Monday, February 25, 2013


This is about how I feel right now.

Someone stole my iPhone over the weekend. I am so naive. When I realized that I had left my phone in the washroom at my hair salon, I didn't rush back over to retrieve it; I was on a date with Alyce (she always joins me while I get my hair cut and usually tells me I look like a boy) and didn't want to leave our dinner to get cold on the table while we ran the few blocks down the street back to the salon. Because when you find someone's phone in the washroom at the hair salon you return it to the front desk, right?

Nope, evidently you steal it. I hate thievery.

There isn't much I can do and I just need to accept that I am now spending quite a bit of money on a new phone. I need one for my doula business, my camera, and I might as well just come clean and tell you that I'm addicted to Twitter (@mostdaysiwin, in case you wondered). I should receive my new phone tomorrow and so I will quit complaining soon, but not before I moan a bit about the loss of my photos. I hadn't uploaded my photos in a couple of days and lost some great ones. I have plenty of photos stored elsewhere but that doesn't stop me from wanting to show you that photo of Alyce and Shira dressed up as fairies (costumes over snowsuits), hiking through High Park in search of winter fairies.  But I can't, so instead I offer you a photo of Alyce taken last year around this time. She's clearly overcome by something, but I know not what.

Moving on. My weekend was filled with everything a weekend should be.

:: We had a quiet, but lovely Shabbat dinner on Friday. We'd had a long, tension-filled week, and Matt and I were both ready to snap. Actually, we did snap, but only had time to feel overwhelmed and cry (that was me, I'm a stress-cryer) for a few minutes, because Alyce and Shira were determined to welcome Shabbat with joy. It was one of the first times that Shira participated in saying the blessings and Alyce seems to have learned them by heart overnight.  It was just what we needed.

:: We joined the High Park Nature Centre for a nature walk in search of winter fairies. It was a great way to spend an afternoon, with the perfect mix of cheap ($2/person) and a great way to spend some time outside. Add in the fairy adventure and you had me at hello. They have nature walks every two weeks on Saturday afternoons, in case you're in the neighbourhood.

:: I held a snake for the first time and did not die. It was a garter snake at the Nature Centre named Snake, and he was sort of cute. I'd show you a photo of Snake but someone STOLE MY PHONE. (Sorry.)

:: Got my hair cut. I'm growing out a very short cut and I had waited as long as I could before buckling and getting a cut. Just a trim. A tiny one. Mostly mullet removal.

:: Shared a bottle of wine with a good friend. That's always fun.

:: Broke my tooth in half eating Doritos. That was less fun.

:: Spent a few quiet hours working and grading.

:: Watched the Oscars with another good friend (I'm blessed in the friend department) and consumed a delightful amount of sugar.

:: Made plans to give up sugar.

How was your weekend? Did you watch the Oscars? Did you also wonder why Kristen Stewart looked so mad?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

I dare you to remain cynical

Shira, sleep in the car, still clutching some of her Valentines. 
A few peg dolls for my Valentines. Inspired, as always by We Bloom Here.

Just a selection of Valentines made for us by Alyce.

Alyce's homemade cards for all her school friends.

I know Valentine's Day sparks anger and resentment among many. I get it, I really do. We don't need to spend a ton of money on cards, chocolates, toys, flowers, silly gifts, and the like, to let others know that we're sweet on them. We certainly don't need yet another reminder that our society privileges a certain kind of love. But at this point in my life I am surrounded by tiny people who adore Valentine's Day with such excitement and urgency that I refuse to stand in its way.

I know you don't need another blog telling you to make your life more difficult by making everything from scratch. You don't need to feel guilty (again) because you used store-bought vegetable stock in your soup. But if you'll allow this one simple suggestion: handmades for Valentine's can rock your world. There is nothing cynical about children slaving passionately over construction paper hearts and markers, tongues stuck out in deep concentration. And do you know what Alyce gave me for Valentine's day, in addition to no less than six homemade cards? A bracelet she found in her room. She loved giving it to me, and I loved receiving it.

