Birthday time is round the bend!

My birthday is coming up!

In the past, for reasons all my own, I have not liked birthdays. However, I have had some really great ones!

So here are my TOP three birthdays!!!

1. My 15th
Julia, Toni, Jacqui, and I believe our other ‘sister’ Becky took me out; it was one of the first times! We had a steak dinner, I got a virgin frozen daiquiri, and then we went to the movies. We all got dressed up and it was fantastic! I have no recollection of the movie, just that it was the first birthday that I loved.

2. My 19th

I was in college at this time and away for my birthday day. My darling friend Kate arranged a pub-crawl. I got sang to by a street full of random people, we sang Bohemian Rhapsody on the bus on the way to downtown London, and I got some boys in a band to sing me several Beatles songs! I was also really drunk for the very first time in my life and all thanks to a great group of friends and seven bars.

3. My 23rd

I MADE IT BACK!

I MADE IT BACK!

I had just moved away to Peterborough, had a small get together with Joe’s wonderful aunts, and then got home just in time for a small birthday celebration with my family. Kim made an amazing cake, which I had seen on Facebook earlier in the day, but did not put two and two together. My mom and sisters set this one up, and it was definitely one of the greats. I didn’t think I would even be able to come home for my birthday last year, so the fact that I got even a small celebration with the people I love was amazing.

This year, I hope, will be another great! I want to add more to my list!

I can’t wait to celebrate it with the sisterhood, friends, and adopted family!

~ Andreah

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I just don’t understand

With the approaching Friday being celebrated as Halloween, it’s no wonder I find myself shielding my eyes and gasping in horror at an increased rate of gory and demonic movie previews, advertisements for terrifying haunted hayrides and even crazier haunted houses.

I just don’t understand.

Michael often tries to chide me into going to see the latest scary movie in a theater full of people where I cannot nonchalantly remove myself (multiple times) if I can’t handle it, or drag me to Canada’s Wonderland to voluntarily put myself in an uncomfortable state of panic by having strangers chase me around in a dimly – if at all – lit, scary-ass house/structure. It doesn’t fly. Ever.

It’s because I just don’t understand.

And don’t get me wrong, I get the appeal of being a little on edge and have yourself feel a little vulnerable…a LITTLE. I have even attempted to watch my fair share of scary movies. I either end up seeking refuge in a pillow or burrowing my head behind Michael. I have even left the room and refused to come back until the movie was turned off. I have requested multiple lights to be turned back on in the house. I especially cannot handle movies involving possession, demons or spirits. Just no.

Can’t do it. Nu-uh. No way. Because WHY?!

And I won't finish it.

And I won’t finish it.

I have even attempted and COMPLETED a haunted hay ride and maze. At night.

It turned out for me just about the same way it did for Andy and Amy when Ellen sent them through their first haunted house together:

I swore a little bit more. Okay, a lot more. And I may have been slightly impaired, but just a teensy bit. For real, just a teensy bit.

I feel the same way about these activities and this time of year in general, as I do about roller coasters.

I have completed what I feel is a good sample set of them and have determined I do not enjoy the feeling of anxiety and increased level of stress due to holding on, literally, for my life that is accompanied with the ride. Add in the long lines, usually in the sweltering heat, and the adrenaline crash I without fail will endure at the end of said rides – after any high stress altercation, really – and it just doesn’t seem enjoyable or worth it to me. What is the point?

I just don’t understand.

Maybe my feelings about the eerie, chilling things of this season stem back to the sisterhood’s upbringing – where things of this nature were not really present or welcome in our home. A home where Halloween was not celebrated or noted – it was just another day. It could be because we were raised to understand and respect the worlds beyond the physical, to not egg them on, tease or tempt them. These things I do understand.

It could be all of these things and more.

Or it could be that I just don’t understand.

~ Toni

Bad citizen

I have an anxiety disorder.

Yes, yes I am.

Yes, yes I am.

This means that I am an exemplary worrier, fretter, and all around ball of nerves. It also means that I’m medicated and that I’ve done years of therapy to manage the crazy in my head, because while pills definitely help, I need to be in charge of the runaway train of fear or it will definitely be in charge of me.

