I can say, “I’m going to clean out my closet today, for sure.” Then, almost without fail, I will come to a crossroads where I need to choose between doing that thing I said I was gonna do, and doing my job as a parent. Parenting always wins. Finding the bottom of my closet, the top of my dresser, or the edges of my basement loses EVERY TIME. Similarly, I can say I’m going to make a minimal time commitment to do something (e.g. exercise) every day… and then the same damn thing happens.

I don’t like falling off the wagon and being disappointed in myself. And it bothers me a lot when I know I’m doing a mediocre job at something (like my job, for instance) because I simply haven’t put the required time and energy in.

La la la. All this blabbing to announce that I’m not making proper new year’s resolutions. I’m not declaring that I will get super-fit or cut out sugar or walk a certain amount every day or write a novel or finish my symphony or revolutionize my teaching. My main resolution is AIM LOW, DILOVELY. For the win.

Then, I will do my best to be my own enabler in positive ways. To dispose myself to self-improvement in tiny increments. NOT to decree that I will be perfect at these things, NOT to beat myself up when I miss something, but just to do as well I can.

(I am not used to this.)

Here’s what I’ve thought of so far.

  • Take my probiotics, whenever I can remember to. They say that gut health is linked to many aspects of overall health, including mental health. I eat pretty well, but I could always do better. This seems like an easy way to assist my system.
  • Do three simple things when I feel draggy (instead of complaining and/or caffeining): 1) take a few complete breaths, 2) get some blood to my brain with a stretch or a few jumping jacks, and 3) drink a full glass of water. Then see how I’m doing.
  • Take Candy Crush Saga off my phone. (Already done, just before New Year’s.) I started to play it while nursing, when it’s hard to do anything else, but now that Baby AB nurses less frequently and fast-food style, it’s just enough time to start on a level – and then… your addiction makes you finish it. And implores you to start the next one. I hate seeing myself distracted from life like that. Let it never be said that I missed my son belly laughing or my daughter saying a new word because I was trying to get myself a stripey one.
  • Don’t make everything into an opportunity to multitask. I think smart phones and the internet (much as I love them) are actually designed perfectly to degrade the attention span, what with the infinite tangents you can go on… and sadly, it’s working on me. Especially since I already lean toward multitasking. Nursing can just be nursing. Waiting in line can just be waiting.
  • Try to notice what I’m doing, and do that. It goes with the attention-span thing. If I’m doing email, I don’t have to go look up that movie that guy was in just because it pops into my head. If I’m doing dishes, I don’t have to get my kid a snack just because he’s hungry… wait, yes I do. Ahem. Anyway.
  • Pay attention to my own sleep window. I concern myself so much with my kids’ sleep windows and trying to get them sleeping at the opportune times, but I have come to know that I need that too. If I want good sleep (and I do. Blimey. I really really do), I need to make a better effort to avoid the second wind.
  • Don’t take up a new TV show. We have no channels at our house, only Netflix. If you have Netflix, you know how easy it is to binge-watch a show you like. And as much as I’d like to believe that quality TV truly enriches my life, it does not make me more likely to blog, do the dishes, fold the laundry, play my ukulele, or pay attention to things like sleep windows. So now that I’m done all five seasons of Chuck*, I am going to resist the temptation to begin one of the other shows that I’m sure I’d love (Dr. Who, Call the Midwife, Downton Abbey, etc.). I can’t complain about the things I don’t have time to do if I’m actually watching sneaky Netflix on a regular basis.
  • Get a massage. Preferably more than once. I have a very kinky neck-and-shoulder area; my insurance covers massage. I even have a friend who happens to be an excellent massage therapist with whom I also love to chat. Why on earth has it been almost two years since I got a massage?? I don’t know. Something lame, like inertia.
  • Embrace the living-room dance parties. Both my kids love music and dancing. Me too. There is no excuse for not shaking our tailfeathers as often as possible.
  • Don’t worry if this list is not finished. Sometimes you just gotta post the dang post already.

Et voilà. No jocular New Year meme for me this year, just a decidedly unambitious list.

Secretly, I’m hoping that these little things will add up to me figuring out how to WIN AT LIFE.


