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love note no.18: dear 2016.

Dear 2016,

With an hour left of you, we landed in Costa Rica.  December pretty much summed up our entire year.  We were in a frenzy – emptying out our storage of our last bit of belongings, adjusting to life without a permanent home in Toronto, spending quality time with the people we love, and of course, more airport departures and arrivals again.

I spent your very first day, January 1, 2016, meditating on my intention for the rest of my time with you.  I reflected on the year before. My 2015 was full of beginnings – a collection of sunrises that changed my relationships including my marriage, a meditative artistic practice turned workshop, and a deep trust developed through forgiveness. In 2015, my word FAITH led meet to the most beautiful open experiences that had me confront a lot of my fears including open waters, heights, and letting my children go.  I wanted to continue this journey into the unknown.  But I wanted to remember that even in the darkest parts, there was always light to be seen.  At the end of 2015, I finally was able to say that I was happy.  I didn’t want to dim the light or forget the lessons I had learned from months of daily sunrises.

My one word intention for you was LIGHT.

When I look back on this year, it’s ironic how it was also one of my heaviest emotional years as I released things I didn’t realize I was so attached to.  There is only one other year that I have cried more. We made our lives lighter by purging most of our possessions including our home, finally living with what is essential.  With the commitment to living in the light, I had to grieve the things I had to let go and redefine myself as a woman, a mother, and a wife. I look back and see how faith was intricately intertwined with my search for light.  In the darkest times of transition, when our whole foundation seemed to be moving, my faith gave me strength.  When I couldn’t fix things, I relied on love to get us through it all.

You are filled with so many magical moments where light led the way – literally and figuratively. You are sprinkled with moments where light shines.  I barely blogged and left my book of hours on the shelf.  It was an emotionally exhausting and uplifting year where my physical presence in the moment was needed more than anything else.

There are a few moments that stand out.

The light of womanhood shone bright in a women’s retreat.  An opportunity to connect with my body through movement and sitting in circle and ceremony while bonding with other women allowed me to enter a new phase in my own heroine’s journey.  I stood in my body and allowed myself to both be the light and accept it.

When I walked through the jungle barefoot in the darkest of nights, I relied on the light of fireflies and a new friend to lead the way.  It was unplanned and felt like a dream at the time but it is now one of those moments I look back on that changed my life – to trust that life-giving light was making the path for me – as I reclaimed a piece of me that I had buried.

The first moment I stepped on the land that we eventually bought to build a home on, I started to cry.  A single ray of light shone through the towering trees and landed in my eyes.  I knew that it was my grandmother saying, “YES.”  I felt it in my bones and in my being.  I closed my eyes and felt her hand on my shoulder and her kiss on my forehead.

After deciding to sell our home and move to Costa Rica, we purged our house to get ready to list and shortly after, I found myself lying on the ground beside my husband under the world’s largest kaleidoscope observing patterns that light make visible and enjoying the miracles of what light can create during an epic road trip on our own for the first time since having kids.

On a hike in the outskirts of Chicago, I saw light again and again on the wing of a butterfly, on a perched eagle, and reflected in a mother’s fierce love for her children.

After walking across Brooklyn with a 25lb backpack strapped to my back, alone with my eldest daughter who had developed a nasty rash crawling up her legs and a cut up swollen face from an incident with the floor of a fast food restaurant, I sat on the Brookyn pier with her.  We sat in silence because we were exhausted.  Exhausted from the walk, exhausted from the recent events of our life. I remember us taking of our shoes and socks and airing out those nasty things while we sat side by side on a park bench.

I can see the image so clearly.  The sun is getting low and its soft light gives a magic sparkle on the water and blurs the edges of the sharp city skyline.  We watch the boats go by on the east river.  It’s the summer so Manhattan is bustling but here we find rest by the water.  I occasionally look at her next to me and hold back the tears.  I want to keep this moment in my heart forever.  I want to imprint this sight of her glowing face, the beginning of the blossom, the moment when the petals slowly turn to the sun and unfurl.

We took some selfies which I regrettably left on the hard drive in Toronto along with all the other photos of 2016.  But I see the photos in my mind.  I see us taking them.  We make silly faces and serious faces.  We laugh and the light is perfect.  It is perfect for so many reasons.  She begs me to go on the subway instead of walking back on the Brooklyn Bridge.  I slowly put on my socks and my hiking boots that I am breaking in and tell her that we can do it.  We can make it across the bridge. She sighs deeply in a gesture that is so   It’s crowded on the bridge and our patience for people is waning.  She speedwalks ahead of me.  I don’t know if she’s more annoyed at me or the human traffic jam on the bridge.  I know she can’t be that mad at me because she slows down to look back wondering if I am keeping up.  I know that I can’t. I take pictures of her walking ahead of me on this bridge.  When we get to the centre of the bridge, I ask her to stop.  I know crossing this bridge means more than simply a way to get back to where we are staying.  I know that once we cross this bridge, our time on the pier will slowly become a distant snapshot.  Once we cross this bridge, the gap between us will widen as we both prepare for separate journeys away from each other.

We stop in the middle and I tell her to make a wish.  She closes her eyes as we stand at the rail.  I don’t.  I want to remember every visual detail.  Time slows down again.  People rush past us as we stand still.  We make our wishes, hug, and look at each other. I think about all the bridges I have helped her cross and the ones that she has helped me and continue to help me with including this one.  I will never forget the light that washes over us as we stood there holding each other before joining the flow of people to get to the other side.

A few days later, a family hike in the Catskills acted like a highlighter, making visible all the turmoil brewing under the surface and I came undone at the top of a mountain.

As a family, we marvelled at how light was guided, reflected, and invited in the most spectacular visual ways depending on how a structure was built and how a little planning goes along way in dancing with light.

On a remote trail on the pacific coast, I found light that solidified a lifelong friendship.  I found it with others walking alongside us on the trail.  I found it in the ribbons of stars in the Milky Way camping out on a beach on a night where we were the only people for miles.  I had to pee. I didn’t want to go in the forest alone and I didn’t want to wake up my friend.  I walked toward the sound of the ocean without a light and looked up.  In that moment, awash by the starlight and enveloped by expanse of the universe, the roar of the ocean just ahead of me, a deep knowing filled me.  I knew that light and darkness could live beautifully side by side.  I knew that I was never alone and deeply supported.

