Writing…with children

I want to be a novelist. I want to see my books on the shelves of bookstores. I want to talk to people about the stories that are in my head. And I want to do that as my job. That is the dream. It’s a lofty dream. And it’s all the more complicated because I am a writer…with children.

Kids make everything messier.

Leaving the house is infinitely harder and requires complex terrorist negotiations.

Eating a meal is fraught with flying food and temper tantrums about broccoli touching potatoes.

Going to sleep is a perilous activity that can be interrupted at any time by puking, screaming, or banal updates, such as, “I woke up.”

Even simply moving around your house is now an obstacle course with hard plastic or pointy wooden toys ready to stab you at any moment.

Kids make everything messier.

Me trying to be a writer is no different. Writing my book has taken me almost 5 years so far. And while great novels often take a heap of time, mine is taking so long because of children. Children being born. Children not sleeping. Children not stopping. All the children all the time.

If I could sit down and write my novel in larger chunks of consistent time, I feel like it would be more cohesive (I’m dreading reading it all at once…all in a row…oh, the horror) and that it would probably be DONE by now. Or at the very least, in a third or fourth draft phase.

My book is being written, though, and I feel it’s because I’ve come to accept that writing with children comes with its own set of rules. Here they are (as I know them):

1. Be prepared to write at any time. 

I write at night after the babies go to bed. I write first thing in the morning when I can convince myself that writing is more important, more dear, than a couple more hours of sleep. I write in the morning, when Isaac and Lillian are still getting along. I write during nap time under Lillian while she watches a movie during her quiet time, until I ultimately fall asleep because I’ve stopped moving. One piece of advice that is given to writers is to set up a routine, to write at the same time every day, but when you’re writing with children that golden writing time is a moving target…and you’ve got to hit it when you can and nap when you can’t.

In the morning, when everyone is still in pyjamas.

In the morning, when everyone is still in pyjamas.

2. Be prepared to be joined. 

There is nothing my babies love more than to join me in writing. When I pull out my computer, they also want to pull out their toy laptops. When I’m writing by hand in my fancy journal to plot out my book, they also must have fancy journals. And when I’m editing my paper copy of my written words in my binder, they also want to write and print and colour in a binder as well. I make sure that whichever way I’m writing at the time, they also can join me…otherwise, they might try to join me in other ways…

Isaac...helping...

Isaac…helping…

Lillian sharing her writing with me.

Lillian sharing her writing with me.

Sophie and her masterpiece.

Sophie and her masterpiece.

3. Be prepared to be interrupted. 

Life doesn’t stop just because you need to finish a thought, follow through an idea, or wrap up a section. Children don’t look at you and see you sitting and quiet and pensive and decide, “I’m not going to bug her. She looks busy.” They think the opposite, in fact. They see you there, with your super exciting looking pens and paper, with your coffee that might still be hot, with your eyes closed, maybe, so you can drown out the outside stimulation and focus on the voices in your head, and they say, “This is our moment. This is the time to sit on her, lick her, ask her to help me with my craft, my game, the voices in my head.”

Isaac helping me write this blog post...on my lap...with his blanket.

Isaac helping me write this blog post…on my lap…with his blanket.

4. Be prepared for your solo writing to be a compilation. 

When I was in my writing class, we were tasked with providing critiques of the other writers’ work. I would often have to hand back copies of their stories with Sophie’s scrawls all over them, because she wanted to help. Everyone was lovely and said it made the critiques more charming…but in truth, I wonder how many authors would put up with that kind of nonsense. In my fancy novel-planning journal, you will find crayon, marker, pen, pencil and stickers, all from each of my children. And I like to think of it anthropologically, that when my biographer goes through my notes, or when my planning goes viral, like Ms. Rowling’s, they’ll see that I was writing with children. And that that is not for the faint of heart.

Stickers from Sophie...to help make my book look beautiful. Success.

Stickers from Sophie…to help make my book look beautiful. Success.

