Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Miscellaneous Things That Happened in Early November

I was heating up some oil in the frying pan. I don’t know when the spider crawled in. Maybe it was there the whole time? That’s the unsettling thing about spiders: sometimes they were there the whole time and you didn't know. They are so small. But they are also so terrifying that once you do notice one, you can’t imagine how it was ever in your immediate vicinity without setting all of your internal alarms off. 

So I accidentally fried this spider, is what I’m saying, in avocado oil. And for some reason, I can’t stop picturing it. 

Very unsettling.

I went and saw the Dogman musical with Sully (and Julia and Charlie). Dav Pilkey really is smart, isn't he? I mean, look past the poop jokes: he had my generation captivated by Captain Underpants and is still, almost three decades later, creating the most relevant content there is for the elementary school-aged crowd. And then he goes and makes it into a musical, and sneaks in references from Charles Dickens, so that me and my nine-year-old son could sit and enjoy a night at the theatre together and every few minutes, Sully’d lean in and excitedly whisper something like, “That line is from Tale of Two Kitties!” And I’d whisper back, “It’s actually a line from A Tale of Two Cities!” And we bonded over a shared love of literature and drama and Sully didn’t think it was totally lame and, maybe even more surprisingly, neither did I! Thanks, Dav!

I was sick on Monday, and the kids were home from school for the stat holiday. I stayed in bed for most of the day and the kids hung out with Barclay—it feels like a rare and beautiful thing to get to sleep off sickness as a mother. But I did, with mostly no interruptions. 

The only one came at some point in the afternoon. I don't know what time it was; I was swimming around in light unconsciousness when a small noise pulled me up, almost to the surface. I was aware of a quiet creaking sound, and then little feet, almost silent on the floor. I didn't open my eyes, assuming that one of the kids was coming to see if I was awake, to announce that their feelings had been hurt or they needed help with something. I anticipated someone shaking me awake, talking too loud directly into my ear. But instead of a voice, there were just tiny spaghetti arms, quickly wrapping around me and then just as quickly withdrawing. More almost-silent footsteps and then the quiet creak of the door again. 

Just a quick hug. Best part of my day.

Barclay and I started watching Taxi; we found it on one of those free streaming services online. We also started listening to an audiobook of The Great Gatsby, and the link between the two is that Andy Kaufman is both an actor in Taxi and was known for being able to recite the entire text of The Great Gatsby

(I'm obsessed with finding the link between things. There is always a link.)

As I wrote that last sentence, I started wondering if there is a link between Taxi, Dogman, The Great Gatsby, and fried spiders—and then I realized the answer was obvious: it's me. 

I am, as of the writing of this blog post, the link between Taxi, Dogman, The Great Gatsby, and fried spiders. 

So, see? I was right. There is always a link. 

Thursday, November 02, 2023

Immortalized in Newsprint

About eight years ago, I pulled off a very nice parallel park on McIntyre Street. There were two older gentlemen sitting in lawn chairs on the side of the road right in front of my parking spot and they applauded as I exited my vehicle. No one minds being clapped for, and so began a weird little friendship. I saw them every single Tuesday, until one day they just weren’t there anymore and I never saw them again. 

Sometimes I’ll drive down McIntyre Street and glance at their spot, wondering if one or both of them might reappear, but they haven’t yet. A couple of weeks ago, I decided to write about them and send my little story to The Globe and Mail, as one does, and today it was in the paper.

The best part about the whole thing is the sweet little illustration accompanying the article, by someone named Marley Allen-Ash. There’s me, hanging out of my nicely-parked car! There’s Sully, grinning in the front seat even though he is only two and shouldn’t really be in the front seat, Marley! And there are Harold and Harv, my good friends who I will probably never see again but who are now immortalized in newsprint with Sully and me and their sweet old dog.

You can read it here.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Three Things I Learned At My Book Reading

A couple of weekends ago I was invited to do a book reading in Shaunavon, a small town about three hours from where I live. The venue was an art gallery and the librarians who hosted me were the sweetest people in the world. I had such a blast, despite the fact that I have not yet mastered my fear of people, and there were quite a few of those in that room. 

But it was, as with pretty much everything in life if you go into it with the right attitude, a learning experience, and I thought I'd write down the things I learned so I can come back and read them later, when I've forgotten them, and learn them again.


1. If You Are Not Confident, Pretend

When I was prepping my little speech thing (it wasn't enough of a speech to just call it a speech), I remember thinking to myself, don't let them know you're nervous. Don't think it to yourself, don't say it to other people before the event, and for the love of every single in the whole wide world, don't say it to the audience

So what did I do? I got up there, in front of all the people in all the chairs, and I said, "Thank you so much for having me today! I am really nervous!"

It just came out of me, like a hiccup. Have you ever tried to hold in a hiccup? Yes you have. And you know how impossible it is to do. But the ladies in the front row (maybe other people too but I was having one of those very anxious moments where the room shrinks to the size of a TV set in front of your face) laughed, like I was making a joke. Like I was actually a very confident person making a joke about being a very nervous person. That was super nice of them. And suddenly, magically, I felt kind of like a very confident person making a joke about being a very nervous person. And I decided to pretend, from that point on, that that was the case. And you know what? It kind of felt like it was the case. (Even though it very much wasn't.)