Simply put, I’m the queen of inflating any situation into a hypothetical nightmare. For example, if Ben is late getting home from work, I immediately envision him dead, I start freaking out about being a single parent, a widow, and the fact that I have to plan a funeral, get a job, and deal with everything forever by myself.

Welcome to my world, Ron.

Welcome to my world, Ron.

It also means that I have to be very careful, selective, and downright anal about what I consume mentally. Television shows, books, movies, even conversations, all have to be carefully monitored and I have to be ready to turn them off, shut my eyes, or leave the room if things get too dicey.

It’s a key to my self-care and my mental health, but in truth, it makes me a crappy citizen because the very tragedies that draw people closer, bring people together around water coolers and Facebook posts and Twitter feeds, are the poison that will derail my control over my nutty brain. For me, watching the news, reading online articles, following comment threads, delving into the gory details of an accident, a homicide, a plane crash, a suicide, a child molestation/abuse court case can make it too easy to go down the rabbit hole of the worst (and least realistic in my life) what-ifs out there.

This past week we had two tragedies in Canada involving our soldiers, where two servicemen, on our own soil, were killed with no war or battle or extremist circumstance near them. This is the stuff that makes our nation stand up, show solidarity, and inspires people to line the overpasses of highways to give a fallen soldier a hero’s return home.

So moving and fitting.

So moving and fitting.

It’s also the stuff that makes me curtail my online prowling and consuming so that I only view or read on the periphery, the barest of details, and avoid the in-depth commentary, the poetic waxing on the soldier’s sad dogs or grief-stricken little boy, and the replay of the security footage leading up to and including the murders. It makes me hide when everyone else is seeking insight and discussing the situation at every opportunity.

It gets even harder when something happens involving someone famous. Celebrities these days are uber accessible and prominent, and that makes any horrific or prolific situation involving them feel like it’s happening to someone we know. When Robin Williams died from suicide, I had to shut down my social media consumption extensively – everyone was talking about it, retweeting it, Facebook posting it, sharing and becoming a community of mourners. I had to halt the thoughts of how awful it must have been for him, how awful it must be for his family and friends, because had I continued to think about all of the horribleness of the situation, I probably would have found myself immobilized by a grief that wasn’t mine in the first place, or worse, in a position of wondering where my life fit on his spectrum for what’s unbearable and what I can live through. It’s a dangerous, dangerous thing for me.

And I’m not alone. This ‘don’t invite scary thoughts in your head’ tactic is used by many, many people who suffer from mental illness. It’s the first thing on the list of things to avoid when you’re suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety by Katherine Stone of Postpartum Progress, the world’s most widely-read blog on mental illness related to pregnancy and child birth. The Calm Clinic, an online blog specializing in anxiety disorders, states clearly that you should minimize your exposure to anxiety stimuli. What is more anxiety-filled than the evening news?

People are often surprised that I don’t know about current events, like the Ebola virus, or what the status is on those poor girls who were kidnapped, or the current war being fought. I’m a smart person. And I thrive on researching things (I’m the queen of googling). But when it comes to scary things beyond my control, things that will just worry me and fill me with paralyzing fear, things that I don’t have to deal with right now, or probably ever, I simply don’t think about them. I don’t learn about them. I don’t read, comment, write, or discuss them. Because at the end of the day, even if I am a bad citizen, at least I’m a healthy Julia, and that I can control.

~ Julia

Guest post – How many pins could a pinner nail if a pinner could nail Pinterest?

Julia’s sister-in-law and the Sisterhood’s honourary fifth sister, Kim, is back again with another guest post, this time tackling Pinterest! 

Pinterest is a bully.

It’s that snotty kid in third grade that had better clothes, better accessories and better hair and made sure that everyone knew about it. It shows you cute and easy things to add to your ever growing list of things life already demands and says, just one more finishing touch and this will be perfect. You will be perfect. It makes stay-at-home moms look bad for not doing these cutesy crafts with their kids every second of the day and it fuels the anxiety-ridden masses to push harder and set the bars unrealistically high.

Plus, it’s a liar.

How many times have you tried to replicate something you’ve seen and fallen short of the desired outcome? Often times this can be because of user error, failure to read the instructions, failure to include instructions or the fact that we just aren’t meant to build a 3D paper model of the Eiffel tower. Actually, it looks super easy as long as you have the right tools…

With Halloween right around the corner and a skeptic heart, I decided to try some popular decorating ideas and see what happens. Oh my, indeed.

