A “lost” year: on standing still, moving forward, stepping back

Come. Come in. I have something I want to show you. Here, over here: this box. That one. And that pile over there. Remember, I told you about them? My papers, my manuscripts, my letters. The record of my early creative life.

They’re all terribly, terribly bad. I mean—not just a little bad. God-awful. It’s hard to say what’s worse—the novel I wrote when I was 13 and the sheafs of heavy metal music-inspired poetry I churned out when I was 15 are probably absolutely the worst, although the novel I wrote when I was 16, and the one I started when I was 18 are pretty bad too.

There is no reason to save them, to hold on to them. They make me cringe, you know, when I look at them? They are so very, so very terribly, wonderfully bad.

They stink.

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Flora: What are you doing, Mom?

Jane: I’m trying to write something that’s simultaneously truthful and not asshat pretentious, and failing miserably.

Flora: Oh. Are you going to be much longer? Because I need you to take me to the craft store to buy me more clay.

Jane: Yeah, ok. In a bit. Hold on. I’m trying to explain why I’ve spent an entire year tripping over boxes of molding, unreadable papers.

They actually do stink. I’m pretty sure they’re actively molding. Maybe, if I procrastinate long enough, the mold will finish what the flood started. Maybe, I’m waiting for a force of nature to take agency away from me again…

Cinder: Mom? What are you doing?

Flora: Ssssh. She’s writing about how she can’t throw out those stinky papers.

Cinder: Isn’t it because she’s lazy?

Jane: Silence, progeny. I’m wallowing in artistic existential angst here.


There must be, I think, a part of me that enjoys the wallowing. That wants to stay here, looking at those boxes, looking at the curling edges, the black splotches, red splotches that used to be ink. There’s clearly a part of me that’s getting off on the drama of the destruction…

There’s also a part of me that’s really pleased that this early work is so fucking bad. You know? Wouldn’t it be terrible—it must be so terrible—to look at what you did 20, 30 years ago and say—that was my best work! Why can’t I write like that any more? What’s happened to me? Definitely not the issue here. Those boxes are not full of my best work.

But, but… they are this titillating record of potential. You know? That poem, the one you tried so hard not to read when separating the wet pages, but you did, and you laughed out loud at its pathos? It’s awful-bad, I know. But there’s that one phrase… you know? That one phrase… I like it still, and looking at it, I see the places it’s gone in the intervening 25 years, and I like that. And while I’m embarrassed by the overall badness of the piece… those four words in a row… they please me.

And I’m reluctant to let them go.

Ender: Moooooooooom! What are you doing? I need you!

Jane: I’m trying to explain why I’ve been stuck, unmoving, unproductive… why I’ve felt tethered, trapped by the past, unable to move into the future, paralyzed by what was, torn between denying it and embracing, obsessed with the idea and yet working really hard at not thinking about it, not dealing with it…

Ender: I’m hungry. And I need you to get my bike out of the shed. And I can’t find my shoes. And also, I think I pooped my pants.

Jane: Right. I should do something about all of those things. Just give me a few more minutes here…

Do I need to let them go? An impossible question. What would I have done, had the flood not rampaged through them? The most likely answer: nothing. They would have stayed in their boxes. Existing. Unexamined. For years, decades, a lifetime.

I don’t like being forced to examine them. Examine myself: who I was, what I thought, how I dreamed.

Flora: Mom? Are you still angsting?

Jane: Yes!

Cinder: Seriously? Do you want me to just go chuck them for you?

Jane: No!

Ender: Somebody! Needs! To! Clean! My! Bum!

I had this not-so-secret plan, after I failed to be able to deal with the remnants of the papers right after the flood (I burned my destroyed letters; I couldn’t touch the manuscripts), that I would mark the anniversary of the loss with a big, cleansing bonfire. I’d invite my writer friends, and we’d be all very solemn and supportive, and then get rip-roaring drunk, and we’d burn my past, and a new stage of uber-creativity would rise from the ashes…

photo 1

I know. Cliché. But, why not?

So here I am, a year later. And there they are, my boxes, my papers, my past. Still unexamined, unsalvaged. Neither discarded nor saved.

In limbo.

Me? I look back at this past year as, in many ways, a lost year. A year in which I both failed to move forward and didn’t have the ability to look back: a year in which I stood still. But maybe I had to. Maybe, for possibly the first time in my life, I just had to stand in place for a while…

Cinder: OMG, Mom, are you still writing about those stinky papers?

Flora: Hey! She’s a writer! That’s what she does! But could you please hurry up? We have things to do! Places to go!

Ender: I’m! Still! Poopy! And! Hungry!

Jane: Almost done. Almost done…

So. I’m not quite sure I’m done standing still. Maybe that’s what it is. Maybe I need to stand still a little longer. Digest-marinate-process all that I was a little longer.

Cinder: Moooom!

But not for too much longer. Not forever. Because I have things to do. Places to go. Stories to write. A life to live.

My terrible-no-good poems and novels—and hey, here’s a short story I wrote in my 20s, and this one actually doesn’t totally suck… it’s not good, but it’s not god-awful either—my papers, I think, will stay in their purgatory for a little longer. Just a little longer. And when I’m ready to get moving again, I will let them go.

But not today.

No bonfire this year.

But, there will be a hell of a party…



NBTB-A lost year

P.S. An invitation: If you’re in Calgary, you should spend some part of your weekend celebrating the one-year anniversary of the flood and Neighbour Day in one of the communities you helped to save. If you worked in Sunnyhill, our big celebration is on Saturday, June 21, from 5 p.m. on; the greater Sunnyside celebration is on Sunday, June 22, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the site of the Crisis Café.

If you have no idea what I’m blathering on about, YYC Flood 101:

Where have you been, Jane?” June 27, 2013

“Everything back to normal, Jane?” July 4, 2013

unLessons from the flood: we are amazing  July 9, 2013

Running on empty: why “so are things back to normal?” is not the right question October 29, 2013

A love letter to my flood plain, June 11, 2014

A love letter to my flood plain

NBTB Love Letter to flood plain.jpg

This love letter begins, as every good love letter should, while I’m naked in bed…

No. Stop. Sorry. Not like this. First, this:


There was this flood last year, and it changed us. So very profoundly. And we know it, feel it, breathe it. Tell it, to each other, to anyone who wants to listen (to many who do not).

But do we tell it, really? Our kids are collecting flood stories from the ‘hood to turn into an archive and into an anniversary performance piece. I tell mine… and it is not until I come back home that I realize that of all the stories I could have told, I chose the least important, least personal.

The safest.

“Makes sense,” my neighbour-the-poet says. “Of course it makes sense.”

