Reading Nabokov, crying, whining, regrouping (Week 10: Tears and Dreams)


Process Journal, 7 am: “OMFG, this is such a happy moment.”

I think I start to cry at 9:30 am. Jesus fucking Christ.


The less said about Monday, the better. No, really. Let’s move on.


I don’t know. Good, bad. Mixed up. Sad, ugly. The dominant theme is “abandoned,” which is interesting but I’m not quite together enough to explore it. And a fevered Ender—he needs to be in my arms, most of the day. But that gives me rest, is good.

I read Vladimir Nabokov’s Letters To Vera, an antidote and simultaneously a poison.

Cinder and I have a fight, sort of about math, ultimately, about power. I think we both lose.

I cry some more.



I want today to be a better day, and I have pretty damn impressive will power. I do. Granted, this week it seems drowned by a flood of tears, but surely? I know the tips and tricks, tools and techniques to pull it off, pull it out.

The question is, do I want to?

I think, much as I disliked the past 48-72 hours, I needed them. Maybe I need one more sloppy, wet, weepy day. In Bone, Marion Woodman has a line:

“Don’t worry about my tears,” I said. “Better rolling down my cheeks than blocking my kidneys.”

Maybe this particular dam just needs to to… fuck I don’t know how to finish that metaphor, it’s stupid.


I do some of the things but Ender has a relapse, we cuddle on the couch. You come to visit… I feel distant and don’t want to address it, I want to be inside myself right now; let me.


Thursday was… complicated.


I don’t know. I suppose it was a transition day. I worked, juggled. But generally neither cried nor stressed.


I performed. Well. Do it all out, bring it all, spend it all.

I did.

I’m channelling Annie Dillard here, by the way, what she said was:

“One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”

Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

In the evening, I took all my nutrients for the day in a pint of Guinness. Two. Three.

I’d do penance on Sunday, I decided.

But I was lucky; I didn’t.


Sunday was… perfect. Except in the night. Crappy dreams.


nabokov, i

When I was seventeen, I used to write on average two poems a day, each of them taking me about twenty minutes. Their quality was doubtful, but I didn’t even try to write better then, thinking that I was performing little miracles and that over miracles I didn’t need to think.

Now I know that, indeed, reason is a negative part of creativity and inspiration a positive one, but only through their secret conjunction is the white spark born, the electrical flicker of perfect creation.

Vladimir Nabokov, Letters to Vera

notes on the discovery of the clitoris

In 1558, a Venetian professor, Matteo Realdo Colombo—he had studied anatomy with Michelangelo, btw, stumbled upon a mysterious protuberance between a woman’s legs.

So he was examining a patient and he discovered this “button” and he noted that she grew tense as he manipulated it, and that it appeared to grow in size at his touch.

“Clearly, this would require more study.”

After examining scores of other women, Colombo found they all that this same, responsive protuberance.

He reported his discovery of the clitoris to the dean of his faculty. And… he was “arrested, accused of heresy, blasphemy, witchcraft, and Satanism, put on trial and imprisoned. His manuscripts were confiscated, and his discovery was forbidden to be mentioned.”

Sources: The Anatomist, by Frederico Andahazi
referenced in Sex at Dawn, by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá

nabokov ii

Text to Sean:

Nabokov also noticed when his friends and colleagues didn’t show up to his readings… and resented it, years, later.

I guess all artists are a little petty.

Text from Sean:

It’s not petty. But non-artists don’t understand. But I guess the still resenting it years later part doesn’t sound so good.

Nabokov also had to beg for reviews. And money. (And work.)

When he was already regarded as the foremost writer of his generation, in several languages.

Sigh. Is this perspective, or a sign that I should get a “regular people” job?

kids and dharma

Discussing Stephen Cope’s The Great Work of Your Life, Sean and I make a discovery. Well. I notice—as he’s reading it, I didn’t notice it the first time—that all the dharmic lives Stephen Cope is examining, the great and the small, are single, childless people.

Then I stop. I’m wrong. Jane Goodall was married (twice) and had a son. Robert Frost had a whole gaggle of children. Marion Woodman, married. Gandhi had four kids too.

But the way Cope wrote the book—they might as well not have had them. Their children, their families do not figure in their dharma story—except, insofar as Mrs. Frost and Mrs. Gandhi and Mrs. Goodall (Jane’s mother) enabled them to live their dharma.

I get… kind of angry. And get a little homophobic: Cope is gay, at the time of writing of the book partnerless and childless. (Old, too, I add acerbically.) What does he know about a mother’s dharma?

“He says events change your dharma,” Sean says. He’s still on the Marion Woodman section of the book, in which Woodman embraces the wound, makes living with cancer her dharma (of the moment). “Children change your dharma too. Once you have them—they become your new dharma. Or part of it, anyway—they affect it. Hugely.”

As he says this, there’s an explosion of noise inside Ender’s bedroom and four eight-to-ten year old boys clamber down the stairs. Fully armed.

“I fought that, denied it for a long time,” Sean says as they run past us, down the stairs, and outside.

I don’t think I did. Or did I? I think… I always knew I had to ride both of these horses. That I would not, could not choose one over the other.

But it never was—still isn’t—an easy choice. Robert Frost never had to agonize over whether he’d be a poet or a father of four children. But I bet you Jane Goodall thought long and hard about the impact having little Hugo would have on her career, life, plans. She had to…

nabokov iii

Nabokov is in Paris… or somewhere. I can’t remember. Vera is in Berlin, on her own. with their one-year-old baby. He writes her a letter every day. Complains that she doesn’t write to him often enough.

He ends up having an affair later that year. Neglected.

From the perspective of time, it’s kind of funny.

The marriage survives.

But she never writes him as much as he writes her. Of course not.

nabokov iv

Maria Popova is writing about Zadie Smith on Brainpickings this week, and Zadie Smith is writing about Nabokov:

When I write I feel there’s usually a choice to be made between the grounded and the floating. The ground I am thinking of in this case is language as we meet it in its “commonsense” mode. The language of the television, of the supermarket, of the advert, the newspaper, the government, the daily “public” conversation. Some writers like to walk this ground, re-create it, break bits of it off and use it to their advantage, whereas others barely recognize its existence. Nabokov — a literal aristocrat as well as an aesthetic one — barely ever put a toe upon it. His language is “literary,” far from what we think of as our shared linguistic home.

Source: Zadie Smith, Feel Free

I’ve told you about all the bad books I’ve read lately, right?

Zadie Smith tells me, “Nobody really expects to write like Nabokov.”

But… I’d rather have him as my model, mentor and inspiration, than The National Enquirer. Or my Twitter stream or Facebook feed.

And I think… I thinks she’s a little wrong about the dichotomy. What makes Nabokov Nabokov—for me, THE foremost writer of the 20th century, no one comes close—is that he used “the language of the television, of the supermarket, of the advert, the newspaper, the government, the daily ‘public’ conversation” in aesthetically perfect, transformative ways. Despite the fact that he read and claimed to understand Ulysses (and perhaps he did), Nabokov is perfectly, terrifyingly comprehensible.

I finish Nabokov’s Letters to Vera on Friday; it’s time to re-read… well, all of him. I’m going to start with Pale Fire. End with Lolita.



PS It wasn’t a bad week, you know. Just not a simple one. And I’m really glad I let myself cry for three days. I needed it.


The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

Do it full out (Week 4: Passions and Outcomes)

The Buddha was a psychopath and other heresies (Week 5: No Cohesion)

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

Tired, petty, tired, unimportant (Week 8: Disappointment and Perseverance)

Professionals do it like this: [insert key scene here] (Week 9: Battle, Fatigue, Reward)


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Professionals do it like this: [insert key scene here] (Week 9: Battle, Fatigue, Reward)


I write and then I vegetate except for when I do battle with the fridge—totally unfulfilling, but someone had to take that bitch down—rearrange all the furniture in the kitchen (and then put it back), go to yoga, do two loads of laundry, and murder all the dust bunnies hiding under our bed.

I also find my good water bottle and favourite vibrator, so, you know, it’s all worth it.

You: You’re not going to use that, are you?

Jane: I’ll clean it. Really, really well.

You: I don’t even want to look at you right now.

I also walk to Safeway in the sun with the Ender. Buy meat, bath salts, candles and flowers.

Ender: Candy?

Jane: Ok.

Ender: Drink instead of candy?

Jane: Sure.

Ender: The big bottle is cheaper than the little bottle. Look.

Sigh. Ok.

He carries a 2l bottle of Sprite all the way home, chugging from it at irregular intervals.



[insert key scene here]


And what key scene would that be?


Cryptic notes to myself are just so enchanting.



True thing: marination is alchemy and it transforms a $1.76 (for two) steak into a masterpiece. The secret is plenty of lemon juice.

I have no lemon juice, but there is a very old lime on the counter.

Flora: Didn’t you just go to Safeway yesterday?

Jane: Hush. The alchemist is at work.

Key scene, key scene, key scene…


Coffee with neighbour, friend of many lifetimes. The Ender roams in the background; the Flora is in the next room. Headphones on, but always listening.

We talk about almost important things, but fairly carefully.


Lunch out. Big eyes that blink too much. Small mouth. Swollen lips. The  most delicious gluten-free muffin ever… that turns out to be gluten-friendly. Someone has a sense of humour, fucking bakers, I’d be so angry at you, except THAT WAS THE MOST DELICIOUS THING I HAVE EATEN in…. aaaah.

Suddenly, snow in the sunshine.

I decide the lunch with a beautiful woman, never mind the delicious white wheat flour muffin, OMFG, fuck being responsible, GIVE ME MORE—is indulgence enough, and I will not smoke a cigar today.

The snow and icy wind influence my decision. Just a little.


Science happens without much need for intervention, correction or encouragement.

Jane: So, you? Math?

Flora: Ugh.

Jane: I know. Just a little?

Flora: Shouldn’t you be teaching Ender to read?

Jane: Ugh.

Mostly, I’m hoping Minecraft teaches him.

Hey, it worked with Cinder.


Flora peels the potatoes while I meditate.

But there’s a text from her on my phone when I come out.

Flora: Where did you go?

I decide to text her back, instead of finding her.

Jane: I was hiding in the basement. That’s where I usually am when you can’t find me.

I think I’m so funny.


The invasion of the neighbourhood boys while I make supper.

Blue: Is Cinder doing math today?

Jane: No.

Blue: Thank god.

Pre-calculus math isn’t just ruining my life. It’s affecting the quality of life of everyone in the neighbourhood.

(I think I’m so funny. But… so does she…)

Her: Hey! New story idea! Harried mom has to trade sexual favours with hot young math teacher/tutor to help her child.  Just putting it out there.

Jane: You know… that totally has legs…

Jane: Actually, fuck it as a story. I’m going to go out and seduce a hot young math tutor. And then, maybe, I’ll write about it. Win-win-win scenario. 😉

You think I’m kidding. Ha.


I’m reading, simulatenously, Apartment Therapy by Maxwell Ryan, The Art of Organizing Anything by Rosalie Maggio, and Original Light  by Snatam Kaur). I should be reading billionaire romances. Four more to go… no, three—before March 7.

I’m not sure I’ll be able to persevere.

Sean: What’s the penalty if you don’t finish all the books you’re supposed to judge?

Jane: Eternal shame. You know I have to finish. I’m genetically incapable of not finishing. Sob.

(This is not funny. It is utterly tragic.)

(The Art of Organizing Anything is both funny AND tragic.)


I steal Blue’s mother’s car to take Flora to her martial arts class. Then, for reasons I don’t quite understand, end up reading articles about / by Jungian analyst Marion Woodman.

I should be writing that missing key scene.

Reading billionaire romances.



“The conscious feminine gives us the courage to love an acorn without knowing what an oak tree is.”    —Marion Woodman


“Love is the true antitheses of fear. It expands where fear constricts. It embraces where fear repels.” —Marion Woodman

And this one is my favourite:

“Presence is holding love without twisting it into your desire.” —Marion Woodman

(Sean is reading the Marion Woodman part in Stephen Cope’s The Great Work Of Your Life, so I think I start googling her for context. And to find out if she lived or died.)


Sort of on topic:

synchronicity is “the simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection.”

I think Carl Jung coined the word. Or at least redefined it.

“Jung believed that many experiences perceived as coincidence were due not merely to chance, but instead potentially reflected the manifestation of coincident events or circumstances consequent to this governing dynamic. He spoke of synchronicity as being an “acausal connecting principle.”


I guess I might have been familiar with the concept before Julia Cameron, but it was really only after reading The Artist’s Way that I started to really think about synchronicity.

“When I teach and I explain to my students the concept of synchronicity, they may at first protest that such a concept seems too good to be true. Not wanting to be gullible, they exclaim, ‘Julia! Do you really believe the universe opens doors for us?’ I tell them yes, and I ask them not to believe me, but to keep track themselves of the instances of synchronicity they now encounter.”

Julia Cameron

So I’m thinking about synchronicity chiefly because she’s experiencing crazy synchronicity (and is a little worried, a little fey—is something bad going to happen soon?) and also because…

I don’t know.

 * * * [insert key scene here] * * *



The morning starts with those thoughts. Is it worth it? Why bother? What sets them off is the Twitter account of a podcaster. I’ve followed a few friends who podcast. And now, Twitter keeps on suggesting podcast accounts I might be interested in.


Ditto youtubers. Bloggers. Authors.


Maybe the biggest service I can do for the world is to shut the fuck up…

Listen. Instead of talking.

Read. Instead of writing.

BE instead of creating… things nobody needs, notices because they are too busy shouting about their own drama, trauma, passions.

Maybe I need to stop.

Maybe I should get off.

The thoughts crate a peculiar sensation. The opposite, perhaps, of the still-point yogis chase—although it feels still, too—I am very still—and the world is swirling around me, a cacophony of noise, podcasts, vloggers, bloggers, youtoubers, genre authors, critics, reviewers… trolls.

Everyone is talking, all at once.


What will happen if I fall silent?

I should close my mouth and find out.

I close my eyes instead.


I decide the key scene is not so much missing as buried.


Fuck, that felt good.



Seesha. The Man On The Moon.

Searing sadness. Just such… searing sadness.

How is it possible to find happiness and rest and peace in the heart of such searing sadness?

But it is.

(a sense of safe place, I can’t explain it otherwise; a place of rest)

(I want to honour this moment, this night, this experience–I don’t yet know how)


Up too early. Smell of sex in the sheets, the air. Morning air so cold.

“What will you do today?”

“I have to finish a story…”

I finish more quickly than I expect; there is a smell of violets in the air.

I do all the things at home; take the train to the university. Russell Smith is speaking on what is authentic in art.

I’m… interested and yet disappointed.

And I’m so… frustrated by art and academics apparently working so hard to make themselves irrelevant.

You want to meet me in the evening; I say no. Choose solitude, home instead of you; you understand.

But instead, I end up in a bar with a bevy of artists.

We none of us know why we do what we do. We just… Compulsion, vocation?

I don’t know. And there is no answer at the bottom of the Guinness glass.


I spend the whole day reading Marion Woodman’s Bone.

Well, I also help Cinder with science. Read Bone (Jeff Smith’s) to Ender. Make food, go to yoga (I think I hate yoga) (I think I hate exercise) (I definitely don’t like “the gym”) (please, spring, come soon). I think a load of laundry gets done somewhere in there. I might answer an email.

Oh, and I burn through a billionaire romance (I told you; don’t ask—it’s work; it’s necessary, but I’m NEVER going to do it again).

But mostly, Friday, I spend with Marion Woodman.

Bone seduces me, transposes me, transforms me.

“Returning to my self-discipline routine. Taking time and energy to do my exercises, walking half an hour every day, and gently dancing. Not relying on housework to give me the exercise I need. Feeding myself the vitamins and remedies… Not begrudging myself the rest I need. Visualization and mediation hold the days and nights together.”

Marion Woodman, Bone, December 18, 1993

“Thinking about passion and the dark feminine and how they are related to creativity and healing. This relationship is one of the biggest tasks of the Crone: holding he opposites in conscious aging—holding passion for life in balance with acquiescence in death, holding the spiritual womb always receptive to the creative spirit and choosing the new wholeness…”

Marion Woodman, Bone, October 7, 1994

This is not from Bone, but it is Marion Woodman:

“A mother who is identified with being mother has to have children who will eat what she gives them and do what she wants them to do. They must remain children.”

And this is Italo Calvino, on Carl Jung, quoted in Bone:

“Jung’s method, which bestows universal validity on archetypes and the collective unconscious, is linked to the idea of IMAGINATION as PARTICIPATION in the TRUTH of the world.”

(capitals mine)

In the evening, Edward Sorel reminds me that Carl Jung was a raging anti-Semite.


There are no heroes.