5. Be prepared for all the rules to get tossed out the window. 

If there’s one thing I know about child-raising, it’s that the rules change, sometimes moment to moment. I’ve had to come to terms with this in my own writing life, and it’s been a hard pill to swallow. I have all of these ideas and all of these words and the characters are screaming and want to be let out, but they can’t because I am a full-time mom, both in work and at home. It’s what I do. And that means that sometimes I’ll get to write on consecutive days. And other times I won’t be able to write for weeks, or even months. That sometimes I’ll nail writing in my scriptorium that Ben built for me in our laundry room and others I’ll be at the dining room table. That some days I’ll have energy and creative fire, and others I’ll want to nap with my free time. It’s the way of parenting, it’s the way of life with children, and it’s the way of writing. Sometimes things go exactly as planned. And others are so far from any plan you wonder if you’ll ever get back on track. At the end of the day, though, I’m a writer. And whether it takes me 5 years or 10 years to finish my book, I will. Because how else will I ever shut the voices in my head up?

~ Julia

Food – A generational story

Food – A generational story

If you come to my home, I am going to want to make you food. Whether you are a friend helping with a chore around the house, or a family member dropping in, there is undeniable need to provide food … Continue reading

Momfessions: Part 2

It’s that time again. The moment where I drag out my worst moments, my not-so-proud talents, my dirty, dirty secrets. The time where I say all the things I hope and pray other moms/dads/parents/humans are feeling because I can’t be the ONLY one that does/feels/thinks these things. RIGHT?!

It's TRUE.

It’s TRUE.

And today I feel it’s even more important to talk about the nitty gritty, the behind-the-scenes that will send non-parents RUNNING, because there are some incredibly brave, new, raw parents in my life, ones that are probably sinking under a hundred ‘flaws’ that are actually ingenious survival tactics and I want them to know that they are NOT alone, it DOES get better, and one day (I SWEAR/HOPE) we’ll look back and remember this time of war with fondness. AND that it is NOT today.

My house is always a disaster. No, really. Seriously. There are always Cheerios and crackers and other random dried food on my floors. I can sweep once, I can sweep a hundred times, I can not sweep for a week and the result is ALWAYS the same. It’s depressing. And my socks and my children’s socks (if they’re wearing socks) and Ben’s socks and all of my guests’ socks are ALWAYS crusted with something horrible. And I feel bad. But then I sweep and within seconds it looks as if I don’t give a rat’s ass about my floors. And in truth? Right now? I don’t. On the one hand, it’s too hard to care about something that NO ONE ELSE EVER CARES ABOUT. And on the other hand I’m providing my children with important immunity-boosting licking opportunities. The more dirt they eat, the stronger their bodies will be at fighting off the plague, right? Right. Because science.

I feel bad when I go to other people’s houses. Because my house is SUCH A TREAT to be in (i.e. you can find a treat on the floor regardless of the room you’re in…) that when I go to other people’s houses I can not see the flaws. All I see are all the things that they’re doing better than me…like the sweeping, or the dishes being all clean, or the fact that clear counter space exists, or that the bathroom doesn’t look like a frat house bathroom, or the grown-up furniture that looks like it belongs in the room, versus the what-we-had-given-to-us-or-found-on-the-side-of-the-road decorating aesthetic we’re currently obsessed (read: stuck) with. I try to tell myself that I don’t know the whole story. That I don’t know what they’ve sacrificed to get it done. I don’t know what kind of woodland creatures they have employed. I have no idea what’s hiding behind the doors or in the drawers I’m not privy to. But every time…EVERY TIME…I feel like everyone else has a grown-up house and I’m living a dorm life with three kids and that somehow this is a failure.

I hate when my babies are sick. And not because I feel bad for them or I wish I could take it away from them. But because they SUCK at being sick. They don’t want to watch TV all day. They don’t want to lie on the couch and sleep. They just want to whine and cry and be hugged and cuddled, but not that way, this way, no you’re doing it wrong, why do you SUCK, why did you put me DOWN, pick me UP. AND. They like cuddling while they puke. They don’t know how to blow their noses to remove the snot so they stop coughing. They still want to DO something even though they have no patience or capacity for it. I love my babies. But sick versions of them SUCK.

I love hunting boogers. Some people love popping pimples. Others adore digging out blackheads. Some people are vomiting just reading this. BUT. I take great pleasure in stealing my children’s boogers. Especially Isaac’s. He gets so grumpy and his boogers are so satisfying and big and…I kind of love it. I even like going after the ones that Lillian and Sophie have missed. It’s disgusting, but it’s the one pleasure I get from my kids being sick, so I’m going to take it.

