Remember that time we used to blog?

WOW.

We literally took forever off.

Okay, well not literally. But it sure feels that way. Our last post is dated October 8 2015. Last year. Almost 8 months. That sounds ludicrous as I type it, but it almost seems further away than that somehow.

Tonight, I can’t sleep. Sometimes when I can’t sleep I try meditation, or I read, or attempt to wake up one of three of my pups to tell them I can’t sleep, or I stare into the abyss until I drive myself absolutely mad and can’t stay in bed any more.

So tonight I can’t sleep and this is where the not being able to stay in bed any more part kicks in and I found myself here in front my keyboard wanting to write, but not wanting to work at one o’clock in the morning.

We’ve been talking about our blog, our baby, a little bit here and there in passing, and a lot more lately in focus. We get the odd message too now and then from some of our loving readers (Hi mom!) that say they miss our posts. I figured, what better way to try to write my insomnia away than by writing a post committing us to it again?

We have had the most CRAZY, INSANE, OVER THE TOP break though. SO much has happened in the past seven-ish months.

I know each of the sisters would prefer if I not spoil their pool of blog post ideas as they are probably the most full they’ve been since we started; also I know that each piece of these past months will require and deserve their own posts.

So YES, we’re back!

However, each of our lifestyles have shifted in new ways, presenting new challenges – it is time for a change for us as a Sisterhood with this baby of ours. (Side note and just because I am a proud sister and AUNTIE again – there were literally babies during our break!!! We will for sure see posts from Jacqui and Kim regarding said babies – promise)

We’ve figured out a way that we can try to do it all – we do love our little community of readers and miss writing about our lives, and our thoughts and our ‘things’ that we deal with by sharing. We loved how connected it made us feel to each other too.

sisters

While we’re not quite set on a ‘schedule’ just yet, writing will happen! Keep an eye out for our posts – check out our Facebook page too if you’d like! Hopefully we’ll be seeing a lot more of each other.

There – I think I can sleep now.

Hope you all have the best Friday! I will for SURE need the most coffee ever.

~ Toni

 

Sisterhood Spotlight – More Love Letters

The Weather Vane Sisterhood is no stranger to mental illness – we have that badge in the bag and we wear it for all to see. We don’t hide our crazy, we advocate.

A little while ago during one of Julia’s bouts of PPD, I was trying to find a way to make her feel more loved, and supported from our family. That is when I came across More Love Letters.

Their mission as it is posted on their website is simple – to make love famous. Imagine going through a rough patch, anything from a sick family member, to depression or PPD if you will. Now imagine while you are going through this tough time getting a flooding of love letters. Letters of encouragement, letters of hope. Just a little note to let you know that you are not going through this alone, and a complete stranger is thinking of you. That is exactly what More Love Letters is.

It is a blog where weekly posts let the anyone who wants to know who they should address love letters to and their background story. You can nominate anyone as well – all you need is to take the time to write an email or a letter to the ladies of More Love Letters and tell them why you think they deserve more love! Once you see who needs your love letters it’s up to you to write what your heart desires. As of late I when I have been feeling down, I write what I would want someone to say to me. Something as cheesy as “Don’t stop believing” to more sentimental. There is something so uplifting by telling a complete stranger that you are in their corner and something so heartwarming knowing that you made someone’s life a little brighter with your words.

After writing all my thank you cards, I still have some umpteen note cards left. These cards as slowly being sent all over the world with notes of love and support. I encourage everyone to join this movement and start sending love letters.

The world is a pretty crappy place sometimes. It’s scary and dark, and sometimes it’s hard to find the love and light in the everyday. But if you can be that love and light to someone else then suddenly you have a little slice of optimism yourself.

The other day I was exhausted, it was a horrible day at work and all I wanted to do was to come home and sleep. On my walk home I had made a plan, home, bath, bed. Which is exactly what I did. I came home, drew myself a bath, and then got into my pj’s. I turned on my computer to watch some much deserved Netflix, but when I opened my computer, the last page I was on was More Love Letters to their recent letter nominations. I came across a nomination for a couple who had been together for 36 years. They fell on hard times with their health, he with a stroke and her with lupus. Their children nominated them for the bundle of letters. Suddenly I felt guilty – I had a rough day sure, but I have my health, I have a roof over my head and food on the table – and yet I was grumpy and complaining.

