Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Praying at the River

I set intentions, review my days, ask for guidance, send love to those I'm thinking of. All things that are prayer. I recognize I am not alone here in my world, and I rely upon that faith. I lean on it when I feel unable to stand on my own two feet. I rely on it to shoulder worries I have no time to nurture (worrying rarely helps, right?). I talk to God, I leave a lot at His feet: Gratitude, hope, wishes, intentions.

It happens all the time. This morning, I felt warm sun during our first morning walk in weeks (it wasn't -30, hooray!), so I turned my face to the sun and offered up a quick prayer of gratitude. I lie in bed at night and before sleep takes over, I try to make sure my last thoughts are spent giving thanks for what happened that day, good and bad. I send prayers for those suffering: fervent, pleading ones, hoping that when things spin out of our control that there is someone else at the helm. I say them during yoga, when I feel immense admiration for the physical body I've been given, thankful for what it allows me to do. I say them when I tuck my sleeping girls into bed, giving them back over to God's watch while I sleep at night.

I also have come to find a few special places where I can sit and feel even closer to God, and it is in these places I ask the hard questions. I rarely get answers, of course, but being in these places gives me peace. In Whitehorse, this place was a clearing on a trail behind my house with a view of the mountains. In this place, I felt small and humble. I asked a lot of tough questions in this spot. Walking with Skylar by my side, I would cry and pray for things that I didn't have the courage to face anywhere else.

Here, that place is the river. I go to it when I need clarity, or at least the peace that comes with surrender. It is especially beautiful in winter, moving water alongside frozen banks in a grayscale landscape. I feel things here that I can cling to when the going gets rough. I celebrate here, and feel assured that small joys are absolutely worth treasuring. I come here to my church, and though the soundtrack is limited to the songs in my head, the sermon is always inspiring. I bring the messages and feelings of peace home with me into my days. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Still hibernating

What is it that travel agents know that I don't? How can they so specifically and accurately know that by the third week of February I am d.o.n.e. with winter? I liked it, it was nice, we tobogganed, we did snow angels, watched the snow fall and hibernated together. Now what? I guess I'm supposed to just keep on winter-ing because it is still blustering snowflakes. Never mind all the Facebook posts of beaches, or my garden plans all arranged in my notebook. There's till winter to be ... enjoyed, I guess is the word?

I am a little tired of winter, but the girls don't yet know about the properties of seasonal effectiveness, so we carry on. We're doing books, forts, painting, stickers, hide-and-go-seek, find things summer has hidden, change clothes for fun and go outside until someone cries about the cold. All fun things for the under-ten crowd. 

In this continued hibernation, though, I have found a nice pocket of creativity. I am writing some good story notes for my northern adventure piece, feeling more inspired with home decor stuff, reading more quality reads (I have just found David Sedaris. How have I just found him?), making some good food to warm us, and doing some quality work on my 'be calm' practice during my days home with the girls. 

Some days, this takes a lot more creativity than others.

Our winter toy: box!
I have also been trying to do more things with each girl on her own, because being cooped up in the house all the time forever winter makes us get on each other's nerves. We aren't at our best, but a little attention goes a long way with the young ladies. Abby and I took a date to Chapter's this morning to pick up some books with her birthday gift card. We stay and talked about our book selections and sipped kid-sized white hot chocolates. A real treat! Now we're home again, she's acting more like herself, and we're all huddled around our new copy of Where's the Poop?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Three years of miracles

Being up in the Yukon last week stirred up a lot of feelings. Of course. So much happened while we lived there. The biggest thing that happened, in terms of what was most transformative, was the birth of Hailey and Robin.

It took 22 months, three failed pregnancies, and 35 weeks of waiting on tenterhooks to get us to that day. I've talked a bit on here about the struggles. It was a big part of our lives. It was really, really dark for me. I went through a time that tried me, exhausted me and put my beliefs through the ringer. It showed me what I was made of, who my friends were, and what it is to grieve. I questioned my faith. I wondered what purpose my suffering served. I opened myself up to the sadness and held onto a thread of hope that one day, I would understand.

It's true what the Barenaked Ladies sang: "Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight." Boy, did we fight. But, we won. The jackpot. 

Hailey and Robin were healthy twin girls born five weeks early, three and four pounds, and so strong and ready that they didn't need any time in a NICU.

I had dinner with our doula, the woman who coached me through my med-free labour and delivery, on my recent trip North. I realized, in talking to her, how that day, their birthday, transformed me. I told her I look at my life as "before them and after them." I looked down and saw their tiny, new faces looking up at me and I believed. I believed in love, in God, in holding onto threads of faith. I got out of my hospital bed a changed woman.

Hailey and Robin arrived and have shown me, ever since, what I am. I survived the wait. I met them and saw my truth. I became a better version of myself. More patient, more open, more giving. People were so kind and supportive to our family when we welcomed the girls, and I took that kindness in with a promise to pay it forward, every chance I had. 

They are miracles.

Watching them grow into themselves is spectacular. There are things about them I saw as small babies that were clues about who they would grow to become. Robin took in beauty, quietly observing and approving. Hailey is a spitfire, squirmy and ready to go places.

Today, we celebrate their third birthday. I will spend the day showering them with special treats and my love and we will gather to honour them. They are remarkable, and I want them to feel that. Then, privately, I will fall to my knees in gratitude and thank what I believe in for bringing me here. Thank God for them. 

Happy birthday, my miracle girls. And thank you. I will spend my life showing you how grateful I am. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Bearing Witness

I can see a lot of things when I look a this picture. It's the Braeburn Lodge, a highway truck stop and gas station on the way out of Whitehorse north to Dawson. It was also a checkpoint for the race last week. Due to the extreme cold, athletes were moving slower than expected, so rather than spend a day here and move onto the next checkpoint, we spent a few days here in the log cabin, eating oversized cinnamon buns and sandwiches, doing interviews, following race progress.

I see my new friend Claudia, from Mexico, being interviewed by the Japanese film crew doing a documentary about the race. I see tired racers refuelling, warming up and strategizing next moves. I see a skidoo guide taking a quick break before going back out to the trail for more rescues. The smells of the beef barley soup linger in my wool scarf and the wood stove smell clings to my parka. I won't soon forget what I saw, heard and felt in Braeburn lodge.

This chance to go up to the Yukon and cover this race was serendipitous. I made it happen, with my story pitch, careful arrangements and planned interviews, but it was also very much a case of stars aligning. I was reminded of that daily, as events bigger than myself transpired. I was not expecting the race experience to manifest they way it did.

It was inspiring: Seeing high level athletes prepare and embark on what is truly one of the world's toughest ultras was magnificent. They are in a league unto their own. I felt electricity in talking with them, watching them arrive at checkpoints, seeing them moving on the trail.

It was humbling: I watched grown men cry and moan as they suffered frostbite and hypothermia. I saw vacant stares on the faces of athletes who accomplished impressive feats but who had truly suffered to arrive.

It was informative: I did a lot of research and interviews beforehand, but bearing witness to race conditions and watching racers continue on when every primal urge told them to stop, was jarring. I was definitely educated by this trip.

I was happily reunited with Johanna for our first professional foray, and it was such a rewarding collaboration. We both focused on our art in challenging new situations and grew as people, for sure. We absolutely seized those days and moments and I can't wait to assemble our work for submission. I can already feel myself becoming a more focused, effective writer in tackling a story of this magnitude.

Coming home, I definitely felt like the Yukon will aways be something I own, and share with others who have called it home for a time. But this is where my people are, and I am happy to crawl into bed with all of my loves laying their heads on pillows in bedrooms next to mine.

Saturday, February 7, 2015


Touching down in Whitehorse was a strange feeling. Not quite a homecoming. I felt a little empty-handed being here without Rich, or my babies. But I definitely teared up seeing the familiar landscape from my airplane seat. Grey mountain, my neighbourhood, the downtown buildings. My old 'hood.

I've been really busy since arriving, with race briefings, interviews, media events, but I absolutely carved out time to go watch the start of the Yukon Quest sled-dog race. It was cold, cold enough that everyone was dressed like I was: beaver mitts, Canadian Goose down jackets (the hefty ones, not the kind Toronto hipsters wear), giant boots. There was so much exhaust from our collective exhales, that a fog floated over the start line.

 The dogs were magnificent, as ever. Raring to go, literally chomping at the bit to get out on the trail.

Another quick meeting, some yoga in my hotel room to stretch out my hips after that flight (cannot promote Air North enough- they fed me hot meals, snacks, and provided Yukon magazines and newspapers for free!), and then off to load up on supplies because tomorrow, we hit the trail.

It's not getting any warmer out there. I can't wait for the race to start tomorrow. After getting to know some of the athletes, I am very aware and humbled by their motivations, and commitment to give the race a go, -40 or colder.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

February Snow Days

A week of cold-cold-cold, with not much extra cash lying around to take the cooped-up girls to indoor play places (remember summertime? and parks? Sigh). I feel pretty maxed-out on my indoor play and activity ideas. Did you know my coffee table doubles as a six-way tunnel system jungle gym? It does!

We've had visits with friends, baked up a storm (bread, brownies and make-ahead meals in the freezer, yay!), done some Valentine's Day prep, watched lots of TV and movies, and gone to bed early as needed, going with this hibernation motif. 

No mid-winter vacation for us, but lucky me- I do get to fly away for a week! By myself! A change of scenery for Rich, from work to home with his crazy girls, playing mama bear (but Daddy-style, of course). I will be flying to a colder place entirely, to tackle my biggest freelancing assignment to date. I'll be covering this totally insane race called the Yukon Arctic Ultra for Explore magazine's winter issue. I'm bringing my beaver mitts, coyote-fur trimmed goose down parka, and some wool, hoping that if I layer myself in as many animals as possible, I may keep warm as I take notes on some amazing athletes. Bonus-- Johanna is along for the ride too, as the photographer for the piece! Stay tuned for some trail adventure stories!

Oooh! A box! Let's paint it!

Meanwhile, another snowfall is making my neighbourhood a picturesque snow globe, and the temperatures are easing up a bit. We can get outside again, yay! I don't know if we'll make it to Winterlude this year, because frankly, keeping the younger three from running off in different directions in large crowds, downtown, during winter, is a feat I don't think I'm equipped to handle.

We'll have to make our own winter fun! Beavertails? Pssht. My girls prefer to eat snow.

Saturday, January 31, 2015


First this week, our youngest little scootyboots turned precisely one and a half (18 months). This means that instead of crying out from her crib at night, she yells, "Mama, mama, maaahm!" like Will Ferrell asking for meatloaf. Being 18 months means she can say a whole bunch of words, and she does, with great frequency and enthusiasm. 

(Can I just interject here and say that hearing my babies say "peeze" and "tay-too" are about the most surefire way to make me stop what I'm doing and swoon over their cuteness.)

She loves trying to keep up with her sisters and demands she be treated as an equal. I am holding on to what's left of her baby-ness by having extra long cuddles in her rocking chair after her naps, just swaying while she slowly rouses. 

After that milestone, our month-long countdown to January 30th crept closer, Abby's 6th birthday. Having a kid who can look so far into the future, building anticipation, is so sweet to see. We sat down together a few weeks ago, and wrote a list of what would make her birthday the best one EVER. I was so touched with her requests: family, friends, cake, breakfast with a candle in it, a message on her bathroom mirror written in soap, and a special bath. What enriching, simple and totally do-able desires! 

She told me she was, "really impressed that you did everything I wanted." Her gratitude was real and that's the warmest kind. We measured her height on her doorframe, where she could see proof positive that she had grown since turning five. I read her birth story and felt her giggle at the part where I said she peed on me after being born. I asked her what she would like to pray for in her year as a six-year-old and she thought, then answered, "lots of love." Rich says that is such a girl answer, but I say that's my sensitive souled-girl, at work setting her priorities. 

As her mama, I can hardly believe I am entrusted with caring for a six-year-old being. What a task! I am constantly studying her, taking notes, and learning from her that I am often left feeling ill-equipped to handle such a huge role. When I look back at things I wrote after she was born, it feels like so long ago. How can six years feel so far away, and also like it just happened? I hardly recognize that rookie of a mama, that young woman who had no idea what was coming. To look at Abby today, growing into herself, I am so full of wonder and humility at being asked to escort her along the way, the best I can. 

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