*So yeah, Chuck. Silly spy show with nerd factor. Got a wee bit obsessed and now it ranks up there with Buffy and Scrubs and HIMYM and Firefly: Shows That Have Touched My Heart And Make Me Wish The Characters Were Real So I Could Somehow Find Them And Become Their Pal. I’m ready for my Nerd Herder, please.

Lots of reasons I shouldn’t have liked it (in particular: lots of violence, hints of jingoism, and the girl always wearing 4-inch heels at highly impractical moments) but SUCH loveable characters. I’m not much of a LOL-er at TV, but this show made me giggle all the time. And choke up numerous times. Plus… Zachary Levi, for whom I’ve had to modify my laminated list.

Mr. A, I’m confident I could now handle any Chuck reference you could dish out, in T-shirt form or otherwise. Just so you know.



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Wishful Thinking for the New Year

Happy New Year, lovely Di-hards. I’m making wishes today.

shooting star
Image credit

This one is for you:  I wish for your baby to be born so sweet and healthy that the whole world smiles.

And you: I wish for that project you’re working on to grow wings and take off (with you in the pilot seat, of course).

And you: I wish for you to kick that disease in the ass and leave it in the dust. Super-spy-ninja-maverick-style.

And you: I wish for you to get that job. The good one.

And you: I wish for your question to be answered, and for the answer to make you happy.

And you: I wish for you to find your stride and discover how it feels to be fit in this wonderful body you have right now.

And you: I wish for your creativity to flow like golden syrup, astonishing even yourself.

And you: I wish for your dear one to get better, sooner than you expect.

And you: I wish for you to find a new pocket of time for doing what you love most.

And you: I wish for those ends to get closer together, so they meet more easily.

And you: I wish for you to uncover a whole new level of communication with those closest to you.

And you: I wish for you to find your own surefire way to reject crap.

And you: I wish for you to take unprecedented care of yourself, and to feel the effects right away.

And you: I wish for the confusion to lift from your brain, leaving a clear blue certainty.

And you: I wish for your pain to become, slowly but perceptibly, easier to bear.

And you: I wish for you to find that person- the one who makes the person in your dreams seem like a paper doll, and who instinctively knows the best way to love Amazing You.

And you: I wish for the happiness you found last year to take root, blossom, and bear fruit.

Sending you my love, and these – my best wishes,




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Eight Random Things with Brilliant Segues

{Actually, I make no guarantees that the segues will be brilliant. But whatever.}

My last post was a downer, I know. But now! I am able to lighten up for the following reasons:

1. I have awesome friends/family/Di-hards. THANK YOU for your sympathy and support, and offers of help. I hope I haven’t worried you that I would become a baby-shaker or something. The other day, as I was out for a friend’s birthday dinner (sans children!) a small group of my friends informed me that they will be taking both my kids away for a large chunk of next Saturday, in order for me to have an epic nap. How blissful. (I love you girls. Thank you. I wish every frustrated mom had friends like you.)

Speaking of support…

2.  My wonderful Hubbibi, who has been sharing E’s room so they could both get relatively uninterrupted sleep, offered to switch children with me for a while and do the tough part of getting Baby A back to sleep snackless. On the one hand, I thought gleefully about sleeping. On the other hand, I started immediately (prematurely) pining for my snuggly baby girl. I decided to get tough with her, and it seems to be helping (knock firmly on real wood even though I’m not superstitious). For the last four nights, I have been not feeding her until I determine it’s time. She complains loudly but doesn’t usually cry for real, and she mostly goes back to sleep without much intervention.

By the second night, she’d remembered how to do 4.5 hours in a row. It makes me think everything’s going to be fine if I can just stay the course. I AM MOTIVATED.

Speaking of my girlie munchkin…

3. She has had her first solids! About three weeks ago, we tried the first rice cereal. It was earlier than we expected to start (4.75 months), but all the look-fors were there, especially her watching us eat like a hawk. (Not that we eat like hawks. Boy, that’d be weird.) She has gotten better at swallowing the cereal, and gets pretty excited about it. Also, in the spirit of Baby-Led Weaning (thanks, MHM!) we sometimes give her a piece of a veggie that’s long and firm enough for her to explore and practice on without danger of choking.

