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“It might make sense if I read my intro first, and then respond to your questions.”

“15 years ago I was diagnosed with cancer…” I continued with a condensed version of the last 15 years: cancer, food, cancer. Life distilled into 200 words or less.

“Now to answer your questions….my writing experience outside the blog is limited. Goals for this class? I need to get back to being me, but I can’t seem to do it on my own. I need help. I need someone to give me an assignment.”

I searched my teacher’s eyes for an acknowledgement of my situation. That at the very least, even if I couldn’t produce a level of work that I would be proud of, she would understand what it meant for me to be there. In this class, sharing my story with a group of strangers. Trying when trying is complicated.

I’d signed up for the class on a whim. A 10-week course on nonfiction writing that would help me communicate my feelings to the outside world. “Outside” meaning anyone who doesn’t live within the four walls of our home. The people – parents, siblings, friends – from whom I’ve slowly distanced myself.

I have a primal urge to be alone right now. Preferably in nature, where the blue sky yawns, the trees don’t pity, and you’re not required to talk about murky things. Heavy things. Things that exhaust. Life, death, fear, uncertainty.

The summer was a challenge. The ongoing recovery from surgery, immunotherapy, colitis, steroids, a white bread diet that would make low-carb disciples weak in the knees.

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“The summer from hell” as my family has dubbed it.

But, I remind Rodney, what if these are still the good days?

Occasional escapes to the lake have been my salvation despite my guilt about leaving the family. My therapist, who runs the Callanish cancer retreat near Vancouver, BC reframed things for me:

“You’re running towards the lake, not from the city. This isn’t a weakness, it’s a strength. You know how to make yourself happy in spite of everything. Keep doing it. This is your medicine too.”

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If you’ve read my recent post about Valentine’s Day, you’ll know that I’ve vowed to keep things PG-13 this year. And let me clarify before you get any ideas about this blog – I’m still talking food and beverage. 

There will be no mass consumption of alcohol, no next-day apologies…no questions as to whether I’m still technically part of the family. 

I’ve pledged to do more of the Valentine’s Day activities that you’d expect from a mother of three. Baking? Check. Handwritten cards? Check. Chocolate? Yes, please, all of it.

This’ll be a new thing for me. I’m never one to pre-plan for Valentine’s Day. Christmas? Different story. I once ordered presents in August, just to get a jump start on my wrapping. A summer babysitter once innocently asked what all the boxes were for, and when I responded “Christmas”, I could see furtive glances towards the nearest exit.

But Valentine’s Day always surprises me. It takes up a small amount of brain space during the month of February – in the form of “I think it’s coming up soon.” And then, one day, the kids’ backpacks come home with a bulky mound of candy and Hallmark-emblazoned paper with rickety signatures, and gosh darnit, you’ve missed it again.

In an effort not to be the Valentine curmudgeon of years past, I visited our neighborhood Michael’s to pick up some supplies. By the way, have you been to Michael’s? I know that the prospect of visiting a big box retailer may be less thrilling for those of you living in suburban areas, but they just opened one up in Chelsea and it’s like Disneyland. For crafters. I’m definitely not a crafter, but I can get sucked into the moment if I’m in the right place.

There were multiple aisles of Valentine’s day gear from stickers, to heart-stamped tape, paisley-printed cardboard, and plastic jewels to tack onto your love notes. I’m embarrassed to say how much I spent, but I’m comforted by the fact that we’ll have Valentine’s Day crafting materials until my youngest reaches Middle school.

So that’s what we did this weekend. For 15 minutes. Just until the novelty wore off, prompting me to subtly remind {nag} my kids for the rest of the weekend that each child in the class needs a card, not just close friends.

And those reminders were just for the girls. Sam took one look at the heap of pink and red construction paper and decided that he’d prefer to build Ninja stars.

Apologies, friends of Sam. There won’t be Valentine’s Day cards this year. I hope that you’ll forgive me; it wasn’t for lack of effort.

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More nesting. I apologize. But these are particularly good nesting moments that needed to be shared. They happened post-Christmas, which was technically part of the same vacation as the last post. But I couldn’t bore you with 60 images in one sitting. Or you’d never visit this site again, and that would make me so very sad.

You may recall from the last post that I’m working on obtaining my PhD in nesting. Some of you also may know, from experience, that getting a PhD – whether it be in biophysics, mechanical engineering, or the art of relaxation – is hard work.

I spent the first day of 2015 ingesting healthy foods. Which is challenging when someone with a horse tattoo is trying to steal your spiced pumpkin seed garnish.

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And I’ve been working on strengthening the mind/body connection with my spiritual guru. He’s an industry leader, having developed a patented set of progressive methods to induce relaxation. Furthermore, he’s published numerous papers in several relaxation journals, and is frequently cited by Psychology Today as one of the great minds of the 21st century.

Let me introduce you:

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Central to his theory of relaxation are 1) find a comfortable spot, preferably an off-limits bed and 2) follow a rigorous set of stretching, snoring, and other breathing exercises.

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Last week Rodney and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary. I’d like to say that we planned an extravagant evening out on the town, retreated to a luxury hotel room, and enjoyed some breakfast mimosas in front of a roaring fire. 

Instead, it went down like this:

Phone conversation, transcript, November 13, 2014, 8AM: 

MUM: “Happy Anniversary Jess!”

ME: “What?!”

MUM: It’s your 10th anniversary today, remember?

ME: [silence]

We are not good at remembering dates.

Each year my Mum reminds us of our anniversary by sending flowers. This year, I could tell that she was somewhat shocked that we hadn’t even remembered our 10th. She tried to brush it off “Well, there have really been so many anniversaries, it is hard to keep track…” but in her voice there was a trace of “get it together people.”

It’s not that we don’t care for each other – in fact it’s the opposite. Every day feels like a celebration. We eat most dinners at home together, often after the kids have gone down, accompanied by a glass of wine. We make each other laugh; bleary-eyed tear-filled laughs. Yes, we irritate each other in the way that couples do. I am mostly to blame. But there is love, lots of it, and we remind ourselves of that frequently.

But 10 years….it’s something that should be commemorated, if not with a bronze plaque, then at least with some tequila.

By some twist of fate, there were exactly two tequila shots left in our bottle of Jimador that we smuggled back from our wedding in Mexico. Not easy for a Tuesday night, but sometimes you just have to do what it takes.

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We’ll plan a big dinner out soon – once we get through the holidays, the merriment, the wrapping, the unwrapping, and the sheer happy fatigue of it all.

For now, we kept things simple, because a weekend at home beats any evening out….

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I try to avoid the “lately…in pictures” type of post because capturing a story is so important to me. There’s always a story, and one of the most joyous parts about writing this blog is getting to tell it.

But sometimes there isn’t a story. This week, we didn’t visit a Halloween Festival Megaplex Spectacular. We didn’t travel to an exotic foreign location with tall ships and Canadian beer. We stayed home, we nested, we ate some old-fashioned home-cooked food. I guess that’s a pretty good story after all.

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Chocolate croissants in the park….

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Blink and you’ll miss this speck of a park in Chelsea. Look for it and you might see little ones at play.

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Quiet moments…

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Wild moments…

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