16 Days

A Little Tin of Chocolate

I began writing this blog in 2008, fresh after a breakup from a very complicated relationship, and filled with excitement because I was about to embark on a solo vacation to Paris. Life felt pretty huge and terrifying then. I was raw with emotion, and apprehensive about what the future held for me. When I returned from my trip, I would have no place to live, and I’d be facing the realities of being single and thirty-something.

I drank Paris in, and fell deeply in love with a city that I always suspected would have a special place in my heart. Because I was on a very tight budget, I allowed myself only a few token souvenirs, mostly purchased at a well-stocked supermarket and the Parisian equivalent of Winners. One of these mementos was a tin of French drinking chocolate, so I could enjoy the delicious little ritual I had created for myself each afternoon no matter where I ended up back home in Canada.

When my new family and I combined our households, the chocolate tin came with me. I hadn’t expected the chocolate to survive, but the tin was pretty so I imagined we could use it for storage in our kitchen. French chocolate is resilient though, and to my amazement still tastes as good as it did when I first bought it almost five years ago.

On Tuesday night, A and Daddy made us a post-dinner hot chocolate and marshmallow nightcap, and all five of us sat around the table enjoying it together. As I gazed at the faces of these beautiful girls who have been one of the greatest gifts of my life thus far, I was suddenly overcome with emotion. Strolling through the aisles of that Parisian grocery store, trying to choose just the right thing to bring home, I had resigned myself to believing that children and family were a long, long way off and perhaps something that were not meant for me in Schnooville. But now I sat surrounded by my family, (a family I have chosen against all odds, and a family who freely chose me despite all of my flaws), drinking that Parisian chocolate and ready to burst with another brand new life who gets to go through each day with these wonderful people. I feel no fear about this huge milestone because my heart believes I am exactly where I should be, with the people I need most in my life.

Look defeat in the eye and love yourself even harder. Tell disappointment that you deserve better. Treat your broken heart to vacations and decadent chocolate and trust that somehow, probably in the most unpredictable way, it will all work out. If you believe that you are lovable, the love you crave will find you.

H & A Enjoy Some Tummy Time:


Enter the Dragon

Today we participated in an annual tradition at the girls’ school – the Michaelmas Celebration. This event celebrates the slaying of the dragon by St. George, and is honored each year by grades one to four, with each grade playing a significant role in the pageant. The reason for the tradition was explained to me today, and as usual, really resonated with everything transpiring here in Schnooville.

Michaelmas is a time to look inward and prepare ourselves for the darker coming days of autumn and winter, and for the dragons that await us. It’s about gathering our courage and our faith and facing our beasts to emerge triumphant. It’s the Autumnal Equinox “Festival of Strong Will” according to the Waldorf Tradition.

We were charged (and by ‘we’ I mean my man) with baking the traditional Dragon Bread that is shared after the pageant with the entire school. Dragon bread is exactly that – bread shaped like a dragon, and thanks to a not-so-hilarious scheduling mix up we thought the celebration was on Thursday. Fortunately my guy caught the error, but the result was him staying up until 4:30 am shaping bread into dragony goodness. What an amazing daddy.

I was in Hamilton with my parents and my brother, and had intended to stay the night, but I rushed back because I’d promised my daughter I’d be there to see her deliver her lines (grade two means she’s a gnome now), and she was immensely relieved by this. In Hamilton I was in the midst of my own dragons. Well, I guess they aren’t exactly mine, but they certainly are breathing down my neck.

On Monday we learned that my mom has stage one breast cancer. This was after a nail-biting series of scans and tests, and the cancer was uncovered after a routine mammogram. Ladies everywhere, do not screw around with your paps and your mammograms. It is simply not worth it to let these things go undetected.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that the big “C” is a big fat jerk who has taken two of my aunts (my mom’s sisters) and has also now affected one of her brothers who is dealing with prostate cancer. Now the “C” is at our door, and it simply doesn’t feel real. I had many a sleepless night playing through the “what ifs” and then to have the worst-case news delivered…it’s just bizarre. Truly unbelievable.

Especially because my mom is one tough broad. She refused to seem anything other than herself during my visit. Life seemed utterly normal, and so I just went with that. Stage one at her age and her health is a totally positive success story, and anything other than a valiant battle is simply un-fucking-acceptable. If she’s sticking out her chin and saying “Fuck you Cancer” then so shall I.

It’s scary as shit to have a parent with a serious illness. It’s scary to consider the possibilities and play the scenarios over and over in my big, rambling head, but I’m going to take my cues from the Waldorf kids and from the brave warrior woman who is my mom. My shield will be faith and my sword will be strength and courage.