Baby + practice veggies = CUTE. Turns out she’s a cucumber monster, like her brother.

Baby with cucumber

Speaking of her brother…

4. E had his first visit to kindergarten! Not at the same school he’ll attend in September, but still. We went with Baby A to my school for a visit during the lunch break, and E’s pal Mr. A invited him back to his classroom while the baby was schmoozing with my other colleagues. When the bell rang to end recess, it took a few minutes for me to get back to the classroom, and when I arrived, there was E, playing on the carpet with the other kids and looking like he belonged there. As Mr. A himself commented, he’s totally ready for school.

comedy and tragedy masks
How you feel when you think about your firstborn baby starting school.

Speaking of happy-sad things…

5. I’ve just finished watching the whole series of Being Erica on Netflix, and now I’m all sad it’s over. Like, I totally cried during the series finale. It was a damn good show (about a girl who gets a therapist who can send her back in time to fix her regrets). Thumbs up on the acting, the concept, the blossoming storylines, the character development, the era-appropriate soundtrack and wardrobe choices, the gay wedding, the ultra-Canadianness, and a whole series of very cute guys. The best one is Irish.

Erica and Adam

Speaking of cute guys…

6. I discovered something cool! Remember this guy?

Jean Dujardin_the artist
That’s one slick dude.

It’s Jean Dujardin, who won the Best Actor Oscar in 2012, for his speechless performance in The Artist. After this year’s Oscar party, whilst leafing through my Oscar magazine, I saw a photo of him, much like this one, from last year’s red carpet:

Jean et Alex

And the light bulb went on! Because of the woman he’s with, I realized that that guy is this guy:

un gars une fille france dujardin lamy

No wonder he looked familiar. The woman is his wife, Alexandra Lamy. She looks exactly the same as she did twelve years ago, when I lived in France and watched Un gars, une fille whenever I was home in the evenings. Episodes were less than ten minutes long, just little sketches of life as a young couple, and they were super-cute and funny. (The concept actually originated in Quebec, and now there are versions in many countries.) France loved “Chouchou” and “Loulou”, but at the time the two actors were each committed to other people. So this is how I found out that after I left France, they actually fell in love with each other and ended up married! HOW ADORABLE IS THAT. (Or home-wrecky, depending on how you look at it.)

Speaking of stuff that’s cool (I know, my segues are becoming seriously mediocre)…

7. I think it’s possible that I AM COOL.

Hahaha. No, just kidding, but I did carry on an uber-hip conversation with two male baristas (whose combined age was probably about five years more than mine) at Second Cup today. They were talking about a certain silly viral video (below) and singing the riff from the song, but didn’t know its name. Since I was a kid in the 80s, I knew it to be “Careless Whisper”; I fully remember a time when it was new music, sharing the airwaves with “I Just Called to Say I Love You”, “Hip to Be Square”, and “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car”. I mentioned that George Michael’s video is legendary-level 80s drama, so they told me about the sexy sax man.

And then, we totally commiserated over the dangers of watching YouTube late at night. Boo-yah. I can converse relevantly (?) with 20-year-olds.

Speaking of me thinking I’m cool enough to talk to people…

8. I have been accepted to speak at a local Ignite event in April.

From the website: “Ignite is a geek event in over 100 cities worldwide. At the events Ignite presenters share their personal and professional passions, using 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds for a total of just five minutes.”

A good friend of mine is on the organizing committee and suggested I submit an idea (thanks, L!) and… I did. (I will tell you about my idea later.) And they said I can come! And now I’m rather freaked out! Because if you watch Ignite talks on the web, you find that these people talk without notes. Yep. Talking without notes to a classful of students is not the same as talking without notes to a whole audience of adults plus whoever’s watching the live stream.

But I figure it’s good to do scary stuff, right? They say you should “do something that scares you every day”, but I figure about twice a year is good enough.

So there’s my wee list. Life is not so bad.

Life’s an easy road, with people beside you to share the load.

