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Down the rabbit hole

1 Aug

It’s no secret that I have a slight obsession with Alice in Wonderland.  I love the books, the Disney movie, and yes, even the Burton movies.

When I turned 28, I began planning my 30th Mad Hatter Tea Party Birthday.  And it was grand.

Last summer, I began plotting out a year of photo shoots wherein I would artistically document and explore my healing journey from a broken marriage.

You know, because I’m all deep and thoughtful.  Like Deep Thought!

I wanted my final images to be striking and interesting.  

I wanted the process to be fun and meaningful.  

I wanted to surround myself with my favourite people.

You’ll remember the cathartic burning of my wedding dress.

A close up look at the transformative power and beauty of tattoos.

And finally, an enjoyable embracing of girl power, saucily illustrated as super heroes and villains.

Today, in a triumphant return to my wonderland obsession, I bring you a journey down the rabbit hole.

Even though my obsession with wonderland spans decades now, I like to think it’s an appropriate metaphor for a variety of experiences.

Go to University, start a new job, move to a new city, get married, buy a house, have a baby.  These are all pretty standard life events for much of the population.  

No matter how much you’ve prepared yourself, you never really know what to expect until it’s happening.  Not even the most detailed books can prepare you for the madness and chaos that is parenting.  Or… no matter how in love you are with your new spouse, you’ll undoubtedly find yourself wondering how on earth you’re going to beat the odds and make a marriage work.

And loss.  

What a trip.

The loss of a child.  A job.  A parent.  A relationship.  

Nothing can prepare you for such a loss, especially when it comes out of nowhere and sucker punches you in the gut.  

And the heart.

And then you’re free falling, head first into the unknown.  It’s terrifying and weird and you refuse to believe it’s real.  

But it’s real.  

Falling unwillingly into the rabbit hole last year was one of the worst experiences and losses in my life.  Heartbreak, sorrow, loss of appetite, anger, all while walking around feeling lost.

But it doesn’t have to last.  Embrace the chaos.  Give into the madness.  Open your eyes and look around and you might like what you see.  

Wonderland is the new normal and it doesn’t have to be scary.

Photo Shoot Prep:

Location: The Chanterelle 

I interviewed Maelyn several months ago about The Chanterelle, a new downtown venue for weddings, parties, and other big events. I took a look at the brick walls and knew I’d be going back!

My initial visit was amongst drywall dust and table saws.  When we went back take our pictures, much of the construction mess was cleaned up but there was still a lot of work to do.  

Over social media today, I saw that The Chanterelle had a soft opening event over the weekend.  Likely there was food and music!  

The renovations are complete, the kitchen is in place, the decor is on point.  It’s absolutely beautiful and I hope I get to go back again very soon!


Photographer: Scott Hobbs Photography

I don’t think we need to delve too deeply into the details and specifics of my friend Scott.  We’ve seen his work before after all. 

I’m very happy to have shared these experiences with him.  He’s both talented and compassionate.  He’s professional and silly.  I’ll work with him again in the future.

Makeup: Ashley Meagher Makeup Design.  

My friend Scotia was unavailable so she recommended Ashley for this project.  All that did was make me have two favourite makeup artists!

The Players: My squad.  

Some people hate that term.  I don’t care.  I love it.  These are some of my people.  Todd, Devon, Jay, Shelley, Dee, Tracy.  

I love that they were excited about spending an entire afternoon with me as we made our own attempt at Wonderland.

Behind the scenes.  People like behind the scenes stuff, right?

The Professional Results

Here she sits, young Alice…





Who is this White Rabbit?



The Blue Caterpillar



Time for tea with the Mad Hatter and the March Hare





The Cheshire Cat is sneaky



The Red Queen can be temperamental




Uh oh…





Off with their heads, yes?

It’s ok.  We were all friends in the end.  I think…


Thank you to my lovely models.  Each and every one of you is beautiful and completely wonderful.  

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Thank you to Scott for also being beautiful and wonderful.


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Thank you to Ashley for your talent and excitement at our transformations.


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Thank you to The Chanterelle for being so kind, so helpful, and letting us come in before the renovations were complete.


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I wonder what our next project should be…

In a Year

15 Jun

Some people have told me not to put so much stock or value in the dates.  After all, they’re just numbers and why should I let these numbers have control over me?