In our house we make cards for every occasion. Is it a Tuesday? Make a card. Is our friend Kaylie coming over for lunch? Make her a card, too. Is it someone's birthday? Let's make ten. We keep a basket of the necessary tools on our table at all times (so that I'm not constantly fetching the scissors and glue at every turn) and we can make a card at a moment's notice. So a holiday devoted to extra card making? We're not going to turn that shit down.

Am I saying that store-bought cards are bad? Of course not. We love them! Alyce has a box of twenty-seven Valentine's Day cards from her school friends and most of those are from a store. She adores them (and sleeps with them in her bed), and we are grateful to receive well-wishes from a friend in any form. Please don't read this is a manifesto against The Store. But I am saying that if you are feeling awfully crabby and hopeless in the face of all the extra consumerism this week, stock up on some extra construction paper next year and stay away from the shops. Sit yourselves down and with some paper and glue (and some glitter if you're feeling especially brave), and make yourself a card.

And by all means, don't wait for Valentine's Day. Tuesday is coming up and if there's a better reason to make a card, I don't know it.
My little sister and brother making hearts, Vancouver-style (thanks, Kate).

Thursday, February 14, 2013

How Gchat saved my marriage: Some advice on Valentine's Day

Do you have an issue that you and your partner argue you about on a regular basis? That topic where one or both of you argue terribly because you're so emotionally involved you lose the ability to speak with any sort of compassion or kindness? Do you have one of these?

Matt and I have have about a million of these issues.

Alright, not a million, but many. I think they are probably the same as yours: finances, jobs, sex, religion. The big ones. These issues are wrought with emotions and hopes and anxiety and passion, and despite some well-meaning discussions, they can get us into trouble. We are both endlessly stubborn (mostly me). We are also endlessly tired, and this can sometimes make us cranky arguers. Not the best combination.

My marriage and my iPhone

But here is the thing: we often connect through the day online over chats on our Gmail accounts or through texts on our phone (and we're not the only ones). Most of the time we send ridiculous messages that will make each other laugh, about the children or the cats ("Please send help: Lucy the cat just set up a union and is out of control with demands. Also, the cats are late in paying rent.") Other times we send notes of a more practical nature, reminding each other to pick up something from the store or run an errand, or, sometimes, to gently nudge the other person to stop leaving dirty clothes all over the bathroom floor. (For the record, there is a laundry hamper directly outside the bathroom, not two feet away from said bathroom floor.)

Matt and I have what feels like a strange work/family set-up, though the way so many parents cobble together resources and working hours I'm sure it's more common than I realize. There have been periods in our lives where we've spent a lot of time together because we both worked from home, but for the past few years we have found ourselves constantly trading off home/kids for working time. Although Alyce is in school during the week, Shira has always stayed at home because it made the most financial sense for me to continue working from home and not pay for daycare (in addition to me wanting to keep her at home with me as long as humanly possible because she is my baby). But because Matt's job is very flexible he and I take turns staying home with the kids, which translates to me escaping the house two days during the week.

Here is our typical day: Shira wakes at 5:15 am (that's sleeping in) and one of us gets up with her. (Our rule is whoever is staying home with the kids that day gets to sleep in. Deal? Deal.) Once it's time for that parent to leave for work, the other parent takes over and begins the day at home, usually trying to squeeze some work in between school drop-off, meal preparations, and Shira's requests to paint/draw/have a snack/watch a show/have a snack/paint again/and then paint again. Some nights when the other parent comes home around dinner, the other parent heads out for a few hours of work (and that is when I meet most of my doula clients). Other nights we sit on the couch and watch NCAA tournaments and eat popcorn.

What I'm getting at is that we don't have a lot of time during the day to connect, to sift through all the details of an issue, including those that are time-sensitive in nature. But what we've found is that because we are both very comfortable on computers and phones and can type almost as fast as we speak, we can connect very well online. Matt and I can work through a lot of necessary conversations in stolen moments throughout the day rather than during the witching hour of dinner and bath time with two young children.