I decided then to write a letter to this couple. I wrote telling them that their love for each other and their years of marriage was an inspiration. I wrote to them telling them I was thinking of them and sending them love from afar during this bump in the road. My problem of a bad day at work seemed so small and insignificant compared to the troubles that these two were going through.

I encourage you to take time today to write a love letter to those in need – make it a weekly routine. During your Saturday morning coffee, grab a pen and a pad of paper and start spreading the love!

~ Love, Jacqui

Days like these

If you had asked me when I was younger what my life would look like in my 30s, as a mother, as a wife, I would never have been able to guess it would be this.

That my house would be a complete disaster every single day, unless company was coming over, and then it was a minor disaster to be put on hold for a small number of hours.

All the dishes. All the time.

All the dishes. All the time. (That dishwasher is there purely for aesthetic.)

That I would go to bed thinking about all the laundry I need to fold, wash, put away…yet never ever get to.

How many loads of clean laundry can I hide behind my couch?

How many loads of clean laundry can I hide behind my couch? (That chair is tipped over because Isaac likes to climb).

That I would be a stay-at-home mom, walking babies to school, cooking all the meals, in charge of all the cleaning, and watching my hard-earned degree gather dust on our wall.

Have you tried cooking dinner with acrobatics happening at your feet?

Have you tried cooking dinner with acrobatics happening at your feet?

That I would be forced to negotiate with the most unreasonable creatures on the planet just to put on their shoes so we could go to the park FOR THEM, or eat their food because they were the ones sobbing at my feet hungry, or to go to bed and sleep because all of the hysterics that they are currently stuck in are because they are tired.

Waiting for snack time...weirdly patiently.

Waiting for snack time…weirdly patiently.

That I would not get a hair cut in over a year simply because I would need to orchestrate a child-care/salon hours/extra time formula that only works once every 15 months or so.

Can you see my kitchen table? I haven't either.

Have you see my kitchen table? I haven’t either.

That I would donate all of my dress pants, skirts, blouses because I don’t need them anymore – my uniform consists of durable material, wash-and-wear ensembles with denim being the star.

Dress pants are no match for a breakfast thrown by Isaac.

Dress pants are no match for a breakfast thrown by Isaac. And the random dirty sock.

That we would not go to church in months simply because we are too sick/too exhausted/too worn-out to get to one more place on time.

That sitting on the couch and zoning out for an hour, followed by an early bedtime is my idea of the perfect night.

That eating hot food is an anomaly so rare that I regularly burn my mouth whenever the opportunity does present itself.

That I would drink and seek out and need coffee to fuel my day, every day.

Sweet nectar that makes all of my efforts in futility possible.

Sweet nectar that makes all of my efforts in futility possible.

That the feeling of not having a body on me or near me or touching me would be more alien than having three children piled on and around me.

That sleep would be the most precious and most scarce commodity in my life, so much so that on days where the babies are overnight somewhere, sleep is all I can think about.

That when planning our 10-year anniversary trip, that it’s a legitimate toss-up between Europe and an all-inclusive tropical resort because all I want to do is SLEEP.

That I would be fulfilled by the feeling of a smooth, not sticky counter, kitchen table, coffee table, floor.

That I would find pleasure in finding miracle cleaning products that worked instead of just made me work.

That I would write more, clean more, cook more, and walk more with babies hanging off of me, screaming at me, crying on me or asking a million things of me, than not.

He's not really a fan of this blog post.

He’s not really a fan of this blog post.

That I would love my babies more fiercely than anything ever. That I would do all of the above and more for them because it’s ingrained in my DNA that they are mine and I must fight for them.

That I would get up and repeat over and over and over again, regardless of the fact I make no money, have no sick days, and no vacation time.

If you had asked me then, I wouldn’t believe you. And yet, it’s the most natural thing today.

~ Julia

She’s 6

It’s been hard to find the words to express exactly what this year has meant for me and my oldest baby Sophie, the one with the looooooong legs and the fascinating brain and the crazy sense of humour and the incredible compassion for all living creatures, especially her tired, worn-out, crying mama (there’s nothing that brings a girl to her knees like a 5-year old rubbing your back and telling you it’s going to be okay). She’s turning 6 this week and I’m struggling to pinpoint exactly what made this year different from the year before.

Crazy tall kid. For our family, of course (she's still one of the shortest in her class.)

Crazy tall kid. For our family, of course (she’s still one of the shortest in her class.)

