GOOD NEWS: I'm honoured to share this personal essay I wrote for The Endometriosis Foundation of America about my chronic journey with endo. After 20 years, I’ve learned that there are no built-in guarantees about ridding myself of this life-long disease. However, I do try to enjoy all the respites as long as they last. Writing this piece was like having a conversation with myself, a sort of reckoning. Please read/share if it resonates with you or someone else. Read it here.
I'm delighted to share my latest essay about how I'll be celebrating my first Valentine’s Day as a single mom. I'm determined to still make it a day about love. Not the romantic kind, which I’ve learned doesn’t always last forever, but the sort that’s unconditional and unbreakable, between a mother and child. And with dreaded lockdown upon us once again, we definitely need this lift. My seven-year-old sweetheart deserves a magical day, and that’s exactly what she’s going to get.
Read it here.
Today I saw my words published in print in not one, but TWO bookshops! What a BIG dream to come true for me! In the first Indigo/Chapters I visited today, I ran into my ultra-cool high school English teacher and his lovely wife. It made me realize again how many wonderful people have inspired me and encouraged me to keep writing over the years.
I'm so thrilled and grateful to be part of such a positive and exciting experience! It has given me greater self-confidence as a writer and as a woman, and a fierce determination to keep reaching for the stars!
If you're interested in purchasing BIG, here's how:
If you're in the U.S., you can preorder on:
Barnes and Noble
And for those who prefer the independents, Powell's in Portland has it:
And If you're in the UK, you can preorder on:
A real relationship is two flawed people refusing to give up on each other. It's encountering everyday obstacles and unexpected hurdles and finding a way through them together.
It's talking it out when you'd rather give each other the silent treatment. It's listening to the other side of the story when you believe yours is the only valid perspective.
It's holding hands and hugging it out after an argument. It's hanging on for dear life when you go through emotional hell and feel totally beside yourself.
It's finding time for each other at the end of the day, when you're feeling fraught and spent and just want to read a book or scroll through your phone.
It's putting away your phone.
It's not hiding things on your phone.
It's being together in the same room even when you feel galaxies apart. It's building a bridge between hurt feelings and new beginnings even though it's so, so hard.
It's having fierce conversations that feel like therapy sessions. It's saying all the stuff that's been festering in your head for months. It's getting it all out so you can authentically go on.
It's sitting together in the darkness and letting it wash over both of you until a speck of light appears.
A fractured heart glowing in the dark.
A spark of hope.
It's moving toward new starts and mutual forgiveness.
Real love is a daily choice. A conscious commitment. Not using the exit clause when things get tough or you're just tired of dealing with it.
It's being open to the possibility of falling in love not once, but many times with your partner, as you both grow and evolve and become different versions of yourself.
It's being there in sickness and in health. It's being mindful of balancing who does what in the house. Doing your share. Helping out.
It's not putting everything on your partner's plate. It's not being surprised when they turn out to be human and start to break.
It's dealing with depression, anxiety, anger and biploar disorder. It's being patient when chronic pain tries to come between you. It's talking your person down when they are a natural worrier.
Real love is wonderful and natural, but sometimes it's pretty damn awful. It demands you reveal all your invisible wounds and scars. It's admitting your frailty and faults, and all the shit in your past you haven't addressed yet.
It's about consciously maintaining your bond and keeping your relationship strong, even when the storms swirl in and your roof is leaking and you discover you have a shaky foundation.
Real love includes rages, arguments and disagreements. It also brings to light any jealousy and insecurities.
But it's how you make your partner feel better that matters. What you do to make amends. How you try and capture the desire and romance again, so you don't end up just being roommates or friends.
It's loving someone at their worst and cradling them at their weakest. It's listening when they don't deserve it, witnessing their pain and acknowledging your own part in it.
It's remembering why you fell for each other in the first place, before kids, marriage, mortgages and play dates.
It's looking into each other's eyes and still seeing your person, the one being on this planet that you want to go through this wild adventure with.