I learned how to piece out my heart. I learned how to crack it open to not only let the light in but to let it out. I opened my fragile heart this year to a new community.  They took it in loving arms and never let it go.  I left some of it in Toronto with people who I will always feel connected to no matter where I am.  I gave big chunks to both my daughters who aren’t with me right now and to the world that is holding them while I am not with them.

On Christmas Day, I married my husband again in last minute church blessing.  In this blessing, we committed to a spiritual partnership.  For me, this day has come to symbolize the light of creation, the signal that we move into a season of re-creating ourselves in the darkness of winter.  I healed many wounds with the church and with our relationship as we checked in and decided to move forward together in this next phase of our life. I had my daughter as my maid of honour.  Almost 17 years ago, she was my flower girl.  She stood beside me again, but now alongside with her siblings.

And all those airports.  The sadness of departures and joy of arrivals. – that became my thing.  We said so many goodbyes.  The latest was saying goodbye to my middle child for six weeks as she boarded a plane for Argentina and saying goodbye to my eldest as we boarded a plane for Costa Rica.  It is in the walls of the airport that I began to see the common thread in coming and going.  Everyone waiting in anticipation to see a loved one.  Everyone holding tight as they say farewell.  This is the beautiful light of humanity.

These are just a few moments that come to mind as I reflected on this year of transition, of shifting my perception to light so that it is all I see.

I am so grateful for you.




love note no.17: dear christmas quilt.

Dear Christmas Quilt,

A couple days before Christmas, I finally found you in a box I had packed away.  I looked for you for weeks and couldn’t find you. I thought I had given you away, or worse, thrown you out by accident.

Years ago, I made you for the couch – a holiday quilt to snuggle under on cold winter days.  You were the first quilt I had ever made. You gave comfort to sick and feverish children. You kept multiple pairs of legs covered as we finished knitting and sewing our handmade gifts.  You were a lesson in sharing and how to keep warm together.

Here is a pic of you in 2012 keeping my babies warm:

We used to all fit underneath you – all seven of us.  Chris and I used to be book ends to squirmy little ones who overlapped each other’s bodies like squished sardines in a can.  We would watch Christmas movies together all snuggled together with at least half of us falling asleep beneath you.  You held us all together through a lot of laughs and some tears, the emotional highs and lows of the holidays.

When I pulled you out the other day, you seemed so small.  Although it has only been a year since we last saw you, the kids seem so much bigger than you now.  I was excited to show you to the kids.

You see, our old home, the house itself, played a big role in so many of our family traditions.  This is what I wanted for my family when we created it.  I wanted the children to associate the season with family activities that brought us joy and warmth and an opportunity for reflection on our year during the darkest time.

Our advent calendar was centred around doing things together every day. The ultimate emphasis on gift-giving through acts of kindness.  Each daily envelope held a love note for each child plus an activity to do as a family.  For example, one day we would call three different people and tell them you love them.  Some days had us baking cookies for our neighbours or handing out wool socks to the homeless or finding “peace” in ten languages.  Other days had us watching a favourite movie together or sing carols under you – our family holiday quilt.

We made all our gifts including many little quilts like you.  We would use all of our scraps and create quilts and little stuffed toys for all the new babies in our family as a welcome present. We knitted scarves, sewed cowls, and made hats for family and each other.  This was a huge part of our homeschool year – our crazy month of handwork, my own little Santa’s workshop.  If you walked into our house a week or two before Christmas, you would see a child at the cutting mats with piles of thread and cut fabric all over the floor around her.  You would hear the buzzing of the sewing machine.  You would see another one at the ironing board.  The rest would be cuddled under you knitting or hand sewing.  I would be moving from station to station helping with the tough parts of the project – the cutting, the turning, the lining up – and then running to the kitchen to take the spiral bread out of the oven to eat as a reward for a hard day’s work.

We would take tea breaks to snack and sit with you stretched across us as I gave pep talks of encouragement to weary fingers and tired eyes.

I remember piecing together each tree on you.  You were supposed to be filled with them but I had babies needing me and I settled on a few trees in the centre with “snow” surrounding them.  I remember binding you and the kids watching me patiently sew your edges. They couldn’t wait to play with you – to use you as a roof for their indoor fort or just hold you in their arms.

I was excited to pull you out for them to see again this Christmas.  I imagined them all under you again.  I wanted to see them all fit under you again desperately.  But I found you late.  There were only a handful of days left of us all being together.  I pulled you out and was overwhelmed by memories.  The sight of you brought back visions of my babies crawling under a tree that had ornaments only on the top half and kids making mini gingerbread houses on the big dining room table.  When they saw you spread out on my bed, they didn’t react with the joy that I thought they would. The kids touched your trees so delicately as if you weren’t real and the act of touching you would make you disappear into the land of Christmas Past.  One of them kept touching the little handmade tag on the back.

They smiled with a quiet sadness. I watched them and knew how they felt.  Because we hadn’t pulled out any of our old decorations or even did any of our traditions this year, you were a reminder of what Christmas once was and those traditions we had let go of this year.  I could have tried to cling to them and force them this season but I needed to hit pause.  I couldn’t just move on trying to fit the old with where we are now.  We talked about it as a family.  We talked about having this year be simpler and to enjoy the seventeen days we had as a family of seven before we would have to say goodbye again.  We talked about spending quality time with family and friends instead of a few hours here and there for a quick hello. It was ok to reminisce and talk about what we missed.  It was ok to grieve the loss of something that would never be the same again.

We still watched our favourite movies together and cuddled under the blanket in our bed but you stayed folded on the floor.  No one fought over you.  One child would pick you up occasionally and spread you out on top, trying to cover us all, but somehow you wound up on the floor again and again.  You no longer could fit us all even if we tried to squeeze ourselves and sit on each other’s laps.  I remember a year when they all fit in it on the small couch.  I could hear them laughing and giggling from the kitchen and I distinctly remember feeling that I was taking this time for granted.  We homeschooled so we were able to be together every single day and have a whole December of baking, singing, making, and giving.  Every time I would feel completely exhausted from writing love notes until 2am or reading all the winter holiday books over and over again for hours, I knew that a time would come when those moments would end and the days of all of us just being together would be fewer and fewer.

