Sing like everyone is watching!

Fall has arrived! School is back in session and so are all of the extracurricular activities. Dance classes and figure skating and band practice…..where everyone gets an opportunity to do their best and shine their brightest. When disillusioned parents imagine their contemporary dancers being in the Sia music video and their little hockey players are the next Sidney Crosby. There will be dance recitals and band recitals; figure skating festivals and hockey games. There will also be talent shows………

There is nothing more endearing than the small town talent show where those with the gift of song can trill to a full audience and those with the gift of dance can tap to their little hearts content. Piano players and jugglers, flutists and sax players – all have the opportunity to shine their bright light upon a crowded auditorium.

Such was the case in my small town of Worsley. The school gymnasium was our auditorium; it could be a dance hall, a banquet room, a church for funerals, a farmers market or an election polling station. At one point during the long, cold winter, it also became the home of the local talent show.

I come from a musical family. My father plays a myriad of stringed instruments and we often sat in a semi-circle (a la the Andrew’s sisters) and sang along with Dad. He played many of the old favourites done originally by Cash(Johnny) and Snow (Hank) and occasionally threw in fun songs like:

“Bimbo, Bimbo, where ya gonna go-e-o
Bimbo, Bimbo, whatcha gonna do-e-o
Bimbo, Bimbo, does your mommy know
That you’re goin’ down the road to see a little girleo”

Dad is a good singer and his sense of musicality is enviously en pointe. Let’s just say that the apple(s) fell far from the tree and Jessie and I (come on Jessie…you have to admit you can’t sing either) were not blessed with the gift of music. June and Jaki – yes, Jessie and I – no.

That didn’t stop us from singing…..nope! We sang ‘Delta Dawn’ into our hairbrushes and recorded “One Tin Soldier” on our little tape recorder.

It was January, 1972 and I was eight years old. The school announced the community Talent Show would be held at the end of the month and everyone in the small community was invited. Let’s face it…..we were 60 miles from Fairview and in the grip of a cold winter, we took every opportunity to immerse ourselves in local cultural activities.

The gymnasium would be turned into the next “Worsley’s Got Talent” extravaganza and the entire community would be present and accounted for, as trucks idled in the parking lot for two hours in the -30 degree winter night.

I would sing! Yes! I would sing at the Talent Show. I met with my musical director (dad) and we decided on a little known Hank Snow song titled, “Nobody’s Child”. Dad sang it often and I loved the part where he would sing, “no mamma’s kisses and no-oo (his voice went up) daddy’s smiles”.

THIS was my song!

I practiced and practiced AND practiced. I sang the song over and over again, so scared that I would forget the words. Memorization of lyrics is my albatross – I cannot remember words to any song. To this day when I sing an Abba song that I have listened to hundreds of times, I sing, “Tonight the Super Duper…na na gonna find me…find me like the sun”

I was concerned.

I had reason to be concerned.

The night of the Talent Show finally arrived. Dressed in a dark green ,long-sleeved dress with ric-rac in red and white sewn sewn around the hem, short hair parted on the side – a barrette holding short bangs back from my eyes – an effort to inject some femininity into my boyish styling.

Irene Bass, teacher and evening M/C announced, “Please welcome Judy Stanley – accompanied on guitar by Edmund Stanley”.

We walked out to polite applause, the auditorium was dark and there were so many rows of chairs FILLED with people: My tummy began to churn, my tongue began to twist.

Dad sat in a chair behind me and I stood in front of the microphone. I heard him whisper, “1 -2 – 3” and he began to strum.

I stare through the darkness at the basketball hoop at the end of the gymnasium and I begin to sing.

“I was slowly passing an orphan’s home one day
And stop there for a moment just to watch the children play
Alone a boy was standing and when I asked him why
He turned with eyes that couldn’t see and he began to cry.

I could see my Auntie Evelyn in the front row. She appeared to be tearing up! So I sang the chorus:

I’m nobody’s child I’m no-o body’s child
I’m like a flower just growing wild
No mommy’s kisses and no daddy’s smiles
Nobody wants me I’m no-o body’s child.

Auntie was REALLY crying now and I had a “They like me! They really like me!” moment and I completely lost my focus and the words left my brain. OH MY GAWD – I have forgotten the words. So I sing:

“I was slowly passing an orphan’s home one day
And stop there for a moment just to watch the children play
Alone a boy was standing and when I asked him why
He turned with eyes that couldn’t see and he began to cry.

