Superwoman’s Trashed Cape

Personal upheaval is something that happens. It can come as a drizzle of raindrops, or it will come as a deluge of water that will send rivers rising, roads, and highways flooding until homes are submerged in water and are swept away by the current.

The year of 2018 was a year of personal change that came all at once. Some of it was planned: my mother’s move to Ottawa that neither went smoothly or swiftly. I longed to quickly place a checkmark in that box on my to-do list, but it lingered incomplete for several months. Part of the reason for this was that unknown to me at the time, Ottawa was in the midst of a housing crisis that continues to this day.

Today in Ottawa, a small bachelor apartment will cost nine hundred dollars. When I graduated from University over a decade ago, a bachelor cost me close to six hundred dollars. I struggled at the time to pay my rent on a salary that was a little above the poverty line. I don’t know how a person who makes a similar income today can live in this city. Nevertheless, I know our housing crisis isn’t limited to Ottawa; nationally, for years, Toronto and Vancouver have both struggled with the same issue. As well, from reading various news articles, I know it’s become a wide-reaching problem across Canada; and in many other countries such as the United States and in the United Kingdom.

These two obstacles (the move and the housing shortage in Ottawa) were not insurmountable hurdles to overcome. But there was also the new monumental experience of selling my mother’s house.  The endeavor left me terrified, anxious, and frustrated in a sweeping sandstorm of emotions. As well, while I’d coordinated office moves early in my career, the relocation of my mother across hundreds of kilometers left me wide-eyed at night with terror.  I attempted to reassure myself the office moves I’d coordinated had ended, well—relatively smoothly. Surely, if I’d managed those, I could blow the cobwebs out of my brain and figure out how to move my momma to a different city.


It wasn’t easy-peasy though—it was damn hard.

Adding to this flux of tasks, I’d also committed to run a half-marathon at the end of September of that same year. A long time ago, I was a woman that would run, run, and run, and I wouldn’t let anything stop me. Pain in my knee? The solution was physiotherapy. Not enough sleep? Don’t care. I’ve got a training schedule to do! Busy week at work? Fine, I’ll get up extra early and punch out seven kilometers before I jump in the shower and get ready to go to work. Snowstorm? I’ll slip and slide along the packed snow, jump over three-foot snowbanks, and if I encounter a snow wall at an intersection, I’ll climb over it.

I was so dedicated that when my father died in February 2009, I still planned to complete a scheduled half-marathon in May of that year. My last long run of nineteen kilometers occurred on a Tuesday night less than two weeks before the half-marathon.  (Ahem, that is not when your last long run should happen.) I remember the next day well because one of my co-workers looked at me from across the room as she engaged in a conversation with a colleague, stopped mid-sentence, and blurted out in my direction as only telepathic grandmothers have done in the past with these words: “You look tired?”

Yes, I was. But nothing was going to stop me from running that race. Who cares if I missed most of February’s training, due to frequent trips across hundreds of kilometers by car to my hometown, because my dad was hospitalized due to complications from lung cancer? That was no excuse. Or, that’s what I told myself.

Then my adorable, fluffy, chocolate lab tore some ligaments in my shoulder when we were playing ball-ball eight days before my race. It wasn’t his fault, but mine. I didn’t trust him. When I threw the ball, and he bumped it with his chubby black snout, the nose-bump caused the ball-ball to roll a little further away from him. He did what a good Labrador does—he chased it. I hung on to the retractable leash as my thirteen-month fluff-bum Pup tugged and launched me into the air. A second later, I crashed to the ground and landed with a thud on my shoulder. This was followed by a yelp of, “*insert common expletive here that starts with F!*” as an explosive pain swept through my shoulder that caused me to become nauseous and dizzy.

I lumbered towards an unknown neighbor who happened to be on her phone at the time, gave her my husband’s number with instructions to tell him he needed to pick up me, and Mr. I Broke Mommy. Even as I collapsed on the grass and continued to clasp that retractable leash tightly in agony with MIBM’s butt in my face, I already began to plot my next move and reassured myself with: I can still run.

I didn’t run that race though because when I walked, rolled over in bed, tried to reach for anything, the pain would tear through my shoulder and across my back as if someone had stabbed me with a nine-inch blade. That was the first race I ever missed.

Skip to a few years later, when I dropped out of races as a regular occurrence. My top five reasons might include:

  • We really can’t afford to go to Toronto so that I can run (another) half-marathon because one of us is out of a job, and the other person is now under the threat that their position has a ninety percent probability of going the way of the dodo. Pass
  • I can do a Ten Kilometer Race in my sleep. Pass
  • Here in Ottawa, on a frigid February day, it’s snowing. Again. Pass
  • Someone’s dead: mother-in-law, brother, friend… Pass
  • Not feeling it today. Pass

Family and friends called me out on my commitment to sign up for races, and then my non-commitment to actually run them. In response to a few comments made to me, I put my common sense aside and started to run again. This time I would swing back in the other direction. Nothing would stop me from running a race.