Not just for shopping lists

But there's more. Some fancy (and probably very knowledgeable people might tell you that it's important to have the BIG conversations face-to-face, so you can look into each other's eyes and really listen to your partner's needs. I say phooey. Sometimes you need to have a conversation with your partner where you they don't see you roll your eyes or can't hear you raise your voice. Sometimes you need to talk about something really pressing and important in your relationship but you need space not to storm out of the room. Chatting online has saved us so many times, and I don't mean enabling us to just work out schedules. I mean with the big things.

We've talked about clashing expectations about our sex lives and moving our family to a new country over gchat. We've texted each other through emotionally charged panic attacks and moving disasters. We are so invested in these kinds of  issues that sometimes when we talk face to face we let our emotions stand in the way of a solution. We get defensive, shut down, or begin to raise our voices. But over gchat we are patient and take the time to (sometimes) clearly explain our positions and concerns, we ask each other for feedback, and generally give the other person space to disagree. Of course there are times when we do all this in person, but sometimes we can discuss an issue online or as texts first and then come together still in one piece with greater patience and understanding.

I kid you not, in the last hour Matt and I have begun to work through a very challenging idea over Gchat, an issue that presses buttons well-established after almost six years of marriage. I promise you that we will speak kindly to each other when we finally see each other face to face than if we waited until I got home to discuss it. Also, just because we hashed it out online doesn't mean we no longer speak its name when we get together human to human. We'll continue to talk about it sometimes, often, but the anger that often comes with that initial passionate argument is usually gone. And then we can be nicer to each other. And then we dance together on a rainbow.

Please, take this piece of advice as my Valentine's Day gift to you!

P.S. Happy Valentine's Day, Matty!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


:: I know. More Instagram photos of the weekend (you can now view Instagram photos on actual computers instead of only phones--follow me here). Bear with me, but I love the photos I steal with my phone, and Instagram's filters are so lovely. If you're interested you can find a great post written by Rebecca about photography, iPhones, and filters here

:: Shira discovered a love a doing dishes. I discovered that I can get an hour of things done while she plays with bubbles in the sink. It's a win-win.

:: I made two cakes (I went with the chocolate bundt and olive oil cakes after popular demand on facebook). Sadly, for my Jewish-Muslim text study class, the snow storm had me turning around back home after inching along the blizzard-filled streets of Toronto (and traveling approximately two blocks).  Happily, for my family, we have two cakes to enjoy. Sadly, for my family, we have two cakes to enjoy.

:: Alyce and Shira enjoyed each other's company, at least most of the time.

:: We had so much fun at the science centre. We have memberships, which means we go quite a bit, but some days are more fun than others. This weekend Alyce took such pleasure in building a space station out of blocks and then telling everyone all about it. This includes Matt and I, science centre staff, and other random people who were standing nearby. I also learned to bring a change of clothes after the two of them soaked themselves in the water play area. Note to self and everyone else who doesn't want to buy replacement shirts for their kids in the gift shop, which I did.

:: Everywhere I turn I find tiny little dollies. Such is life at our house.

:: There was much snow. It cancelled plans, gave space for snow angels, and offered itself up for the creation of not one, but two snowmen. We used black olives for eyes and buttons because one needs to improvise sometimes. 

How was your weekend? We never made it tobogganing, which I completely regret. Evidently I was too busy eating cake.

Friday, February 8, 2013

#22 Host a fabulous tea party

This post is part of a new series I'm excited about at Most Days I Win. I've written a list of (mostly) small and manageable resolutions that I'd like to attempt in 2013. I've included things on my list that will continue to inspire me and lead me toward the kind of joy-filled life I've always loved. I'm using this list to commit, again and again, to doing things that make me laugh, make me happy, feelings I hope rub off on other people in the process. You can see the list of my 100 Resolutions Project (in two parts) here and here.

Sometimes all it takes is for a good friend to call and ask what we're up to. That's all it took a few Sundays ago. My friend Susan, having recently heard her daughter, Tori, declare that she'd like to live next door to Alyce, asked if she could visit us in Toronto for the day. Alyce and Tori were in the same junior kindergarten class last year when we were living in Cambridge and they still make moon eyes at each other when we get together. They are smitten and I love it. 

