TWO FUMBS UP

You can let go now.

We open on a small wrench and a pair of muddy training wheels on the front step, one wheel still spinning slowly.

We hear happy voices in the distance and cut to see a little girl, about five, on a wobbly red bike, her dad running alongside, his hands on top of hers on the handlebars.

The iconic picture of parenthood. But it’s not a picture of me and my dad. Not even close.

Here’s how that scene looks with me and my dad in it:

I’m on the bike pedaling like a Christmas lunatic, my red and white streamers whipping around in the wind that I’m generating with my fierce ginger power. I glance over my shoulder to surely see Dad running along beside me but nope, he’s not there. Well, he is, but waaaaaaay the fuck back there, shrinking in the background. I see him chuckle and wave then turn back to the house, hoping that I don’t crash but more importantly that his pen slash bookmark hasn’t rolled out from this month’s Reader’s Digest.

That’s the kind of parent he was. I don’t mean negligent or distracted, though maybe that was sometimes true. What I mean is, he got me started on things. He provided the means. He gave me a gentle push. And then he fucked off. Went back to his own world, checking on me occasionally to make sure I was still coasting along just fine.

Dad was a great speaker, writer and teacher, but he was not a great listener. You know what? He was a shitty listener. El shitto. This was especially apparent during my teenage years. I’d be talking, explaining something or other, and he’d be nodding and saying “yes” at intervals where “yes” made zero sense. Sometimes I’d say crazy shit like “I’m going to try cocaine today, okay Dad?” just to see if he was listening. He gave me the thumbs up on illicit drugs and teen pregnancy and Hitler at least 50 times.

I mean, I get it now that I’m the parent of a seven-year-old who talks endlessly about Pokemon and Minecraft. I nod and say “uh-huh” a lot while thinking “I want to die” and “Please, aliens, come and take me your planet.” It is really hard to be interested in something you’re just not, no matter how excited your kid is about it, no matter how much you love that kid.

Sometimes Dad’s parenting style suited me just fine, like when I came home drunk and plunked myself down on the couch a few feet away from him just to prove how undrunk I was. Dad would say, “Oh, you’re home. That’s good then. Goodnight, daughter. Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite.” On occasion he might even say, “you should pop some popcorn now.” (He could quote Shakespeare but didn’t know how to operate the microwave.) Maybe he really didn’t know I was drunk; he was way more in tune with the latest news on CBC than any developments in my life. (Damn you, Ted Blades.) Or maybe he totally knew but was just glad I was home safe which meant I had made some good decisions along the way and that was good enough for him.

That’s how he did the whole Dad thing. He just kind of let me go, and helped me get there without having too much to say about it. When I decided to go off to Halifax to study English after high school, he was like “okay then.” We used to joke that I would be a lawyer (he was a great debater and a big fan of true crime), but my career path was always mine to navigate. I knew I’d have my parents’ support, whatever I chose. Yes, even advertising. Dad called me every night when I was in university, and wrote me letters full of his trademark foolish inspiration (study hard, don’t eat yellow snow, etc.), and replenished my bank account – a little bit at a time (my folks were generous but they weren’t idiots).

Even when it came to boyfriends, Dad never had much to say. I dated a black guy during my freshman year and sent home a photo. Nice picture, Dad said. (My grandfather’s comments were a little more colourful.) I dated a couple hard tickets too. No problem, said Dad. Everyone was good. Everyone deserved a chance. Or maybe he paid so little attention he thought they were all the same guy.

When Andrew and I decided to get married, we knew we didn’t want a Jesusy ceremony. But Dad was a church-going man his whole life so I was a little nervous to break the news that he wouldn’t be walking his only daughter down the aisle toward the altar. His response? “You can get married at The Woods, or in the sticks, bushes, or alders. I will be there.” My favourite email from him, ever.

He was there alright, but he was sick. We could see it. A diagnosis came soon after. I was pregnant with Max when he had a tumour removed from his bowel. I was about to give birth when his second surgery — the only chance to extend his life — was a flop. I got to work helping him finish his book between feedings. I found him a local publisher who wouldn’t wait six months to get back to him; he didn’t have that kind of time. In October, less than three months before he died, he launched his book, Fogo Island Boy. I sat back and watched him glow, signing books for friends and fans at Chapters. He was like a kid in a candy store. Or maybe a kid on a bike, full tilt, cheeks flapping in the wind. I owed that crazy kid so much more.

That’s the thing. No matter what I was doing – riding a bike, performing on stage, or interviewing for a job – when I looked back and didn’t see Dad right there ready to catch me, it didn’t matter. I pedalled faster and harder, because I knew he was there to scrape me off the pavement. And I guess, with that kind of wind at your back, you just don’t fall very often.

Maybe that’s why his death didn’t stop me from striving to be happy. In the beginning, I thought everything was ruined forever. What was the point in anything anymore with Dad not here to see it? But with time I found perspective, by finding meaning in his death. He wasn’t there when I published a book of my own. He wasn’t there at the launch when I talked about how he inspired me. He wasn’t there when I launched my second human into the universe either. He was barely around long enough to meet the first one. It’s sad that he has missed so much, and that we have missed so much of him. But I guess I’m okay because I still feel him back there, ya know? The way he always was. Not holding my hand every step of the way, but in the background. The net beneath the trapeze. The trampoline below the burning building. He’s still playing that part for me somehow. A little through Mom. A little through memory. So much has changed, but in some ways it’s very much the same.

These days, we hear so much about helicopter parenting. Moms and Dads who hover around their kids, watching their every move, swooping in to save them at the first sign of trouble. I guess my dad was less like a helicopter and more like a spool of string on a kite, hanging out on the ground while the kite (that’s me) soared and looped and sometimes even nose-dived into crowds of innocent bystanders. I don’t think his style of parenting was intentional. He was just being himself. He truly did prefer to read and write and listen to the news than pay attention to the likes of me, silly lowly dirt child. But I think it all worked out somehow, so maybe he’s the model father after all. Maybe he is the one to emulate. What I learned from him: Don’t be your kids’ everything. Give them the tools they need to fix it themselves. Light the path but don’t walk it with them. And they’ll be okay when, one day, they’re writing about your birthday, and how you would have been 74 years old today, and what a great parent you were in your own weird way, and how they can let you go because you let them go a long time ago and that’s how they learned to fly.

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Breast is Best. It’s also the Worst: PART TWO

 

It was six weeks ago, the week of February 22nd, when the girls hung it up for good.

The week I stopped breastfeeding my second and last baby and the old floppers officially retired from Boobietown.

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment or even the day, but that was the week. Somewhere in the scattered sucks and swigs, between Monday and Sunday, she let go of the taste of me and phased me out for good. We got there gradually, so I never felt engorged, and she never felt deprived. It just happened. That was the week. The week we weaned. Wean Week. I was a weaner. I MAKE JOKES WHEN I’M SAD.

People don’t usually think about breastfeeding until they have children. (Or unless they have some sick milky tit fetish.) I was 29 years old, sitting in the office of a surgeon on LeMarchant Road, about to talk titty for the first time.

My mother had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer at age 55, not seven months after her retirement party. She had her breast removed and was undergoing chemotherapy. We had grieved the news and bought the wig and felt all the feelings and done all the things. And now I was doing something I needed to do – whatever I could to make sure this didn’t happen to me, or if it did, to catch it early. My mom’s mother had had breast cancer too. So did several of her cousins. So did my dad’s sister and half-niece. Basically breast cancer was gyrating through my DNA. Scary shit. But they turned me away at radiology at St. Clare’s – too young for a mammogram, they said, even though my family doctor had sent me. I remember leaving the hospital feeling confused but relieved. That dreaded squeeze of my chesticles in a wafflemaker would wait another day… or decade.