Does it?

“What story did you tell?” I ask him, and he tells me. And I am shocked. “That one? Really? You could tell… you could share… that one? That part of you?”

He could, he did. Me? My eyes swell with tears. My most intimate story swims within me. I can tell, spin so many other stories. That one? I’m not even sure I want to hear it.

But there’s one part of my story that’s everyone’s story. It belongs to you, as much, more, as it does to me. Ready?

F-front door2


I’m naked in bed, languorous, lazy, loved, and the psychic-who-lives next door delivers a hot breakfast to me and my love.

This is the magic of the place where I live, this place that I love so ardently that life elsewhere, life without it is hard to imagine.

This act of kindness-nourishment-knowing—it is not extra-ordinary. Not here. On this piece of flood plain where I live, this sort of thing just happens.

All the time.

This happens too: a book placed into my hand. “I just read it. You will love it.”

Always, an embrace when you need. Always, someone to help you move a couch.

Always, someone from whom I can borrow eggs, sugar, salt, a bottle of wine.

And this: emergency, panic. I need to leave my tiniest, who has never, ever been detached from my arms and my breast. And I leave him—with you, without thinking twice about it, I know you will love my precious and keep him safe for me.

“Potluck tonight?” “Gah, I have nothing to bring.” “Don’t worry. We have plenty.”

New Year’s. Summer Solstice (even last year’s one). Halloween. Impromptu sleep-overs all over; in the morning, a kid head-count. Six kids traipse down my stairs. There are five clambering up yours. “Does your mother know you’re here?” “I think so… oh, isn’t that her, at your door?” It is. “Coffee delivery!” Oh, yes.

Someone else’s mother sneaks into my house while I have a doctor’s appointment and washes my kitchen floor. Because.

This place where I live binds people, builds people.

The idea of losing it is unbearable. Unacceptable.

F-The Boat


We were never in real danger of losing it. Our streets were not ripped to shreds. The water was out of our houses in a few days—it did not linger for weeks. We are rebuilt. But. In those first days, when the water came—before it receded—before we got back home—we did not know. And we were not rational. And I was terrified.

I could not, would not lose you.

F-Rubber boots


I must have loved you before, of course I must have. But this is when I really fall in love with you: when you are at your ugliest. When there is still knee-deep (wait, over here it’s higher, people are wearing hip-waders and getting soaked) water in Sunnyhill Lane. When there are army trucks rolling down Seventh Avenue. When the air smells of diesel and the vibrations of pumps and generators drown out voices. You are covered with mud and silt and fuck-is-that-sewage? and your streets are lined with the debris of a hundred, thousand lives and you look destroyed and ugly and I love you so desperately nothing but saving you matters.



“Christ. It looks like Kandahar,” you say. I look at you, unseeing. I would say, stupid exaggeration, get some perspective, come on, except I’m covered foot-to-toe in mud and so is everyone around me, and there are mountains and mountains of walls-doors-furniture-it’s-not-garbage-it’s-our-lives piled up between the apple trees, and the Red Cross has just delivered a stack of disaster relief kits. We tear through them scavenging for facemasks. Hoping for crowbars. Ha. A mop and a bucket? What the fuck?

F-ARC Disaster Services Kit


You have been, to me, a sanctuary that consisted of a lane, a garden, a Common. A handful of neighbours. You become my everything. As I struggle to save you and you come to save me, you grow. You transcend what you were. You become…

You become a million beating hearts. An army of citizens covered in mud. I love you as I have never loved anything before. And I love them, desperately, passionately, fully, because they are saving you. You are them, they are you.

There are no boundaries.

F-Many Hands Make Light Work


Then, we all go home.

We come back to our gutted homes; you go back to your unscarred ones. Or go on to help other communities. To High River (which still rends my insides).

We go/come home. But we are all changed.

See, we all love you now in a way we could not even imagine before. You are not just our homes and our communities. You are not just our paths and our riverbanks and our parks and our buildings, our bridges, our streets, our landmarks. You are, of course you are, all of those things. But most of all, you are us. We are you. And we know you—ourselves—so fully and so intimately. There is no theory-to-be-tested, no promises-to-be-fulfilled. There is no uncertainty over what we will-can-could do when asked: we have done it. Everything that had to be done? We did it.

We saved you. You saved us.

F-Battling the mud


We are changed. But not all of us know this as fully-intimately-undeniably as those of us who lost and saved know this.

“I lost nothing. I did not help. I was unaffected.”

I walk with him on the river paths—because I hardly ever walk anywhere else—and he claims to be unaffected. And thus… unchanged. And I see, suddenly, how damaged he is. He had no personal loss, he says. He was not covered with mud. Your tears.

I cover him with mine.

He claims to be unaffected… but as he watches me cry into the river… unaffected?

No such thing.

We are all affected.

F-Our house debris


This place where I live, this place that I love beyond the pall of all reason, this place that builds and binds, this place of jerrybuilt-during-a-past-boom townhouses, this place where dandelions bloom and little children grow up and old people grow older, this place is mine, and it is me.

This place is precious because it is loved, so loved, all the more so because it was threatened, almost-lost, saved. And as I love it, caress it, press it into me—each walk on its streets, each rediscovery of each of its crevices, curvatures, indentations an act of gratitude, acceptance, surrender—it grows. It becomes your place, our place, you, us.

This place is us, a million beating hearts.

F-Evening shift at SHL


“If it floods again, will we leave? Will we move?”

“I can’t. I can’t. I can’t even think that.”

F-O on Flooded Common


I have loved and was loved and have eaten and felt loved again, and now I must get out of bed, find clothes, do things. But for the moment, for one more moment, I remain naked, languorous, wrapped up in you. And I need to tell you: I have loved you before this, for so long. But I did not really know how much until you were wrecked, destroyed, broken. And I did not truly value you, see the truth of you until you saved me/I saved you.

My most beloved: thank you.



So. I tell the part of my flood story that’s our flood story, I write it as an imperfect love letter to my imperfect piece of flood plain, which I love, passionately, in all its faults, with all its warts, frustrations.

I am so very, very grateful. Love, gratitude, vulnerability, appreciation, surrender swim inside me, fill me, leak out through my tears.

And my own, innermost flood story, the one that I’m not sure even I want to hear? It is so very simple, really. And it is this: a year ago, I could not feel like this. I would not write like this.

I would not cry like this.

I could not love like this.