Well…  I’m not sure what to say to that except…  Numbers and dates are important to me.  They don’t control my life but I’ve always enjoyed the passing of time marked by numbers and I’ve always enjoyed assigning significance to certain days.  

Such as today.

June 15th, 2017.  Mine and my husband’s 14th anniversary of being together.

Except not.

It would have been, but it’s also the one year anniversary of the end of our marriage.

It’s hard not to be sad on this day.  Last year I was so happy.  Thirteen years together and ten years married.  

We celebrated our anniversary with dinner and a movie.  

I was confident that the troubles in our marriage were secondary compared to our foundation of love.  I was still in love and really looking forward to making plans for the future.  We had been through so much together and we could undoubtedly get through a lot more.  

And now it’s been a year since my heart was broken.

A year isn’t enough time to get over some things.

Granted, I’m not in love with my ex-husband anymore.  That died pretty quick after the final death knell rang.

I’m also extremely happy with my current domestic situation: beautiful house, my three sons, and a man that loves me and appreciates  me and wants me.

If you know who you are, and you love yourself (check and check), a year is enough time to move on with acceptance and an open heart.  But no, it’s not enough time to let go of the hurt and anger.  Maybe next year.

So what have I learned in this past year?

Well, I’m still awesome.  Obvious understatement, right?  But I’ve been pretty surprised with how many people have told me how brightly my candle is burning this year.  Apparently I was hiding under a bushel without an identify of my own?  I don’t know if I agree with that assessment, but dozens of people have told me it’s like I just opened up and radiated happiness and positivity after my divorce.  Wow!  I’m both encouraged and surprised!

What else….

Maybe don’t get married at age 22. 

Do counselling before marriage to see if you’re both on the same page.  One of you might be confident whereas the other might be unsure.

Communicate with your spouse about everything.  As I’ve said before, I used to be cocky.  I considered my marriage to be superior to others.  After all, we talked about everything and everything.  We talked all the time.  Or I thought we did.

Never say never.  Up until last year I said I’d never get divorced.  I wasn’t lying to myself; I believed it with every ounce of my soul.  I’ll never say never again.  Anything can happen.

Some friends will desert you in times of life transition.  It happens.  Try not to be consumed by that and focus instead on the people who are still there.  Oh there were some amazing shows of support for me last summer, from some wonderful people.

Because some new friends will find you during transition as well, and they will become the best friends you’ve ever had.  Like brothers and sisters really.  Despite losing a great love, this past year has been more full of love than I thought would be possible.

That’s enough rambling for now.  It’s time to click off and get out of the city.  

I’m thrilled to be taking a special long weekend getaway with my amazing boyfriend.  New memories will be made on this strange weekend full of anniversaries and memories.

It’s Time to Move On

By Tom Petty

It’s time to move on, time to get going

What lies ahead, I have no way of knowing

But under my feet, baby, grass is growing

It’s time to move on, it’s time to get going

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Broken skyline, movin’ through the airport

She’s an honest defector

Conscientious objector

Now her own protector

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Broken skyline, which way to love land
Which way to something better

Which way to forgiveness

Which way do I go

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Sometime later, getting the words wrong

Wasting the meaning and losing the rhyme

Nauseous adrenalin

Like breakin’ up a dogfight

Like a deer in the headlights

Frozen in real time

I’m losing my mind

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It’s time to move on, time to get going

What lies ahead, I have no way of knowing

But under my feet, baby, grass is growing

It’s time to move on, it’s time to get going

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Been working non-stop on my side project (which is more like the main project now): People of Port Arthur by Eating Dirt.

Been working equally hard on my new art endeavour: Pop Art Prints by Eating Dirt.

There she is, one year post divorce. Self portrait.




Life and Love

5 Nov

As I was walking up my street this morning, on the way home from a hair appointment, my paint chipped front porch came into view and it made me so happy.

The sun was shining on the scruffy blue paint and the pumpkins from Halloween are still in the front window.  I was just struck by the beauty that is my life right now.  

I count my blessings every day, but sometimes, I just have to stop and marvel at how good life can be and how happy I am; how much I just love everything.

Almost 8 months ago, I was at the lowest I’ve ever been.  I didn’t think it was possible to feel any worse.  Then I did feel worse.  In June.  I could easily have spiralled and unraveled.  