First up: Frankenstein pudding cups.

They look pretty standard so I didn’t even bother to pull up the photo for reference. Whoops! Had I done that, I may have realized I needed an Oreo cookie topping or that even a chocolate cake crumb topping would have sufficed.

So I gathered my supplies and set to work.

Pinterest - Frankenstein set up

Instructions:

  1. Draw faces on the cups with permanent markers
  2. Follow the pudding instructions and add green food colouring
  3. Put the pudding into the cups and sprinkle on your topping

My first thought was that these would be awesome for a classroom party or even as an office treat. What I didn’t realize was that one box of pudding only makes 4 – ½-cup servings. So either parents everywhere are going to stock up on pudding and cause a global shortage OR parents are going to be sending in tiny pudding shots to their children’s classroom parties. It’s rather fussy, so just eat your damn pudding the normal way!

As a side note, if you are going to make these, make sure your cups are plain and don’t have any designs on them like mine do.

Pinterest - Frankenstein finished

Next up: Jell-O worms.

Despite the fact that these worms actually look like worms (gross!) I was picturing mine to be more like a gummy worm and opted for green Jell-O.

Pinterest - Worms set up

Instructions:

  1. Follow the Jell-O instructions
  2. Secure straws with a rubber band
  3. Pour Jell-O into the straws
  4. Once set they should slide right out.

Being cocky got me into some trouble as I didn’t read the instructions, and although I couldn’t figure out how the Jell-O would stay in the straws I continued anyways.

Fingers crossed!

Fingers crossed!

Then this happened.

Pinterest - Worms finished product

It turns out that after making the Jell-O as per usual, you need to add whipping cream and you MUST use bendy straws or it won’t work. Oh well, just boring regular Jell-O for now. I can see this one being a pain in the ass so I’ll just stick to buying my gummy worms from the Bulk Barn.

And finally, I thought I would try the melted crayon pumpkin.

Instructions:

  1. Lay down a garbage bag or newspaper to place your pumpkin on
  2. Peel off the papers on the crayons
  3. Glue crayons around the base of the stem
  4. Use a hairdryer on low to melt the crayons

Pinterest - Pumpkin set up

There are a few things I’d like to say about this one. I was going to use the crazy glue to stick the crayons on, but after fighting with a sewing needle to pierce the opening and then the pliers to free the sewing needle, I discovered that the entire tube was dry.

So I thought I would just melt the crayons enough with the hairdryer to make them stick to the pumpkin that way. I now have third-degree burns on my fingers.  *Tip: Use a glue gun instead. I have 2!*

Also, it said to only use half a crayon, but I thought it looked a little sparse so I used the whole thing. Wow, crayon overload. And it does say specifically to use the hairdryer on low, but I became impatient and turned it on high. It goes so much faster, but it also makes the hot crayon spray in random directions. Needless to say I involuntarily waxed my legs in a few spots.

Pinterest - Pumpkin final product

I wasn’t overly impressed with the end result, because in the end I’m going to have to carve it and clean it anyways, so this one was kind of a waste too.

In conclusion, I spent my entire evening trying to complete these crafts for the Halloween season and, to be honest, I hate this holiday.

Also, Emma needs more crayons.

~ Kim

If you’d like to write a guest post and join in the Weather Vane Sisterhood fun, email us at weathervanesisterhood at gmail dot com. We’d love to have you!

Finding the love

So, you may or may not have noticed that I am a photographer. You also may have noticed that lately (like the last year) I have not picked up or used my camera. Or, at least, when I have, I haven’t told anybody.

There are reasons for that. Reasons that I really don’t want to talk about and I really don’t want to focus on. Needless to say, I am working on figuring that all out.

HOWEVER.

They really liked this bridge!

They really liked this bridge!

I picked up my camera.

They are SO pretty!

They are SO pretty!

I took photos.

Laughing at themselves!

Laughing at themselves!

I remembered the love.

Awesome sisters!

Awesome sisters!

I remembered why I wanted to be a photographer and why I decided to do all this in the first place.

Molly!

Molly!

I fell back in love.

Hanna!