So the lesson I learned there was, if you feel nervous, pretend you're a super confident person just pretending to be nervous, like as a schtick. It might not work for you. I don't know. But you can try. 

2. People Want You to Succeed

I think part of what makes me feel so anxious about public speaking is the idea that people might be sitting there hoping I mess up so they can go home and tell their friends and family about how stupid I am and what a terrible time they had listening to me talk about my dumb books. I feel like I have framed, in my mind, the entire situation as a room full of Simon Cowells hoping I will be very awful so they can say something blisteringly mean. 


On Sunday, when I was talking, I looked over at one of the librarians, whose name was Anne (still is, as far as I know), and she gave me this smile that had a lot in it, if you know what I mean. It was one of those smiles that said, almost word for word, "I'm glad you're here, and I want you to do well."

It was a whole revelation! People want you to succeed! Not everyone, obviously, but lots of people. People go to things like book talks to have a nice time. They don't go there not to have a nice time. They want to enjoy you. You don't have to be afraid of them. Was everyone else aware of this the whole time? Why did no one tell me?

3. You Should Remember to Read From Your Book At Your Book Reading

Did I bring a book up onto the stage with me? Yes! Did I have a sticky note in it where I was going to read from? Yes! Did I practice reading the reading from my book? Yes! 

Did I read from it? 


I just forgot. I forgot to read from my book at my book reading. What a maroon. Thankfully, everyone there seemed to have a copy of it, and hopefully they went home and read from it themselves. Still, this is embarrassing. 

Okay. Three things is enough. Three things is so many things to learn in one day. If you learned three things every day for the rest of your life, you'd have to start forgetting things on purpose to make room for all of it, and that's such a waste. 

But now we have this handy resource for the next time I have to do a book reading, or maybe for the next time you have to do a book reading, or the next time you have to do any kind of public speaking. (Though, if you're not doing a book reading, maybe just skip #3. As embarrassing as it was to not read from my book at my book reading, I think it might be even more embarrassing to read from a book at something that is not a book reading.)

Cheers, Public Speakers. 

Thursday, October 05, 2023

Hobby, Meet Children, Children, Hobby

Remember hobbies? We used to have hobbies, and we liked them so much. Photography, knitting, painting, writing. Then the internet showed us how to monetize hobbies and a side effect of that was that if you were not good enough at something to monetize it, you stopped doing it. 

I mean, a lot of us also had babies and/or careers and now spend most of our time focusing on things that will suffer if we're not giving them a lot of attention, and that's not really conducive to hobbying either. And then there's the fact that everything is getting so expensive. My kingdom for yogurt! Who has time to sit and paint a picture when a carton of eggs costs five million dollars?

I talk about this with my friends sometimes; we speak about hobbies like they're actual people we knew a long time ago. People who have ghosted us with no explanation. We fondly remember them, bitterly recall their sudden disappearance, long for their return, but also acknowledge that if they did show up again, we don't know quite where they'd fit in our lives anymore. 

The other day though, one of my favorite old hobbies called me up and wanted to reconnect. 

Before I got pregnant with Sully, I collected Lomography cameras. They were these cheap plastic film cameras that had neat little features—there was a fisheye one, the La Sardina that allowed for easy multiple exposure shooting and had colored filters for the flash, and the Dianas that shot nice big square film. I used to carry them in my purse, downtown, out with friends, on vacation. I'd make a roll of film last for a year or so, long enough to forget what all was on it so I could have a surprise when I got it developed. It was a hobby that required a lot of patience, a lot of waiting. I would shoot things on my digital alongside the Lomo cameras so I could contrast and compare. It was fun. Here, a random sampling of those pictures:

I took a picture or two after Sully was born, then abandoned the plastic cameras completely after Scarlett came to live with us (we were not sleeping, I was working on my first book...maybe, in retrospect, I was the ghoster, not the ghostee). But the other day, the kids and I were heading out for a walk and the old Diana, hanging from a hook on my living room wall, caught my eye. 

It said, Hey, you. I think Scarlett would get a kick of out of me.

I didn't answer, because it's weird to talk to cameras, but I silently acknowledged that Diana was correct. So I went around the house and gathered up all of my old Lomo cameras, the Dianas, the fish eye, the La Sardina, and I put film in the ones that didn't have film (yes, I still have random canisters of unused film in almost every room in my house), and I gave them to the children and I told them how film works, how they had to be judicious (and then I had to explain what judicious meant) and patient and thoughtful and creative and they got very excited because kids are fun and get excited easily, which is something I really like about them. 

And then we went on a walk, with our cameras around our necks, and with our years-old film, and I showed them how to do multiple exposures and how to decide whether something was really worth taking a picture of and we had a great old time. 

So anyway. All of that to say: if there's an old hobby you've been missing and would like to reconnect with, maybe try introducing it to your children. If they get along with each other, it might just stick around for a while.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Homeward Bound

The drive from Regina to Calgary is a little over seven hours, and Scarlett took it upon herself to make sure Sully didn’t enjoy any of those hours too much. She has come to the [correct] conclusion that you don’t need to be all that creative to drive someone up the wall, you just have to be persistent. You don’t need a new schtick every five minutes; in fact, it’s better if you don’t. It's infinitely more effective to use the same one over and over.  Repetition is key. 

