Fall and the flu.


I used to be sublimely healthy. And like those who rarely get colds or flus, blithely smug. I would dance through November, with the odd cold but nothing that really warranted any kind of intervention. I was sympathetic to my colleagues who got sick, making them tea and doing runs for cough drops, but it was sympathy, not empathy. No flu sick days for this girl, no sir. Lots of veggies, daily multivitamins, and exercise fairly regularly…a regular textbook case of glowing, gleaming, healthy health.. (I know. I can hear someone in the back retching a little bit. Don’t worry. Comeuppance approacheth).

And then we had our first baby. And now I sit here, coughing like a ten year smoker and sounding like Burl Ives. I spent the holiday weekend sick. Kleenex is making a record profit from my nose. And not much has changed…the veggies, exercise and vitamins are a regular part of the routine. The X factor is Baby K. Or Toddler K, now, I guess.

See, here’s the thing. Babies and toddlers are superior incubators of disease…adults, generally speaking, don’t tend to put their fingers in your mouth. Or wipe their hands on your shirt. Or throw up on you (most of the time, bar stars notwithstanding). Suddenly, all of these things are your new normal. And when your little angel gets sick, it becomes practically impossible to not get it. And then they go to daycare or school or play group and they sit around in a circle with their tiny buddies in their dinosaur boots and their Winnie-the-Pooh hoodies, plotting for cookies and scheming to swap cooties to bring home to loving, well-meaning Moms and Dads everywhere.

So now I’m that colleague that I used to sympathise with but roll my eyes slightly about.

Anyone have any suggestions on how to quell the stem of child-spread disease around the house, other than the obvious? Send them my way!

In the meantime…excuse me. I’m out of Kleenex.

Blissdom – seeking validation and finding it

Blissdom photo frame

My goals were fairly simple: to learn some new techy stuff, meet some new people, get an idea of how brands worked with bloggers, and see how one makes blogging into a career. I’ve done all of those things and more.

Flying across the country to meet 500 people you’ve never met. Spending $1200 in conference fees, hotel and airfare to do so. With no real idea of how it’s going to turn out. This is the thing that some people’s nightmares are made of. And even I found myself slightly uncertain at the idea of walking into a huge ballroom where I knew a grand total of NO ONE. (Those of you who know me are aware that I am prone to bringing people along in my wake…I have no fears of approaching strangers and work with the assumption that they’re going to be awesome and interesting. They generally are). My innate confidence is apparently not foolproof. Don’t declare it from the rooftops, though…you’ll ruin my rep!

Blissdom, for those of you not following along at home (or on Twitter, #Blissdomca), is Canada’s biggest social media conference. As a new blogger, it was my first time here, and the prospect of 500 people I’d never met was a little daunting, even for me. As they say, though (who is ‘they’? No idea!), if it’s scary (and not unsafe!), it probably means you should give it a shot.

So I landed in Toronto to go to Blissdom. The immediate steps were easy. Find shuttle (thank you Chevrolet!). Check in. Put luggage down and bask in having a hotel room all to myself, which NEVER happens.  And then I wandered down to the lobby in search of the welcome event… found myself standing off to the side, wondering which ballroom it was in and fighting an unexpected urge to cry like an eighth grade girl. There was another woman standing off to the side, texting, and I weighed approaching the group laughing and talking in the hotel bar. So I took a deep breath, turned to the woman texting and said “What do you think? Should  I have dinner by myself, or should I attempt to gatecrash someone’s dinner party?”

She laughed. And we spontaneously agreed to start a newcomer’s club. And so Lesley and I went off together to forge the frontier of bloggers.

Moments that stood out:

*lunch, both days. Day 1 was hosted by McDonald’s. I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure how that was going to go. Turned out to be veggie wraps with tortilla chip strips and ranch sauce. All real food, and genuinely delicious. I was completely impressed (and I will acknowledge, very pleasantly surprised!). Day 2 was sponsored by the Lentils Canada. Did you know that you can make the most mouth watering spiced lentil pumpkin cake? I KNOW. I now have a slightly overwhelming craving for lentil soup. Please stay tuned while I go off and hunt down a recipe to make later.

liz and I

*the immediate camaraderie that sprung up with several bloggers I hadn’t met. The talented doll-making Jessica, or the dancing queen Astra. I met Natalie, whose blog I’ve read for quite awhile. Turns out she works in the same industry and we got a chance to talk shop. I learned about baking from Liz, and met the adorable baby belonging to Jac. There were so many amazing people that I can’t even begin to list them all – it feels a bit like an Oscar speech. It was also an opportunity to see a small slice of someone else’s life that is so rare in these screen-filled times. I had never envisioned how isolating it must be to have a child with special needs until an intense conversation about it where someone told me she felt that leaving her daughter with a babysitter was unfair, not to the child, but to the babysitter, who wasn’t equipped to deal with those intense needs. A little window of someone else’s challenges can be enormously illuminating when looking at your own.

*goodies! I got to try products that I’d never tried before and some of them were amazing! I came home with literally a duffel bag of new things – exciting!