NBTB-I love you


Filing, flooding, interviewing—or, “Confluence”


“Filed!” You’re talking about your taxes; when I scream, “Filed!”—or, to be more accurate, type it as a Facebook status update, I’m talking about stories. Meeting deadlines. It’s a verb that determines timelines in my house: “I file on Thursday, so we can go to Banff on Friday”; “I need to file by Monday morning, so no, we can’t do that on the weekend”; “Mom? Have you filed yet? Because we really need to go grocery shopping?”

I filed this morning. Glory, relief, joy.


Flora: I know my Mom’s a writer, but sometimes it seems like what she really does for work is talk on the telephone.

Cinder: Ha. Sometimes, I think what she does for work is swear at the computer.

Ender: Penis?

Sean: Would you guys get the hell out of the house now, so your Mom can do her interview in peace?


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Soon, so very soon, I will have a space-place of my own again. But these days, sometimes, too often, my car is my office.


So. There was this flood. And we are coming up on its one year anniversary… it’s one month and one week away. It’s going to be a hard, stressful June.

“Have you been by the river today?”

“The Bow is low… the Elbow is really running hard, already.”

“And the snow… there is so much snow in the mountains.”

I walk across a bridge with a friend and see, out of the corner of my eye, a piece of unreclaimed bank, still ravaged. I bend over the railing. Throw up.

I’m supposed to be “reclaiming” my lost living space. Instead, I’m anticipating losing it again.

And that’s all of us right now. So. What do we do? So many things… but the one I want to tell you about is the Sunnyside YYC Flood Scrapbook and Theatre Project,  a collaboration of Trickster Theatre, Sunnyside School, and the Hillhurst-Sunnyside Community Association. Community kids will be working together to capture the shared community experiences from the June 2013 Flood. It’s a massive project: the kids will be working with community volunteers to gather photos and video footage from residents and to capture stories of the flood and the recovery that followed. Their goal is to create a digital scrapbook and archive of the community’s flood experience, which will serve, in addition to its obvious and overt purpose, as inspiration for the creation of public performance pieces. These will be performed on June 20th and 21st, 2014… our anniversary.

Artistic guidance for the project comes from Trickster Theatre, and  support from the Sunnyside School Society and The Calgary Foundation, for which we are all so very grateful.

Sean and Falstaff Productions are providing video support for the project. To help get our kids rolling on the story-gathering task, he filmed me giving Flora interview tips—and Flora’s first interview with one of our neighbours.

Flora is brilliant, and I’m terribly earnest and long-winded. If you have 10 minutes to kill:

Link to FP video on Youtube: Tell Me Your Story: Interview Tips for Kids


And… if you have a floodster or a dozen in your life… this is going to be a really hard month. Bear with us.



Who will win “most annoying child contest” and other tales

Sleeping Mommy Approach with Coffee


I know I’ve trained you all to NOT ask me if things are back to normal or how reconstruction is going. And I appreciate that. But I know you want to know. So. It’s going like this:

Flora: Oh, look, there’s one of the workers!

Sean: I don’t think we should call them workers. That suggests they actually, you know, work.

Cinder: We should call them the guys who come into our unit every once in a while and look around.

Flora: That’s not fair. Sometimes, they also smoke in our driveway.

And there you have it. That’s better than what Ender and his mother call them. Did you catch that, beloved, in my running away story? Go look.


Flora: Ender’s so cute when he’s sleeping… and not demanding stuff!

Yup. Flora and I drink in that peaceful cherubic face… and magically, it blots out the trauma of the tantrum he threw when he found out that he could not share that chocolate croissant all by himself


Cinder: Mom? Are you running the ‘Who’s the most annoying child?’ contest today?

Jane: Um… well, no, I wasn’t planning on it… Why?

Cinder: Too bad. If you were, I think I just won. Want to know what I did?

Jane: No. No. Not even a little bit.


Flora: Mom! Where is my iPad?

Jane: On your bed, under the rainbow pillow.

Ender: Mooooooom! I can’t find my shark-car. Have you seen my shark-car?

Jane: In the bathtub, under the blue washcloth.

Cinder: Where is my Calvin & Hobbes book? Mom! Where is…

Jane: On the landing, under your snowpants!

Sean: Jaaaane! Have you seen my phone?

Jane: Under the couch…

Wait. I see the pattern. I am going to break it.

Flora: Mom? Where is…

Jane: I don’t know.

Ender: Mooooom!

Jane: Don’t know.

Cinder: Mom, I can’t find…

Jane: Not a clue.

Sean: Jane, have you seen…

Jane: Nope. Don’t. Know.

Will it work? Fingers crossed.

Next week: a meditation on guilt and gratitude. And the week after… oh, that one, I really can’t wait for you to read. Do you “just want your kids to be happy?” Let that marinate in the back of your head for the next two weeks, and then you can read me explain why I don’t…



P.S. My very brilliant friend Katia wrote this amazing piece last week on fighting in front of children: Forgive Me For Stomping All Over Your Victory. Highly recommended, insightful piece.

P.P.S. Yes, we have the plague right now. Three down. Two to go. But it’s only Wednesday…

Flu Bed

After the flood: Running on empty and why “So are things back to normal?” is not the right question

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He asks the question with a smile, as a casual opener before we move on to “real” issues, and is shocked and appalled when I burst into tears because, well—I don’t cry.

“Are things back to normal?” he says and immediately wishes he hadn’t said it, and doesn’t know where to go from there. And I’m shocked too—I don’t know where the hell those tears have come from, because I’m fine, we’re fine, everything’s just fine.

Except, of course, it’s not.

We had this flood in YYC and Southern Alberta back in June, you may remember (my flagship post about it was unLessons from the flood: We are amazing, and if you want facts, visit the evolving Wikipedia entry  or the Calgary’s Herald’s The Great Flood of 2013 page), that devastated my neighbourhood and so much of our city. An army of citizen volunteers turned out in the tens of thousands to respond to the crisis. It was amazing. It was euphoric. It had us walking on air and out of crisis mode in a couple of intense weeks.

People were asking a week, two weeks after the flood—as soon as the rivers receded, as soon as most of the debris that was our basements, our houses, our possessions, our lives, was taken off the streets and into the dumps—“Are things back to normal?”

And in late July, August, euphoric, proud, we could smile and say, “We’re out of crisis mode.” And maybe talk a little about insurance, and the Disaster Recovery Program, and plans for reconstruction. And laud our mayor’s leadership and bitch out the provincial government and, you know, do all those “normal” things.

I’m not sure when “normal” got harder to fake. Maybe in September, when we’d reconnect with people we hadn’t seen for a few months, and they’d say, “So—did you have a good summer?”

