Fell In Love, Walked Away

I don’t know what your superpower is. Mine is getting in the longest line and finding bookstores.

I find bookstores . . . everywhere. I walk down the street in not my hometown and I look in windows and hey, there’s a bookstore and I walk in. I have a sense about that many books, gathered together. It’s like they call to me. Usually I buy something. Almost always I buy something.

When I went back to Chicago last month, I went for a funeral. The night before I took the train to a small town for the funeral, I went out for Mexican, then as I made my way back to my AirBnB, I found a bookstore. It was supposed to be a quick trip. I went in, asked about a few books I’m always looking for, I had planned to emerge in 20 minutes. 30 tops. I’d been awake for 16 hours, I needed to sleep.

I emerged some 3 hours later. We talked about books, about life, about the perils of dating after 40. We talked about Canadian politics because he listens to CBC Radio French. He told me about growing up in Mexico. I told him about growing up on the prairies. Our pets, our parents, our friends, our passions.

I fell head over heels in love.

I am deeply practical. I’ve been smitten and infatuated before – I am human, however much people doubt this. But head over heels in love?

I can’t explain it. There was a moment, a brief one, where I almost texted my best friend to tell her to pack up the house and ship me my cats and dog. Where I almost texted my boss I quit.

He wrote his email on a scrap of paper. I lost it. This too is a thing I cannot explain. I tucked it carefully away in my purse. I am not prone to losing things.

And yet it is gone.

I could find him. I know what street the store was on, I can find it on facebook, on instagram.

But I am not sure that I would find the magic of a bookstore, it’s light spilling on to the street. And Manuel. Standing behind the counter, ready to talk.

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Carry you With Me

I tell people that politics is a family sport. My grandfather, my mother, me. I apparently (I don’t remember this) door knocked in my first election when I was 5.

I don’t remember the first one, but I remember many after that. I remember political conventions, I remember rallies, I remember, well at least three decades of it. I’ve never been an official agent, I’ve never been a campaign manager. There’s literally nothing else I’ve not done.

I’m serious. Door knocked. Called. Stuffed envelopes, dropped leaflets, hosted coffee parties, donated.

As I work on typing this, I’m also sending texts for the NDP. Yes, that’s right, if you’ve gotten a text from Tim with the NDP, it may have been me. (Aren’t we all a bit Tim?)

I see children in the campaign office, I saw them when I voted tonight.

I wanted this. I wanted to bring him to a campaign, I wanted him to know that this mattered. That this is where he came from, that this was part of his history.

I wanted to tell him about his great great grandfather, to tell him about my mother, his grandmother. To tell him about the arguments because she dared to volunteer for Pierre Trudeau. I would tell him about the time his grandmother came for coffee and saw an NDP lawn sign. And the look. Oh, the look. I wanted the moment when politics stopped being a family business and became his business. The moment when he supported someone I abhorred, and I told both of that it was important to participate.

I wanted that.

Gabriel died 11 years ago. In some ways, he died again today.

Posted in Baby Loss, Gabriel | 5 Comments

Winners and Losers

One of my colleagues asked me if I won.

Can I tell you the truth?

A long time ago, a younger version of me stood in front of God and her friends and her family and promised until death do them part. A long time ago a man loved that young woman enough to make a life with her. To buy a house, to build traditions and create inside jokes. To dig gardens and decorate Christmas trees. Wash dishes and laundry. To bury his father and her mother and their child.

His father’s photo still hangs in the kitchen. His grandparent’s wedding clock hangs on the dinning room wall. Our son’s ashes sit on the shelf in the dinning room. 38 years worth of Christmases. 16 years of marriage. We grew up together and then we grew apart.

At about the same time, in buildings only a few blocks apart, a new title will be registered at Land Titles. Divorce paperwork will pass under a judge’s eyes and be signed. The courts will mail out the decree. Land Titles will send me a letter when they re-registered the title in my name.

My colleague, he was asking about money.

He missed the greater part. We lost on growing old together. We ended companionship and and gave up on tomorrows.

Tomorrow I will dress with care. Bite my lip, focus and put one foot in front of the other. Hand over the documents to end my marriage and sign the documents to buy my house. And then I’ll come home. And curl up in a ball on my bed, and weep.

There are no winners.

Posted in Divorce | 3 Comments

The Extra Voice in My Head

In November, when I last saw him, my neurologist pointed out that I have had MS for 5 years now and not running anymore, well, that’s kinda what happens. He sorta shrugged and said “yeah, sorry Kiddo. That happens with this disease”.

It turns out that I wasn’t really ok with this.

So, I started running. I’m used to the voice that starts, oh, maybe 3 minutes in. That voice says this hurts and it’s stupid and it wants to go home and eat cheese and drink wine and this hurts and have I mentioned that it hurts. I’ve been ignoring that voice for the almost 10 years I run. I acknowledge it and I move on.

What’s new is the lesions. That comes with new voices.

There’s the voice that comes in about 2 miles in, which warns me for about a split second, before I lose the vision in my right eye. Now, this sounds terrible, but I’m running on a treadmill and it actually doesn’t matter if I can’t see.