Hanna!

Like I said, I’m working on not being so ridiculous and actually trying to work my craft again.

I also got put back in my place via text message from Hanna (one of the two sisters in the above photos).
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I want to thank you two lovely ladies for this awesome opportunity – you were both fantastic models and wonderful friends!

~ Andreah

Prayer for peace

We pause today to remember those who have been affected by the tragedies that have struck our country in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu and in Ottawa over the past week.

Photo by: Shawn Dearn

Photo by: Shawn Dearn

Our thoughts and prayers go to the families and friends of the fallen and the injured, the first responders, and all those who need to heal in the days and weeks and months and even years to come.

Above all, we pray for peace in the wake of the violence, and wisdom for the decision-makers as they take the first steps to repair what has been broken.

~ The Sisterhood

25 before 25 – A look back

Well ladies and gentlemen readers – I turned 25 on September 21st…. and man was it fantastic! Not only did I celebrate one of my soul sister’s nuptials to one of the most amazing and kind-hearted man I know, but I also spent the day with my family – with tacos! Yes…tacos and Dr. Pepper…I love Dr. Pepper.

So 25 means that it is time to reflect on the resolutions or tasks that I gave myself before I hit the big 2-5. To be completely frank, I had forgot about the list I made – oops! So let’s go through this…

Walk more to explore than as a means of transportation was the first on the list and surprisingly I did this! Bacon, Hendrix and myself have a morning routine, which 3 out of 5 days in a week I keep!

I noted that  I should grow a gardenAHAHAHAHAH! As I am reading this, I can’t help but look at the date this was written – March – and I think that it was right after this that I signed on to a major project at work and said goodbye to any spring or summer I had. I turned in my “green thumb,” which I never had in the first place, for a laptop and overtime. That “garden” never had a chance. I didn’t even weed my garden. This year, I went with the “natural” look…or the “don’t visit this house because crazy people live here” look, you can take your pick.  Yes, I live in that house! The one where mothers shield their children and rush them along the sidewalk as they whisper to quicken their step. Seriously, it’s that bad!

Well, this one was clearly obvious that I would have to do it, and I did – I planned our wedding (note how I said ‘our,’ Ken!). Let me check off the list what we have accomplished, because I am pretty proud. We have our  *insert drum roll*:

  • caterer
  • venue
  • photographer
  • florist
  • DJ
  • invitations are being put together
  • guest list is made

Yeah, that’s right! WOOOOOO! Go me!

I wanted to cook outside of my comfort zone. I bought a new cookbook a couple of weeks ago while I was still in my 24th year (therefore it still counts), and I have made some amazing meals. Cody can attest to that – just ask him!

The next resolution was to not sweat the small stuff. I failed at this one. I am not being hard on myself, I am being truthful. There is no way that in a couple of short months I curbed my impatience. I am still trying and I did try. I am going to put this in the “win” category, though, because I am feeling spicy and because it is a daily battle for me not to bottle someone due to general stupidity which is proven by my not being arrested!

Enjoy the summer was number six and, well, in true Canadian fashion we didn’t really have a hot summer weather-wise, but it was a fantastic summer. Cody and I got away for a weekend, I spent days outside sun bathing, I went to the beach, I drank, and I ate. It was fantastic!

Number seven was to go canoeing this summer. Well, I didn’t go canoeing but I did go kayaking while away with Cody’s family  and it was absolutely fantastic! This also is a big check mark for number sixteen which stated to spend more time with Cody’s family – so once again WIN category!  I also listed To hike with my sisters.  I went hiking quite often, and early in the morning with not only my sisters but our extended sisterhood ladies and then some!

Be more involved with my nieces and nephew was number 8 and better late then never I spent the whole day with them yesterday…or more like the morning with all three monsters, the afternoon with the drool man and the evening with Princess Sophie (who is now refusing to be called a princess because she is no longer one…when did that happen?!?!?!) and then bedtime with all three terrorists again!

 

Drool monster extrodinare!

Drool monster extraordinaire!

 

Timbit monster!

Timbit monster! Definitely not a princess any more!  

 

Sassy slug sister!

Sassy slug sister!

Number ten and eleven were to sleep more and work less. I am happy to report I am still putting in lots of overtime, however I am sleeping properly.