-Bret McKenzie



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Authentic Voices

I have been honoured this week by my friend lola over at bear & lion. She passed along to me the distinction of the Authentic Voice Award, for “those people who blog so transparently and with such authenticity that they are truly one of a kind”, created by Lillian at It’s a Dome Life.

authentic voice award

I feel privileged to receive this. Blogging is one of those arts with very few parameters on it – it can take any form – and sometimes it’s hard to have a direction, or to know what one’s “job” is as a blogger. I adore having this forum to write, and try to be as real as possible here. Even so, it’s hard to know whether I succeed at this. (Objectivity tends not to be a dominant element of blogging.)

Thank you, lola! You really brightened my week. (And congratulations! I heartily agree with Lillian that your blog is a unique, authentic voice.)

As Lillian says, there are no rules or questions or link requirements with this award – but we can spread it around.

A few times recently I’ve mentioned yeah write, where I’ve been reading some wonderful blogs. (So much that I really wish I could have a job that was all just reading and writing blogs.) Although basically everything I’ve read over there has been lovely and well worth reading, I’d like to share with you, for the Authentic Voice Award, some blogs that have particularly touched me. These bloggers write beautifully, honestly, insightfully – and represent, in my humble opinion, the best of what blogging is about: sharing the human experience in an accessible way that creates intimacy and connection in our global online community.

Angela at Not Appropriate for All Audiences

Azara at Tesseract

Bill at The Authentic Life

Christie the Outlaw Mama

Courtenay the Soup Mama

Ice Scream Mama

Jared at Lick the Fridge

Larks at Larks Notes This

Michelle at The Journey

Samantha at This Heart of Mine

I love reading your blogs, guys (when I get the chance. You know how it is).

And since I’m writing authentically today, and mentioned how week-brightening this award was, I will admit that it’s been a tough week. Heck, it’s taken me until Saturday to post a post I intended for Wednesday, so there you go. My Hubbibi got unexpectedly called in to work nights for the first time at his new job, and he’s been sporting about it… but honestly, it screws everything up.

Of course, when I’m the only adult in the house all night, suddenly my son, who usually sleeps right through, awakens several times because his BLANKET IS NOT RIGHT or whatever, and my daughter, who usually eats twice a night, decides she must eat approximately half a dozen times.

Then there’s the fact that E vacillates between sweet hilarity and whiny obnoxiousness (MOTL). After an interrupted night, my patience for these theatrics is… lacking. Which makes me feel like a bad mom (MOTL).

Then yesterday, we got the biggest snowfall we’ve had in ages. It buried our sandbox and drifted over our picnic table and almost engulfed our little car. The schools were actually closed (which happens very rarely – once a year or less), the library was closed, several bus lines stopped running.

Although life was business as usual for me, I felt happy about the snow. Last winter, we got very little snow and it felt wrong, like the snows of my childhood would never happen again.

I think it’s appropriate that once in a while, everything shuts down and everyone stays home. (Or as near as possible, anyway.)

Today it’s blinding white-and-blue outside, and Sean has worked his last night – for the time being, anyway. We’re having Liege waffles tomorrow morning to celebrate.

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Happy Day, Auntie Em!

Today is the birthday of my elder sister Emily, a.k.a. Auntie Em. It is also the day she officially completed and bade adieu to her Major Research Project, finishing her Masters in Language, Culture, and Teaching.

Emi is a special gal. She is full of love and complicated thoughts and stress and nostalgia and joy and sorrow. She is beautiful and smart. She is generously thoughtful, the kind of person who makes a homemade card to say thank you for something… and then the card is so lovely you want to thank her back. She is an ardent knitter, reader, walker, cycler, and conversationer. She also loves her nephews and niece with a fervour and investment that rival those of a parent.

Happy birthday, sweet sister! And congratulations!!

I know this course was a tough row to hoe, especially the big-ass paper. And that, despite your passion for the topic of ESL teaching and cultural differences in classrooms, the research was not as fulfilling as you’d imagined. Still, I hope you will look back and remember the good parts – your better profs, the interesting conversations with fellow students, and time spent reading the literature you found most fascinating.

Also. I have something else to say. I just want you to know that, although I know it’s temporary, and although sometimes sharing a kitchen can get dicey (ha! get it?), and although you may be, on some level, “waiting for your real life to begin”, it has been many kinds of awesome sharing a household with you.

I’m glad you were there for when we brought our babies home, and for the time when we didn’t.