I laid in bed for two days; I cried for five days.  Then I was done.  Things happened in my life that I didn’t choose and that I couldn’t control. But I can choose how I respond.  I wake up every day and choose to love myself and choose to be content.  

Am I always happy?  Of course not!  Life is hard!  But I choose to put forth positivity and love.  I had to believe things would get better.  And they really did get better. 

Yesterday morning I was with someone who, surprisingly, is making me giddy with happiness.  

Then last night, I was at the Take Back the Night rally with one of my dearest friends; together we listened to powerful stories from survivors, we lit candles, we smudged with the four sacred medicines and offered up prayers to the Creator.  We walked dark streets as a group of one hundred, we cheered and chanted.  I met people I follow on Instagram.  I hugged lots of amazing people!  

My friend and I went out to eat and drink with new friends; we invited others to share our table.  We laughed and talked and hugged some more.  It was beautiful.

Then we walked back to my house and bid one another farewell and I went inside for 8 hours of solid uninterrupted sleep.  I ran to my hair appointment and had a wonderful time talking to stylists I’ve been seeing for the past 15 years.  

Tonight I’m going to spend time with some amazing friends, one a friend since birth, two who are much newer.

Life is funny.  

I really wondered and worried if I’d be sad for a long time.  

But no.  No way.  

I’ve got my parents and my kids.  I have my kids’ wonderfully supportive father. I have so many amazing friends that I just love so much.  My openness and willingness to love (both presently and in past years) has brought amazing into my life.  

I’m so happy it’s making me sick.

Will things get difficult again?  Yes.  Are there hard times ahead?  Of course!  Will I keep choosing happiness?  Hell yes I will.

Choose life.  

Choose love.  

Choose contentment!

Moments

17 Sep

It’s been three months.

The early mornings, as we are all sitting in the living room, it sometimes hits.

These quiet moments before the hectic grind of every day life begins. 

We’re drinking coffee and listening to the big boys talk nonsense about minecraft.  The baby is being ridiculously cute.  We smile at each other, a shared understanding.  We know that we have the cutest kids in the world.

In those quiet early morning moments, I just can’t wrap my mind around the fact that he wants to leave.  

How could he leave the family he helped create?  How could he stand to miss any of this?  These are moments you can never get back.  

When that realization hits me, I just stare at our beautiful boys with hot tears running down my face, hoping they won’t notice.

I’m ok.  

I’m more than ok.  

Some moments are just harder than others.

Silver Linings

28 Aug

I accidentally published this yesterday before I edited it.  I apologize to the subscribers for the double email.  

Lately I’ve been feeling really depressed about being a single parent.  

I know my story isn’t unique and millions of single parents all over the world are able to carry on and lead successful and fulfilling lives. I have no doubt that my life will have some measure of success and fulfillment, but I guess being a bit angry and sad is just part of the process I need to go through in this transitional phase.

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Being married didn’t define me and being divorced won’t define me either. I’m so much more than my personal relationships. I guess I’m just feeling cheated out of the life I “signed” up for when I signed the marriage certificate ten years ago.  

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We made these kids together, then I was essentially tortured for 35-37 weeks, then painful labour and delivery, followed by weeks of feeling awful as my body recovered. But in the end it was all ok because I was so happy to do that for my husband: my partner in life and in parenting. I thought of it as an amazing gift I could give to him, a man who assured me he definitely wanted kids. He was and is a good father. And yet, if I saw this coming, would I have endured pregnancy three times? I don’t know. There’s no easy answer.

I’m coming to terms with losing my life partner but it’s actually harder to accept I’ll be losing the daily parenting partnership that I valued so much. Yes, we will still be parenting together but it won’t be the same. I’m exhausted and scared at the thought of handling bedtimes, overnights, and mornings alone.  

You’re reading this and thinking, is she still whining about her failed marriage? The answer to that is a resounding YES!  

Writing all these thoughts down really helps me make sense of this mess and helps me feel calmer and contented.  

But it’s not a good idea to whine all the time! So I’m going to focus on some good things right now, some silver linings if you will!

Silver Linings:

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I love my house!  I love having a sidewalk in front of my house; I love having a front porch and back deck; I love not sleeping in the basement; I love that all three of my boys have their own bedroom; I love the spaciousness and the storage space in the basement; I love how big the bathroom is!

