Pandemic Diary: Don’t you hate it when the Buddhists are right?


Valentine’s Day has come and gone, another weird COVID holiday. Did you have a good time? I did, but it seemed to me, from the outside looking in, that it was a subdued affair, all around. Restaurants are open again in Viking Hell, but most folks I know chose to order in anyway. I’ve never really “celebrated” Valentine’s Day as a romantic couple—Sean and I had had a massive fight of mismatched expectations after our first Valentine’s Day as a couple and I dealt with it by abolishing Valentine’s Day forever more, and, since kids—and that’s been the last eighteen years of my life, I usually threw an unValentine’s Day party for people who didn’t have dates or couldn’t get babysitters. They were a lot of fun, those parties.

This year, I had 2/3 or my kids for an unValentine’s Day dinner–the eldest wanted to spend it online with this friends–which we ended by sharing a chocolate bomb from 8 Cakes, one of the participants in the YYC Hot Chocolate Fest 2021 (mini-review: great idea, mixed reviews on the execution—too sweet, too sweet, and all the colours merged into a quite ugly pale beige—still, it brought us joy, and showcased creativity, so, one thumb up, one thumb down, one neutral). Afterwards, a sheesha date—rose mint at Cafe Medina, I am so grateful my cafes are open again and I need them to survive, I need them to be here tomorrow and next fall and winter and next year. The day before, on Valentine’s Day Eve—this could be a thing—one of my loves and I gave ourselves diabetes by partaking in the YYC Hot Chocolate Fest and finding out how many cups of hot chocolate a person can drink in one five hour period.

(The answer is two, not five, OMG, my poor pancreas, and two is actually too much—one hot chocolate once a week or once a month or twice a year is about what one needs, really.)

So, COVID notwithstanding, month twelve (how has it been twelve months already) of the pandemic notwithstanding, ban on indoor social gatherings notwithstanding—please vaccinate the elderly and the vulnerable already, please, please, please—and my overall cynicism towards Valentine’s Day notwithstanding, I had a really terrific day and weekend. And as the weekend morphs into the week, I am thinking that, dammit, the Buddhists are right: happiness is a state of mind that comes from within.

Well, of course, there was all that chocolate. Surely that helped too…


The day after Valentine’s Day—it’s a Monday—why is it so hard to keep track of the days of the week, was that not just yesterday?—a friend stops by unexpectedly. He’s in the neighbourhood. “I thought I’d just stop by and give you a hug; it’s been a long time.” I am covered with red ink and cornstarch—it’s Ender’s homeschooling at Mom’s day and I’ve long abandoned copy work and math for kitchen science. We’ve been playing with Elephant’s toothpaste (google it) and oobleck (ditto).

I get cornstarch on my friend’s black winter coat while I rest against his shoulder, in his arms.

The hug is illegal, although I’m not sure of the monetary fine attached to it. If he comes inside, it’s a $1000 punishment.

Him: How are you? You look good.

Jane: Up and down to be honest. January was hell. February is better.

Him: That’s all of us now. But you look good. You look happy.

Covered in cornstarch and ink, wearing a stained lab coat over pajama pants, with untended, undyed hair—and ink on my fingers and face—I know I don’t look good. I look good—I look… happy.

I check in with myself as I say goodbye to my friend and go back to Ender.

Am I happy?


Feelings are weird, aren’t they? The result of chemical cocktails that, yes, are formed to a certain extent by our bodily reactions to external stimuli, actions, and behaviours… but, mostly, just made in the chemical factory that is you and me.

Am I happy?

I am stressed and stretched to the breaking point financially. I am worried about my children, on that day, especially, my eldest, who should be planning his future right now and he fucking can’t, who can? I am pondering if, perhaps, I need to rethink my career path and, instead of writing, dig graves or drive a bus, or, fuck, anything that brings in a steady, predictable stream of income instead of the random feast/famine of royalties and contracts. I miss you and her and him and them and parties and potlucks and art galleries. I am not certain about anything, I can’t plan more than a week ahead, and I’m afraid to read the news because I need another external negative stimulus like I need another non-paying “but it’s such good exposure, for such a good cause” contract.