*one of the speakers was the head of Twitter Canada – and I *finally* understand Twitter and what it does and why! And that alone was worth the trek.

*the incredible sense of freedom that comes with knowing no one and being able to reinvent yourself. You see yourself through new eyes when you’re meeting people who have no idea of what you ‘usually’ do or your regular schedule. There’s a freedom in being able to wander up to your room and have a nap in the middle of the day or go to bed at 10 when you’re normally up until the wee hours. There are no preconceptions of what choices you’ll make or who you are as a person, and that’s really really cool. And to others, you recognize qualities in them that they had forgotten they had, and you can see their situation in a new light.

blissdom workshop 2.jgp

*seminars and roundtables, led by people in the industry. I learned about blogging and taxes from Shoebox Begone, which was immediately practical – need to get this blog baby making some money! The session on magazine writing was led by one of the editors of Today’s Parent. I learned a boggling amount of things, from how to write a story pitch for a magazine to how to self publish a book from start to finish.

*learning about brands from the perspective of the brand. I’ve never really asked myself how Tetley describes themselves (they just introduced a new Ceylon blend that I got to sample, btw – I must have drank half of their supply!).  I just like their tea and that’s as far as it went. Learning about the enormous charitable work that Tim Hortons does makes me proud of them as a Canadian company. And Philosophy’s skin care consultations taught me about some of the science of skin. Hallmark wants to be part of keeping us connected to our friends in a tangible way. Useful – and interesting! I hadn’t really thought of how companies could reach out to consumers and how they genuinely want you to like them. Really really like them. (I had a Sally Fields flashback there. If you understood it, you were born early than 1982).

glamping with Les

*glamping. Marquee tent, chandelier, barbeque, and floor length glamour. Simultaneously wearing a gold sequined party party party dress while eating turkey wings with my hands was a new experience.

pajama party conga line

*the final event, a pyjama party, was something I hadn’t done since I was a teenager. And the ones I’d been too were with a few close friends, lacking the formal dance floor, bar, and popcorn cart that this one featured. It was sponsored by the wonderful folks at Cottonelle, who had brought in a mobile spa to do manicures and massages. After three days of putting our best face forward and having our hair and makeup done and being dazzling, it was wonderful to wander down to the lobby in teal flannel pyjamas and fuzzy socks and just sit cross legged on a leather couch and hang out with new friends. It was nice to just ‘be’.

But mostly, what struck me were some of the speakers.The session on social media and bullying was hard hitting and topical. If you want to see what it’s like to be famous, do a Google search for Jimmy Kimmel’s series on celebrities reading mean tweets about themselves. No one is immune to meanness, and there’s no excuse for spewing vitriol because ‘it’s a company’ or ‘they’re a celebrity, that’s what they do’. There’s a person behind that keyboard, regardless of how big or small they seem. If you aren’t kind on the Internet, you aren’t kind.

Drew Dudley’s powerful message that you are who you make yourself.  Aim high, and know that you’re the only one out there who gets to be you. So run with that…you’re the only one who can!

So I learned a lot. About brands, about blogging, about friendships and bonding, and about me. I learned that if you want to be a writer, then write. Step outside your comfort zone and find out the story guidelines for your favourite magazine and pitch the story you’ve been thinking about. The worst they’ll say is no.

So Blissdom, you were my summer camp and more. There were new friends, pyjama parties, sponsor treats, six times in a row down the four story waterslide, and an enormous amount of insight. Blissdom, you blew my mind. And next year, I’ll know to have a bigger suitcase!

Gearing up for Blissdom!

I remember being a child and wanting to go to summer camp. My friends would vanish mid July for several weeks, and come home laughing and tanned, having learned to kayak, or fish, or make baskets out of reeds, or whatever other arts and crafty, nature-y things one learns at a stayaway camp on an island for two weeks. They would have inside jokes about S’mores, campfire stories, and a batch of new friends from all over the place. It looked magical. My American cousin was a camp counsellor, naturally, at one of those very same fancy camps with the cabins in the Queen Charlotte Islands, and would tell us tales right out of a modern Treasure Island.The raft of summer camp movies out there continued this vision of the adventures out there I was missing – The Parent Trap, Ernest Goes to Camp, Treasure Island Kids…

Why did my camp dreams never make it to fruition? Money, for one – camp fees simply weren’t in the budget when I was younger, and once I turned 14, I was working during the summers. There were a million other experiences I did have, and my childhood, unlike many, was genuinely something that makes me look back and smile. But the lack of summer camp is something I still sigh about once in awhile and when she’s older, Miss K will have the opportunity to go if she wants to.

Where am I going with this? Apparently, there’s a magical (slightly belated) summer camp for bloggers, where you meet people who you only know from their writing. You get to have group meals, learn enormous amounts about new things, make friends and even have a pyjama party! The campfire stories may have wine involved, and there will likely not be a movie about it, but Blissdom looks like it’s going to be my summer camp – and I’m all set to finally make that goal happen!