When the mercury soared in May 2016 on the day of a scheduled half-marathon, and I’d barely done any training because I’d lost a friend in April, (Hey, what do you want? It’s a daily battle when you lose someone you love.) I laced up my shoes. My husband bounced around me and said, “Maybe, it’s not a good idea? Maybe, you should sit this one out?” With my head held high and a laugh, I pinned my race bib number on my shirt, grabbed my car keys, and headed out the door for my race.

At two kilometers, I was surprised I was already tired. I rationalized with myself it was only another nineteen kilometers and change to go.


At the ten kilometer mark, a bitter taste swept through my mouth as I felt the blood drain from my face. The heat and humidity scorched me that day. I rubbed my hands over my temples in a miserable attempt to smooth out a headache. I brushed the salty sweat from my cheeks. I remember two volunteers stared at me with a smile of pity on their faces as they said, “How are you doing?”

I rolled my shoulders back, straightened my spine, and pushed my legs forward as I hobbled briskly past them with a huff of, “I’m doing fine!” I ran as fast as I could (I believe the tortoise past me) before the volunteers had a chance to call the paramedics and yank me from the course.

I did not die that day. You would think I would have learned something. I did not.

I should have dropped out of that scheduled race in September 2018. Truth is, the echoed words of the Quitter Ghost I was, haunted me. As well, I never completed a “sanity check” on tackling a new goal because my mind was already too busy problem-solving while I folded laundry, drove, bought groceries, and—on training runs.

The first day I ran and fell on my face (literally), it was post-appointment with my Cardiologist in May 2018. I was angry with him because I’d spent six months worried about my heart, received a couple of conflicting test results that he explained as “inaccurate,” and then he announced, “Enjoy your summer.”  The implied meaning: Stop worrying. You’re all good.

I decided on that run the Cardiologist was partly right: because I had low blood pressure and normal cholesterol levels, I wasn’t a candidate for heart disease. However, I also realized that if he’d missed something, I needed to fix my eating and exercise habits.  At that very moment, I decided running was no longer an “optional” hobby—it was a requirement for my health.

Then after I made that decision, I stumbled over my feet at my six-hour marathon pace. My body leaned forward. I wobbled. In a final, brave attempt to protect myself, I stretched both hands out as this thought surged through my brain: Holy sh*t! This is going to hurt!

I hit the paved road and skidded. My sunglasses flew off my face and fell ten feet from where the rest of me landed. Finally, the right side of my forehead smacked against the concrete. Pain ricocheted to my neck. Blood poured from both knees and elbows. Chunks of gravel that were mixed in on the road tore a piece of skin off my palm, and it flopped around. I did what any reasonable adult would do—I pushed on the loose skin. It bled. It also—hurt like hell.

That was the first time I fell down on a training run. It was mid-May.

Not long after, my hubby and I faced new problems. We went to have dinner one night with my husband’s father and noticed a yellow tinge coated his skin and the whites of his eyes. My husband and I blinked at him. He was jaundice and had failed to see it. A few months later, my father-in-law would be diagnosed with bile duct cancer—an aggressive and rare form of the disease.

Around the end of July, while my brain worked on moving around all the pieces of my puzzling life, I stumbled again on a training run. I managed not to hit my head on the pavement. But those barely healed elbows and knees dripped with crimson again. As I peeled myself off the road at a three-way intersection and limped away, I muttered for a bit, before I threw my head back and erupted into snorts of laughter. I decided at that moment that if there were a third fall, I might not be so lucky. Once I was home, and after I tended to my bleeding bits, I transferred to the Ten Kilometer Race.

It took two falls for me to realize that I may have over-committed myself to that half-marathon. Yet, throughout the final part of 2018 and the beginning of 2019, I still missed the bigger picture.

My pace sped up to supersonic speed as I attempted to help my mother settle into a new city; support my husband after my father-in-law passed away following an operation meant to extend his life a little, ended up taking it instead; walk that same tendon-pulling lab on at least two walks a day; keep our house tidy so luggage-packing vermin don’t make it their new “home”; work on my writing; meet with my friends so they know they’re important to me; maintain some level of exercise, and on, and on it went….