Funny—we are so socially programmed to be inoffensively happy and placating, the autoresponse to that question, which the mouth starts to form before the brain has a moment to reflect, is, “Yes. And you? That flood thing? A minor inconvenience. Moving on. Going to Disneyland!”

I did not have a great summer. We did not have a great summer. And things are not back to normal. What does that mean, anyway?

I look at him as if he can give me the answer, but of course he can’t. And he’s never seen me like this before, or under stress before, but he’s spend the summer ripping out friends’ basements, and they’re none of them quite “normal” right now either. But they’re not talking about it. “We’re fine, everything’s fine.” So what’s going on? What’s up with us, what’s tearing us up, as we move into month five after the flood?

I struggle to put it into words.

The obvious answer is that reconstruction is not going well. The rip-outs, it turns out, were the easy part. Putting things back… Well. We’re all at different stages. Sunnyhill’s probably further behind than many others because of our need to rehabilitate all 41 damaged units simultaneously. But I don’t know anyone who was affected who’s totally “done.” Most of us—all of Sunnyhill—have been back home for a long time. But we’re living in reduced, scarred spaces. An eternal mess. That’s hard. I know every time I walk in and out of my front door, every time I see the ripped door casings, the dismantled walls, the hole where my hall closet used to be, my jaw tightens.

So. That kind of sucks. But—really—I’ve been through renovations before. Who hasn’t? We are, I tell him, the mildly inconvenienced. We know this. Bitching and complaining about naked joists, drywall dust and “what the hell did the contractors do now?” seems like such a First World Whine. And that’s the other thing.

We feel bad—guilty—over feeling bad. Because. India. Colorado. Fuck, High River.

That sure doesn’t help.

He refills my glass. He tells me about his friend, whose house is fine but whose rental property was devastated, and how guilty she feels that her own personal loss wasn’t greater. That she was, ultimately, only financially inconvenienced, while her tenants lost—everything.

Stupid, I say.

Human, he counters.

I start crying again. He gives me his napkin to wipe away tears, snot. I hide my face.

We’re exhausted, I say when I can talk again. I’m the mother of three young children who all went through severe insomniac stages—and I’ve never been this physically exhausted. And it’s not from physical labour, the way it was during the crisis. We were entitled to be exhausted then, right? But now—others are doing the work (or getting paid to do work the results of which we’re not seeing, I snarl, and I laugh, and he does too, because that’s “normal” for me, much more normal than these uncontrolled tears). We’re just doing the everyday stuff—well, a little more, and so much of the everyday stuff is more difficult, but… Not entitled to complain. Not engaged in heavy physical labour. And, frankly, letting a lot of the everyday stuff go. Never did one thing to the flooded garden this year. Cleaning windows? Ha. I barely clean the kitchen. And my kids have never eaten so much take-out, ever. So what are we exhausted from?

Living? he says, gently.

I shake my head.

Frankly—I look at him through the wine glass, and it’s the refraction of light through liquid that blurs his features, not the water still swimming in my eyes—frankly, we’re exhausted from being so fucking positive and amazing. We know we pulled off a miracle. We were awesome. We were strong.

And now we’re really tired, and we’re done—except, of course, we’re not done.

Because things are not back to normal.

But tears aren’t swimming in my eyes anymore and I heave a sigh of relief.

Jesus, that felt good, I tell him. And then—I’m so sorry. We were supposed to talk about…

He interrupts me, waves my apology away. And he tells me—how he’s been struggling. Trying to figure out how to be a good friend to his floodster (we don’t do the victim thing in YYC, and survivor’s a rather dramatic term, don’t you think?) friends post-crisis, and feeling at a loss. And how he needed to hear this as much as I needed to tell it. And how he will never ask anyone in any of the affected Calgary neighbourhoods “Are things back to normal?” ever again.

We laugh. Order dessert. More wine.

In this moment, although things are not back to normal, I’m fine. We’re fine.

Or, at least—you know. Functional.


The writer engages in overt emotional manipulation, both to achieve a level of release and to communicate that which is hard to articulate. My family and friends won’t finish reading this post—they’ll be texting me in a panic before they get to the end of the first paragraph. Chill. Although things are definitely not back to normal—and for the love of any and all of the gods I don’t believe in, do not ask your flooded (or otherwise whacked by life’s events) friends and neighbours if things are back to normal, ok? Just don’t—life is unfolding as it must. And in my own beloved little corner of the flood plain, we are all doing what must be done. And—because we’re a community—we’re helping each other through it. (And possibly drinking too much wine, but. So be it.)

But if you’re on the hills and edges of the flood plains—if you’re on the edges of any life affected by a traumatic event—and you’re struggling to figure out how to help your friends who are clearly post-crisis but equally clearly not-ok, do this:

  • Listen. Don’t tell us how strong, wonderful, amazing, or lucky we are. Just listen. Let us feel bad, sad, frustrated, furious. Tired. We know we’re amazing. We kind of need permission to be… whiney.
  • Connect us to help. If you’re a local reader and you need to help a local floodster, a good starting point is the resource list provided by Alberta Health Services here. But babe, remember how I was telling you during the crisis to see the need and fill it, how saying “How can I help?” isn’t enough when people are in shock? Sending your friend the link or telephone number may not be enough. Walk the line between empathy and obnoxiousness as best as you can, but a “May I call and make an appointment for you?” is likely more helpful than “Here’s a link I thought you’d find helpful” email. For your hard-core entrepreneur friends who don’t want to do stress-relief acupuncture and roll their eyes at sacrocranial therapy etc. etc., the Canadian Federation of Independent Business has some hard-core resources—that include getting connected with counsellors if that’s what you need.
  • Recognize that we’re not as… full, or resilient as we used to be. And so—take less. In a way, take more—we’re not as patient or tolerant as we used to be either. Nor necessarily as rational. Deal with it. And, if you can, look for ways to fill us up. (Preferably not just with wine. Although that sometimes does do wonders.)
  • Invite yourself over. Our scarred houses are difficult to love right now. Sometimes, company is difficult to seek out. But isolation really sucks. Come on over.
  • Invite us over, or out. Our scarred houses are a little oppressive right now, but suck us in with all their demands. Get us out.

For my neighbours, who are awesome, and doing all the things. But who are also exhausted and running on empty, and need to have those feelings acknowledged and respected. (Especially my beloved L. So much love and appreciation for all that you’re doing.)

For my friends, who helped so much, and who are always trying to help. In the most creative, occasionally disturbing, ways. (Yeah, I’m talking about you. I’m not saying it didn’t work… but that was really weird. Still. Thank you.)

And, for myself. Cause I really needed to cry.