Sean comes home in the evening bearing presents.

I change my mind. Go to bed with Vladimir Nabokov and Vera, and Frida, unopened, but beside us.

Sean joins us after his bath.



It’s two days before an anniversary I’m not going to celebrate. It’s fine. I’m fine.

Because, Leonard Cohen:

Take the word butterfly. To use this word it is not necessary to make the voice weigh less than an ounce or equip it with small dusty wings. It is not necessary to invent a sunny day or a field of daffodils. It is not necessary to be in love, or to be in love with butterflies. The word butterfly is not a real butterfly. There is the word and there is the butterfly. If you confuse these two items people have the right to laugh at you. Do not make so much of the word. Are you trying to suggest that you love butterflies more perfectly than anyone else, or really understand their nature? The word butterfly is merely data. It is not an opportunity for you to hover, soar, befriend flowers, symbolize beauty and frailty, or in any way impersonate a butterfly. Do not act out words. Never act out words.


Speak the words with the exact precision with which you would check out a laundry list. Do not become emotional about the lace blouse. Do not get a hard-on when you say panties. Do not get all shivery just because of the towel. The sheets should not provoke a dreamy expression about the eyes. There is no need to weep into the handkerchief. The socks are not there to remind you of strange and distant voyages. It is just your laundry. It is just your clothes. Don’t peep through them. Just wear them.

Leonard Cohen, Death of a Lady’s Man
Quoted in Brainpickings


You text to see if you can come over.

Jane: Yes.

But you will have to compete with Vladimir, Vera and Frida for my attention.

I am a terrible friend.


A cat n mouse game via text. I decide I definitely don’t matter, don’t exist.


I try to convince Flora to eat expired yogurt.

Jane: It smells fine!

Flora: I can’t believe you’re trying to make me eat expired diary. What sort of mother are you?

Jane: You’re so lucky. When you live on your own and I come over–you’ll never be stressed about having to clean your house or what to feed me. You can feed me expired yogurt–well, you can’t, because I don’t eat diary, but you know what I mean–and…

Flora: I’m not feeding you anything when you come over. I’m gonna be like, remember that time you didn’t feed us lunch for six months? No snacks for you!

Jane: Seriously?

Flora: Also, you’re not going to want to come over, because I’m going to have seven snakes.

Jane: Seven?

Flora: Seven. Crazy cat ladies are so passe. I’m going to be the crazy snake lady.

I don’t mind snakes, actually. It’s the smell of their liquid feces that turns my stomach. Did I ever tell you about the time we had cornsnakes and they escaped… and we never found them? I will, the next time you’re over, and sitting in a badly lit corner…


Saturday night. Sheesha with tribe–the YYC Queer Writers and I take over a Lebanese eatery and sheesha place. Make the owner uncomfortable. He knows me–doesn’t mind when I came alone or with one or two friends… when the queers take over two of his tables? He looks twitchy. Or are we projecting?

We are not their target audience. But it’s good to shake things up. Right?

An evening of unexpected blasts from the pasts, connections… glimmers of the future.

She comes and holds my hand, and…

Her: Ready?

Jane: Yes.

We go.

You: I’m going to strip you naked and paddle your ass raw for all this vague-blogging.

Jane: Promises, promises. But–seriously, this is all for me. When I’m here, on this page, in this space? I’m writing, playing, working out shit… for me. You get to have a peek. Appreciate that. Don’t ask for more.

I work at appreciating what I get. Don’t ask for more.

You: Liar.

No. Not really. Remember my original sankalpa? I’m still working with it, a little:

I ask for what I need.

I have everything I need.

I just… sometimes… often… want more.

But I have everything I need.

(Cohesive narrative be damned.)


The psychic who used to live next door is coming to dinner. I can’t wait. I miss her so much I can barely bear to hear her name spoken by people. (In the conversation with the bevy of artists on Thursday, I realize I have intense abandonment issues with which I deal by not attaching to people until I’m pretty sure they’re going to be around for a while. And then, when they leave… well. That’s the topic for another book… and another year’s or decade’s worth of therapy.)

But, she’s coming. I’ll feed her. Love her. Try to forgive her for leaving me. I haven’t yet; to be honest, I probably never will (I hold grudges).


I have everything I need.

Sort of.



PS Jung 101 Courtesy of Sonoma U. Just in case I go Jungian on you, so we have a common language.


The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

Do it full out (Week 4: Passions and Outcomes)

The Buddha was a psychopath and other heresies (Week 5: No Cohesion)

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

Tired, petty, tired, unimportant (Week 8: Disappointment and Perseverance)



Tired, petty, tired, unimportant (Week 8: Disappointment and Perseverance)


It’s Sunday and I’ve no plans but to lie still and regroup. Will I?

Flora: It’s impossible for you not to have a project.

True. But let’s call Sunday’s project… rest.


On Saturday, I worked very hard and you didn’t come, and I was… disappointed.

I guess that’s all I’ll say. And practice letting go of the outcome some more.

Find your dharma. Do it all out. Let go of the fruits of your actions.

“Do it all out,” I’ve got that down. Really. “Do it all out,” even when nobody’s watching, nobody cares, nobody comes.

On Saturday, I worked very hard, and you didn’t come and I felt very sorry for myself in the evening and cried.

Walk. Beer. Love. Sex.

Sean: I will take care of you.

True story: both my ultimate fantasy and biggest fear.


On Friday, I was a superstar. Everyone came. (Not you. Strangers. Why is it easier to please strangers?). They loved me. I was exhausted. But also high.

Wine Bar. A beautiful woman. The snow and air crunched as she walked me home after midnight.

Yes. It was a good day.


Every day there was math. Daddy, help!


On Thursday, I worked very hard. A meeting. Another. A moment of joy, captured by a friend’s camera:

(I must remind myself of this moment on Saturday. But I forget it, until Sunday.)


On Wednesday, I wrote and everything was right with the world.


Tuesday. Words. Deleting more than adding. Necessary. Email. Confirmation. Volley. Dodge. Return.


I fucking hate being busy—this needs to stop.

Meeting. Learning. There is a purpose to all of this, right? There is a method to this madness?


Monday. The family that goes on a frigid winter walk together… swears and suffers together.

Jane: Should we just let them have stayed home and played video games?

Sean: No. I’m pretty sure this is good for them. Us.

Cinder: I’m bored. Can I go home now?

Flora: I’m cold. Can I run ahead home?

Ender: I’m hungry!

On the plus side… there was no plus side. It was -100 degrees out.

In the morning, before the walk—I wrote. I said I’d start writing on Monday, and I did. 3500 new shiny words. Well, 4700. But I knew 2200 of them were garbage as soon as my fingers stopped moving.

I wrote before I read that email.

Rejection. Tears.

Do it all out. Let go of the outcome.


Krishna was a psychopath too.

an outtake

She’s showing me her husband’s texts. They’re lacking capitals. And periods.

She’s interpreting this as disrespectful. Lazy.

Worse, proof that he doesn’t love her or, in some perverse way, is now undeserving of her love.

I don’t know what to do with this situation.

There’s a part of me that wants to slap her or drop a bucket of cold water of her head. “It’s texting. Maybe he’s driving. Maybe he’s—imagine this—busy at work. It’s punctuation. Who the fuck cares?”

(I’m a writer. I don’t care. It’s texting. My texts are riddled with errors and omissions; his, her, your texts to me ditto. I don’t care. Unless you’re mean. I care then.)

Then there’s the part of me that knows it’s not about the missing periods and the lower case i.

She thinks he doesn’t love her. She’s worried she doesn’t love him. And she’s terrified. Fixating on the texts—the socks left on the floor of the bathroom—that he forgot to salt the mashed potatoes—that’s all easier.

I don’t know what to do with that either.

“What do you think he says to his friends when he complains about you?” I ask. “Do you think he shows them your texts?”

Ah, fuck. Wrong thing to say. Why did I say that?

When she gets up to leave, I’m pretty sure I’ll never see her again. Well. Maybe a year or two after the divorce. I realize—I know—she came to me to get something. Help? Perspective? Advice?

No. Understanding, compassion, an acknowledgement that it was ok to be pissed off about those missing periods.

I failed to deliver.

But she texts me a few hours late.

“Thank you for the coffee. I appreciate your time.”

Periods. Capital i.

I text back:

“you’re welcome”

Yes, I skip the period on purpose.

Yes, I’m a bitch.

Yes, I think about typing “your” instead of “you’re” but I can’t make myself do it.


It’s Sunday. No math today, thank god. He’s going to do science.

Some guilt.

Journal: “I’m not spending enough time with Ender. I’m not giving Flora enough attention. The house is a pigsty, and how many days in a row can I feed them frozen pierogies, imperfectly fried, before someone complains?”

(Sean makes steaks on Saturday and pork ribs on Sunday—I think that means I get one more week of pierogies.)

I don’t feel guilty about not giving enough to Cinder, though. The math time I’m putting in… Yeah.

Every time I help Cinder with his math though… I think about privilege.

Privileged people don’t understand privilege.

Cinder is so fucking privileged.

Think about it. Just in the context of the math.

He’s got two parents. With too many graduate degrees between them. Both of whom can sit down with him and give him the time and support he’s not getting from the textbook (which is shit) and the school (no comment). One of whom is home a lot, and has a sufficiently flexible schedule so that she can be there for the homework, the tests, the tears.

He has a grandfather. Also overeducated and NOT an artist and humanist—so he remembers high school math. Knows how to explain it. And has the time—and the love—to travel halfway across the city once or twice a week to help Cinder where I can’t.

On the days when we struggle with the sines and cosines and convergent and divergent equations and infinite series—and I don’t even want to look ahead in the book to see what’s next—I bring myself back to tranquility by thinking—We are so lucky.

So fucking privileged.

So lucky.

Today, I am extra lucky. It’s Sunday. No math.


It’s Sunday and I’m wrapped in pillows and blankets, pens and pencils around me. I will write, maybe draw. Read? I don’ t know. Tired eyes.

I’m not so disappointed anymore. I mean—I am. I wanted you to come. To see what I do. To be excited about it with me, for me. But it’s ok. I’m not resentful (anymore—I was, on Saturday).

I accept that I don’t do what I do for you. I accept that what I do just isn’t that important or interesting to you. It’s a little challenging to not think that therefore I’m just not that important and interesting to you.

I’ll work on NOT thinking that. I know it’s not true.

Small, petty feelings.

They will pass.

My “tired” fuels them.

When I am full, there is no room in me for those small, petty feelings.

It’s Sunday.

Tomorrow, another Monday.

And I’ll be… next week, I won’t be busy.

I will think. Breathe. Play.


It will be good.




The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

Do it full out (Week 4: Passions and Outcomes)

The Buddha was a psychopath and other heresies (Week 5: No Cohesion)

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)

Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)

Tired, petty, tired, unimportant (Week 8: Disappointment and Perseverance)


Killing it (Week 7: Exhaustion and Adrenaline)


Monday – launch one, two hours, fifty people, wow, full house, standing room only, congratulations, omfg, I’m so exhausted—you came—chocolates—thank you—awkward introductions—it’s all good.

Tuesday – a 12-hour Facebook party, how did I think this was a good idea? But it was—she’s so happy, and so am I.

Wednesday – radiostar—this actually isn’t so hard—a scattered afternoon because another reading in the evening—mom can you check this math assignment for me—I don’t have any clean socks—I kill it.

Thursday – I don’t want to get out of bed, honestly, but I do and then, all the things, the pace of the day doesn’t stop—community meeting in the evening—yes, take me for sheesha and then make me forget EVERYTHING for at least a few hours.

Friday – professional hat on, meeting face, sales girl—watch me go—oh fuck I forgot the books the business cards the notes—doesn’t matter, watch it go out of the ball park—sometimes all the stars align. But now I have to walk to the post office… and will you love me tomorrow?

Saturday – I’m just really really tired and I don’t want to do anything, but I have to set one more thing in motion. Two. Also, I have this other idea…

Sunday – No!


Actually… I kind of like that vague-blog above. It gives you a sense of the pace of the week, anyway, right?

It was a full week.

And I’m so fucking tired.

But also, very happy.

I am ridiculously, outrageous, goal-oriented. When I get things done… it feels really, really good.

Let go of the fruits, Arjuna? I don’t know. (Bhagavad Gita reference. Again.)

but maybe I should tell you…

No, actually, I won’t.



Wired for Story by Lisa Cron, which is brilliant.

Some stuff on branding which is boring as all hell and a book on disruptive marketing that is… well. Not particularly disruptive. Just… you know.

I don’t want to say boring.


Also, billionaire romances. Don’t ask. I have to. I said I would.




In my head.

On Monday, I’m going to sit down and let it flow.

I’m not, by the way, procrastinating. I’m damming.

You should try it.

Don’t do the thing you want to do for… one day… two… a week… a month.



Still three.


Fucking awful. Please take me to Cuba.



PS This:


The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

Do it full out (Week 4: Passions and Outcomes)

The Buddha was a psychopath and other heresies (Week 5: No Cohesion)

A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)


A good week (Week 6: Execute, Regroup)


On Sunday, I had an idea; on Monday, I executed; on Tuesday, I had results. On Wednesday, I worked like mad; on Thursday, I found out I didn’t have to; on Friday, I regrouped. On Saturday, I thought perhaps I’d fall in love—on Sunday, I will be disciplined.


Cinder writes his first quizzes of the semester. An 87.5% in math, 92% in science, no holes punched in the walls. I’d say “unschooling for the win,” except for all th eholes punched in the walls last semester.

You: Not feeling too smug?

Jane: No. Satisfied—but not smug.


Much of this week, I spend in Viking Hell. By which I mean it is so cold your snot and tears freeze before you finish locking your front door.


It’s pretty.


I am reading this:

Also, these:

Which do  you think is more fun?


Jane: Come here. Talk to me. I feel I neglect you horribly these days.

Flora: I’m quite happy being neglected. Except for food. Can you please go buy some groceries?

Jane: But it’s minus 100 outside!

I ask Sean to stop at Safeway on his way home from work.

It’s like taking down a mammoth, 21st century Homo sapiens style.


From the process journal (Friday):

“forgot to…”


“Forgot to” … WHAT?

I don’t remember, I don’t remember, I don’t remember.

Wait. … Maybe?




What did I forget?


“She tells me I seem so very open. I tell her it’s only because she doesn’t know me well enough to see how much I don’t tell.”

I tell other writers nothing is sacred, and to never fall in love with their words.

But I quite like the promise of those ones.


Until Saturday night, it was a really good week; I only cried a little. Then I cried a lot.

It’s a good thing I planned to be disciplined, on Sunday.

You: I hate it when you vague-blog.

Jane: I hate it when you don’t appreciate how hard it is for me to share as much as I do share.




The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

Do it full out (Week 4: Passions and Outcomes)

The Buddha was a psychopath and other heresies (Week 5: No Cohesion)


The Buddha was a psychopath and other heresies (Week 5: No Cohesion)

take 1

Monday not much happened, Tuesday I missed you, Wednesday I don’t know, Thursday I felt the dam trembling, Friday it burst, Saturday I pushed through—it’s Sunday, I don’t want to work.

take 2

Monday: “I am very productive in the morning. Also cranky.”
(wait, is this not a direct contradiction of take 1? apparently…)

Tuesday: Facebook frustration, Tinder swiping, checking email just because, coffee, overcommitting to plans, sheesha, cigars, having judgemental thoughts about people, not feeling like working, not walking the dog.

(this is a list in the process journal—I can’t quite figure out WTF it is—then I realize it’s a list of bad habits. Mine or yours? I wrote it—Tuesday—I don’t remember the context at all.)

Wednesday: “Do I have faith in this goal? Am I just not that hungry?”

Thursday: “Too many ideas, not enough focus.” (But I feel loved. So there’s that.)

Friday: Drip campaigns, branding, secrets. Tell me secrets? Tell me more secrets? Rhythm, routine, rest.

Saturday: Cinder passes a pair of Adidas gym pants on to me. They’re too big.
(I type “gym” because I can’t seem to be able to spell athletic. Oh hey, look. I did it.)

Sunday: 5 am wake up. Fuck that. But, I can’t.

take 3

Wednesday: I have a new sankalpa. But I’m not going to share it with you. It’s too bold, too big. Too personal.

And I’m afraid.

take 4

Friday: I am actually a very good, loving person. And I’m very good at connecting with people, connecting people with each other. I’m not sure where this “I’m hard and prickly” story about myself came from.

Flora is developing her own “I don’t like people,” “I don’t want to meet new people” story. My social butterfly, my empath. I don’t know where it’s coming from. Or how to stop it.

Jane: Want to meditate with me?

Flora: Isn’t it bad enough one of our family joined a cult? We really don’t need two.

Jane: I think being part of a cult all together would make us stronger. As a family.