Dad knows that I am panicking and I can hear him whispering the proper words, but I was so freaked out I wasn’t listening to anyone and wanted to get off that stage before it swallowed me whole. I cranked up the internal volume and belted out the chorus again:

I’m nobody’s child I’m nobody’s child
I’m like a flower just growing wild
No mommy’s kisses and no daddy’s smiles
Nobody wants me I’m nobody’s child.

And then I stopped singing because for me, the song was over. I could not sing the same verse a third time. Dad sensed my panic and stopped playing almost simultaneously and he stood as the people in the huge gymnasium clapped politely and poor Auntie Evelyn cried herself into a puddle in the front row.

I walked off the stage vowing never to return. No…..my talent show days were over. I still sing, but no one ever hears me cuz I keep it to myself 🙂

For those of you who want to hear what Nobody’s Child was supposed to sound like – here you go!

 

The Amazing Chafe

It burned! It hurt soooooo bad! The seam of the spandex running shorts had given way and was extruding the dimply fat from my thigh like fresh, shiny brilliantly white bun dough…..

The constant swish, swish, swish of fat meeting spandex over the past 21 kilometres had chafed the skin into a glossy sheen – I had suffered a chafing injury unlike anything I could have imagined.

The endorphins from the marathon training run were racing their own marathon through my body, thankfully keeping the pain receptors from firing. I declined my post run Tim Horton’s coffee with running pals and headed to Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacy for burn ointment.

I attended the counter hesitantly….not knowing how I should phrase my conundrum to the young male pharmacist. “Um…..I am looking for a cream?”

Brilliant question Judy! How concise and to the point, “looking for a cream”.

To his credit, the Pharmacist responded appropriately with, “What type of cream?”.

Pain receptors were now beginning to fire and I changed my position, affecting a military type of stance with legs far apart so my injured skin could breathe. It was the “I pooped myself” stance.

“I….errrrr…I burned myself? I think I need some type of ointment or dressing?”

I am not certain why I am ending everything with a question mark, but perhaps it was because I didn’t quite know what I needed. Was a chafe a burn?

“What did you burn?” he asks, his eyes flickering over me quickly in assessment.

I lean forward into the counter, “I have a chafing injury…my thighs rubbed while I was running. The spandex tore and um….the skin kind of came out and….it rubbed against the other spandex. It hurts”.

Credit to the Pharmacist, he didn’t blink or even react, he simply opened the little half door that separated him from the masses and efficiently walked down the aisle and returned with a box containing a burn dressing. “When you get home, remove anything that could cause more irritation, and once it cools down, use this dressing. It will protect, soothe and keep it from blistering”.

I returned home and got undressed as quickly as possible. Removing the spandex shorts was a challenge as the material was encircling the fat from my thigh so tightly that removing it was difficult. Imagine pulling a ring off of a fat finger…..same analogy. I reached over and tore the fabric further, giving my skin immediate relief and allowing me to remove the shorts.

I hop in a cool shower, knowing that I needed to get the sweat off my body, but realizing that the pressure of the cool water hitting the burn would be painful.

The cool breeze from the fan blowing directly onto my burn was sweet relief

I couldn’t imagine toweling off so I stood in the bathroom dripping dry. I put on a sundress but left the panties off, the thought of anything accidentally touching the burnt skin leaving me breathless.

I grabbed pillows from the bedroom and the floor fan and headed to set up my nest in the living room. The pillows for comfort, the fan for pain relief. Leaning back onto to the couch and the pillows I placed my legs (spread eagled) on the ottoman with the fan blowing onto my lower extremities.

Ahhhhhhhh……sweet heavens that felt amazing. There I sat for the remainder of the Saturday afternoon, until Hubby came home from work.

The chafe eventually scabbed, and peeled and to this day there is a scar on the inside of my thigh. A marathon training war wound of sorts, a permanent badge of courage and marking a time in my life when running was my love.

I call it, “The Amazing Chafe”.

Judy

1, 2, 3…..LAUNCH!

Major Tom to Ground Control……we have a launch!