(FYI I eventually went through genetic counselling. All things considered, their final recommendation was mammograms starting at age 40, ten years earlier than normal. I was low to medium risk, not high. Great – I’d be feeling myself up for the next ten years. Andrew generously vowed to help me.)

He would be vowing to do way more than that in a just a few months. My wedding dress was simple: ivory, lace, formfitting but stretchy – comfortable for dancing, so I could get down with my bad self at the Legion. It also had a deep V in the back, so I couldn’t wear a bra. I had these rubbery pads that stuck onto my breasts to give me some lift, and keep my nipples from stealing the thunder from my face. These are the things I was concerned with as a new bride with a semi-charmed life, before Mom called me on that terrible Tuesday with the news and I cried in my office and went home early with Cancer in the passenger seat. After that call, a lot of things mattered way less, and a lot of other things mattered way more.

The surgeon’s only advice: “Have at least one baby and breastfeed from both breasts.” If those weren’t her exact words, they’re pretty close. It’s hard to focus on people’s words when you’ve got Death staring at you from a faux leather chair across the room, flipping through Time magazine. But I recorded it in my memory. A simple set of instructions with no guarantee, but it was something: “Have at least one baby and breastfeed from both breasts.” The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation said so too: “…evidence suggests that [breastfeeding] can reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. The biggest benefits are from longer periods of breastfeeding, for a year or more with one child or over several births.” How ironic that staying alive is so entwined with keeping someone else alive. It’s like life creates more life or something. Life is so damn weird.

And it was weird to even think about. I never fancied myself the motherly type, and here I was talking about using my dirty pillows to feed a tiny human. Breastfeeding. Feeding…with my breasts. GAH. Couldn’t we call them boobs at least? Hooters? Double lattes? “Breasts” was so… mature, so sophisticated, so anatomical. I couldn’t even sing along to Pearl Jam’s Jeremy without cringing when “he bit the recess lady’s breast.”

Ch-ch-changes.

I got pregnant on our wedding night in a suite at the Marriott on Duckworth Street. Or possibly 48 hours earlier, in the bathroom at home. I know, I know. That’s how I remember it so clearly. It was one or the other, but the wedding night knock-up is accurate enough and doesn’t have a toilet in it, so that’s the story I tell.

We didn’t try to get pregnant. But we didn’t prevent it either, for the first time. (Do yourself a favour and never ask me to give a speech on how the withdrawal technique is an ineffective method of birth control.) And ya know, it really wasn’t because I was eager to have a baby to breastfeed and ward off the big C, as the good doctor advised. It was because my mother – the grandmother of my possible maybe kids – already had it.

We scheduled her chemo treatments around the wedding day so she wouldn’t be vomiting into a bucket. We styled her wig in our hands. I was no bridezilla, I didn’t make much fuss, but this – THIS was not how my wedding day was supposed to be. And yet here we were. My brother had married in his early twenties and had two half-grown boys already. I had waited. Now part of me wished I hadn’t. What if my mother never got to meet my children? What if she never got to make them quilts or bake them muffins? I was feeling the weight of my own mortality and all of our time running out.

Max was born into quiet chaos in the spring of 2009. The crocuses were just poking their heads through the thawing ground, but beautiful things couldn’t fix this. In a cruel twist of fate, it was my dad fighting for his life now. Less than six months after Mom’s mastectomy, Dad was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer. I found out I was pregnant the same day he had a grapefruit-size tumour removed from his bowel. A week before Max was due, Dad went into surgery to have a piece of his diseased liver removed – a chance to prolong his life. When they opened him up, they discovered tiny spots of cancer in his abdomen, and closed him up again. I got the news on the way to the hospital from my obstetrician’s office. I was big and round and sad. I was a big, round, sad pumpkin waddling through the Health Sciences Centre, having a baby and losing a dad.

Max arrived a couple weeks later, just enough time for Dad’s incision and our hearts to heal. He came to the hospital and held his new grandson in his arms.

The physical pain of Max’s birth distracted from the heartache that crouched in the corner of every room. I had torn pretty badly, and the pain continued at the breast. Max fed ravenously. It hurt – every time. My toes curled. I bit my lip. I dreaded feeding time, which was all the time. And if my husband came near these gerber servers, oh hell no. I felt raw – up top and down below. I stuck it out for ten months, and finally threw in the towel (and the udder cover) a couple weeks after Dad died. I just didn’t have the strength to fight the pain anymore – not the kind of pain that was optional. I could give myself a break now. It was time.

My blog was soon born and I published an article about breastfeeding: Breast is Best. It’s also the Worst. It hit the Huffington Post and went viral. It was the truth about breastfeeding. My truth, but one shared by many other women. Breastfeeding was not what they told us it would be. It’s magical, they said. It’s wonderful, they said. Liar, liar, maternity pants on fire. Some said my story discouraged new and future mothers from giving their babies the best start in life. I should have kept my story to myself, I guess, or sugar-coated it for the good of all future humankind. Sorry, that’s not how I roll. I discovered that there were so many women out there who were feeling just like me, but afraid to say so. They felt guilty about being unsuccessful or unhappy breastfeeders, because according to the books and commercials, we were supposed to be smiling from ear to ear and nip to nip. Finally the truth was setting us all free. And I don’t mean just releasing us all from the shackles of breastfeeding, although that’s what some moms do and everyone’s happier for it. I mean keeping us all going, persevering in spite of the shitty bits, because we know the struggle is real and it’s not in our heads and we are in this together. Who cares that I had hardcore La Leche Leaguers tsk-tsk-ing me for my story. I was happy to take one for the teats.

The following year, I published the story in my book, MotherFumbler (Breakwater Books, 2013). It became the story I read at public appearances. I read it at my book launch and watched the crowd crack up, including my mother. Boobs, fun bags, dairy pillows, sweater meat, meat puppets, Super Big Gulps: I said it all, lady balls out. It was funny, unfiltered, and true. These breasts that once gave me such grief were now giving everyone a chuckle. Multi-purpose, motherfuckers.

Max grew like a dandelion on the lawn. He sprouted into a toddler, then a little boy, right before my eyes. My pictures of him from month to month as he sat in the same rocking chair holding the same stuffed elephant… It’s like someone swooped down and replaced one baby with another. A drunk stork maybe. OR ALIENS.

My breasts on which he once feasted changed too. The perky torpedoes from my wedding day morphed into bulbous zeppelins and then into deflated flesh sacks, like Ziploc bags a quarter-full of gravy. Fried fucking eggs. BEE STINGS. But I didn’t care. I joked about it a lot. I wrote about it in my book. It freaked me out how a tiny human could cause such destruction. But I didn’t care, not really. My lady garden was a war zone. I had watched my mother lose her breast and almost her life. I had watched my father die before my eyes. I was well past perky tits.

Five years passed. I wrote about parenthood on my blog, in the local arts and culture newspaper, on the Huffington Post. I wrote about my indecision around having another baby and had a few man-children and Bible-thumpers tell me I should have my uterus removed. FUN.

My breasts enjoyed the freedom five. They even forgot they were food and felt sexual again. I’m a logical person, so why on earth would I do all this yucky stuff over? Seriously, who in their damn mind would willingly subject themselves to that kind of pain A SECOND TIME? It’s like walking into a creepy ass cave knowing full well there’s a bear inside who’s going to majorly fuck you up.