I haven’t, btw—I feel I must reassure you too—joined a cult.

But, month fourteen of daily meditation.

There is no enlightenment. Not much tranquility and non-attachment happening either. And some of this:

Flora: OMG, you’re going To Buddhist hell as well as Christian hell!

Jane: Well, it’s a good thing I’m an atheist then. And stop reading over my shoulder!

Anyway. It’s all good.

non-sequitur: We’re reading Jeff Smith’s Bone to Ender. It’s almost as brilliant as Calvin & Hobbes.

take 5

Wednesday: Cinder gives Ender his “broken” Lego. The Lego is broken because when Ender was three and Cinder 10, and Lego was still precious to the big brother, Ender and a friend of his disassembled almost every single one of the Lego sets Cinder had spent the previous five years building and treasuring on his shelves.

I’ve never seen my eldest so angry, not before and not since. (And I’ve seen a lot of anger this year).

He still won’t forgive Ender’s friend. (He comes from a long line of grudge holders. On both sides, it seems.)

But it looks like he’s forgiven Ender.

The passing of the Lego makes me feel a little weepy…

So does this:

Cinder: You can throw out this blanket.

It’s an ugly ancient comforter, more holes than fabric, most of the stuffing gone, the little that remains balled into lumps.

It was a hand me down to us from Sean’s mother during our first winter back in Calgary when Cinder was a baby. It was the comforter I wrapped around us when we were in the nursing chair… it eventually became the main comforter on his bed.

It looked like shit a decade ago, four years ago it was totally coming apart.

After the flood in 2013, when my mother was cleaning our house, she was so appalled by it, she bought Ender a new one—and threw the old one in the dumpster.

Sean and I had to go dumpster diving for it at midnight, dig it out from amongst other flood debris. Wash it. Dry it.

Let Cinder love it, hold on to it, a little longer.

I don’t quite trust that Cinder is ready to let it go. He wasn’t six months ago, the last time he did a deep clean of his room.

I leave it on the landing for most of the day.

Sean: Why is this ratty blanket here?

Jane: Cinder wants to throw it out.

Sean: Oh…

Milestones are so weird…

My son is also getting rid of a pair of gym pants. Fairly new. Too small for him.

I try them on.

They’re too big for me.

OMFG, baby. When did this happen?

take six

You text me this quote:

 “We do not need to learn to let go. We just need to recognize what is already gone” Suzuki Roshi

I hate Buddhists.


Rabindranath Tagore was the first non-European to win the Nobel prize for literature. Did you know that? But he wasn’t really a poet. He was a mystic, who happened to be a writer. So I think.

Keep me fully glad with nothing. Only take my hand in your hand.

In the gloom of the deepening night take up my heart and play with it as you list. Bind me close to you with nothing.

I will spread myself out at your feet and lie still. Under this clouded sky I will meet silence with silence. I will become one with the night clasping the earth in my breast.

Make my life glad with nothing.

The rains sweep the sky from end to end. Jasmines in the wet untamable wind revel in their own perfume. The cloud-hidden stars thrill in secret. Let me fill to the full my heart with nothing but my own depth of joy.

Rabindranath Tagore

take seven

This week has no cohesion, no unifying story.

It is a mix of productivity and sloth.

Calm and pain.

Learning and resistance.

Perhaps it’s a week of oppositions? But that’s too neat.


It simply has no cohesion.

It ends with a snowstorm.



The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)

Do it full out (Week 4: Passions and Outcomes)


Do it full out (Week 4: Passions and Outcomes)



…looked a lot like Sunday except I DID ALL THE THINGS ID DIDN’T WANT TO DO.

Well, one category of them, anyway.

Yay, me.

Also, Ursula Le Guin died and I spent much of the day loving her.

Here are two of my favourite ULG features from BrainPickings:


Michelle Obama is coming to town as a guest of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce on March 23. The cheap seats are $200 and I’ve spent so much imaginary money lately, I can’t tell you… There’s no way. I can’t. I won’t.

Facebook message from my dad:

I will gift you Michelle’s Obama ticket! Happy Birthday! Something changes within you when you meet great, good people! Love You!

The mantra I am practicing, do you remember, my sankalpa, is:

I ask for what I need. It comes to me.

I accept it with reverence and gratitude.

I accept.

With reverence and gratitude.


We carve out a night of pleasure in the middle of obligation and chaos, and it is good.


Up at 5 am but back in bed before six. A phone call. Another. Coffee. Burritos. More? Cheese tortilla? Fine. Lunch and second lunch for everyone—the interviews I need to conduct happen in-between.

We have to get Cinder to a math test across town. Car2Go or Uber? The little smart cars get stuck in the snowbanks; their tiny tires are useless on the ice.


The driver’s name is Michael. The car smells like dog. But we’re on time.

A text from the back seat of the Uber:

Jane: Have to take C for his math final—I kicked out the boys, because Flora’s too cranky to supervise them both. They’re heading to your place. Or the Common.

A response from my neighbour:

np — They’re here now. Don’t worry.

I love my hood; I love my tribe.

Cinder’s test runs for 2 hours and 45 minutes. I read a billionaire romance—for work, not pleasure. It should be both, but it’s not—it hurts. This female fantasy of someone with bottomless pockets to take care of ME so that I don’t have to worry about… bills, job, LIFE… it’s so shaming, it’s so disempowering, it’s so relatable…

Do you ever, btw, wonder what rich people worry about?

You: Money.

Jane: True. I guess… there’s never enough.

What an awful, awful thought. Ugh.

I pretend to work in the cold high school hallway. So cold. Sterile. It smells funny. It’s a little re-traumatizing. Why do we make these spaces in which our children, your young people spend so many hours so… aesthetically bankrupt?

You: You’ve seen what office cubicles look like, right?


Sean checks in with me as I slog through the romance. Reports on Action: Feeding the Children.

Sean: I fed Flora pierogies. Cinder can have a frozen pizza, and I think Ender’s supper is going to be ham buns.

I end up making him another burrito when Cinder and I get back home after his test, with 30 minutes to spare before I have to take Flora to her martial arts class. Our Uber drive’s name is Emil and he pronounces my name correctly and triest to catch my eye as he does so—he wants me to comment on it, he wants to tell me where he’s from. His story. But I can’t. Suddenly, I have a deficit of words and thoughts and feelings, and I sink into the backseat of his RAV4, Cinder beside me, in silence.

Cinder’s not sure he passed his test. “It was difficult,” he says. “I didn’t remember everything. There were a lot of questions where I just didn’t know…”

I find words. And they’re good ones.

The driver smiles at me in the rearview mirror. I smile back. He’s just told me he’s a parent; no words necessary.

The drive to Flora’s martial arts class and back—always, these days, in a car borrowed from one neighbour or another—is all the focused attention my Unicorn gets from me these days. We talk a lot about pop music.

Flora: There haven’t been any good new songs for a while. Weeks. Months.

I agree.

“Hotel California” comes on.

Jane: I like this one, still.

A throwback not to my teenhood or childhood, but to my parents’ teenhood, childhood.

Flora rolls her eyes. She doesn’t say, “You’re so lame, Mom.” But she thinks it; no words necessary.

Back home. So late, so tired. Sean’s cleaned the kitchen before leaving for the night—I don’t send him a thank you text but I think it.

Ender’s ready for bed.

Where’s the electric toothbrush?

Fuck, we need a new toothpaste.

Jane: Calvin & Hobbes?

Ender: Yes… We were… here…

We read Calvin & Hobbes—I remember I forgot to let the dog back in after I let her out to pee—“Flora! Check on Maggie!”—“Mom! How could you! She’s frozen!”—lights out—bedtime.

I sit beside Ender until his breath tells me he’s asleep.

Kiss the foreheads of the other two.

Think about reading; I have this book on my phone:

…and I’m still not done re-reading The Great Work of Your Life, but the billionaire romance has sapped me.




Sean’s first day of his new job. Squee!

Jane: I’m so excited! Text me at lunch to tell me how it’s going!

Flora: What’s going on?

Jane: We have a job! Benefits! Money coming into the bank account on a regular basis!

Flora: Dad has a job. We just spend his money.

Ok. I don’t want to tell you I lose it with her here. But I do.

Her words feel like a slap.

An undoing of EVERYTHING I’ve tried to teach, model, live.

I deliver a scathing post-post-modernist feminist anti-capitalist critique of what she said, the insiduous, unexamined thoughts behind it, and how thinking like that harms women, men, children, families and the world we live in.

Then I burst into tears. And stomp off.

Behind me, I hear Sean murmur, “You know your mom works, right? Harder than I do? And makes money? And we’re all in this together?”

They do and they don’t, I suppose. At the end of the day… they don’t see my work. They don’t see me leave for work.

And I’m the one who makes the fucking burritos for lunch.

Not always. Of course. Not always.



Is that all Flora sees?


Possessed, I reorganize the whole entire main floor. For once, this is not an act of procrastination. I have until Monday to file these two easy, easy easy stories—they’re totally written in my head anyway—that other thing I’ve drafted… it needs to marinate a bit.. I am not putting off anything important in order to scrub the floor and baseboards and drag the couch out of living room and into the kitchen.

Cinder: Love what you’ve done with the place.

Jane: Shut up.

Cinder: Should I test Dad and warn him you’re about to start a new book?

Jane: Fuck off.

Cinder: Should I help you move this couch over the bump?

Jane: Yes.

Cinder: I wonder what it would be like to grow up with normal parents.

Jane: Boring.


My new space.

It looks really really good.

I’ve very happy.

I love beautiful spaces, places, things.



It’s 8 pm and dark and cold, and Sean’s holding the stepladder and helping me climb into our community dumpster. He’s using my phone as a flashlight, and I’m really grateful that we now have compost garbage. I’m mostly stepping on broken toys. An old car seat.

We’re here because mid-day, I scored Cinder a new office chair. A beautiful $150 or maybe even $600 office chair that was no longer good enough for the accountant who occasionally used it. Unfortunately, in the process of wheeling it home over the ice, I busted one of the wheels.

Meanwhile, Cinder had exchanged his totally busted “this chair is trying to kill me” gaming chair for one of the arm chairs I moved out of the kitchen while making room for the couch.

He tossed the gaming chair into the dumpster. Its wheels fell off.

Its wheels would work perfectly well on the chair I just acquired.




Sean: See, this is the difference between being married and dating. This is not the kind of thing you do with strangers you meet on the Internet.

Jane: I suppose by the time you get to this stage, you’re not strangers anymore.

Sean: I see it!

I see another one. Five chair wheels acquired. Score!

Sean pulls me out of the dumpster as a neighbour’s car rolls past.

There’s something unexpectedly romantic about our brief walk home from the dumpster.

But when we tell Flora what we were doing, there’s only one thing on her mind.

Flora: So who gets the new  chair?


One of those days.

Process journal: “I feel lazy and dumb.”

But it ends with a bang.

Thank you, #writertribe.

Also, the Michelle Obama tickets go on sale.

Thank you, Dad.


…starts with a surprise. Hello, shiny thing. Oh. Goodbye, shiny thing?

The unifying thread that runs through the Buddhist-Vedic-Mindfulness-As-Secular-Religion crap stuff books (just fucking write books!!) I’m reading right now is one of impermanence.


Freedom and happiness, or at least tranquility =  freedom from attachment.

I really, really struggle with this because… I WANT. Oh, gods, yes. I DESIRE. CRAVE.

I love. I care.

I throw all of myself into everything I pursue. My work, kids, loves, community…

If I’m lukewarm about it… half-hearted? I just… don’t do it…

I’ve equated freedom from attachment with… detachment.

And I’ve been detached, and, honestly, my love, when I’m detached, I might as well be dead. You might as well be dead—I don’t give a fuck what happens to you…

That’s a terrible feeling. It’s emotional death. What person in their right mind would want to pursue it?

Ender: Mama mama mama I love you, and I’m never ever going to let you go.

Jane: Good.

I love love love him too. Except… I’m going to have to let him go. It’s easy to forget, not see it with him, yet. But his almost 16 year-old brother? His 13 year-old sister?

Loving them right now is 90% about letting them go.

Cinder: 99%.

Jane: Give me 10%. I’m driving you to your fucking finals.

Letting them go does not diminish my love for them. It even, perhaps, intensifies it.

(This is the magic, you know, of maternal love. This gross squishy wailing pooping peeing thing exits your body, enter your life—and you overflow, drown in love. And think—I can’t possibly be feeling something this big, this intense. How can there be more? And yet there is more. And more. And more.)




Letting go.

Fucking mystics, why do they make everything so complicated?

In re-reading Stephen Cope’s The Great Work of Your Life, I have a glimmer of what it is they mean, maybe. Cope is paraphrasing the Bhagavad Gita’s prescription for happiness (or at least a meaningful life).

It has four pillars:

  1. Look to your dharma. (Purpose in life.)
  2. Do it full out.
  3. Let go of the outcome.
  4. Turn it over to god.

Number four is hard for an atheist—the internal dialogue goes something like ths: “There is no God, gods. The Universe is an intricate, amazing thing, but if I say, ‘Turn it over to the Universe,’ Bill Nye will come and kick my ass and, really, it just means the same thing. So turn it over to who, what?” and I spin and spiral and spin and spiral and I just let it go and go back to focusing on numbers two and three.

  1. Do it full out.

Yes. Fucking watch me.

  1. Let go of the outcome.

Really? How?

Can I?

Sometimes, I do.

And I know this—“let go of the outcome”—is a true, powerful thing. These two principles:

Do it full out

Let go of the outcome

–they are true. For me, anyway. When I do it (whatever it is) FULL OUT without craving an outcome beyond… DOING THE THING—when I DO IT—love you, love her, write this, do THAT—because it is the thing that my being knows needs to bed one and I don’t think abou the result—will you love me? will the story be good? will we succeed?—I am… happy isn’t even an adequate word.




Let go of the outcome.

Working on it.


productive morning, meandering mid-day, strange evening, restless night

I write about habits, context, credentials.


I try to write, and at some point actually do—finish my deadline work.

Don’t finish my “I’m exploring this idea, where will it go work.” Abandon it, actually.

But I end up spending some time with Sylvia Boorstein again, thinking about what she calls “kind speech.” (The Buddha, apparently, said “wise speech.” She likes kind speech better; softer now than I was even a year ago, I agree.)

That kind of speech, she writes, s “true and helpful and gentle.”

She adds, it “makes the mind feel safe and also glad.”

Also, this:

“When I am privy to disparaging critiques, even when they are not directed at me, I feel unnerved and my mind is roused into protective mode. I think of it as a basic survival response and I’m glad I have it so I can run away from real danger.”

But living in protective mode… it’s really, really draining.

Suddenly, I understand what my core issue with Facebook is.

I used to love it, after all. Defend it.

And now I’m trying to figure out how to pursue my career, goals… without it.


So interesting.



PS Check this out:

… How very Victorian, Bernard. Of you, I expected no less. But Maria… with you, I am disappointed. Let’s file this under “research” … and ponder it a little. It fits so very well with my current projects…


The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)

A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)


A moody story (Week 3: Ebb and Flow)


“Day of rest—sort of moody.”


An idea. Two, actually. Fuck. Also, I roast a duck. She is beautiful and delicious; the kids eat Mr. Noodles instead. I don’t say, “Ungrateful bastards.” I don’t even think it. They were all conceived and born in wedlock, after all.

(This seemed really funny when I thought it. Sorry. A good editor would cut it.)


The idea percolates. Goddammit. I don’t have time for this, I need to finish… Not now, not yet.

This phrase: “but not at any cost.”

Lunch with my dad. Reflections. Family. Origins. Conflict. Disappointment. Why are we here?

I know why I’m here.

I spend $2000 of imaginary money. Commit to spending $2000 more. Gulp. Do not think about the idea, I have no time.

Also: a date, a confession, a resolution. Oooh. I like that rhythm. Would it work as a book title?

You: This is very confusing.

Jane: I am very confused. Except for the brief moments when I am so-very-clear I can’t breathe.


“Today I need to be domestic.” First words in my process journal. Instead, I re-read The Great Work of Your Life by Stephen Cope, my favourite parts. Say yes to an opportunity, a new one. No idea for it yet—just the opportunity. The idea—two, now I need a third—grows.


I’m not stifling it any more. I suppose it’s time. My spring is coming early this year.


I write a first draft. Yes. I ask an editor for work (=money). Yes. I write blurbs (Yes!). I say… yes, yes, yes. OMFG how am I going to do it all?

I re-arrange all the furniture and books in my space. You know what’s coming.

Long walk, cigar, drink with a friend, sheesha with a lover, text from you.





“No back ups for 740 days.” Daily reminder from my laptop; I wish it would stop nagging me.

You: Fucking back up your work!