My family is so awesome. My aunties and uncles descended like storm troopers and my wonderful loves and kids were ready with millions of extra hugs and kisses, and Kleenex and foot rubs. My in-loves (thanks Daniella Aum for such a great term) are sending prayers and love, and my friends are all rock stars who know exactly what to say.

It’s amazing how things that aren’t exactly happening to you are still happening to you. It’s amazing too how life-altering changes always arrive in the fall here in Schnooville. I want to be a rock and I want to be a pillow as required for my amazing mom. Someday I’ll tell you the story of how she took down a pervert who was stalking me in a department store. If she attacks cancer like that, she’s going to be just fine.


Nearly Over the Hump

Artichoke pendant lamp shade

This has been a mostly good week when it comes to separation anxiety. Mostly.

Monday came and went in a flurry of keeping busy, running the business, making dinner. Tuesday started out the same, but somewhere during dinner prep I thought of him and the girls and the busy noise and sweet activity of our bustling week night kitchen and then the sadness started to creep in. My lady went to baseball, and I tried to banish the sadness with books, and then this made me unconscious. I went with that, and took myself to bed early.

Today, as always, is an entirely new day and it’s a good one! I worked hard, and when my eyes were starting to cross from staring at the screen too long, I planted an herb garden on our balcony. The master bedroom has a lovely balcony that we really haven’t used, but I’m trying to turn it into a morning coffee, evening cocktail paradise.

I need a bistro table with three chairs.

I also need a handsome shade umbrella and a very sturdy stand.

Then I need some flowers that are hopefully late summer/early fall blooms.

Next summer I will tackle the rooftop patio on the third floor. Or maybe this summer, if time allows. Early autumn dinners would be lovely under the canopy of trees.

My herb collection consists of:
Flat leaf parsley
Rosemary (I want more of that, in it’s own fragrant pot)

Sarah brought home some tomato plants that a co-worker grew from seed and they are thriving! They’ve even got little green fruits ripening on their vines.

Ella the bunny just about ravished me as I tried to carry the paper bag filled with plants through the house. She’s been very naughty since the kids and daddy have been away. Every single night she pees on me or near me, at about the same time. Her consequence has been to lose some of the freedom we’d been giving her. She never has these accidents randomly, so I think it’s some kind of weird bunny dominance behaviour. Guess what bunny? You’re gonna lose that battle.

I found some STELLAR recipes on Epicurious. What a tried and true resource that website has proven to be! For weeknight meals I always search the fast & easy section, and then sort by which meal and by rating.

On Monday night I made Chicken Breasts with Tomato Herb Pan Sauce. It was ridiculously good. I followed the advice in the reviews – more butter, some white wine, some de-glazing – and it was perfect. It was even fantastic the next day.

Last night I made Pork Tonkatsu with Watermelon Tomato Salad. This dish was all about the salad, which was so light and refreshing! The pork was yummy, but my attention was divided by a phone call, so only the first batch was perfectly cooked. Make only what you can eat, unless you plan on a sandwich the next day.

Another new favourite time-killer is pouring through Etsy. There are some birthdays and celebrations coming up, and I’ve decided to only buy gifts from that website from now on. I love it so much! We have a UPS inbox in Niagara Falls New York which only costs us about $20 a month. We visit family in Niagara-on-the-lake regularly and the inbox is just a short trip away. It’s really changed the way that I shop, and Etsy is a nice way to still support artists. I’ve decided to start featuring some of my favourite Etsy finds here too. The beautiful lampshade pictured above is a reasonable $55 and can be found here.

Birthday Weeks

My birthday brunch at Saving Grace

I’m a Leo, born on the cusp of Cancer, but really more Leo than anything else. As a result, I like it to be my birthday for as long as humanly possible. It’s been an extraordinary birthday so far!

Saturday evening I enjoyed dinner at Sidecar with some fabulous ladies. I have to say, I was a bit underwhelmed with the food. Everyone raves about Sidecar, and though the food we ordered was prepared well, I found the menu a bit boring. The cocktails were mad though! Unreal actually. Next time, cocktails and aps there, and then somewhere else for dinner I think.

Sarah looking stunning for our night on the town.

After we ate we hurried over to the Mod Club to catch the Gala Night of the Toronto Burlesque Festival. Some of our troupe members were debuting new numbers, and we wanted to offer our support. This was my fourth year catching the festival, and this year by far had the most impressive offering of acts. I still wish that the festival organizers would stream out some of the acts that are lower in their caliber, and work to create a better lineup. Numbers were sometimes redundant because of where they were placed in the show, and the timing of “thank you’s” and “shout outs” to sponsors and coordinators fell at the end of the show and killed the high note that the outstanding closing act had created. All of those things should be embedded in the show.