On our third kidney-versary…

Laurreen and I and families

(also known as “Let’s Get this Kidney Show on the Road, Folks!”)

Flash back three years….

It was a random Thursday night in 2010 towards the end of June and I was checking my email from home. My inbox opened to an email with a photo of Laurreen, a colleague at another office that I knew casually) and her two youngest children, 2 and 5. The first time I met Laurreen, at my government job working with the homeless, I had no idea where our very casual work relationship would lead us. I have a vague recollection that she was friendly and helpful, but that all was overshadowed by the truly enormous amount of information and legislation that one needs to absorb in that first overwhelming three weeks. She then got transferred to another office, and, as casual work acquaintances often do, we lost touch.  A year or so later, I found myself at her office over the Christmas period for two weeks, and would poke my nose in the door for a few minutes to say hello or ask a question.

Laurreen and kids

The email alongside Laurreen’s photo was a desperate cry for help from her husband of eight years. Laurreen was dying of kidney failure. A young mother of four, with a rare blood type, at 9% kidney function, with no family members that matched, was headed for an early grave.My sense of justice was immediately outraged. Here was this kind, clever, beautiful young mother, my age, clinging to life with her fingernails.  My instant, fundamental need to help kicked in, and an hour of research on being a living kidney donor gave me the essential knowledge I needed to follow up on my gut instinct reaction: the likelihood of any lasting harm to me was tiny, and the likelihood of her (and by association, her husband, children and extended family) having any kind of normal life without a donor kidney was zilch.

Kidney donor surgery itself has been around since WWII, so lots of research has been done. Pregnancy and childbirth are unaffected, your body functions completely normally with one healthy kidney, your likelihood of kidney failure is the same as a ‘normal’ person, and the surgery itself has the same basic risks that any surgery has, on par with a nosejob. Once healed, I would have the same quality of life that I had previously (although my childhood dream of being a pro wrestler would officially be kiboshed). Without a donor, she, on the other hand, would be trapped by dialysis, in the hospital four days a week for several painful hours at a time, with no vacations, no uninterrupted family time that wasn’t subconsciously aware of whether or not she was too tired to stay up to finish the board game or what the repercussions of playing tag with her two-year-old would be. And this constant maze of medical treatment and being attached to a hospital would likely end in an early death. The wait for the kidney from a deceased donor off the donor registry, given her blood type, would be approximately 8 years. That was simply NOT acceptable. I clicked on the link in Jesse’s email to find out more information and thus my journey as a kidney donor began.

My decision making process has always been swift, and occasionally has been known to makes peoples’ heads spin. As an example, I decided on a Sunday night in June that I wanted to go to grad school in the UK. By Monday I had chosen my top three schools, by Wednesday I had my reference letters, by Friday I had my applications in and two months later, I had moved to England. Eleven months later, I came home, MA in hand. The process by which I make decisions is by no means capricious – I do solid research to confirm my intuitive reaction before acting – but once made, there is no waffling on a decision. This decision was no different, and my desire to help was instantaneous.

It really came down to the very simple, very prosaic “if that were me”. And if those were my four children, if my two year old had never seen me run and if I was exhausted all the time and unable to take hold of the adventures the world has to offer, if I was facing the knowledge that I might not see my teenage daughter graduate high school,  I would want someone to step up to bat for me. It wasn’t a question, more of an instinct.  I couldn’t not help anymore than I could make my hair grow in curly (and let me tell you, I’ve been trying to make that happen for *years* with no success).

At my essence, I am practical, straightforward and not renowned for my patience. My answer to “when?”, regardless of the context, is always “now’s as good a time as any!”  So I called my husband over to the computer and asked what he thought. One of the reasons that I married Jon is that we’re on the same moral page. While he’s also tall, dark, handsome, and very, very funny,  what I truly admire is his sense of integrity and that he will always do what is right rather than what is easy. He had numerous, and valid, questions about the physical risks.  While he didn’t exactly turn cartwheels at the thought of his pretty young wife going into surgery, he did understand the greater good, and the surgery itself is very safe (inasmuch as surgeries can be). So with his cautious okay, I started going through tests, one by one.

The first test is a simple blood match – which serves the purpose of ensuring you’re compatible with the recipient and has the bonus feature of weeding out the squeamish. While Laurreen’s blood type is rare, mine is O+, the multitasker of blood types (or, in hospital terms, the ‘universal donor’). This was followed up with a series of scans and tests and exams that ensured that I had the health of an Olympic athlete (minus the gold medal) in order to donate, as the health of the donor supersedes the health of the recipient at every stage. Soon, I was speaking a whole other language – one that used words like ‘laparoscopic’ and ‘creatine’. Though a language aficionado already (competitive tournament Scrabble makes me a keen collector of words), these became a part of my lexicon with a swiftness that I wish could be mimicked in my Scrabble play. The most interesting one in my mind was the tissue match, where they check to see if the recipient’s body has any negative immune response to your antibodies. This involves (in what may be my least scientific analogy ever) taking both my tissue samples and hers, collected at the same time and the same day for each of us, and putting them in a jar and shaking them up to see what happened and if anything attacked anything else.  I imagined my little blood cells laying down their swords and her little blood cells laying down their shields and everyone sitting down to play Scrabble, and, in layman’s terms, that’s essentially what happened.