Jane: It all exists somewhere else too. Don’t worry. But yes. I’ll do that. As soon as I finish… mmm. Yes.

So I don’t actually finish or start anything on Sunday. Putter around. Throw out half my closet. Read a bit more from The Great Work of Your Life. Eat, walk in the sun, witness a human tragedy in the making, wasted life. Or is it?


We have, each of us, a life-story, an inner narrative — whose continuity, whose sense, is our lives. It might be said that each of us constructs and lives, a “narrative,” and that this narrative is us, our identities.

If we wish to know about a man, we ask “what is his story — his real, inmost story?” — for each of us is a biography, a story. Each of us is a singular narrative, which is constructed, continually, unconsciously, by, through, and in us — through our perceptions, our feelings, our thoughts, our actions; and, not least, our discourse, our spoken narrations. Biologically, physiologically, we are not so different from each other; historically, as narratives — we are each of us unique.

Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat
Quoted in “The Building Blocks of Personhood: Oliver Sacks on Narrative as the Pillar of Identity,”

“Each of us is a… story.”

I like that.




The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)

Easier than you think, harder than I expected: a week in eleven stanzas (Week 2: Goodness and Selfishness)


It’s Thursday, and Sean has an important interview on Friday at 3 pm. He’s nervous. I’m nervous. We’re all nervous. It’s a REALLY BIG DEAL and we’re all attached to the outcome.

Jane: Flora and I will do some magic at three. Draw a pentagram on the floor, sacrifice a small..

Flora: Child?

She looks at Ender poignantly as she says this, and the Unicorn’s eyes are so expressive, Ender starts to cry.

Sean: I will be very very upset if you sacrifice any small child, but especially if it’s MY small child.

Flora: But….

Sean: And it sets a dangerous precedent. Once he’s gone… who’s next in line to be sacrificed/ Hmmmm?

Flora: Cinder. The spells always call for the eldest child or the youngest child. For once, being in the middle has a bonus!

By now Ender is howling—fake crying but still—Cinder is threatening to burn Flora’s books—“WE NEVER EVER BURN BOOKS IN THIS HOUSE!!”—that’s my contribution—and Sean’s wondering if perhaps we should stop getting Flora witchcraft books out of the library.

I’m watching. Taking notes, obviously.


Hell froze over on Wednesday but after doing all the work and ruining supper (it wasn’t entirely my fault), I trudged through the cold and snow to have tea with a fellow artist.

I learned something important but it’s all confused inside me right now. It’s there… germinating. I suppose it’s a seed.

So thank you for that.


On Tuesday, we introduced Ender to Bill Waterson’s Calvin & Hobbes. Cinder had committed all ten years of the strip to memory by the time he was eight and Flora still sleeps with the complete editions we got her for Christmas—the year she was eight—under her pillow.

Flora: Under my bed.

Jane: Shall I look under your pillow to prove my point?

Flora: No!

Sean and I think Bill Waterson is a genius, and in our more dogmatic moments, believe Calvin & Hobbes should be mandatory reading for all parents—part of pre-natal classes, or maybe delayed till your kinder are three or four, but absolutely mandatory by the time they’re five. You see, Waterson captures so perfectly the inner life and logic a child, the interplay of reality and imagination. The fire and the helplessness, the freedom and the frustration…

I generally think I’m a pretty good parent for two reasons—the the first is that I remember. I remember not just being six and sixteen… but what it felt like to be six and sixteen.

I think one of the tragedies of modern prescriptive-scientific-lived-on-social-media-so-many-books-and-blogs-and-artciles-telling-you-what-you-SHOULD-do parenting is… that most people just don’t remember. They don’t remember what if felt like to be small.

They remember… facts, events, accurately or not. Things done to them, said to them. But they forget… how those things made them feel.

(The second reason, by the way, is that I’m selfish, in a self-aware way. More on that later.)


Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday,  I am super-productive, tying up all the loose ends, running, sprinting—pause, breathe—and then a prolonged interlude to ground myself, see that I’m almost done and revel in what I’m about to finish…

But even in the middle of it all, I take time—make time?—for pleasure and love, sheesha and hot tea, a lover’s embrace. Time slows down, suddenly, everything is possible, everything is clear—everything will get done.

I make time for reading too, not work-related reading (novels are now work-related reading and I do need to figure out how to reset that), but soul-nurturing reading.

You: I thought you were this hard-core atheist.

Jane: Hush. I have a tender little atheistic soul. Don’t crush it.

I read this:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, and irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

CS Lewis, The Four Loves

It’s quoted in this book:

Ordinary Goodness by Edward Viljoen… I’m not quite finished the book yet, and I’m not sure I’m going to get to the end. It’s making me feel kind of bad about myself.

Jane: See, I just don’t think I’ve got a drive to be good. Or kind.

Sean: What do you mean?

Jane: I just don’t think I’m that good. The way he defines the word. And I don’t really want to be. All the “practice this” sections? About how to be this person who celebrates and lives and practices ordinary goodness and everyday kindness? I read them and I say, “Fuck, who has time for that? I’d rather be writing.”

Sean: You’re an artist.

Not, I suppose, an altruist. Or much of a humanist, really.

See? Selfishly self-aware.

It has some bonuses, I won’t lie. But also pitfalls.


On Monday, I do something not good. Unkind. Selfish. Not even to fulfill a burning desire—more a whim, temper of the moment—I do something that makes me so conscious of my selfishness and unkindness that I weep.

I’m not going to tell you what I did. One, it’s private, two, I’m ashamed, three, it doesn’t matter.

I do something not-good that, yes, potentially harms other people.

But here’s the thing:

Even before it harms them—it harms me.

I feel awful.


As Monday became Tuesday, Cinder forgot to put away the dishes before he went to bed.

“It was 2:30 in the morning!” he says later. “I remembered, but I was already in bed!”

He puts them way noonish—at least, they’re put away when I get back home Tuesday afternoon.

While Cinder still sleeps, and the clean but un-put-away dishes litter the kitchen counter, Sean and I resist the urge to a) do his job b) be angry at him.

“Remind Cinder to put them away when he gets up,” I tell Sean as I head out the door.

“I’ll remind him eventually,” Sean says. “I’m not going to… ‘Good morning, you didn’t put away the dishes last night’—starting the day with being nagged about something you didn’t do last night and probably feel bad about forgetting to do… that’s not a very loving way to wake up.”

I kiss him and for a few minutes rest in the love of his arms.

He remembers what it felt like to be sixteen, six too.


I remember trying to explain attachment parenting to some “this sounds fucking weird people” a decade, more ago, and saying something along the lines of, “Attachment parenting gave us this amazing, loving little son.”

I’d never say that now.

I’d say, “Attachment parenting made ME a better, more compassionate, more complete person.”

Caveat 1: I never treated it as a religion or dogma.

Caveat 2: I chose selfishly self-aware over martyr, for better or worse, every single time.


Friday, we smoke seesha, Saturday, we play Bears versus Babies, and on Sunday, I have a fight with Cinder.

Well. Not a fight, exactly.

He gets angry. His anger infects me. I tell him that. He calls me a hippy, and I slam the stainless steel serrated knife I’m holding against the kitchen table, as he slammed his “switchblade-style” bottle opener against the table a few seconds earlier. I start to cry and he storms off to his room. I weep outside his door, barred. So angry, so helpless, why will he not tell me what’s wrong?

I drag myself away from his bedroom door to the kitchen. Go back to reading Sylvia Boorstein’s It’s Easier Than You Think.

Read this:

Even If It’s Senseless, Mushrooms Matter

My friend Alta’s life was a lesson to me, and her death was a lesson to me, too. She enjoyed good health for seventy-nine years, then quite suddenly she became desperately ill, and it was clear she would die very soon. She accepted this awareness with her normal consummate grace. That was half the lesson she taught me.

The other half was about what makes sense. On the last day Alta could talk to me, two days before she died, we talked about meaning.

“I’m thinking about the meaning of it all,” she said, “and it doesn’t seem very important. What do you think?”

“Maybe it’s ‘much ado about nothing,’” I said.

“Seems like that,” she replied, adding, “You did a good eulogy for your father.”

“I’ll do yours too.”

“I wouldn’t want to put you to any trouble…”

“Give me a break, Alta! What do you want me to say?”

“It doesn’t matter. Say anything you want.”

“How about if i give your recipe for the great marinated mushrooms you make?”

“That’s a good idea. They were very good. People liked them a lot.”

“Do you remember the recipe? You could give it to me now.”

“Not exactly. Look it up. It’s in my recipe box. Remember to say they shouldn’t be made more than four hours before you eat them. The mushrooms wilt.”

Mushrooms are as meaningful as anything else.

Sylvia Boorstein, It’s Easier Than You Think, pg 121

Cinder comes back downstairs to his computer. I get up, slowly. There is no anger in me. There is no anger emanating from the other room. But there is shame in me at my anger.

I go up to him and hold him, hug him.

He hugs me back.

We don’t talk, but that’s ok.

We talk later.


Friday, I am trying to take some time for myself, but, children—the sheesha at the end of the day is a treat. Saturday, I run from event to event, overscheduled and frazzled, a little, but also happy.

I matter. I find out I matter, I hear I matter, I feel I matter.

And then, suddenly—I don’t.

Hello, weekend existential crisis.


It’s Sunday so I no longer really remember what happened Monday (proofing) or Tuesday (proofing, an interlude for love) and all I remember from Wednesday is that it was too cold to live and yet we walked in the Ice Age anyway. Sean’s interview on Friday went well even though Flora did not sacrifice her little brother to the human resources gods.

On Sunday, I make the bathroom and a quarter of the kitchen shine. It deepens my existential crisis: I wish scrubbing kitchen counters mattered, was in the least bit fulfilling, changed the world—or at least filled my soul.

It doesn’t.

Does this? This scribbling, throwing of words into the cyber-ether?

Probably not.

Flora: Chocolate?

Jane: Thanks. I love you.

Flora: I love you too.

Sylvia Boorstein:

… when I love, I’m happy.


I guess the third Monday of 2018 will start with existential angst. But maybe not. God is not merciful—I’m not sure the universe exists—but my abstract concept of life has a wicked sense of humour.

Ender: I’m hungry!

Jane: Chocolate?

He says no. I give him a cold porkchop instead. He eats it while watching his older brother and sister play Minecraft.

Flora: I still say we should have sacrificed him.

Ender: Mom!

Jane: Flora!

Somewhere, an imagined God laughs.

And I smile.

Self-indulgently yours,


PS Last word this week to Sylvia Boorstein:

“We are VERBS not NOUNS
as sequels to other STORIES
previously told.”


The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

The year started with a Monday; so does every week (Week 1: Transitions and Intentions)

monday, january one

“When the New Year starts on a Monday, are we doomed to a year of Mondays? Not an auspicious omen.”

The sentiment is not my own—it comes from the mouth of an acquaintance via an Internet meme.

I shrug.

My world does not divide into weekdays and weekends. And I like Mondays. Actually, I did just find out the Y cancelled my Essentrics class, which was one of my favourite things about Mondays.


Mondays are fresh. New. A new page in a new notebook. You know?

I like beginnings.

Revolutionary thought: I like Mondays.

Revolutionary suggestion: you could like Mondays too.

* * *

An intimate moment from my first Monday of 2018: I’m working with the same sankalpa I set myself in the fall of 2017 when I was drowing in too much work. It goes like this:

I ask for what I need and it comes to me.

I accept it with reverence and gratitude.

At the end of my meditation on the first Monday of 2018, I ask myself exactly what it is that I’m asking for. What do I need?

I ask for the courage to be myself.

Oh. Interesting. Now, that is interesting…

* * *

tuesday, january two

From my process journal:

It was an emotionally HARD day

but I WORKED and made FOOD;

also smoked a CIGAR.

* * *

wednesday, january 3

I am hyper-productive and yet putting the breaks on myself the entire day. Watching the pulse and the rhythm of the day. What’s driving it? What’s driving me?

In the morning, I create an amazing short story. By noon, I decide to break a heart (and also, decide that the morning’s amazing story is shit; I should trash it—but I don’t).

A quote from Jeanette Winterson:

True art when it happens to us challenges the ‘I’ that we are.

* * *

thursday, january 4

In the morning, I am the consummate professional and I sit down to write and finish and FILE a story without whining AT ALL about how much I don’t want to get it done. Watch. Me. Type.

Fuck. Done. Filed.

And it’s not even 10 am yet.


I go to the Y for the first time since before my grandfather’s funeral.

Text Sean after:

Can’t feel my arms. Or legs. Or butt.

Don’t text:

Please come to the Y and carry me home.

But I think about it.

* * *

I ask for what I need and it comes to me.

I accept it with reverence and gratitude.

So, a sankalpa is basically an affirmation, except, you know, cooler cause it has a Sanskrit name.

(Note use of humour as a safety-distancing device—this isn’t really important to me because I can laugh at it—let me mock myself before you mock me.)

It’s usually translated as “resolve.” Rod Stryker, the author The Four Desires who introduces me to sankalpa defines kalpa as vow or “the rule to be followed above all other rules” and san as a connection with the highest truth.

I don’t know about the highest truth part. Or the rule part.

But resolve works. Resolve works.

Anyway. I’m practicing:

I ask for what I need and it comes to me.

I accept it with reverence and gratitude.

because I suck at asking for what I need. And often, when it does come to me… I fight it. Or accept it ungraciously, ungratefully. Resentful that I need your help.

I should be able to do everything alone, don’t you know.

* * *

Sean is doing this month’s high school math with Cinder.

I am so grateful.

I didn’t even have to ask.

* * *

friday, january five

From the process journal:

I have not done a lot of work today but I am very happy.

* * *

saturday, january six

My Unicorn turns 13 today. 13!

We celebrate all day.

For breakfast, she eats the tiramisu Sean and Cinder made for her last night. Ender’s present to her is all the candy left-over from his Advent calendar.

At some point I do laundry.

At dinner, we find out my mother, the hardcore ER nurse… doesn’t know what a marijuana leaf looks like.

Life is good.

* * *

sunday, january seven

I have so much to do today. Tomorrow. This week.

This year.

I look back at the first week of the year and… reflect? Evaluate? Something like that—I’m searching. For patterns, good and bad.

I don’ t make resolutions, you know. But I do make… commitments. There’s a difference. Right?

I won’t tell you what my commitments for 2018 are. Apparently stating one’s goals does not help one meet them.

It’s true; I read about it on the Internet. (In this article–Hush And Just Do It—parenthetically, I’m really glad the author isn’t my grandmother, and if you would like to talk to me about your hopes and dreams, intentions, darling—please do it. You know how you kill a relationship with a child, a lover, a friend? Say “I don’t want to hear about it until you fulfill it” when they start telling you about their dreams. Fuck. You know what? Don’t read the article. Apparently, I’m just sharing it with you because it ticked me off.)

I’m long-handing this post in the morning—I will type it up and post it at night, I decide, when I’m fried and tired of my other work. I have a 12,000 word anthology to final-proof today—once, twice… three times? A shitload of laundry to fold. A kitchen to excavate. A unicorn to tame, a vampire bat to chase outside, a manticore to charm…

But I also want to chill and read a book. Have a bath. Cook something good. Go for a walk in the sun.

Patterns. Rhythms.

* * *

I do stare at that post-script to my sankalpa from the first Monday of the year.

I ask for the courage to be myself.

Why, really, that? Now?

I kind thought I had THAT part of my self-drama pretty much worked out.

But no. Apparently, not yet.

I ask for the courage to be myself.

Well. Let’s see how all that goes next week.



Dear Fatherland: the pallbearers were probably not skinheads, but I don’t know, and reflections on grief, roots, and love

For my dad

Nov 29, 2017
Kafefajka, Nowy Swiat


Dear Fatherland,

You’re beautiful even on a grey and drizzly November morning.

But your government is fascist.

Your religion is medieval.

Your customer service sucks.

And your people are rude and pushy.


We bury my grandfather on Tuesday, on a grey but dry November afternoon. I stand in the cold chapel looking at his embalmed corpse, waiting for feelings.

There don’t seem to be any—just a clinical curiosity.

An awareness that the suit his body is wearing is the suit he wore to my wedding, 17 years ago.

Then, an awareness of the awareness (how’s that for meta thoughts?) that I was thinking of the corpse very comfortably as a corpse—my grandfather’s body, but certainly not my grandfather. Not at all.

Which, of course, is at it should be.

A corpse is not a person.


I don’t like coming back “home.”

I never feel more alien—or more Canadian—than when I visit the place where I was born.


My grandfather’s sister, 14 years his junior, is already in the chapel when I enter. Not alone—her husband and daughter are with her.

I’m not alone either. I’m accompanying my grandfather’s youngest daughter, caretaker—chief mourner—who’s my father’s youngest sister. Therefore, my aunt, but closer in age to me than to my father, so really, my sister.

My grandfather’s sister is crying.

His daughter (my aunt-but-more-sister)–eyes dry this time—they have been wet a lot—suggests they pray together.

For his soul?

They start a pattern of Our Fathers and Hail Marys, the three women of the family—my grandfather’s sister, his daughter, his niece. The only man in the chapel—my great uncle, I suppose—mouths the words, but makes no sound.

When my mother walks into the chapel a few minutes later, she joins the chorus of the praying women.

It is very strange for me to hear my mother pray.


When I come “home” to visit—and I come, it seems, only for weddings and funerals (and not all of them), and once, a baptism—it generally takes me two or three days to start hating Poland.

This time, my dislike for the people I come from hits me in Amsterdam as I board the plan for Warsaw, as they seem to go out of their way to push and jostle me as they rush for the plane.

They’re so loud.

Their voices grate on my ears, and their bodies invade my personal space.

And their casual racism and sexism, with the thinnest veneer of European worldliness, disgusts me.

“You’ll get used to it,” my mother says.

I don’t want to.


Four young men with shaved heads—one has a neo-Mohawk—who probably aren’t skinheads, but well, look more like skinheads than pall bearers despite the white cotton gloves on their hands—carry the coffin with my grandfather’s body from the chapel to a Mercedes hatchback, which rolls slowly towards the front doors of the church, a few dozen meters away.

We follow, first the car, then the pall bearers—always, the coffin—into the church.

My aunts—my grandfather’s sister, my grandfather’s daughter—walk arm-in-arm with their husbands and children; I walk with my mother, conscious that I am my father’s stand-in. Conscious too of my red coat, its brightness imperfectly hidden by my black scarf.

Everyone else is wearing black.


The funeral home taking care of my grandfather’s body, by the way, is called Anubis.


I recently attended a German Catholic mass for a friend’s father. This one is almost identical, except for the language in which it’s delivered. Well, and the priest is younger and seems to have committed at least some of the words of the liturgy to his memory. But not all. He does a lot of reading.

I am struggling to stay respectful. But I feel more like a spectator at a dated theatre play than a celebrant of a holy rite.

I start counting the number of times the word “sin” occurs; lose count and interest at 21.

It had been my intention to observe the outer forms. The sign of the cross; the responses to the prayers. It’s been almost 30 years, but I probably remember—I remembered enough of the patterns at the German Catholic mass to stand up, sit down and kneel down at the appropriate places.

But I can’t.

The words aren’t just empty, they are distasteful.

I stand in silence.

My inner (bad) Buddhist counsels understanding and suggests I take the opportunity to do a metta meditation.

The outer atheist says, “Fuck that shit. Don’t still your mind: scratch at all the scabs and take notes.”

The writer agrees. So I look around with the cold, unforgiving eyes of the documentarian. Collect source materials.

Listen to the whispers of the mourners, hissed under the cover of music and prayers… but almost always audible.

Analyze the appearances and manifestations of grief.

Halfway around the world—fine, less than a quarter, 7,778 kilometres away—my father, the eldest son, is spending a sleepless night alone.

I try to shift into watching with his eyes, not mine. But it’s hard; self obtrudes.


The night after the funeral, I spend my sleepless hours—still jet-lagged, tired but unable to give in to sleep—texting with Internet strangers as unrooted in time zones as I am. One’s a Moroccan born in France (but not French), now based in Dubai, who was just in Warsaw on business. The other’s a UK-educated Tamil now working in Geneva.

All three of us have a poor sense of which time zone and country we’re in currently; I feel a stronger kinship with them than with my Polish family.

After a short discussion of my peculiar childhood in Libya and his European-North African shuffling, we end up talking about sheesha, and the Moroccan tells me where I can find a sheesha lounge in Warsaw.

I’m thrilled.


The best part of my grandfather’s funeral mass for me is the entrance of my younger cousins with their very young children: a girl four years of age and a seven month old baby in a sling.

The girl is all smiles. She loves the flowers—the coffin and path leading up to it are adorned with bouquets and wreaths—and she beams at her grandparents with perfect happiness.

She and her brother affirm the beauty of life for me much more eloquently than the priest’s canonized readings and out-of-the-can sermon on eternal life.

I do think, though, that life would sometimes be easier if one were not an atheist and a pathological scab-scratcher and curtain ripper and could just accept something, anything on face value. You know?


The church, by the way, is beautiful. About 200 years old, but built in the Gothic style, designed to make man (not in the gender neutral sense; woman was simultaneously irrelevant and unreal—this, after all, is the religion that venerates a mother in the form of a virgin)—feel small and God grand.

God, I have the irreverent thought, must have a very fragile ego to require all these giant buildings to feel good about himself…


We follow the coffin—carried by the probably-not-skinheads-(but after that Nov 11 March of Shame, I don’t know, I think they might be–I look at every Pole I pass with suspicion and fear)-pallbearers out of the church and to the Mercedes again, and then we follow the slowly rolling car to the cemetery.

The priest, clad in an odd ceremonial black cap that looks like a cupcake with a pompom, leads the way.

In the recently restored family grave rests the body of my grandmother—my father’s mother—and her parents.

She died at age 53, when I was seven or eight, and living in Libya. I didn’t attend her funeral, nor did my father.

My mother was there, though.

My great-grandmother on my father’s side died in 2003, age 93.

I remember her.

I loved her.


I’m not sure that I loved my grandfather, and frankly, until his death, I have no real evidence that my father loved him. The night after the funeral, when I talk with my father, he is crying. Grieving, mourning. He sends me a copy of the letter he wrote to my grandfather the week before my grandfather died—at his sister’s request.

The letter is full of good memories and warm feelings.

It ends with, “I love you very much, Dad.”

It’s the first time I hear those stories.

I know my grandfather’s youngest daughter, who took care of him through to his death, loved him (loves him still if one loves the dead themselves and not their memory? I am not sure who the object of love is once life is gone…).

This, I always knew and had evidence of. I saw them together, loving and supporting each other. And she has talked to me of him, with love.

I probably know him best through her stories.


At the sheesha place the day after the funeral, I’m served by a Polish woman and then by two Turkish men, who both speak fluent Polish—they understand my Polish better than they do my English, which makes me laugh.

I’m one of three customers when I come in. One is a silent Pole–and despite his shorn hair, I’m pretty sure he’s not a skinhead; the other, an Arab who makes several business phone calls in beautiful German.

Citizens of the world.


The last time I saw my grandfather was at my brother’s wedding. In Poland, in 2009, because my brother’s wife is a Polish woman—whom he met in Korea.

At the wedding, a 70-something widow who spent the weekend making an ardent play for my then-80-year-old grandfather asked us when we last saw each other.

We looked at each other, my grandfather and I, and we both did the math with some effort.

“Ten… no, nine years ago,” I said.

“In 2000, at her wedding,” he said.

The hunting widow gasped, and put her hands on the hand my grandfather had on top of mine–squeezed it. He smiled.

(My twice-married grandfather—he remarried very quickly after my grandmother’s death–and I never really knew my step-grandmother, although she too was at my wedding—was a player until he died, and the joke among my cousins and my brother’s single friends that weekend was that Grandfather was the only one who scored. Possibly more than once.)

“It must be so hard,” my grandfather’s would-be lover said. “To have your granddaughter so far away. To see her so rarely. You must miss her.”

“Well, you know,” my grandfather said. “It’s been like that for a long time. You get used to it.”

I nodded.

My mother, who overhead the conversation, was appalled.

“How can anyone not miss their grandchildren?” she demanded of me, holding my children on her lap in a covetous embrace

She didn’t understand, at all.

But I did.

Geography matters.

Time spent matters.

If my grandfather didn’t miss me–well, I didn’t miss him either.

My children will also miss only one set of grandparents.


At the cemetery, an octogenarian woman—who probably also wished to share my grandfather’s bed at some point (like, when I mention that player thing… it’s not even a slight exaggeration…)—reads a letter, a eulogy of sorts—of behalf of my grandfather’s (legion of girl)friends, from the Warsaw branch of the University of the Third Age.

It’s a beautiful letter that describes, lauds, and mourns a  man I did not know, at all.

But apparently, I’m not the only to have that reaction.

“Wow, those people did not know Grandfather at all,” my cousin—the daughter of my grandfather’s youngest daughter, and the mother of the children who save the funeral mass for me—says. She’s known my–our–grandfather intimately all of her life. She loves him, knows him.

That’s not him, she says.

Fog and mirrors, I think. That was him, I suppose, to them…

The University of the Third Age woman also reads a poem written by my grandfather’s last paramour, the woman with whom he sorta-kinda-but-not-really-almost lived since the death of his second wife up to the final two years of his life.

The final two years of his life, he spent living with his youngest daughter, fighting to maintain the semblance of independence at a huge price, paid almost in full by his daughter.

It was, I think, too high a price to pay.

But you see… she loved him so much.

(I love my father very much… but I would not do that for him. We talk about it at length, my parents and I. “A nursing home, please, as soon as I can’t care for myself, and you don’t even have to come visit if I lose my mind,” my mother says. “Just, um, make sure it’s a nice nursing home.” My father shudders. “Kill me first,” he says.)

My grandfather’s last paramour—should I call her his lover? partner?—does not comprehend this price, and resents that my grandfather–unable to walk or sit up without help, among other things–spent the last few weeks of his life in a full-care nursing home.

Her poem is as full of the anger and resentment as it is of love.

It contains the phrase “contemptuous people,” which is a blatant slap in the face of my aunt—the woman who changed my grandfather’s diapers, took him to endless doctors’ appointments, bathed and fed him, almost to the end of his life.

I find it interesting that my aunt and my father give the status-less paramour the compassion and understanding that she can’t give them.

Isn’t wisdom, perspective something that comes with age?

Apparently not; the paramour avoids my aunt in the church and at the cemetery, and refuses to come to the post-funeral dinner with us.

Family is complicated.

Is love?


My mother and my grandfather—her father-in-law—also had a fraught, complicated relationship.

I understand the specifics of it imperfectly, and yet the thrust of it very well, because I don’t love my father-in-law either.

We resent the slights and harm done to people we love more than we resent slights against ourselves.

My father-in-law has never harmed me. (I didn’t love him, so how could he, really, even if he tried?)

But what he did to the man I love, I find difficult to forgive.

Love is also very simple.


My aunt asks me and my father to prepare the eulogy for the funeral. It’s really something that she’s the best suited person to do, but she frames it as my father’s job as the eldest son—she also defers to my skills as the family writer.

I don’t even have to tell my father “But I didn’t know him!” He sits down to work on the eulogy and spends a week writing, revising, crafting—creating a goodbye that compromises between justice, truth, and love… liberally tempered with compassion.

It’s beautiful, and I find out that my storytelling talent has come to me in equal parts from both parents.

(Never ask anyone in my family for a clear, concise accounting of the facts. We can’t do it. Ask us for a good story, on the other hand…)

The priest refuses to read the eulogy in the church. Or at the graveside.

“It’s inappropriate,” he tells my aunt.

“Fuck that shit,” the daughter in me doesn’t even give my bad Buddhist a chance to breathe.

As the mini-drama unfolds beside the grave, I wonder how big a scene I’m going to have to make to carry out my father’s wishes.

My lack of ability to compromise, and disdain for conventional social mores—I smooth my red coat with pride now—that comes from my mother’s side of the family.



My father comes from a devout family. The oldest child and only son, he was nonetheless in his early childhood intended for the priesthood—or at least holiness. He does occasionally tell me that story.

I’m not sure if his eventual atheism—he calls himself an agnostic, but I think it runs deeper than that—is innate or rebellion.

My grandfather, his tomcatting notwithstanding (as is the case, frankly, with most of the Poles I know) would describe himself, throughout his life, as a devout and practicing Catholic.

Both his daughters remain religious and devout.

The elder one and her family are not at the funeral.

Family, as I’ve said, is complicated.

The younger daughter is effectively running the funeral, and I decide it’s, ultimately, her place to figure out how balancing the priest’s dogma and my father’s wishes should play out.

But I realize my hands are balled into fists and my heart rate is elevated.


My father’s youngest sister is 12 years younger than he and only ten years older than I am. She is my aunt, but more my sister and friend than aunt. Her children—my cousins—are now in their early thirties and late twenties—in other words, at an age where we are all effectively peers.

Her daughter is the mother of the two children who return meaning to the funeral mass for me, and her son has an actor’s beautiful voice.

As the priest leaves the gravesite, not in a huff, exactly, but… ungraciously, I would say—my cousin liberates the microphone from his assistant.

(His assistant, by the way, is a 60+ year old altar boy. Deacon, perhaps. He’s wearing jeans and this pisses me off—“Show some respect for my grandfather, you peon!” My reaction amuses me.)

My cousin reads my father’s eulogy in his beautiful actor’s voice and I relax.

He also pulls out a portable speaker that he had hidden somewhere in his winter coat and plays the song with which my father wanted to end the funeral mass, with which he wanted to say goodbye to his father.


In the sheesha bar, the Polish waitress speaks with the two owners in Turkish. Then switches to English to serve another customer.

Citizens of the world, all of us.

She’s a lovely person, I’m sure. But she seems put out every time I ask her for something. She does it… but just with a tinge of resentment.

I don’t say, “It’s your fucking job. Boil the water for my tea, goddammit.”

But I think it.

I think about the priest, too. What is his fucking job, exactly?

Did he do the right thing by his job, by his God, in refusing to accede to my father’s request?

I doubt it.

But he did the typically Polish customer service thing—leaving the customer served… but unsatisfied.


From the cemetery, we trail, in couples and clumps, to a nearby “locale” that celebrants of funerals, weddings, baptisms and possibly other events, hire for post-mass dinners and revelries.

“You have to eat a warm dinner after a funeral,” my aunt-sister-friend tells me earlier when she’s explaining the day’s agenda to me.

(Poles are very serious about their warm dinners—our lunches.)

The dinner is for about 30 people, family and close friends.

I’m introduced to an assortment of family I know not at all or not very well, including my father’s outrageously beautiful goddaughter, who is also his niece—and the mother of three fully adult children.

Her mother is my grandfather’s youngest sister, and the last remaining of his siblings. She was the first in the chapel to stand vigil with his body. She shed tears there; she sheds tears still.

Introduces herself to me twice. The first time, she doesn’t know who I am—the second time, she does.

We eat.

Conversation, memories, stories.

The children play hide and seek, ask for seconds and thirds of dessert—are responsible for most of the laughter in the room.


The near-five decade Communist occupation of Poland leaves all sorts of lingering legacies, and I suppose Poland’s current fascist religious turn is one of them.

Shitty customer service is another.

The locale’s serving wenches are efficient and… see, impolite is the wrong word. Impolite, rude—implies malice, intent. There is no malice in the way they grab plates before people finish eating or remove still-full dishes. They just want to get their job done as quickly and with as little inconvenience to themselves as possible… and they don’t give a fuck about the customer.

The natives are inured. The Canadian at the table is a little appalled.


After the funeral, back at my aunt-sister-friend’s house, we talk about all sorts of things. The funeral, yes. My grandfather.



The proper way to make and serve schabowe.

We take turns talking to my dad when he calls. I can still hear the tears in his voice.

I send him the photographs I surreptitiously took at the funeral, with some caustic/loving commentary.

I don’t know if I understand my grandfather—or his relationship with my father—any more than I did before.

But maybe, I understand myself more. Just a little.

I tell my dad, “I’m glad I came.”

“I’m happy you like Poland,” he says.

Um. That’s not what I said.


Dear Fatherland,

I think I don’t love you and I probably never will.

It’s not your fault.

I mean, this current fascist incarnation is certainly not helping.

But it wouldn’t be much different under a more progressive, enlightened regime. I would be less ashamed. But I still wouldn’t love you. I don’t really love my adopted Motherland either, although it fits me better. I feel less alien there than I do here.

“We are now citizens of the world, right?” the Internet stranger keeping me company in the middle of the night after my grandfather’s funeral texts again. “We are not just the future. We are the present.”

In the heart of the place where I was born, I find solace in a Turkish owned sheesha lounge, a Tower of Babel cacophony of languages around me.

You are where I was born and where my parents were born. Where my grandparents—all of them now—are buried.

But I am not yours and you are not mine.

I wonder if my children’s relationship with their motherland will be different. Tighter.

I guess… I hope not. People like me—we don’t start wars.

But that’s their future to navigate and write.

I’m writing my present now.

Goodbye, Grandfather.

I’m really glad I came,



PS This is the song with which my dad said goodbye to his father:

Real time: Hunger, love, and a ticket to a funeral


I am in the kitchen, burning tortillas.

Well, I’m supposed to be crisping a tortilla—Ender asked for a plain tortilla (we’re out of “his” cheese—i.e. the fake cheese-like substitute), and he asked for it crispy—and then more crispy… and then I got distracted.

This is take three, but I got this idea for a post and I started writing, so I’ll probably burn this one too.

Hold on…

Saved it. “It’s perfect,” Ender says.

Well, except for the lack of fake cheese. But he’s coping.


I am feeling simultaneously tranquil and poetic. Calm and fiery. It’s a really interesting feeling—I wrote “cool feeling” first, then deleted it, because it’s not cool; if anything, it’s hot… but not so hot that it burns. Like still-warm bread, not scalding hot coffee.

Speaking of which, I am nursing a cup.

It is nursing me back, whispering sweet everythings into my lips with each sip.


Yesterday, Flora and Cinder had an epic fight that ended up with him having cheese (real) in his hair and her being thrown to the floor, and me having to leave a community meeting to come and arbitrate.

Cinder called me on the phone. “She was greedy. I overreacted. She’s crying.”

The few minutes’ walk in the cold November air cooled my anger and my desire to declare that they were never ever EVER going to eat frozen pizza again.

(That’s what the fight was about. Aren’t epic fights so often about non-epic things?)

When I walked into the house, I was able to hear things. And to say things calmly and with love.

They didn’t like hearing them.

It was interesting. I won’t take you into the details of the situation—suffice it to say, there were two of them in it, and each one made the wrongest of the wrong choices along the way.

Cinder really didn’t like hearing that, because he was bigger, stronger, and older—it was on him.

This has been one of my parenting mantras since he’s been two.

“Big people take care of little people.”

“Flora’s not little.”

“She’s younger and smaller than you. More to the point, in this situation—she’s weaker than you.”

When big people take care of little people, everything is right with the world. When they don’t—everything goes to hell. Pretty much completely.


At this precise point, I get a text from my Dad telling me he found out his Dad died.

Not unexpected news.

I am not at all sure how it makes me feel.

Sad for my dad, and sad for my grandfather’s immediate family back in Poland. My aunts and my cousins will mourn him fervently.


I hardly knew him.


The text, however, changes—if not precisely my mood, I am still tranquil and poetic, warm like bread from the oven, bubbling with something that needs to come out—the direction of my thoughts.

Sean’s grandmother died the day Cinder was born. She was critically important to Sean’s life, and her loss—then, physical, before that, slowly to dementia—caused him immense pain. She loved him, so much—I witnessed this first-hand when we visited her, even when she was losing her thoughts. And he loved her.

Being loved and loving is very important.


That, really, is what I try to tell Flora and Cinder—instead of punishing him, punishing them both, yelling.

Loving is important. Feeling loved is important. Feeling safe in your house, in your family is SO IMPORTANT.

I think they understand.

Ender comes home from a friend’s house after the crisis is over.

“I’m hungry,” he announces.


Sean spent the day and the evening of the epic fight at the Neufeld Institute Conference: Resilience, Recovery & Relationship: Towards Flourishing Children & Youth.

That’s Gordon Neufeld, as in the author of Hold On To Your Kids:

…which, 15 years into my parenthood journey, is one of the two parenting books I still keep on my bookshelf and in my heart, and which I am so grateful to have encountered when Cinder was fresh. (The other is Everyday Blessings by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn)

When he gets back, he debriefs me on the conference…

“And I just kept on finding myself in these situations where people would say, ‘I’m just checking out what this is all about, I guess it’s sort of interesting,’ and I’d say, ‘Well, we’ve been running a 15-year experiment in attachment-based development of empathy and self-regulation, and I’d say this stuff isn’t just interesting, it’s THE thing that’s the foundation of EVERYTHING!’”

I ask the kids if they want to debrief him on the fight.

Flora: No.

Cinder: We had a stupid fight. Flora was greedy. I over-reacted and I hurt her. I feel really bad.

Sean particularly wants to talk to me about food. One of the ways that Ender frustrates me is…

Ender: I’m hungry!

Jane: I just fed you!

Sean’s full of fresh insight about food and attachment and security and love. I listen carefully; reflect.

When I myself am full, and Ender says, “I’m hungry,” I hear it for what it is.

“Love me. Pay attention to me.”

When I myself am hungry… well.


My mother calls and asks me if I want to go to Poland for my grandfather’s funeral.

I’m shocked to find out… that I do.


Sean calls me as soon as he gets my text. He was about to ream out Gordon Neufeld for his antiquated position on video games (let’s save that story for another time). I ask him about going to the funeral. Should I? Is it strange that I want to?

He doesn’t hesitate.



I am in the kitchen, a cup of cold coffee dregs at my left hand, my wedding album at my right (my laptop in-between them). I have the album open to photographs of me and my grandfather, now more than 17 years old. I’m 26. He’s already old. He’s already a stranger. I’ve seen him twice since my wedding day—no more than a handful of times in the 20 years between ages six and 26.

In one of the photographs, he’s reading a Christian gospel, in Polish, at my Canadian-atheistic-pagan wedding.


I’m looking out the window—the air is thick with snow.

I am still feeling… tranquil. Poetic.

Sad. But in a… in a really good way.

And suddenly, so fucking full, if Ender walked into the kitchen right now and said, “I’m hungry,” I’d bake him a cake and a find a way to cover it with delicious dairy-free icing (surely, there must be such a thing).



written and posted in real time

Rhythm, interrupted


My day is interrupted by a puking child, and…

No. Not like that. Interrupted?

The definition of interrupt:

  • Stop the continuous progress of (an activity or process)
  • Stop (someone speaking) by saying or doing something.
  • Break the continuity of (a line or surface)
  • Obstruct (something, especially a view).

(So says the Oxford English Dictionary, which also adds, btw, this:

“Late Middle English: from Latin interrupt- ‘broken, interrupted’, from the verb interrumpere, from inter- ‘between’ + rumpere ‘to break’.”

– I learned something new, and now so did you.)

But for something to be interrupted… there has to be an expectation that it won’t be. An assumption that the activity will be continuous—that you will get to finish your sentence—that the line will go on forever, or at least for a while.

So. My day is NOT interrupted by a puking child. Let’s try this again.


My sleep is interrupted… No, here I go again…

Take three:

I’m in that marvellous liminal morning place of sleep-not-sleep, and I am thinking I will wake—soon, but not just yet—when I hear footsteps on the ceiling (on the ceiling, yes), and then footsteps tramping down the stairs—doors opening—laundry bags being stepped on—and… there he is. In the crook of my arm, not quite as long as I am yet but definitely not small, and yet in that moment of crawling into bed beside me, so tiny.

He doesn’t whisper, “Upstairs?” as is his way when he wakes up before me or Sean. He just curls into me. And wiggles. “Maggie?” he says, searching for the dog in the dark.

I shush him.

“Your Dadda has to get up so early today, he needs to sleep until it’s time. Be still.” He stills, a little.

But Sean gives up on the remnants of sleep and gets up before his alarm clock.

Ender falls asleep, in my arms, for a while.

I don’t.

I mind-wander. Sad thoughts, happy thoughts. Heart-piercing, heart-breaking thoughts.

But happy thoughts too.

I like thinking.

At some point, my eyes are wet and I can’t exactly say I like that, but… it’s part of the experience.

Ender stirs beside me, awake in a flash. Starts to torment the dog.

“Upstairs?” I whisper to him.

He’s out of bed almost before I finish the sentence. Me, I stretch. Rub my eyes, forehead, neck. Sneek a peak at my phone.




By the time I follow Ender upstairs, he’s already ensconced in one of the armchairs in the kitchen and wrapped in a blanket. Sean’s made coffee and I play the game I’m playing these days every morning, with every cup. Yes? No? A choice? A compulsion?

I pour a cup. Drink half of it while it’s hot… pour the cold remains down the sink later. A choice. Not a compulsion.

Sean’s got a 9 am presentation that he’s still refining, so I get Ender his cereal before going back downstairs with the coffee. Sit down in the space-that-is-me and write the morning pages.

Don’t whine in them very much, although at one point my eyes do get wet again.

Then—work. The tasks I MUST do first thing in the morning. And—go. Tedious. Unfulfilling. Necessary. Not ideal—I will not schedule a project like this again. My mornings need to belong to creative work, not this. These thoughts dance in the back of my head—but the front of it is all focused, disciplined, working.

About to be interrupted—but no.

It’s not an interruption if you know it’s coming.

“I need to cuddle.”

Ender in my armpit, under my blankets. I wonder if the reason I work on a couch, on the floor, on a chaisez-lounge is this? So I can accommodate one child, two, three while I write?

It’s hard to type AND cuddle an eight-year-old at a desk, in an office chair.

It’s not, by the way, an idyllic moment.

He keeps on grabbing my right arm. And I keep on snapping. We have a deal, Ender and I—the mornings are MINE and he can come into my space and BE with me. But I am working. I am not HIS at that time. He can be present—but all he gets is my presence. No interactions. Except ones that sound like this:

“I need my arm to do my work, stop pulling on it.”

“Ender, baby, you know this is my work time.”

“For fuck’s sake, stop yanking on my arm!”

He wiggles down and curls around my feet.

I do my work.

Get to the goal I set out as my “finish” for the morning stretch.

He says it this time before I do:



Upstairs, I make him his second breakfast and myself my first. And I break a rule—a new friend sends me a text that brings a smile to my face and so I text back (more on my texting rule later, maybe)—and I am flirting and moving around in the kitchen and trying to plan the day—I’ll read a bit with Ender, make sure Flora eats protein for breakfast when she wakes up—but then, I’ll probably be able to get the second block of my work done, and then, in the afternoon, will I have time to…

And that’s when Ender comes into the kitchen, and pukes all over the kitchen floor.


My week, by the way, has looked sort of like this:

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But of course, this is only the public part of the story.


I’m trying to read, for the second time, Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. I’m reading it because I got it as a birthday present for Sean, because he heard Rubin on a podcast talking about how different personality types are motivated and thought she was insightful and because he is very interested what makes people happy.

I’ve tried reading it before, when it was first released and there were 64 people ahead of me on the holds list for it at the public library. When my turn to read it arrived… Rubin lost me in February.

This time, I’ve persevered til June. I’m looking for the nuggets. But it’s hard.

Rubin’s relentless search for happiness (while claiming she is very happy to begin with) exhausts me. Really, that is what’s happening: as I read about her resolutions, projects, and initiative—I feel utterly drained.

It’s fascinating.

Her frantic energy vibes off the page and into my rather sensitive and strained… shall we be New Agey and call it aura? … I don’ t know. Something. Her frantic energy infects me. And not in a good way. Reading about her quest for happiness is decreasing mine.

It’s kind of interesting.

Also, insightful, although perhaps not in the way Rubin intended.

I’m not sure if I will persevere with the book through to December. It does have some good stuff, and quotes and insights from others, and I was going to pull one out for you, but I can’t find it, and really, fuck it, because the point is–Rubin’s desire to be even more happy (while denying that she’s unhappy) is making me tired.

And even those of her insights that resonate with me… I think we apply these insights in very different ways.



Sean is also reading—er, listening to—Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. The subtext of which—or maybe its main point, actually—is that chasing happiness does not make people happy.

We talk about that for a bit on Thursday night. About the difference between “happy” and “meaningful.”

I am, right now, definitely not happy. Oh, I have moments of joy and pleasure. And even the occasional second of bliss.

But happy?


And I don’t even want to be happy.

But let’s not talk about that today.


I send Ender to the bathroom to wash his face and hands and I clean the kitchen floor. Settle him in bed with a puke bowl and his iPad.

“And Mommy?” he asks.

So my office for the rest of the morning is his sickbed, and I do most of my work with my left hand, as he convulsively holds onto my right.

When he falls asleep, I go downstairs and feed Flora protein, although it’s more lunch than breakfast now.

I should sit down and work. I start to draft this post instead—it seems important.


I don’t want to be happy or chase happiness, but I don’t want to be dysfunctionally unhappy either. I try to create my life, consciously and conscientiously. I want it to be meaningful, purposeful. Good, which to my mind is not the same as happy. Fulfilling. You know?

Right now, I have a project on the go that’s, ironically, meaningful and purposeful, and overall critical to the creation of my meaningful and purposeful life, but which has me doing things that are making me dysfunctionally unhappy.

So I’m looking at those things and trying to figure out… do I need to do them? If I do—if they are indeed unavoidable—can I do them differently?

It’s an interesting exercise. I’m trying different things. They all have few things in common: or maybe, just one thing.

They are a quest for… stillness. Silence.

My texting rule—I break it for you, I broke it this morning—is part of it.

My project requires me to be online, plugged in, sharing, responding, six out of seven days at least—and that seventh day, even then there are things…

It has, so far, been a 40-day long experiment in what happens to a creative person when they are never truly alone for 40 days.

It’s fascinating… and it ain’t pretty.


After his nap, Ender wants to play with his friends and go sledding, and I, the worst mother in the world, don’t let him. But I bundle him into a snowsuit—myself too—and we go for a slow loop around the Common. He barely makes it, all the while insisting he wants to go sledding and to play with his friends.

Back home, I make him tea with honey, but he’s asleep again when I bring it back.

The day continues like this—Ender waking up, falling asleep, whining, the elder two gaming, reading, fighting, me remembering at some point that I should feed them—finding out they’d already fed themselves (“But can you ask Dziadzia to bring buns and milk when he comes?”).

My dad arrives in the evening—with milk and buns, and also chicken wings—to take Flora to her martial arts class. I leave Cinder in charge of the not-puking-but-clearly-not-well Ender—then my mom comes to pick me up, and we go to the premiere of Sean’s film project (which, btw, you can now view at Art Enabled Life).

When we come back, Ender is asleep.

Turns out, Cinder took him sledding.

“Seriously?” That’s me.

“What?” That’s Cinder. “I made him wear a helmet.”

Ender sleeps like the dead; wakes up perfectly healthy.


I want to finish writing this post in the evening, in my space. I think that will be the perfect closure to this day and this story: me, in my space, mostly uninterrupted. It was going to go like this, I had it all written in my head, scripted perfectly, and it was going to go like this:

“I have this… affirmation, I guess? words, ugh… that I’m working with right now. Well, there are two—the one I need to work on more I’m not ready to share with you. This one, though, you can hear:

“My days flow with a rhythm that nourishes and inspires myself and others.”

I’m chasing… not happiness. But flow.


And I think… my rhythm will never be really smooth. Or uninterrupted. Sometimes, I will get planned or unexpected hours that flow gently, naturally into one another. But most of the time—I don’t expect, I can’t expect it.

Someone will puke. The furnace will break down. You will need me. My eyes will be wet.

I can’t control for any of that, and trying to paves the way to dysfunctional unhappiness.

But there are other… interruptions—and ways of being and thinking and acting that nurture interruptions—which all pave the way to dysfunctional unhappiness—that I can control.

So that’s my next project. Adjacent to the ongoing one, and my other creative and professional work.

I’ll tell you about it, bit by bit.

Now I have to go meditate. Then let my mind wander. Have some fabulous sex.


But, um… instead, after the film, I come home to was-asleep-but-is-now-awake Ender and sit with him for near an hour until he falls back asleep, and then, I want to sleep, not write, myself. So, I do. And the next day, I’m up at 6:17 am doing all the things, and getting picked up before 8 am by a friend and going to an all-day workshop and…

I finish the post there, in-between presentations, pitches, meet-ups.



Sort of.

Rhythm, interrupted?

Sure. Hey, there’s my title.



PS A shameless plug for Sean’s amazing work again—Check out the ART ENABLED LIFE project, either via its website, or if you’re a Facebook user, on its Facebook Page. The eleven films featuring eleven artists in dialogue with middle school students about how art builds resiliency (and other beautiful insights) are also live on Youtube now, and they will change your life.

But I love it…

Have I told you—have I told you that coffee loves me? I feel it—in every sip I take, as its aroma enters me through both my nostrils and my throat, even as it scalds my tongue with that first HOT sip—especially as it scalds my tongue—coffee loves me.

Oh, it loves me and it wants to share all the pleasures of the world with me and it fills me with zeal, joy, and adoration for all life.

Tea… tea doesn’t give a fuck. Really. Tea is all about itself. And the reputed kick of caffeinated varieties notwithstanding, in my mind, tea associates with the phlegmatic Brits, celibate too-Zen-for-love monks, Ayurvedic herbal concoctions.

Coffee is a passionate Latin lover, a conquering Turk.

OMG, fuck, yes, I know I have a problem. But let me sing the praises of my heroin.

I’m writing this while conducting an experiment of sorts. I made mug of herbal tea, sweetish. And a mug of dark, biting, bitter coffee—percolated until thick and chewy, OMFG, the smell. I was going to drink the tea… just smell the coffee.

The tea is mug is still full, the coffee cup half empty, and as my right hand writes, my left is curled around the ear of the coffee mug.

Compulsively, convulsively.


“Don’t leave me again,” the coffee whispers.

“Don’t cause me pain again,” I whisper back.

I think I’ve figured out how to drink the coffee without suffering—and in moderation too, I hope. I think? And as I cradle the cup in my hands and inhale the aroma—really, this is too intimate, avert your eyes because my toes are curling and this coffee cup and I are sharing a passion so intense it is sacrilege to look upon it and I haven’t even touched my lips its black liquid—as I cradle the cup, I wonder… have I failed? Should I have tried harder, longer? Fought more intensely against its seductive allure?

Should I have tried harder, longer to forget the tastes, the associations? Forge new ones?

(There is nothing—there are no associations worthy of those I have with coffee. There is no substitute, there is no methadone…)

Have I failed?

“Never,” the coffee whispers as it trickles down my throat. “I adore you and you came back to me.”

Fucking addictions.

I don’t know if I’m going to embrace, make peace with this one.

“I love you.” (The coffee’s seductive whisper.)

“Don’t hurt me again.” (My subjugated whimper.)

Maybe today’s cup isn’t the beginning of a new string of them. Maybe it’s just an anomaly… a brief fall off the wagon, and I will sanctimoniously and self-righteously get back on it again tomorrow. Or the day after.


“Don’t leave me again.”

It travels through me, fuels me, stimulates me.

Loves me.

I love it back.


I don’t throw the word “love” around lightly, you know. I love my children. Their father. You, even when I’m feeling pissy and neglected and estranged.

And coffee.

Fuck, I love coffee.

Flora: And what’s why I’m so glad I never started drinking it.

Flora, my most disciplined and thus judgemental child.

Ender: I’ll love coffee.

He probably will. He is my most passionate and hedonistic child, and coffee likes her lovers—er, drinkers—to have passions.

Cinder: Mom? Can you come help me with this?

Cinder. How much do I love you, my son? So much, I am relearning high school algebra for you. The answer, by the way, to “Why do I need to know how to factor polynomials” is —unless you’re going to pursue a career in engineering, possibly IT, or something like that—“So you can help you  kids with their math homework when they are in high school.”

Me, doing algebra, without coffee…


This is so so hard.

“Here, darling. Take another sip. It will make everything better. At least for a while. I promise.”

Fucking addition.

I mean addiction.

Addition isn’t that hard. Unless you’re adding imaginary unknown numbers related to each other in random mysterious ways.

Cinder: It’s not random and mysterious! There’s a pattern!

There is?

I don’t see it.

Where was I?

“You love me.”

“I love you.”

“Don’t leave me again.”

“I won’t.”



PS The day after writing this post, I started reading Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit. I know, I’m a decade behind. But see, serendipity being what it is, I started reading just at the precisely right time that this particular paragraph resonated with me:


A bad habit—that is, one that doesn’t produce good results—is a rut. Coffee is a rut for me. I need a cup or two every morning and I don’t know why. Part of it, I’m sure, is its addictive properties. But I don’t enjoy it that much.

At one point, I played a game of delaying my daily coffee until I produced something solid that day. No good work, no good coffee. I transformed coffee from rut to reward. To be honest, this didn’t last long. Within a month, I was back into my coffee, grind. I don’t know. You can’t be stoic and strong about everything. Some things in life are just meant to be enjoyed simply because you enjoy them. They are their own rationale.

But the mere act of thinking about my coffee rut had a transformative effect. I now regard coffee in a positive light. It’s my coffee groove.

Pick a “bad” habit—whether it’s coffee or reading the newspaper in its entirety every day to avoid writing—and do something to make it “good.” Realize that you don’t need elimination, so it’s working for you. Exercise the rut. Exercise the groove.”

Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit, pg 208-209

I’m pretty sure that Twyla Tharp just said..

“Yes. She did. Come back to me. Now.”

Excuse me. Stop looking. Don’t judge. I have to go… grind some beans…

“Yes. Hurry.”

“I’m coming.”


PS2 SOAPBOX. If you’re a Calgary citizen and reading this on October 16, vote. Preferably for Naheed Nenshi for mayor, because he’s awesome, but just get your ass out and vote, because democracy, while flawed, is the best system of government we have, and its price is citizen participation.

Informed citizen participation. Educate yourself. Especially on our school board trustees. Don’t accidentally, through laziness, contribute to the election of a sexist-racist-homophobe (ain’t it funny how it’s all three and not just one or the other/) hiding intolerance and hate under “back to the basics” “power to the parents” “family values” and the like rhetoric.

You: Yo, Jane, political all of a sudden?

Jane: I’m a little scared the world is going to hell, and not even my love for coffee can distract me from this fear.

Coffee: Darling. Don’t think. Just drink.

Jane: Um… I have to go.

You: You have a problem.

Jane: I have a problem. But I love it…

Like Anaïs Nin, I lie when I write the truth


The Monday morning starts with desire—the desire to write, and the desire to write a journal-diary type post that my fingers tease and type on a computer screen instead of scribbling long-hand with a fountain pen that’s a gift from someone I love in a notebook that’s also a gift from him.

I want to write a public diary entry, and I know why: last week, in-between ALL THE THINGS (and there were so many things), I read Alexandra Johnson’s The Hidden Writer: Diaries and the Creative Life.

The book examines the diaries of Marjorie Flemming (Scottish child prodigy; she died at age nine, and you’ve probably never heard of her), Sonya Tolstoy (Leo’s wife… he made her keep a diary with the understanding that he would read it—as she would read his—btw, this was a sure-fire way of ensuring an unhappy marriage, DO NOT EMULATE), Alice James (sister of Henry and William), Katherine Mansfied and Virginia Woolf, Anaïs Nin, and May Sarton.

It nominally asks the question why do writers keep diaries, and what is it that they achieve in those pages.

It doesn’t… actually answer this question.

I’m not sure if I should recommend it to you or not… there are fascinating passages and insights, but ultimately, for me, the book does not hang together as a whole—I had this sense of “Oh, and now I’m going to write about Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield diaries… and… oh, well, I have to write about Anaïs Nin, of course…” and none of the chapters flew into one another for me.

And the Anaïs Nin chapter pissed me off.

Anaïs Nin—you know this by now do you not?—Anaïs Nin is one of my four… what shall I call them? Models, mentors, saints, inspirations, heroes. (The other three are Frida Kahlo, Colette, and Jane Austen, Jane Austen with an asterix, in a way, because whenever I read Jane, I always end up thinking… how much better a writer she would be if she had been… a mother. It’s funny, I never get that feeling with the childless Frida—who so desperately wanted a little Diego she was willing to die and destroy her body more and more for the chance—or the wilfully childless Anaïs  who presented to the world at least one attempted abortion as a stillbirth. Oh-my. I wasn’t going to write about this at all, but I am thinking about it, and one day soon, I must write about it: why do I get this sense with Jane and not with them? And now I realize that of my four idols—I guess that’s the word, really? Saints is too Catholic. I don’t know that idols really fits either, but I cannot think of the right one—of my four idols, three are childless, and of these three, I look at Jane and think, “You lack this.” Unfair. Why? I will be spending the next few days, weeks, months, thinking about this.)

Back to Anaïs :

The Hidden Writer is written in the late 1990s, shortly after the “untruth” of Anaïs Nin’s diaries came to light. (If you’re unfamiliar with the controversy: she revised them extensively, edited and censored them heavily, omitted lots… crafted more… etc etc.) And Johnson takes the very conventional, middle-class—bourgeouisie?—approach to vilifying Anaïs for betraying her reading public by, effectively, manufacturing her diary…

…therefore missing the whole point of Anaïs Nin, and who she was—and what she achieved and created…

…the whole point of for-publication journals, diaries, and memories, which are manufactured for an audience… and which are the truth, as the writer is willing to reveal/present it to that audience at that point in time…

…the whole point of the elusive relationship between truth – confession – reality – lies – creation of self-protection of self, and this despite the fact that she quotes perhaps the most illuminating thing Anaïs Nin has ever said:

“I would not be concerned with the secrets, the  lies, the mysteries, the facts. I would be concerned with what makes them necessary.”

(Anaïs says this, by the way, to her lover Henry Miller, about his wife June. Which makes me want to watch Henry and June again.)

Anyway. Johnson loses me when she doesn’t get Anaïs. Creatively, historically, viscerally—she just doesn’t get her. Because I not only get  Anaïs, I feel her in my creative DNA—both in my moments of joy and glory, and the moments of despair and madness.

Ender just came downstairs into my writing space, and announced he has to poop. Which means I need to go upstairs and clean his butt—and have a conversation with him, again, about how, um, really, maybe it’s time he starts doing this himself? And he will say, “But poop is so gross and I don’t want to accidentally get it on my hands,” and I will sigh and say, “Me neither, dude!” And I will suggest that his birthday might be the time for this change, no?

And I have typed for too long for he is calling to me.

But here. You have a public diary entry.

There is a private one too. It includes a bad poem—that I might copy out and play with and try to turn into a less bad one—and a private, unshareable few pages that I will burn or soak with water… truly keep private.

But you can share this part of me.

I consent.





I live my day in 15 minute chunks. I do all the work, all the things… in 15 minute chunks. Including some crying.

At the end of it, I am a focused, responsible faking-it-very-well adult, talking into a microphone about BIG PICTURE STRATEGY stuff and THINKING IN QUARTERS, YEARS, AND DECADES.

It’s not lies. It’s all truth.

But part of the truth is that the big picture decade-long strategy… gets implemented in 15 minute chunks.


I think I can do it all, plus two more things, but instead I manage to do just the minimum.

And start reading Karen Karbo’s Julia Child Rules: Lessons on Savoring Life to ground myself.

I remember, while reading it, that when Flora and I watched Julie and Julia—she was four or five, and I was crippled and on bedrest with Ender permanently tied to my nipple—I promised her that when Ender was weaned, we’d debone a duck and make that “amazing recipe” that Julie Powell made at the end of the movie (and her book and blog).

I send Flora a text to a Pâté de Canard en Croûte recipe, and tell her to assemble the shopping list.


I wake up at 4:30.

Am still awake and in bed at 5:30.

I get out of bed at 5:33. Am working by 5:43.

Ender comes down at 8 a.m. I don’t feel ahead… and, by 8:30, I need a nap.

Still. No one can undo the work I have done in those ridiculously early 2.5 hours.


the week can’t be over. I have too much to do.

Sean: You have the weekend. And you said, you’re a week ahead now.

Jane: I’m panicked. I have too much to do.

The children feed me chocolate. I do all things. Or at least, most of them. A few more still to go.

I dream about going for sheesha in the evening, when they are all over.

I have too much to do.

I think I’ll do most of it. In 15 minute chunks. Right?

And journal about it. Like Anaïs. Creating a cohesive narrative out of something that, while I’m living it, feels like utter chaos.

That’s me, sort of, in a painting by outrageously talented Iranian-Canadian artist Golriz Rezvani.

The painting is really about Anaïs Nin–or at least, the battle she lived, fought, documented.


In the background is a letter I wrote to Golriz while on a plane to Portland, the day after I read my poetry in public for the first time in… twenty? more? years.

I’m reading The Early Diary of Anaïs Nin on the plane, and the letter is mostly Anaïs Nin quotes:

Mind wandering, solitude and NOT texting you

It’s Sunday morning of a weekend that I am trying to “take off”—the last long weekend of the summer—the last weekend of the summer, really, because are we not really in fall by Labour Day? There may be two weeks until the Equinox still, but September is fall. This year, the grass on the Common has been brown all of August. The leaves of our parched trees are already dotted with yellow and brown.

It’s fall.

It’s also Pride weekend in Calgary, and I was trying to finish a piece this morning that I’ve called, “It’s just a fucking pronoun—use it,” but it doesn’t seem to be gelling, so I set it aside. Because I’m trying to take today “off.”

So instead, I’m sitting on my balcony—a cup of coffee I can’t bring myself to drink beside me… I really wanted it… why, why, why does it not taste good anymore?—watching Ender waste water—er, play with the hose—down below—burning incense instead of smoking a cigar, because it’s 9 in the morning, and hell, even my vices have their shame—and I’m letting my thoughts wander.

NB: Today’s post is illustrated with Prisma selfies.Because I feel vain. And pretty. 😉 Call it self-indulgent. I do; I do it anyway.

They are wandering/wondering about three things:

First: The idea that “mind wanderers” are unhappy.

There is a swatch of research about this apparently. You can check out this Psychology Today blog post (” Killingsworth and Gilbert found that people were happiest when making love, exercising, or engaging in conversation. They were least happy when resting, working, or using a home computer”); this Ted Talk on Day Dreaming; or this Smithsonian mag article for a smattering of insight on why mind wandering / daydreaming makes people miserable.

But I like it when my mind wanders. I can’t imagine it not. (Ha, see what I did there?) What is the point of having no thoughts?

You: So it’s been what, eight months now, and you still don’t get the point of meditation, eh?

Jane: I like thinking. I don’t think not-thinking is the solution to anything. Nor is thinking my… problem.

Second: Solitude.

I’ve had a hectic week. Month. Full of work and play. Also, people. In-flesh people and cyber-people—the biggest hunk of my work over the last month of so has involved finding people, researching people and emailing them. And I’m fatigued.

On Sunday mornings, I usually read, because, brilliant, and today, Maria Popova is teasing out wisdom from Rachel Carson:

I read this:

Writing is a lonely occupation at best. Of course there are stimulating and even happy associations with friends and colleagues, but during the actual work of creation the writer cuts himself off from all others and confronts his subject alone. He* moves into a realm where he has never been before — perhaps where no one has ever been. It is a lonely place, even a little frightening.

Rachel Carson

and this:

You are wise enough to understand that being “a little lonely” is not a bad thing. A writer’s occupation is one of the loneliest in the world, even if the loneliness is only an inner solitude and isolation, for that he must have at times if he is to be truly creative. And so I believe only the person who knows and is not afraid of loneliness should aspire to be a writer. But there are also rewards that are rich and peculiarly satisfying.

Rachel Carson

And I have this very strange thought that I want to be… lonely.

And yet… also…

Third: I’m thinking about texting you.

It’s ridiculous, really. I have nothing to say to you. I don’t even particularly miss you. I’m sorry, my love—I don’t. I’ve seen you not that long ago, and even if I hadn’t—I’ve seen, emailed so many other people. I am fatigued, did I not say? I want to sit still, alone, smell the incense, drink the coffee—ugh, it tastes like poison on my tongue, I shove the cup farther away—and let my mind wander.

And I also want to text you.

No. I don’t want to text you.

I feel this sick compulsion to pick up my telephone and scroll down this newsfeed, that, ascertain nothing interesting is happening… and then send you a, “Hi. How’s it going?”

Except… honestly, my love? I don’t care. I don’t care what’s happening with you at all.

I don’t miss you.

I have nothing to say to you.

What I want… is to be alone with my mind wanderings. And I have these precious few minutes in which that can happen.

And yet… the phone. The fingers. The thought of contact with you…

I let my mind wander in this direction. Why do I crave, in this moment, something that I don’t actually even really want? I see the text in a similar light as I see the cup of coffee—a habit that doesn’t serve me, the craving of which is more pleasurable than its execution.

You: You fucking bitch, thank you very much for penning an essay about how you hate texting me!

Jane: A) In this case, you are a metaphor. B) I don’t hate texting you. I’m just questioning-examining the motivation behind my desire to text you. When life offers a moment of solitude… that I know I need… and yet… I move to sabotage it by grabbing the damn crack-Phone and saying, “Hi. How are you doing?”

Here is what I have found about texting—with which I have had a love-hate relationship ever since I finally buckled and allowed the iPhone into my life in 2013—which is also my experience with Facebook and all forms of social media:

It fucks up my connection receptors.

Does that make sense?

When I feel lonely for people—when I need, want people—and I reach for them in the cyberworld—when I feel lonely for you, and I text you—while we’re engaging, I think I’m with people. And then, when we get off the phone… I’m still lonely. Unfulfilled. I haven’t filled my very real need for connection.

Worse—when I feel the need for solitude—when I need to be lonely (Maria Popova and others go on at lengthy about the difference between solitude and loneliness—I don’t know… I think they’re a little related, but we can talk about that another time)—and you text me or I text you… because I’m alone and you’re alone, and we can’t be together and one or the other of us has forgotten how to be lonely and satisfied with that feeling, for a while—I don’t get my solitude. I haven’t seen you. I haven’t seen, touched anyone. But I haven’t been alone either—I haven’t gotten my alone fix.

Texting/social media contact has the potential to make me feel never alone… and never connected.

And I need, very desperately, both.

This is the point at which Aunt Augusta may, self-righteously, tell me to stop whinging about it and just… unplug. Not text. (Not blog, lol.) Live like it’s 1999 again.

And I do that intermittently—I did it in Cuba. I loved it.

But it’s 2017, and 24/7 connectivity is part of my life, and my task—I direct my mind to wander there—is to make that connectivity work for me, fuel me, empower me—free me.

Not fetter me and damage me.

So I whinge. Reflect.

Take my Sunday morning “off” to be with myself. My—not silence, I suppose, because my Self is very rarely silent—but my thoughts. My self.

You: So you know your thoughts are not your self, and…

Jane: You know what? I get that kind of thinking helps other people. And you can think your thoughts are not your self. And you can think that my thoughts are not my Self, too—your thinking that does me no harm. Really, I don’t even care that much if my thoughts are or are not my self. I just like having them. Even the fucked up, hard ones. I like spending time with them. I like parsing them and dissecting them and feeling them and chasing them. I like thinking!


When I pontificate about writing, I have this line I like to use:

Writing is easy. Thinking is hard.

(end of interlude)

So. I didn’t text you.

I thought about you, though.

You: I thought I was a metaphor.

Jane: Metaphors are grounded in reality. That’s what makes them so powerful.

Wasn’t it better this way? I thought about you and experienced you… and had my solitude too.

I feel better. I am better.

You: I feel neglected and lonely.

Jane: Your problem, not mine.

The morning is about to turn into early afternoon—the sun has climbed over the rooftops and trees and is now flooding the Common with light—definitely autumn light. Ender and his friend are drowning toys in a tub of water, and soaking themselves in the process—I will need to change his clothes before we go to Pride. Flora and her friend are covering themselves with glitter. Cinder is still sleeping, the heavy sleep of the metamorphosing teenager. Sean, fighting nasty cold-it-is-not-the-flu!, is back in bed. The house is a strange mixture of quiet and noise—a metaphor, in this  moment, for my mind.

You: Maybe you should meditate.

Jane: I might. Or, you know, I’ll just sit here a while longer… and think.

I will text you, perhaps, tomorrow. I will maybe have some things to say… about mind wandering. Solitude. Texting.

If you don’t hear from me—it’s because I decided I want to, need to be alone. And I managed to overcome the craving for the fake contact in favour of real solitude.

But if you miss me… come by. Not for coffee—we’ll make something else to drink. I found this recipe for ginger tea with pepper and cinnamon that has a most satisfying smell. Or maybe tea with cardamom?

Come by. I’ll make tea. We’ll go for a walk.

I’ll tell you things.

And when you leave, I’ll settle into solitude—if the kids let me—deliciously.



I’m not a slob: I’m a radical revolutionary, or “Housework is unnatural”

For Cathy & Yvonne


I am smoking my first cigar in weeks—but drinking tea, not coffee (although I did have a cup of the chewiest, most hedonistic-erotic-arousing-fullfilling Turkish coffee a few days ago, OMG, my black drug, you make me…)—and I want to write you a story.


Flora: Mom, I had a nosebleed, and I tried to clean it up, but the bathroom looks like someone slaughtered a pig in it.

Jane: Um… can you clean it up more?

Flora: No, I have to go rescue a mouse.

The bathroom doesn’t really look like someone slaughtered a pig in it. But it could possibly be mistaken for a poorly cleaned up crime scene.

I give the blood streaks a half-hearted wipe.


We are having a meeting in the Common and chewing out the challenges of community living (it ain’t always paradise; actually, it’s rarely paradise, but it’s the closest to heaven we can come), and my neighbour uses her in-family compromises as a metaphor for what we need to do as a community.

“I love having a clean, perfectly tidied house,” she says. “But when I have a perfectly clean, tidied house, my family suffers.”

My ears perk up, because that too has been part of my journey.

“When I get everything cleaned up just so, I’m happy—for about half an hour. And then my family tries to live in the house. And I nag them. And… they suffer.”

She says more… and you could argue with her, I suppose. You might. You like to keep your house very tidy too.

Me, I hear her perfectly. I remember the years of writing, over and over again:

“Five people live and learn and work and eat and create in this house. Five people mess in this house. Five people love this house—the way it is.”

The end result is a house that will cause Aunt Augusta (she’s a metaphor) pain and will make her judge me as an inadequate housekeeper and thus an inadequate human being.

The end result is a house that five people love to live in, that everyone considers their own.


Aunt August always calls it her house, her kitchen.

The pronoun always makes me… flinch. I wonder how her partner, her children feel about that.

I prefer to live in… our house.

I keep my space in our house the way I want it. Everything else? It’s theirs as much as it is mine—some places, so much more theirs than mine.


She texts me:

I just had this thought as I’m doing all the food and house related drudgery.  The reason “women’s” work isn’t appreciated but Dads doing “women’s” work are celebrated is because on some level it is assumed women just know how to do all things domestic so it’s no effort for them whereas it’s hard for Dads because they have to learn something unnatural to them.

I think this is brilliant.

I write back:

Housework is unnatural.

And then I decide I’m not a slob, but a radical revolutionary.


It is of course much more complicated than this, and I know I’m over-simplifying, but let me leave you with this:

If you weren’t scrubbing your kitchen floor, counters, bathroom, whatever, today… what else could you be doing?

And don’t throw that “these things must be done” stuff at me. Let’s assume a minimum standard here. I’m not suggesting you—or I, for that matter—live in an unhygienic pig sty. Let’s assume… it’s good enough, it’s clean enough. Child Services won’t freak.

Aunt Augusta, though, will judge.

An idea: until you can just shake her judgement off… stop inviting her over.


When Sean brings the bathroom to a good-enough state a few days after the nose bleed, all the blood spots are gone. Why I love him—he doesn’t even mention that he had to scrub them. He just does it.


There’s this really, really brilliant comic about gender conflict and housework in heterosexual partnerships that I’d like to send you to: The Gender Wars of Household Chores: A Feminist Comic by Emma.

It makes some really brilliant points, and one that gave me pause:

So I’d like to offer you this life hack, which I think is the reason I am able to homeschool, work from home, chase my passions, and live the life I want.

When the thing you want is to clean off the table… just clean off the table. Leave the damn socks on the floor.

(I know I just gave Aunt Augusta an anxiety. Someone want to hand her a glass of water, please, perhaps doused with laudanum? Thank you.)


Cinder and Flora take out the recycling, and Ender does not want to put away the cutlery.

I make him.

It takes less than five minutes.

We actually spent more time talking about putting away the cutlery than putting away the cutlery.

There is a sub-moral in there somewhere too, that possibly contradicts some of my thesis above. I don’t care. Sometimes, you just go and clear the table. But other times… Negotiating relationships and living as a family, community can be complicated, and sometimes, arguing—sorry, discussing—something for an hour instead of just doing the five or ten minutes task-at-hand is a necessary part of the process.


I’ve smoked my cigar. Written you a story.

I might now go tackle the dishes in the kitchen. Although I’m pretty sure it’s Flora’s turn to wash and Cinder’s turn to put away. I might just argue about that with them for a while instead, and then, while they do the dishes, write another story.



Breaking habits, keeping friends, looking for methadone


I am drinking self-made almond milk, spiced with cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom, and heated into a marvellous froth. It is creamy, tingly, delicious… and all I can think about is how much better it would be with… coffee.

I’ve been trying to not drink coffee for somewhere between four and six months now.

I have never missed a lover, my children, or any experience, ever, as I now miss my black drug.


Cinder: Anyone want lettuce? Only slightly used?

Jane: No, nobody wants your used lettuce.

Cinder: I didn’t bite it. I just took it off my burger.

Heaven forbid the teenager eat something green. Please don’t judge me if he gets scurvy. I keep the house stocked in limes.

And also vegetables.

But I don’t think most of them ever make it down to his stomach.

Still. He’s like six feet eighteen inches (I exaggerate only slightly) and he’s only fifteen. I guess he’s not that malnourished.

This has nothing to do with my coffee saga. He just happened to wander into the kitchen while I was writing this.


So, this isn’t going to be a painful, TMI, self-confessional post about addictions. But I do want to tell you, I started drinking alcohol—mostly wine—dysfunctionally four years and four-five weeks ago, more or less to the day; I quit drinking dysfunctionally three years less four-five weeks ago today.

It was a rather interesting experience, my year of using alcohol as numbing-coping-we-will-get-through-this tool. Like so many of life’s most intense experiences,  its pathos, its impact… and its hidden (or not so hidden) lessons and consequences are visible only in retrospect. At the time, all I was doing was opening a bottle of wine every night. To have with dinner.

There was nothing weird about it. Everyone else around me was doing it too… (See: Running On Empty + A Lost Year)

But, I put the brakes on that quite quickly and, really, all things considered, easily, once I noticed what the hell I was doing. I like to think I’m either too self-aware or too contrary to really cultivate addictions and excessively self-destructive behaviours.

Or so I tell myself as I engage in my newest vice, lighting each cigar, reaching for each sheesha toke with a sick combination of clinical self-awareness and abandoned hedonism. I know the danger of letting the smoke swirl in my mouth, nose, lungs. But there is something about that experience… What am I chasing in that moment? What is it that I am craving? I dive into the crevices of the vice and craving—and, sometimes, surrender to it willingly… other times, fight it, win, feel self-righteous and powerful… sometimes, lose… feel shame, learn compassion.


Flora: Worst! Parents! Ever!

So what happened was, she dropped a pizza slice on her foot and got burned by the pizza sauce.

And we laughed.

Flora: Aren’t you going to help me?

Sean: Are you asking me to lick the pizza sauce off your foot and the floor? Cause that’s gross.

Jane: No. But I’m going to blog about it.

Flora: Worst. Parents. Ever.

She’s so lucky. Do you think she’ll ever realize how lucky she is, she was?

Maybe when she’s 40. Right now, she’s 12. And we suck.

Flora: Why don’t you blog about how you can’t stop whining about how much you miss coffee instead?

Worst. Child. Ever.

I’m kidding. ;P I know how lucky I am.

Jane: Threat fail. Already doing it.


I am not, by the way, whining incessantly about how much I miss coffee. What I am doing is… I am exploring, and curbing, my coffee drinking habit.

I’m exploring (and curbing) it because the unadulterated joy it used to bring to me—I don’t think I can ever fully express to you just how much I loved every aspect of my morning (afternoon) (it’s not really evening yet) coffee, from the sound of the beans dropping into the grinder to its whirr (it was musical), the slowly released and changing smells, the visual pleasure of watching steam rise from the kettle, the sound the water made when I poured it over the ground beans in the Bodum (yessssss), the first sip—the last sip—every sip in-between, OMFG, I miss that experience so much, I WANT MY COFFEE NOW… but that unadulterated joy?

It’s gone.

It was gradual. A slight discomfort in the belly, a strange feeling in my throat. Bitterness on my tongue… the slow (I fought against it so hard) realization that something—metabolism, taste buds, lining of the gut, sensory perception, whatever—had changed, I wasn’t enjoying that first sip, the last sip, the in-between sips very much at all, and I was suffering after, and my coffee habit was just… a habit.

The joy of which was… problematic.

The indulgence of which was… possibly, probably a caffeine addiction.


Jane: Ender, put your dirty dishes into the sink. Into the sink. Into the… thank you.

So much of parenting, have you noticed, is helping children cultivate positive habits… and discourage negative ones. And so much parenting, good and bad, is… a habit.

You create a habit of… morning fights to rush out the door, for example. Bedtime struggles. Fights over tooth brushing.

Or, you create the habit of… slow mornings. Chill bedtimes. Etctera.

Flora: The habit of ignoring your children while you write.

Jane: I work very hard to cultivate that habit. Now stop looking over my shoulder and go make some art or something.

Flora: Can I watch a show?

Jane: It’s up to you which habit you choose to feed.

Flora: World’s. Most. Annoying. Mother.

Whatever. ;P


The spiced almond milk tastes good. It warms my throat and slides easily into my gut. It makes me feel good.

I am enjoying it.

I don’t… love it.

I fucking love my coffee.


I’m sitting across a cafe table from you, as you drink your coffee, and OMFG, can you feel, smell my hunger? I am drinking you drinking. I want you to slow down and savour—really savour—every sip so that I can prolong the experience.

“How’s your tea?” you ask.

I grimace.


Not coffee like.


Crappy methadone, and I miss my heroin.


Here is a fascinating video from Kurzesagt about what really causes addiction.

There are socially sanctioned addictions too. And so many of our habits, good and bad, are formed in community. My year of dysfunctional drinking was fully supported and fostered by my community (we were all suffering, coping, dysfunctionally drinking together). Coffee is what you and I used to meet for, remember?

I hate meeting you for tea.

Sometimes, breaking a habit means breaking a relationship. Losing a community.

Ugh, why did that get so heavy?

I don’t want to lose you along with coffee (the wine). I promise. But I need you to help me… break this habit. And become part of my new one.


The almond milk is almost gone and its dregs, because it is homemade (so domestic goddess, so not me) and imperfectly strained (that’s more me), are pretty chewy. I drink them anyway. I like my coffee chewy.

In that last sip, my methadone is just a little more heroin like.

I swallow it, chew it with joy.



PS I. Miss. Coffee.

PPS I make it. Or pour myself, a little, from a pot someone’s made. I remember… I remember how good it felt. How much I wanted it. I taste it. It fails me. And yet… I still miss it. Crave it. Intensely. The chemical caffeine addiction is long gone, I think. It must be. The rut of the habit, the memory of the ritual—my longing for that once-effective hit? God. It is yet to fade.

PPPS I had a cup this morning. With coconut milk, ginger, and cinnamon. I almost enjoyed it… with some additional, complicated feelings mixed in.



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You: How much do you want?

Jane: Buy me a latte? $4.75 for a medium, $5.65 for a large. If I’ve changed your life, throw in a cookie? xo

Creative-Non Fiction Life

A couple of years ago, I attended a generally meh conference and found myself at a blah workshop—and the entire weekend was suddenly reclaimed and not just salvaged but elevated to a peak experience by a sentence uttered by a woman whose name or face I no longer remember.

But what she said… that is chiselled on my mind.

Because she said…

“I lead a creative non-fiction life.”

Me too, sister, me too, I thought.

Actually, I think I said it out loud and applauded. I don’t think I stood up for a standing ovation. I should have.

There is no point to this story. Not really. Except that—I want to lead a creative non-fiction life. I think, generally, I do.

How about you?



You: That’s it? You call that a post?

Jane: What? Unfulfilled? Write a longer one of your own.

Or, you know, go through Postcards from Cuba or my Laugh Out Loud archive.

Sultry, slow, summer, time


Saturday couldn’t decide if it wanted to be the summer’s hottest day or its stormiest; it compromised and so the kids got heatstroke and our evening barbeque was ruined.

But it was all okay, because, in the evening, the Mother of ALL Fireworks displays, to celebrate the 150th birthday of Canada. Which is really the 150th anniversary of the beginning of Canadian Confederation, through the creation of the Dominion of Canada, which, at the time, included the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

My family came to Canada in 1984. I was ten; my parents in their very early thirties. We got our citizenship three years later—so, I’ve been Canadian for 30 years now.

Patriotism is a tricky thing for immigrants and children of immigrants—especially when your relationship to your birth country and its government(s) is… you know… fucked. It leaves you… cynical, at best, I think. Anyway. Happy though I have been to call Canada home and myself a Canadian, I’m not sure that I’ve ever gotten goose bumps singing the Canadian anthem.

But I totally got goose bumps listening to this:


Sunday was hot.

So hot I melted. I wasn’t skin and bones: I was a fountain of sweat. The day was the definition of sultry and it was glorious. It made me slow and lazy—I moved slowly through the day and I loved it.

I thought, a lot, about process. Also stress and cortisol levels.

Also, why it is that I like smoking cigars so much. And how really, I’m lucky that the Cuban street stash is long gone and I have to pay extortionate Canadian prices for my tobacco, because it keeps my indulgence to a level that’s on the okay side of addiction.

(I’m not addicted, okay? I just really like them.)

(But, um, if you’re going to Havana… there’s this place I can send you… let’s talk…)

Flora: It’s disgusting and it’s going to kill you.

Jane: I’m doing this at least in part to make you sure never think smoking is cool.

I’m doing this at least in part because it slows down time.

Did I tell you? I’m taking back time.

One slow lazy sultry day, hour at a time.


Monday hasn’t happened yet.

Isn’t that wonderful?

It’s all in the future. All potential.

At its end, I will have Cinder back home, and all five of us will be HERE.

And it will be hot. And sultry.

And even though I have so much to do so much to do so much to do, I will move through my day slowly.


I’m doing it.



PS I moved so marvellously slow I didn’t get around to posting this until the cooler evening. 🙂