My husband didn’t concur. Probably because by the time his father was his age, he had seven children. (Yes, SEVEN, as in dwarves, deadly sins, and nation army.) And probably because Max didn’t come from his genitals. Un-fuckin-fortunately. He communicated his desire for a second kid very sweetly and maturely by saying things like, “If we don’t do this by the time I’m 35, I’m getting a vasectomy.” Which really made me feel appreciated and willing to sacrifice my body a second time to produce another noble heir.

I waited it out until the stakes were too high on my 36-year-old eggs, and Max could tie his shoes. And, without too much discussion or debate, we pulled the goalie.

A couple weeks later, I was visiting my friend who had been recently diagnosed with breast cancer at the ripe old age of 35. I told her my period was late, which rarely happens. She went and fetched something from her bathroom. Before her diagnosis, the yet undiscovered cancer was giving her prego-like symptoms so she bought a pregnancy test from the drugstore. There were two pee sticks in the pack. She handed me the other one. The irony of the moment was not lost on either of us.

I took it home with a full bladder. It was something I had to do at home, in my own bathroom, with my own silly dog sniffing at the door. So if the result was positive, I could react however I needed to – throw myself onto the bed, or down a well, whatever. The tell-tale double lines appeared almost immediately, like it didn’t even need to think about it, that’s how pregnant I was. I thought about telling Andrew the news in some clever way but I wasn’t even sure how I felt or how he’d feel so I told him immediately with a blank face and a monotone voice: “Robot husband, your robot wife is having a robot baby, bleep boop bleep.” We both kind of smirked at our fertile bastard status and embraced awkwardly for a minute on the edge of the bed. Here we go again, I guess. I stuck the pee stick in my underwear drawer to revisit it later. Maybe my socks would coax the truth out and I’d return to a negative result. Socks can be persuasive like that. Nope – still pregnant. Shit got real, real fast. Within days, my boobs were tender as boils. And nine months later, the congo bongos were in full milk-producing action.

Rae was born two days before Christmas, 2014. Her big brother, now nearly six years old, burst into the birthing suite at 8:30pm with his pajama shirt sticking up from under his sweater, the rest of the family pouring in behind him. Everyone talks about the benefits of having your kids close together, and I get that. But then I look at this picture of Max proudly holding his sister and whoa. That face.

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Even before I knew how the breastfeeding would go this time, I told myself I would write a second article. Breast is Best. It’s also the Worst: THE SEQUEL. My story, my truth, the second time around. Even if it meant admitting I was wrong.

I WAS WRONG.

I won’t say it was magical. I will never say that. I didn’t give birth to a unicorn with a rainbow pouring out of her butthole. But this time, it was completely and utterly/udderly different. I was a professional. I had a PhD in suckling humans. Rae was a little jaundiced when we took her home, so I fed her often and propped her up in the window in nothing but a diaper, like baking a peach pie in the sun. After the initial three weeks with my tender melons covered in cabbage leaves to combat the engorgement, it was smooth sucking all the way. No pain. No discomfort. No hesitation. I whipped ‘em out anywhere, all the time. My nipples felt nothing but generous, convenient, and useful. I fattened up a living, breathing person while watching Netflix, pausing to admire her eyelashes and her chubby hand resting on my collarbone. I fed her at the swimming pool while Max did cannonballs. I sat on a picnic blanket in Bannerman Park after bootcamp and refuelled the human before going to the grocery store. I topped up my squishy Ewok in the shade of a tree at Disney World, then watched her brother become a Jedi. It was glorious. Rae was a champ. She packed on the pounds – in the 95th percentile for height and weight from day one. I stopped going to the breastfeeding clinics to get her weighed because I felt ridiculous. The proof was in the puddin’: Rae could have eaten the other children. I even started plying the ol’ doinkers up from my bra, instead of down – even less fussing around with snaps and fabric. I was a breastfeeding ninja. A well-oiled milk machine.

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Maybe it’s because the setting was so different this time. No father fighting cancer in the background. No Death lurking in the shadows going “tick, tock, Mommy” pointing to the clock on the wall and laughing.

Or maybe round one killed my nipples and they had lost all sensation.

Or maybe she was just a different baby with a better latch, simple as that.

Whatever. This is my follow-up. My sequel to my most popular post to date, after six years of blogging. That was my truth at that time. With that baby. With that me. It is not my truth today. With this baby. With this me.

I’m not sorry for writing it. The truth can never be wrong. But I do apologize if it deterred anyone from giving it a shot. Breastfeeding is not magical for a whole lot of mothers, so maybe we should all stop saying it is. But admittedly, with the right conditions, it can be pretty sweet. I see that now. I encourage you to try it. Stick it out for the first few weeks, if you can. The first three weeks are the worst. It usually gets better after that, I swear to the cantaloupe gods.

And then, before you know it, it’s over. Rae has forgotten about it already. The other morning we were lying in bed and my robe fell open. Before February 22nd, she would have seen my nipple and pounced, mouth open, like an aardvark on a mound of ants. This time she laughed and flicked it with her finger. It wasn’t food anymore. It was just a funny looking button. I kept her alive with little more than my body for a year and she has forgotten it in a flick, quite literally. We still have our moments. As soon as I get home and pick her up, she sticks her thumb in her mouth and jams her hand down my top. It’s comfort, I guess. Warmth. This is our thing now. But one day, this too will end. Before I know it, I’ll be buying her a bra of her own. Life is so damn weird.

But it was my first baby, who’ll be seven years old in a couple weeks holy crap how did that happen, who made me lament Wean Week the most. We had a tough time that first year, Max and I. But we made it through together, and we’re here and we’re strong. The week after I left Boobietown, I was lying with him at bedtime and I told him Rae would be going to visit Nanny for a couple nights, which was okay now that I wasn’t breastfeeding her anymore. He looked at me with eyes wide and glossy. “So… I can’t have a try now?” He was dead serious. Max had always wanted to see what my milk tasted like, fascinated by my nursing Rae and the fact that he fed there too, for the better part of his first year on earth. I had always meant to give him a swally before it was too late, somehow, but it never seemed like the right moment. I had forgotten, and now it was impossible. It was the end of an era. Boobietown was a ghost town. SAD FACE.

But no, I’m not getting an amulet made from my breastmilk. Or a tattoo of my tit on my tit. But I can’t say I didn’t think about it.

What I did get from all this is a greater appreciation for my own body, my own breasts. Not how they look in a bra – I’m okay with my itty bitty titties. Not how they feel in my hands – like half-filled water balloons. But how they’ve served me well. For Max, for Rae, for my health (I hope), I’ve done all that I can do. In fact, these puppies have done us all such a solid, I should respect them enough to stop laughing at them when I step out of the shower and see myself in the mirror. Besides, these sweet little pancakes will slap onto the mammogram tit-squisher pretty easily in a couple years, so that’s another plus right there.

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You’re one year old and it’s 2016 and somebody pinch me

2016. It sounds so space age, and yet here you are, just a notch above zero, with your whole life ahead of you. By the time you can read this, maybe the hoverboard will be a real thing. Or maybe it’ll be a real thing in about 30 years… when you invent it.

Time flies, girl. Last Christmas, they stuffed all eight and a half pounds of you into a stocking and placed you in my arms for the first time. This Christmas, you hung your own stocking. Then promptly yanked it down. Babies.