So this was her thing: she’d brought her favorite stuffy along with us on the trip, and she’d wave it in front of Sully’s face and ask, “What this guy’s name again?” 

Sully would reply, “Brutus. It says so on the tag.”

And she’d say, “Oh, right. I forgot.”

And then two minutes later, “What’s this guy’s name again?”

And Sully’d say, “You already know.”

And she’d say, “No I don’t! I don’t remember! Please tell me!”

And he’d say, “It’s Brutus.”

“Oh, right. I forgot. …Wait, what is it again?”

Simple. Elegant. Seemingly innocent, yet devious. Sully was about to blow a fuse by the time we hit Medicine Hat. Brutus, a Ty Beanie Boo boxer with glittering golden eyes, had become the bane of his existence. Everyone in the car was wishing we’d flown to Calgary.

But, against all odds, we made it to the city without too much screaming from the back seat. 

Calgary was fun. I should blog about it. Drank good coffee, saw some sights with our friend Jason. And when he asked us if we would like to go climb a mountain, we excitedly agreed—the kids had never even seen a mountain, I told him. The kids saw a garbage pile in Regina once and thought that was a mountain. This experience, I said, accidentally prophesying a little bit, was going to rock their worlds.

Jason is a guy who rides bikes in the mountains; he is well-acquainted with trails. He took us to an easy one with a great view at the end, about an hour out of the city. The kids absolutely loved it, hiking through the largest [only] forest they’d ever seen, up and up and up, into a thick cloud. Scarlett had Brutus tucked into the neck of her t-shirt, and she was pointing things out to him, clutching my hand tightly, a little nervous that we might see a bear. 

The top of the mountain was very nice. We all liked it. 

“What’s this mountain made of?” Sully asked, very impressed. “Did a person make this?”

My kids: even less outdoorsy than me! An incredible feat. 

There was a gentle slope downward, and then a less-gentle cliff, even more downward. We walked carefully down the gentle slope toward the less-gentle cliff. 


Most of us walked carefully. Because most of us had a handle on mountain concepts such as cliffs, gravity, certain death. 

Scarlett, understandably, didn’t. In her head, she was invincible. Barclay and I had to repeatedly remind her that she couldn’t go near the cliff. She had to stop trying to run up here. 

No, seriously, Scarlett, stop.


Barclay was being very attentive; Scarlett would start to be careless, he would reach out and remind her to be careful, hold her still, show her the cliff, the line she could not cross. She would say, “Oh yeah, I forgot, I’ll be careful,” and then she would forget immediately. It was like the car ride to Calgary. 

“I forget, what’s his name again?”

It happened in slow motion—I’m not making this up, it really did. She started toward the cliff, Barclay reached out and stopped her. She pitched forward. Barclay, in his infinite wisdom, had drawn the line she could not cross farther back than really necessary, so she had room to fall and still not come too close to the edge.

But poor—what was his name again? Oh yes, Brutus—was still tucked into the neck of her t-shirt, and when she pitched forward, he was propelled toward the sharp drop-off with shocking momentum. 

He bounced once. I had time to think, “Oh no, he—what’s his name again? Oh right, Brutus!—he’s going over.” 

He bounced again. I had time to look at Scarlett’s face, to make sure Barclay was holding her tight so she wouldn’t follow her best friend over the side of the mountain. He was. Her face was very sad to look at. Suddenly she got it; she understood what we'd been saying the whole time about the cliff being a point of no return. I looked back at the dog.

Brutus bounced a third time. I had time to hope he would stop moving forward. 

He didn’t. 

I have an intensely vivid memory of him disappearing over the edge, frame by frame.

We all stood there in stunned silence. Or—no, wait, not silence. The opposite of silence. Scarlett was screaming. 

I immediately pictured the doll I lost as a kid in the Bargain! Bargain! Bargain! The Bargain Shop parking lot in Shaunavon when I was five. (My mom will tell you this is not where I lost that doll; she insists it happened in Swift Current. Doesn’t really matter. Agree to disagree, Mom. You’re probably right, but my memory will not adjust.)

Anyway! The point is, I pictured that doll, and I remembered how heartbroken I was when I lost her, and how I thought of her often for years after that. I remember that, as a kid, I felt bad not for myself but for the doll. I pictured her in the parking lot getting rained on, wondering where I was, missing all of her other stuffy friends who lived on my bed. I felt guilty even more than I felt sad—and I felt really, really sad.

I looked at Scarlett, who was beside herself, and I felt all of that again, and I knew she was feeling it too. You know this if you know Scarlett: she is nothing if not a feeler. 

We walked back down the mountain, and this felt very disrespectful to Brutus, whose name no one in our family will ever forget again, to just leave him there. Scarlett cried most of the way down, but by the time we got to Jason’s SUV, she had come up with a story to comfort herself. 

“Brutus is walking back to Calgary,” she told me. “He’ll be there when we get there. We’ll go to Shoppers Drug Mart (for this is where Brutus was born, as far as Scarlett is concerned), and he’ll be there waiting for me.”

And I, the dumb, dumb, stupid mother that I am, said, “Yes. You’re right.”


I said this because I could picture the Ty Beanie Boo display that sits by the register in every Shoppers Drug Mart I’ve ever been to. I could picture Brutus’s little doppelgängers, huge glittering eyes, just waiting for us when we got there. $7.99. Easy. If she was willing to imagine that one Brutus was all Brutuses, the problem was neatly solved. We could put this horrendous event behind us and go back to enjoying our vacation. 