I’m glad we’ve been able to have so many fun family meals and games, in between all the social gallivanting you do. 🙂

I hope E will be able to remember being ensconced in pillows in your room, having dance parties and leafy nests and eyeshadow, playing with flashlights and balls of yarn and annoying Japanese alarm clocks. Thank you for taking jillions of photos and footage of him being his little self, and for taking an active role in his education, literary and musical and innumerable otherwise.

I know I will look back on this time as a golden era, a cozy time when my babies were babies, when we learned all about parenting them together, when we watched in wonder as they did the amazing things they do. I wish every mom were lucky enough to have a sister on the premises – not just for company or for another set of eyes and hands, but also for a fresh wellspring of patience when a mama is at her wits’ end. I’m so grateful for the times you’ve appeared magically when things aren’t going well, swooped in and kept your cool in the face of a maddening toddler/preschooler.

I hope you know we love you a lot. I hope you have loved this golden era too. And I hope your dreams come true – preferably this year. Well, as soon as is convenient, anyway.

three sisters in a bed
Mini-Di, Mini-Beth, and Mini-Em (long before they were Aunties).



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Dear Ontario Teachers

Dear colleagues,

I know I haven’t written about what you’re going through in a long time, not since the post that unexpectedly deflowered my blog three months ago. I want you to know that it’s not because I’m ignoring what’s going on; I think about it every day. (Well – and I did have that baby, too, so my daily priorities are often more nap-and-poop-related.)

I’d like to be able to say, “I wish I were there at school with you!”… but it wouldn’t be true. Not just because I’m delighting in my offspring at the moment – although that’s a big part of it.

Mostly it’s because I’ve been imagining being in your shoes right now, having to participate in work-to-rule, and I know how I’d feel. The stress would be eating away at me. Although I don’t presume to speak for you, I’m sure a lot of you must be feeling stressed.

If I were teaching with you right now, it would be a constant source of frustration and guilt to know that no matter what I did, I would be letting someone down: either the students and their families, or the union and my co-workers. That’s the reality of work-to-rule. People hate it when we disengage from extracurricular activities. It’s a tough situation to be in while trying to focus on the best ways to captivate the minds of a roomful of kids, this close to Christmas… especially if you have an overactive guilt reflex (which I do).

I’m probably not supposed to say this, but I know that if I were teaching right now, in moments of fatigue and strain, I’d second-guess myself and my situation.

There would be times when I’d see kids’ disappointed faces and think, Do I HAVE to do what my union says? Is it THAT important?

Then I would go read Bill 115, and realize that I do, because it is.

The right to organize trade unions for collective bargaining is a fundamental human right, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Bill 115 says No, actually, forget rights and negotiations: YOU WILL DO AS THE MINISTER SAYS. You can produce a collective agreement identical to the one she presents, or she will “impose a collective agreement”. Seriously. How can you even call it a “collective agreement” when there is nothing collective about it, nothing agreed to? Laurel Broten, along with the Liberals and Conservatives who helped pass Bill 115, are apparently exempt from the UDHR. That is a scary precedent. If this kind of autocracy is allowed to persist, the Employment Standards Act – which applies to all working Ontarians – will be meaningless. (So if anyone reading this still thinks it’s about the money… sigh… then I’m afraid you’ve been brainwashed by McGuinty.)

Still, even knowing how regressive Bill 115 is, if I were teaching, there would be times when I would overhear parents’ understandably frustrated remarks – even comments about us holding the kids ransom, using them as pawns, depriving them – and think, Do we really have to do it this way? Is this the only option?

Then I would think of the Queen’s Park Rally for Education, and the countless other rallies organized by teachers, students, and supporters in the last several months, all of which seem to have gone unheard… I would consider all the written protests, the letters and petitions and votes that remain unacknowledged… I would keep in mind that last February at the Provincial Discussion Table, three bankruptcy lawyers represented the government and there was no actual opportunity for discussion – and that when union reps were in talks with the government last month, it was the latter who abruptly ended things. All of this tells me that work-to-rule is not the only option; but this situation calls for us to use as many options as we have. We wouldn’t be here if any of the earlier objections had prompted the government to repeal Bill 115.