It's a hand on your lower back. Being considerate. Swallowing the petty things. Accepting where you are on your relationship map.
It's welcoming your love's hand over yours and pledging your commitment all over again. It's vowing to do your best as you jump eyes open and fingers crossed into the unknown.
Real love. It's difficult. It's worth it. It's a choice.
My daughter was five-and-a-half weeks old when my husband captured this moment of me breastfeeding in my sister's bedroom on Christmas Day. It was 2013, and at the ripe old gestational age of 36, I had finally gotten the baby girl I had so desperately wanted and prayed for.
This looks like my Gisele moment, nursing my child while jauntily wearing a Santa hat, one leg propped casually on the bed for support. I am smiling. I have lost all the baby weight and then some. I seem happy.
Maybe I was in that moment. Maybe my colicky daughter was latching correctly for once. Maybe there was sufficient milk supply that day. Maybe I was just content to escape all the people downstairs talking at me and fussing over the baby. My family.
I was actually in the throes of postpartum depression underneath this mommy-bliss expression. I am dressed up in a cute blazer and skirt, showing off my tiny waist and Steve Madden boots, but really, I am deep in the trenches of postpartum anxiety.
This week is World Maternal Mental Health Week, and this photo is part of my motherhood story. A single, early snapshot of my transformative and magical journey. It was an incredibly difficult emotional time for me, and being overwhelmed about becoming a mum made me feel incredibly abnormal and guilty.
Now I can look back at that new mum and newborn baby and experience a healing feeling of empathy. It is normal and common for many women to feel this way, not just me. But we need to talk about it more, and not shroud it in such feminine secrecy.
We also need to feel comfortable asking for help from our friends and family. We need proper postpartum support and care, and access to medication and therapy. These are the things that saved me.
These are the things that saved me.
Have you ever wandered through the world
and wondered why you're here?
I wish I knew. But this little girl is my tether today.
A teacher wrapped up in a four-year-old's body.
And she's pulling me through.
As for our troubles, let's just let them float away,
like party balloons set free,
no longer weighted down by sadness.
We don't need to anchor our fear anymore.
Let the sky claim all our anxieties.
Let the sun's rays calm our souls.
Because you and me,
we don't always have to be waiting
for the next axe to fall.
Hurt will happen, but we can still find pockets
of beauty and whimsy in this treasure hunt of life,
if we look closely.
We need to shed our shells and masks
and stop fighting ourselves.
We come from star-stuff, my supernova,
and we are good enough to be here and take up space,
just as we are.
So let's forget about our power struggles over breakfast,
and eat more rainbow ice cream instead.
Let's stop worrying about everything we cannot control
inside and out there, and just take solace
in colouring a beautiful picture together.
We can navigate the blues
with pinks and yellows and purples,
The strands of our hearts have been braided together
and intertwined with unconditional love since
well before you took residence in my womb.
Butting heads on a daily basis won't break our bond.
Either will me taking to my bed.
The pain is not permanent, little one, for either of us.
Soon I will let mine go, just like those colourful birthday balloons
that slip out of our fingers when we're not looking,
and move quickly and quietly into the sky.
So I did it. Last night I gathered my courage, and the words I'd written about my mental health journey, and I set them free at the Beam On exhibit in a room inside the Old Town Hall in Newmarket. Surrounded by beautiful artwork, I added my voice to the visual manifestations of mental illness. And I was heard.
It's one thing to share your story on the screen, to send it out into the internet ether and let your words speak for themselves. It's a whole other world when you get up in front of a microphone and let people peek at your heart for six minutes straight. But I did it, and I couldn’t be more proud of my role as a mental health advocate. I met so many lovely, encouraging souls last evening, and it meant the world to have my favourite people on the planet in the audience. Thank you to my mum, dad and sister for showing up for me, like they always do.
When my husband first suggested we bring our four-year-old daughter, Eve, to the event, I wasn't sure. Would she be bored? Would there be any other kids there? Would it run past her bedtime? But Michael didn't care about any of that. He simply wanted Eve to see her mama being brave and giving a talk that might help some other people.