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Sat., Nov. 2nd P.S. You’re breaking my heart but also feeding my soul with what you’re sending to my in-box. Yes, you are free to share this piece wherever you think it needs to be heard. The private place to cry is nothingbythebook@gmail.com. Much love. J.

Why you need to get off your shy introverted ass and start building your tribe right now―and how to do it

My favourite friends in cyber-space are all mildly (or not so mildly) anti-social introverts. Not that different from my most beloved in-real-life friends. “I don’t think we set out to be misanthropes,” one told me a little while ago. “It’s just that there are so many idiots out there.” “It’s not that I hate most people,” another told me, without a hint of defensiveness, and really, without that much wine consumption in evidence. “I just don’t have enough time or energy to deal with their stupid shit.”

“Jesus,” my beloved partner said, listening in on the latter conversation. “Are you ever lucky you found each other. And also kind of amazing. How did you ever manage to become friends, actually? I mean, the first time you met, did you just glower at each other across the room in mutual hatred?”

Oh, lover, I’m so glad you asked. Not mutual hatred, exactly, but… see, the story of our introverted, mildly dysfunctional “come over for a playdate, but don’t expect me to talk to you the whole time you’re here, okay, cause I’m not really into that” friendship is actually a story of how you successfully build community.

Its central thesis is, really, that you don’t need to love thy neighbour to build community. To have a tribe. The gods know I don’t, and the tribe I have, baby―each of you should covet.

But I’m telling the story all wrong. Backwards. I think the story starts in 2002, when my son was born while all of my university-era friends were either childless, single or both. Plus,  most of them were no longer living in the city I moved back to. You can tell where that plot line is going? New mother. Alone. Alienated. Whatever will she do?

She’s going to build a tribe. And I did. So, skip ahead with me 11 years, to YYC’s epic flood, and meet them.

I’d introduce you to each personally, but as you can see, there are fucking hundreds of them, and, honestly, I don’t even know most of their names. See that woman, over there, with a baby strapped to her back, pulling another kid and a cooler in a wagon? She came to save me on a Wednesday night when I was having a total breakdown and couldn’t cope with the idea of cleaning one more thing, putting one more thing away―making one more decision. And then offered me her house as a sanctuary to stay in for the upcoming few days, if things were getting too crowded at my parents house, where we were evacuated.

I had never met her before. Ever.

She showed up that Wednesday, because another woman texted her to let her know I needed help, now. I had never met that woman until Monday.

I met a dozen, more, of them for the first time that Monday, when they answered my call for help for my physical community, my beloved Sunnyhill. They came―to wield crowbars, shovels, buckets, wheelbarrows. To watch children. To pick up filthy, barely-salvageable clothes to wash. To bring food. To drop off their husbands:

“He’s a carpenter. He’ll be great at deconstruction. And make sure you call us when you’re ready to rebuild.”

“He’s got lots of experience in flood restoration. Use him!”

“He’s really annoying, but very strong.” (Ha, ha, ha. No, really, she really did say that. But why-ever would you immediately think I was talking about you?)

“He’s coming with our generator, pumps, fans, and pick-up truck. What else do you need?”

They came to do the hundred things that needed to be done. Later, when things calmed down, I saw on on-line fora how they were berating themselves that they didn’t do more, feeling guilty that they didn’t do enough. Jesus Christ. They fed us, watched our kids, cleaned our clothes, supplied us with pretty much everything we needed, from labour to bleach, de-moulder, and, at one point, two Bobcats (score!). The ones who couldn’t come or “do” kept the lines of communication flowing, monitoring Facebook, Twitter, texts and e-mail. I’d shout out on-line “We needed razor-blade scrapers, because that goddamn lino is not coming out!” and someone would arrive wielding one. Ditto face masks, work gloves, shovels, bleach, bleach, bleach, shop vacs, fans―everything and anything.

More? They totally and completely saved us. What more could they have done?

They even brought red wine and chocolate. (And beer. Copious amounts of beer.)

Here’s the first important take-away: I get how each individual might think she could have done more, but, see, as a community―they did everything that needed to be done. They saved us, all 41 of our flooded homes in Sunnyhill. (And then, they went on into other neighbourhoods…)

Here’s the second important take-away: this is WHY you need to get off your shy introverted ass and start building your tribe right now. Not because I’m predicting an epic natural disaster in your future.

But life throws tough times your way all the time. New baby. Sick child. Dying parent. Paralyzing illness. Job loss. Partner loss. Immense life complications. Emotional, physical pain. Getting through any of it, all of it, alone is impossible.

Your tribe gets you through it.

And you, my cynical cyber-friend, I see you rolling your eyes, and I see you want to say, “Fuck, chick, I have friends, you have friends, friends got our backs, I know this, what snake oil do you think you’re selling?”

This snake oil, friend: a tribe is not your friends. Friends are friends, and I know you’ve got them. A tribe―a community―is the people who are going to come help you when you need them even if they hate your fucking guts some―all―of the rest of the time.

No, really. Stay with me here, because this is what you need to know, to understand, to find your tribe and to build it. See, my beloved lonely heart, if you’ve been on the parenting or life journey for a while and you feel you’re walking it alone most of the time, you’re looking for the wrong thing. You say you’re looking for a tribe, community, connection.

But you’re probably looking for perfection. Unconditional, frictionless support. Perfect understanding. “A perfect fit.”

Not such thing, baby. Community―any real community has warts:

It’s full of assholes, bitches, mean girls and parasites. People who piss you off. People who take advantage of “the system,” whatever it is. People you dislike, and who dislike you right back. Community is messy: full of fights and hurt feelings and misunderstandings. Community is really, really―REALLY―hard work.

That’s your third take-away, baby: warts. Messy. Hard. A pain in the ass sometimes. Being part of a community is NOT being part of a circle of people just like you. (I’m not sure, but I think that might actually be the definition of a cult.)

Community includes people you don’t like. And also people you’ve never met, or will only meet in times of their great need―or yours.

Back to the end of the story: so these hero women ripping out drywall, insulation, floors and stairs in Sunnyhill, feeding us and our volunteers, running errands, and otherwise saving us? They were connected, in the main, by the attachment parenting community in Calgary. Which―to jump back to the beginning of my story―I found when, as a new mother, I was looking for other mothers, connections.

I think, back then, much like you, my lonely heart friend, I may have been looking for perfection. Because it took me a long, long time―years―to build the connections that, a few weeks ago, saved my home and my neighbourhood.

But here’s your fourth take away: building a tribe, community takes time. Years. You’re not going to find it the first day you stumble into a playground. The first time you share a meal. The first time you meet a group of other new parents at a zoo or park get-together. (Although, the first time you rip out a flooded-and-rotting-about-to-collapse-upon-your-heads shed together, you might well be buds for life.)