We had a great first year together, didn’t we? All last spring, we went to mama ‘n baby bootcamp where you were the kid that never cried and I was the mom who almost keeled over pushing a stroller up Leslie Street. Sometimes I wished you would cry so I’d have an excuse to stop doing burpees. I got callouses on my hands on the way back down Leslie Street with the stroller. I swear, I’ve never held onto anything so tight my whole life.

You love music. We kick it old school with the lullabies. Our song is Eternal Flame by The Bangles. (One of the first all-female rock bands — you will love them.) I’ve been singing that song to you since you were born. Your brother can sing it word for word. Now that you’re walking, I think it might be time to Walk Like An Egyptian.

Your current favourite is The Mummer’s Song. There’s a bulb on the Christmas tree that plays it – a gift from Nanny Murphy, because you’ve got hers worn out. You clap to the music and bob your head up and down. You’re quite the dancer. Hear the subtlest beat and you break out in a spontaneous groove session. Your signature moves are the mini squat and the double arm flap. Poppy Jim had the same moves. Thanks for reminding me of him.

We live just a couple minutes from Nan and Pop Murphy now. Pretty awesome, right? You’re going to be spending a lot of time with them now that I’m back to work. Please keep the diaper blowouts to a minimum so they won’t rescind on their offer to babysit you. Just last week Poppy said how thrilled he was that he would get to experience all your joy and not somebody else. We are going to bake him some date squares (his favourite) this week. Well, let’s face it – I’m going to bake them while you hurl all the Tupperware out of the cupboard.

Your new room is pink. I’m not painting it anytime soon, so go ahead and love pink if you want. It’s cool. But I really want you to know that you can like whatever colours you want, and play with whatever you want (you know, except matches and knives.) Remember — half the dinosaurs were girls! Everything is for everybody, kid. Don’t let them tell you any different.

You won’t remember your old house, but you had pretty green wallpaper on your bedroom, and the floor creaked when we crept in to check on you, and the sunlight poured in in a dreamy way, and there were ponies down the street, and when we’d hike on the Gallows Cove Trail you’d fall asleep in the carrier and miss all the natural beauty but I got to see twice as much with you, beautiful you, in my view.

Yes. It’s time for the part where I say how lovely you are. You’re a feminist, obviously, so one day you’re going to be mad that I mentioned how you look at all. (You’re also going to resent the fact that your first movie at the theatre was Magic Mike 2. Sawry.) Go ahead and get mad. I’ll be proud that you did. People are going to tell you you’re pretty or plain or skinny or fat or this or that your whole life, and I hope with all my might that your wisdom about that comes early: none of it matters, not one little bit. Just last week when the new Stars Wars movie came out, Carrie Fisher (who played Princess Leia) said, “Youth and beauty are not accomplishments.” Listen to smart, strong women like that, will you? It will help you navigate the bullshit poop.

Oh, and by the way, Star Wars named their new hero after you. They spelled it differently to be sneaky, but we know what they’re up to. I guess your next Halloween costume is figured out. If you’d rather be Strawberry Shortcake, that’s okay too.

For the record only, here’s how you look at one year old: Your hair is a honey brown colour, like golden sugar. It’s getting long, so we have to brush it to the side to keep it out of your eyes. It’s straight, surprisingly; when Max was your age, he looked like the white Lionel Richie.

You’re in the 95th percentile for size: 26 pounds and 30 inches tall. Your cheeks and thighs are chubby and squishy and I hope they stay that way forever, and I hope you don’t care very much if they do.

Your eyes are dark mocha, beneath long, sweeping lashes and those distinguished Murphy brows. Combined with full, bow-shaped lips, you often look super serious, like you’re thinking about all the things that don’t make sense in the world. Which is a lot of things. When you grow up, you’re going to change some of those things. I will help you.

Sometimes when we’re driving, I glance in the rearview mirror to see if you’re okay back there, and you’re staring out the car window looking pensive and concerned. Watching the trees whizz by. Taking in the world. This is one of my favourite things to look at: you, thinking, wondering, learning.

That serious look complements your pointing habit. You’re always pointing. You’re a pointing junkie! When we’re at a restaurant, you turn to a stranger nearby and point right at his eye, like you’re picking him out of a line-up. “That’s your guy. He stole the microfilm.” Then you pass him your sippy cup. Truce.

You point because you’re curious and smart. You know where your nose is, and your ears, eyes, mouth, hair, tongue, and toes. We ask you where your tongue is and you stick that sucker out all the way to Florida. You also know where the vacuum plug-in goes. (Um, could you un-know that, please?) You can woof like a puppy dog and baa like a sheep. You like to say “baby” a lot. A couple nights ago, you woke up every hour and shouted “bayyyyyy-bee.” Which was 51 per cent annoying, and 49 per cent cute. It went something like this:

Other than my emotions, your favourite thing to play with is water. You practically climb into the bathtub headfirst as I undress you. Let’s go swimming more in your second year on Earth, okay? Let’s try and stay awake though. Last time you went swimming, you fell asleep in the pool while sucking your thumb.

You don’t have a favourite toy yet. You got a new kitchen for Christmas but you’re still trying to figure out what all the round things are (they’re plates.) You play with your brother’s trains. You hug your dolly and say “awwww.” You do the same thing to the remote control. Your love knows no bounds.

Especially your love for Mommy. As soon as you’re in my arms, you put your thumb in your mouth and snuggle in. Sometimes, when you see me approaching to pick you up, you stick your thumb in and lean your head toward me, assuming the cuddle position before we even touch. You make a low humming sound when you’re finally resting on my collarbone. The sound of contentment. Of coming home. I know the day will come when you don’t do this anymore, so I made this paragraph extra long and detailed, to preserve it real good.

When you’re not staring down a suspect, you’re a happy tot. Last week, Nanny Shirley put you down in your crib and started to sing you to sleep. Without thinking, she softly sang, “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands,” and up you popped, clapping them chubby paws. That story cracks me up. Your good humour makes up for the fact that you are the worst sleeper in the universe. Yay/Yawn.

When it’s naptime, you wave to the birdies on the wall as we carry you up the stairs. I knew it was a good idea to hang that picture there. “Bah,” you say. “Bah.” Which means either bye-bye, or birdies, or both. Or maybe it just means, “Bah, I don’t need no nap. You fools think I’m going to sleep – bah!”

When other moms tell me their baby sleeps for 14 hours straight, I shoot lasers at them with my eyes. (Just kidding, I’m happy for them, envy is bad.) You usually go to sleep in your own bed, but almost always wake up in ours. I don’t mind. I especially love it when you kick me in the face. And when you turn sideways between Dad and I, rendering our king-size bed a Lilliputian cot. And when you snore like a chainsaw. (Sometimes I can’t tell who’s doing the snoring – you, Daddy, or the dog – so I give all three of you a poke). And when I abruptly wake up at the very moment when you’re about to lunge headfirst off the side of the bed and I suffer a mild coronary. And when I wake up at 5am to find you sitting between us holding my iPhone and laughing, with Siri saying “I don’t understand.” Co-sleeping is a riot.

That laugh though. Oh my. It’s like you’re reading “ha ha” right off the page. We laugh, you laugh more, we all laugh our heads off and all is right with the world.

Your smile slays me too. You tip your head back a little, scrunch up your nose and show your teeth – two little ones on the bottom, four uneven ones on top. Who needs a full set of teeth anyway? You were chewing top sirloin months ago. Your schoolyard nickname shall be Tough Gums.

