I put Missy down on Thursday, on Friday I woke up and there was no dog. For the first time in 20 years, I didn’t have a dog.

Gracie does not replace Missy. Missy did not replace Delta, who did not replace Maggie, who did not replace MacDuff. That isn’t how this goes.

But, Gracie needed a person and I needed a dog and here we are.

I’m glad we found each other.

Posted in Dogs | 6 Comments

Living Small

I have no problem with the Buddhist assertion that life is suffering. I say this not in a cynical world weary sort of way. It’s just a statement of fact. Life involves suffering. What I struggled with is the idea that wants cause suffering. The want of power or money? Sure. That causes untold suffering. But the want of human connection? Human connection is part of our DNA. We are wired to want to be in a community. We are 60% water – cucumbers with anxiety. Humans can die of loneliness. Human connection is not just a want, it is a real and true need.

Perhaps this is a good time for a diversion.

On the shelf in my home office is a wish jar, a small clay pot holding one very tiny rolled up piece of paper. The rolled up piece of paper was blank. It wasn’t that I had no wishes, rather that I didn’t know how to be concise enough to write them down on a very small piece of paper. In February, I finally found my wish.

:: Deep Breath ::

I want to be the face that someone wants to come home to.

I haven’t ever been this. I’ve been convenient, I’ve been a habit, I’ve been an obligation. I’ve never been the thing that someone wanted. I’m the next best alternative. The fill in until something else comes along. A useful object, not a real person.

I want someone to take care of – to buy silly little gifts and make specials meals for. I want someone who remembers what I say, who asks me how that meeting I was worried about went. I want someone to help me figure out how to placate the electricity gremlins (they are angry again.) I want someone to curl up next to at night, to grow old with.

I want to be more than the next best alternative, the useful object, the thing you settle for.

It won’t happen. I realized after the last time, there is no person for me. There’s just me. I have some forms of human connection with friends, with colleagues, with volunteer work. I have enough resilience to solve my own problems, I have sufficient resources that I will not freeze to death or starve.

I just won’t be the face that someone ever wants to come home to.

And I keep thinking, if I could just let go of this want – even though it’s hard wired in me – it would be easier.

(Please, could I ask something? It’s a bit like when I realized that I wasn’t ever going to have children and people would tell me about their neighbour’s third cousin twice removed who miraculously got pregnant with triplets at the age of 44. I don’t want to hear stories about people who found someone. I’m glad for them, but it doesn’t help me. I need to figure out what happens now that I’ve realized I won’t find someone.)

Posted in irrelevant reverence, Learning Life | 3 Comments

Not ok and still ok.

It isn’t ok. It will never be ok.

And somehow, it will have to be ok.

I’m making my way through the idea that some people find their person quickly. For some, it takes longer. And some of us? We don’t have a person. We have pets and books and volunteer things.

Rather like abusive parents, a dead child, recurrent miscarriages, and a chronic disease, I could spend the rest of my life focusing on how not ok it is.

That would be fair.

I didn’t ask for parents who hated me. I didn’t do anything to cause my son to die. I did everything I could do to stay pregnant. MS was dumb luck.

I could hold up all the good and kind and nice things I do. I could try and point out the good in me outweighs the bad. I could make some sort of karmic balancing equation.

Which takes me back to life not being fair. And that’s not ok. But somehow, it will have to be.

I’m trying to live small.

Hope for less.

Expect as little as possible and be pleasantly surprised if more happens to come my way.

I’m trying to live in the here and now.

I’m trying not to be cynical and bitter.

Life isn’t fair, but I can be kind.

Posted in Adult Dating | 4 Comments

Princess of Magic

I have come to believe that our pets have their own form of magic. It’s a magic so total, so complete, and so seemingly ordinary that it explains everything.

Life is simple to a pet. There are sunbeams, there are pigs ears, there are balls to chase, and there is a human. A human they do not see as a frail and imperfect being – no, for them, their human is the best and most goodness filled thing in the world.

And so we try and live up to that. We live in the moment with them. We watch sunbeams, we throw balls and we rub ears and bellies. We call them by silly names and laugh.

That’s magic.

It is Missy’s time. Tonight at 4 I will take her to the vet and say goodbye. My voice, telling her that she was good and true and loved will be the last thing she hears. I will walk with her to the very end. And it will break me, like it has every time.

She didn’t need fourscore and 10 to be perfect. She came perfect. And like all magic things in this dull and sorry world of ours, she could never stay for long. She stayed for as long as she could. It is time to let her go. We must be mindful of magic, we must not keep it past its time.