But when we got to Shoppers Drug Mart, Brutus was not there. Whoolie was there. And Sissy and Tony and Meadow and Sapphire and Moonlight. Same glittering eyes. I pointed this out to Scarlett, I said, “They’re not Brutus, but they seem to be related.” Undeterred, and completely uninterested in Brutus’s family, she shrugged and said, “Yeah. I think they are. It’s okay. We’ll keep looking. I know we’ll find him.” Such faith. It’s almost like she’s the one who grew up watching Homeward Bound

We did keep looking. It has almost been a month, and I don’t think a single day has gone by where we have not either visited a Shoppers Drug Mart (or a Chapters, which also sells Beanie Boos, or a Canadian Tire, or some other random toy store) or had a lengthy conversation about where else Brutus might possibly have ended up. We talk about how he might still be walking. Calgary is very far away, especially when your legs are four inches long and sewn into an inconvenient crouching position. 

But here’s the cold, hard truth, which I have not known how to relay to Scarlett without completely destroying her: Brutus has clearly been discontinued.

I’ve been keeping an eye on Varage Sale, and Facebook Marketplace. Amazon has dead links to Brutuses that aren’t available for purchase in my region, and Ebay has Brutuses being sold by Ty Collectors who seem to think he is worth much more than $7.99. I don’t know. Maybe he is, in this case.

I began to hope that Scarlett might just forget about him—but I also know that I never forgot about my doll, abandoned and alone in the Bargain! Bargain! Bargain! The Bargain Shop parking lot, or Swift Current, or wherever. In fact, just this morning, Scarlett asked if we could go out looking for Brutus, and when I said that we wouldn’t have time today she sobbed for ten minutes straight. 

My heart…

Inspired by this latest bout of tears, I sent her downstairs to play video games with Sully and opened the Varage Sale app yet again. I typed in Beanie Boos. I scrolled and scrolled. Lots of people on Varage Sale are selling Beanie Boos; they sell them in lots, 34 Beanie Boos for $120, only willing to sell as a lot! 12 Beanie Boos, 2 bucks a piece, excellent used condition! 3 Beanie Boos, $20 bucks each, tags still on!

I scrolled and scrolled. More Whoolies, more Meadows, more Tonys. Brutus’s family reunion, minus him. I got to the very last entry, a chaotic picture of 40 plus Beanie Boos laid out on some stranger’s floor. I scanned it hopelessly.

But wonder of wonders: there was Brutus in the top right-hand corner. Disheveled and tired from his long walk down the mountain, through the buzzing metropolis of Calgary, Alberta and along the Trans-Canada Highway to Regina. His eyes glittered at me through the phone screen. 

I bought him so fast, from a man named Paul who was probably bewildered by all of my excitement in his inbox.

I’m sitting here now in my kitchen; it’s 4:40 PM. I’m leaving to pick up Brutus in 20 minutes. I haven’t told Scarlett yet. I’ve decided that I am going to do a very silly Mom thing, and I don’t care how cheesy it is. 

Here’s how it’s going to go: I’m going to smuggle Brutus into the house and wash him. I am not going to dry him because that will take too long. It has been raining today, so it’ll make sense that Brutus would be wet when he shows up at our door. I am going to get Sully to sneak outside and leave Brutus on the porch by the mailbox, under the doorbell. He is going to ring the bell and run around to the back door. I am going to send Scarlett to see who’s at the door, and she’s going to open it and find Brutus sitting on a letter. The letter is going to say, roughly, or exactly, this:

Dear Scarlett,

I have missed you so much! When I fell off that mountain, I worried I would never see you again. 

(But don’t worry, falling from so high didn’t hurt at all; I’m full of stuffing!)

When I got to the bottom, I got up, dusted myself off, and started walking to Calgary right away. It took me quite a while because my legs are so tiny. It got dark quickly that first night; I had to stop for a sleep. I made a little campsite beside a beautiful waterfall. A friendly bear who lived nearby offered me some marshmallows to roast over my campfire! His name was Paul. He sat with me and kept me company. He asked if I would like to stay for a while, but I said, “No, I have to get home to Scarlett. She’ll be wondering where I am and I miss her so much!” I told Paul all about you. He said you sounded wonderful. He wanted to come with me and meet you, but I said that Regina is not a good place for a bear.

The next morning I set off again. I walked down some steep trails that went straight down the mountain. People were riding bikes down these trails! It looked so scary! One of them saw me walking and offered me a ride on his handlebars. I wasn’t sure if I should, but then I remembered how it didn’t hurt to fall off the mountain and I realized that I didn’t really need to be afraid of anything. The mountain biker drove so fast through the trees; it always felt like we were going to run right into them but he was very good at turning quickly. It was so fun, Scarlett. Someday, will you give me a ride on your bike? I would love that.

The mountain biker offered me a ride back to Calgary in his truck, which I was very happy about. It would’ve taken me such a long time to walk all that way by myself! He dropped me off at the mall, and I went straight to Shopper’s Drug Mart, because I knew that you would look for me there with all the other Beanie Boos. It was such a fun reunion! I saw Whoolie and Sissy and Tony and Sapphire and Meadow and Moonlight! I told them about falling off the mountain, about my campfire with the bear named Paul, and the ride down the steep trails with the mountain biker. They were VERY impressed. 