Meanwhile, Laurreen and I became friends, real, authentic, actual friends. We went for lunch, went to movies…low impact activities where we got used to each other and my resolve grew stronger.   I admired her tenacity, that she still smiled even though sometimes it was through a fog of exhaustion, and that her dry sense of humour stayed constant even at 9% kidney function. She was getting weaker almost by the day but staving off dialysis, her two stubborn heels dug in deep, while I jumped through a series of seemingly endless health-hoops.

The day of my final tests at St Paul’s dawned, where I would get a final yay or nay. Jon and I met with the kidney specialist, the social worker, the surgeon, all of whom questioned motivation and emotional readiness and whether I had thought this through, yadda yadda yadda. (Yes, there’s a social worker. And a variety of ways where they ask you whether or not you’re being cajoled, or, my favourite, paid). Those were all fine – at this point, my decision was made, my motivation was solid, and, as I said to the surgeon upon first being introduced, “Bill, let’s get this kidney show on the road!”

They save the most invasive tests for last…one of them involved being shot up with green radioactive isotope goo with the hugest, almost Bugs-Bunny-cartoonlike needle you’ve EVER SEEN. I won’t lie and say that they were fun, nor would I choose to repeat them over, say, most other things, but they trundled along, and then Laurreen and I and our respective family members tapped our fingers and waited.

Two days later, my (unusual display of) patience was rewarded, and I got to call with the good news! Ironically, she was fast asleep when I phoned, and for a few minutes, it didn’t actually register when I told her I was a match. A very solid match. And then the shock came through in her voice, and I could almost see the tears welling up in her eyes. She went off to phone Jesse, and I went to tell my coworkers. Work was incredibly supportive the whole way along, and when I let my colleagues know, there were lots of hugs and tears and genuine joy – most of them had known Laurreen for quite a few years and had seen her health deteriorate, so there was a lot of emotional investment.

It’s interesting how viscerally people react when you tell them. There are often tears, occasionally fear, genuine gratitude, but never apathy or neutrality. It seems to be a topic that no one doesn’t have an opinion on one way or another. My best friend was not impressed – I believe her actual reaction was ‘are you out of your !@!&*@&! mind?’ – but she came around eventually.

Surgery was September 27th,  2010.  We went into surgery together, each with our own surgeon. The last thing I remember was staring up at all of the masked faces surrounding me (much like being inside the ER set), the surgeon writing his initials on my hip (this apparently ensures that they take the correct kidney!), then the room started swirling and I woke up in post-op feeling like a very large truck had hit me and sped off. Surgery went well and the real sticking point was not having had any actual food in so long, which triggered a major migraine later on..the hours of throwing up and the open stomach wounds didn’t make for a good first night! That all settled down, though, and my friend Mr Morphine and I had a very intense two day fling.

Surgery was on a Monday, and I broke out of the hospital and was back home by the Thursday afternoon. The recovery time was eight weeks, which flew away in a blur of naps, movies, and short walks that gradually increased. (NB: For those of you who are American, we don’t pay any healthcare costs for surgeries, doctors visits, etc, in Canada, so this didn’t cost either of us anything. I had paid sick time for the recovery from my employer, so financially it was all moot).
So, here we are, three years later. Laurreen is on a cocktail of anti-rejection drugs daily for the rest of her life and has not returned to peak physical condition, but is walking, talking, saw her daughter graduate high school and can take her kids to hockey practice. Meanwhile, my remaining kidney (which I have named Sumo), is bigger, denser, and stronger, and I’m at the higher end of the ‘normal’ range for regular people (who have both kidneys). I have three one inch incisions where they stuck the camara inside and a three inch scar where they slid the kidney out, and those are my only physical reminders. So health-wise, I’m all good. In the meantime, I’ve had our first child, changed jobs and we’ve bought a house – lots of life changes! On Sept 27th, we’ll have our annual celebratory dinner with the four of us (Laurreen and I and husbands)… here’s to another 50 years!

So for anyone who is facing what seem to be insurmountable odds, there is occasionally a perfect dovetailing of willingness, hope and timing that can turn everything upside down in the best of ways.  And for anyone who isn’t an organ donor, I urge you to sign up…little miracles can happen every day.

For more information on kidney donation:



The one thing you can start doing to make your life easier.

spiky Hawaaian thing

I know you’re filling in that blank with any number of random things. What’s that piece of drivel you’re about to share? I can file as I go? I can start thinking positively? Drinking 8 glasses of water? Singing as I skip through the daisies? Standing on one foot to practice my balance while I brush my teeth? What? Um. C) None of the above. Far more basic (and less weird than some other options, listed or not). Next time you need help and someone offers to assist, let them. Say yes. It’s that simple.

