The End Of Another School Year

There's something so magical about the seasons that bookend a school year. The spring and fall gifting us with changes in colour and landscape. We see those changes with our eyes and we feel them in our bones. It's like a coordinated dance between nature and nurture when it comes to moving our family through those transitions. 

It is funny, though, that spring comes and wakes everything up at a time when the school year is coming to a close. And then fall comes along and ushers us into hibernation, just as our kids are preparing to take on the challenges of a new year. 

Maybe that's how the dance is supposed to go. We quiet the noise around us, so we can focus on the steps we need to take to learn new things and navigate new relationships. And then colour and light come and splash themselves everywhere and we wave our arms and celebrate how far we've come. 

A few weeks ago, I had the idea that my sister and her kids should take time out of their busiest season of the year to join our parents and my kids for a long-needed grandparent/grandkid photo session during my family's busiest time of year. 

It's never as easy as I tell myself it will be, but we pulled it off anyway. Thanks to the patience and skilled eye of local photographer, Lisa Tullett — who had to put up with photographing six squirmy kids under the high noon sun — we now have a lovely collection of photos taken during on a gorgeous spring afternoon. And they're perfect. 

With my oldest graduating from elementary school and my youngest graduating from kindergarten, I'm so glad to have photos of this moment in time. It has been a year of great changes and triumphs; a year when family was a priority and individual accomplishments were met. And we were able to do so much of what we hoped to because of the support and help my parents gave us so generously — thanks, Mom and Dad.

I'm of the mindset there can never be too many photos. Because with each photo comes a story. And with each shared story comes the strengthening of a family's bond. I see so many stories when I look at these photos of my kids and my family. And it makes me glad to know my kids and nephews will be able to look at them someday and have their own versions of these shared moments. 

Thank you for this beautiful gift, Lisa. Local friends: you can find out more about Lisa's gorgeous photos on Facebook and Instagram. Lisa is also offering one day photography workshops for budding photographers of all levels during the week of July 11 -14th. Check out her Facebook page for details.

Happy summer, everyone. Thanks for lifting me up and carrying me through another school year. I'm so glad you're all here. 






Podcast: What A Sinking Ship Taught Me About Love


I don't know anything about the technicalities of podcasts, except that I've become very proficient at listening to them while I walk the dog. 

But lately, the idea of recording a podcast of my own kept sneaking up and tapping me on the shoulder — especially after the response to a recent essay I wrote about marriage.

My essay was picked up by a US blogging site and was very well received by my loyal readers (hello, you!). I do love an essay and all the space it leaves for adjectives and dramatics. In fact, writing in that style is the reason I chose to specialize in print instead of radio while in Journalism school many years ago (also because watching myself on video was excruciating). 

While JB is a huge supporter of my writing, he continually tells me I chose wrong and should be on the radio (it's a compliment, keep reading). I've always really enjoyed the interview process and had a great time as a returning guest speaker on a radio talk show while in grad school. I was often selected by peers to host our on-air shows because of the sound of my voice and my mentors thought it had a good pitch for the radio. 

When I graduated, I took on a part-time job at a telephone support line. Callers were randomly assigned to whichever phone line was free. But soon after I started, repeat callers began asking for the "girl with the voice" when they called. My office colleagues would press hold and shout across the cubicles, "Tony (as in Robbins), it's for you." That was over 15 years ago, and JB still teases me about it. 

In more recent years, I met media maven, Erica Ehm, for the first time. While we were chatting with a group, she stopped me while I was speaking and said, "Is it just me or does everyone else here feel like they could listen to her voice all day?" I had red cheeks for hours. 

So because this essay (a true story, by the way) had all the makings of a great podcast with its adjectives and dramatics, I recorded it using my iPhone (that makes it a podcast, right?). There are some glitchy background noises and some stumbles (note to self: drink a big glass of water next time), but I wasn't brave enough to edit them out this time. And I could have recorded it several times until I thought it sounded just right, but I decided to stick with the first and only cut. When I listen to it, it reminds me of the Magic Tree House audio books the kids and I listen to in the minivan (HA!). 

I don't know if I'll ever get the gumption to record another essay, but I'm glad I tried it once. Why not, right?

JB: I dedicate this to you and your belief that my voice belongs on air.

Click here to listen to: What A Sinking Ship Taught Me About Love

The Weight of Secrets


Every few nights, after a bath and brushing of teeth, she climbs onto my bed. Just her and me. 

Mama, I'm ready for some questions.

It was such a thoughtful gift for a five-year-old to receive for her birthday. And it suits her nature to have a book that asks open-ended questions: she has a habit of firing an endless steam of them at us each day. She loves this new ritual and having the roles reversed.

On this particular night, we were on our fifth question. It was more than we usually get through, but she had asked me to turn the page and ask one more with the promise she would slide of the bed and join her sister for a bedtime story without a fuss.

I felt awful when _______.

I expected something simple like not getting dessert or not being allowed to go to the park after dark. She normally has an answer ready for me, before I've finished asking the question.

But it was quiet.

I looked up from the page to see her sitting across from me in her footed pajamas. Her hands were laced on her lap, dimples peeking out between her fingers. I couldn't find her eyes through her lashes, because she was looking down. 

I knew I had to stay quiet, that something was coming. She raised her eyes slowly. 

Mama, it's a secret.

There is a child in her class who struggles with boundaries and respecting personal space. But we talk a lot about inclusivity in our home and she's still in that beautiful phase of life, when anyone she spends time with is called a friend. 

I was playing with my friends and she wouldn't stop chasing me and catching me, Mama. And I didn't like it, and I didn't want her to do that anymore. And I'm supposed to say, "Please stop it." But I didn't. I got mad and said, "Go away." 

She looked at me with tears in her eyes — afraid of hearing disappointment in my voice or being told that I thought she was wrong, too.

I started slowly by asking her when it had happened.

It was a long time ago. But it still makes me feel awful. I hurt my friend. 

Tears filled my eyes then. I told her I was so proud of her for telling me. And that it must have been hard for her to carry that secret around so long. I told her that I've hurt my friends, too. We talked about how she could have handled it differently, by going to her teacher for some support. And we came up with the idea of inviting her friend to play. 

Secrets can create such a weight. I've experienced that burden myself and ached with compassion for people I care about as I watch them struggle under the weight of their own secrets. 

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet and interact with Frank Warren, creator and curator of PostSecret. Along with a small group of other bloggers and writers, we discussed secrets and the power we feel when we let them go. We talked about how painful it can be to hold onto them. 

It's enough to bear witness to someone's story, without fixing it ~ Frank Warren

My daughter's story — which she called a secret — had been sitting in her heart waiting for an opportunity to be released. Our ritual of question-asking had created the conversation she needed to do that, and I could see she was lighter after sharing it with me.

It was a good reminder for me. We need to do that for each other: create conversations, leave spaces, and listen. And as a parent, I was reminded that it's never to early to give our children those tools and that fearlessness. 

Tomorrow night, I'll be attending the innovative live theatre performance of PostSecret and I'm hoping it will open my heart and teach me more. I have an important role to play as the catcher of secrets in my family. And I have some teaching to do, as I help my children learn to be a safe and compassionate place for others' secrets to land. 

To learn more about this beautiful and innovative initiative, you can find PostSecret on their website, on Facebook and on Twitter and Instagram. To buy tickets to the Toronto show, click here

My gratitude to Eric and Candace and #HALLer for including me in this experience.