But when I told them about you, and what you looked like, they said you’d already been there, looking for me, and had left already. I cried a little bit, but I knew I’d just have to keep moving! 

I asked them how to get out of Calgary. I knew I needed to get to the Number 1 Highway. I knew that was the way home. Whoolie told me that the quickest way to get to the Number 1 Highway was to take something called the C-train. Do you remember seeing that when you were in Calgary? It’s very fast, and very fun to ride. Someday, I would like to go back to Calgary with you and take a ride on that train together. 

When I got off the train, I found a little girl sitting on a bench. She was crying; she couldn’t find her dad. I sat beside her and I said, “I know just how you feel. I’ve lost my Scarlett.” It made her feel much better just to know that I understood why she was so sad. I said, “Let’s sit right here until your dad comes to get you. That’s always the smartest thing to do.”

I know this might seem funny to you, that I told her to do the exact opposite of what I had done, but the rules for stuffies are different than the rules for kids.

We sat there for an hour. I told her about the mountain bikes and the bear named Paul and my friends at Shoppers Drug Mart and my first ride on the C-Train. And then, like magic, her dad came! He was so happy to see her, and she was so happy to see him, and it made me so excited to see you again!

It gave me a burst of energy, and I ran to the Number 1 Highway!

This next part is very boring: I just walked and walked and walked. I walked for such a long time. Whenever I got tired I stopped and took a rest. I met some new friends along the way: a moose named Charlie, a fox named Dwight, three deer, Zoey, Sally, and Vernon, and even some mosquitos who were all named Blaine! 

Zoey let me ride on her back for a little while. I think if she hadn’t, it would’ve taken me another month to get home. Every time I passed a Shoppers Drug Mart, I stopped to see if you had been there. I stopped at one in Brooks, and at another in Medicine Hat, and another in Swift Current. Each time, I got to see old friends, and each time, they told me you’d been there looking for me. Even though I was sad to know I’d missed you, it also made me very happy to know that you were looking for me! It made me happy to know how much you cared about me. It made me want to walk even faster.

So I did.

When I got to Swift Current, a car stopped to see if I was okay. A little boy in the back seat had looked out his window and seen me walking, and he yelled at his mom to stop the car. When he opened the door he said, “Hi, my name is Jaden.” I said, “Hi, my name is Brutus.” Jaden said, “What are you doing all the way out here in the middle of nowhere?” I said, “I’m trying to get to Scarlett. She lives in Regina.” He said, “I’m going to Regina! Would you like a ride?” And I said, “Thank you, yes please!”

I’m not sure if this was a mistake or not. On the one hand, Jaden’s mom did drive me all the way to Regina. On the other hand, by the time we got there, Jaden didn’t want me to leave him. He had grown attached to me. I asked him to drop me off at your house and he said, “No! You’re my stuffy now!”

This is why you should never get into a car with a stranger. I know that now.

So I lived at Jaden’s house for a little while. He had a very big house, and his bedroom was on the top floor. He always kept his bedroom door closed, so I couldn’t escape. I was very worried that I would never see you again.

Then one day, Jaden’s mom came into his bedroom when he wasn’t home. She spoke out loud, even though he wasn’t there to hear it, she said, “This room smells awful!” She opened the window to let some fresh air in. After she left, I climbed up onto the window ledge and looked down at the yard. It was really far down, and I was very afraid to jump, but then I remembered the mountain, and how far I’d fallen then—and mountains are much, much higher than houses! I remembered how I didn’t need to be afraid!

Scarlett! I jumped out of the window! (This is another thing that stuffies can do that kids should never, never do. You are NOT full of stuffing!)

I landed on Jaden’s mom’s car, just as she was backing out of the driveway. I sat on the roof, holding on tight, as she drove away from Jaden’s house. I was free! 

Jaden’s mom drove past so many places that I remembered. I felt so excited—I was getting so close to you! We drove past McDonald’s, past the university, past the Naked Bean. Jaden’s mom parked her car on Broad Street. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was!

After how far I’d travelled already, I knew I could walk the rest of the way very easily. It started raining, but I didn’t even mind. I remembered that at your house you have a nice warm dryer in the basement. I knew that you would put me in there and then you would take me to bed with you and tuck me in with all of the other stuffies. I was so excited. I came around the corner to your street. I walked past Isla’s house, then Rosie’s, then Sloane’s. It took me a little while to climb the steps to your door, and a very long time to climb up onto the mailbox so I could ring the doorbell. I thought it was funny that this was, hands down, the hardest part of getting home to you—reaching the door bell.

But now I’m here! I’m about to ring the doorbell! I’m so excited to take a ride in the dryer and get nice and warm, but much more than that I’m excited to see your beautiful face! 


And Scarlett is going to show me the stuffy and ask me to help her read the letter, and I will, and then I’m going to say, “Wait, what’s his name again?”

Because I love when things come full circle. 


Monday, May 08, 2023


I was thinking the other day about how I used to see meaning and importance in everything. 