I love watching friendships take root because I know, I know, that friends make it possible to stand in the world with your shoulders back, head held high, and laugh all day long. Without my friends I'd feel naked.

Once it was decided that of course! we'd love to Susan and her girls over for the day (she has a second daughter a little older than Shira), we got to work. It was obvious to all of us: tea party. We began setting the table at once. Alyce got to making place cards, Shira chose our tea pot, and I collected fine linens (ironing not required). Alyce had just the day before made a paper flower for Tori and it served as the perfect centrepiece. I quickly made a dish of macaroni and cheese (my superpower is the ability to make mac and cheese blindfolded while hopping on one foot) and was relieved to find the brownie cookies we had made for Shabbat the previous Friday were still available. Sometimes cookies in our house disappear.

It was an amazing tea party, nothing too fancy, but the necessary elements were there. Tea pot filled with grape juice? Check. Good food? Check. A chance to celebrate a random Sunday with a gathering of good friends and a lot of giggles? Tea parties make me think of all the things I loved about childhood: make believe, celebrations, making the ordinary feel a bit more special. My daughters have inherited what seems to be a genetic predisposition to elevate an ordinary table into a place of magic. I watch them set their own Shabbat table throughout the week, adding just the right touches (like dinosaurs) around the usual Shabbat settings such as candles, kiddish cup, and challah board. They just know that there is something special that happens when we gather around a table.

P.S. Alyce has informed me that this technically wasn't a tea party because we did not send out invitations or have fancy food, like cake. I'm not sure where she found these rules, but who am I to argue? So while there might be another tea party in our future, but I'm counting this one, too.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Wow. Writing about my experiences with depression and anxiety was a good thing. Of course I worried that I'd shared too much, but something told me otherwise. Maybe that something was the hope that someone would hear me and say, yes, that's me, too. It turns out that something was right.

So many people have reached out in the past few days. I can't even begin to describe what that feels like. But I'll try: You are all good people. I am grateful for your shared stories and your shoulders to lean on, long-distance as they might be. I am sad because some of you feel the same way. I am inspired that some of you have chosen to deal with own depression, in part because you read my post. I am a bit wobbly from the realization that more than my mother and best friend read what I write here each week. I am encouraged to stand with you, shoulder to shoulder, against the shame so many of us feel when our lives don't run smoothly. I am here, for the long haul, so pull up a chair.

Things are changing around here, and while I'm not sure what shapes will form, I know I'm headed in a good direction. I feel overwhelmed on a daily basis, but underneath that I know there is strength. I think that's what I've forgotten all along. I'm still there, underneath all the details. Thanks for helping me remember.

Thank you. From the bottom of my heart.

Be well!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

I'm feeling a bit chatty

This. Week.

Don't let the door smack you on the way out. It wasn't a bad week exactly, just one that kicked my ass. I have a post that is five lines short of being published, waiting since Monday to be finished. Seriously? Five lines. But the needs of my week stomped on my blog post and pushed their way ahead in line. It was a bossy week.

There were multiple appointments at the doctor. A big deadline for work. An application due. And two nutty children, as per usual. Now I have a chest cold. Awesome.

This post was going to be a short rant about my week overwhelming me, but just this second it is changing to a post about depression and anxiety. I have both of them and I've been ignoring them for a long time. I'm all of a sudden writing about this today because I'm coming to realize that suffering from depression and too much anxiety is terribly annoying and really gets in the way of my coping with daily and weekly obligations. I don't think everything is filtered through this, but it shows up a lot. Remember when I wrote about yelling? That was my depression getting really loud. When I posted that my cousin called me out on it, gently suggesting that impatience and irritability is a sign of depression. I knew that, but I wasn't paying attention. I was too busy yelling and being irritable.

I almost never talk about my depression, and I certainly don't ever write about it. Another cousin of mine (I have really good ones) asked me months ago if I would write about postpartum depression. I've been sitting on that request for some time now, assuming that I'll write it next week, or maybe the next. But the problem is I never do. I've been dealing with depression and anxiety for ten years but I almost never share it with anyone. I am too much the happy person to be such a drag about feeling sad or overwhelmed or irritable. Because the thing is, I am happy a lot of the time. I'm not faking it when I see you and give you a big hug and tell you that you look beautiful and I'm happy to see. These children of mine? I love them so much my heart actually smiles. And Matt makes me roll my eyes laugh so hard I count myself as one of the luckiest ones. But that doesn't mean that I don't also feel overwhelmed and sometimes a bit lost. The lows of the past two years have been hard to handle some days, and I don't think anyone would be surprised that I've had a hard time managing. Not always a hard time, but often enough.

You see, I don't even talk about it with those close to me. I have a couple of friends who know me well enough to ask, but mostly I keep it under wraps (not the most fabulous way to deal with depression, in case you're wondering). I've just barely talked about it with my family. It's Matt that gets the whole me, who listens to me go on and on and on about my feelings. Poor guy. He's full of so many good strategies to help me feel more in control, but I'm a slow learner. Sorry, Matty, but I come with other benefits, like the ability to bake at a moment's notice, my witty basketball commentary, and that constellation of freckles on my thigh that forms an almost perfect Big Dipper.

Yet I'll post about it on a blog. I'm complicated that way.

I have this pesky quality where I believe somewhere deep down that it is my responsibility to make others happy. I think this might get in the way of my dealing honestly with my inability to keep myself together. As much as I speak honestly about my preferences, I think I bury my needs somewhere under that unyielding desire to be responsible for your feelings. That, and I'm afraid you won't like me, a quality that I must take ownership of if I'm going to get anywhere. I care too much about what others think and this gets me into big trouble. I put my needs last on the list because I put everyone else's needs (or what I think are their needs) first. And then I go home and avoid my own needs and responsibilities because by that point I'm crawling out of my skin.

Some people thrive under stress. Others, like me, get depressed and anxious and start wringing their hands. I spend hours worrying in my head instead of doing the things that need to get done, even though completing said things would probably make me feel better. But it isn't having a long list that makes me depressed and anxious, I know that. This goes back further, back to my biology. I'm pretty certain that I'm wired to react to the world this way, a mixture of good-natured, joyful, and anxious. I'm coming to see that I can't ignore this part of me anymore than I can ignore my body's slowing metabolism (hello, there). Just like I can exercise more and help encourage my body to stay in shape (I love how I write that as though I could be exercising more), I can do things that help me manage my moods. 

I've been on and off (mostly off) medication for ten years and I'm back on now, but making the appointment to try medication again was not easy. Do you know why? Because my depression doesn't always look like depression to me, like the commercials I see of people stuck in bed or on the couch. I am always busy, always running around after two children. I didn't see myself in the posters I see on the bus that gently encourage people to seek help from their doctor if they experience any of the following symptoms: lethargy, not getting out of bed, suicidal thoughts. That's not me. My depression feels like this: everything is hard. Getting my jobs done? Hard. Deciding what to make for dinner? Hard. Making any decision? Impossible. The same thing happened when I experienced postpartum depression (yup, had that twice). As a reader and constant researcher I started turning to books and blogs about PPD and I didn't see myself there. I wasn't having negative thoughts about my babies. I was sleeping (as much as a new parent sleeps). It was just hard and I felt overwhelmed and alone some most days.

So this is why I'm writing this today. Maybe someone else's depression looks like mine. Maybe this is you, and you need a nudge to dig around and see if medication might help (mine is helping a lot). I have a lot of work to do around this, I know that. Medication can't make me stop caring about what other people think, that's all me. But maybe it can give me the pause to do this work, give me a break from that feeling like I'm drowning in the day.

Or maybe I'm writing this today because I know that it is for the good. Maybe if I post this today it will become easier and easier to be honest. With myself, with my family, and with you. This is me being dreadfully honest, so go easy on me. Medication was my first step. Telling a few people about it was my second. Now here I am, telling you that sometimes life feels really hard but I'm trying. Trying to do what I can, trying to drink in these early years with our children, trying to give myself a break. 

Now I'm going to hit publish before I can talk myself out of it.

Be well!