I had been asked to MC, but declined because we were planning a family vacation. I was sad to not have been part of such a great evening, but it was such a nice treat to watch as an audience member instead. Of particular note were American performers Jett Adore (who is my first ever rock-star crush after his stunning performance) and duo Trixie Little and the Evil Hate Monkey. Unbelievable presence, comic timing, physical strength, skill, attention to detail, etc. I was moved and inspired from my head to my toes.

My lovely friends and I hit the Gatto Negro for cocktails after and I enjoyed a lovely birthday toast at midnight. We were huddled under an awning in the summer rain, and I felt absolutely surrounded by love.

Yesterday, my lady took me to brunch where we met two of our beautiful girlfriends. Brunch was my weekend food highlight. We went to Saving Grace on Dundas and it blew my mind. It’s really sweet and airy inside, the service was lovely, and their menu spectacular. I ordered the coconut and pecan praline pancakes, and my girl ordered the flautas. Both were out of this world. The prices were good, and we chose the place based on many online kudos which were well deserved.

After brunch we came home and a beautiful Rose of Sharon shrub that was left on our porch by my auntie inspired some spontaneous gardening. I have the passion for plants that seems to run in the women of my family, and so does Sarah, so we both will just tackle the front yard sometimes. It’s turning into something really amazing, and the neighbours are now speaking to us. All this time I thought they were stand-offish because of our lifestyle choices. They just wanted to see some yard work!

We Skyped with our man and one of our girls after that, which made my heart hurt. It’s so fantastic that we can see them and hear them when they are halfway around the world, but not being able to reach out and touch them or smell them made my throat lump up. I was grateful for the chance to check in though, and texting seems to work again which is going a long way towards making me feel better. They are having an amazing time, of course.

After our chat we packed a blanket in the car and headed to Trinity Bellwoods where we lounged with some girlfriends until dusk. I love that place on a nice day – so much fantastic people-watching. After park fun, we hit a girlfriend’s new condo (where she has a covert hair salon in her living room!) and ordered some Thai for dinner. It was the perfect way to wind down the evening and by 10pm we were ready for sleep. We hit home, crashed hard, and I slept through the whole night until waking up to a thunderstorm at 6am.

It’s a perfectly lovely rainy day here. My plants are so happy after the long, hot dry spell. My red boots will walk to do some banking later today and I’m meeting a dear friend for tea later, and feeling generally fantastic. Reading so many birthday wishes on my Facebook wall was a lovely way to doze off last night.

35 is going to be the best one yet.

Freedom? Day Two

John's Italian Cafe

Yesterday was day two of taking care of business at home while the kids and my man are in Africa.

I got up an hour earlier than usual when my lady got up for work and I did some writing. When I went to post what I had written, the Internet was no more. It remained that way until 5pm, and was not a result of bunny teeth, but a service outage across Toronto. I tethered to my iPhone, but this was a much slower method so I didn’t get as much done as I would have liked. A bit frustrating, but I tried to make the most of it.

My girl and I met an old work colleague for dinner and drinks last night, and he shared some news of adventure on the horizon. He’s such a cool guy – super smart, really personable, very active with the Stephen Lewis Foundation – lots of admirable qualities. He and my lady had never really hung out and I was delighted to see them get along like a house on fire.We ate at what is now our haunt – John’s Italian Cafe on Baldwin. They have my favourite antipasti platters and paired with a pitcher of Sangria it was the perfect meal on such an incredibly hot day.

At home we read another chapter of Catcher in the Rye. Can you believe I’ve never read this book? It’s my girl’s favourite, and she got it for us all to read together. I’m really enjoying reading it out loud because it’s written in such a conversational style. It’s like sight-reading a monologue.

Today I need to get some proper work done, make two pairs of pasties for some of our performers who are in the Toronto Burlesque Festival on Saturday, and swing by the rehearsal studio for a sneak preview of Billie Black’s new silks routine. I’m also hoping for a bike ride to the library to pick up some more books.

My sleep was interrupted at 3:30am last night by a strange gurgling coming from the air conditioner. After I investigated the situation I couldn’t fall back into a proper sleep. I also had bad dreams about my far-away travelers. In real life my guy was suddenly no longer able to receive my text messages yesterday, and I’m feeling a little cut off without the instant gratification of an immediate response. I haven’t heard from them today either, and in light of my bad dreaming it’s making me uneasy. I’m feeling very far away from them and anxious, and a bit frustrated with myself for being so emotional about it. Perhaps an afternoon nap with fix everything.