There’s the voice about my left leg. Now, what happens is a bit weird. It’s not that my leg stops working. It’s more that my leg and my brain stop talking. I lose all sense of where my leg is in time and space. My leg is working fine. My foot is making contact, I’m running.

The problem is with the voice, the one I call Alice. Alice is, well, she’s a pain the ass. She has no solution to the fact she doesn’t know where my left leg is. She just wants you to know that he’s hooked deeply into my lizard brain, the part of my brain that wants to be able to run away from a bear and Alice wants me to know that she does not know where my left leg is in time and space and she thinks I should panic.

It’s mostly fine. Mostly I just don’t think about it. It took me a bit of discipline to do this. I have to carefully not think that I don’t know how my left leg is working. I know it sounds bizarre, but please believe me, it works.

Well, mostly. Except for the fact I guess I listened to Alice. Or she distracted me. Or maybe someone said something about cheese.

Anyway. On Sunday, around about 2 miles, I fell off the treadmill. Which is dumb. So today I got back on.

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Millimetres of Mercury

It boggles my mind a bit, they measure blood pressure in millimetres of mercury. As in, your blood pressure is 120/70, means that on an old fashioned sphygmomanometer the measurement they take when they hear your heart beat stop (or maybe start) showed 120 mm of mercury until they hear it start (or maybe stop, probably you shouldn’t ask me to take your blood pressure), showed 70 mm of mercury. In a world of high tech drugs and spinning magnets which take pictures of my brain, this seems very quaint.

That’s the curious and quaint part.

My blood pressure has been borderline high since Gabe. In that time – 11 years – I’ve taken up running and lost 60 ish pounds. I’ve quit smoking (and started and quit and started and quit. Currently I’m in the quit phase, but if I’ve learned anything it’s that the most I can hope for is the idea of being a former smoker. I will never be a non smoker). I eat beans and tons of vegetables, I look at sodium levels in canned soup. I do all of the things that I should do.

I offered to lose the last 20 pounds I’ve been kicking around (Ok, 25, I ate very well in Mexico!). The doc said that this wasn’t the worst idea, but she looked at me quite nicely and said that it was mostly genetics. My father was dead by age 68, my mother was 67. While neither of them did well at managing their health, the genes, they are not on my side.

I’m telling you all of this because I probably should eat kale, and because it’s kind of a bummer that I’m going to wind up on bp meds, which I thought “old people” took. Mostly I’m telling you this because I’m proud that I didn’t blame myself for this. I didn’t shame myself for the extra 25 pounds, or the days when I don’t go to the gym. I realized that this wasn’t my fault. I’ve actually done reasonably well to get healthy since Gabriel’s birth. The meds? They would be ok. Which felt like a sort of victory.

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Emails about Slippers

My left slipper has gone missing. I thought it was perhaps under the bed, but no, it has gone on some sort of fantastic adventure. It has not sent a post card with an expected return date.

I live in a 1910 house, which is to say a cold house, with cold floors, and occasionally I want slippers. As I age, and I am perpetually cold, I seem to want them more. Which is about where this story starts – the idea of needing slippers, thinking that this cannot be a hard or expensive problem to solve, and being a bit flummoxed.

I think, and I’m not entirely sure, that my last pair of slippers came from my former MIL. For years, Aunt Peanuts used to buy me moccasins for Christmas. The upshot of this is that I am quite certain I’ve never actually bought myself a pair of slippers.

Given this, it is utterly ludicrous that I had an opinion over the cost of slippers. I’ve never bought myself any. I don’t think I have ever bought anyone else slippers. I have absolutely no basis for an opinion about slippers, but nevertheless, I find myself astonished at the cost.

I had originally thought I would just order myself a replacement pair from LL Bean. Possibly not quite a replacement pair as the pair I had were probably about half a size too large. They don’t sell my version anymore, but the approximate replacement seems to run about $125, plus shipping and I’m sorry, but I just can’t. A cheaper version (with cats) runs about $90, and that still seems to be ridiculous.

I contemplated felting myself a pair. After all, I have more wool than I could ever possibly need and I could totally do this. The problem is that with my variant of MS and Clumsy, it is patently unwise to not have a rubber bottom. It’s the sort of unwise that makes even me nervous.

There’s a funny sort of irony in this. One of my male colleagues, of the sort that I know pretty well, bought his wife slippers for Christmas. I suggested that this was perhaps, well it wasn’t the most romantic of Christmas gifts, and that very few women (his wife included) were going to complain if he bought a nice pair of earrings and placed them in the toe of the slipper. They didn’t even have to be particularly expensive earrings – just plain gold hoops. It was the extra effort that was going to net him much reward. The acknowledgement that slippers are practical, but his love for her is much greater than that, so have both warm feet and something as pretty as she is.

He did well out of my idea, although he took some time to come around to it.

There’s a bit of irony, because after panning his idea of slippers, I caught up to him at the coffee machine and asked where he got the slippers.

Which I may still refuse to buy, but at least I’ll have a better idea.

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What I Learned from a Cake

I spent a good chunk of last Thursday, when not ordering a mojito or reading a trashy novel, thinking about someone baking a cake.

I should back up and bring the rest of you along with me. The Thursday before I left for vacation, the colleague who is leading the negotiations I’ve been working on mentioned that he had a hard stop at 4 pm. He had to go home and cook a birthday meal for his partner, and he had to bake a cake. Not only a cake, but her mother’s recipe for birthday cake. No boxed mix; this was the real deal, which he had to ice, because as his partner pointed out to him, birthday cakes have icing.

Now, my colleague is a smart and capable guy. When I asked if he’d ever baked a cake (He’s in his early 60’s), I wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d said yes. He hadn’t. He looked at the recipe, googled a few things, called his mum and figured he could get on with it.

I should remark – it wasn’t especially that he had figured out how to make the cake. It was the fact she asked for him to bake a cake.

For years I have made the cake my friends’/niece’s/nephew’s/partner’s choice for their birthday. But telling a partner?


I marvelled. At her moxie, her braveness and her boldness for even asking. She told him she wanted dinner and a cake and left the house for a manicure and pedicure. What if he’d said no? What if she just wound up making her own cake because he was so lackadaisical it became clear it wasn’t going to get done? She didn’t nag, she didn’t pitch a fit and she didn’t seem to be worried. (Can you see what it might have been like to be married to me?)

And then I realized – it’s a cake. A bloody cake. It’s not rocket science. It was clearly important to her. So she trusted he’d figure it out. And he did, because he loves her (Actually, he *adores* her).

Mostly what I spent Thursday thinking about is the notion that someone might love someone else enough to bake them a cake, with no fuss and no muss, because that’s what they asked for.

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When I get Older

With a bit of exasperation, after I’d said I couldn’t remember the name of the resort I was staying at, I had no side trips planned, I wasn’t going to Chichen Itza or Tulum, wasn’t going to golf – a colleague said “So, you just gave WestJet all your money and you are going to turn up at a resort and lie on the beach?”


Yes, that is exactly what I am going to do. There is culture, there is history, good food, music. I could go see some of it – I have a bit of money in my budget to do just that, but really, I’m going to have a mojito and read another chapter of a trashy novel. That’s what sun and humidity and the ocean mean to me.

I’ll stand in the ocean, let the waves break over me and I’ll think back to that magical night in 2010 – I’ll hear the words to the song they played on the boat, as I sat with a bottle of Red Stripe in my hands- when I get older, I will be wiser.

And briefly – I’ll ask the ocean. I am older now – am I wiser?

There was this family I got to talking to on the beach. A few sisters, a few brothers in law. From Idaho of all places. They marvelled that I was here alone. They thought I was brave (or possibly they were too polite to tell me I was strange.)

The woman in Jamaica – the one who wondered if she would be wiser when she was older?

Even the 22 year old me who got married and promised forever.

I am older. And I am wiser.

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No Begging

On Tuesday night, after a very long day, I got back to my car and the battery was dead. This was . . . Well, it wasn’t optimal. But it took me back to when I left Owen.

I don’t think I ever told you the moment I decided to really leave Owen. Indeed, perhaps because of the way I was raised (don’t air your dirty laundry in public), perhaps because while we are in the midst of situations we tend to minimize the worst of it as a way of dealing with the fact we can’t fix it. It’s not the boiling frog – not quite – more like not poking the bear.

I locked my keys in the car, while the car was still running. It was minus 20. I locked my keys, my purse, with my wallet and my cell; my briefcase with my computer. I locked my keys in my car, about 15 minutes before clie a meeting I needed to chair. A meeting that was, if I could find street parking, was going to take me 16 minutes to get to. After the meeting I had to study for the 2 final exams that were taking place the next day.

Owen was 12 minutes away. He was at physio, the same physio appointment he did three times a week, had been doing for 8 months. If he had left, driven back to the house, not even gotten out of the car, unlocked my car from his fob and driven back, he might have been 10 minutes late.

When I got into the house, texted him from my iPad, told him what I’d done, he told me to call AAA. I pointed out that I didn’t have a phone, so he told me to go to the neighbour. I pointed out that I didn’t have my AAA card. He agreed to phone for me. I pointed out that given the cold temperature, I could be waiting 12 hours. I had no way to let my client know I was going to be late. I couldn’t even study. I was desperate.

In the end, it was the moment I had to tell him I was begging him for help. I had to beg the man I was married to for almost 16 years, for help. That was done for me.

So, Tuesday. I came back to my car. It wouldn’t start. I called an Uber, I called AAA. When AAA was going to take 72 hours to boost my car, I called a friend. She came by with a portable booster the next day. Car started. Problem solved.

No begging.

I feel badly about not sticking it out. Still. But Tuesday reminded me, I wasn’t a little bit miserable, I was really miserable. I’m alone, but then I had been for a long time.

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Just how Big

The downside of having an MBA (or at least one of them) is that you have learned about such things as calculating Net Present Value. You understand and allocate for the carrying costs of debt based financing.

At some point, if you are me, you figure out what it cost you, upon dissolving your marriage, what the annual cost of marriage was. You do all the math and then you stare at a number of a calculator.

And you scratch your head. Phone a friend.

Because you honestly don’t know – how big or small *should* that number be?

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