As I sit at the computer this morning, I pull you onto my lap. I look at the little tree in the centre, the one with the heart on it.  I hand stitched that heart right before I pieced it all together.

I told the kids that the little bit of red gave some visual interest to the tree and it looked cute.  I never told them the truth.  It was a secret between you and I.  I put a piece of my heart into this quilt, my love for each one of them.  But the hand stitched heart was also a reminder for me.  It was a reminder that putting effort into building traditions was worth it.  Stitching this quilt while having a toddler on my lap or a little one unplugging the foot pedal over and over again was worth it. Traditions would hold us tightly while we grew and figured things out.  They would give us comfort and security.  They would ground us and help us define what was essential to our family.

The sun streams in now for the first time in days.  The darkest days are behind us once again. As the holiday season comes to a close, I will put you away again.  Thank you for keeping us warm and holding us together over the years.  Thank you for giving my heart a place to rest this morning as it ached.  Thank you for reminding me how traditions are built slowly and that it’s ok to build new ones.




love note no.16: dear caterpillar.

We have began a new chapter in our family adventures here in Costa Rica.  And we have been busy maintaining connection with our daughter who has been living abroad. It is unfamiliar emotional and logistical territory – piecing out my heart while navigating time zones.

I haven’t written any love letters here in over 6 weeks.  Every time I started to write a love letter it felt like writing holiday cards – too many to write, so little time.  Now I have figured out how to stay in one place and feel the earth beneath my feet.  

And I think the world needs a little more love right now.  

Don’t expect a chronological review of the sequence of events over the last bit of life.  I will touch on all of it through these letters, collaging them together with story and memories.  I write again because I found this quote by Lousie Bourgeois:  “To be an artist is a guarantee to your fellow humans that the wear and tear of living will not let you become a murderer.”  I need to stop compartmentalizing and trying to organize my experiences and emotions.  So here is where I spill the contents as I see fit.  To let myself get messy without anticipating a tidy finish.  To map out the metaphors and celebrate the uncertainty.  To stay in just one place for a little while.  

Today I begin my letters again slowly and with a small miracle.

Dear caterpillar,

We found you the other day resting between two large leaves.  By the following day, there was this film, this veil starting to form around you.  And now, a few days later, you are less lean and long and more swollen with the silky, thread-like film thickening around you.  We can only speculate that you are building your cocoon and not a chrysalis because we don’t see a hard casing around you.  We think you are on your way to becoming a moth.


I’d like to give you a heads up little caterpillar – moths get a bad rap.  Butterflies get all the glory.  All the children’s books are written with butterflies adorning the gardens or stories about growth and transformation into a beautiful butterfly in the light of day.

My daughter recently wrote a short story about a girl and a caterpillar.

Spoiler Alert:  After the girl rescues the caterpillar from being trampled on a foot path, she brings it home to live in her garden and the caterpillar turns into, you guessed it, a butterfly.

But I am writing this love letter to you because I know you are special. You will have a frenulum while butterflies do not.  This little piece of your anatomy joins the forewing to the hind wing so the wings can work in unison during flight – an advantage, I suppose, for your nighttime flights because you are primarily nocturnal.  You love the night – the quiet and the darkness.

As we find our nightly rhythm here in Costa Rica, we have welcomed many moths into our home.  Attracted to light, moths of many sizes have paid us a visit – some very unexpected and humorous visits including one where a grown man jumped out of the bed when a large sphinx moth landed on his head.  (At least, we think it’s a sphinx moth. It actually kept showing up every night during the first week we were here.)  And as I sat here this early morning, before the sun rose, the tiniest of moths landed on my finger.


The moth is a creature of transformation, similar to the butterfly, but its nocturnal nature is what sets it apart.  Its ability to thrive in the darkness but at the same time to always find the light is a trait not to be discounted.  To not flail when things are unknown.  To have faith that you were born with a deep inner knowing even in the darkest places.  Some hypothesize that the moth is led by lunar light and it occasionally mistakes manmade light for the moon’s light which explains why it follows any light.

Guided by the moon, she takes flight in the darkness.

Needless to say, my family is going through its own metamorphosis on a collective and on an individual level.  We are a microcosm of what is going on out there. We are being transformed whether some of us like it or not.  There has been breakage, dissolution, stripping, and releasing.  But like my daughter’s story of the girl saving a caterpillar that could be trampled in its most vulnerable time, and giving it a place to undergo its transformation in peace, Chris and I are trying our best to do the same for our children – hold that space for them as they turn to mush, a necessary act before becoming something new.

A few weeks ago, it was dark and the jungle symphony changed from birds to insects.  We were sitting outside under the stars and my son put his hand across his forehead and said, “Mama, I’m sick.”

I felt his head and said it didn’t feel like he had a fever.  He said, “Not that kind of sick.  I’m homesick.”  I moved my hand down to his heart and rubbed it and said holding back the tears, “Tell me about it.”  He talked about our old couch which now lives in a friend’s house which used to live in our basement in the house we also sold.  He talked about how cozy it was and how he loved sitting there to cool down when it was hot outside.

I asked him, “So you miss that feeling.  Being able to go to a place that you knew would make you feel better?”

He nodded.  And I said, “Hold on to that feeling.  Close your eyes and feel it.  When you do that, you invite that feeling to come back in any space you happen to be in.  Feel us with you cuddling and keeping cool.  Feel family loving you wherever you are.”

This has been the simplest way for us to hold space for our children and for ourselves – to create a container of love to hold them steady.  We have found beautiful people in this community to hold a space for all of us too.

It is at night when my children miss our family and our old home the most – when the bright colours of the jungle and the ocean fade and they are no longer distracted by the sights.  It is a dark with life moving through it, a dark with a different world waking up.  It’s been so long since we have been in a darkness like this – the occasional light from the moon when it breaks through the clouds, the only thing that gives us comfort.  We are used to noisy city light outside our windows from street lamps and the glow of a big city.  When there are brown outs here, we can barely see our hand in front of us sometimes and the sun sets in an instant without that familiar phase of a comforting dusk, a softening of the light.


I had been telling stories to my children about caterpillars and butterflies to heal them when they feel unsettled and not at home – in their body and in their physical location.  But little cocooning caterpillar, you have taught me that I missed the mark.  It is the wisdom of the moth that I must share with them.  The butterfly – they know.  They have even raised monarchs and released them.  It is the moth and all its stories of the dark that they need, that I need.  I need to bring them to light to show them this mysterious beauty – the beauty of faith in the darkness.

My story will be along the same lines as my daughter’s story – to rescue a caterpillar from being trampled on when it’s most vulnerable – when it doesn’t have its wings yet and moves slowly on unchartered terrain – and place it in a garden where it is safe and has room to fall apart, to rest, and put itself back together to enjoy a life of moving through the darkness, occasionally chasing the light of the moon.

So little caterpillar, thank you for your lesson.

We will protect your cocoon and let you take your time to transform.






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Dear Facebook, Instagram, and the Internet in general,

We’ve been on a break for the last couple weeks.  I do this periodically to keep a healthy relationship with you because I have known to be a little dependent. I hate to admit it but sometimes I have needed you for validation – how many likes did I get?;  or a way to escape – I don’t want to feel anything right now so let me get lost in other people’s lives for a moment.  

So instead for the last few weeks, I’ve returned to the beauty of my own sensory perception.  Delighting in my five senses while hiking, knitting, or just thinking.  (And sometimes all at once.)

But you have somehow managed to always be on the back of my mind.  What’s new?  Am I missing out on some great article or updates from friends?  Will I still be connected to all my relationships that are sustained somewhat by social media due to physical distance?

The interesting thing is that I have taken a break from all of you because I WAS afraid of missing out.  Afraid of missing out on what was going on in front of me.  A few weeks ago, I hiked deep into nature, to a remote locale without service, and I felt grateful to be forcibly separated from you so I could be absorbed by nature herself.  I couldn’t text or call my family and they had no way of getting a hold of me. I couldn’t post the spectacular vistas in real time.  I couldn’t post a blog about how great it felt to be disconnected from the online world.


I decided to extend this break because I was about to embark on a few travel adventures with my family.  Travel adventures that would require all of my energy – energy to tap into my multi-tasking logistical side, energy to recognize and be aware of my children’s hunger, exhaustion and hormonal cues, and energy to be present in the miracle of each moment we were together.  And with all this family time, I knew that I would have the smallest of moments alone.  I wanted to spend these tiny portions of solitude in stillness or writing in my journal and not lose myself in your worlds.

I try to make a case against you each time we are on a break: You are a waste of time.  What people post isn’t really what’s going on.  You are a vehicle for showcasing ignorance and hate.  You make me judge and compare and sometimes I feel like a total piece of crap after spending hours scrolling through other people’s lives.

For the past few weeks, we have had the most wonderful experiences on our travels.  We are living our dreams out loud.  But we also have had some tender times with tears and homesickness.  A homesickness that I can’t make go away with a kiss and a hug.  So I have stayed away from you and posting our adventures because I haven’t been able to be as transparent as I’d like to be.

Life isn’t perfect, we all know that.  But my question is, why do I feel like it has to be to post the beauty, to post the pauses in the pain? Why is it sometimes I feel like a fraud when I post a calm before/after the storm picture on Instagram?

Hold on, let me finish.  This is still a love letter because every time I question our relationship, you remind me of a truth that is sometimes hard to swallow.

You prove one truth to me that I keep forgetting every time I start hating you:  the love for you is correlated with the amount of love I have for myself.  And by love, I mean the healthy kind.  That giving, open, expansive, and compassionate love. You are my mirror just like everything else in my life. When I choose to stop judging myself and others, I see more beauty in humanity on my Facebook feed.  My heart tunes into a different frequency.  When I am afraid and alone, you amplify that too.  When I feel there is something missing, your posts make me envy and compare.  When I feel full and light, I am grateful for each and every post that comes across my feed.  I can put the device down after a reasonable amount of time and go back to my sensory experience.

It has to do with intention, my friend.  This is what my wise and patient husband said to me the other day as he lamented that I haven’t written a blog post or shared anything online.  He said that it has to do with intention.

(He’s a big fan of yours…for obvious reasons…)


So why share and like and love?

To share in hopes that we might give comfort or to inspire others.  To learn from each other.  To connect in ways that surpass physical boundaries.  To like and love for the simple fact that we do – we like and love each other.

When I lay my heart out in honest surrender, you send me love.  You send it when a friend sends me a short and sweet text saying they are thinking of me or a friend in another country sends a FB message to Skype soon.  You provide articles that articulate exactly how I feel which gives me the relief of self-awareness.  I see photos of friends and their families living in joy.  I don’t need the behind-the-scenes.  I know that their lives are like mine – complicated and messy.  But in that one instagram photo or Facebook post, they shared the light.  The joy.  Even if it lasted for only that instant.

That’s what I learn from you.  You give me what I give.  I receive what I need when I need it.  I write here and my heart feels a little lighter.  I post Instagram photos from our travels because there is so much beauty to be discovered wherever we go and because learning and curiosity never ends or is confined to text books or an institution.

When I take a break from you, it has nothing to do with you.  It’s me.  I need to step back and re-evaluate how I feel and what I need.   But because of you, I have been able to maintain relationships and connect with others all of the world.  You are the reason we are able to live our dreams and travel.  I have been inspired by postings from friends and strangers to create a life of my choosing and to question my beliefs over and over again.

Thank you my old friend.

With love,



P.S.  This doesn’t mean I am going to get on Twitter and Snap Chat.  I still have five kids to homeschool. 🙂


love note no.14: dear ball of yarn.


Dear ball of yarn,

We find ourselves together at the break of dawn on a terrace in an apartment in the middle of Barcelona.

Unlike the other four balls of yarn before you, you aren’t wound up so tight.  Perhaps they weren’t either. Perhaps it was just me that tightly wound, trying to tug and pull so fiercely at them in airport lounges, airplanes, car rides, restaurants, parks, couches, and beds all over New York City, Toronto, and now, in Barcelona.

I have knit furiously for the last few weeks.  You have sat silently in the corner of the room or the bottom of a bag waiting for your turn.  Knitting has become a safe place for me to feel because that’s all I have done this month –  feel.  Instead of writing which involves a lot of my heart and too much emotion, I have turned to my hands and my will. And when it gets too much, just before the dam breaks, I focus on the softness of what I have made thus far and the single stitch on my needle.

You are the last one my friend.  The last ball of yarn to finish my project.  But I have slowed down now that we are here.  Here at the place where I have to finish.  The place where I have to knit your final strand so that I can give this labour of love away.  It will get done.  But now that it is near the end, I am slowing down to savour, to bless, and to love each stitch.

You are a part of the whole.  The last line in a long story.

In September 1997, pregnant with my eldest,  I picked up another thread to weave into my own story.  So entwined into mine for almost two decades, it seemed like this was the time to tie up the loose ends so that she could weave her own.

So with you, and the other balls of yarn, I have spent the last few weeks knitting a blanket.  She chose white and cream, and then you, a single grey ball for the end.

When she was born, she was wrapped in a pink receiving blanket at the hospital.  I still have it.  The pink has dulled.  The edges are frayed.  There is blue on the other side which her father normally chose as the side to wrap her in after that initial pink announcing that she is a girl.  I thought about giving it to her as a gift but that blanket is for me to keep.  It is the day I received the gift of motherhood.  The day I received her into my arms, my life, my tapestry.  Another life stage for me – motherhood.  She chose me to take care of her and be her mother for the rest of her life.  And I accepted.  I kept her warm in that blanket, always keeping her swaddled and protected when she wasn’t near me or on me.

Today I am knitting a different type of blanket.  It is a giving blanket.  It is a blanket to give her to herself and to the world.  It is a reminder to her and to myself that she will now give birth to herself over and over again as she enters womanhood. I will never stop being her mother but I must stop being the one to knit her story with mine.  I am ready to give birth to her one last time.

This blanket is knit with every intention I have had for her since the day she was born – the blanket I would have wanted to make for her as a baby.  With every stitch, I pray.  With every stitch, I give thanks for every moment we have been together. With every stitch, I whisper all the things I have to say that I can’t say out loud.  With every stitch, I pour love, love, love.

This is why I pull you softly to me, my last ball of yarn.  I know we are almost done.  I stop between stitches to dry my eyes.  I pause the clacking of needles when there is a lull in traffic so I can catch the sound of her deep sleep breathing in the room next door.  Part of me is reluctant to knit so fast.  Maybe if I slow down, time will grind to a halt too.  But I know it won’t.  I know this has to finish.  Pulling the thread won’t rewind the last nineteen years or stop me from coming undone with the moment I eventually have to face.

When we finish, I will give her this giving blanket.  A blanket that will find it’s home in an apartment that will be her own, in a city that will become her own.  I will lay it on my lap on the ride there, letting it keep me warm for a moment and letting it comfort me softly.  I will whisper a final blessing and let go.  Let go my labour of love.








love note no.13: dear routine.

There have been a halt in love notes because I haven’t been at a computer.  We spent a few days last week at a friend’s cottage and I have just returned from a solo trip to Chicago to visit a friend.  Because this time outdoors and with friends is so precious to me, I am not on the computer too much.  But with recent events, like my daughter’s sprained ankle and time away, I have discovered a few things…

So let’s try this again.  Instead of 100 days of love notes.  I am amending my project to simply “100 love notes.”  And here’s why…

Dear Routine,

You and I have been going steady for a long time now.  You were the trophy wife to my creativity, to my sanity, to my MO of “getting shit done.”  When I had my babies, you rode in like a knight in shining and armour to slay my dragons of chaos and exhaustion.  You even helped me mount several attacks against my arch-nemesis: laundry.

In fact, we took it to a new level of commitment in recent years and you became a sacred ritual – a morning must and a creative daily project like this one and this one.

And when it came to the kids and homeschooling, your edges became less defined and our relationship had less hard boundaries.  We were officially exclusive and you were a slow and steady rhythm that matched us to the seasons and helped us develop a family flow each year.

But we have had some rocky times lately.

Since we returned from Costa Rica in late March, and entered the Land of Transition, we’ve become estranged.  Sleep schedules have turned upside down – some children need me at midnight while others come to me in the early morning to be held.  I feel like I am nursing again.  With adolescence comes different sleep patterns and with change comes different needs.

My 5am sunrise wake ups haven’t been happening this year on a daily basis.  We are up at night talking, planning, researching, and wondering.  The kids wake up in the middle of the night more and crawl into bed.  They have trouble falling asleep.  I lie with them and stroke their heads. We wake up in the morning disoriented because we aren’t at home.

I have stared at my morning pages, the little piece of you I cling to like a security blanket, with so much to say.  They have become my constant companion transforming into mid-morning pages, lunchtime pages, afternoon pages, evening pages and late night pages.  Every moment I get lost in my head, I throw all the thoughts in there to make space to see clearly.  But I don’t have a dedicated morning time anymore to stay in that space.

We are out enjoying our favourite places with our favourite people savouring every moment we have with them this summer.  It feels like a lot of doing but it’s not.  Yes, we are moving and driving and visiting but we are also being.  So when there is a last minute text to hang out or a day trip to a faraway beach with family, we are saying YES.  Yes to being with the people we love.  The people we are going to miss.

This means saying NO to you a lot.  No to regular bedtimes. No to regular mealtimes.  No to familiar grocery stores and markets. No to pre-scheduled extra-curricular activities. No to sitting at the computer to writing these love notes.

After my daughter sprained her ankle and I looked at our calendar for the next month or so, I have realized that daily love notes is a bit of a stretch for me at this time.  I  made the commitment thinking it would fuel my creativity in this time of uncertainty and become a consistent place to ground.  But it only served as another reason to be hard on myself for not following through.  A chance for my shadow bits to rear their ugly heads and sit on their pedestals to cast judgement.

By trying to force us to return to the same relationship we have had, I forget one very important thing – I have changed.  What I want from this relationship has changed.

I need to loosen my grip on what we had.  I can’t be married anymore.  Not right now.  Mornings don’t need to begin the same every day and my bedtime may fluctuate.  What I loved about you, the solace you gave me, was feeling grounded and centred.  My challenge is to feel that without you, to stop struggling to keep you when what I need is to go with the flow.  This doesn’t mean flying by the seat of my pants and being non-commital.  I can still plan and decide what is important to me.

It means ALLOWING.

Allowing myself to plan around the events I want to show up for.  Allowing my heart to open up to experiences and the moments of connection that are staring at me right in the face that I would not have noticed if my head was preoccupied with you.  Allowing for the unexpected while being gentle with myself.  Allowing for busy days driving all over the place and late morning starts.  Allowing myself to dance in the car in traffic trying to get back into the city for my son’s baseball game that used to be five minutes away from our old house.  Allowing myself to visit a friend on my own for a couple of days just because.  Allowing nature to hold me in her arms every opportunity I can get.

Matthiessen Dells Nature Preserve

Photo Cred: Marisa Mackay-Barnett at Matthiessen Dells Nature Preserve

Allowing myself to say YES to it all (with a manageable to-do list).

For now, Routine, we are on a break as I focus on letting life move me.  This is the only way I can ease in to change and accept that we are living with mostly unknown outcomes for the next little while.  As I detach from you, I detach from the past and the temptation to assume anything.

This is not goodbye forever but I am discovering so much about who I am right now by letting you go.




100 love notes.




love note no.12: dear youngest child.

Dear youngest child,

It’s rare to have time alone with you these days.  You grab your baseball glove and call your dad to come play with you.  I’m the one who calls you in to get a drink or take a break or give you a kiss on the head.  You wave me off and play outside until it gets dark.

A few weeks ago, we had a morning together.  Your sisters all had their own busy lives to lead and we found ourselves alone.  We were downtown waiting for one of your sisters and I asked you what you wanted to do.  Take a walk and explore?  Find a park?  Or my personal favourite, have coffee and talk about life?

After that last option, you gave me a face and shook your head and made a huge sigh.  It’s been a long time since we did something together.  You didn’t know what to do with me.  We didn’t have baseball gloves to play catch and we were in the middle of the busiest part of the city.  You hate crowds and don’t like to walk city blocks.

We sat side by side thinking.  After a moment or two of deep thought, you looked up at me with a smile and said, “I would like a magnifying glass.”

I said, “Come again?”

You said, “A magnifying glass.  If I could get a magnifying glass, we could have some fun.”

I was intrigued and said, “Ok buddy.  I think that’s our first adventure of the morning.  Let’s go find a magnifying glass.”

Surprisingly it didn’t take long to find one.  We walked into one of those stores that sells pretty much everything unrelated and there it was, a magnifying glass.

You grabbed it and looked at everything up close.

magnifying glass

Everything became interesting.  You called me every few seconds to show me the inside of a flower or the intricate movement of a potato bug.

We walked slowly down the busy city block.  I steered you away from the throngs of annoyed people because you weren’t looking where you were going. You had more important things to look at.  I never told you to stop.  I never asked you to stop swimming upstream.

We did make it to a cafe and you didn’t mind sitting with me while I had a coffee because there were so many cool things to look at with your magnifying glass.  You looked at the woodgrain on the table and the little ant carrying the crumb that was ten times its size.  And then we played a game.  I took out my notebook and drew tiny pictures and tiny words and you had to use your magnifying glass to figure it out.

You looked in my mouth to see if you could see all the way to my stomach and in my eye to see if you could see my brain.  As we were waiting for your sister on a bench in the museum, you discovered something cool.  You said that you could make light dance with your magnifying glass.  I watched as you played with the reflection of light on dark and on the pages of my white notebook.  You wondered and I didn’t give you the answers.  I wondered along with you.  I didn’t want to box you in with what I already knew.  I wanted you to come up with anything and everything your imagination could conjure up.

The little piece of light waxed and waned.  You said it was like the moon.  You made the light shape shift into tadpoles, shooting stars, and ice cream cones.

In one morning with you, I looked closer than ever before and watched light dance.  I lost myself in your world.  I let you lead the way.  It would have been easy for me to lead that morning instead. I could have run errands with you.  I could have been on my phone.  I could have made you sit in a cafe with an activity book while I read my own book.  I have done all those things before.

But that day, I wanted to follow you.  I was curious to see how you see.  You see things I don’t.  You give me permission to get on my hands and knees in the middle of a busy intersection to see a graffiti drawing up close even though I know the light is about to turn yellow.  You make me jealous of your childhood because you actually can’t see what I see, from eyes that are accustomed to grown up worries and fears.

I know that you are growing up.  I see how you go to Daddy first and how he makes you kiss me goodbye.  You still curl up in my lap when you are tired or sick but I am not the first person with whom you want to have fun.  But I will remember this day with you every time I am too busy to listen to your stories or to stop and look when you need me to.

The day I looked close enough to see what was really important and the day I first saw you make light dance.  I know it won’t be the last.

I love you,



love note no.11: dear patience.

Dear Patience,

It feels like we hardly know each other.  I admire you from afar as I see you emerge in others.  I, on the other hand, haven’t made your acquaintance.  We have not been intimate bedfellows or even cooperative neighbours.  Sometimes we don’t even share the same postal code.

But today I found you in the most unexpected place.

The emergency room.

My nine year old daughter has a badly sprained ankle.

ankle sprain

Yes the daughter who loves to move her body from the moment she wakes up to the moment she passes out after pure exhaustion late at night, the one who is practicing one-handed handstands, the one who has been playing volleyball every day for hours and hours until no one wants to partner with her anymore.  Yes that one.  When she did it, she cried in pain that is unusual for her so I knew something was wrong.  She was sidelined.  She couldn’t stand on it.  To make sure it wasn’t broken, we headed to the emergency room aka Hell on Earth.

Here is where I surrendered to the chaos of the hospital and found you.

My daughter was so angry.  She started to cry not because she was in pain, she now had a handle on that, she cried because she was pissed off.  She had to sit there in that wheelchair and wait.  She couldn’t move.  I have never seen her sit for so long.  Every time she would think about sports or an upcoming cottage weekend with friends, she became livid.  It wasn’t fair and she didn’t know what to do with her emotions.