My kids don’t do chores. I know I’m supposed to assign chores to my kids, but I just haven’t. I’m too tired and there is too much to do. And teaching my kids to do the things they could be responsible for is exhausting and takes more work than me just doing it. I know it’s a future investment thing, that if I spend the 9384737 minutes and 382473984 kJ of energy, it will pay off big in the future. But, I just don’t want to. I don’t want to do the dishes, but more than that? I don’t want to teach someone how to do the dishes. I have, however, just won the jackpot. Remember Adam Sandler in Big Daddy, where the kid tells him he wants to go to school and he’s so impressed with his parenting strategy because by letting the child choose his own path he ultimately picks the right thing to do? That is happening in my house RIGHT NOW. Sophie and Lillian have magically started clearing their plates after dinner and take turns sweeping and have even cleaned up their playroom spontaneously a bunch of times. It works! Adam Sandler is a GENIUS. Wait…

I hate bedtime. I have a friend (Hi, Heather!) who is basically in charge of all the bedtimes all the time. And I have no idea how her children are still alive and her marriage is intact and her hair is not snow-white. Seriously. Bedtime is not the cozy, cuddly, dreamy place that TV/movies/ads/bookstores sell it as. It is not filled with sweet children who are cutely snuggled in their pyjamas, waiting patiently and quietly while their parents read them stories filled with wonder. It is a cluster-f#*@ of nonsense, where everyone is tired (me) and hyped up (them) and no one is doing what they’re supposed to (Lillian) and there are a thousand questions and demands (Sophie) and people chucking their favourite blankets and pillows out of their bed (Isaac) and someone is sobbing in the corner (me). It’s a lot of asking them to sit still so we can read the damn story and praying that it will be over soon because if I don’t have fifteen seconds of time to myself before I have to go to bed to wake up to DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN, I might just kill someone. I hate it. Almost as much as doing dishes. At least they don’t bounce around and change their minds over what story they want read while screaming about putting on their pyjamas. So, actually, I hate it MORE than dishes. (It’s serious, yo’).

Welcome to the underground.

Welcome to the underground.

Okay. I’ve confessed my sins, my dirty secrets, and the things I probably shouldn’t have said out loud. Now it’s your turn: what are YOUR confessions? Momfessions? Dadfessions? Humanfessions? SPILL. Then I won’t feel so naked.

~ Julia

Remember who you are

Growing up, there is one thing that I was told over and over again. Whenever my sisters or I would leave the house, my mother would tell us that she loved us, regardless of what recent teenage drama she was battling with us…

…and then she would tell us the most important thing: Remember who you are.

There have been many times since I left the house and started living on my own that I have heard my mom say this in my ear.

I am a “grown up” now, whatever that means, and my choices are mine to make, mine to regret and mine to complain about to the other sisters as they console me.

Whenever someone, male or female, challenges my beliefs, or the way that I was brought up, I start to think, “Am I wrong in my beliefs? Am I wrong in my opinion?”

In the family dynamic that is the Weather Vane, when your opinion is voiced, 100% of the time someone, or more than one of the sisters, will challenge you. I believe that this was and still is a major part of my up bringing. Whether it is fashion, the recent Ebola crisis, or religion (which is a favorite topic among the sisters, and for some reason we discuss this in VERY public places very loudly not because we make it that way, but because we are not afraid to let our opinions known, and we welcome outside thoughts), I never feel that my opinion does not matter, and if the conversation turns to an argument, which lets be honest does happen, then there is still a conversation.

We are four sisters with so many similarities and so many differences that it makes sense that we could and would argue about whether Katy Perry’s out fit at the VMAs was fantastic or horrible, or if the new health fad is just that – a fad or something that is substantial.  Whether it is philosophical or political, I respect my sisters’ opinions, and I hope they respect mine. One of my most favorite bloggers, Ken Breadner, posted something which really resonated with me:

“I respect your philosophy and political opinion, even when (especially when) it differs from mine (how else will I refine my views on things?) All I ask is the same respect in return.”

I respect other’s opinions, even if I do not share them, and I think that this is part of remembering who I am and learning and growing into the woman I am going to become, and Mom – I know who I am, thanks to you. I know that my opinion is respected within my family, Cody respects it and my close friends respect it.

I am not a prize writer, reporter, journalist, but I know that I look forward to voicing my opinion and hearing that of others, especially my sisters.