I tried to keep the pace up by multitasking more often, by doing three or four things at once as opposed to just two, by getting less sleep—by using every second of the day as efficiently as I could. My body in response to this non-stop to-do list responded: I would get chest pains and tightness in my throat when I thought about being late for work; my left eye twitched at random times; when I forgot to do something I would (or wanted to) cry; when I sat down to write, my stories were littered with run-on and incomplete sentences, common spelling mistakes, and I struggled to remember how to spell simple words. One evening when I attempted to write a query letter to a literary agent, I blinked at my monitor after I typed the word quankered.  I shook my head in frustration. I googled the word, but it took some time because I didn’t even have the first letter right.

The word I meant to type was—CONQUERED.

I realized something in the summer of 2019: I couldn’t do it all.

I know some people will say they can do more than me, and they don’t understand what my issue is. Some will also say, “I need to employ better time-management skills.”

Those people are correct. 

What I also know is that I need to make choices. Decisions, that are neither easy or ones without consequences. Some of the changes in my life revolve around applying better “time-management skills”; others require me to be more assertive and say, “Sorry, I just can’t do it.”

In the fall of 2019, the most significant decision I made was to leave my full-time position. For me, I realized that after eight years of working full-time and writing on the side, I couldn’t do both anymore. If I wanted to improve in my craft I needed to take courses, commit more time to edits, market my blog, attend writing conferences, create more short stories, and build other manuscripts. I already didn’t have the time to do the things I had to do. Where would I find the hours needed to do all the other tasks that would allow me the smallest chance of success in a very competitive industry?

There’s no guarantee of success. I know that. But, dropping down to one full-time job was the right decision for me at this point in my life. I’m one hundred percent certain of my choice for this reason: This Superwoman’s tired—and that’s why I’ve decided—to trash my cape.

This Is Not Me = Go Pug, Polar Plunging & Paintball Welts (Repost)

Repost from my first blog Pushing Boundaries (slightly edited) that ran from 2016-2017. At the time when I worked on completing the “challenges”, it was stressful and exhausting. Now that several years have passed, I look back at that time fondly. This blog post was written, I believe in July/August 2017, best encapsulates what I learned about myself while I completed Pushing Boundaries.

Good times.


This Is Not Me = Go Pug, Polar Plunging & Paintball Welts

If you look to a well-manicured lawn and garden, you will see the calmness of emerald-green grass while appreciating the beauty of flowers that burst with color. Flowers that may include any number of red roses, purple chrysanthemums, pink and red peonies, white or orange lilies, to the far off and most of the time separated—blue hydrangea.

Underneath the grass and around the flowers, you will find the odd weed that grows. To those that are merely passing by, they may not notice. But for the conscious gardener who tirelessly works to keep it flawless, it’s all they see.

I began a blog called Pushing Boundaries in October 2016 with a commitment of spending half the year completing a change. This worked out to roughly four changes per week, and by the end of the blog, I expected to reach 186 changes.

At first, it was invigorating when I woke each day and considered what the next “change” or “challenge” would be. Should I swap my daily earl grey tea for coffee? (Yes, I did it a few times. And overall, I seldom enjoyed the experience.) When Halloween crept up on me in October, I forfeited the old reliable witch/ghost ensemble that I donned throughout my grade-school years and did something completely different: enter the PUG. Did I try the limited-time offered Tuxedo drinks that Starbucks featured at the beginning of this year? Yes. Eat seaweed salad?  (Yes—and NEVER again.) In February when the wind howled, and snow and ice crunched beneath my feet, did I spend one evening painting my nails red in Kingston, ON and the next morning curling my hair to best impersonate a flapper girl from the 1920’s so I could dive into Lake Ontario for the Polar Plunge? (Yes! It was fun. TBD if I will do it again.) Did I climb all 1,776 stairs of the CN Tower? (Yes, and more importantly, I did not die!)  Wear purple nail polish? (Yes.) For me, the list was endless….

I am vanilla: Otherwise, known as Routine Girl. But I don’t enjoy the routine most of the time. I like to believe that I have imagination and inclination to do different things—to live on the wilder side. (Although, perhaps, not that far on the wilder side.) The problem with me is that I become complacent with life; opportunities that are at my fingertips waste away as I fail to commit the time, money, and energy to make them happen even when they cross my mind, sometimes, repeatedly.

Life is challenging with new jobs, financial concerns, and most catastrophically—facing either your own health concerns or the health concerns of those you love. In the past, when I’ve lost someone I loved, I felt as if I were standing alone in a desert waiting for someone to arrive; or, for something magical to happen that would transport me away from it all. In front of me, there was nothing but a sea of endless yellow sand that when it was carried on the wind, it would whip against my face stinging my skin. To me, it felt that impossibly lonely, that empty.

But what I didn’t realize is that if I turned around and looked in any direction, there were cities that surrounded me that bustled with life; friends and family that I could chat with or hang out with, new foods to try, people to meet, and new adventures that awaited me.  All that I needed to do was to turn my head and start moving again in one of those directions.