And when I bring her no longer needed collar and lead home, when I wash out her food bowl and put it away, I will think that if I am very good, if I try very hard, when my much longer life ends, then I will have picked up a bit of her magic.

Posted in Dogs, Feats of Wonder | 8 Comments


The day Owen moved out, I came home from helping him move and Coda was sitting on the newel post, meowing at me. I told him it was just us now. I had to keep going because he still needed his breathtakingly expensive cat food. The litter still had to be changed.

We had this routine around breakfast. Coda became a slow and picky eater. I would feed his brothers and then he and I would head into the living room. He would eat a bit, he would go to the bathroom, he might come and visit, then he would eat some more, then he would come and sit with me a bit longer. He would stretch out on my leg and purr.

And I would sing to him.

“In the morning when I rise, you bring a tear of joy to my eyes and tell me everything’s gonna be all right”.

Which is what I sang him as the vet put him to sleep. With my voice breaking, tears falling on his fur. I was the last voice he heard.

Which is as it should be. This is the last gift of fealty I give my pets, this moment where I walk with them to the very end, my voice telling them they are loved. Not were loved, but are.

Somewhere in this great universe of ours, there is a place where our animals go. Filled with sunshine and soft blankets and cocktail shrimp.

And if I am very good, at the end of my life I will go there too.

Posted in Furry Slugs, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Piano Lessons

I had a classmate who was really good at math. It came easily to her, like breathing. Math was . . . incomprehensible to me. I’ve learned since it isn’t that it’s incomprehensible, it’s just hard. I pass math by judicious application of ass to seat and pen to paper. I struggle and struggle and do problem after problem. I Math is blood and tears. I earn every B in math.

I took my ball of frustration and heartbreak. My rage. I took them to Lori. My classmate, she had this gift and she didn’t understand it as such. She solved the hardest math problem with ease. Nothing seemed to bother her and everything bothered me.

Lori had me listen to this classmate play the piano. She was technically perfect. Never missed a note, kept perfect time. It was technically perfect and that was all. There was nothing to carry you away. Everything was numbers to this classmate. Everything could be solved. Everything was black and white.

Lori told me that the way I was, it was harder. It would hurt more. But it would be better in the long run. I would live a richer life with the odd missed note and an inability to understand theoretical math. Messy life, real life, true life, it was found in muddy puddles of grey.

I came home from doing a difficult thing today and curled up on my bed with Sammy the Sea Otter, and I cried.

I cried because tonight I don’t want to be warm and kind and empathetic. I don’t want to understand that there are many human situations which are deep muddy puddles of grey.

I want to be hard and cold and unyielding. I could live with playing the piano with technical precision and no passion, if it meant hurting less. I could live without the highs, if it meant missing out on the crashes. Missed notes and passion are not worth the moments when it hurts like this.

In 22 years I’ve learned this: however much I wish I could be hard as iron, it isn’t in me. It’s not an option. Let me play the piano, I will miss notes, I will lose time. And I will let passion carry me away.

And sometimes, it will hurt. Pain that comes hard and fast and it sears.

It’s ok to curl up and cry when it hurts like this. Those moments too are missed notes and lost tempo.

Posted in Learning Life, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

As Often as it Takes

Way back when I was in boarding school, we used to joke that God sometimes used a 50 pound hammer to get our attention. We thought perhaps wisdom was when God didn’t have to use a hammer at all.

I no longer believe that God interacts with me that much. The deeply personal, deeply invested relationship, where God directed each thing that happened in my life? Science and evolution and tragedy and experience in the universe has led me to believe that if God exists, well, he’s a busy deity and he honestly has better things to do than whack me with a hammer because I keep committing the same sin.

God doesn’t sit in heaven, look down at me and sigh, shaking his head when I’m about to do the same stupid thing for the umpteenth time. There’s no ‘whack’, so that I fall back in line. The law of cause and effect affords me the opportunity to keep practicing. Einstein posited in practical wisdom if not scientific fact, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is a sort of insanity.

I will digress – just for a moment – to point out to the immutable forces of cause and effect and to the eternal wisdom of Einstein: while I appreciate that I may do the same things over and over and expect a different result, the same things often look like very different things when I am in the middle of them. Indeed, I am perpetually Wile E. Coyote, believing that my latest Acme purchase will defeat the Road Runner. I fail to realize that the problem is not with the Acme company, it that I persist in a foolish game of defeating the road runner. Meep Meep.