Two days ago I wrote about her ninth birthday.  I talked about how important movement was for this child.  As she sat there in that wheelchair tearing up over not being able to do the things she loved, I couldn’t find the words to make her feel better.  She was raging and I let her.  I held her hand.  I put her bum ankle in my lap.  I didn’t try to make it better.  I channeled you instead.

A few hours passed and we sat.  We finally saw a doctor who told us it wasn’t broken and that someone would come by and wrap her ankle in a bandage and give her crutches.  An hour later and still no one.  You were quickly beginning to thin.  She was about to blow.  I was about to blow.  We both took deep breaths and a nurse came by and asked if we needed anything.  I told her what we needed and she helped us out.  She taught my daughter how to use the crutches and she jumped out of her wheelchair on her good foot, chomping at the bit to get going.

We were finally free to go.  We parked a little far from the emergency department and I didn’t want to leave her by herself.  It was starting to get late and it was starting to get busy there.  She started following me on the crutches and called out to me.  It was too hard.  She wanted to give up. She was exhausted.  This was taking too long. She wanted to walk, to run, to jump.

I looked at her and said, “One step at a time.  Don’t rush. You can do this.  You are one of the toughest kids I know.  Let’s go.”  She hopped back on those crutches and started to talk to herself, “I can do this.  Come on.  I can do this.”  We went slow.

I wanted to rush again but you held me back.

This sprain was a lesson for both of us.  A lesson about you.  A quick temper doesn’t change the situation.  I found a definition of you that said “a calm endurance of suffering.”  That is not something I have demonstrated.  Yes to the endurance part.  But calm? No way. I sprained my ankle in 2009 and remembered what a pain in the ass I was to everyone and my husband and you became BFFs.  Now it was my turn to support my girl through this.  I know exactly how she feels.  I freaking hate it when things don’t go my way.  But of course they rarely do especially with five kids so over the years, I have softened enough to get to know you on the regular (or maybe the kids have just worn me down and it really isn’t you that I have found but quiet capitulation).

Working with you takes practice and when I am tired and hungry and sitting beside an inebriated man who wakes up every two minutes and yells, “Rhonda!” in the “yellow zone” aka back closet of the emergency room waiting area, I have to dig deep.

Now that I have soothed her to sleep and told her how much I know it hurts and that it will hurt for awhile, I can step back and see that you weren’t so hard to conjure up after all because I have discovered the root of your very word – pei.  It means to suffer and endure.  But there is another meaning.  It means firm and unyielding like a river’s current.

Well if you put it that way, I understand you.

I will be unyielding in my compassion for this child that will be forced to do one thing that she feels she can’t do – rest.  I will be firm in my love for whatever she needs to feel for however long she takes to heal.

I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.





love note no.10: dear library.

Dear library,

We miss you.  We miss our Tuesdays hanging out all morning at the library.

our favourite library

You don’t understand our love for you.  It borders on unhealthy obsession for some of us.  Some of us have lamented that you aren’t open on Friday nights so we can go out and party it up with you, perusing your aisles at leisure on a date with ourselves.

And as a homeschooling family?  Sweet Jesus.  You have saved us.  You are the gatekeeper for all of our resources.  Homeschoolers are traditionally one income households.  This means that we just can’t buy all the books that the curriculum of choice recommends.  There is an anxiety like no other than entering the name of a needed book for an upcoming block and clicking “search” to see if it is available at the library.  And the feeling when that book shows up as not only existing at the library but available for pick-up?  One word: orgasmic. (To my homeschooling peeps, you know what I’m talking about.)  The only thing slightly more exciting is when ten holds come in at once.  What shall I read first??? Gah!

Some days you have been our oxygen mask, our time out.  When we have felt cooped up from prolonged illness or inclement weather, you are a breath of fresh air.  Your audio books maintained our sanity on road trips.  You were a rainy day activity or a centre of research or a muse of inspiration.

We have been known to have 30-40 books out on loan.  While my husband reads one book at a time, you can find me rotating through at least five books during the day.  I have spiritual reading, some non fiction reading, curriculum themed reading, poetry, and of course, fiction for bedtime.  Sometimes I finish the book, sometimes I don’t, often reading exactly what I needed to read that day.  The kids all have their favourites too.  One loves thrillers, one loves fantasy and fiction, one loves non fiction, one loves craft books, and one loves books on panthers.  (Yup, just panthers. Last week, it was pumas.)

The library has become a place more than a resource for learning.  It is a lesson in itself.  A lesson in not having to buy everything.  We can borrow and give back.  We don’t need more things.  We can appreciate a book and even if it’s the best book we’ve ever read, we have to let it go.  If they really love it, then they can take some time to think about it before buying it.  It is also the equalizer.  Everyone has access to knowledge.  Everyone.

Right now I am reading A House Somewhere: Tales of Life Abroad.  Edited by Don George & Anthony Sattin, it is a collection of stories from different authors writing about their adventures in building a house and creating a home in a foreign place.  You would think that I looked this book up in light of our current circumstances and sought it out in your shelves.  But no, it found me.  One of my favourite sections is the travel section.  I like to read travel writers.  I wasn’t looking for any book in particular but there is was – this book that would have meant nothing to me a year ago but now feels written for me.

I stumble upon books like The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood.  A great little piece twisting a familiar epic and telling it from the female perspective.  It hit the spot.  It’s what I needed to read.

This is the magic that happens to me with you.

I love how the kids could go down to the kids section and hang out while I wandered the stacks.  We did toddler time with all the kids and listened to the librarians tell stories.  I read story after story with many children squished in my lap on that blue cozy blue couch.  And I never got sick of saying no over and over again to the kids as they asked for a treat for that bloody vending machine in the snack area.

My kids missed you so much that when we were in the city today, they asked to visit you.  They hung out there for two hours with their grandfather while Chris and I renewed our passports.  But the best thing about you is that we can keep in touch while we are abroad.  As long as we have some internet, we can take books out on an electronic device in the jungle.  Or we can start our own little free library or book exchange keeping your spirit alive wherever we go.