How many times have you been in a bind (arms full of groceries and children but needing to open a door, working long hours but still need to get everything else done, you’ve been sick and need help with the housework, so on, so forth, ad nausem), and someone’s asked you if you need anything, and you’ve gritted your teeth, forced a big smiley smile and said blithely, “Oh no, thanks, I’m fine.” Why, I ask you, why?

Here’s my theory. The people connected to you, your friends, your family, your work buddies, genuinely like you and want you to be happy and succeed. And when they ask if you need anything, they’re asking out of a genuine desire to make your life easier. People like to help people, particularly ones that they care about. So when you rebuff an offer that you actually need, you’re not doing anyone any favours. Maybe your parents actually want to spend time with their grandchildren but are afraid of being too pushy if they come right out and ask. Maybe your friend the chef wants a guinea pig to try out their new dinner recipe. And by allowing them to help, you’re letting them know that you trust them enough to assist when you’re down. Regardless, you need the help. So next time, stop the madness. Say yes.

Let me give you an example. When J and I got married, it was a huge, 200-person extravaganza, held at the university that we both met at, and required an enormous amount of orchestration in addition to our full time jobs and other hobbies. Added to that was that we didn’t live together until after we got married (no religious beliefs, just wanted to decorate my apartment pink while I could), so we were also moving at the same time. Gong show, yes?

I had my heart set on cupcakes. A multitude of cupcakes, in a myriad of flavours, so that there was no having to cut 200 slices of cake, people could choose what kind they wanted, AND they look cute. However, that would was 18 dozen cupcakes. A fearful number. The total for that item alone would have been nearly $1000. In floofy icing and cake. Not doable.

However, a number of my friends, and my mother-in-law’s friends, were bakers, by nature if not by trade. So when these wonderful people (you know who you are!) asked if I needed help with any of the wedding hoopla, I said, “Why yes. I do. You like to bake…how do you feel about making cupcakes?”

Suddenly, 18 dozen became eight people, each making two or three dozen cupcakes. They were excited to be involved and honestly wanted to help, and I ended up with maple, coconut, peanut butter, chocolate mint, butterscotch, black forest and cherry, among others. It was fantastic.


So when you’re sick and exhausted, and your cousin asks if there’s anything she can do to help, do yourself (and her) a favour. Stop the madness and ask her to make you a casserole. Or to come and sit in your living room after the baby’s gone to sleep so that you can go out to Starbucks and have a hot chocolate and read a magazine.

(The inverse also applies. If you see someone struggling to open a door, open it for them. If you have a friend who’s moving, offer to come over and help them pack. You get the idea).

Just say yes.

Things I didn’t realize about having children…


My pre-baby years were a whirlwind of living abroad, interesting vacations, university and dating. I knew that at some point I’d get married, settle down and have kids. I had an idea in my head of what that would be like, and the reality is the same in a lot of ways…but every now and then, there’s a curveball.

Things I didn’t expect:

1) You have babysitting and you’re free to go, but you have to drag yourself away

Even though you crave time away and need space with no Cheerios in anyone’s hair and no diapers to change, a part of you always wishes you were at home. I had this idea that whenever I had the opportunity, I would run like the wind. While I do go off and do my own thing, and happily, I’m always torn slightly, and that I didn’t expect.

2) Tired is now a way of life.

When my friends with kids were always exhausted, I didn’t really get it. I understood that newborns didn’t sleep, but why were my friends with toddlers constantly in a semi comatose state? I knew their little people were in bed for a full night’s sleep. What gives?Well, what I didn’t realize was how the constant juggling act can wear you down. Pre-baby, by 8 am, I had gotten up at 645, had a full cup of tea, checked my email, gotten dressed, and tidied up. Now, I’m up at 615, in order to still have that cup of tea, check my email later, and manage to get my lunch, Kate’s lunch, my breakfast, her breakfast, both of us dressed, potty time, have a discussion about whether the crocodile shoes (aka Crocs) are weather appropriate, and whether that’s worth the battle, and be in the car driving away by 745, in order to drop the baby at daycare. It often feels like a full day’s work and I haven’t gotten to work yet! And then there’s the after work commute to pick up the baby, then get home and launch straight into dinner, playtime, bath and bed…by 8pm, I’ve crammed two days into one already! A full work week of that and you’re WIPED. Even the most draconian boss in the world gives you time for a dinner break if you’re working past 6!

3) You learn a new capacity for love (cue: awwwww).

Some of why it’s so hard to leave (see item #1 above) is that you feel a genuine, biological imperative to make sure your children are happy and well. So even though they’re with their favourite relative/babysitter/etc and their dinner is ready and all kinds of wonderful adventures are planned, you still feel as if you should be there in case they scrape their knee/worry about whether Elmo is going to make it to the zoo in the book/feel scared of Curious George. And you are happier just watching them be happy. Which leads us to the next point…

4) You will do really random things to make your children happy.