You love your groceries, especially bananas, carrots, peppers, and green peas. (Let’s face it, I could have put ice cream and cake on that list but I’m trying to look good here and it’s the grandparents’ fault you even know what these things are.) You’ve yet to turn up your nose to anything. Splash waits eagerly under your highchair, but the castoffs are scarce. Which is not really fair, since you’re always mooching off her rations. I’ve scooped Holistic Choice dog food out of your mouth at least a couple dozen times. Yesterday, I caught you facedown in the water dish having a nice drink for yourself. Me nerves.

You love your fur sister, and your human brother. Max makes you laugh more than anyone else. “I make her laugh the best and smile the most,” he says. Hopefully he’ll continue to entertain you for free, now that you’re on the move and crushing his Legos like Baby Godzilla. You don’t crawl anymore at all. It’s all walking now, all the time. Cousin Norah says you walk like you’re riding a horse. Giddy-up, world, here comes Rae.

You are a busy little bugger. The only way for me to cook or wash the dishes is to give you free reign of the Tupperware cupboard. I carry the food from the fridge to the counter to the stove like I’m running an obstacle course in Munchkin City.

It’s hilarious how you sling things out of boxes and drawers. You throw each thing over your shoulder with a swift flick without even looking where it went, then move on to the next item immediately. Packing up to move in the fall was challenging. As fast as I’d pack a box, you’d unpack it. It was 49 per cent annoying, and 51 per cent cute.

Your clothes are mostly hand-me-downs from your friends, Maddy and Sadie. We’re saving our money for medical school. Or art school. Whatever, you decide.

You don’t have much interest in TV, despite my efforts to plop you down in front of Sesame Street with a cracker so I can go poop. Probably because I binge-watched a dozen series on Netflix when you were an infant and thanks to my violent sobbing during Call the Midwife you now think the TV is just a big shiny box of tears.

You love books though. You turn the pages like a boss. You don’t wait for me to read a page before you’re turning to the next. We don’t make it to the end of one book before you’re pushing a different one in my face. I hope you love to run and dance and sing and swim and paint and build, but above all these things I hope you love to read. Maybe in 2016 we can slow down and point to the pictures.

Your brother’s first word was “stay,” because the dog, then a puppy, never stayed still. Splash is eight years old now (56 in dog years) and way more chill, so your first word was “dada.” I’m okay with this. Dada’s a good guy. In fact, right this second you’re looking out the window while Max skates on the mini ice rink Daddy made in the backyard. Next year, you’ll have skates too.

We’ve been breastfeeding for a whole year – high fives, partner! Since I’m back to work there’s no boob juice flowing in the daytime, but you still have a couple good swigs at night. It’s funny now because you can easily tell me what you want. No matter where we are, you jam your hand down my top and squeeze, like I’m toting a couple of ripe oranges. Sometimes it hurts and makes me scream, but it’s hilarious so I endure. I’m going to write a new article about breastfeeding (I wrote one when Max was a baby, about how horrible it was.) You’ve changed my mind on a good many things.

You have a big year ahead, girl. You’re going to learn all about trees and birds and rocks on the trails of Mount Pearl. You’re going to touch your first caterpillar. (Touch, please, not eat.) We have sidewalks in our new neighbourhood, so you’re going to ride that tricycle like you stole it. We have new friends to meet, new playgrounds to climb, and new books to read. Your brother is quite the scribe these days so maybe he’ll even write a book for you! Let’s hope it’s a little lighter than his last book, which included a page that went: “At home with your wife pregnant.”

I’ve rearranged my priorities a bit for 2016, because of you. A fire has been lit under me these last couple of years when it comes to women’s issues, gender equality, social stuff. Especially now that I have a daughter. I talk about it a lot on my blog and in my articles, trying to make a difference in some small way; silence is for the grave and all that. But I realize the biggest impact I will have in this life is with you and your brother, and when I’m talking about these things to all these other people, I don’t have the time I need to talk to you. So in 2016, I won’t be writing for The Overcast anymore. My ad career and packing Max’s lunchbox are more than enough for me in the Commitments & Deadlines department. The rest of the time, I want to be playing and talking with you. That’s how I’ll change the world – through you and Max. And if there’s time to spare, I will write, and hopefully people will read. You will get the best of me. And I will see, fully, the best of you. You’re only one year old, little girl, but I already know there’s going to be a whole lot to see.

Happy first birthday, my glorious Rae.

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Everyone Loves a Weirdo, and Other Things I Learned at BlogJam

A couple nights ago, I got an email from my son’s first-grade teacher, telling me she had chosen Max to speak at the Thanksgiving assembly. We told Max the news, half calm (because it was just a couple lines, not a TedX speech), and half excited (because this was one step closer to our retirement on the coattails of our son, the great orator). After a couple minutes, Max’s pride turned to dread and he started to cry. “I don’t want to do it,” he said. “Not in front of all those people.”

MOMMY TO THE RESCUE.

“Guess what? When Mommy was a little girl, I was afraid to speak in front of people too. But this weekend, in Halifax, I spoke in front of, like, a hundred people!”

“Mom. There’s way more than a hundred people at my school.”

PHOOEY.

It’s true though. There was a time when I hated public speaking. I was only comfortable talking to my invisible friend, Colin. Colin always got me. He didn’t judge me for making out with my knees in the bathtub. I still get nervous before I approach the microphone; I don’t fully trust anyone who doesn’t. But nowadays, I enjoy a little limelight. And — I can’t even believe I’m saying this — there’s never enough people in the room. The way I see it — if I’ve done all the prep and my speech is solid and my hair looks good and I don’t have diarrhea, the room may as well be packed. Sorry, Colin, I’ve grown.

I like a packed room — just one of the things I learned about myself this weekend at BlogJam in Halifax, the first ever bloggers’ conference in Atlantic Canada, at the schnazzy Marriott Hotel on the waterfront. ‘Twas a full day of speakers on all things blog, from widgets to Wordpress, from how to find your voice to how to find the clitoris (I’m paraphrasing.) I was one of the keynote speakers, starting off the day with a bang (and a few fucks), at 9am on a Sunday. Like ya would.

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That’s me waaaaaaaay up there.

Here’s a close-up on my opening slide. I’ll post the whole presentation soon, I swear. It will probably change your life. Or at least your night. Okay, your underwear. It will at least make you change your underwear.

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There were sessions happening at the same time all day, so I had to quickly decide which ones to attend, and which ones to slip out of in order to go check on my widdle durl who was locked in a safe in my hotel room upstairs. Relax. It’s a SAFE.

Just kidding. I actually dropped her off at the orphanage.

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It’s a hard knock life.

Here are a few other things I learned at BlogJam:

1. There are a lot of bloggers in this region. According to fake statistics, only 10% of bloggers come forward to attend bloggers’ conferences.

2. It’s a warm, inviting blogging community we have here in Atlantic Canada. Not cold and damp like the basements we usually blog from. No wait, those are video gamers. Nevermind. We’re way cooler than those losers.

3. Newfoundlanders are wicked storytellers, so where are all the bloggers? I know of a few serious Newf playas in the blogosphere, like Candice Walsh and her kickass travel blog Free Candie (fancy new website alert!), Dave Sullivan and his Narcissist’s Revenge, and Drew Brown, the pride of Grand Falls-Windsor, who blogs for VICE and makes me hate politics a little less every day. Maybe they’ll come get some jam next year. Maybe they’ll bring Jam-Jams.

4. I like to write, but not as much as I like to entertain. You know, with my face. I think maybe I’d like to be a stand-up comedian when I grow up. Or maybe a lie-down comedian. I could just lie down in a bed on stage and make jokes while writhing around like misses in American Beauty, but with potato chips covering my girly bits instead of rose petals. Or maybe I’ll be a fireman.