We’re growing tomatoes and beans and basil in containers on our front lawn and our bedroom balcony. I want to get planter boxes for the balcony and fill them with more herbs. I also want to find a little bistro table, three chairs, and possibly a shade umbrella that will fit up there. It’s such a nice spot, and would be so nice for morning coffee or evening cocktails – very romantic I think. Maybe I’ll work on putting some concepts on paper today.

It’s my birthday on Sunday. I’m turning 35. For the first time I can say that my life looks exactly like I dreamed it would, and continues to blossom before me. I’m going to celebrate quietly this year, far away from some of the people I love most and feel very grateful indeed for what 35 is looking like.


It’s Gonna Take A Lot To Take Me Away From You

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Have you ever remained in denial about a thing until it was right there staring you in the face? Of course then what happens is that all of the feelings and fears you refused to acknowledge are there en mass, and there’s no pretending anymore.

I’m folding tiny clothes and tiny socks and packing up suitcases and trying to stay bright and positive, but I’m not good at missing people. I’m not good at “aparting” as my five-year-old would say. My fella and my girls are off to Africa for three weeks and my lady and I must stay behind.

It’s a huge opportunity and a huge adventure for the girls and my man hasn’t been back in 22 years. It’s an important trip for the extended family, surrounding an important religious occasion, and I’m excited for them but so sad.

Sad to miss so many firsts, sad to be so far away, sad to not be able to take time off to visit such an amazing place, and sad that their first time couldn’t be our first time too.

There’s a bright side too because there always is. I get three very quiet weeks to focus on work, reading, writing. I get three weeks to enjoy some alone time with my lady. I’m hoping those great pluses will take the edge off my worry and sadness.

I furnished the girls with a fresh new sketch book, we will Skype every day, and hopefully the time will fly by. In the New Year, I’m hopeful that we can go on a family vacation – something we’ve yet to do all together.

What a magical time for them! I guess it’s a little tough for me because I’ve missed a lot of their magical experiences already, and I’m new to the maternal separation anxiety thing.  I’ll focus on the magic that we’re bound to share as their lives unfold, enjoy the quiet time for reflection, and celebrate the adventures that await us all.

Dear Friends

You are really and truly amazing and important to me. In many ways, I think of you as the family I have chosen, and I hope that you share that sentiment with me. My home is always open to you, as is my heart, and when I love people there isn’t much I wouldn’t do for them.

I have a few requests of you, so I hope you are listening.

1. I am in a closed romantic relationship. Though it defies convention, in many ways we are the same as conventional couples. We are “monogamous” insofar as we can be. We welcome your hugs, kisses, platonic love and mild flirtation, but please know that we are not recruiting.

2. The children in my life call me “mama”. They believe I am their mother. I believe I am their mother. My partners believe I am their mother. Please address me as such, particularly in front of my children, and kindly do not address parental-type conversations directly to their biological parents in front of me. We are called “mamma S” and “mamma C” if you need to make a distinction. Please treat my children as you would if they were my adopted or biological children. I call them my step kids, but it’s a bit different, isn’t it?

3. We are living in the open. Therefore when thanking us as a family please address us either by our individual first names or lump us all together under one tree. Either use my full name and say “and the rest of the x family” or just say the “x family”. We care what you think. We don’t give a shit about what your parents/aunts/uncles/strangers/etc. think.

4. If you can’t invite all of us to events and occasions because you’re afraid of what people will think, please don’t invite any of us. We won’t always ALL be able to come, but we’re not really into leaving anyone behind for reasons other than schedule conflicts.

5.  We are all partners now. Terms like “husband” and “wife” no longer apply to any of us, unless you are trying to be cute and are bestowing titles on all of us.

6. Thank you for your love and support. We’re going to have a lot of explaining to do in this lifetime, and some unintentional social blunders to wade through because of the choices we’ve made. We anticipate this, and hope that this post has been helpful. There aren’t really any etiquette tips that apply to our situation, so we are creating our own.

Take a moment and reflect on your own relationship, if you are in one. Some of you wouldn’t have the love that so enriches your lives if it weren’t for pioneers to blaze the trail to the rights you now enjoy, and perhaps take a little bit for granted. Maybe one day, we’ll be able to sit back and enjoy the fruits of our own courage in a way that extends well beyond our four walls.

With so much love,