I did not think that, at age 36, I would be standing at the curb at 8am on my day off anxiously awaiting the arrival of the garbageman. And yet. Background here is that Kate LOVES the garbage truck, and the garbageman, and watching the arm shoot out of the truck to pick up the can and dump it. Every Thursday, she bounces in her chair and asks if it’s time yet. So even if we don’t have to be up early, I make sure we’re both up and breakfasted just because it brings her so much delight. One of my friends used her vacation time to go to Sesame Park with her one and a half year old just to see her face light up when she saw the giant Elmo. Pre-children, she would have used that money to lounge on a beach in the Dominican.

5) Shopping for your children becomes more fun than shopping for yourself.

Wacky. But true. I think it’s because children have not become desensitized to ‘stuff’ the way that adults have. And for the most part, they do have genuine needs that must be met. I never actually NEED a new sweater, but Kate has genuinely grown out of her winter coat. So the need is actual, whereas buying things for me often feels like just making up reasons to justify spending. And the joy she gets from a new book or a new box of crayons far supersedes any delight I would get from something new or equal value.

6) Your relationship with your parents will be different.

And based on observation, it tends to be in a good way. Friends who have had terrible relationships with their parents, who swear that they won’t be allowed near their newborns, find that their mother is a totally different parent with their child. And they find themselves needing help, which may not be familiar. And it’s hard, when up at 3am with a crying newborn, not to come to the foggy, sleep deprived realization that your parents suffered through this with you, and so maybe you should cut them a little more slack as people.

7) You see your partner in a whole new light.

Again, this most often tends to be in a good way. I was prepared for having the baby to be hard, but when delivery went sideways in a major way, I was physically in the worst shape I had ever been in. And that includes the surgery where I donated my kidney. Seriously. It was brutal. I was on five medications for six weeks, and suddenly had a tiny red crying person who needed me ALL THE TIME. My husband was home for the first three weeks, and did all of the cooking, cleaning, bottlefed Kate a couple of times a day, and made sure that at least once daily, I was shoved outside to go for a five minute walk. He was the one ray of sanity. And now, as a parent, he is infinitely more patient than I (although that wasn’t actually new info), and comes at Kate from a different point of view that sometimes works better than mine. I respect these completely new strengths that didn’t reveal themselves until we were parents.

8) You will come to your own way, and find what’s genuinely best for you and your family. And the pregnancy trolls that are now baby trolls can put that in their pipes and smoke it (that was the more polite euphimism).

Added to the above mentioned physical trauma and exhaustive baby needs, I couldn’t breastfeed, and made the highly peer-pressured, physically hideous, emotionally destructive decision to pump all of her milk…six times a day, 15-20 minutes a session, EVERY DAY. I hated it. I dreaded every day, and was locked to the house because I couldn’t leave for more than two hours. On top of that, I hadn’t actually fed the child yet, so pretty much all day was consumed by pumping or feeding her. I hadn’t played with her, bathed her, put her down for a nap, or done anything else. Months later, I finally realized that actually enjoying my new daughter, and being able to take her out and spend time with her was infinitely more valuable. And at six months, the breastaurant closed its doors and our world came together again. (Statistically, BTW, 85% of French children are entirely formula fed. And they beat us on EVERY health measure. So clearly , the baby trolls who tell you that if your child requires formula, you’ll end up ruining them for life are just being jerks. Ignore them).

9) It’s a new kind of adventure, and be present for every moment.

Because there will come a day, sometime soon, when she won’t care if the garbageman is coming…and while I will value the extra sleep, I’ll desperately miss how her face lights up as I lift her to the window of the garbage truck and she says ‘Good morning!’ to the garbageman. And I think he’ll miss it too!

The magic of coupons.



There was a time (when I was younger and slightly more financially foolish) that I didn’t recognize coupons as what they truly are, free money.

The real goal here is to be able to do what you want to do and just spend less doing it.

There are a variety of ways to use coupons and sources to obtain them…here are some tidbits I’ve picked up over the last few years.

Some things, you will learn quickly, one doesn’t actually need to pay for. Two that leap to mind are toothpaste and shampoo. Your friendly neighbourhood dentist has $1.50 off coupons for Colgate/Crest for the asking, and have dozens of them – they’re usually happy to give you a few just to find a home for them. After you’ve been going through flyers for awhile, you’ll notice that every couple months, toothpaste will go on sale for $1/tube. $1 – $1.50 = FREE! Some stores (Walmart, for example), will actually apply any remaining discount to the other items in you basket, which means that you have somehow managed to turn a profit. Miraculous, yes? Similar things happen with shampoo…when you find a high value coupon, hold onto it and wait for the item to go on sale.

For products that you like and use a lot, follow those companies on Facebook or Twitter, as they’ll often give out coupons and occasionally free products via social media.