And yet… with all of that…

All sanity depends on this: that it should be a delight to feel the roughness of a carpet under smooth soles, a delight to feel heat strike the skin, a delight to stand upright, knowing the bones are moving easily under the flesh.

Doris Lessing

…I feel sunlight on my skin and bones and muscles under my skin and layer of pandemic fat… and I’m happy.

Hydrogen peroxide, dish soap and dry yeast just gave me and Ender a morning of pure happiness. The dog at our feet, spreading her fur everywhere—I really need to groom her—is pure love. My friend’s drive-by hug runneth a full cup over. My mom made me cabbage rolls the other day, OMG, they tasted like heaven in my mouth. Flora is researching the Polska Walcząca/Armia Krajowa emblem, a piece of her family heritage that’s been an unnoticed part of the furniture in the home all her life, but has now acquired interest and meaning. I love her passion—I love this apartment, today, especially, the temperamental fireplace—and I love the blue sky and sunshine we’re getting during this polar vortex—it’s beautiful and I love beautiful things.

The dark chocolate a friend drops off for me the Friday before Valentine’s Day—a Valentine’s present and a “you’re important to me always” gift in one—singing happy birthday to my upstairs neighbour in the hallway, a text, a phone call from a friend who’s far away, finding the missing sock from my favourite pair, driving Cinder to work and listening to him process… all of these things make me… happy.

Listening to M.C. Beaton’s cheesy murder mysteries on my earbuds—a gift from someone who loves me who couldn’t believe I was still using my frayed “well only one earbud works, and the mic is fried, but it’s good enough” pair—and watching The Inspector Lynley mysteries on Britbox—another gift from someone else who loves me? Ditto.

I am happy, I am loved.

I rest in this feeling.


I need to return a Service Canada call, to talk to someone about my EI/CERB application. I don’t want to—I hope filling out the form is the last minute voodoo I have to do before a new contract or sale materializes—god, for a $25,000 advance—it feels like it would solve all my problems and I won’t complain that it’s too small, promise, and I’ll work my ass off to earn it out and earn the publisher more money, promise, promise, promise—if only prayers really did work this way….

I look at the number I have to dial. I don’t want to. But I’ll do it. And then I’ll write and then I’ll look for jobs and something will materialize. It always does.

Him: You did look good. Happy.

Jane: I’m fine.

I’m not, really. It’s month twelve of the pandemic, and none of us are fine, all of us are broken and beaten up, and it is so cold outside—although warmer than yesterday, than last week—but we’re alive and I feel the sun on my skin. Do you?

Bask in a cold ray of sunshine for a while.

Then eat some chocolate.

Rest in the feeling.



Dear un-Valentine: How you speak to your partner tells me more about you than the way you kiss

It’s Flora’s fault.

She’s sensitive, empathetic, and ruled by her heart. And she’s only 10, so her heart makes black and white rules. Wait. I’m telling this story wrong. I should have begun… never mind. Let’s start with Flora. And what Flora says is,

“But how can you like someone if you hate the way they treat their husband or wife?”

I’m not sure how to respond to that—I’m never sure how to respond to anything she says, really. And she goes on:

“I mean, how can someone be a good person if they treat the people they’re supposed to love badly?”

And I still say nothing, but I don’t need to, Flora is following her own train of thought, and she finishes:

“If you’re mean to your own wife or your kids or your husband—and these are the most important people in the world to you, the people you love the most—how will you treat me? If I’m a stranger, and you don’t know me at all, and don’t love me?

I would want nothing to do with such a person.”

And then she takes a carton of green tea ice cream from the freezer, and moves on to other things.

Meanwhile, her mother stands in the middle of the kitchen, phone in one hand, spatula in the other (I was making tacos—not that it’s important, but, you know, if you’re trying to assemble a full picture of the moment), and stares off into space, and ponders…

…that what Flora said should be true. Right? I mean—to flip it a little—that the way we treat the people we love the most should be the best we’re capable of.

Except it’s not, is it?

So often, the people we love best… they’re the ones who get the worst of us. Get treated the worst by us. Day after day after day…


There are three reasons for this ass-backward behaviour, I think.