(my speech from the book launch – thank everyone for coming and sharing in my special day)

I would like to thank everyone for coming tonight. Family, friends, media and dare I say it out loud, “Fans”.

A couple of weeks ago, I admitted to friends on my Facebook page that I had been experiencing a reoccurring dream that was freaking me out. In my dream…or rather…my nightmare, I was pregnant. OH MY GOODNESS!!!!!

In my dream no one seemed very shocked about it except me and I woke each morning in a panic thinking, “Is isn’t possible….is it?” I am fairly certain that any leftover eggs I could produce would resemble a fuzzy peach candy and between the intense heat of the hot flashes I have experienced lately, they would be scorched and dehydrated like an old raisin. So I asked my friends about what it meant and they responded en masse with the suggestion that dreaming about being pregnant meant that I was about to birth a project.

Apparently dreaming about being pregnant was something that creatives tend to dream. What? I’m a creative? My friend Karen said something to the effect of, “Of course you are a creative – you wrote a book!”.

Honestly that is what it feels like to write a book. It is like you are giving birth to a baby and you are hoping that you don’t have an ugly one. You know what I mean…..those babies where people say, “Oh…your baby is so handsome” which is code for your baby is uuuuuugly because no one calls a baby handsome. They are cute, they are adorable, but if they look like a cabbage patch then they are “handsome”. A book is like that too! If someone reads your book and says, “It was nicely laid out”, you know you bombed because they were grasping at something nice to say to you without hurting your feelings.

I could say that I don’t care, but I would be lying. I do care what people think and I hope that I didn’t birth a cabbage patch baby. Regardless, I am this kids mother so ugly or not – I LOVE IT. I love the colour of it’s cover, the way it is so shiny and smooth. I love the original artwork that Catherine Ruddell created and I love the way Karen Thierson brought it all together with her amazing graphic design. I am in love with Naked Tuesday and it will always be my first born….sorry Amy….I mean my first book.

I want to share this moment with my mom, to whom I have dedicated this book. Her love, her support, her sarcasm, her sense of humor…..basically her DNA has made this book possible. Thank you mom.

I also want to share this moment with my husband Bob, an unwitting foil who doesn’t seem to fully understand how integral he is to my writing.

I also want to say thank you to each and every one of you who have stopped me in a grocery store or sent me a message and said, “hey Judy….I really liked your column this week” or “I can totally relate to what you are saying” because that validates what I do. I want to write something that is relatable. I want to write something that makes you laugh or makes your cry. Your support has given me the confidence to write Naked Tuesday and to realize that 50 is really fabulous and I am just getting started!

Thank you so much for being here tonight.

Happy Fair!

HAPPYFAIR!Our daughter Amy and her hubby Ian asked us to join them at the North Country Fair (NCF) a couple of weeks ago. Amy is fairly “granola” and had attended the NCF previously. When I say she is “granola” it means that she is a kale and quinoa consuming, yoga posing, Kombucha drinking woman who buys Coconut Oil in the BIG CONTAINERS. Note: She even makes her OWN Kombucha, which surely gains her entrance into the hippy, dippy granola club.

Annnnnyway…….we decide that “sure, we would love to go with them and camp at NCF……it should be fun”.

We purchased tickets and prepared for the great adventure known as the North Country Fair (NCF) in Driftpile, Alberta. A huge music festival in its 38th year of existence – the NCF was a popular destination for music lovers.

We pulled out of Dawson Creek on what we now can call “high water day”. That was the day that the recent flooding reached its peak in Dawson Creek. It was still raining a bit, but our basement was dry and the trailer was packed…..as long as we could find a road out of the town that wasn’t blocked off because of a washout, we were on our way!

We arrived in Driftpile early afternoon, and made the turnoff to go to the NCF. The road was muddy……really, really muddy. The kind of mud that is almost like grease and the trailer slid around on the road as we made our way into the fairgrounds at a snail’s pace.

I had a headache, but realized that it was because I had my jaw clenched so tightly….where on earth WAS this place? To add to the panic, I could see the connectivity bars on my telephone dropping quickly until there was simple a circle with a line through it: NO SIGNAL, NO SERVICE.

Oh.my.gawd.

We reached a checkpoint where we furnished our tickets and we given gold wristbands in exchange and we told, “Happy Fair”. Little did I know that “Happy Fair” is the mantra of NCF and is used in place of, “excuse me while I walk through the middle of your camping area dressed as a pirate” among other scenarios.

13450885_10154202380050050_4913322963723635716_nWe turned into the NCF Fairgrounds and it was a wide-open field that already was dotted with tents and trailers parked willy-nilly. The Planner in me was aghast, “what if we needed to evacuate? How would we get out in an orderly manner?”. My teeth clenched tighter.

Amy greeted us with a huge knowing smile (she knew exactly what I was thinking and part of the reason she wanted us to atte
d is to see the look on my face when I arrived) and said, “Happy Fair!”.

So began three days of people watching. I watched people walk barefoot through the mud wearing nothing but a fake fur coat and gold underpants. I watched people experiencing an independence that my uptight personality could never experience. Everyone there was enjoying the freedom of expression, with no judgment,
simply curiosity.

And do you want to know the bonus part? The music was pretty great. Buffy St. Marie was there and it was lovely to hear her clearly identifiable voice fill the fairgrounds. I met Fred Penner and actually got a picture with him before he took to the stage and sang “Sandwiches”. There were craft sessions and slack-lining and great food vendors……and good company.

The rain stopped, the sun came out and it was a lovely weekend. We saw rainbows (really….we did see rainbows), and unicorns (there was a dude with a unicorn hat) and the mood around us was one of happiness (although I am certain that the mood could be partially attributed to “other” things). It didn’t matter what was happening in the world around us, because for this weekend we were taking a break from reality. No texting, minimal Facebook updating (I did manage to find a spot in the field where I got reception) and no depressing news updates.

13422344_10154203855655050_4432640465332376484_oWe truly did enjoy a “Happy Fair”.

Stuck

STUCK

GAWD I am so stuck…….

I am stuck so firmly that I cannot move one step forward or even take a step back. If that were possible (to take a step back), I might be able to fix whatever is keeping me from moving ahead.

GAWD I am so stuck…….

Two months ago I pressed “send” on my manuscript (can I call it that?) and gave it to my editor. The terror that I felt before pressing send was unlike anything I have felt before, only equal to the feeling of relief and euphoria when my computer made that “whooshing” sound to alert me that the file had been sent.

There you bastard! You are gone from my computer….for now.

I  live in a tangential purgatory for a month whilst it sits with my editor. It is a purgatory because it is a state of nothingness. It is tangential because I like that word and I can (kind of) make it work. Nothing to really do while “the book” is gone for editing. During that time, “the book” and it’s imagined completion and success live vividly in my imagination. “The Book” is neither good, nor bad because it isn’t quite there yet.

Fast forward and the book is back! No whoosh from my inbox, but rather a “ding” that says, “I’m baaaaaack”.

Some notes accompany the file and I sit down at my computer to go through them one by one.

I make those changes and then make a few more. I am riddled with self doubt and question “why am I even doing this?”.

So two months later I sit on a throne of indecision, frozen in place, unable to budge.

It is funny (not funny haha, but funny weird) that I feel this way right now when much of the book discusses my struggle with depression and negative self talk. I speak to the ability to overcome those thoughts. I think I need to go back and read those chapters again – pick up some pointers.

I should put this part in…”the book”.

That is…..when I become “Unstuck”.

Judy

 

Being Present

Diem

“You could never work for Westjet” said the man at the counter.

I was working as an airline customer service agent and at that moment was absorbed in my work of frantically rebooking passengers who were going to miss their connections because of a delay. The man leaning against the counter was understandably tired and bored and had been there for about five minutes regaling me with funny stories. He needed an audience – I was busy and not able to listen attentively or laugh at the punchline.

In frustration he said, “You could never work for Westjet” and he moved away from the counter.

Looking up from the computer, I realized that he was frustrated with me for not paying adequate attention to him and he was going to make certain that I knew exactly how he felt. The Westjet dig was meant to imply that I had no sense of humour.

Yikes! Now that cut me deeply because I think I have a very good sense of humour.

Afterwards, I felt badly that I was not able to give him the attention he was seeking.

Have you ever felt like that? Have you ever wished that you had taken the time to listen to someone if only to validate them as a person?

When my kids were little, they would say to me, “You never look at me when I am talking!”. Confused, I would respond, “Of course I am looking at you! I am looking at you right now!”.