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I love my neighbourhood!
 I love being a short walk away from the downtown area; I love being close to two grocery stores, the bank, the drug store/pharmacy, and dozens of stores and restaurants!

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I love my kids!
 They are super annoying sometimes but they are also loving and quirky and adorable.
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I love my supportive friends and family!  
The number of amazing people in my life is one of the biggest blessings 

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I love not being in debt!
 Not owing money is a huge feeling of relief!

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I love the feeling of knowing that good things are waiting for me!  
Yes!  Even though I feel scared and angry, I know those feelings will ease and good things are coming!

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I love Jason. That one doesn’t get an exclamation point.  It’s a very good thing that we aren’t seething with hatred and acrimony towards each other.  we get along and we will be friends; we will be together as a family as our children celebrate milestones both big and small.

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I love myself! As I approached age 30 and moved beyond it, Infound myself growing more and more confident. My confidence was shredded four months ago, but it wasn’t destroyed. I can feel my heart and soul knitting back together. And despite what happened, I never lost myself. I took a slight detour, but I’m still here. I know who I am and I know what I want and it’s a wonderful feeling to be so secure in your identity. And, at the risk of sounding completely self involved and narcissistic, I’m going to keep getting better!

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What are some good things in your life right now?!

Why?

18 Aug

It’s been exactly two months since my marriage ended; four months since I was told the marriage was in trouble.

I’m functional, I’m upbeat, I’ve chosen to be content; overall, I’m in a good place both mentally and physically.

But the mind? 

It wanders.

The question of ‘why’ is never really far from my consciousness.  

I’m not wallowing in despair and I’m not being kept awake at night by an overactive mind, yet I’m constantly just asking myself why.

Why was I unable to see the hints and/or warning signs of a troubled relationship?  Am I really that ignorant?

Why was I so confidant that our love could withstand anything?  

Why did I think things were solid when they weren’t?

Why was I able to look beyond his faults and love unconditionally, but that unconditional love wasn’t returned? 

Why did I believe we were perfect together?  

Why did I have to go through that awful third pregnancy only to have this as the outcome?  

Why was I only given two months to ‘work on things’ before everything was just done?

Why did I think he was so wonderful?  Why did I have him on a pedestal?

Why did this happen?

And many more…

In time I know I’ll get some answers.  But until then, hundreds of questions will be repeatedly cycling through my mind, coupled with periodic self doubt and self loathing.  

What a fun process.

I have to admit, rightly or wrongly, I feel like a victim.  

I feel like things have just been happening TO me, rather than me making things happen.  Life feels chaotic and unsettled and I don’t like feeling passive or like all this just happened and I was helpless to change it.

I’ve been taking steps to regain control; I’m trying to stop feeling victimized.  Small steps.  

For instance, putting a public announcement on social media was one small way of taking control.  I didn’t want my marriage to end but it did.  So in addition to the other reasons I discussed, it was MY decision when and how to tell people.

People were upset about that public announcement, but their reactions to MY news are ultimately none of my business.

Continuing to write in this space about my feelings and healing process is another way of taking control.

I threw myself a birthday party, I went to Alberta to see my brother, I just got another tattoo.  I have more interesting things planned for the near future: things to help me heal and feel less chaotic.  I’ll also be going back to therapy at the end of September so I can figure out how to forgive and how to feel thankful and accepting for every surprise that life throws at me.

I can ask why a million times but I also have to DO things.  I can’t just sit still and let life happen to me.

Kindness

24 Jul

Earlier this week, I posted this on my personal Facebook page and my Eating Dirt Instagram: 

So much really HAS happened.  And it all happened in a relatively short time.  We broke up, we put the house up for sale, I found a new house, the house sold, we moved, we decided to switch the kids’ school, and we are all settled in and unpacked.  

And throughout the whirlwind of transitions, I’ve felt so much love and support.  These past five weeks and in the months prior, I’ve been buoyed up by amazing kindnesses of friends, family, and acquaintances.

It feels weird to say this, but I am also thankful to Jason for how supportive he’s continued to be, even though he doesn’t want to continue the marriage.  As I said in the above image, I know we are going to stay friends.  

I’ve been told by others who’ve divorced, that their ex-husband’s decided they were done and then just left.  Jason told me he would have left if I wanted him to, but I wanted him to stay.  I hated the thought of him being there one day and then gone the next and I really want bedtime and overnight help with the kids for as long as possible.  

I know Jason will be a very loving and supportive father but it will be different when he isn’t under the same roof anymore.  Part of me kind of hates Jason for abandoning me with three kids who are all still so needy.  But I know I won’t actually be abandoned… as I said, some things are going to take longer to forgive.

In and amongst these conflicting feelings, I feel both unforgiving AND thankful to Jason.  It’s a strange juxtaposition but I’m not going to fight it.  The feelings will come and go and each one needs to be felt.

I’ve in a perpetual state of thankfulness over the last several months and weeks and I’m continually blown away. Even though I’ve expressed my gratitude in-person to most of these people, I want to acknowledge them here.  One day I’ll want to look back on this list.

To Amy S, thank you for the monetary gift, to purchase something for the new house.

To Devon OM, thank you for hopping into your car and coming to me when I was in need.  Thank you for the help with moving.

To Sarah dB, thank you for leaving work and coming to me immediately.  Thank you for arranging delivery of my new mattress.

To Monique C, thank you for taking me out for lunch at the drop of a hat and for taking me for drinks.

To Lisa H, thank you for coming to sit with me and bringing me food.

To Cat F, thank you for dropping by with a bag of food and treats and donating some items to sell at our yard sale.

To Jen M, thank you for mowing my lawn.

To Kyle L, thank you for helping us move, for finding us a love-seat, and finding interlocking foam tiles for my basement.

To Shelley, thank you for the bag of books and treats.

To Amy V, thank you for the handmade goodies.

To Matt, Julie, and Rob W, thank you for taking our garbage to the dump and for committing to helping build our kids’ new play structure.

To Krissy, thank you for all the boxes to pack up our house.

To Linda, thank you for the new double mattress.

To Will and Leigh, thank you for the love seat and the end tables.

To Chrissie, thank you for the rocking chair.

To Greg M, thank you for the help moving.

To Chris M, thank you for the help moving.

To Ian K, thank you for the help moving.

To Robin C, thank you for the help moving.

To Janna Z, thank you for the kitchen pantry.

To Heidi G, thank you for arranging transportation of the kitchen pantry.

To my dad, thank you for helping me move boxes, put beds together, and fix the screen door.

To my mom, there aren’t enough words in existence to properly express my gratitude for the never ending love, support, and help you’ve given us over the last 13 years, the last few months, and the last few weeks.

To my brother, a bottomless well of reassuring words and support.

To the following people:

Amy S, Devon, Monique, Marie, Lindsay K, Autumne, Tara HC, Andrea K, Lisa, Tracy P, Stephanie P, Shelley A, Julia & Scott H, Lily D, Kathy K, Jen M, Melody, Amy V, Chris & Shawnwee P, Stacy S, Marla & Brian D, Chrissie B, Kyle L, Laura H, Wendy G, Amiee K, Megan C, Corrie W, Mandy B, Dayna S, Ashley W, Kim M, Adrienne H, Melissa W, Lori B, Kris M, Allison M.

Thank you for listening to me vent, commiserating with me, grieving with me, reassuring me, giving me great advice, crying with me, laughing with me, telling horribly inappropriate jokes with me, and for offering me prayers of support. 

Please note, not everybody in that list was offering prayers.  Don’t want to offend my atheist friends, haha!

And to so many other people, thank you for the supportive messages and offers to help sent through email, text, and messenger.  There are too many names to list here, but I copied and pasted each one into a word document in order to preserve the love and kindness that surrounded me.  There were over 100 personal messages and comments and each one was appreciated.

If I’ve forgotten anyone, please remind me.

Even though I was at my lowest a few short weeks ago, I feel high now.  I’m high on love, support, joy, positivity, and so much silliness! 

I have moments of quiet reflection, where I still can’t believe this is all happening because it seems so unreal and the element of shock is still present sometimes.  

But it is real and so very obvious to me that the good is wrestling its way to the top, spitting in the face of the bad.  The good is triumphing and the bad is shrivelling.

I have no doubt that the kindnesses will continue because I have amazing people in my life.

You’re all so, so amazing.