As I read on, I realize that I copped out on this list of resolutions! Sorry guys! Number 12 was to walk the dogs more, which was kind of a repeat of number 1 where I vowed to walk more to explore Ayr.

Cody has been out of the house more, like I listed in number 13, but not in my doing. He has taken this whole “Hunter’s Life” to heart and I find myself more and more lonesome at the house. I am not complaining – I love that he is active and out and about. In fact, it gives me more time to gather myself after work so I can be 100% for him. However, now that I say that, babies are on the horizon (no I am not pregnant yet) which means this may be the last hunting season that I will get to do that.

Number fourteen and fifteen go hand in hand – to dance until the morning sun comes up and to drink more wine! Happy to report that this summer was full of wine and dancing (it’s the best form of exercise if you ask me!).

For those of you keeping track number 16, Cody and I spend more time with his family, was brought up in number 7; however, while were are on the topic of all things family, my mom is still working her ass off, so the extra amount of me and her time has not been as successful as I would have liked, as stated in number 23. This is not just her fault, I am just as guilty as well. Life gets busy, but that will hopefully change once she has that CGA In her hand. As well, my Dad has a crazy schedule of driving all over Ontario and Canada, so I have not been able to see him as much as I had liked to as per number 18. I did see him on a past weekend for my birthday lunch and it was absolutely fantastic!

Cody and I have not had the chance to expand on his family tree like I listed in number 19.

Back to going in order – have I confused you yet?

My house is still a mess, so number 20 to do more laundry and cleaning has not been taken care of as well as it should have, unless we have family coming over. This also means that number 20 to get organized has soooo not even been tackled. Seriously, my desk at home is a mess, my desk at work is a mess, my house is a mess…I need a life nanny! Anyone willing to be my life nanny for free?

I am proud to announce the birth of my best friend’s baby, which as number 21 on my list. Emma Grace was born on September 18th. She is so beautiful with a full head of hair and gorgeous eyes! Ashley and Marty are over the moon, and I am so jealous of their beautiful family! Makes me want one of my own even more!!!

My heart was instantly won over - Emma Grace <3

My heart was instantly won over – Emma Grace ❤

Number 23 was a disaster as soon as I wrote it out on this list – there was no way I could stop talking as much as I do, but I think I am still a good listener?…Sorry co-workers and desk mates!

I did not reach my fitness goal, but, in a way, I did reach it. I am more comfortable in my skin because of working out, however I am no where near my goal. I like food way too much…and TV…and being lazy…my own fault.

The final goal I set was to find a silver lining in every day. This is never ending. I will always look for the positive to avoid becoming a pessimistic person.

Well, as confusing that may have been for some of our readers I hope you followed along and are still following along. I have a feeling that 25 will be an amazing year, maybe even the best one yet!

~ Jacqui

Fitting in fitness

With my life in the fast-lane and no slow down in sight, I have had to rejig a few things in order to fight my way back to balance.

One of the areas I promised myself and my sanity that I would work on was attempting to fit in my workouts more often then I had been. After a few (mostly failed) attempts at fitting in my usual full hour long workouts, I soon realized that this very real struggle was not as easy to overcome as writing a post pointing out a lack of my balance-providing routine. I soon began to think of creative ways in which I could fit in enough effort to get the momentum going and help build back up my dedication to fitness.

While I am clearly struggling to hit my stride, a few of my favourite tricks to offset not being able to dedicate a complete hour or two a day to my workouts and working overtime to keep me sane have been:

1. Mini-challenges:  In order to make sure I at least maintain my current level of fitness, I give myself little mini-challenges that run for week or month long periods.  As I will openly admit to anyone who asks, my favourite muscle grouping to work out and work on has to be my glutes and quads. Not only do leg/butt exercises burn the most calories, they also allow me to personally feel the most powerful. As an avid runner, knowing my legs are strong enough to help prevent injury is important to me – especially as I already have one knee that requires extra care. And let’s not forget to mention that a squat booty is the best booty!

Truth.

Truth.

My favourite mini challenge is giving myself a set number of squats to perform every time I go to the washroom (after I have gone pee of course), with 25 usually being the the amount I aim for. This type of challenge allows me to break down my goal of staying healthy during chaos into manageable, digestible pieces that I know are realistic to achieve during a hectic day. The best part is that mini-challenges can be applied in many different ways – elevated pushups off the counter every time you enter the kitchen or even calf raises while pumping gas for example.