I lost two people I loved very much in less than three years. Both of them were 42 years old when they passed. In September 2016, I turned 42 years old. I started Pushing Boundaries in October of that same year.

I don’t know if the blog was tied to the number 42. I’ve always had a sense that time was ephemeral: that whatever you planned to do, do it now because there are no guarantees of what tomorrow will bring. For me, Pushing Boundaries may have been my answer to ensure that I didn’t stop living. It forced me to continue to move in some direction.

Living life to the fullest is a cliché. But we keep clichés around and use them sometimes ad nauseam because they are true. Pushing Boundaries has helped me to continue to enjoy all that life has to offer, sometimes reluctantly. It forced me to get outside and try new things: restaurants, food, or to attempt a physical challenge that I’ve never done before such as the Polar Plunge or the CN Tower Climb. The blog forced me to revaluate things that I decided a long time ago I disliked (e.g., coffee), and make an attempt to try them again to see if my taste buds evolved. (Answer: Overall, I still hate coffee. Mostly.)

I open the blog with this:

“Change happens. It can be chaotic, but it helps you expand your mind and shapes the person you will become.”

I stand behind that statement to this day. But the other thing change does: it gives you heart palpitations in both the literal and physical sense.  After a few months, I found myself waking up at 3:00 AM, worrying about what four changes I would be tackling that week. Blonde hair? Wear make-up for 30 days in a row?  Streaking 21 days straight? (Ahem, that’s running 2 KM for 21 days; NOT running naked through the streets for 21 days.)

The stress of coming up with four changes per week was exhausting. Also, I found that some challenges required me to do them longer than one day. Cumulatively, this meant I could already be participating in several changes before adding new ones. For example, at one point, I had blonde hair, was wearing make-up every day, and I was also eating and drinking things that I didn’t want to consume. The blog, Pushing Boundaries, I started to help me become less bound by routine—started to constrain me more tightly.

And I missed my routine. I missed having time to sit and read a book without worrying about how long it would take me; to inhale the aroma of that first cup of tea and enjoy each sip without feeling guilty that I wasn’t trying some other beverage; I missed running when I wanted to run and exercise in general. I missed the routine and the calmness of knowing what was coming next.

A few months ago, I decided to scale back the blog posts. I no longer held to the requirement that I had to complete four changes in one week. In truth, I decided that to try to reach 186 changes in one year was too many.  I needed time to breathe, to savor, do chores, to go to work, and to visit with family and friends without worrying about what my next blog post would be, or when I would write it.

I made another change on Pushing Boundaries. Did I feel bad? Yes. Did I feel like a failure at not meeting the challenge, I built? Absolutely. But I knew I needed to take a step backward, to regroup, and make time to do the more significant challenges that I wanted to do. To be more selective about what I was changing.

At the time I write this, the last “change” I did was paintball. It was a steamy, July 22nd  day when that finally happened a few weeks ago. I went with my hubby and friends, and we received our instructions, pulled the paintball suit up, and yanked down the mask that suffocated us in the scorching heat and sun.

I never played paintball before and was warned that when I got hit by a paintball, bruising might occur.  The very first ball that hit me exploded in a shooting pain through my upper thigh. It was excruciating. So much so that a few days after the event, new bruises appeared where I hadn’t even noticed I got hit. That first direct hit was the one that stayed with me. Despite the pain, I loved paintball. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

I learned some things about myself that day. More importantly, I’ve learned a lot about myself over the last 9 months while writing Pushing Boundaries. I’m not a gardener, never have been, never will be. (I used Google to look up each one of the names of those flowers at the beginning of this post and selected images, so I knew what the flower looked like.)   With my garden, I do what needs to be done so I can step back and say, that’s ok now.  But even I know the grass needs to be cut, flowers need to be planted, and weeds need to be pulled.

I need to tend to relationships, savor meals and drinks, enjoy conversations with family and friends; while also making time for adventure. After all, there are only two months left for Pushing Boundaries—bowling, laser tag, and indoor skydiving still awaits me. My life is this messed up bit of craziness—and I love every piece of it.

When I Was A Little Girl…

My playground was one hundred acres of overgrown fields that consisted of dandelions and various other types of weeds. I don’t know the names of them and would be remiss if I tried to name them in this blog post because at the time, I had no idea what they were called. But they were a splendid array of colours and many of them were long enough that when I wore shorts, the long yellow weeds scratched at my legs. Another issue is that I would clumsily trip over them.  With these impediments in mind, I would most of the time, slowly move across the fields. On the outskirts of the property line, green forests could be seen.