For me, one of my best investments is the yearly Entertainment Book, which is a book full of 50% off and other discount coupons for local restaurants, grocery stores, businesses etc. It’s good from November – November each year, and retails at about $40. $40 is pretty pricey, though. The real secret is to wait until after January, go on the Entertainment Book website, and they’ll have it at 50% off. $20, on the other hand, is a good deal – there are $20 in Safeway coupons alone that make it worthwhile. Even if I don’t use the majority of the coupons in it, there are enough places that I regularly go to make it well worth the outlay. Later on in the year, if you sign up for their bulletins, they’ll sometimes have a $5 special…even if you buy it in July, there are still $10 in Safeway coupons that are useable, making it a net profit, even if you use nothing else. Often I’ll swap the ones I don’t use for the ones I use a lot with other friends who have the book. Given that these are places and things I would do either way, it leaves me more money in my wallet to do other things with.

There are a bunch of sites that offer coupons that you can either print yourself or have mailed to you. A few of them are:

https://www.brandsaver.ca/en_ca/coupons/ (Proctor Gamble products)




Some of them come as coupon inserts in your local paper (Redplum and Smartsource). There will often be tearpads of coupons in local stores for a variety of products. Take only what you will use – karma, people, karma!

The key with coupons is to use them with a sale, bringing the product from cheaper to CHEAP or sometimes even free (see toothpaste example above)! Occasionally, you’ll find a coupon for a product on another product. Don’t buy a product you wouldn’t use just because it’s cheap (unless you have the intention of giving it away to someone or to the food bank)…there’s no point in wasting space or hoarding stuff.

There are some great coupon websites that will actually do a coupon match for you and let you know where the best bang for your coupon buck is, and they’ll often go store by store. Others list new and hot deals, freebies and giveaways. Brilliance!

Some of my favourites are:





Happy savings! What are your best tips to have more money in your pocket at the end of the day?



What do I want to do when I grow up?

Courtesy of  hin255/freedigitalphotos.net

Courtesy of hin255/freedigitalphotos.net

One of my good friends from high school gave me a book awhile back called “Finding Your Own North Star”, which is essentially a book about figuring out what you really want to do when you grow up.

Most of us muddle through, one job leads to another, and then you find yourself trapped by “the golden handcuffs”. You know, that thing where it’s uninspiring and you struggle in every day, it isn’t something you actively enjoy, but it pays well, has good benefits, etc etc.

So what to do? You need the financial security, but the notion of this being the next twenty years makes you feel slightly panicky.

Start looking at what you actually enjoy doing, what you like to do in your spare time and what would be the most amazing thing to be able to be paid to do. And then think of some way that you could be paid to do it. Think it’s impossible? It isn’t.

Let’s say you love to read. What could you do that pays you to read? Hmmm. Researcher. Fact checker. Editor. Compiler of news stories for a headline website. There are a WHOLE lot of possibilities out there.


What if your interests seem a little less business-feasible? I have a friend who prefers animals to people, and has started a dog walking business in the downtown area, and is wildly successful. Urban professionals want a pet but can’t manage some of the associated tasks. She’s smart – she kept her day job until the pet business took off enough that she could lose the day to day grind in favour of Stanley Park and puppies.

I have a friend (several, actually) whose interest lies in all things sci-fi and comic. He’s started buying and selling comic figures on EBay. While this may not make him a mint to start with, it’s a step in the right direction to his (eventual) dream of running comic cons all around the world.

Lego Hulk

So where will I be? Reading books such as “Finding Your Own North Star” to figure out what I want to do and how to make it real. Care to join me?

Summer summer summer!

summer drinks

Somehow summer feels like a different place…even though the surroundings are the same, the mood and feel is completely different.

Things I love about Vancouver in the summer:

1) Theatre Under the Stars

Every summer, I go to Theatre Under The Stars in Stanley Park and watch a musical under the starry skies…you start out incredibly hot in the sun and then as the sun sets and you’re focussed on the performance, you find yourself chilly. The performances are always high quality, the tickets are reasonable and the whole experience is magical. This year’s performances are Legally Blonde and How To Succeed in Business.

Get tickets at www.tuts.ca and come with me!

2) PNE

Mini donuts. Fantastic concerts free with admission, under the blue Vancouver summer skies (going to see Great Big Sea this year – SO excited!). I love wandering around the Marketplace and seeing the new (and sometimes weird) gadgets and gizmos, and sometimes can get my Christmas shopping started early. It’s a huge, huge summer fair and it’s brilliant. They also have the famous prize home lottery, where for $25, you get a chance to win one of a bunch of brand new cars, or the grand prize of a professionally designed and built house (an ACTUAL house), fully furnished, on a lot in one of a variety of BC locations. You have to be a BC resident to win, so the odds are fairly good. And we all know how I feel about winning, so it’s one of the few lotteries that I actually enter and pay for. The whole experience is quintinessentially Vancouver and one of my favourite things every year.

More about the PNE at www.pne.ca .

3) Long lazy walks around Burnaby Lake.

Burnaby Lake is my go-to spot for needing to think out my thoughts. ‘Think a deep think’, as I believe Winnie-the Pooh once said. Now that I have a toddler, it tends to involve a lot more sidelines to the edge of the path to investigate whichever random twig or leaf caught her attention. But once she’s gotten some running out of her system, I can pop her in her stroller for awhile and meander through the paths, with just the sounds of birds chirping and the odd jogger running by for company.