No, like, everything

I’d see a cat and then maybe an hour later I’d see a different cat and my brain would be like, whaaat, two cats? That’s important! That means something! And it would pull a thread from the first cat to the second and then from that to a distraught person I saw once in the grocery store crying into the pears and to a friend I’d had coffee with the day before and then inevitably there would be some kind of tiny, weird epiphany and I’d hurry home and write it down. Everything felt like it was related to everything else; it was like I was meant to observe it and find all the hidden meanings and Easter eggs.

Is this a young person thing that you gradually grow out of? Is it a stage of life thing? Have I gotten too busy to see the connection between cats and strangers’ tears and friendships? Are things simply less meaningful these days? Maybe there are actually fewer epiphanies hanging around in the ether, like the world is a fruit tree and epiphanies are apples and there are seasons where the branches are bare?

(Probably not.)

Anyway, I was thinking about it this morning and realized that I just kind of miss that version of my brain, always scurrying around trying to make things out of other things, not letting anything just be what it is. It sounds exhausting, maybe, but it’s fun and it makes life fun and I hate being bored. So I thought to myself, today I am going to go out there and over-philosophize everything. On purpose.

So I went out and did that and the first epiphany I had was that it has gotten way harder to do this, that maybe it’s less about the world being fruitless and more about your brain being well-practised. Like, there’s always fruit, it’s just that if you never raise your arm for three years, your muscles will atrophy and when you finally go to pick an apple, they’ll be like, what are you even doing? We don’t know how to do this.

But other than that little realization, I went a whole morning without finding anything meaningful or interesting. The people were just people and the cats were just cats and no one was crying into the pears at the grocery store. 


On my way home I pulled up to a stop light beside the brightest, most electric, most lime green car I have ever seen. It hurt to look at. It looked like if you licked it, it would taste sour. It looked like a toy. 

I thought to myself, that’s the greenest thing I’m going to see today. Not meaningful, per se, just noticeable—but noticeable is generally on the way to meaningful, so I felt hopeful.

There was a lady with short curly hair driving the car, and when she turned her head I saw that she was wearing a pair of the brightest, most electric, most lime green sunglasses I have ever seen. Just a shade brighter and more sour than the car.

Taken together, the two green things were practically glowing against the sad brown background that is Regina in early spring, and I appreciated them. Meaningful? Probably not. Just visually striking.

At that moment, from the left side of the street, out of the 7/11 parking lot, came a little crowd of pedestrians. At the back of the group was a large man, whose head stuck up above everyone else’s. As they passed in front of my car, the crowd parted perfectly down the middle and I was blinded by the hoodie the large man was wearing—the same green as the car and the glasses. The man raised his hand to drink from a neon green 7/11 cup, which looked like it was full of Flubber. It was incandescent, something humans probably shouldn’t ingest.

I looked at all of it, the woman in the green car with the green sunglasses and the green-shirted man with the green Slurpee and a familiar but long-dormant part of my brain started freaking out. So much of this very specific shade of green! This is so fun! What does it mean?

And then the traffic light turned green!


What are the chances?

No, I know. The chances of a red traffic light turning green are fairly good. You’ve probably had it happen to you once or twice. 

But in that moment my brain took a snapshot and the green light felt lucky even though it was utterly expected. And maybe that’s my second little epiphany for the day: if you go out looking for things to be special and meaningful and important, they will be special and meaningful and important, even if they are as predictable and common and practical as a red light turning green. 


Thursday, April 27, 2023

I Hate Winnipeg

It’s been exactly 6.5 years since we went on a vacation (and even that was actually a work trip for Barclay on which Sully and I tagged along). There are a lot of good reasons for this, though having a good reason for something that makes you sad doesn’t make it make you less sad. Not that I’ve been over here feeling sorry for myself—I know vacation is neither a right nor a need—I’ve just missed being out of town, with my family, with nothing to do but look around and drink coffee.

So, you say, where’d you go on your first vacation in almost seven years? Costa Rica? Rome? New York? 

No! Winnipeg, Manitoba!

I didn’t expect this to be something I would have to justify to so many people. I had a lot of conversations in the weeks leading up to our trip with people who tried to talk me into a “better vacation.” Somewhere warmer but also cooler, somewhere farther away, somewhere people go on purpose. 

Yeah, well. 

We went to Winnipeg on purpose, and we had a lovely time. And, because this is my blog where I document my life, even the parts of my life which I spend in Winnipeg, I will now proceed to document this trip as though it were a once-in-a-lifetime luxury vacation to, I don’t know, Paris.

(It was kind of like Paris, actually, in that I heard someone speaking French in a coffee shop in an area of Winnipeg called St. Boniface while, unbeknownst to them, I ate a croissant! Ooh la la. C’est chic.)

It takes almost six hours to get to Winnipeg by car, and the drive is well-suited to car games, because there is nothing, absolutely nothing, to distract you (except for, on our way home, one building burning completely to the ground while firemen stood around looking bored). Our car game of choice was Song Title Dominos, wherein one person picks a song title (say, for example, One Great City! by The Weakerthans) and then everyone in the car has to quickly think of a different song title with one of the words from the first song title (say, Midnight City by M83). Only rule: you have to be able to think of the song and artist without using technology. Happy to report that my family can enthusiastically and competitively play this game for actual hours. 