There are so many days when I feel like a parent on the sidelines, not participating in things because of fluctuating moods or chronic pain, so it felt wonderful for me to show her what I CAN do, for a change. How I can contribute to an important conversation, raise awareness and show people what it looks like to survive a collision with mental illness. How it's possible come out of the darkness to the other side and tell your story as part of the healing process.
My favourite part of the night was when I finished my speech. As soon as the audience started applauding, my darling girl excitedly ran up to me and presented me with a single flower. Later on, Michael told me she what she whispered to him afterward: "Mama did a good job of not being shy in front of all those people." As compliments go, I'll take it.
Give these lip balms to my daughter
whose mouth she got from her father
Let her take these everyday treasures
she coveted from her mother's dresser
for there will come a day soon when
she will no longer want my possessions
Loan her the statue of Tara, the mother of all Buddhas
that I crossed paths with in Union Square
Let my namesake's compassion and feminine wisdom
seep into the deepest part of her childish heart
as she sleeps tucked up in dreams
with her blanket half-on, half-off
Hand over the sketch of a forever family
to the little being who stretched two into three
Let her be reminded of love's eternal hold
and how it never lets go, no matter
how many times we bump heads and bruise hearts
Bestow the patterned box of tissues
for all those blue tears and excruciating moments
she won't feel good enough in her bones
despite her parents' assurances that she is
everything beauty could aspire to and
both the cosmos and universe to us
I can get by with a sparse nightstand
an Ikea lamp, a perfume bottle and wedding bands for my hand
but I will hang on to the good mother sticker
and remember to pack it up when we move on
keeping it safe for when my daughter has a daughter
and she needs a daily reminder of her own
We moved to Yonge & Finch when I got pregnant. It was the only area in Toronto where we could afford a three-bedroom apartment, and we needed more space for the baby.
We weren't really familiar with the neighbourhood before renting there. I was lucky to have a good friend living across the road to show me the local gems. Most of our neighbours were Korean or Chinese, or Persian. It was a different world from trendy Yonge & Eglinton, but it woke us up and made us appreciate the United Nations of people we were living amongst. It felt odd to be the minority, but important to experience it at the same time.
Things stick out: Everybody smoked. On the streets. Hanging over balconies. There were lots of false fire alarms in our building. And loads of karaoke bars and great places to eat. They're all still there, of course, but now they're somehow tainted. Marred by what looks to be the hand of terrorism, whether it's a lone wolf or someone tied to a bigger organization.
A place doesn't stay the same once it's been on the news for the wrong reasons.
We lived right behind Yonge Street, a minute or two walk from where the first victim was found. I can't count the number of times I waited at that intersection to cross the street and grab the subway and go to work. The Starbucks at the bottom of the Xerox building was my caffeine home. It was also my haven, especially when I took mat leave way too early.
It's surreal to see your old hood on TV, on stations like CNN and BBC. We lived there for two years and eventually moved on, but Eve spent the first 18 months of her life there. It's where I went into labour at 3:00 am. It's where we took her home from the hospital.
It was our first real home as a family, even if we didn't own the walls or appliances. We loved the little park beside our place. The community centre. The stroll down to Mel Lastman Square on a Friday night in summer. The farmer's market. The relaxed vibe in the air.
I remember vividly the first time I took my newborn daughter out for a walk on my own in the middle of winter. She was dressed in a blue monkey snowsuit and I was terrified to be solely responsible for the little being cradled in my arms. They were shaking so badly. My heart was determined but terrified of bringing her out into the world with me as her only protection. What if something happened?
It was snowing heavily, and I suddenly felt guilty that her little angel face might get wet and cold, so I waited at the intersection and then crossed quickly to the building across the road. The warmth calmed me down immediately, and my breaths came a little slower. After 10 or 15 minutes, I worked up the nerve to leave. I recrossed the road and returned home, having somehow kept my baby alive. It was like a motherhood badge for my soul.
I'll always have fond memories of all our firsts at Yonge & Finch, and my heart goes out to everyone affected by today's tragedy. The horror of it all is keeping my eyes open tonight. As someone who doesn't drive and is a lifelong pedestrian, this type of incident is all the more scary.
I don't often consciously pray or get down on my knees, but right now I think our city and country (and world) need all the positive words and vibes and help we can get. I have to trust that justice will take care of the rest.
Something has to get better, soon. Doesn't it? How can it not? We can no longer live in a world that heaves with this type of everyday carnage and mess. We breathe it in in one city and exhale it out in another. It's an illness. How can we send our babies and children out into it, without their mother's arms, or snowsuits, or anything else to protect them?
When it the next thing happens, will it be to them?
Tonight it feels as if all I have are my anxieties and secret prayers. For the victims, their families, the first responders, the witnesses. The cop who didn't shoot. The mother of the murderer. For someone has to spare a thought for her.
But mainly I'm praying and sending light and love to Toronto the Good. Because an incident like this can't take our name or our inherent goodness away from us. Something this awful only makes it rise up.
The day starts innocently enough, watching videos under the covers. In my head I am already a bit stressed, since we have to be out the door and do school drop-off early today, in order to make it to a meeting with the vice principal at Eve's potential new school.
It's a week that has already seen me burst into spontaneous tears twice in the last two days, because my hormones are all over the place. So when my four year old with the Calabrese stubbornness refuses to brush her teeth because there's tiny drops of water on the brush, I take it off her and tell her I need some space. Then I lock the door for good measure.
After my shower, I head downstairs feeling slightly more magnanimous, and we hug it out. I am determined to be calm and put together for this school meeting. I make an avocado smoothie and take a satisfying sip. I am being healthy, I am in control. I GOT this.
Then my famous lack of spatial awareness decides to make an appearance. Suddenly the floor is mint green and speckled with glass. I feel those ever-ready tears rise up to the surface yet again, but I will them down and call my husband to help me clean up my mess.
But the vacuuming and blending of a new smoothie is all too much for my girl. She can't hear her Tayo the bus how on the TV, and she is SO not ready to get her coat or shoes on. More mayhem ensues, and then we all practically fling ourselves out the door to escape the negative energy of the house and start the rest of our day.
But the universe is not done having fun yet. It seems we have another lesson to learn. While Eve screams her head off on the front steps, Michael and I realize something simultaneously. We have closed the door and both forgot our keys. The car keys, of course, are also inside the impenetrable fortress that used to be our house.
It is 8.50 am and we still have to drop Eve off at school and get to Newmarket by 9.30. But it's not going to happen. Michael calls an Uber and we manage to get Eve to school (of course none of this affects her usual routine). But then we are stranded again. It's too much money to take another Uber to Newmarket. We are not going to make the meeting, and we still have no keys.
But someone else does. My dad, that hero of a man who told us to always call on him when he retired (and even before then). Let me know if you need a drive somewhere, he would say. Let me know if I can help in anyway. Well, today we took him up on it, and he drove down to Richmond Hill without even having eaten, to pick us up and bring us home.
That's just who he is. As we sat in our driveway, worn out and still a bit frazzled from the emotional fracas, he asked if we needed anything else. That's just the kind of guy he is.
Now we are home, the appointment rescheduled, feeling (mostly) settled and back to work, getting on with our different kind of day, and I am just reminded of how grateful I am to have him (and my mother) in my life. They're such a great support system to us, always putting my sister and I (and our families) first.
So now I will try to get back to my regularly scheduled programming and put this morning's shit-show behind us. And later today we will go get a bloody extra key made to keep somewhere outside our bloody house.
is a writer, editor, and poet. Her writing has been nominated for the Best-of-the Net award, and has appeared in The Washington Post, HuffPo, Today's Parent, Los Angeles Review of Books, and Motherwell, among numerous other publications. She is also an advocate in the mental health and chronic illness communities.