~ Jacqui

Guest post – To Sophie, my mother’s namesake

Julia’s mother-in-law and the Sisterhood’s second mother, Dianne, joins us again as a guest blogger. Check out her first post here

I miss my mom, some days more than others. It sneaks up on me when I least expect it. In the summer I think of her more than in the winter, her birthday was August 12.

I remember as a child listening to my mom. She was number five of 22. The reason that my grandparents stopped at 21? My Uncle Bernard was just a baby when my grandfather passed away. My mom was part of the first baby boomer generation; she was born in 1918, just after WWI. She was made of stuff you just don’t see these days. Her childhood was harsh, her life as an adult was no easier. She was beyond tenacious; she was stubborn. Sophie may have inherited this gene.

Mom talked about when my grandma gave birth to her twin boys. Born in the field, they were premature and too young to survive past a few days. They were kept warm in baking pans on the door of the wood stove. My mom talked about my Uncle Romeo and how he and my Aunt Yvonne had tied up all their siblings one Saturday morning while my grandparents went to market. Life in northern Ontario was an adventure, to say the least.

These were the easy stories to tell. She didn’t speak often about her relationship with her parents. My mom was outspoken; my sister inherited that gene. I guess Mom voiced her opinion one too many times for the liking of my grandmother and they parted ways. I didn’t see much of my aunts, uncles, cousins or grandmother growing up.

Following Malvina`s funeral, the Labine daughters

My mother and aunts after my grandmother’s funeral. Mom is third from the right. 1967

 

My uncles after my grandmother’s funeral. 1967

My uncles after my grandmother’s funeral. 1967

When my grandmother passed away I was 10 years old, the last of nine children for my mother. Through a series of circumstances, Mom was not allowed to raise her first five children. She was a divorced woman at a time when that was not popular. There was no Social Services safety net at the time. Mom had a Grade 6 education, not quite enough to financially support her brood. The bias of the time dictated that she was unfit. This judgement caused her to lose custody of her children.

After Mom married Dad, they had us four. I like to think Mom kept having children until she achieved perfection. Both my parents were married twice, but I couldn’t tell you much about my father and his first family as my parents separated when I was two.

What I do know for certain is that WWII was over, I was a baby boomer like my mom, the family birth rate had dropped by over 50% and we had become urban dwellers. We were sophisticated! Milk came in glass bottles and Aunt May’s Bakery delivered bread in a plastic bag right to your door.

Christmas 1961. I’m the cute one with the baby.

Christmas 1961. I’m the cute one with the baby.

My mom was the sergeant major in our army. She taught my sister and I that we didn’t really need to work hard in school, some day we would fall in love with a man and he would take care of us for the rest of our lives. RIGHT, because that worked so well for her.

She also taught us girls how to sew, cook and put away preserves. Today, I am thankful to know how to do these things. It has helped me leave my mark here. Everyone I know appreciates NanaJam.

Mom had old, outdated standards, as far as I was concerned. My brothers didn’t need to help in the garden, or to learn how to vacuum; that was women’s work. They joined air cadets, went to summer camp and skipped painting the house.

She fought hard for us and taught us a work ethic that carried us through our adult years. I remember my oldest brother was followed home by some rough kids. Mom met them in the back yard and hopped the fence to where they were. Angry words were exchanged, the police were called and the other kids left. We were a tight family.

Through time, we grew up and moved away. We found our careers, married and raised children. We have watched each other grow older. Mom passed away in 2005. She was 86 years old. If you look closely, you will find parts of my mother in each one of us.

Each of us is given a set of tools, things that will help us through life. We gather these tools when we are young, hone the blades as adults and use them throughout our lives. I look at the toolbox I have and compare it to my mom’s. Ben once said that my mom only had a flat screwdriver and a hammer in her toolbox, and that someone had broken the handle on her screwdriver.

I look at all she accomplished in her life and tried to imagine the battles she had fought. It’s true she was not educated, never owned property and died as poor as a church mouse. She used to say “It’s not a sin to be poor, just inconvenient all the time.” When asked what kind of car she drove she used to say she was the Lone Ranger without a horse. She never expected anyone to carry her, she only asked for fair treatment from a system that was learning compassion. She led by example and never expected anyone to do something she wasn’t willing to do herself.

One of the greatest things mom taught me was that family was first. Work is a means to an end. It is the way we support ourselves. Mom would say things like “You can love money all you want, but it will never love you back.” Friends are great, but in the end it is family that will see you through.

As I preside over my mini-dynasty, I hope that I have learned enough from my mom to be worthy of this position. It is with great joy when I look at my grandchildren and know that they will grow up with weird uncles, crazy aunts, goofy cousins and a Nana.

Mom was a storyteller. My sister says I have inherited that gene. When we gather as family for a BBQ or a birthday, to celebrate each other or just because, let’s remember to tell the stories that keep the past alive and help us remember where we came from.

~ Dianne

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!

Motherhood: I love this choice

When my sisters and I sat down and decided to honor motherhood this week, I have to admit I experienced a fair amount of anxiety about my post.

I didn’t know if I should write about what motherhood means to me because of the amazing examples in my life, if I should write about the part of me that as a woman, I’m not quite sure I have what it takes to be a mother, or if I should draw from my experience as a step-mama.

I decided to write from my heart.

Motherhood to me is a choice. It’s not a must-have right of passage because society deems it to be the way it is supposed to be, it is a choice. It is the conscious and sub-conscious choosing, every day from the day you decide to create life, until your last breath, to often put another’s needs, wants and desires before your own. It is a choice I wish more women would be more conscious of making. It is a choice I wish some women would realize they are allowed to choose not to make without fear or judgement – at least they should be. I love this choice.

Sometimes the children you choose to mother are not yours by birth-right, but are brought into your life because little did you know just how much you needed them. And sometimes you get to be the person they need. That’s the choice I made. It’s not to say that I won’t one day have a baby of my own, but for now, helping to raise Michael’s children is the right choice for me. Hearing M introduce me to her new host-family via Skype as her “mere”, the “I love you” I get unprompted from J when we’re dropping him off after our weekend together, lets me know that while I am not a necessity in their lives, I am wanted, loved and appreciated by them. I love this choice.

M, myself and J ♥

M, myself and J ♥

Sometimes the mothering we choose to do is for our siblings or our sibling’s children. These past few months I have caught myself on a few occasions mothering my big sister – standing up for her when she couldn’t do it herself, sending her for naps and time outs when I could see on her face she so desperately needed one, making sure she said “no” to people when she could not handle another responsibility being put on her and sometimes even refusing to let her handle the tough stuff on any given day. I love this choice.

Sometimes the only comfort good enough in the world is that of our own maternal mama. To this day, telling my mother about something that is hurting me, something I’m facing that is hard or even telling her I got a speeding ticket, can be the biggest release of emotion of all – even a week later when the wounds are not as fresh. There is something about the way my mom comforts me that gives my must-always-have-your-shit-together-self the permission I need to let go and let it all out. Sometimes I even choose not to be fully open about my heartaches to anyone but my mama. I love this choice.

Sometimes the mother we choose is our sisters. Recently, I received some news that personally reminded me of my own heartache I had been facing. Thankfully, my sisters were not far away. In minutes I found myself on Julia’s couch with a tissue box in my lap, earnestly being reminded that what I was feeling was not, as I had repeatedly referred to it, “stupid”, but completely relevant, real and appropriate. A tea, some more tears and a piece of Julia-baked cake later and my heart was reminded why God had chosen these beautiful women as my siblings and why life chose them as my best friends. I love this choice.

I love this choice!

I love this choice!

To all of the mamas out there: I choose to admire you, honor you (not just on the second Sunday of May), and be in awe of you. Your courage, strength, grace and wisdom are breathtaking. I love this choice.