As much as the kids think of you, they are excited at exploring a different one near their grandparents’ house.  A new library card and a new library to get to know.  They wonder if the children’s section there is any good: Do they have reading nooks? Do they have a good selection of picture books?  Do you think that they carry different Kit Pearson books? (My third daughter’s current favourite author.)  This is the same library that I visited every day when I first moved to this same area after my mom remarried when I was twelve years old.  It was my best friend and my sanctuary.    A place for me to lose myself in my imagination and in other people’s stories so I didn’t have to deal with my own.  I taught myself how to draw with the books in this library.  I copied down poetry from books in this library.  It is in this library that I fell in love with Tolkien, Bradbury, Asimov, and Clarke.

As they struggle through this transition period, between homes and facing a lot of unknowns, we will visit you as often as we can and spend time in the new library around the corner that once helped me through my own transitions.  I know what it’s like to read a good story where I watch a character finally live the life of their dreams.  And although they don’t see it yet, we are writing that story together.  But for now, maybe your magic can lead them to a story they need to hear today.

Thank you for helping my children fall in love with books and for allowing them to learn about anything they have been curious about.





love note no.9: dear fourth born.

Dear fourth born,

It was your ninth birthday on Saturday.


Each year on your birthday, you always want to move.  You are a Leo summer baby.

This birthday was a little rough because we had just moved out.  Your first birthday post-moving. We were camping so we all did what you wanted to do.  We hiked, played volleyball, swam in the lake, raced on the boogie board to the buoys, you buried me in the sand, and played some more volleyball.  The one thing I wouldn’t let you do was jump into the lake off a pile of rocks on the trail we were hiking and scale down a cliff.

I was exhausted by noon.  You never stopped smiling.

I have been asked about your “nine year change.”  When your sisters approached their ninth year, I could see how unsettled they were becoming as their growing sense of self made them feel uneasy. Their third grade year was full of building a “place to call their own.”  One sister built a desk for her own space to create artwork and another built a teepee and an outdoor playhouse as a place to retreat.  I could see why they needed these cocoons of safety.  The emerging consciousness was too much.  Instead of feeling connected to the world, the world started to feel very large and separate from them.  They could see themselves apart for the first time.  Their temperaments shifted after their ninth year.  You have also shifted.  But not in the ways that I expected.

You have become, for lack of a better word, more balanced, emotionally speaking.  More even keel.  Your growing self-awareness has had the opposite effect on you than most children at nine.  It is almost a comfort to you.  As I begin meditating on each of you, like I did last year for our homeschooling year ahead, a theory of your changes has slowly taken shape.

You were born with this amazing awareness of your body that we have all admired.  You are kinaesthetically intelligent and have had a beautiful connection with your body since birth.  You have always needed to move, to challenge yourself physically, to feel ok.  When you don’t, you melt down.  Without movement, your energy explodes in other ways.  I believe this self-awareness that normally comes on at nine years old has been there since the beginning.  Because of your tantrums and anger, we have had to talk about what it means “to watch yourself.”  From a young age, we talked about what it feels like to feel the anger coming, sometimes we called it “the dragon.” I told you stories of angels slaying dragons and how we all can play both roles.

Lately we talk about the person that lashes out as not being “the real you.”  We talk about the person watching it happen, unable to stop the outburst, the one lovingly just standing back, as the real you.  You have had to become self-aware early because of the need for extreme physicality and what happens inside when you don’t release the energy with your body and you release it with your emotions.  I know that it has been difficult for you as a young child when the people around you don’t understand.

Your morning warm-up in your old room before coming downstairs to greet the day…

M_morning wake up

Now that you’re nine, I see the relief.  The relief that you have settled into yourself.  The self-awareness feels normal now and you are equipped to manage your encounters with yourself because you have had time to make friends with “I.”  Where the self becomes an abrupt realization for some children at nine, you have had to adjust in sometimes forceful ways in early childhood.  You are better at watching now and are comforted knowing you have the ability to choose again and again.  Choice doesn’t paralyze, it empowers.

Over the last month, you have wanted to move and you have wanted to use your hands.  You have wanted to bake, to craft, to sew, to knit, and to do pottery.  I have made it all happen.  I have sensed the urgency in your requests.  I woke you up at 6am to bake bread and you hopped out of bed without your normal moans of being shaken out of bed.  You have found craft books at the library and scoured materials in the recycling bin and craft cupboard and made things in your spare time.  You finished all your knitting  and sewing projects that you left undone over the last few years.  You begged me to keep the small loom to work on an unfinished bag strap that your sister had left unfinished.  And finally, we signed you up for a pottery camp with a friend.

You wanted to make things out of clay.  More specifically, you wanted to make yourself bowls, mugs, and pinch pots.  You loved every minute of the camp.  As you talked about using the wheel to make a bowl for yourself, and how it felt to shape the clay, I realized that this was your version of building a shelter, a place that was your own.  On some level, you have figured out that we won’t have a house to call our own for a long time, a place to hold us, to contain us.  So you have been drawn to creating a container for you. Vessels of your very own to hold food and water.  You poured your energy into these containers that hold what nourishes you.  We can’t give you a physical house to do that for you yet so you took it upon yourself to take care of this need in your own way.

Before the firing…


About half way through the camp, you flat out told me that you probably could get to camp on your own with your friend.  It wasn’t a difficult walk to the subway and riding the subway was pretty straight forward.  Turns out you don’t see the world as big and scary and separate.  In fact, I see you now connecting more with the world.  I quizzed you on possible subway scenarios and you answered each one matter-of-factly.  I still said no and you rolled your eyes.  I said you could lead the way and that was good enough for you.  For now.


Just like your other siblings, you are one of the great teachers in my life.  Thank you for teaching me what sheer will power looks like and how the greatest thing I can do for my body is to get to know it, to be aware of it, and to love it with every movement I make.  Thank you for being patient with me as I have tried to navigate how to always meet you where you are and that I am learning to never assume you will stay the same, that none of you will stay the same.

You inspire me to make and to move.  The two things that I have neglected for the last month.  You take me out of my head and remind me to let my body lead.  To trust that it knows better.

To see it as home.  The amazing container of my real self.

Thank you and I love you.

Happy birthday,



100 days of love notes…