Of course, parents want their kids to have everything. We want that too, obviously, which is why we do all those activities in the first place. I believe most of us would far prefer to still be doing them. But the children’s right to field trips does not trump our right to collective bargaining. So I’ve vowed to disregard words like “pawns” and “ransom” and “deprived”, because I know there is nothing malicious or underhanded about this job action. (Unless people want to direct that language at the Minister. THAT would be valid.) Also, I’m ignoring parents who say we are “not letting the students” play sports or do drama or what have you, since we have forbidden nothing. That’s Ms. Broten’s territory.

queens park rally for education
Queen’s Park Rally for Education

If I were teaching right now, there would be times when the general public opinion – the rampant vilification – would weigh on me. I might wonder, Is my union really representing my best interests? Would it be better if we just dropped it?

Then I would give my brain a shake and remind myself: no, Bill 115 is not a fight we should drop. Our union representatives are doing their job by making sure that we, the members, know this. They are also doing their job by asking for more than they actually expect to get in negotiations: that’s the nature of bargaining. They know the contract inside and out, and keep high ideals in mind. This is how, over the past several decades, they have negotiated many necessary improvements to working conditions in schools. We know the budget is tight right now, and compromising on contract points during negotiation is something we can do. Giving up the right to negotiate is NOT.

The government portrays us as unreasonable in the midst of the mess they created, despite giving us no opportunity to be reasonable. They have obscured their role in this standoff and everything that led to it, knowing that we would have to resort to measures that affect children (we’re teachers… everything we do affects children). Colleagues, I’m sorry you’re bearing the brunt of this. It is sad that the alienation strategy has indoctrinated so many people – but we don’t have to internalize it. We know we have support from each other, and from other critical thinkers, in spite of it all. We’ve all talked to parents who, despite the fallout of work-to-rule, understand and support what we’re fighting for.

If I were teaching right now, there would be times when the haters – the ones who go beyond complaining, who spit venom in the form of ignorant suppositions and really nasty language – would get to me, and I’d feel like crap. This did happen when I wrote that other post: at first, it was exciting to try enlightening some web trolls, but the vitriolic content (not to mention the effort it takes to be educative, diplomatic, and civil when responding to these people) wears a gal down after a while.

What made it worthwhile was discovering that many of you found the post encouraging at a time when you needed it. I’m very, very thankful for that.

If I find myself discouraged by the antagonism, I take a deep breath and remind myself: this viciousness has nothing to do with me, as a person. Haters will be haters. Trolls will be trolls. Some people will always be hostile to us. Some people have chips on their shoulders and feel the need to unload their bitterness on the web or in the Op-Ed section, where they can be anonymous. As teachers, we have taught kids with those kinds of anger issues, and know that they are usually in need of help.

I want to remind myself, and all of you who could also use the reminder: You are a good human. You try hard. You work hard. You teach, to the best of your ability. That is what matters.

Dear colleagues, I’ve realized something while writing this, and you probably have as well: in spirit, I am there with you. This mess sucks, and it’s obviously far from over, but I’m with you for as long as it takes. Good luck, and bon courage. And happy holidays.



This not a news source. It is a personal blog, written by a teacher. Please don’t expect it to be unbiased.

You are most welcome to leave comments. Mature discussion is great.

Please be aware, however, that if you use inflammatory language and/or make arguments based on wrong assumptions or inanities (especially if they demonstrate that you have skimmed this post, seen that it’s pro-teacher, and decided to rant irrelevantly), I’ll delete your comment. I’ve already taken too much time to respond to people like you over here, and I’m done. I have a baby to feed.



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Wrapping up NaBloPoMo! (…I cheated a little.)

It’s November 30th, the last day of National Blog Posting Month, 2012!

Whew. What a relief. For real.

Like last year at this time, I am proud to say that I did it! But with slightly less integrity than in 2011.