~ Toni

Guest post – The importance of moms

Ben, Julia’s husband and knight-in-shining armor, is our guest blogger today! He’s kicking off our Mother’s Day Week by writing about the mothers in his life. Watch for more posts about motherhood all next week in honour of mothers and their day, Sunday May 11, 2014. 

~~~

Mom: What day is it?

Me: Second Sunday in May.

This is a conversation I had frequently with my Mom. It usually followed my asking her for something. Can I go out to my friend’s house? Can you proofread my essay? Can I borrow the van (there’s no way I drove it as much as you did, right?)?

It was her unique way of saying “Yes, but make sure you appreciate this.”

This is to say nothing of the things that she provided even when I didn’t directly ask for them: a home, food (I ate A LOT), clothes. Things that are easy to overlook, until you have to provide them yourself.

Moms give.

Moms teach.

She had other, less subtle ways of reminding me of the importance of Mom (though I don’t recall her referring to herself in the 3rd person). I remember her driving to and from Confirmation classes, during which she would ask us to recite the Commandments and Articles of Our Faith, our memory homework. She would call out one of them and “volunteer” one of us to recite it. Of course her favourite has always been the fourth commandment (I’m sure she asked for this one more than any of the others). She could still ask for it today, and I would be able to tell her (here it is as I remember it):

Source: The Ten Commandments

Source: The Ten Commandments

“Hounor thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

What does this mean?

We shall fear and love God that we do not despise nor vex our parents or superiors. But rather love, honour, obey, serve and esteem them.”

Moms drive.

Moms teach (because we have so much to learn).

I have no difficulty saying that my Mom has been one of the greatest influences in my life. But as I grew and experienced more, other Moms came into the picture of my life, with a similarly profound impact.

When I was dating my future wife (you may know her as Julia), I was warned by a mutual friend, not to upset the “Mama Bear.” She was fiercely protective of her girls. I’m happy to say, I made it through the courtship without being mauled. Our relationship started off slowly, tentatively, but it grew until she became my Other Mom. It is a title she has earned. I refuse to call her mother-in-law, or any of the other less savoury names.

Moms protect.

Moms accept.

One of the great parts of becoming a parent was watching Julia grow into a Mom. Even before we were married, she was a mother and champion to those around her. Throughout her journey with and battle against PPD, she has become a champion of the cause and made a number of new friends. She used her own experience to empathize with and inspire others.

When we were deciding how to handle Lillian’s unique situation, with the doctor appointments in Toronto, weekly speech therapy and complicated hearing equipment, Julia stepped up – instinctively – and became the stay-at-home mom. In the end, it was a decision that we made considering all the facts, although her initial reaction speaks to the Mom she is.

Moms help.

Moms nurture.

Moms work relentlessly work at a job that no one in their right mind would willingly accept.

 

What day is it? The second Sunday in May. Now what are you going to do about it?

~ Ben

 

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!

Guest post – Surviving the empty nest

Julia’s mother-in-law and the Sisterhood’s second mother, Dianne, joins us today as our guest blogger. She’s awesome, so show her some love! ❤

~~~

When do we realize we have changed? It’s not the subtle changes we notice individually, but one day, after an enormous number of microscopic changes, we wake up and realize we are no longer “that person”…whoever that person was. For me, ‘cuz I can only speak for me, that person was someone else’s someone. I spent 55 years being someone else’s someone…a daughter, a little sister, the prize wife, the do-everything-be-everything mom.

Then IT happened, the empty nest happened. How, just tell me, how did this happen? Why did this happen, and especially to me? Empty nest is the quintessential double-edge sword. If it happens then you did a good job, you have successfully launched your offspring into their own lives. If it doesn’t happen then you are a failure, something went wrong and it is most likely your fault! The empty nest affirms that parenting is truly a two-person activity, because the end result is not a wonderful experience alone.

As much as having a child changes your life, no longer having one changes it. At one point in your children’s lives, you were everything to them. Slowly, they have extracted themselves from your scope of influence. If you blink, you will miss that instant when they stand alone, apart from you. You won’t realize it has happened until you discover that the grocery bill has dropped. Now you shop for groceries for special occasions, when the children and grandchildren come for dinner. Otherwise, always keep freezer bags on hand so you can separate the meat into one-person portions.

The question here is how to survive, pick up and press on.

When my mom passed away nine years ago, I baked. I baked everything I knew how and learned some new tricks along the way. I baked for six months. My daughter-in-law took baking back to her mom’s; I supplied the church socials with muffins, cakes and whatever else would fit into a 9×12 pan. That was how I survived that loss. If I couldn’t be thin, then God could make everyone else fat, and I was just doing my share.

When the last one leaves, you celebrate. For me, it was the last wedding, my freedom 55! When the dust settled, the party had ended and all the extended family had gone home, the house became quiet, too quiet.

Now I needed new coping skills. I saw two therapists. The first one decided I had so many issues that he would need to see me twice a week for 18–24 months. We would spend our time digging up all my past issues I had so cleverly buried. The cost would rival my mortgage payments for the period in question. One session with him and I was instantly cured of any repressed issues.

The second therapist lasted longer. She decided on cognitive therapy; let’s talk about what is happening right now, this will help us work on acquiring new skills to cope with being abandoned. She made me think about personal current events, my beliefs regarding those events, and how I might modify my reactions and strengthen the ME I wanted to be.