I am managing a very large, very complex and very politically fraught project. I am, in truth back in exactly the same sort of environment I was in during the Spring of 2014. We might say it’s not that different than the project I worked on between 2009 and 2011. It’s nothing new. And I have learned things. I have learned a bit more balance, I’ve built confidence. I’m a better leader than I was. I have more of a sense of where things go wrong to head them off.

What I don’t have, not yet and maybe not ever, is the ability to divorce myself from my work. The ability to walk through my front door and turn off the project part of my brain and simply be all the other parts of me I’ve worked so hard on developing.

I say this as a woman who is an ugly bundle of stress and frustration and aggravation.

Which is ok. Because the law of cause and effect will allow me as many tries as I require to learn this lesson.

Meep Meep.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Battle and The War

I gave up. I gave up on the battle and maybe the war. I’m not sure about the war.

I looked at my boss and I told him I was done. I give up. I’m exhausted. I have no more fight left in me. I don’t want to document. I don’t want to talk to HR. They can say what they want. Don’t hurt my body and I’ll throw my hands over my head to try and protect my mind.

I can quote you the stats. I went and researched them for a presentation I gave. In Canada 36% of women will even start a degree in STEM. 12 out of 100 women who start a STEM degree will finish that degree. Of those 12, only 3 will still be in a STEM field 10 years later. We have a pipeline issue – not enough women in STEM. We don’t get the degrees and those who do, they don’t stay. 35% of women in STEM report being sexually harassed. 56% have been called “too aggressive”.

It’s the death of a thousand cuts. It’s not a guy cornering me and raping me. It’s being told to smile for clients, it’s being called darling. It’s the times that men talk over me, it’s the times that they introduce me by my appearance. It’s the jokes about my sex life. And I object. I object – sometimes in the room. Sometimes after. I send emails, I talk to my boss.

And then the moment when my junior comes to me. My lovely, brilliant and capable junior. And she tells me what’s happening. It’s the same old. And we could debate over whether the guy is doing it deliberately or if he’s just clueless, but it doesn’t matter, does it?

Because it’s happening. And she’s telling me that she has a problem. And I am powerless to stop it. I tell her she needs to go to her boss and that I’ll go to mine. She asked a simple question – whether or not I’ve ever seen this change anything.


Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

What does a Mother Look Like

Thus far, a flower store I often use sent me a reminder about flowers. West Jet told me what my mother most wanted was a trip (I’d say she took her final and perpetual vacation in December of 2014, but you go West Jet). Shopper’s Drug mart tried to offer me some “Motherly Advice” to buy more stuff.

And AMA.

AMA asked “What does a mother look like?”

So, let me tell you, Alberta Motor Association.

This mother has spent a week in workshops. Making sure that people were heard, that time was kept and decisions were made. This mother is tired. She mediated an actual shouting match broke out during her AM workshop yesterday. This mother made sure that everyone was going to take a break, have some food. She made sure that feelings were ok after the shouting match, then she had a glass of wine with her lunch.

This mother spent Tuesday night with a sobbing 5 year old Spark on her lap. She sent an email to the family, asking if everything was alright. She emailed a niece who is going through a hard time. She laughed at pictures of her great niece and nephew.

On Sunday? She will go out the garden where she placed her mother’s ashes. She will tell her mother all the things that have happened over the winter. Her mother’s former boyfriend might send her a text, remembering her mother. This mother’s day she will be remembered as a bereaved daughter. It turns out that it is easier for the world to countenance a daughter whose Mother has died than a Mother whose child has died.

I don’t look any different on Mother’s Day than I ever do. I’m as invisible of a mother as I ever was.

He could not stay, so I tucked him between my heart and my lungs to keep him safe and warm. My motherhood is invisible and always present. My instincts to care and nurture are directed to a crying Spark, an overwhelmed staff member. My motherhood is filled with an ever present sadness that occasionally bursts out as a solitary bout of howling grief. And after? A quiet sort of peace.

Posted in Baby Loss | 3 Comments

Need Help

When I wrote about the break in, I told all of you that I would order a replacement bracelet for Gabe.

Except I can’t. the website still exists, but repeated inquiries and requests have gone unanswered.

So I did a kick off meeting, his birthday, Christmas without Gabe’s bracelet. And while that doesn’t mean he’s any more gone than he ever was, I’ve missed it. I’ve rubbed my wrist where it would have been.

I have looked at rings, at necklaces, but in truth, the bracelet is helpful. I rarely wear them, so it feels special. I liked that it had his name and date of birth on a charm.

Any thoughts on where I can find something?

Posted in Baby Loss | 4 Comments