Building community takes years.

Especially if you’re the same sort of misanthrope with severe intimacy issues as I am.

Ready for the fifth one? You’ll love it, beloved introvert. The current main forum for the attachment parenting mamas in YYC has more than 600 members. That, beloved, is my definition of hell. Too crowded. Too many strangers. Too many fragile egos, too many unknowns for someone with my vaguely anti-social tendencies. I wasn’t even on the forum when these women decided to save Sunnyhill’s collective ass.

My connection to it was historic―and I was connected to people who were still active, who were connected to others, who were connected to others, who were connected to others, including three or four other families in Sunnyhill who at one time or another were active members of the community, who were connected to others, who were connected to…


Community isn’t my bond to 600 people. Community is the entire collection of bonds. You know all those cliches: “United we stand!” “Strong together!”

Yeah. Cliches are cliches because they’re usually true.

That’s your fifth take-away: Community is the entire collection of bonds among the individuals who are part of it. Who touch it. And so you see, to build your tribe―you don’t need 600 or 60 BFFs. You invest and foster the handful of relationships that really feed you. You benefit, ultimately, from all the others―indirectly most of the time, very directly, come something like an epic flood. And you do contribute to all the others as well, indirectly most of the time, directly when they need you.

Well, unless you’re a total parasite.

But then, community supports some parasites too.

So if you’re still with me, lonely heart, I suspect you are currently in the grip of this thought:

“Woman, if that’s your cynical view of community, why the hell did all those people come to help you? Cause you sure don’t sound like Princess Community Sunshine.”

I’m not. And you should take heart: self-avowed misanthrope here. With severe intimacy issues, did I mention that? (Ask my next door neighbour sometime how long it took me to connect with her.) And I have a tribe everyone should covet. So if I got this amazing thing going for me―you can do it too.

And, this is so important: my “cynical” view of community is why I have community. Multiple, overlapping communities. See, because I don’t expect perfection―in fact, because I know community is a warty, messy, hard pain in the ass―I don’t run from it crying when my feelings get hurt, when people tick me off.

And, most important of all: they didn’t come to help me. See? They didn’t come because they loved me. They came because this is what a tribe does. What a community does: whatever needs to be done. It saves your ass when it has to. Not because it loves you, or owes you, personally. But because―it is something bigger than you and your handful of personal relationships.

So, beloved. If you’re on your life or parenting journey and you don’t have this tribe―you don’t have a community that you know is going to save you when disaster, depression, life strikes―get off your lazy introverted ass and start building it right now. You’ve got to. Alone, you will not make it.

And as you build, remember this:

A community is that group around you that does what needs to be done. That’s its definition. Nothing more. Nothing less.

You  need one. Don’t think you’re self-sufficient. Or that your nuclear family–or your extended family–is enough. It’s not.

Community is messy. Annoying. Full of assholes, bitches, mean girls and parasites. It’s worth it anyway.

Building community takes time. Years. Which is why you need to start NOW.

Finally: Community is the entire collection of bonds among the individuals who are part of it. It doesn’t mean having 6000, 600, 60 best friends. It doesn’t mean loving everyone within it.

It really just means recognizing that you are part of something greater, more important than yourself, your house, your nuclear family. And being part of it… in a way that works for you.


P.S. I chose to highlight the attachment parenting community of Calgary in this story both because of the sheer amount of physical and social labour its members committed to saving Sunnyhill and also for, frankly, story-telling effectiveness (writers manipulate. It’s what we’re paid to do. Keep that in mind every time you read an allegedly “objective” newspaper or magazine article). But there were multiple tribes saving Sunnyhill’s collective bohunkus as well as its individual homes. We were a community saved by a community of communities if you like. Among those of my own tribes that came to help us was the one I forged while at a university student paper―my former colleagues there came with spouses, friends, and members of their own other tribes. My entire extended family–my parents, brother and his wife, sister-in-law and her partner, my in-laws near and far… I tend to take their contribution to the disaster for granted, because, you know–family. That’s what they do. They save your ass, no questions asked. And my professional tribe too, editors I’ve both pleased and frustrated, interview subjects I’ve flattered and skewered, readers who’ve in the past sent me fan letters… and hate letters, too. I add this PS both to honour and thank them, and also, to reassure you with this: it is possible, that as you go along on the parenting journey, you don’t really connect with other people as parents. That you’ll never find a playgroup that results in meaningful connections.

“Fuck, Jane, this is how you reassure me? What’s wrong with you?”
“Shut up and let me get to the point, will you?”

That doesn’t mean you give up on community. Find it elsewhere: in your professional life. In the arts community, or another passion. In politics (um… well, maybe). It’s out there. And it starts with one relationship.

Go. Build.

Just remember―it’s messy.

“This is brilliant!”
“Oh, thank you. Then you might really like this: After the Flood: Sunnyhill Clean Up Day 8. And you’ve read the epic flood story already, right? No? It’s here: unLessons from the Flood: We are Amazing.

Drama-trauma-shwama: the boys are just the same


The most beautiful city in the world–that would be Calgary, Alberta, but you can call us YYC cause we’re so freakin’ hip–has the most beautiful view in the world, especially to the west: dramatic peaks of the Rocky Mountains, which keep their snow caps on throughout the summer most years, and certainly are wearing white hats in the first weeks of July.

But not this year. This year, the snow caps are gone, gone, gone–which, I suppose, explains the flood, at least partly. And as we are driving into this beautiful, beautiful view (it is, finally, a hot, hot, rain-free day in YYC and I’m taking the children in search of some sewage-free water… but, um, that’s also another story), Cinder, my 11 year-old, looks at its beauty, sighs with contentment, and says:

Cinder: The mountains are totally naked.

And it’s one of those “teaching” moments life thrusts at us, right? And I ponder, what should I say? How direct do I need to make the link between the lack of those snow caps and our flood, and do I need to go into climate change and global warming and do I need to talk about the politics around climate change research and the theories that emphasize thousand-plus year weather patterns and maybe I shouldn’t say anything at all, because Keerist, these children have had a rough three weeks, and they’re finally sleeping and do I really want to…

… when Ender, my three-and-a-half year old pipes in with:

Ender: Are the mountains naked because they want to take a bath?

And both boys howl, howl, like this is the funniest thing ever, and then:

Cinder: They stripped naked and then cannon-balled into the rivers, and splashed and…

Ender: And they splashed us, and that’s why we had the flood!

And they laugh, and laugh, and laugh, and then…

Cinder: Perverted mountains. They really should get dressed.