When I decided to write this blog, I came across one of my homework assignments. I was to make flash cards for myself. Each flash card had 3 positive declarations. Even if I didn’t believe them, I was supposed to write them down. Each day, I was to read these statements without judgement. It’s the power of positive thinking at work.

I stopped reading these cards some time ago. It has been almost two years since the party ended. My journey has not been without trials. Lots of people envy my life. I can sleep late without guilt, I eat cereal for supper because it is easy to prepare, I use the dishwasher once a week so that the parts don’t seize. People forget that at the end of the day, if I haven’t made a conscience effort to see family, no one will touch me, no one will hug me and no one, absolutely no one, will tell me that they love me.

Today, I still am someone’s someone. I am Nana to seven beautiful grandchildren. As they learn to talk, they tell me that they love me, they reach for a hug and a kiss. They continue to need me, even if their parents don’t. What I plan on doing after they grow up, who knows. Let this be a warning to my family: I may unexpectedly drop by, looking for nothing more than a glass of water and an excuse to tell you that I love you.

~ Dianne

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!

Dear 16-year-old me

Dear 16-year-old me,

This is the year that you change high schools (by choice this time), the year you start grade 10 as the new girl again, meet and fall in love with two of your still-close girl friends, meet and fall in like with a few boys and then finally meet and fall in love with your first serious boyfriend. He will teach you that laughter really is one of the most important things in life and also that saying goodbye to people you love is hard, but sometimes completely necessary.

Michelle, myself, Katey

Michelle, myself, Katey

I want to tell you that you should be a little more sure of yourself, you’ve got more to offer the world than you give yourself credit for and you shouldn’t put so much weight on the negative influences you’ve faced. I want to tell you that your anger was so, so wasted and it took some joy out of what could have been even better moments. I wish I could tell you that if you could have been a little softer, a little sooner, you might not have been so quick to cut people out of your life. But, you eventually get it in your own time – go you!

You will know by now that your curves – especially your boobs – can and will be both a curse and a blessing. You will one day embrace them for both sides of the coin, especially when it comes time to attend court for your first speeding ticket…don’t worry, he lets you off way easier than the cop did.

You will kick yourself when you realize you should have thanked your big sister sooner for stepping in, every time, without question, whenever, wherever and however you might have needed her – she kind of raised and saved your ass…a lot. (Seriously, thank you, Julia.)

Where would I be without you?

Where would I be without you?

You don’t know it yet, but you are about to make the bold, almost stupid, decision of not attending college directly after high school – I want to thank you for that. Seriously, good move. You get to meet the next great loves of your life – your future fiancé, the man you will marry and his beautiful children – because he remembers you years after your stint in the automotive industry is over. He’ll contact you on a site called Facebook (which I won’t even attempt to explain to you) and the rest is history.

Future You still doesn’t fully understand the feeling women are talking about when they say they “can’t wait to have a baby!” and that’s still okay, but stay open. Try not to let the influential voices in your life dictate this one for you – it is a choice that only you are allowed to make as you are the only one who will live with the results of that choice. And when women who don’t understand your indecisiveness about it make you feel small and ashamed, please don’t let them get into your heart. Not wanting or wanting children of your own does not shape the woman you are and the quality of life that you will have. Those women can suck it.

I wish I could find some way to tell you to be kinder and to go easier on your mama (not that you would have listened, you mule). She has always been your biggest cheerleader and your biggest defender – whether you believe me or not. One day you will be blessed to count her as one of your best friends and won’t ever be able to make it up to her for all the heart attacks and aches you’ve caused her. No matter what path you will choose – even the decisions you’re not proud of (there are eventually a few, trust me) – she will never leave your side. She’s also kind of the best example EVER for a mother’s love and will unknowingly provide the strength and wisdom you need when you become a step-mom.

mama and me

Mama and me

Also, it turns out there is a way to get what you want out of life without fighting and building brick walls at the first hint of heartache. You don’t have to be so ready to fight for your life at a moment’s notice and you will learn the hard way that people will only love and care about you when it’s good for them too. You will also learn that if you continue to make it impossible, they will walk. And some never come back.

Please don’t stop painting. I guarantee you will regret it.

You foolishly will stop running when you begin your first full time job. Thankfully, somewhere in your mid-20s you will fall in love all over again – with the freedom you feel mid-stride, heart pumping, legs aching, sweat dripping, telling yourself just one more kilometer, every kilometer, until you feel satisfied. It’s an even more amazing and rewarding relationship the second time around. ***Bonus hint: this rule DOES NOT apply to all relationships…but you’ll learn that one eventually too.***

Yes, you still cry easily – when angered, when happy, when sad, when overwhelmed, when frustrated, when elated…even commercials do you in. You don’t yet fully love this trait so innate to you, but you get used to it. Eventually. I hope.

You should be warned that people will tell you whatever you want to hear to get what they need or want from you. You learn this rule the hard way a few times (See a theme here? Donkey.). However, be grateful that it still has yet to harden your heart and you learn to always hope for the best from people, every time. The good thing with this is you’re a lot happier this way and more in tune with your gut feel about people or situations.

16 year old me

16 year-old-me

You still have an amazing circle of people that love you and want only the best for you – you have just become a whole lot more appreciative of them and almost hyper-aware of how incredible your friends, family and loves are.

Please, try to remember daily – you are so blessed. Never forget what God has done for you.

Love,

~Toni

Guest post – Blessed

To celebrate our 50th post, we asked our mom to write a guest blog. Thank you so much for reading with us this far! We can’t wait for the next 50. And to our Mommita – we LOVE you!

As I anxiously await each new submission to the blog, I realized something: I crave connection with my babies every day. Even as they live their lives, I still want and need to be a part of their lives. After all, I am a mom and will always be. Oh, I have added a few titles to my repertoire, Grammie being my most favorite of new additions next to girlfriend. Before this blog there were days when I had no connection with them either by phone, chat, email, text or Facebook updates. Those days I felt almost empty; something was missing. You see, my greatest accomplishment and joy are my four babies. Just thinking about them makes me cry with joy and pride. When my girls asked me to write for the blog, I responded, “You know I am going to cry,” to which Julia and Toni immediately responded, “I know,” and, true to form, I did.

I love being their mom and always have. I never doubted that I would be proud of each of them, that I would be there for them, that I would do whatever was needed to help them, guide them or rescue them. As I see what lives in their hearts, I see the girls I know, love and adore. I am blessed!

The ladies, back in the day

The ladies, back in the day (L to R: Toni, Mom, Andreah, Jacqui, Julia)

My girls, each in their own way, were my strength as I ventured to take the most challenging of steps in my life to be me again, a woman, a single woman. They were my cheering section, along with their men and the many friends, Dianne and Paula to just name a few, and family. With each step I took, from renovating the house in preparation to sell, to moving to a new town, they were there. It was hard for me to find the courage I needed. I was scared – let’s face it, I had been a part of a couple for 28 years. I had never done this before, be just me. But I am absolutely sure that it was even harder for my girls to see me venture out, dating (we call it shopping for shoes), harder for them to start a new life without the two parents they loved not be in one place.

Oh, what had I done? How have I failed them? What kind of example am I to end my marriage? This was all I could think as I watched each of them struggle to find the balance in all this. It broke my heart to see the impact on each. When I expressed this to Julia so many moons ago, she said something to me that has stuck: you have shown us that it is okay to say enough, it is okay to say this is not good for me and move on. I hear my OH so wise daughter each time I make a change in my life.

Don’t get me wrong – if I had to do it all over again I would not change a thing about our life as a family. I loved my life, loved being his wife, rallied in the title that will be mine forever- Mommy, Mom, Mommita – joyful in what was “our family” no matter how flawed it was, it was ours. Through all the trials and joys, that is where we grew, where the bond as women began. Without all those experiences we would not be who we are today – strong, independent and dependent, loving, giving and, yes, emotional women.

A wise man once said to me that if you put God in your life and seek His favour first, all things are possible. He was right. Through many prayers, I found an amazing man who I loved and lost. I was lead to an amazing job that I did not apply for but got that I love and still have today. The many of the lessons in my life have shown me that it is okay to be just me, that no matter what society says I should have done, I did my very best. I am not perfect, but that is okay too. Over time and putting God first in my morning prayers and pleadings through the tough moments, I have found a new love that makes me joyful and filled with laughter. With that love comes new joy and even more family to love. I wake up every morning in love with my man, in love with our families, so happy to be me. I am blessed as only God can bless me, with a life that is worth living with no regrets!

~ Christine (a.k.a. Mom)

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!