4) My annual birthday BBQ

The birthday BBQ has become a tradition and keeps getting larger…it’s both the start of summer and (as mentioned previously) my own personal new year’s celebration. As the years have gone by, there are more small people and more catching up to be done – it’s funny how much harder it is to connect for a coffee these days than it used to be!

5) Longer nights

I love just sitting out in the yard once Kate’s asleep and reading a book or a magazine or chatting about the day with Jon…we’re both so much more relaxed and things flow so much better. And this is the first time we’ve had our own yard, so it adds another dimension of mellow.

6) Fresh raspberries. And strawberries. And blueberries.


LOVE berries. And now that I have garden space, I can actually grow them in the yard, which is magic.  Raspberries taste like tiny bites of summer, and now I can wander outside and get them whenever I want! And Kate is learning the joys of eating berries straight off the bush (hopefully with the bugs blown off).

7) Relaxing laid back summer days.

baby pool

Even workdays are easier (though I’d much rather be outside playing!). Clothes are less formal, lunches can be eaten outside on the grass, and everyone is in a better mood. Ah, summer.

What do you love about summer (in Vancouver, or in general)?

On luck, and making your own.


(note that the clover is three and not four)

We’ve kind of had a string of unfortunate events around here. We had to get the roof fixed (at an astronomical cost), to find out the rafters were rotted (adding to astronomical cost). I made a poor furniture moving decision and my right wrist was completely out of commission for a week, which is a huge issue when you have a computer job as well as a 25 pound toddler who isn’t docile about diaper changes. Things at work have been less than fantastic, my purse got stolen, necessitating a huge hassle of getting new ID and rekeying the car and house, etc etc.

All of this has led me to think about luck. People have always told me that I’m naturally lucky. And generally speaking, things do tend to turn out the way I want them to. How much of that is luck and how much of that has its basis in personality traits?

So how does this run of bad luck play into all of this? How have I managed to keep from having a ‘my luck is so bad’ breakdown? I tend to reframe a lot…the thief took my purse, but we managed to get our locks changed before they used the housekeys. I had enough ID in a different location to replace my ID and the baby’s ID. We paid a zillion dollars for our new roof, but it was in time for the CRAZY torrential rain that we’re getting right now, so we prevented a house leak, which would have been disasterous and far more financially damaging. My wrist was functional again after a week of not being able to use it AT ALL (which was maddening), but I managed through a combination of daycare and help from family and friends. SO yeah. All about the silver linings over here.

I’m of the opinion that luck is preparation meeting opportunity. Opportunity often knocks softly, so I take a lot of calculated risks, and I’m always looking for new and interesting things. I’ll throw an application in for a job that I don’t have all of the exact qualifications for, just in case they end up needed to go a little further afield. I enter every contest I see – someone has to be the winner, and at least I’m in the running. I volunteer to help in random situations, have a variety of weird hobbies, and am very good at staying in touch.  I’m always open to meeting new people and making new friends. This is both endearing and maddening, depending on your viewpoint. I ‘adopt’ people who are new in town and introduce them to my friends, because I’ve been in places where I knew noone, and know how much a friendly face to contact ‘just in case’ is worth. I’ve also, however, been known to bring a random new person I met on Skytrain to a birthday party at a pub, which might verge on the slightly weird. I meet a lot of people and keep in touch , so have a larger social circle than most. This, in turn, means that when I post about looking for something or wanting to get in touch with someone in a given field, a much bigger and more varied batch of people respond, and I tend to find a way to acheive my outcome  How much of that is ‘luck’ and how much of it is personality and knowing a lot of folks?


I do win. A LOT. But I enter 70 contests a day, every day. So with an average of 2100 contests a month, it seems realistic that I would win fairly often. Is that actual luck, or just opening myself up to lots of opportunities for luck?

Genuinely going into a situation expecting the best result has also always been something I do…and I think that because I tend to be pretty open minded going in, I don’t start out defensive and negative, which has better results. There’s an old proverb somewhere about how you get the behaviour you expect. I expect good things and tend to get them, but whether that’s due to my expectations or not is hard to quantify.

And then there are lucky charms…

I don’t have one in particular, but research has shown that lucky charms do work, in a placebo kind of way. Believing that you’re lucky (due to your four leaf clover or what-have-you) makes you happier and more optimistic, which makes you more aware of new possibilities and more likely to act on information when you come across it. So while that stuffed bunny may not be lucky in and of itself, it could genuinely cause you to have better results.

In a completely and delightfully ego-centric way, I also consider the new year beginning on my birthday…so in my world, the year resets at the end of June. And a brand new year is going to be lucky!

In summary:

*believe that the outcome will be how you want it

*meet lots of people and have a large social network

*do what you can to help other people, just because it’s a nice thing to do.

*find the positive, even if it takes some looking

*say yes instead of no every once in awhile … it can lead you to some interesting places.

*open yourself to opportunities

What’s your take on luck, readers? Are some people just ‘luckier’ than others, or do they have personality traits or habits that make things go their way?


Some interesting articles about luck: