family

I miss the forest

Posted by on Sep 12, 2016 in family, Life in Writing, parenting, reflection | 1 comment

I was worried that I was starting to grow resentful of my daughter. My beautiful, intelligent, affectionate little 20-month old daughter. The thought was abhorrent to me! I love her so much. How could I resent her? For starters, I felt the pressure of being unable to sit down and write. To quietly read a book for an hour at a time. To do something other than cook, tidy up, or sit there staring at Facebook comments for 5 minutes in between all that. But it’s funny how a change of scenery, even for an afternoon, can alter perspective drastically. I was feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and physically run down. My back was out. I was tired of spending week after week just recovering from work. I asked Mom if she could take me and Amelia down home–to Alma, where I grew up–and she took us on a Tuesday afternoon. We had a late lunch when we got there, and then went up to Fundy Park for a walk in the woods. The difference in my mental state was almost instantaneous, and it was staggering. The smell of the trees. The silence–all sound beyond us was absorbed by the forest. Watching my daughter interact with nature without worrying about colliding with strangers or her running into traffic. Having both of my parents nearby, while I’m there–not giving me a break, babysitting, or helping me with chores, but the four of us interacting all together. Then I realized that I don’t resent my daughter at all: I resent the fact that I have to spend my time with her recovering, healing, and preparing for the inevitable return back to work later in the week and the repetition of the cycle. I resent throwing out my back and having to work all weekend, then spending the whole week conserving and recharging my energy so I can work again with my back still out because there’s my recovery time is short, and I can’t afford time off unless I’m, you know, dying.  I resent having to micromanage every single day to feel like I’m getting enough enjoyment from my stay-at-home mom moments. This is the life I’ve chosen–the life I want. I get to be home with my daughter 4 days of the week while working the other 3. We don’t have to sink money into daycare and I get to be as much of a stay at home mom as we can afford. On the flip side, Brad also gets a lot of quality time with Amelia on the weekends, when our roles essentially reverse. It’s a good choice, even if it means that time with my husband is limited. Last year when I was on mat leave, though, I was home every evening and weekend could slow down at the end of the day. I could go for a walk or go write at a cafe. I could spend time with my husband and daughter together as a family on weekends, and the whole day was ahead of us. I didn’t have to worry about cramming as many chores as possible into the evenings–and still wake up to a messy house–or the laundry tower on top of the dryer. At least it’s clean. It’s about ten PM, and I’m walking alone outside. The post rainfall has collected in the tall grass and it catches the streetlights, winking at me like fireflies. This is home, even still–all leaf smell and damp, cool air. I learned lessons here. I was bullied here. I also had my first kiss with the boy who would grow to be the man I married here. And, for some reason, here is just where I need to be tonight. I don’t resent her. I miss the forest the most–the freedom to spend more than a day or two breaking from the norm and escaping outside, enveloped by the perfect silence of nature. I have chosen this life, so there’s no point in lamenting. This is what I want. But my priorities and focus can change. Being a toddler-parent is a weird time, so I’ve heard, and I believe it....

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Amelia’s arrival

Posted by on Jan 17, 2015 in family, Life in Writing, pregnancy | 5 comments

Amelia’s arrival

Sometimes I mix up reality and fiction. I get thinking that if something is going really well, then something purely awful is bound to be just around the corner. I think this about everything, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. It’s not really a surprise that I was kind of dreading childbirth for this reason. Don’t get me wrong–I had a wonderful pregnancy. I loved every minute of it, actually, and it was an easy pregnancy, too. Something about that made me think that the actual labour and delivery part of it was going to be the worst experience of my life–something not only painful, but possibly traumatic. I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels this way. The “something must go wrong because everything is going too well” mentality is very real. So, naturally, with such an easy pregnancy, I thought I must be in for one whopper of a labour. I was prepared for this. I hired a doula and the two of us wrote up a birth plan together. It was pretty basic, but I did have an idea of things I really didn’t want to happen, if I could avoid them. I tried to be mostly loose on those conditions, in case I changed my mind, and in case my pain tolerance wasn’t as high as I thought it would be. My doula, Elise Fougère, is someone I’ve known for several years through university, and someone I have come to know as a friend. She recently completed her DONA training and the two of us met to discuss the possibility of me partaking of her services. This was really very late on in my pregnancy–we met up at something around 36 or 37 weeks. On New Year’s Eve, when I was partway through my 38th week of pregnancy, I started noticing that I was having a lot of contractions. I started timing them and I noticed that they were coming closer and closer together–around 7 minutes to start with, then 5. I got ahold of Elise and she came to keep me company and, kindly, cleaned up after me when I threw up on the floor–the first time I was sick the whole pregnancy. She massaged my swollen feet, helped me work on the nursery, and we called Brad to let him know what was happening. When he came home from work, we prepared ourselves to have to go to the hospital at any point. We rang in the New Year by playing Pokémon and watching Community. It was the tamest New Year’s Eve I’d ever spent (“says the woman in labour!” scoffed Elise). I went to bed that night, fully expecting to wake up with painful contractions, but the next morning, we were back to inconsistency. We were all pretty disappointed. Elise headed home for the time being, and checked on me repeatedly for the days to come. Brad and I spent our time playing video games, marathon-ing Community, and hanging out. I was incredibly uncomfortable, because the baby’s head had dropped, and moving around had become a chore. We tried not to think too much about how ready we were for our baby girl to get here. By the evening of January 3rd, I said to myself “it’s okay if she doesn’t come tomorrow. I will find something else to do–I’ll cook us a nice meal. It’ll be fine.” Naturally, I was awoken by my water breaking at 8:30 the following morning; it was the first thing that happened as I got out of bed. “Good morning!” I texted to Elise. “My water just broke!” Mildly painful contractions started up immediately, and Elise met us at home before we headed to the hospital. By around 11, we were told that I was almost completely effaced, and that I should come back as soon as I started feeling particularly miserable. I had suggested around 8 PM, thinking my labour would take much longer than it was about to. Both Elise and the nurse laughed at my naïveté. We went home, where...

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2014 has been a big year.

Posted by on Dec 26, 2014 in death in the family, Doctor Stella Muriel Cooper, family, Life in Writing, Nana, poetry, pregnancy, reflection, Year in review | 0 comments

At this point last year, my life was a little up-in-the-air, and it was very different than it is now. I was managing a store and studying part-time. Early November heralded the very beginning of the holiday season, so I was training new temporary staff while trying to finish final papers. I had already decided to go back to school full-time and step down from my current position to facilitate that, but that wouldn’t be until January. My hair was bright blue–this doesn’t seem like that big a deal, but it had been that way for a year and a half. When January arrived, things changed rapidly. I took two weeks off from work to transition to full-time school, and started working part-time, as a regular employee, after that two-week period was up. This was a big change for me, as I had been managing the store in question for two and a half years and hadn’t been to school full-time for more than five years. It was very weird, but it felt good to be back at school, even if it was stressful. I was used to a fast pace and used to deadlines from work, but this was a little bit different. From time to time, I like to see a friend of mine for a Tarot reading. I don’t have any real kind of belief system and don’t subscribe to any religion, typically, but there’s something really interesting about Tarot that has me going back to it. I like that, regardless of what you believe, the cards can give you a different perspective that you hadn’t thought of before. One morning in January, I had a reading with this friend, and we talked about my near future–job changes, what the Chinese New Year would bring, and my own personal changes. She mentioned to be aware of the Chinese New Year, as the Year of the Horse brings unpredictability. She also mentioned that I shouldn’t be in a rush to change jobs, and told me to an expect a timeline of a couple of months. Having such an extreme change in position at my job also felt weird. I was a bit uncomfortable with it, in some ways, so I ended up changing jobs in March–a timeline of a couple of months, as my friend had suggested. I fled to a locally owned and run natural health store that was both close to home, and close to the university. During this transition, I dyed my hair brown–a natural colour–for the first time in a year and a half. I started learning the ins and outs of the natural food and supplement market, but remain, even now, with so much to learn. I traveled with fellow English students to the Annual Atlantic Undergraduate English Conference, where I read my original poems in front of other English students from universities all over Atlantic Canada. It was a great opportunity and a chance for me to self-promote a bit, which proved to be difficult while juggling school with other responsibilities. The end of the winter semester finally came, and I couldn’t have been happier. It had been a very full and stressful semester, and I was worried about my marks up until the very last minute. I had spring and summer intersession coming up, but the worst part of the year was over. Spring intercession came on rapidly, and left as quickly as it had arrived, even though I was working as well. Spring session also felt like a bit of a blur because I found I was pregnant during that time. Suddenly, I had another responsibility to add to my already long list. Summer intersession seemed a bit longer, as I was also rehearsing for Julius Caesar, on top of working and the pregnancy. Nothing was sweeter than handing in my final paper for my summer course, having just closed Julius Caesar a few nights before, and then going on vacation from work a few days later. Suddenly, I was met with an abundance of free time, and though it didn’t last...

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To every thing there is a season.

Posted by on Oct 23, 2014 in death in the family, Doctor Stella Muriel Cooper, family, Life in Writing, Nana, poetry, reflection | 0 comments

To every thing there is a season.

It seems that most of my posts of late are posts dedicated to someone or other. This isn’t something I intended to do, but the series of events that have unfolded lately have led to this point. I’ve had a number of funerals, weddings, and life changes in the past year, and my life has been affected by a lot of important people. This is another one of those posts. My Nana, known better as Dr. Stella Muriel Cooper (or just “Muriel” to her friends and family), passed on just a little over three weeks ago, and though the funeral has come and gone, I have still found myself saying goodbye every day since–sometimes in ways that surprise me. In the days leading up to her death, I went in to visit her several times. One night, my mother decided to start reading her some of her own poetry. She wrote a beautiful book of poems called the Music of Memory, and I found a poem in there entitled “Spring”. I had remembered hearing it read years ago, but it struck me more than ever on this day. This poem was about me. “Spring” by Muriel Cooper At sunrise, the mourning doves cooed outside my bedroom window. I could almost hear the daffodils pushing their green higher through the dark bark mulch. One small patch of snow outside on the balcony has refused for days to melt more than a few drops. * * * Musing, I hear light footsteps moving nearer from down the hall. A small blonde head appears around the half-open door. “Nana,” she says, “I just had a bad dream!” She holds me close pulls back the covers and climbs in beside me. For just a few minutes all is quiet. I doze, grateful that I have a granddaughter eight years old. Questions, questions time passes too quickly slow down.      Then one ear buried in my pillow I hear her whisper, “Can we go down now and make the oatmeal porridge?” How could I forget our morning oatmeal ritual? Nana hadn’t been living at home for fourteen years, but before that, when I was young, we would make oatmeal together every morning that I stayed with her. It was plain oatmeal, but she would sprinkle brown sugar on top and pour cold milk over while the porridge was still hot. Years of eating pre-packaged garbage–flavoured instant oats full of unnecessary sugar and sodium–made me forget how perfect plain oatmeal could be. In the days after I read that poem, I would make myself oatmeal for breakfast. I’ve continued to do this most mornings, now, and I always try to reflect on memories I shared with Nana as I was growing up. One of my favourite memories happened one time while Nana came to visit me. It was winter, and she and I were alone in the house. Snow was coming down steadily, and it was that coveted packy snow that made perfect snowballs and snowmen. I challenged Nana to a snowball fight, and she accepted. The two of us went outside together and started lobbing snow balls at each other. She successfully hit me more times than I hit her, and not only was her aim true, but she hit me in the face–twice!–with a snowball. I remembered laughing incredulously as she struggled to withhold her own laughter and stammered out an apology. She also went with me many years ago on my first day of kindergarten. A picture of me and my Nana on the day she obtained her doctorate from Dalhousie University. Nana was an incredibly intelligent woman, and on top of that, she had an extensive career and impressive curriculum vitae. I didn’t know that side of her well, but have gotten to know it better since her death. I hadn’t realized, growing up, how accomplished she was, or how her accomplishments would come to inspire me later on. At the age of 70, for instance, she received her doctorate from Dalhousie University–the oldest student, at the time, to receive...

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