If the fields were not bad enough, on occasion, I would attempt to enter the forest. Very few memories are of the woods because the rare times I did try, I would be blooded from thorns that tore at my bare legs and arms. The woods were gated by hand-holding trees, vines, and shrubs that conspired together and were so tightly intertwined it was difficult to see where one plant ended and another began.  I was forbidden from entering by nature. Trespassers would be punished. If there was a secret code or pathway, that would grant me access to enter the hidden realm, no one ever told me.

I daydreamed a lot as a child, and as a writer now, I guess I still do. I would daydream that I was the third person on my favorite show, Voyagers, and would help with the task of setting time right with Phineas Bogg and Jeffrey Jones. (Full disclosure: I had to Google the show for the names of the characters.) I was smart too, just like Jeffrey, and the three of us worked as a team to correct historical timelines.

Penny! Get me a spoon! Grandma said from the garage where she cooked.

I craned my neck and turned to the sound. My finger reached over and flipped the switch of the vacuum cleaner and it hummed to quietness as the motor turned off.

I walked to the drawer that contained over a dozen glistening spoons. I grabbed one. Then I placed it back in the drawer. I doubted myself. Did she want a normal spoon? Or maybe it was a ladle? 

Something grandma said to me when I was in the middle of washing her stairs one day, early on in my life, stayed with me forever. The words she said were these: You have to keep a clean house and cook, in order to keep a husband. 

I tried to argue and retorted: If I get married, he’ll love me anyways.  

I remember her lips turned downwards. She grunted and dismissed my argument.

Penny! Grandma’s impatient voice came again from the kitchen.

I reached into several drawers and scooped up different types of spoons in the hopes that one of them was the right one. I ran in the direction of the garage and Grandma’s impatient voice.

Post-tip from Grandma of: “Keep a clean house and keep a husband”, I decided early on that I would work for myself. I would work hard at school and have a career. If I was able to support myself, there would be no need for a husband.

I disagreed with Grandma on her viewpoint regarding women, and the main role females should play in the world.  But my Grandma was born around 1920 (she never knew with absolute certainty her date of birth) lost her mother at two-years-old to tuberculosis, and her father left her with an aunt to be raised. She never saw her father again. At seven years old, my grandmother told me she started to do chores. (It was around seven years old, that I also started to help my grandmother clean her house.) Grandma had old world ideas from, well, the old world.

But she taught me this: WORK HARD.

As for the husband thing, I am married AND I am a VERY delinquent meal-maker. Yet for some reason, my husband sticks around. Grandma and I are different people. While the lesson she hoped to teach me fell on deaf ears, she played a different role in shaping me to become the person I am today.

Embrace Differences

I love to travel. Why you ask? Is it the cramped airplane seats where if the person in front of me drops their seat too far back, their head is almost resting on my lap? Is it because of the free pretzels the flight attendant whips at me as a snack during the flight? Or perhaps, it’s the dry air that saps all the moisture from my hair and face no matter how little time I’m stuck in the winged aluminum can?

It’s none of those things.

It’s the food, the landscape, learning about the history, and the people who live there. For me it’s seeing how other people live: that small window that is raised where I get a momentary glimpse as a visitor of how other people’s lives in countries differ from my own.

I’ve had watermelon juice in India for breakfast (yummy!), boiled potatoes in Portugal, pastries in France for breakfast (dessert for breakfast would never be a problem for me!), dried cod in Iceland (not for me), and cheese pie in the AM before I boarded a returning flight home after visiting relatives in Greece.  Breathtaking landscapes can be found everywhere whether that’s Vic in Iceland (bring your Parka!), The Adirondacks in New York State, or the pristine and protected beaches in Ocracoke, North Carolina.

The food and landscapes make things interesting for me. But the history of a country provides the framework for understanding the people who reside there. Before I visited Portugal, I had no idea they had an earthquake that destroyed most of Lisbon in the mid 1700’s.  When we were there, you could clearly see the division between the old part and the new part of the city that was rebuilt.

It was also in Iceland on a bus tour that I learned there were 70 active volcanoes on the island. Sure, I knew about the geysers and that much of the island is fueled by thermal energy. But I had no idea how extensive the volcano system was in Iceland. Suddenly it was clear as to why before we travelled there, a volcano had erupted (Bardarbunga) that resulted in part of the island being closed to visitors.  A few years earlier, a volcano had gone off in Iceland creating chaos at European airports that resulted in delayed and cancelled flights throughout the continent. We mistakenly believed an eruption was not likely while we planned our trip because one had recently occurred. We were wrong and found out only after we purchased our tickets. We still went – but some sites were closed to visitors.