She’s in her second year of school, so that’s not new, but how she’s handling herself there is different since she is in the oldest grade (she’s a Senior Kindergartener now) and her teachers tell me she’s all about helping the younger kids, the Junior Kindergarteners, figure out the rules and talking to them when they’re crying for their parents. It’s such an oldest sister thing, such a me thing, to be a mother hen, that my heart at once is so proud and aches that her childhood is slipping away in the service of others. You give a bit of yourself away every time you reach out to someone, and it’s not a bad thing, but the fact that she’s starting so early makes me worry about whether or not she’ll have anything left for her when she gets older. It took me forever to find that balance – I hope her path is full of as much compassion for herself as it is for others.

“Don’t I look so adorable?” Yes, Sophie. Yes, you do.

She’s still a diva, a fashionista in training, who staunchly believes still that ‘flat pants’, or leggings, the pants that sit flat against her legs, are the only ones that make her look beautiful. She’s stunning. There is nothing that girl can’t put on with her hair and her ridiculous blue eyes and her tiny nose that doesn’t look pretty, but you can’t reason with her. Sophie is only pretty when she’s got her flat pants on. And if she can’t wear those, the tears and gnashing of teeth and stream of self-loathing that follows is irrational, heartbreaking and frustrating as all hell. There are only so many times you can say, “You are gorgeous no matter what you wear.” before it turns into you yelling, “You’re wearing the ugly jeans so just get dressed already!”

So pretty. But only in flat pants!

So pretty. But only in flat pants!

She’s trying so damn hard to recognize letters and print like a pro and read a book unaided. She’s not there yet, but this year the Valentine’s took waaay less time to print and the word recognition is coming faster and more furious, and the pages of her printed letters and numbers have littered our house to the point where I toss them out because there are SO MANY. She’s always bringing home a book she’s made, or showing me that she sees her name or wants to know if the random letters she’s printed say anything. She’s trying SO HARD. I can’t wait for the penny to drop for her, not only because things will get read a lot faster, but also the pride she feels in the tiny steps she’s been taking will turn into a full-blown mind explosion of excitement. I can’t wait.

This face times a MILLION when she finally reads in a stream without stopping.

This face times a MILLION when she finally reads in a stream without stopping.

She’s thoughtful. SO thoughtful. And not just in kindness, but in thinking through everything you say and connecting it to other stuff that has been said or that she’s seen. We’ve been watching Full House on Netflix as a family. Sophie is by far the most interested in it. We were listening to the radio the other day and the radio host was talking about how they have guest DJ’s every week. Sophie immediately stopped colouring and looked at me. “Did he just say D.J.? Like Full House?” And thus began a 10-minute conversation about the difference between Full-House DJ and a radio DJ. Tricky stuff.

Such good sisters...except when they're SCREAMING at each other.

Such good sisters…except when they’re SCREAMING at each other.

But again, none of these things are glaringly new or crazy insane. We’ve had a relatively quiet year here with Sophie. She’s gone to school, made new friends, is often at our neighbour’s house to play with another girl her age, and generally we just manage her fashion meltdowns and lippy-ness (her wit and smarts get her into trouble more often than not). And the more I think about it, about the year that was for her and me and us, I kind of feel like I cheated her. I’m so focused on Lillian and the war that we are waging right now and getting her ready for school and I am trying to keep Isaac from killing himself since we’ve firmly landed in the climb-everything-and-conquer-it stage, that I’m really not handling Sophie much at all. Really, the only things that Sophie and I do together are get up, read, get dropped off at school, get picked up from school, and then negotiate our way to dinner and then bedtime. It’s so…removed and hands-off. I don’t worry about her going pee or poop everywhere anymore. Generally when she climbs things it has zero impact (unless it’s a fire hydrant…then a nice, blood-spouting hole appears in her chin). And her temper tantrums are usually dramatic friendship woes (that are normally fabricated by her) or rages against the disgusting pants that flair on the way down and don’t hug her legs.

All grown up. *sob*

All grown up. *sob*

I was told when I had her, 6 years ago, that the time will fly quickly. That one day she won’t need me as much and I’ll miss the time when she does. And in truth, I can’t believe it’s been 6 years. I can’t believe she’ll be 6. But, I’m so busy being needed by Lillian and Isaac that I’ve missed missing her needing me as much. It makes me want to grab her and really relish in her independence and her sauciness and her laughter and her crazy thinking. And it makes me worry that maybe I’ve failed her. Maybe in not being there for her, even if she doesn’t need me, I’m making her feel unloved or like she’s drifting away from us.