30 blog posts

One per day

(though this was where I cheated. I tweaked the time of publishing a few nights when I couldn’t post by midnight because it would have necessitated actual bad parenting)

18,429 words written

An average of 614 words per day (rather less loquacious than last year’s 710)

(But if I’m honest, handfuls of those belonged to my three-year-old, the gang at MPAA, and Siri of the iPad)

Most commented post: The Ladies of Election Day

Shortest post: Some images from today + 1 BONUS (86 words) – lettin’ those images speak for themselves

Longest post: Why I Love Belly Dancing (1,341 words)

Runners-up for longest post: A Post About Beauty (1,008 words), Greyphobia: Why can’t I just love my wrinkles? (993 words) and BANG Book Review: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling (991 words)


I had several of the same personal FAQ as last year:

Why am I doing this, again?

Because Sean and Skye said I should. And I’m a sucker for anyone who says I should do something because I’m so awesome. 😉

Aren’t my readers getting sick of me?

Yes, definitely. (Except for Sean and Skye, since they have to like it.) One subscriber even asked, with utmost courtesy, if I could please remove her from the notification list, because she enjoys my posts but she’s just too busy. I fully sympathized. But hey – at least I toned down the word count!

Would I do this again next November?

I could probably be sweet-talked into it… But then again, I’ll be back at work by that time, with TWO kids at home. Maybe not.

The Drawbacks:

  • I know I missed some baby smiles while blogging. A is getting smilier by the day, and, much as I love her, Serenity never smiles. (Yes, my MacBook has a name. Yes, it’s a Joss Whedon reference.)
  • My house got real, real messy sometimes.
  • My “To Do” list got real, real big all the time.
  • Nursing baby + NaBloPoMo = many hours of BAD POSTURE.
  • When trying to eke out enough minutes for blogging during baby’s nap time, I resorted too often to screen time for E. He was stoked about it, of course, but I felt like a bad mama.
  • When blogging makes you feel like a bad mama, it’s just not quite as fulfilling.

The Benefits:

  • Again, being “obliged” to use this time to exercise my brain was really good, something to look forward to. And I know it’s something a lot of moms with newborns end up having to neglect.
  • I was reminded of how lucky I am to have so much help from family around the house right now: this month, Daddy was home for two weeks, and Auntie Em and Uncle Ben both stepped in often. I might have given up otherwise, because E would have been pretty neglected. Siri would probably think she was his mom by now.
  • On the up-side of too much screen time for E… he’s getting really good at Tangrams.
  • I love connecting with you Di-hards. Getting to do it every day is a privilege.
  • This year, in the NaBloPoMo Soup on BlogHer, I stumbled upon Yeah Write… and it’s totally great, you guys. So great, in fact, that it’s getting its own paragraph AND list.

You see, it’s been nice to feel included by adding my posts to the Soup at BlogHer… but BlogHer is hunormous. Overwhelming. I like to click on a few random posts by other bloggers each time I post something, but with a couple hundred contributions posted every day, one ends up actually feeling anonymous. Yeah Write, on the other hand, is a much smaller community, where each week you can submit a post for possible inclusion in a competitive grid, to be judged by the editors and/or the community members themselves.

Why Yeah Write Is Cool:

  • Submitted posts have to be 1,000 words or less. Working on my powers of pithiness is always a good idea, and this was really good practice.
  • Everyone on Yeah Write is there to write. (Well, duh.) What I mean is, they are GOOD writers. The past two weeks there have been open grids, unmoderated by the editors and voted on by the community. Each of those two weeks, I read every single submission (35-40 of them) so I could vote properly… and let me tell you, even unmoderated, the standard of writing was amazing. Short snippets from the lives of people I’ve never met – stories beautifully rendered that gave me goosebumps, brought tears to my eyes, or made me laugh out loud. I loved it. (But it’s a good thing the grid isn’t open every week, because I can’t always read that many.)
  • This is the first time I’ve really been part of a blogging community. I’ve become friends with a few people through mutual blog-reading in the past, but suddenly I get why it’s worthwhile to join up with a blog-gang like this. The whole group is all over each other’s blogs (especially on submitted posts, of course) and they are full of lovely comments – encouragement and feedback on the writing and everything. Wicked-awesome.
  • My blogroll is going to be EPIC! I can hardly wait to update it.

My goals for tomorrow:

  1. Don’t blog.
  2. Do some other stuff. 🙂

I’ll be back soon, aiming for 2 posts a week (ish).

As always, a thousand thanks for your readership. You’re the best.