I was surprised the first time I visited London, England as I had been told that the “Brits” tended to be unfriendly and cold. I was perplexed when, for my husband and I, this was not our experience. We found Britons were right from the start, willing to talk to us. We had a lengthy conversation with a cab driver on the way in to the city from the airport who told us many details about the city. Years later when we travelled there again and made a failed attempt with our Oyster Cards to get through the gates to the tube, several people stopped to help us figure out whether we needed to tap or swipe the cards even though they themselves were attempting to make trains to their destinations.

I travelled to India for work more than a decade ago, and I had never felt so protected and well taken care of by people I had never met before. The company I worked with provided a car to pick me up at the airport and my co-workers called me the first day I arrived to ensure I had everything I needed at the hotel. (I had travelled for more than 24 hours, so what they got was probably a disjointed, garbled conversation because I was napping.) Their phone call alone, probably doesn’t seem exceptional.

But it was a Saturday when I arrived in India. The other purpose for that first call was to make a plan as to what I wanted to do the next day. Yes, you read that right: A SUNDAY.  Two women from the Finance section of the company willingly gave up their Sunday. And their commitment to me wasn’t simply a little breakfast and a toss back to my room; no, they spent the full day with me showing me their city, taking me to the market, helping me negotiate prices to purchase some souvenirs, and then took me to lunch. At one point as we passed a river, one of my colleagues turned and pointed in the direction of what looked like a canyon and said, “That was a river.” I was surprised by this as I had never noticed so clearly the impact of global warming.

When my husband and I travelled to Philadelphia, we saw the Liberty Bell. But what I remember most of that trip was a re-enacted lecture we saw at one of the sites. I don’t remember where it was, or the name of it as it was several years ago. But it was a showcase of American History and touched on the American Revolution, the War of 1812 between Canada and the United States, and the American Civil War. The lecture was not one of the grandness of America but it was about the hard fought rights of liberty and democracy – and the ongoing fight for liberty for all that continued hundreds of years later for Native Americans, to abolish slavery, and with the Civil Rights Movement. Their was honesty within the history lesson that’s stayed with me years later.

I’m not an American. I’m a Canadian. But as I left the auditorium the building blocks of America swept through my mind and I felt misty eyed and tired on behalf of my neighbours.  Because they have a long and complicated history, with many hard won battles, and their people continue to fight for the ideals of freedom.

With each country I travel to, I find many people are typically keen to stop and help a visiting stranger in providing directions, offering advice, or starting a conversation with a stranger who is travelling alone so they’re not so lonely. We are different. But in many ways we are also the same. The differences shouldn’t separate us. It offers us the opportunity to share and to learn from one another.  That’s what makes this, “A Wonderful World.”

Crossing the NY Finish Line

20180727_070411My feet hit the pavement in slow motion as a red-pink sunrise greets me. Each one of my foot strikes is slower than I want it to be. Like the sun rising above me, I take my time in getting started.

But that’s not always a bad thing. What other creature wakes up to a screeching alarm clock and hits the ground running right from the start? I know my brown, furry, four-legged friend begins each day like this: with his bum in the air and paws outstretched, he’ll effortlessly complete a perfect Downward-Facing dog pose. Then he yawns. No one can rush him.

Why can’t I be more like him?

I berate myself on a daily, if not an hourly basis. Why am I not a faster runner?  Why can’t I put the fork down? I probably wouldn’t need to hit the gym and the road nearly as often if I didn’t eat so much yesterday, the day before that, or on weekends.  Clearly, I have a problem with food.

Why don’t I dress better? Why don’t I learn how to speak French? Or, why not learn Italian? Why don’t I spend more time with my friends? Why don’t I share more with friends?  Why? Then with all the unrelenting questions spinning in my mind, I find myself hating me and running. Definitely – hating me running.   

Finally, I turn a bend. I’m being followed.  Who’s there?

Oh, it’s only you. Memories of what’s already happened: Dad’s death at sixty-three years old from lung cancer.  Damn it. I’ve been here before.  I know this road. I’m running down a dead end street with no other options to change direction.

I breathe hard. Here it comes: those terrible news clips that are replayed about losses that I’ve suffered. I hear myself hyperventilating.  Excellent.  Now, I can’t breathe. I stop to walk it out. In my brain I rationalize, I’m just having laboured breathing because of unknown allergens in the air. That’s it. Or, so I tell myself.  What’s that I feel on my face?  My eyes fill up with tears and burst along the sides of my cheeks like a waterfall. I feel my lower lip quiver. I can’t stop it from happening.

What will my neighbours think? Today, I have poorly chosen to run in my neighbourhood. It seemed like a good idea when I started.  If someone sees me that I know, they will think I’ve left my mind two blocks back. I pause for a moment and wonder:  maybe I should go back and get it? Nope, my inner voice reminds me.  I lost it a long time ago.

I rage against my history, fighting, to pick up the pace. With every footprint left on the road, I am dragged down by the quicksand in my mind. Here it comes: my brother’s accident. STOP IT. A random accident that could have turned out worse: but I can’t help but question, why not better?

I slow down, slithering back to my house, defeated. I am sobbing and hyperventilating. I hold my hand over my tummy clutching it in an effort to try to force myself to stay in an upright position.  Please, let me make it home.  Don’t let me end up lying in the fetal position at the side of the road, only to be found by a kind-hearted passerby who will immediately call 911 because they believe I am injured. The next day’s headlines would read:



Why do I try to run?  Why don’t I just give up?


November 6th, 2011

The sun is breaking over the horizon in New York. The air is crisp and cold and it awakens my senses. But it’s not just the air that has my adrenaline pumping: it’s also because today is RACE DAY.

The sun rises a little more over the horizon, and my mind uses the light in front of me to review what I’ve done. Or maybe, dwells more on what I haven’t done.

SHIT. HILLS. How did I not realize there were hills in New York?  But there are no hills in New York. Right. They have bridges. A dedicated marathon friend of mine informed me just days before the NY Marathon. See, he prepares, and knows what to expect. I, on the other hand,  prepar-ish.   I think to myself, should I have done hill training?

Oh well, nothing can be done now. You did most of the work. Run. Ice bath. Physiotherapy. Massage. Repeat.  You’ve done the work. Just enjoy the race.

As our bus arrives at Staten Island the bus finally stops and we step outside. The air is brisk. But the weather forecast predicts a high of 21 degrees and that’s quite warm for New York in early November.  And it’s nice weather to run in. I’ll take it.

After more than four hours of waiting, walking, stretching, chatting, and sitting (oh and taking those last minute bathroom breaks!) we are finally in our corrals. The announcer enthusiastically states it is the largest New York City Marathon, with 47,000 runners. A little later, Frank Sinatra’s, “New York, New York” echoes everywhere. Sometime later, my corral is finally released and we set off on the marathon route.

I start to run, running, then, I’M FLYING.  Well, flying while taking intermittent walk breaks. I do things at my own pace.  But the advantage is by doing my run slowly, I get to take it all in. The crowds of people cheer, and clap, and line the streets waiting for us. Music rumbles through the roads. They encourage us, hand out food, and remind us that we’re one percent of the population that will ever complete a marathon. And they’re there, for us. Even the slow pokes like me. The back-of-the-packers who have the slimmest of hopes of finishing the five Burroughs run in less than six hours. When we enter Brooklyn, a big man, with a gruff Brooklyn accent says to us, “Welcome to Brooklyn!


Throngs of people line the streets through Manhattan and as we turn a bend we enter Central Park.  I secretly wonder, how long have these people been out here? Did the mayor of New York create a schedule for the people of New York instructing each person as to when they should appear to ensure there was always sufficient support along the marathon route?

No, it couldn’t be.  The enthusiasm was genuine. The energy given off by the crowds could not be scheduled or rehearsed. It was a five Burroughs block party.

As I pushed onwards towards the finish line, I went down that haunted road that follows me. It starts off innocently enough with me reminiscing about 2008. As luck would have it, 2008 would be the first year that I didn’t make it in to the New York City Marathon. See, if you’re slow like me, there’s only one way to gain entry and that’s by applying and hoping, to be randomly selected through the lottery system. Of course, if I applied three years in a row, I was guaranteed entrance in the fourth year. Who says perseverance doesn’t pay?

But other things happened in the fall of 2008.  It’s a trigger you see. The year matters. In the fall of 2008, my husband was laid off. Two weeks later doctors found the “shadow” on my father’s lung, and a couple of months later my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer.  Of course, in Feb 2009 my father succumbed to pneumonia.

Then, I’m back in January 2010. Hubby and I are at a local pub called, D’Arcy McGee’s. It was a spontaneous suggestion on my part brought on by a wish for fish and chips. In between mouthfuls of deep fried haddock and French fries, I declare to my husband with utmost confidence, “I think I’m turning a corner.” The overwhelming, penetrating, grief of my father’s death was starting to lessen. Finally, I thought, I think I’ll be alright.


The next day I was clubbed.  My mother called in the early morning on Saturday to say my brother had an accident and he had surgery overnight. He was recovering in the Intensive Care Unit of the Hospital.  He had an accident while working on a construction job that changed his life forever.

I snap myself back to the present day.  Am I hyperventilating a few hundred meters from the finish line?  Now, I’m walking.