5. “BlogJam” sounds like “log jam” which is what you call it when your poop is too big to flush so it jams up your toilet. I didn’t learn this at BlogJam. I just wanted to put it in here because it’s my blog and I’ll do what I want, bitch.

6. I enjoy saying bitch and I will keep saying it. Guys. We are taking back the word bitch.

7. The tools are no good if the writing is no good. You don’t have to be Ernest Hemingway (he’d be a shit blogger anyway), but content is king. A fancy website with wicked widgets and plugins and graphics can bring the horse to water, but give dat dere horsey some decent water to drink, luh. That analogy makes no sense whatsoever but I don’t give a fuck, Rae just shit herself in the bathtub, I got bigger problems.

8. That being said, some sweet graphics can go a long way. Look at my slideshow (COMING SOON SWEAR TO GOD), designed by the whimsical Mira Howards. If you’re a blogger with good content looking to take things up a notch, find yourself a young (or old — it’s possible) graphic web designer or WordPress whiz who’d be willing to give you a good rate (because you’re probably poor), to make your site look a little more sparkly-boo.

9. Don’t get caught up in the numbers and likes and comments. It’s all about engagement. I rarely get any comments on my blog, but I get lots of feedback on my social media channels where I share my stuff. I may be married, but I am engaged to a whole bunch of other people. ME DA WHORE.

10. People don’t mind when you say fuck a lot, if there’s a point. Points can have more impact when there’s a fuck in there. There will always be some people who’d prefer you say fudge, but there are also some people who prefer to walk around with shit in their pants. Everyone is different. You can’t please everybody. Carry on.

11. Food bloggers are sharp as fuck. I wish I had a food blogger friend like this “food nerd” who would take me to restaurants and teach me the difference between a garbanzo bean and a chickpea. JOKE PAUSE!

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12. Not every blog SHOULD be a book, but every blog COULD be a book, so if you think you got a book in you (ouch, paper cuts) then go for it and see what happens. There are still seven or eight people in the world who buy paperbacks. Publishing is a hard ol’ racket, but even if you self-publish and sell 20 copies, YOU WROTE A FUCKING BOOK, MAN. Give ‘er.

13. Some awesome bitches put the ABLE in disabled.

14. The Fucking Facts is a brilliant blog name. I’m going to steal it from Kaleigh Trace when she’s off giving one of her blowjob workshops.

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Murphy, Downs and Trace. We go by our last names now, like MacGyver

15. Moms control the economy and therefore rule the big ass world with our big fat juicy asses. You need us on your team if you’re going to win. For reals.

16. Some people are very kind and smile a lot. I like those people. They make me want to be less of a bitch face. Adam Purcell sponsored my voyage across the Gulf when other corporate sponsors said they had spent all their money on Post-It Notes. BlogJam creator Renee Downs is a beaming golden sun with rainbows for legs.

17. A blog can suffer growing pains, change direction, evolve. A blog is flexible. A blog is Play Doh.

18. It’s okay to be a woman and all about the money. I wouldn’t mind being this woman. Her name is Debbie but I like to call her CHA-CHING.

19. When it comes to privacy, you make the rules. Use your instincts. (Unless your instincts are shit, then ask someone else with better instincts for advice. Hopefully your instincts are good enough to know when your instincts are shit.)

20. If you want to talk about your kids on the Internet but don’t want people to know their names or faces, just stick some Star Wars heads on them and call ’em Chewy and Vader. That way, instead of stalking your little Dick and Jane or Jack and Jill, people will just become obsessed with finding out what Chewy and Vader really look like. I’ve been trolling for Mike Tanner‘s kids for three days straight now.

21. You can have five Christmas trees and wear pearls and a cardigan and a barrette and still be a fucking ninja. I already knew this, but Virginia Fynes reminded me.

22. Virginia Fynes is the perfect name for a DIY craft blogger. Be such a terrible shame if her name were Ulga Buggerboot.

23. There are many, many technical things I could learn to improve my blogging product but probably won’t because I am a sloth. Oh look, a raisin in my clavicle, mmmmm.

24. It’s okay to laugh about anxiety, and hemorrhoids.

25. Men’s rights bloggers only show up online, I guess. Probably for the best.

26. Do you feel that? It’s vagina time. It’s girl o’clock. Avocados were all the rage these last couple of years, but now it’s time for the ladies. Like this hilarious frigger, this amazing mutha, this smarty pants, and this rad missus right here. There are many, many others. And they all have tits!

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27. It’s genius to open with a potty mouth mom and close with a (self-described) queer disabled sex educator. People will show up on time and stay till the end. Loves the weirdos, they do.

28. Eating juicy Nova Scotia strawberries on a white duvet with a baby who still uses her pants as a toilet is probably not the best idea. But twat odds, Batman.

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29. If you’re taking your tot away on a conference when The Wiggles are in town, make sure she doesn’t find out about it.

DA FUCK, MOM?!
DA FUCK, MOM?!

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Lovesick

My husband and I have been together for more than a decade, but yesterday was the first time we’ve been sick at the very same time. Stomach flu. Thanks a lot, Max. JERK.

In between the pooping and puking though, there was something kind of sweet. As anyone who has been married longer than 24 hours knows, marriage is a little bit like war sometimes. Yesterday, we were like two wounded soldiers on the battlefield, lying lifeless, looking into each other’s weary eyes, the sound of gunfire off in the distance. The in-laws had come and swept the kids away from our filthy cesspool, so there were no distractions, no chores, no responsibilities. Just the two of, united in gastrointestinal anguish.

“I’m hurting all over, are you?”

Oh my god, he asked how I was feeling. Sweet, sweet man.

“This is the worst.”     “It really is.”

Holy shitballs, we agreed on something. We are the same person. We are ONE.

Feeling a little better last night, after a whole day of not eating, we both craved the same food. We sat together and ate chicken fingers with mayonnaise. And halfway through, we both agreed it was a mistake. WE ARE SO IN LOVE.

At least until tomorrow when we both go back to being healthy idiot people.

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What This Marriage Looks Like

This is not a picture of our marriage. It’s a picture from our wedding, but not our marriage. If this was a snapshot of our marriage, there’d be a giant shark fin cutting through the water behind us. And that blue boat would be full of whores instead of oars. And written on that blue boat would be Fuckery of the Sea.

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This is not a picture of our marriage either. The only thing about this photo remotely like our marriage is the rickety wooden fence that keeps the cows from falling into the ocean. I don’t actually know how that’s like our marriage. But I imagine one day, making love is going to be like shaking around a pillowcase full of old sticks.

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Frankly, I’m glad our marriage doesn’t look like this. The couple in these pics are dip-shits who think marriage goes like so: meet, fall in love, get married, die in each other’s arms like the old couple in The Notebook, find each other in heaven and do it all over again with angels as bridesmaids and tin cans jangling off the back of a Care Bear Cloud Car. The people in these pictures are super cute, but mega dumb. Heaven is paved in clouds so those cans aren’t gonna make much noise. Amateurs.

We’ve learned a lot these seven years, because we’ve been through a lot these seven years. See, in between the marriage part and the death part is a whole bunch of other crap that can fuck shit up royally: sickness, betrayal, resentment, failure, sleep deprivation (babies!) bad luck, bad backs, bad vaginas (babies!), too much talking, not enough talking, and way too much staring at our goddamn phones. So don’t let my funny social media posts and the photos of my sexy as fuck husband and our two beautiful children fool you. Our marriage is a roller coaster ride that stops at random times with us hanging upside down and screaming. And if we’ve been through this much in seven years, imagine the stuff still to come. Mommy.

I have doubt about everything. EVERYTHING. But it’s alright because doubt is the most natural thing in the big fat world, because nobody knows anything for sure. Basically if you don’t have doubt, you’re an idiot. So, of course, when it comes to marriage I wonder what the future holds. What will happen when the kids are grown and we’re here staring at each other with nobody sitting between us asking for a popsicle?

Only a fool would say they know it’s forever. I have friends going through yucky divorces after seemingly perfect lives. So on this, our anniversary, I’ll just say is I HOPE it’s forever. I THINK we have what it takes. I KNOW I won’t go down without a fight.

So that’s why I chose this picture to mark the occasion today. Seven years ago, I was sitting on a chair in the middle of the room at the Legion, a cheap garter hugging my thigh inside my gown. Springsteen’s “I’m Going Down” starting playing and my new husband slid onto the dance floor in a scuba mask and snorkel. The perfect prop since we had completed a scuba diving course together, and because, well, places be wet.

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It’s a picture of our marriage. Of happiness, but the messy kind. The crazy kind. The kind that fights, and worries, and struggles, and stays. The kind that gets better, eventually, shaped and textured by the bumps along the way. The kind that sometimes even has you on your knees in a scuba mask, gasping for air. Not like that. Well maybe like that. Depends what you’re into.

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In Love With My In-Laws

In case you were getting your moustache bleached when the July edition of The Overcast hit shelves…

You know two of the things I love most about my husband? His jiggleberries. Just kidding. HIS PARENTS.

It’s unusual, I know. Most people hate their in-laws. Hating your in-laws is as universal as hating root canals, autocorrect, and Nickelback. I guess when you swoop into someone else’s nest and make off with one of their flock, it can ruffle a few feathers. The new bird is always strange, and the nest is always cuckoo. (Sorry, everyone hates bird analogies too.) Personally, this lucky duck wouldn’t know much about it because I hit the jackpot in the in-law department.

I have friends who detest their “outlaws.” When they tell me about the latest assault on their parenting or housekeeping methods, I say “Why, I never!” Then my sympathy switches to gratitude for my own good fortune and I shout, “Sucks to be you! My in-laws are fantastic!” Then they throw rocks at me.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about anything five years ago when Dad died. I wondered how any of it – having kids, getting published – would matter when he wasn’t here to see it. But it seems the void loss creates can be occupied by other good things if you let it. I broke the rules and filled in the dad-shaped space – with someone else’s father.

When I met Wayne Murphy more than a decade ago, one of the first things I noticed about him was his eyebrows – thick, black, severe looking, like an angry Muppet’s. But I quickly discovered those brows were actually wooly canopies shielding the world’s brightest smile from the elements. If this guy was a Muppet, he was Tickle-Me-Elmo.

When we visit, Wayne is out in the driveway before I’ve shut off the engine – to carry his baby granddaughter in from the car. He plays with Rae so much, I can scarcely get my hands on her when we’re there. His sandwich sits there, uneaten, because he’s too busy playing peekaboo. Sometimes he’s so moved by her funny faces and sweet babble, tears well up in his eyes. He says, “She’s so cute, it hurts.”

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Wayne and I also share a special bond, one largely based on naughty jokes – a sentiment I’ve generously brought into the family, to my husband’s amusement and horror (mostly horror).

I feel bad sometimes because I get to enjoy him more than most of his own crowd. And when I say crowd, I mean CROWD. Wayne and Rosena have seven children and ten grandchildren. But only two and four of them, respectively, live here in the province. Work and commitments keep the others away, but their hearts are home in Mount Pearl, where they used to pile into the car to go for a drive and fight for the coveted spot in the front seat between their folks, where breathing was possible.

A couple years back, I made Wayne a Father’s Day card that read: “My dad is dead but I reckon you’re a pretty good substitute.” (My humour can be dark.) Nobody can replace my father. Jim Combden was something else and I’ll think of him every day for as long as I live. But I won’t spend so much time remembering him that I forget to see the souls still above the sod. Apparently recognition doesn’t matter much to anyone once they’re tits-up. The world is full of love that goes unspoken.

My dad would be glad. He was grateful that I was a part of the humble Murphy brood, where the kettle is always on for me, where I still speak of him often. He knew I was in good hands, with the family I had and the one I had married into. Of course, blood is thicker and all that. But I’ve told Wayne and Rosena: if things don’t work out with me and Andrew – he’s out, I’m in.

Tomorrow, I’ll be helping my father-in-law celebrate his 70th birthday. And the very next day, I’ll be celebrating my father’s memory at the 6th annual Jimmy Golf Tournament for the Gander Cancer Clinic.

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No Bunny’s Daughter

Father’s Day is pretty much as you’d expect for someone whose father is dead. It’s like Valentine’s Day when you’re single, times a hundred-thousand-million. Because at least you can find new love; you only get one dad. Unless your dads are gay so you have two. You get my point.

Up until the dark day, on every Father’s Day for as long as I can remember, I gift-wrapped yet another jumbo pack of golf balls, a silly poem, and a pack of gum.

See. Golf balls.
See. Golf balls.

No more. Callaway and Top-Flite sales have plummeted since Jim Combden retired his clubs.

“Take a look at me now. There’s just an empty space. Nothing left here to remind me…,” except all the happy people celebrating their dads who are so awesome and wonderful and, oh yeah, alive!

Now Father’s Day is just a shot in the guts, reminding me (as if I don’t already know and think about it daily) that mine is gone. I once again blame Hallmark for inventing a holiday to sell corny, overpriced greeting cards without considering how much it costs to send a card to heaven. One stamp costs 60 cents and your goddamn soul.

Ironically, when I was a kid, Dad used to feign death for entertainment purposes. It was one of his go-to pranks that never got old. I’d come home from school to find him lying there on the floor, his hands perfectly crossed on his chest, his trademark smirk on his face. It’s still funny, in spite of today’s reality.

Speaking of Hallmark, and speaking of pranks, I wish I’d get a card in the mail with a great big “GOTCHA!” on the inside. These past couple of years, maybe Dad has just been punking us, hiding in the bushes on the 11th hole of the Gander Golf Course. Negator. Dad never could hold back a punchline.

Father’s Day: blah.

But then I saw the rabbits.

I was on my way to the Relay for Life, where I would be doing laps around the gym for 12 hours to help fight cancer in honour of dear old Dad. Just after I had taken the ramp to get off the TCH, two brown bunnies darted across the street right in front of my car. One on the heels of the other, they scurried into the thick greenery and were gone.

They say your sense of smell is the sense most linked to memory. I close my eyes and I can still smell the Tinkerbell make-up in my jewelry box with the creepy twirling ballerina, and my scrumptious Strawberry Shortcake figurines, and the scratch ‘n sniff stickers in my sticker book (mmm, grape). But most of all, I can still smell the rabbits.

Clinging to the back of our old black and green Jag Arctic Cat, I watched Dad lumber through the waist-deep snow to check his snares for rabbits. The unlucky furballs were soon dangling from the beams of his shed, frozen in their last earthly stance, paws pointing in all directions. The next day, they’d still be hanging there, stripped of their fur down to the purple, sinewy muscle. The shed smelled perpetually of rabbits. Even in the summer, it hung in the air. Was it the stench of death, or fur, or raw meat? I’m not sure. To me, it’s the smell of a happy childhood.