The high point of this drive was a stop in Brandon, where my sister lives with her husband and two kids, and also where there is a coffee shop called H Coffee where I got myself a baseline latte, against which to compare all of the many vacation lattes to come (if you’ve been here for a while, you know that my favourite vacation pastime is drinking as many lattes as possible and ranking them, as though I’m going to have to give a latte report to someone at the end of the trip. No one has ever asked this of me but maybe someday it’ll happen and I will be ready).

(H Coffee set the bar very high. It ranked #1 overall.)

When we arrived in Winnipeg, we dropped our stuff off at the AirBnb and headed straight for the LEGO store. 

Here is where I admit that this whole entire trip was instigated by Sullivan, who just wanted to go somewhere that had a LEGO store. He asked one day, “Where’s the nearest LEGO store?” And I said, “Winnipeg.” And he said, “Can we go to Winnipeg on our school break?” And I said, “Probably not, buddy.” And then I said, “Actually, it’s been a really long time since we went anywhere together. I’ll talk to Dad about it.” And then Instagram immediately started showing me ads for things in Winnipeg, because the Internet is, clearly, on Sully’s side. 

So we went there, and that was very exciting for Sully, and then we went back to the AirBnb where he built his new LEGO thing and we had charcuterie and went to bed.

You are already just so enthralled with our trip; I can tell. AirBnbs! Malls! Deli meat! 

You are looking up flights to Winnipeg, you are throwing clothes into duffel bags. I knew you’d come around.

The next morning, we woke feeling like we hadn’t slept at all, and this is because we hadn’t slept at all. One of the kids fell out of their very high bed, and the other just wasn’t used to sleeping somewhere new so they woke up at 2 am and didn’t. Go back. To sleep.

C’est chic.

We went to the Exchange District in desperate search of caffeine and something to eat. We found a tunnel draped with twinkly lights and we went through it and found a donut shop that smelled like fresh pineapple called Bronuts. We went around the corner and found a coffee shop full of whatever the modern-day version of hipsters is called Parlour (Latte Ranking: #3). We went around the corner again and found an enormous toy store with an emerald green door called Toad Hall Toys. We wandered around it for a million years; it was vast and interesting and had an older gentleman sitting in the back corner building model trains. We went around the corner again and we didn’t end up where we began—and I think this might just be a failure of my memory because that’s impossible—and there we found a record store called Into The Music that felt just like the one in High Fidelity and I asked my family if we could spend a million years there the way we had at Toad Hall Toys and they said no, but we did spend a hundred years there and purchased three albums—Alexi Murdoch’s Time Without Consequence, Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ It’s Blitz!, and one of the very few Rush albums we don’t already own, Counterparts.

At some point in our wandering, we saw a sandwich board for a sandwich shop called King + Bannatyne advertising—you guessed it—sandwiches. We went back to it at lunchtime and had the most lovely sandwich shopping experience. Highly recommend. The person working gave us free cookies for the kids which, they said, were made out of the bread heels(??). These strange bread heel cookies tasted amazing, and we were kind of surprised about that. Go to Winnipeg just for King + Bannatyne; it’ll be worth it. Tell them I sent you. (They will be like, “Who?”)

At this point, Scarlett started getting antsy. It was almost time for her most anticipated event of the trip and she could no longer contain her excitement.

Because the other reason we went to Winnipeg on purpose, besides the LEGO store, was because Scarlett wanted to see a certain statue. 

I don’t remember how or why this started, but every night before bed, instead of reading to Scarlett from, I don’t know, a book, I read to her from a Wikipedia article. The article is about the real Winnie the Pooh, who was purchased at a train station in Ontario for $20 by a man named Harry who hailed from Winnipeg and, thus, named the bear Winnie. Scarlett loves this article; she finds the story of the real Winnie the Pooh joyful and beautiful and heartbreaking and compelling. Some nights it makes her cry when Harry has to loan Winnie to the London Zoo to go off to war (she is concerned for his safety and worried that Winnie will be lonely without him). Some nights she focuses on the fact that a little boy named Christopher Robin really existed and that his dad, A.A. Milne, liked to take him to the zoo where he was allowed to literally RIDE A BEAR. She loves hearing about how tame and cuddly the real Winnie was. Some nights she asks me to [demands that I] insert completely made-up paragraphs about how safe Harry was in the war and how safe wars are and how much he and Winnie missed each other while he was away at the very safe war and how he came back after that war to see her and how they still live together to this day, ALIVE and NOT DEAD in a tree in the actual Hundred Acre Woods which really totally exists. Some nights she asks me point blank if the real Winnie the Pooh is dead and I have learned that she knows the real answer, and that she wants me to lie to her. 


The article I read to her states that there are two statues of Winnie the Pooh in existence—one at the London Zoo and one at a park in Winnipeg, and the one in Winnipeg is of Winnie AND Harry. It immediately became Scarlett’s most important goal in life to take her stuffed Winnie the Pooh to see the statue Harry and Winnie the Pooh IRL.

Do you want to see her face when she saw this statue?

She was so excited. We went to see the statue twice, once on Thursday and again on Saturday and she was equally excited both times. Of note: Sully was very excited to see Scarlett see the statue, which I thought was cute.

And, because the Winnie statue was located in Assiniboine Park, we also took her over to the Journey to Churchill exhibit to see REAL bears (polar ones), which she promptly decided were also Winnie the Pooh even though they looked nothing like Winnie the Pooh and there were two of them. She really is just so amazing at choosing her own reality—wars are safe, Christopher Robin is immortal, all bears are Winnie the Pooh.