Ender: Look! I can see that mountain’s penis!

So, you know, the collective PTSD of their flooded community aside… I think the boys are gonna be just fine. 

If you’re a Calgarian stumbling onto this blog for the first time, you are probably looking for unLessons from the Flood: We are amazing

If you’re a regular reader thrilled to see me back but wondering if I’m going to inflict flood stories on you forever and ever going forward… I’ll probably get over it. Eventually. But it was kind of an epic event around here, you know. If you need a flood antidote,  go read me rant about sex or that crazy viral post of mine about the biggest lie inflicted on parents or, ooh, I know, how about that post when I reveal the ultimate secret behind parenting?

But, point: even post-flood, I bring you penis stories, courtesy of Cinder and Ender. So, you know we really are gonna be all right.

I’ve been a terrible blogging sister over the past three weeks, and as we recover from the adrenaline rush and work on rebuilding and all that, I’ll be a terrible blogging sister still. But here are some beautiful posts from this week that have graced my in-box. And that have nothing to do with floods. Or penises. And are written by beautiful, talented people:

Sarah Almond at The Sadder But Wiser Girl tells you you might have superpowers. Do you? Find out.

Jen Kehl at The Skewed View wrote something… totally different. Sabra. Powerful. Inspiring. Neither about floods or parenting. Enjoy.

Stephanie Sprenger searchers for her tribe on The Her Stories Project.

Kristi Campbell at Finding Ninee introduces you to a new blogger in her continuing, amazing Land of Compassion series.

Kimberly at All Work And No Play Make Mama Go Something Something tantalizes you with Part I of Popcorn for the Brave.

The award for grossest thing in my in-box goes to Deni the Reluctant Mother at Den State: Keeping Things in Perspective. I won’t spoil it for you. Read it. Gag. It’s a rare blogger who can outgross the mother of Cinder and Ender. Congratulations, D.



(Photo credit, via Zemanta, Vlatsula)

unLessons from the Flood: We are amazing

I didn’t really panic until I hit the first police barricade and was told I couldn’t get into my neighbourhood. The police officer and I eyed each other through my window.

“We can’t let any more cars into Sunnyside,” he said.

“I need to go get my husband,” I said.

“And our dog!” Flora piped up.

“We can’t let any more cars into Sunnyside,” he repeated. Then looked at me again. Cut his eyes to the right.

He might as well have said, “But you know the area well, of course.”

I nodded.

Sharp turn right. How many other ways into Sunnyside? The main roads would be blocked off… but, yeah. Residential streets. Roundabouts. Alleys.

Text from Sean:

“Worst case scenario, park on McHugh’s Bluff. I’ll bike up the hill.”

It’s good to have a Plan C.

But Plan B worked: about 12 minutes later, after several not-entirely legal turns—one of them right in front of another police cruiser—I was in my driveway. The sky was blue, although the clouds south of the city were terrifying, and coming closer.

And I was home… and my neighbours were throwing things into their cars… and, yet, none of us really felt a particular sense of urgency, even though we got, at 5:45 p.m., the call to get out of our neighbourhood by 7 p.m.

See, our city’s two rivers, the Elbow and the Bow, get angry every once in a while. We get massive snow melt most years; every few years, they rip our riverbanks. And there was crazy flooding already south and west of the city—but… we were so sanguine. I mean, this is Calgary. One of Canada’s largest cities. Natural disasters don’t happen here.

Still. We’re responsible citizens.

“Are we going to flood?” Flora asked, in tears.

“No,” I said, firmly. “This is a precautionary evacuation. We’re just leaving so that the emergency crews don’t have to worry about us. Chill. Grab some books, your iPad—sleep-over at Grandma’s. No big deal.”

But. Those clouds. Disconcerting.

An hour later, with some clothes, computers, and Sean’s film equipment (our livelihood) in the truck, we were in evacuation traffic. But of course, right? What in a big city emergency doesn’t involve a traffic jam? Especially when you’re evacuating 100,000 people in a city of a million?

Texts from family and friends: “Are you guys high enough? Are you safe? Are you dry?”

Our response: “Evacuating. But safe. No worries.”

That was Thursday, June 20, 2013.

It was, honestly, kind of fun.

Ender’s commentary: “Does the river have a leak? Shouldn’t someone plug it?”

We laughed.

The rain that came down on us as we were navigating evacuation traffic and already flooded bridge and road closures to get to the safety of my parents’ house—providentially on very, very high ground—was a little scary.

But. You know. It was rain.

“Kind of an adventure, hey?” Cinder said. “Holy crap, look at that thunder!”

Kind of fun.


It stopped being fun in the morning when we saw what the rivers had done.

Our neighbourhood looked like this:


… and, by comparison, we got off easy.

If you want your heart torn to pieces, google “High River flood images” and see what the rivers have done to our neighbours in High River.

Not that Calgary was unscathed. The damage was… astounding. Our downtown core—the financial core, the business centre of one of Canada’s largest, richest cities—under water. Paralyzed. Some 100,000 of our people—out of their homes.

The rivers—gone mad. Still flowing, ripping.

It was, we found out, not just the worst flood ever in Canadian history, but the worst natural disaster in Canadian history.

“Well,” I told Sean—who’s from Manitoba, a Canadian province famed for its rampaging waters and regular floods, “when Calgary and Alberta do something, we do it all the way. Even natural disasters. Eat your heart out, Winnipeg! Our flood’s more epic than yours!”

And we laughed hysterically. Because, you know. If you don’t laugh…

We spent the first day after the flood doing what our amazing mayor, Naheed Nenshi, told us to do. Staying home. Staying off the roads. Letting the emergency crews do what they had to do.

It was the hardest thing ever.

You know how you watch the reactions of survivors of natural and other disasters on the news, and there’s all these people clamouring to go home, even though it’s dangerous and stupid?

I will never mock them again.

We wanted to go home.

We wanted to see home.

On Saturday—day two after the flood—we broke. We started calling and Facebooking and connecting with the people in Sunnyhill—our immediate community—and we met in a safe area… to plan? Compare notes? Cry? I’m not sure why we met. I think we needed to see that we were all ok.

And then… we broke orders. We didn’t mean to, you know. We were just going to stop on top of the McHugh Bluff to look.



We walked down.

Thigh-high water in our street, spilling over sidewalks, lawns, and the adjacent Curling Club parking lot.

Water everywhere.

No way of getting “home.”


We looked.

The kids played on the playground—high and dry.

I let tears flow for the first time.

I don’t think the pictures really do it justice.

There was so much, so much water.

So much destruction.

It was overwhelming.