But these rabbits on the highway were free and fast and full of life. And instead of one lonely rabbit, there were two. I instantly thought of Dad. Was he speaking to me on this day before Father’s Day, as I was about to go kick some carcinogenic ass? On the way home the next morning, when St. John’s was barely awake, I again saw a sign: a dove! Okay, that’s a lie. It was a white plastic bag flapping around in the wind. But it had a life about it. An American Beauty, if you will. You know the scene.

Oh come on. Who am I kidding? Dad is not speaking to me from the great beyond. He’s not sending me messages from a Voodoo Lounge in the clouds with Hemingway throwing back shots at the bar and Shakespeare practicing his bank shot in the far corner. He’s not showing me the beauty in the world. I’m finding it myself because he taught me how. I see things more clearly than ever through the eyes that he gave me.

Guess we should teach our children well. Not by instruction, but by example. Actions speak louder than words, and lessons last much longer than the human body.

And our kids are not the only ones picking up what we’re laying down. I can only imagine how many students Dad inspired during his 30 years of teaching English literature. Knowing Dad was extremely sick, one of his students sent him a thank-you note to express how much he had inspired her. Her note arrived ten minutes too late. Ten minutes. But I got to read it, so it was not entirely in vain. And Dad knew she had become an English teacher herself, so he probably suspected he played some small part.

We are mere mortals. But the light we emit is absorbed by others and continues to shine long after our candle has burnt out. Wow, that’s some cheesy metaphornication there, Elton John. Let’s try it again with less fromage. My dad saw deep meaning in ordinary things. He talked about it. He wrote about it. Some called him a weirdo, some called him a poet. He put it all out there, fearlessly. And I saw it. Every day. So even though he’s gone, I see the beauty. There is still goodness. There is still humour. There is still life (not a bunch of fruit in a bowl — you know what I mean, saucy face.) Because of what I learned from him, largely by simple observation, I am well-equipped to find reasons to be happy in this fucked-up, fatherless world.

This story appears in my book, MotherFumbler, in the chapter “Oh Shit We’re All Going to Die.”

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Happy Mother’s Day, Asshole.

Mother’s Day is to the mommy blogger as the fourth of July is to Americans, or as Christmas is to the people with a picture of Jesus over their bed watching them masturbate. I’m supposed to say something infinitely profound on this sacred day of the life-giving vagina invented by Hallmark to sell cards and those horrendous Pandora charms, and to make women with no children and dead mothers feel really shitty. But I said masturbate in my very first sentence, so the chances of me being all inspirational is unlikely now, isn’t it? The truth is — I’m tired. I got nuthin’. Except hemorrhoids. I got hemorrhoids. Bum grapes. A direct result of becoming a mother, ironically. But guess what? I have the cure. And as a Mother’s Day gift to all ye mothers who suffer from assteroids, I will now kindly share it with you.

FINGER YOUR ASSHOLE.

That’s right. The cure for hemorrhoids is not an ointment. It’s not a magic pill or drink. It’s your very own digit (not your ring finger, preferably.) Just push those fuckers back from whence they dangle. In a nice hot bath where nothing really counts including peeing, finger your own bunghole. Stuff those unwanted underwear guests where the sun don’t shine. And then pleasantly relish the activity we moms so seldom get to: sitting.

Happy Mother’s Day to you and your asshole. I’m sorry. I’m tired.

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Mommy Goes to Hot Yoga

My mom always told me to try new things no she didn’t. She said new things can kill you. I think she was talking about drugs but whatever, all I heard was stick to the usual, which is why I spent 25 years thinking orange cheddar was the only kind of cheese. Last night I tried something new anyway. A threeway with my husband and a ghost. But before that, I went to my first hot yoga class.

When I told Mom I was going to hot yoga, she replied, “What is a hot yoga?” I was too lazy to tell her the truth, so I told her it was a kind of warm yogurt. Which sounds kind of dirty. The thing is, I kind of expected hot yoga to be kind of dirty! Come on, you gotta admit “hot yoga” sounds pretty porno. In fact, you probably only clicked on this post because HOT YOGA was in the title and you were hoping to see some downward facing doggy style action, you big giant pedo.

But instead of grinding around on a mat and doing crazy crotch aerobics to Shakira, I got a chance to lay in my own pool of sweat that streamed endlessly from my big, stupid face.

Maybe it’s a ginger thing, but I only sweat from my face. It’s very attractive, obviously. I especially love the sweatstache, and the beads of sweat trickling down my cheeks like hot tears. Here’s a picture of me from about halfway through class.

face-melt

My whole body was wet with perspiration, but not because all my body parts were sweating. It was that whore called gravity, channelling south my river of salty face juice, which collected, conveniently, at Lake Vagina. I left home with 47 freckles and came back with 39, swear to god. And a pond in my panties. It was closest I have ever gotten to touching my lady taco with my tongue. Believe me, I have tried.

There may have also been some lactating going on. I really couldn’t be sure in the soupy mess. At one point, while bent over at the waist doing the human suitcase, I thought I tasted something sweet trickling into my mouth, but I’m told my sweat tastes like strawberries, so maybe it was just more sweat.

So let’s back this baby up for a sec. See, I was a hot mess even before hot yoga started. I WAS ILL-PREPARED OKAY? I can pack a diaper bag like a Hollywood nanny, but apparently I cannot handle a list of basic supplies: yoga mat, water bottle, towel.

I couldn’t find my yoga mat. I mean it’s huge and bright pink, how am I supposed to find that?

On the way downtown in the car, water spilled out of my water bottle and completely soaked my towel. I dried the towel with the vents in the car, continually steamed up the windows, and almost drove through Coffee Matters which is absolutely not a drive-thru.

And when I got to class, everybody whipped out their ginormous beach towels to cover their entire yoga mats TO KEEP FROM SLIPPING ON THEIR SWEAT, while I plucked out my lovely wee facecloth. It was a hand towel at best. A hand towel for someone with midget hands. No, midget hands are chunky. This towel was for mouse hands. Fidel goes to hot yoga.

My sister-in-law and niece snickered at my teeny towel. Bitches be neglectin’ to specify the size the towel should be when they invited me to this class and gave me THE LIST FROM HELL. But I dished it back by laughing at my niece who was totally unchallenged by these yoga poses, being all bendy and 18 years old and shit. Bah, sucks to be her. Bet she can’t wait to blossom into an old, rickety-ass fence and actually challenged by things.

Class started with everyone lying down like murder victims – body relaxed, eyes closed. I guess we were supposed to be releasing all our tensions. I was trying to remember what else I needed to buy on the way home, besides toilet paper. The sweat started pouring out of my mugshot right away, without even moving a single muscle. Clearly, I was in for some fresh hell. But it went okay, to my pleasant surprise. I held my own. I also held my own feet and widened my crotch an extra four inches. As if I needed a more gaping groin. (Insert pic of baby girl’s giant melon.)

Hot yoga might just be my jam. My hot, sweaty, strawberry jam. The place smelled like a spa in Switzerland. The floor was a cool, grey texture and I wanted to lie down on it immediately — like, in the porch, where people would trip over me, that’s how much I loved the floor. Instructor Tiffany was friendly and funny and didn’t say a word when I handed her my health form waiver thingy that said I had scurvy. And I managed the poses pretty well for someone who spent most of 2014 eating candy from the Bulk Barn to combat morning sickness. (Gummy worms make pretty babies so shut your hole.) I’m pretty sure I broke my ass doing the “prepare your anus” pose, like ya would, but I’ll be fine. I have a couple extra asses to fall back on, at least.

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