We walked around the rest of the zoo for a couple of hours and then our feet hurt so we headed to our hotel for a quick swim (for Barclay and Scarlett) and a game of ping-pong (me and Sully).

(Side note: why don’t all hotels have ping-pong tables? Our hotel had one, and a foosball table, and also a rad play place called Pirates Cove, which swallowed the kids up so Barclay and I could drink our fancy Winnipeg coffee in peace. Why don’t all hotels have all of these things? Tell me, do your fancy Parisian hotels have all of these things? No? Then what good is Paris?)

We had supper at Za and then lattes at Thom Bargen (Latte Ranking: #5–it might have been higher but the barista seemed determined to glare at me the entire time we were in the shop and it was uncomfortable and then unnerving and then just downright irritating and I think it affected my taste buds). 

Then we went back to the hotel and everyone except me fell asleep IMMEDIATELY. I was tired but determined to not waste these precious moments of silence and solitude; I drank my Thom Bargen latte in bed along with some Lindt chocolates I’d discreetly bought for myself earlier that day for this very reason. 


That night was better, in that we slept. Novel. C’est magnifique

We had breakfast at our hotel, and the thing we enjoyed most about that was the fact that every time the waitress came out of the kitchen, she carried with her a carafe of coffee, and every time she checked on a table, she set the carafe down behind her, on a different table or counter top. By the time we left, there were carafes everywhere. A sea of carafes, two or three on every surface.

Is this a funny story? I’m thinking now that maybe you had to be there. Maybe if the breakfast had been better we wouldn’t found the carafe army so hilarious.


Anyway, then we went to The Forks, because everyone is always like, “Oh yeah Winnipeg, yeah, that’s…fun…there’s, uh…well, there’s an IKEA and there’s The Forks.”

So we went to The Forks, which, for my non-Canadian readers, is where the Assiniboine River flows into the Red. There’s, like, a market and a children’s museum and some other things. Bridges. Trails. It’s nice to walk around, so we walked around it. I don’t know why this is the Definitive Winnipeg Thing, along with IKEA, but it’s nice.

For lunch, we went to the Hargrave St. Market, which is like a mall food court for those modern-day hipsters. Like, instead of Arby’s and Taco Time and whatever, there’s $25 pizza and fancy ramen and, yes, lattes (Fools & Horses, which ranked #4). It was fine. I felt intimidated by everyone there. 

We took our coffees and went back to the hotel so the kids could play and we could sit for a bit. Again, this is one of those things that I knew in theory would happen, but could not fully appreciate until the time came: how much kids ruin one’s ability to truly sit down on vacation (without being prepared to immediately spring up again), and how much I would appreciate a three-floor play place in my hotel. 

One we felt adequately sat, we packed the kids up again and headed to The Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which is free (and very, very quiet) on Friday evenings, apparently, and which is just such an incredible experience. Truly. We spent two hours there, probably could’ve spent an entire day if not for the four shorter legs we brought along with us. Don’t get me wrong: the kids loved it too, it’s just a lot of walking, up and up and up these sloping alabaster ramps that wind back and forth between the core galleries. The subject matter is heavy, and there’s so much of it, and the building itself feels like it was perfectly designed to match the information it houses—even the fact that as you progress through the building, you are constantly able to see both where you have come from and where you are going, constantly someone is saying, “Oh, we were just there!” Or, “Wow, we still have quite a long way to go.”

At the top of the museum is a tiny spiral staircase that takes you to THE ACTUAL top of the museum; it winds up and up and the glass does not feel like enough to keep you from plunging to your certain death. It has a sign at the bottom that says you can continue at your own risk, and Sully opted out there, so just Scarlett and I made the trek. 

Apparently, I have recently developed…not a fear of heights, but a nervousness of heights that makes me giggle a lot. There’s a glass elevator at the top that takes you—a tiny bit too quickly—all the way to the bottom, where you can, once again, look up and see all of the places you’ve travelled to. 

Anyway. You should check that out. 

For supper, we went to Yafa Cafe for Arabic street food. It was on the way from our hotel to literally everywhere we went, and every time we drove past it I looked at it and wanted to go in. 

So we went in.

The kids’ taste buds are very, very chill. They don’t like to be startled or challenged with spice or heat or flavour. They like foods with notes of “butter” and “plain” and “if this has too much pepper on it I’m sending it back.” But weirdly enough, they love Arabic street food, which is the antithesis to everything they generally demand food-wise. Pleasant surprise! Makes no sense! Oh well, we’ll take it!

As a family, we give Yafa Cafe 5/5, two thumbs up, and bonus points for the decor.

Uneventful night after that. Slept again, that was nice. 

Our last day in Winnipeg was spent in St. Boniface, the aforementioned French neighborhood. We got coffee and croissants at Postal (latte ranking: #2) and then hit up a book store and a cheese shop, where Sully excitedly purchased cheese curds so he could make his own poutine. 

We made one last stop at the LEGO store, one last stop at the Winnie the Pooh statue, and got one last latte (Folio, latte ranking: #6–hey, someone has to be last) and then hit the road.

All in all, a lovely trip! We would go to Winnipeg on purpose again.