Apparently not. Apparently I had a bad habit of looking at their forehead or just above, not looking directly into their eyes……making no connection.

They felt invisible.

They would physically grab my face and bring it down level with theirs and lock into eye contact.

Why am I telling you this? Why would I tell you something that can be perceived as a fairly significant flaw in my character?

Because I recognize that flaw and I am now trying to be aware of my “presence”. I am still failing miserably but I am trying.

How about you? Are you present?

My Sister Kelly [GUEST POST]

MySisterKelly

My sister Kelly died alone in the summer time. She lay in a cooler at the hospital’s morgue for well over a week before anyone claimed her body, and was hours away from being incinerated and buried in an unmarked grave. I worked only a few blocks away and at times, would have been a couple hundred feet from her not knowing she had died.

I had returned home to work in my hometown a few years before, but had never reached out. Despite my guilt for not doing so, I was terrified of her knowing I was back and showing up at my workplace in a small town full of stigma, her one remaining arm having tucked her other empty sleeve into her blue jeans, bleach blond spiky hair, yellowed chipped teeth, cracked lips, and a desire for her next hit.

Her world was possessed by demons that inhabited her mind, taunting her into believing she would never be okay, that the world was against her and that she was not loved, even though she was.

I am haunted by glimpses and snapshots into her life – moments where I saw the humanity of her, pained that we could not be close.

Years before, on a visit up to our lake house, I had taken her in on the condition that she could have no alcohol or drugs with her or on her. In my ignorance, I sent her into detox, and she remained in a bedroom the entire week-end never exiting except to request litre after litre of diet coke. She didn’t resurface until it was time to go.

Images I had of us laughing and talking over tea like other sisters would were dashed, and I was left disappointed and confused. What had happened to the sister I once had known?

The truth was we never had such times – I had just imagined we had. Her world was so vastly different from my own, even though we were the closest of my siblings in age.

As a child, I brought trays of food down to her when she lay in bed in her basement bedroom, as I pretended to be her servant and her nurse. She could sneak out of the window down there more easily, so had pleaded with our father to build her a lower level bedroom at the end of our long recreation room, which he had done.

Classmates of mine had told me she was a prostitute even though she was only in grade eight at the time. I didn’t know what that meant even when they described it to me so I shrugged it off and didn’t think any more about it.

As a young teen, she became a runner, although not in the athletic sense – going anywhere and everywhere she could to seek something she could never find: solace and a feeling of being okay. She could not run far enough to escape the insanity that was always there: looming on the surface of her troubled mind and threatening to consume her. She once shared with me that her biggest fear was that someone would call in and have her committed to an “insane asylum.”

I awoke one night to find a tall man at my parent’s kitchen table asking for her hand in marriage. She wasn’t old enough, but my parents heard his pleas to care for her and submitted.

Kelly wore wire rim glasses on her wedding day. I can still see her there, glass lenses tinted dark, a floppy brimmed white sun hat on her head. She seemed happy then; it was a time of new beginnings – on that lawn of her mother-in-law’s in Bruce Mines, a nearby farming community.

My sister was one of the hardest working and talented people I had ever known. For years, she worked as a cook at a fly-in resort, making more loaves of delicious fresh bread, pies and desserts by daybreak than most had made in a lifetime. She inherited my mother’s penchant for creating works of art with yarn and knitting or crochet needles, making countless sweaters, blankets, hats and mittens to help the world be a warmer place for those she loved.

Those needles were exchanged for horrific versions of them years later when Kelly met a drug dealer in the aftermath of her failed marriage and became addicted to heroin and other intravenous drugs. In her desperation to escape her heinous possessors, she laid out my late father’s photos and ID, took out his long-arm gun, and shot her own arm off. Rumours circulated that she did it to prove to her abusive boyfriend who was taunting her about her extreme dependency on drugs (one that he had, ironically, introduced her to and fostered) that she didn’t need to shoot up her other arm because she wouldn’t have one – but others said it had been the result of the firearm having slipped from under her chin when she tried to press down the trigger with her toe.

Even having had her arm removed didn’t stop her from using; the space between her toes her new injection site. I wondered why she insisted on black nylons on the day of our mother’s funeral because she was going to wear sandals. Years later, I realized it was because she was trying to hide the needle marks near her toes.