Not too old to sit in a foam chair and watch a  movie with her siblings.

Not too old to sit in a foam chair wearing fairy wings to watch a movie with her siblings.

But then yesterday she curled up with me to watch DJ hang out with Kimmy Gibler, and I loved the feel of her weight and warmth and her hand and arm crooked through mine. And today, when we walked across the parking lot of a doctor’s office, she grabbed for my hand without me even asking, just as I was debating whether or not I should ask her since we’ve been walking independently across streets on the way to school now for months.

Wearing new birthday flat pants, shirt and purse. STYLIN'. She says she's "fancy." I can not argue.

Wearing new birthday flat pants, shirt and purse. STYLIN’. She says she’s “fancy.” I can not argue.

And then, just like that, all is right in the world again.

To my eldest, my tallest (for now), my sauciest – happy happy birthday, my love. 🙂 I’m excited to see what this year brings us and how far you’ll go, even if it is further away from me.

Love, Mama

~ Julia

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

Roses

A while ago I posted about entering a short story contest. I meticulously read over the rules and discovered that if I shared my story here, online, I would be eliminating my chance at winning. So I didn’t. And today I got confirmation that I didn’t make the longlist. Boo.

In better news, I can TOTALLY post my story here now. 🙂 Thanks for reading it. Thanks for reading our blog. And thanks for putting up with this navel-gazing post. Happy Friday!



Roses

A short story by Julia Mills

Taken by our talented Andreah

Taken by our talented Andreah

Grace walked away from downtown, taking the sidewalk around the bend in the road out to where country touched the edge of the village. She looked into the windows of houses she passed, noting empty dining room tables, bowed heads of women washing dishes, a foursome playing cards, and a thin old man sitting reading under a light as if he were an exhibit.

She stopped at the last and grandest house on the street. Large and sided with white, the house had black shutters and a wraparound porch bordered by rose bushes and precisely trimmed shrubbery. Two rocking chairs and a child’s tricycle sat on the porch. Some of the large windows were lit and some were dark, but with no obvious pattern. The house belonged to Mr. Frank Hunt, the sole lawyer in town, and his wife, Muriel, president of The Horticultural Society.

Grace had stolen away here a few times before, always after dinner had been cleared away, needing to escape Robert’s two-year old demands, John’s silence as he worked at the dining room table, and the one that was missing, her dead baby, Alice. On those other visits, she had clipped a few of the prize-winning roses to bring home, but it hadn’t seemed to make a difference. They were beautiful, adorning her mantle, her nightstand, and the bathroom counter, but they weren’t enough. Grace wanted one more bouquet, large enough to fill the centre of her dining room table.

She walked to the side of the house where she had left her gardening shears, and made her way to the first bush. It looked like the roses were on fire, a burnt red orange. The shears made quick, clean work of clipping the blooms; the first time she had come she didn’t have her shears, just her hands, and she had to twist and break each stem. Grace clipped a half dozen of the orange roses, dropping them to the ground as she went. She’d gather them all afterwards. Best to keep her hands free to cut now.

Next was a bush heavy with red blooms, their deep blood heads droopy with the weight of their petals and fragrance. It reminded her of the colour of her underwear when they were first trying to have a baby, making love and holding their breath every four weeks, hoping that it would take, that this time was the time.

She clipped all of the blooms off of the bush. When the ground was covered, she moved onto the next, a bush of creamy yellow roses. Grace touched some of the petals, wondering if they were as soft and smooth as they looked. They were. Like Alice’s cheek. Her rosy, beautiful cheek. And then her cold cheek. Blue and empty. Who knew babies could just die in their sleep?

Grace clipped the bush until there was nothing but stubs left and a carpet of yolk and green on the ground. She was breathing hard. She moved onto the next bush. Then the next. Then the next. The sound of rhythmic clipping and rustling filled the back yard, as roses landed on grass.

Then.

“Grace?”

She paused.

“What are you doing?”

She turned.

Mrs. Muriel Hunt was making her way down the steps and into the backyard towards her.

“Grace!” Muriel’s voice was loud and had something sharp in it. Hysteria. Muriel stared at the ground, at Grace’s feet, behind Grace, at her yard. “What are you doing?”

The shears hung in her hand. Then they fell to the ground.

“You are going to pay for this.”

Grace was silent. What was she doing?

“You stay right there.” Muriel turned and ran up the stairs and into the house, leaving the door open, screaming, “Frank!”

Grace sat down on the grass. What was she doing?

“She’s crazy. She’s cut down all of our roses. You better do something about this. The damage is unbelievable. You are going to sue. I’ll have to start all over again. Years of work—”

“Muriel.” Frank knelt down in front of Grace.

“Grace? Are you okay?”

Grace looked at Frank. He’d only ever called her Mrs. Whittier. In town. At church. She used to be Mrs. Whittier. Now she’s Grace. Crazy Grace.

She started to cry, resting her head in her hands, elbows digging into her thighs.

“Grace.” Frank lifted her up and carried her into the house, putting her down on a couch and wrapping a blanket around her. She was still crying.

“I’m going to call your husband.”

Receding footsteps and voices.

“She’s ruined everything. Everything. What are you going to do?”

“Muriel.”

“I want you to do something!”

“Her daughter died.”

Grace lay down on the couch, pulling the blanket over her head, hiding with her warm breath. What was she doing?

Then.

“Grace.” John’s hands and voice.

She pulled the blanket down and looked at him. Oh, his face was so worried. And his hands. He hadn’t touched her in months. Not since she had slept through the night and let Alice die.

“Grace.” It came out like a breath, full of air and defeat. He sat beside her and pulled her to him. Her ear was against his heart.

He rocked, as if she were Robert or Alice. He rocked her like she was his child and he was the parent and he had to be in charge and she was in trouble and he would fix everything.

His voice rumbled up from his chest. “What happened?”

“Muriel found her outside.”

“Cutting down my rose bushes!”

“Muriel.”

“They’re destroyed.”

“Muriel.” Strong, stern, then, “John, I thought you should come get her and take her home.”

“Thank you. I’m sorry for whatever damage—“

“No damage.”

Then Grace remembered. She lifted her head. “Where’s Robert?”

“He’s with Sarah.” John smoothed her hair.

“Sarah? Where’s Robert?” Her own hysteria was rising in her throat.

“In the kitchen with our daughter, Sarah. I think they’re getting a snack.” Frank smiled kindly, sympathetically, pathetically.

John pulled the blanket tighter around Grace’s shoulders. “Let’s go home.”

“I’ll get Robert for you.”

“Thank you.” John stood up, pulling Grace up with him. He adjusted the blanket again, then wrapped his arm around her. Grace leaned into him. She was so tired.

They made their way to the front foyer where they were met by a sleepy Robert, eating a piece of bread and being held by Sarah, a child herself, a miniature Muriel.  

Grace reached out, touching Robert’s hair. John and Frank talked more, but she didn’t know what was said. Then they left, retracing Grace’s steps until they were home.

John left her in the bedroom so he could put Robert to bed. Grace stood there, unsure of what to do, until John came back. John took the blanket from around her shoulders and started getting her undressed.

“Robert is sleeping,” he said, as he pulled her shirt up over her head. He slid off her pants with her underwear. He went behind her and unhooked her bra.

She was naked and cold.

Then he was putting on her nightgown, up over her head, pulling her arms through and the hem down so that her bum was covered. Then he lifted her hair out of the neck and kissed her on the forehead.

It was his turn. His pants, underwear, shirt, undershirt off. His pyjamas, top and bottoms, on. He led her to bed, to her side. He pulled down the sheet and blankets she had cleaned and tucked, put her beneath them and retucked them around her.

He went around to his side and slid in, curling around her, holding her, breathing into her neck, his cold nose pressing into her hair, her bum in the curve of his pelvis.

“I’m so sorry.”

“No, I’m sorry.”

“John.”

“Listen. We’ll be okay.” He sounded like he was trying to convince her. “We’ll be okay.” Now he was convincing himself.

The sound of the dark house filled the silence.

“I love you.”

“I love you.”

She rolled over. He held her, her nose being tickled by chest hair poking out over his top, his skin and her breath combining into a damp warmth. Her arm was tucked between them, her hand on his chest. She could feel his breathing change. Quicker. More desperate.

Then she was kissing him. On the mouth. Her tongue looking for his, his finding hers. Then he was pulling her tighter.

Then her nightgown was up over her head and on the floor. His pyjamas were coming off, buttons unbuttoning, pants slipping down.

And then they were one again. Moving together again. Again. Again. Again. Again.

At last.

Then they slept, deeply, until Robert was climbing on top of them, telling them it was morning, it was time to play, it was time to wake up.

It was time.

A year of blogging

This week is BIG for us here at the Sisterhood. Big because it’s a birthday week (Toni’s on the 12th!). Big because it’s Valentine’s Day week (Hello, LOVERS!). And BIG because we have our first anniversary of blogging.

Last year, on February 10, 2014, we published our very first post and introduced our blog to the world (mostly our family and friends).

We wanted to dedicate our posts this week as odes to the blog, reflections on a year of blogging and then, of course, giving you, our readers (family and friends and THE WORLD), gifts for hanging out with us, reading us, supporting us, commenting on us, and letting us share our Sisterhood with you. To celebrate our very first anniversary we’re going to hold our very first GIVEAWAY.

#WVSisterhood #Giveaway !!

#WVSisterhood #Giveaway !!

OH YES.

We are OPRAH. And EVERYONE GETS CARS*. (*The word cars in this case represents small tokens of our affection and not actual cars or automobiles or vehicles of any kind. And the word everyone means select winners chosen at random, not every single person in the world. Please don’t sue us. We’re not actually Oprah.)

To enter our giveaway, all you have to do is leave a comment. Every comment gets you one entry into that day’s giveaway. That’s right. I said THAT DAY’S GIVEAWAY! We’re doing FOUR giveaways and a GRAND PRIZE GIVEAWAY. Because we’re CRAZY in LOVE with you! Each regular blogging day this week, a sister will select and introduce a prize. Leave a comment on the blog post, answering the question the sister poses to you! Each comment you leave gives you one entry into the draw for that prize. You can leave one comment or you can leave 100 comments, just make sure you’re answering the question. All the comments from all the blog posts this week will be put into the draw for the grand prize giveaway. Only comments posted before 12:00 a.m. EST Saturday February 14, 2015 will be considered.

We’ll make the draws and announce the winners on Valentine’s Day because we’re CRAZY in LOVE, remember!? We love you. You love us (we hope). And because it’s our BLOG-BIRTHDAY!!!

Questions? Worries? Concerns? Let us know. Love notes? Wishes for our 2nd year of blogging? Hopes and dreams for our future together? Let us know.

And sincerely – THANK YOU – for reading with us, hanging out with us, and cheering for us. Thank you. ❤

Okay. Enough Oprah. It’s time for me to reveal what I am giving away!!

For me, this year of blogging has been a test of sorts. A test to see if I had it in me to stick with a writing project longer than five minutes here, four seconds there, an hour there…and then nothing for MONTHS. I’ve been fairly busy getting knocked up and having babies…which isn’t full of bon-bon eating and story-watching like it’s hyped up to be. It’s actually hard, mean, rewarding, tricky, exhausting, energy-sucking work. It takes a lot out of me every day…and that’s just getting out of bed. 😉 So to commit to a blog, even one with my sisters who are my most favourite people on earth (besides all of my other favourite people on earth…really gotta work on this list, otherwise my Oscar speech for Best Adapted Screenplay is going to SUCK), was a huge deal for me.

Will I get overwhelmed?

Will I suck at writing because my brain is mush and my babies are sucking me dry in all the ways?

Will I have interesting things to say besides I have babies, babies poop, babies, poop, babies, poop?

Will I hate it?

Will I resent it?

Will I be able to form coherent sentences every single week?

Apparently, no, not so much, not so much, no, no, and sort of! 😉

This blog has let me write about my life in ways I haven’t been able to commit to before. It’s helped me reawaken the part of my brain that is writerly, the part that speaks in narrative and sees everything as it would be described on a page. It has given me the chance to look through my crazy, zany, nutty, chaotic day and find the threads to write about.

It’s made me sit down and write for at least an hour every week. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but when your whole day is usually spent counting down the hours until you get to go back to bed every day, spending solid time, regularly, on writing is a giant gift.

So for me, this blogging year has been about writing again, putting words out there again, and reminding myself that this is the reason I went to the fancy school and got the fancy writing degree and want to be a writer when I grow up (Ha!).

When thinking about what I’d like to give to you, readers of all the words, I immediately thought about giving you MORE words (because I’m classy that way).

I’m giving away a short story collection from my author-hero, Alice Munro. She is so many things to me. She represents a strong, Canadian female author, something I’d like to be considered as. She is a mother of three children and yet still writes. She had her first story published in university and her first short story collection published when she was in her mid-30s. As someone in her mid-30s, this is very encouraging. And she won the freaking Nobel Prize in Literature. She’s incredible. And awesome. And I want to be her. And I love her stories.

The collection I’ve chosen is called Too Much Happiness, a beautiful book full of well-spun stories, and quotes, like, “Always remember that when a man goes out of the room, he leaves everything in it behind… When a woman goes out she carries everything that happened in the room along with her.”

Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro

Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro

I really love this collection. And I love what it represents for me as a writer, a mother, and a Canadian woman. I love all of the things. And I’d like to share it with you! All you have to do is answer this question: What is your favourite book? Or who is your favourite author? 

And thank you, again, for this year. It’s been awesome. ❤

~ Julia

Now we wait

Well, I did it. I submitted my writing for the CBC Short Story Prize. It was a process that involved taking a 7,500-word excerpt and simmering it down to a 1,487-word short story. It is a brick in the path to achieving my dream of being a published novelist. It is wholly exhilarating and terrifying to have my work out there in front of readers and judges and I’m torn between wanting it to get lost on the way to someone’s desk and winning.

What am I saying? I REALLY want to win! 😉

It’s also November, the month of NaNoWriMo, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month, which is actually an international movement of aspiring writers who scribble furiously for the month of November in an attempt to complete a 50,000-word novel.

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

It’s extreme writing, where content doesn’t matter as much as word count, and completion trumps coherence, but at the end of the crazy period you have a novel where before there was none.

Last year alone 310,095 participants in 595 regions in 6 continents wrote furiously, trying to attain the elusive and grinding goal of completing their book.

Is this particular writing process useful or effective?

Some could argue that it’s not, that it doesn’t allow you to think, edit, ruminate, let characters evolve ‘naturally’ and it’s a lot of time spent on writing crap versus spending that time crafting actual art.

Others argue it’s a brilliant exercise, used to strengthen the writing habit by getting you to write every day, by forcing you to jump in with both feet whether or not you’re ready, instead of sliding your idea into the back of the filing cabinet for when you ‘have time,’ and it’s exciting when at the end you’ve finished something. As someone who’s never finished writing a novel and is currently on her fourth year of writing this one, finishing a book sounds divine.

And some NaNoWriMo books actually get published the traditional way, like the bestseller Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen, and one of my favourite and oft-recommended books, The Night Circus by Erin Moregenstern. According to the NaNoWriMo website, there are over 250 books that were written in the dismal month of November under the word-count stress that have been published. That number alone is enough to give hope to anyone willing to put their fingers to the ink-stained grindstone for 30 days (and then countless days revising afterwards).

So will I be NaNoWriMo-ing? Probably not. Because I legitimately don’t have a lot of time and I’m already torn in three bagillion (a real and accurate number, I tell ya!) directions. Because I’m working steadily and at a pace that doesn’t drive my anxiety through the roof. And because I’ve given myself a more realistic goal that has nothing to do with November and everything to do with the end of 2014. My goal is to finish my book, the first, rough, horrible, not-rushed draft of it, by December 31. 

I feel like this will give me time to rework it and massage it and get it ready to be submitted into the big bad world of publishing (it’s only big and bad to me because it’s unknown and terrifying…I’m sure it’s actually lovely and everyone is super friendly and there’s no pressure whatsoever) (YEAH, RIGHT) by the fall of 2015 when I have more babies in school than at home and more time (HA!) than I have right now chasing a preschooler and a toddler during the day. I’m full of hope. And delusions.

But to everyone who is writing away right this second, who is watching their word count climb, but never fast enough, and who are going to question their sanity multiple times over the next few weeks, especially if they take part in the overnighter where, you guessed it, you write through the night into the next day with other like-minded (read: CRAZY) NaNoWriMo-ers: good luck! I wish you high volume and a solid first draft by December 1.

To those who also submitted their short story for the CBC Short Story Prize, also good luck! I hope I win, but I also hope that the right story wins.

Now, to get back to tinkering with my tome of nonsense. Who knows? Maybe four years won’t have been a waste of time.

~ Julia

P.S. Kim asked for an excerpt of my short story and I really wanted to oblige! I was going to publish the whole story here as my post today, but then I reread the contest rules and that would count as my story being published and therefore automatically disqualified. You’ll just have to wait until next year. If I get shortlisted, my story will be published online and I’ll post the link! If I’m not, I’ll send the story to people still interested. Until then…fingers crossed!

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!