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Happiness and the Multi-multi-multi-tasking Brain

I think it’s safe to say that everyone wants to be happy. If there is such a thing as a universal goal in the context of humanity, happiness must be it, right?

Keeping that in mind, it seems a bit sad that so many people still feel themselves to be in pursuit of happiness. Folks are always trying to figure out, whether deliberately or not, “how to be happy”, as though they aren’t there yet.

I came across an image today on Facebook that really got me thinking.

12 things happy people do differently

I like this list. I like the way it doesn’t claim to be the answer to happiness; I like the way it uses words like develop, practice, cultivate, learn – words that address the process, the fact that you can’t just flip a switch to change yourself.

I also agree with most of the points. I consider myself a very happy person, overall, and I think a lot of that is due to things like consciously appreciating what I have, tending towards optimism, and so on.

The thing to remember is, there are certain other factors that allow me to do that – and most of those factors have to do with luck.

I am lucky that my body’s chemicals are balanced, rather than working to sabotage my happiness, as is the case for so many people, and that my health has always been good.

I am lucky that I wasn’t the victim of neglect or abuse when I was too little to defend myself, because in that case I would most likely have issues that would obstruct my well-being.

I am lucky to live in a part of the world where my happiness is not being undermined by war, famine, or disease, and to have been born into a family where we have always had a stable home, lots of love, enough to eat, and good education.

I’d say the above list assumes that “happy people” have the basics covered. People who manage to be happy in spite of those things have, in my opinion, really accomplished something.

It occurs to me that happiness, like unhappiness, compounds itself. Being kind leads to better social relationships, which makes it easier to avoid over-thinking and social comparisons, which in turn facilitates commitment to one’s goals. Furthermore, in spite of the truism that riches and material goods don’t make people happy, IF you already have the fundamentals of happiness covered, I think it’s possible – and reasonable – to feel happy about excellence in more materialistic things (such as my smart phone, my smooth-edge can opener, and my super-comfy shoes). I think it’s valuable to relish stuff that’s good.

Perhaps the best thing about this compounding phenomenon is related to #6: if you’ve worked to hone your “happiness skills”, shall we say, it’s much more feasible to cope with adversity. I think that’s how Anne Frank was able to write beautiful words while hiding from the Nazis, and how the Gaza Doctor was inspired to a hopeful project by the deaths of his daughters. I know it’s how I was able to draw a certain kind of joy from my son’s memorial service.

I want to make sure I include a sort of inverse to that idea, something I’ve learned (with some difficulty): even when you’re a ridiculously fortunate person, with every reason to be happy, it’s okay to get down sometimes. When you’re having a crap time, for whatever reason, it does not help to say to yourself, “But look! You’re so lucky! No excuse to be sad!” Your reasons are your reasons. Even for happy people, feeling like shit occasionally is valid. I’ve been struggling with that for these last two months, but I’ve decided it’s my prerogative to get frustrated when my baby girl is crying instead of sleeping – even though she’s she’s my rainbow baby, and the most precious blessing I could ever have hoped for. It’s okay. I can be filled with gratitude AND want to tear my hair out once in a while. In fact, maybe I appreciate the ups more when there are downs for comparison.

There is one thing from the list of “things happy people do differently” that I immediately zeroed in on – the thing that I need to work on most: #8. These days, I do not put enough time or effort into having “flow experiences.” (I didn’t know that’s what they were called, but I’ll go with it.) Most of the things I do are concurrent in some way, and therefore not awesomely done: nursing A + catching up on email, racing dinky cars + making a to-do list, doing dishes + helping E make playdough shapes, etc. It makes me feel like everything I do is half-assed, which is, frankly, not a happy feeling.

Two things come to mind that can centre my focus completely: 1) studying the scrumptious contours of my children’s faces, and 2) blogging when those children are asleep. Maybe that’s why blogging is so therapeutic for me – letting my mind really chew on a single idea for a significant chunk of time is incredibly satisfying, probably because it’s a “flow experience.” Makes my brain happy.

And, of course, the times I’m able to let go and get completely absorbed in my children… well, there’s no question that those moments are well worth it.

This is happiness.

ev and ar
Such yummy kids.

Come check out the amazing blogs at Yeah Write!


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