I wanted to celebrate my sister for who and what she was. When my daughter, Lauren, was three years old, she loved busses. On a visit home, I asked if we could join Kelly on a bus ride around the city. She was honoured to do so. In this public place, I acknowledged knowing my sister.

A visit to Kelly’s apartment on the eve of one of her many moves revealed photos of my daughter lovingly pinned and taped to the wall above her mattress – all ages of her young niece’s life alongside the hand-made drawings we had sent home to her, near her when she slept, carefully affixed above her sleeping head. Discovering this, I stood and quietly wept. Amidst all of my sister’s troubled thoughts and tormented experiences, there had been moments of light, and a love and hope for my young daughter had been the source of some of them.

My sister died of untreated pneumonia that had gone septic. The low life she had been dating and who was listed as her contact did not mention my family to the hospital when they notified him of her death – he only asked if she had cashed her check yet. He wanted to pick up the rest of the money she had on her, but would leave her clothing and other belongings behind.

There was no service for Kelly. She was laid to rest with my parents. Because I could not be there for her in life, I was there for her in death, buying her a grave marker that had her name and dates of birth and passing, along with the words, “Finally Free.”

I hope she is.

____________________________________

Susan Hunter is an author and speaker who now lives in Dawson Creek, B.C. Reach her at shunter@nlc.bc.ca.

 

#GOODNEWSDAY

2016

I have been thinking……wouldn’t it be grand, wouldn’t it be awesome, wouldn’t it be amazing if we could experience one…..just ONE good news day? A day where no one was allowed to report on anything negative. Just unicorns and sunshine and bubble-gum……

It IS possible. It IS possible for a radio station or a news program to say, “Hey…..tomorrow morning when you wake up, the day will contain only good news stories”. Let’s face it, the bad stuff will be there for the next day and what is one day of reprieve?

There is plenty of stuff that we could talk about: “Tiny Kitten rescued and adopted by a good home” or “BREAKING NEWS! Doctors say that HOPE has been found to have therapeutic qualities”.

Jimmy Fallon even figured that a Good News Day would be fun:

Is it possible? Is it possible for even our local news station to devote one day or even one newscast to #goodnewsday? What about our radio stations? What about one day of good news……please?

Let’s make this happen people!!!

Judy

That Heavy-Set Woman

heavysetnew

The email began with, “That heavy-set woman at the counter…….”

Those words were adjunct to a customer complaint that was forwarded to me just before Christmas and one would think that I would be most upset that someone had complained about me, but no……I couldn’t get past the words, “heavy-set”.

He could have used “older woman” and I would not have been as hurt. The fact that he used the term “heavy-set” to describe me was crushing.

I put down my handful of homemade poppycock and cried (no…not really…there was no poppycock in my hand at that time, but I did cry).

The truth is that I am heavy-set and for the first time in my life I am looking in the mirror and seeing a fat girl…..a really fat girl.

I have been seeing the numbers on the scale raise consistently year after year, but it wasn’t until very recently that I actually saw a fat person in the mirror; that I could not dip and twist my head so that my double chin disappeared.

That is what people see when they look at me.

A fat, middle-aged woman.

For the first time in my life I am too embarrassed to go to the gym because I hate the way I look and I don’t want others to look at me with pity (or horror).

I know I am fat and I know how I look, but honestly, there is so much more to me than my weight. Can’t you see?

Being “heavy-set” doesn’t mean that I am not smart or funny or capable. It also doesn’t mean that I am suddenly stupid and do not know that I have changed since you last saw me.

That surprised look on your face that flickers past before you say, “Oh….I almost didn’t recognize you” is hurtful because I know I have changed.

And I am trying to do something about it….

When I was 14 I lost an incredible amount of weight, to the point where I could best be described as anorexic. That same thing happened in my 30’s when I allowed my weight loss to get out of control and my husband begged me to begin eating properly again.

The twisted part of my brain longs for that mindset to manifest itself once more….isn’t that crazy? Wishing for an eating disorder to magically come along?

Being overweight is an eating disorder too…..one that can be as devastating.

Am I fat enough to be diagnosed with an eating disorder?

I go to bed at night knowing that the slate is wiped clean, the clock has reset and all it takes is one day after another of clean eating to get me on my way. I don’t want to do it with pills or potions, I want to lose weight the same way that I gained it – through eating and exercise.

It takes time and you won’t see the results immediately. In fact, you won’t see the results of my hard work until about a month or two passes. In the meantime I see every side eye and double take and it it so demotivating for me. You don’t know that I just had two wonderful days IN A ROW that I refrained from eating sugar and I LOVE SUGAR. You don’t know that I walked for 20 minutes this morning and seemed to finally be hitting my stride.

You don’t know. Remember that.

Croquembouche or Bust!

I am a Domestic Goddess

I used to love Martha Stewart. In fact, during my 30’s I tried to reimagine myself as a Martha wannabe, covering Tide boxes with decoupage and brown craft paper and wrapping all my Christmas gifts in sheets of newspaper.

To this day I owe Martha a debt of gratitude. If not for her and her daily television programs, I would never had figured out how to program the VCR properly. Every day I would come home at lunch to watch the taped half hour program where Martha would teach us how to cook the perfect omelet or fold a fitted sheet.

I admit I was envious of her wrapping room where she would transform a gift package with double-sided tape and a bone folder. Martha introduced me to Washi Tape and origami paper folding, envelope making and the importance of a unified colour palette.

Every month I purchased her overpriced magazine, poring over each and every page for inspiration. With Martha’s help, we could all become homemakers, home keepers, or even beekeepers! We could raise organic vegetables in weed-free gardens and harvest our bounty wearing a large sunhat and oversized gauntlet garden gloves. Mosquito’s did not dare bite Martha and bumble bees buzzed around her sunhat in perfect military formation.

A large basket was always filled with flower cuttings from her glorious wild flower garden and then arranged beautifully in an antique crystal vase. A little smile would tug at the corner of her mouth when she remembers how she dazzled and confused the vendor so that he mistakenly sold it to her for half price. “One must always keeps ones wits about oneself when one is negotiating a price” she would remind us – you see…….everything could be a teachable moment.

My calendar was covered with dates and times of dental appointments and teacher conferences whereas Martha’s calendar was colour coordinated, labeled magic.

January was organization month, February was all about love, March was spent looking through seed catalogues. April was Easter Eggs and Passover, May was the month to turn the mattress, June was wedding month where we were introduced to art of letterpress. July was spent mastering the art of the perfect Pavlova so that in August it could be served with fresh berries. September was back to school and sewing nametags into book bags, October was a special Halloween edition of Martha Stewart Magazine. November was cooking the perfect turkey and celebrating the sweet potato and finally……..December arrived upon the gilded wings of doves specifically trained to help tie the perfect grow-grain ribbon bow.

No wonder I suffered my most severe depression during this time. The expectation that I had placed upon myself to be the perfect wife, mother and employee was now exacerbated by the onslaught of “domestic goddess television”. Nigella Lawson and her voluptuous…..errr…hair and Ina Garten with her Barefoot Contessa persona were enough to send any young mom spiraling into self consciousness.

Ironing……it's a Good Thing

It was during this time that Martha introduced the entire world to the Croquembouche, pronounced KROCUMBOOSH. Basically it was a tree created out of puffed, cream filled pastry bites. Martha didn’t stop there though…..no….Martha cut the end off a whisk and masterfully spun caramelized sugar around the tree like a filigree lace web.

SHE CUT THE END OFF THE WHISK!!!

This is where I removed my apron and upped the serotonin. Like an MMA fighter I tapped out and gave up on my pursuit of perfection. I couldn’t compete and didn’t like person that I was hiding inside. It was exhausting………

Twenty years later I sometimes miss my Martha moments – especially after I receive a handmade gift or a see a tablescape worthy of a Martha half smile of satisfaction. But then I look at all of my Christmas gifts that I wrapped in a half an hour using Dollar Store gift bags (apparently called the sweat pants of the gift wrapping world: they don’t look great but they serve a purpose) or eat “homemade” Chicken Noodle soup that I whipped up with a pre-cooked chicken I purchased from the grocery store deli and I don’t feel so bad.

Growing up and growing older is about learning when to say no and when to scream STOP. It is about doing what you love and loving what you do and embracing the short cuts along the way.

As Martha would tell us, “It’s a good thing”.