Our children—how resilient are children?—thought it was kind of cool. “Can we swim in it?” Cinder asked at one point. “Jesus Christ, no, it’s probably full of sewer water,” I choked out. They ran. Climbed trees…


Cinder took this photo of our Common area from the Tall Pine.

… and skipped rocks in the flood waters. Ender earned himself a cameo in one of the flood videos:

 (That’s one of our neighbours kayaking through our Common. An experienced paddler, she was rescuing some of our people’s documents. You see, we didn’t really take that evac order that seriously. Some of us didn’t even take underwear, much less passports… The video is by Calgarian Bradley Stuckel and co.–did they not do a beautiful job? My filmmaker husband is uber-impressed.)

On Sunday (the flood waters came over Thursday/Friday night), Sean and I sold our children to friends, and, along with most of the flooded out Sunnysiders, waded into our neighbourhoods ahead of the all-clear from the city to see what the hell was going on with our houses.

It was, I’d like to say upfront, after seeing what we waded through, an incredibly stupid and dangerous thing to do.

But you see… it was home. We had to go see.

We reacted, all of us, in different ways to what we saw.

Sean went shopping for clean up and demolition supplies, and then to a community planning meeting.

I, unable to deal with the massive destruction on the ground floor, went up to our kitchen, and cleaned out the fridge—power, of course, was off, and had been since Thursday, and everything was rancid. And then cleaned, scrubbed the fridge. Because that, I could do.

And then…

And then, friends, my city’s people pulled off a miracle.

I think, in the future, the enormity of what the flood did to Calgary will be underplayed because of the rapidity with which the city stabilized and returned to some semblance of “normal” within a week.

We evacuated Thursday, June 20, 2013.

A week later, parts of our downtown were open for business.

The majority of the flooded houses in my neighbourhood had been ripped and disinfected: saved. All of the 41 (I said 38 in my earlier posts on calgarybusinesswriter.com: forgive me, numbers not a strong suit, ever) flooded units in my little sub-community of Sunnyhill were gutted, cleaned, bleached, demolded: saved. (Here’s my initial call for help to our friends, neighbours, and citizens; here’s the thank you and another thank you because one is just not enough—and here’s my take on why and how they performed this miracle.)

We lost, as a city, as a province, a mind-blowing amount of infrastructure. Roads. Bridges. Our beloved Zoo! Individual houses, and so many possessions (me: never buying anything. Ever again). But our response to this crisis, as a community, as individuals, has been amazing.

What grabs the headlines during so many other crises, and disasters? Looting. Riots. In Calgary, we had too many volunteers. And the Calgary Police Service wrote the citizens a thank you letter

Our people opened their houses to evacuated relatives, friends and strangers. Started a laundry brigade for the evacuees. Fed displaced residents and the army of volunteers. Turned out in hordes to rip out basements, clean up debris, help any way they could.

Laughed in the middle of the chaos:


We put up “Need Sewer, Need Power, Need Cute Firefighter” signs in our windows:


(This isn’t my photo; it’s a FB/Twitter viral sensation–if you took it, tell me and I will happily credit you.)

Why our mayor is awesome and you should have nenvy too: “To all the people with the ‘Need Cute Firefighter’ signs in their windows’: We’re working on it,” he tweeted in response. And man, he delivered:


Ender wanted to pose with the cute firefighters. It was totally Ender. Not his mother. Really. Um. Moving on…

We have a crazy amount of work ahead of us, as individuals, as neighbourhoods, as communities—as a city and as a province.

Are we back to normal? Not quite. But we’re “back.” And we’re working on defining our new normal.

But after what YYC did in these last two weeks—we’re gonna get her done. No question about it. Because—we are Calgary. We acted as a community, to save our communities.

We are amazing.

You want to see more pictures of how amazing we are? Of course. Here are a few more:

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“Everything back to normal, Jane?”


Photo: Sunnyhill friends, reuniting on our Common after the evacuation and clean-up

Hello, lovelies. I miss you very much and a-top of the things that will define my “new normal” will be my ability to return to regular blogging and interacting with you. But right now, I’m still wrapped up in the flood. I know many of you have been checking in with my real-life alter-ego’s posts and updates, and I thank you for caring, and I know many others have actively contributed and raised money for Alberta Flood Relief, and I am so very grateful.

Two weeks ago, my community got the order to evacuate, as the Bow and Elbow Rivers took in a month’s worth of rain in 24 hours, plus the winter melt from the mountains, thrusting Calgary and much of Southern Alberta into the worst flood–the worst natural disaster–in Canadian history.

In the 14 days that followed, our people have performed miracles. Our city’s leadership was incredible; our volunteers’ efforts unparalleled. In my own sub-community of Sunnyhill Housing Co-op, one of the most severely affected Calgary enclaves, we saved all of our units. “Saved” being a relative term: their bottoms are thoroughly gutted… but our homes will stand, be rebuild. We will be fine.

The immediate crisis in Calgary is over. But the rebuild will take months, and the crisis in the communities around us continues.

I have been chronicling our story on what used to be my professional portfolio–currently a flood blog, as well as Twitter. Here are some of the recent posts:

After The Flood: You Saved Sunnyhill

After The Flood: What Sunnyhill Needs on Saturday, June 29: A Kick-Ass Party

After The Flood: Sunnyhill Clean Up Day 8–This is Community

After The Flood: An Army For High River

To help raise awareness and communication around this crisis, my real-life Facebook page is public right now, and full of updates and photos. You are welcome to follow or just troll: Marzena Czarnecka.

If you’re physically near me in Southern Alberta, I know that you’re either struggling to get through this or knee-deep in mud in High River or elsewhere, helping. If you’re far away–spread our story. What we’ve done during this crisis is beyond amazing.

And I’ll see you very soon, ok? I miss you. But–priorities.



“Where have you been, Jane?”

I  live in Calgary, Alberta. On Thursday, June 20, we experienced, along with much of southern Alberta–and are still experiencing–the worst flood–the worst natural disaster–in Canadian history.

I am running on three hours of sleep tonight, and running out the door to keep on working, salvaging. This is what I, along with most of Albertans, am doing now. If you can donate money to the Red Cross relief efforts for the Alberta flood, do it.

Posts from my real-life alter-ego on what’s happening in our community:

After the flood: this is what we need right now

After the flood: what Sunnyhill needs on Tuesday, June 25

After the flood: Sunnyhill clean up, Day 3

After the flood: what Sunnyhill needs on Wednesday, June 26

After the flood: what Sunnyhill needs on Thursday, June 27

You can view photos of what happened on my personal, real-life Facebook page: Marzena Czarnecka.