No, this is not happening. Not here. Not now. I’ve worked too hard.

With new found determination I push forward, forcing back the memories with each footprint. Timing is everything. I know that. I wouldn’t have been ready in those three years. Stumbling, one foot in front of the other, in a sloth-mode-walk each day to work was challenging enough.

I feel my arms reach towards the sky as I cross the line where above me is written the word – FINISH.  A picture taken shortly after the race shows me proudly wearing my medal. My eyes glisten. I wear a smile so wide that on the right side of my forehead a blood vessel protrudes above my eyebrow.

Sometimes it’s best to let fate take its course. You can cry as much as you want about the unfairness of life, but life may have other plans for you. And sometimes, something you want so desperately isn’t meant to be, at least, not right now. So, you wait, for another day, when you have warm weather, sunny skies, and long lines of crowds cheering you on.



The company Clinique offers the following two scents: Happy and Happy to Be.

My pointed elbows swinging around in my haste to get ready one morning, I bump Happy off the counter and watch as he topples off, onto my square-tiled ceramic bathroom floor. In the few seconds before impact, I secretly pray that Happy might make it.  Maybe, the bottle won’t break. Catastrophe averted, I will smile and think: yeah, how lucky am I?

The glass smacks to the floor and I watch as the bottle splinters into a jigsaw puzzle of bits of smaller and larger pieces.     

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

Sadly, Happy to Be suffered a similar fate months earlier.  

The overwhelming scent of too much Happy burns my olfactory senses, smothering me.

I see my reflection in the bathroom mirror. Lines cross my forehead, laugh lines flatten, nostrils burn, eyes run cold with this thought:  I’m not even allowed to own a bottle of perfume called Happy!  I am pissed with the irony of it all.

This reckoning causes the image in the mirror to begin another transformation. A new set of lines map a different network on my face. I break into pieces like Happy, scattered at my feet. I can’t watch it happen and for my own protection; my head falls forward avoiding my reflection.

I sob, wishing for happiness instead.     


First published in The Commonline Journal.

Some of My Favorite Things

Memories of my life drift in my mind like the snow that spirals along sidewalks, roads, and that dances on rooftops. It’s odd the moments that I remember fondly, and the ones you think I would, I can barely recall.

It seems what I should remember are the highlights: graduating from University, or getting married.  But while these were important pivotal moments, they are nothing in comparison to the time my father skipped work (he worked almost every day of the week) to take my brother and I tobogganing. Dressed in snowsuits we climbed up a hill located in Fonthill, ON  and then flew down again on a wooden toboggan. It was special to me, because it was such a rare event.

Or the very first time my Mom and I paid $2 to see Casper in theater.  When we drove back home I looked over at my mother who was giddy from the experience and recounted the story and how wonderful it was with a smile spread across her face. I believe the last movie she saw in theaters up to that moment was Love Story.

Then there was a Valentine’s Day where I was still stinging from the pain of my father dying when I felt isolated and alone, even though I wasn’t. My husband and I had driven to a small town called Merrickville that’s about 45 minutes from Ottawa.  A picturesque and quaint town that bustles with tiny shops and restaurants we make our way there a couple of times a year, in a quest to purchase the most delicious and diverse selection of fudge that my palate has ever had the joy to experience.

After we made our purchase we found a quiet little restaurant called the, Yellow Canoe and had soup and a half-sandwich. There was something about the quietness, the smallness, the gentleness of the place that suddenly made me feel reflective of the moment, and I realized how grateful I was to be there with my ever-supportive husband.

My husband had not purchased long-stemmed roses for me, or written a poem describing me as a wonderful Wonder Woman. It was hot soup and half-sandwich. And it was beautiful. Even though I’m fairly certain I cried a couple of times as I talked about missing my Dad, it sticks out in my memory as by far, my favorite Valentine’s Day.

Finally, there was the time I got my favorite birthday present. It didn’t come wrapped in gold lined wrapping paper with dazzling diamonds embedded in it.  It didn’t come from Canada Post, or UPS. It wasn’t something that was purchased at the store, or something that someone spent many anxious nights racing to finish in time to complete by a specific date.

It came in the format of an email, and with a click of a mouse, I saw a few words written…It was a wish from my brother for a happy birthday with a few additional words written about how much he loved me.

My brother rarely remembered my birthday and when he did, would send his wishes late. The fact that he remembered on the right date even though he was facing so many challenges in his own life, and with his note of love included, it made it even more special.

At this time of year, I’m reminded of the simple experiences and gifts that have made my life exceptional. It is the rare and golden moments I’ve shared with family and friends that have brightened my life. On the eve of Christmas I will keep this in the forefront of my mind as I remember what Christmas should mean to me.