First—when we love unconditionally and fully (or just a hell-of-a-lot, because most love is conditional, but we’ll talk about that another day) and are loved in return, we trust that love will be there no matter what. And so, when we trust, we let ourselves go. We snap, snip. We let our loves see us at our worst—and they still love us—and so we do it again… and again…

Second—husbands, wives, children, lovers, families—we’re together all the time, in each other’s faces. We rub against each other in the stress of hurried everyone-get-out-the-door mornings. We’re in each other’s faces in the I’m-too-exhausted-to-give-a-fuck evenings. We’re out of energy for politeness, manners. We snip. Snap. Again… and again… and again…

Third—we do it again… and again… and again… and then it’s a habit, and the majority of human behaviour and interaction is, simply… habit. And so… we do the nasty thing, say the mean thing again. And again. And again…

We say things to the people we love the most that we would never, ever say to more casual friends—to strangers—because, Christ, how unthinkably rude, cruel. Nasty.

We accept hearing/receiving these unacceptable behaviours from people who love us, because…

Actually, so here’s the thing, because—why, exactly?

Because they love us? And so it’s ok for them to treat us disrespectfully?

Because I love you, it’s okay for me to mock you? It’s ok for me to knock you down, undermine you, speak to you in a tone so disrespectful I would never, ever use it on a co-worker (not even that really, really annoying one)?

When Sean comes into the kitchen, I’m sitting in the middle of the kitchen, phone and spatula on the dirty floor, taco meat burning.

“What’s wrong?”

he asks, and I love him. I can’t put it into adequate words, so I put it into bad ones. And then, add:

“Do I ever speak to you like that? Ever?”

I don’t think I do, gods above and below, I hope I don’t, but does one ever hear oneself? Does she realize what comes out of her mouth? Does he know what he’s really saying when he says something so…

“Never. God, never, ever.”

(He’s lying. Because he loves me. I know that sometimes, when something he’s said or done triggers me, I react much less… kindly, tolerantly, lovingly… than I would had a less intimate-to-me person said or done the same thing. But I let him lie, in that moment, and I try to believe it.)

“If I ever do… stop me. Hard. The first time.”


As Valentine’s Day comes up—my third least-favourite faux holiday—lovers all through North America will be exchanging flowers, chocolates, and Hallmark-sanctioned expression of love and affection.

I refuse to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

I prefer to show that I love—and to be shown that I’m loved—every day. Mostly, in little things, you know what I mean, the tiny stuff: “thank you for doing the dishes, my love” and “I’m so sorry you had a lousy day” and “I missed you, come sit with me” and “will you do this for me, it’s driving me crazy” and “this poem made me think of you” and “I’m so happy you picked up cream on the way home” and also “god you look good today, I want to devour you” (delivered when I feel spent, exhausted, and so unsexy, and I’m pretty sure you’re lying, but oh-it’s-so-good-to-hear).

I choose to show that I love by how I talk to you. To him, to her, to them. The people I love best? They deserve me at my best—or at least… trying, conscious, aware, fostering, building.

And when I slip up? Call me on it. The first time. Hard.

Don’t let me treating you disrespectfully—because you love me, and I love you, and so it’s all ok—become a habit.

Because it isn’t ok to treat the people you love the most the worst.

Flora said so.

And she knows.

Happy un-Valentine’s Day.



NBTB-Dear un-Valentine

PS I have some un-Valetine’s Day presents for you. First, 15 Compliments for Your Valentine, Courtesy of  Erotic Artist Dorothy Iannone. Kind of awesome.

Second, 3 Misconceptions that Ruin Great Relationships by Kelly Flanagan from The Good Man Project. It’s essentially an essay AGAINST the grand gesture and for… habit.

Third, my friends and I have been debating for the last god knows how many weeks whether love is what you feel or what you do, and we’ve been reading and arguing about, among others, these:

You’ve probably seen one or both pieces already. If you haven’t, they’re worth a read.

Fourth, Good Daddies Are Hot.