Try this one - mark it in your daily calendar to increase chances of success

Try this one – mark it in your daily calendar to increase chances of success

2. Keep a must make date with yourself: Saturday mornings are mine. Knowing that I have a standing date with myself a minimum of once a week, helps me to keep the stress of not being active enough during the week, at bay. Whether I am lucky enough to spend a gorgeous morning hiking at sunrise with some of my favourite ladies, fitting in a solid run on one of my favourite trails, or adding in sprints while on my walk with the fur-babies (their favourite), the first item on the agenda for my Saturday has to be something active.

Be the BOSS.

Be the BOSS.

As long as I do everything in my power to make that date weekly, I don’t beat myself up if it ends up being the only activity I am able to fit in during the week. It also gives me something to look forward to, a light at the end of the tunnel, the pick-me up to give me some energy.

3. Ask for help: The one fitness lesson that has taken the longest for me to accept, asking for help/support from the people around you can often be the lifesavers you require, right when you require them.

Still a struggle some days

Still a struggle some days

Personally, I have asked for some of the women I work out with to push me a little, get me to commit some more me-time by planning workout dates in advance. They’ve already got me feeling more motivated and determined then I have in quite some time. Seriously, nothing can replace the support your sisters in fitness (in my case by blood as well) provide when you’re struggling or stumbling in your journey.

4. Self-talk: Controlling my internal talk-track can be a struggle on a good day, let alone a day – or pile of them – that seem to have more things added to the to-do list then checked off, but it is so very necessary. However, becoming my own worst enemy mentally will do me no good and only add to my stress level. Some days it is hard to, but I am more calm if I am able to control my thoughts, keeping them as positive as possible and provide myself gentle reminders as to why I started my fitness journey in the first place. When I’m really struggling, I simply activate tip number 3 and reach out to someone I know has the power to be my cheerleader when I need it most.

I really cannot wait to get back into a routine that allows me time to continue on this lifelong journey I am so desperately missing and so determined to maintain. Until then, I’m counting my current reality as part of the dance and doing my best to follow my own advice.

~ Toni

I have a dream

It’s a silly thing. A frivolous thing. A thing that’s for no one else but me.

A dream that is selfish, self-indulgent, navel-gazey, and nonsensical at the best of times.

A dream that I’ve said out loud so many times, but don’t really believe, don’t really believe in.

A dream that looks darn right ridiculous next to the poop, the demands, the finances, the stay-at-home-momness, the small life I live, the dishes, the piles of laundry to be folded, the minivan I drive.

A dream bigger than myself, yet one that I just can’t shake.

The dream of being a novelist.

Sure, sure.

Sure, sure.

I have been dreaming this dream since grade 4. And I know it’s been since grade 4, because that was the year I got to go to an enrichment course away from regular school and write stories.

I didn’t even know people did that.

I mean, I read books (lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of books…too many, according to our Dad), but the idea of the person writing the books, the man (or woman) behind the curtain, if you will, was brand new.

I wrote this really sweet (read: juvenile) story about flowers that could talk. They lived in a garden and each flower had her own personality. I’m pretty sure the rose was the most popular, most beautiful, most snobby flower. Poor, Rose.

Writing, after that three-day enrichment experience, became part of my life.

It became the thing that made sense, the thing my brain just naturally put together, the thing that I feel the most comfortable doing.

Ask me to add up a bunch of numbers, complete mathematical problems, figure out complicated equations and my stomach knots and I get nervous and have zero confidence. I can do it, but I’d really rather not.

This sounds about right. Trouble with math? Wait until your father gets home, kids.

This sounds about right. Having trouble with math? Wait until your father gets home, kids.

Ask me to complete the last line of a poem that has cadence and rhyme, ask me to spell something, ask me to come up with a slogan, ask me to sell a portable coffee mug (this actually happened in an interview), ask me to proofread something, ask me to dream up a story…I CAN DO IT. My brain whirs nicely, the words flow easily, and there are very few knots. Some nerves (I hate disappointing people), but generally, this is where I shine.

The novelist dream, though? Really? Who the heck am I to think I can do what this incredible woman does, or this talented fella, or this hero of mine?

A dreamer. A dreamer who is not afraid of hard work.

So, I’m working on it.

When I was pregnant with Lillian, I took a six-month writing course with Miriam Toews, the brilliant writer behind A Complicated Kindness, and more recently the Giller-short-listed novel, All My Puny Sorrows, which was just a thought, a question, a need she had to fulfill during the course, and now it’s a bestselling, award-nominated book.

Read it. LOVED it. Aspire to something that won't entirely wilt in its presence.

Read it. LOVED it. Aspiring to something that won’t entirely wilt in its presence.

During that course I started the novel that has been bouncing around in my head for YEARS. A book about people who are connected in a seemingly inconsequential way. The book will be made up of 4-5 stories of 4-5 people. I’m on story number 3, and I can’t believe that I’ve written so many pages and so many words and that this idea, this simple idea, has bloomed into characters that have been living in my head for 4 years now. Seriously. It’s a little wild.

Me reading an excerpt from my BOOK on my due date with Lillian...she was kind enough to wait another week and day so I could finish the course.

Me reading an excerpt from my BOOK on my due date with Lillian…she was kind enough to wait another week and a day so I could finish the course. Ben was my devoted chauffeur. Something about not wanting me to go into labour in Toronto alone. Weirdo. (Handsome, knight-in-shining-armour weirdo.)

That course gave me a huge confidence boost towards my lofty, lofty dream.

First, I had to be accepted into the course, which was advertised in the Globe and Mail, tweeted about by Margaret Atwood…

…and applied to by dozens. There were 15 spots. Eleven were filled. I was one of them. Seriously.

Second, during that course I got actual feedback on my writing, including a comparison to Alice Munro, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature last year.

And third, I know of two giant successes of those 10 classmates that I spent 6 months with, every Wednesday night, and one Saturday a month.

Meet Shawn Syms:

Me and Shawn Syms, PUBLISHED author

Me, the belly, and Shawn Syms, PUBLISHED author

He just got his first collection of short stories published, Nothing Looks Familiar, in September, although he has been published widely in his 25 years of writing.

Nothing Looks Familiar

 

I’ve just finished reading the collection. It’s amazing. It’s incredible. It’s…inspiring. Seriously. I knew him when.

Meet Pam Smith:

Me, Pam (WONDER WOMAN), and Shelley (OTHER WONDER WOMAN)

Me, Pam (WONDER WOMAN), and Shelley (OTHER WONDER WOMAN)

Mother of FOUR with a full-time job outside the home, Pam is now hobnobbing with the likes of Sarah Selecky, Giller-nominated short story genius of This Cake Is for the Party, writing teacher, and writing prompt guru. Pam has since launched her own writing business on the SIDE of her life, and when I’m done my book, I’m definitely going to try to get her eyes on it.

justwrite-pam

Dear Pam, I want to be you when I grow up. Love, Me

So, this is THE dream. And it’s huge, yet not impossible. And it’s what sits in my head, pushing buttons and demanding attention all. day. long. but at this point in my life, in this season of mothering littles, it’s not something that I can give a lot of consistent time and energy to. But I am working towards it.

I’m going to enter an excerpt of my book as a short story in this competition, all the while dreaming of the prize, which not only includes money, but a 10-day stay in The Banff Centre, “the largest art and creativity incubator on the planet,” as it shyly admits on its web page. SERIOUSLY?! Ten days away in Banff to do nothing but WRITE? Sign me up. Please. Now.

And I’m going to keep sneaking in writing whenever I can (currently, I have a dog-eared print out of the bare bones of the competition piece that tags along with me, my tiny laptop that I use to write on while getting slept on, and the “Writing” folder on our BlackBerry for any thoughts that pop into my head wherever I am). One day, when more babies are in school and more babies are sleeping through the night, I’ll add writing to my daily schedule, but today, in this time, the hodge podge method is what I can handle.

And this dream? This unwieldy, giant, larger-than-my-life dream?

Well, as my good friend J.R.R. Tolkien says, “A single dream is more powerful than a thousand realities.”

Who can argue with that?

~ Julia

PS. Buy Shawn’s book here or here!