Fifth—the original title of this post was, “Dear un-Valentine: How you speak to your partner tells me everything about the type of friend you’ll be. And it tells me you’re a jerk, and I want nothing to do with you.” But I decided it was a little… wordy. Jane out xx

Good Daddies are hot

Romantic Heart form Love Seeds

I’m a wee bit cynical about most things. Not the least bit romantic about Valentine’s Day. But you know what? Good Daddies rock. Nothing sexier than a good Daddy. Carrying a diaper bag, changing a diaper, pushing a toddler on a swing, running behind a six-year-old on a bike, supporting the teenager through her first broken heart… good Daddies make the world go round. And they deserve a massive shout out.


To Ross, who can make Baby M smile no matter what, and who’s made sure his kids know all the words to Little Black Submarines.

To Bill, who looks for recipes and homeschool projects on Pinterest. And then, like, cooks!

To Richard, who knows how to talk and listen to his kids. No matter what.

To Carey, who’s so in love with his girls, it makes my heart sing every time I see it. ♥

To Chris, who said he’d never be the dad who posted about “that stuff” on Facebook… but is and owns it. Cause he’s so in love with his son.

To the other Chris, who was clinically the most qualified of us to be a parent… and as it turns out, intuitively and practically rocks at it.

To my third Chris, who’s the most amazing single dad one could ever imagine.

To Steve, who’ll do anything for his boys, even when they destroy all his nice things.

To Tyler, who can’t stop smiling whenever he looks at his beautiful daughter. Even when she’s trying to stab him in the eye with a steak knife…

To Norm, who likes to pretend he’s a tough guy but pampers his boys ever-so-tenderly. And hooks them up with the best hair cuts.

To Barnabas, who makes his boys the best weapons. And sets off firecrackers. And builds insane fires. But worries that  they might drown…

To Mark, who builds the best train tracks. And, of course, draws the best cartoons.

To Dave, who adores his little girls so much I already pity their future boyfriends. (And they’re gorgeous, so there will be a lot of those, Dave. Sorry…)

To Kelly, who takes his kids on the best adventures (and makes really great suppers).

To Adam, who hasn’t slept a night through in two and a half years. And knows it’s all worth it.

To Paul, who built a store with a killer play space.

To Ben, who turns off the Blackberry when he’s with his boys.

To Martin, who washes the dishes. Every single night.

To the other Martin, who’s never missed a game or tournament—if at the price of an awful lot of speeding tickets…

To Rob, who’s always made sure his girls know they’re the centre of his universe, no matter what’s going on with other relationships. And who knows the difference between an elf and a fairy.

To Garth, who knows exactly what he needs to do the moment he walks through the front door.

To John, who answers the phone when it’s one of his daughters’ numbers on call display–be it 2 a.m. or the middle of the most important client meeting, because it could be an emergency.

To all the rest of you, who change diapers, wipe snotty noses, fiddle with snow suits, look for lost mittens, run out for milk at 11:45 p.m., get up at 3:15 a.m.–and again at 5 a.m.–push strollers in slush, hold tiny hands when you cross the street, swear when you fiddle with car seats, make mac’n’cheese, PVR Blue’s Clues, take time for bed time, give out goodnight kisses and good morning hugs, and do the other million and ten things that good Daddies need to do.

And most of all, to my Sean. With whom I fall in love, all over again, every time he changes a diaper. Reads a bedtime story. Instals a mod for his Flora. Plays Munchkins, Stratego or Primal Carnage with his Cinder. Takes Ender for a long walk on the hill, even when the weather’s bad. Makes French toast for second breakfast and peanut butter and jam sandwiches for third supper. Builds a train track, fiddles with Mindstorms, or listens to stories of ponies and unicorns. Thank you, my love, for my beautiful children—and for being their most awesomest Daddy.

Ladies—if you’ve got one of these amazing dudes in your life, wear something skanky for his pleasure today. And make sure he enjoys it.

Gentlemen—underwear models, movie stars, super athletes, my ripped 26 year-old boy toy of a personal trainer—cute, gorgeous, symmetrical, whatever.  Eye candy’s nice, no question.

But there be absolutely nothing hotter than a good Daddy. 

Truth. You’re the stuff dreams–and better yet, the best quotidian moments–are made of.



Add a toast to the good Daddies in your life below. It’s Valentine’s Day. They deserve a shout out.  

Photo via Zemanta: Romantic Heart form Love Seeds (Photo credit: